Thursday, January 16, 2014

Notes from Seminary: (1) To Be A Citizen in the Kingdom of God

To Be A Citizen in the Kingdom of God
by Chad Shepherd - Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 10:34 PM

Point #9: A Discussion

How can we encounter the eternal God of the universe who forfeited all power and right to stand in our place? How could I see the full extend of His love and not be likewise and powerfully changed? It seems to scream out from the pages of the book and the experience of my life… that to see Him is to be immediately and forever changed. Participation in the Kingdom becomes a deep desire when I recognize that His image imprinted on my own soul is the reflection that soothes my searching eyes. Yes, I believe this is the unspoken assumption, or rather a question that penetrates to the heart of any who would profess to have seen this most powerful God. How has it changed you? Do you carry the vision with your every step? Surely if our vision has changed, our feet will lead us toward our gaze.

Are we interested in discipling? It seems that if we have received the nature of God pouring vertically down into our hearts, then the irresistible and inevitable reaction will be that our finite hearts can not hold His abundance and so then would necessary flow out onto others. 

Does Jesus seek followers who have been transformed? I think of the contrast of those who dropped their nets against the story of the rich young ruler who allowed part of his life to separate him from following completely. It seems that to follow Jesus… simply and utterly demands that we place nothing else before Him. If we have not been transformed, then it must be that we have not fully seen Him for who He is. This reminds me of the disciples in the boat during the storm when Jesus asked them, do you still not know who I am?

Yes… seeing Him for who He truly is, will transform us. We recognize this transformation and feel the familiarity of the One who made us. As a caterpillar cannot transform into a frog, so can our souls only be transformed into our Father's likeness.

Emerging from the cocoon with outstretched wings, we take to the air. This flight is noticeable! It is shocking. It is dramatic. The Kingdom of God is present in our actions. The effect is unignorable.

I used to live parallel lives. My life in business, and my life with church people. There came a point in my life where I determined that as long as I was split between the two worlds, the two Kingdoms, that a was neither fully in either. I could only be the adopted son of the living God. That reality changed everything. There was nothing else that I would rather be, and so I claimed that birthright with every breath.

Kingdom transformation… I love that term! Yes, bad things do happen. However, I serve a God who can work amidst the storm. Even Jesus Himself promised us… in this world you will have trouble. And yet, in my own life, these times of trouble have been reworked to display His grace and strength and love, backdropped fully against my failings.

While I do not downplay the significance of individual responsibility and accountability, and I do not believe that salvation is a collective experience, I do believe fully in the New Testament example of the first century church, that illustrated this ultimate command of loving God and loving your neighbor. We are all the creation of God. How do we think evil thoughts about a man or woman that is created in the image of the God who saved us? It reminds me of the story of Saul on the road to Damascus. Sometimes I need to be struck down by the blinding truth obedience to His love is my only true path.

I love this concept that our walk with God is a lifelong journey. We do not arrive and then relax… but we must take the steps daily, pressing forward, always seeking. We can drop the nets to and follow like the early disciples, but following Him is more than a one time experience. It is, like Paul described, dying daily.

This idea that it takes more than intellect, more than knowledge is one that is dear to my heart. I come from a family that has several pastors. Through watching their life stories and by listening at their knees since I was on training wheels, I have to understand (even more through my own life) that the promises of God… the joy, the peace, it comes from our obedience. it comes from our doing. It comes from understanding our full reliance on God. It comes from seeing thankfulness reflected in the eyes of a man who receives your help underserved, and then recognizing that this is the look that you need to have when you look up to God.

In short… are we walking with the values of the Kingdom? Do people see in us evidence of our citizenship? How do we encounter the God that created everything, who gave it all up to cover our unpayable debt, just to bring us close to Him? How can we not show evidence in our living of this great love that saved us? I believe that if we encounter Him, we are irrevocably and forever changed.

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