Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sending the Seventy, part 14: The Kingdom of God Comes Near

But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city. (Luke 10:10-12 NASB) 

If the sent ones were to "preach the kingdom of God", it would be helpful to understand what that term means. 

The ISBE gives this description: The Kingdom of God is not one "of worldly splendor and force, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; beginning in humility, and passing to exaltation only through the dark valley of contrition." We have an explanation in the Lord's Prayer, in which He prayed "Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The idea here is that, in the Kingdom of God (heaven), God's will is only and always done. When the Kingdom of God "comes" to us, the same will of God is done. When the Kingdom of God comes, righteousness, peace, and the joy of the Lord will fill our hearts. 

The sent ones were to preach about the coming of the Kingdom of God, and some of those who heard them would reject the Kingdom of God altogether.  What about righteousness, peace, and joy are not attractive? What about righteousness, peace, and joy do we want to reject? That three-strand cord of the Kingdom seems, at first glance, altogether lovely and appealing. Why, then, would we reject it? Righteousness. It is an appealing concept but a difficult reality, mainly because it requires change. 

The ISBE has said correctly that the Kingdom of God begins "in humility, and passing to exaltation only through the dark valley of contrition".  We cannot have the righteousness, peace, and joy without first having humility and contrition. (Contrition is a less-commonly used word that means being deeply sorry for your sins and repentant of them.) 

The problem, of course, is that we like our sin and we want to keep it. It seems a bad trade to keep sin and reject peace and joy, but we do, and often on a daily basis. We want what we want and are not willing to allow change to have something better. What madness! 

For those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus, we should long for the Kingdom of God, not only on earth but also in us. Come, Lord Jesus, and begin Your work of cleansing and change in me. Much like the words to an old spiritual, it's "not my brother, not my sister, but it's me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer." We are the ones "standing in the need" of prayer, repentance, and change. 

There is good news, however. The Kingdom of God is near. We can have the righteousness, peace, and joy of God, but only if we are willing to begin in repentance and allow the transformation that only the Spirit of God can bring. 

The amazing thing about the Kingdom of God is that it has "drawn near" to us in the most incredible way. Wrapped in flesh, nestled in a stone manger filled with hay, the righteousness, peace, and joy of God came to us, dwelt with us, and died to redeem us. As we draw near the Christ Child this advent season, may we also draw near to the Kingdom of God. 

Merry Christmas!
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Here's the link to last night's post on embracing the imperfect and enjoying a less stressful holiday