Saturday, August 18, 2007

All handbrake, no accelerator

What drives you as a Christian? What is the motivating force for how you spend your time, your money, and your resources?

It strikes me that sometimes Christians are all handbrake and no accelerator. Our relationship with God stops us doing plenty of things, sinful things, but what actually drives us? Are our lives distinctively different from those around us in the things that we do do, as opposed to the things we don’t do?

Is the only thing that marks us out as different from our colleagues or our friends the fact that we don’t swear, don’t have sex outside of marriage and go to church things a couple of times a week?

Did Jesus save us to get a tenth of our money, and an hour or two on a Sunday? Or is there more to the Christian life than that?

Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and in that prayer he teaches them what their priorities are to be. The Lord’s Prayer starts with three requests focused on God, followed by three requests dealing with our needs. All to often we start with our needs and never make it to the things that are God’s concerns.

And because our prayers shape how we live, and how we live shapes how we pray, we have lost a vital perspective. It is the perspective of “Your Kingdom come”.

God is not in the business of saving individuals, no more than a builder is in the business of collecting bricks.

  • Throughout the gospels we see that Jesus has come to build a kingdom. He starts his ministry with the announcement, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near” (Mark 1:15). He’s called the Lord Jesus because he came to rescue us from the kingdom of darkness and to bring us into his own kingdom. He calls his followers to “Seek first his kingdom… and all these things shall be given to you” (Matt 6:33). The kingdom was the focus of his teaching in the days after his resurrection, “He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:8).

  • The kingdom was the focus of the preaching of the apostles, “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly… arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).

  • The concept of kingdom gave confidence and drive to the early church, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…” (Hebrews 12:28). And that motivated the early Christians, when they were faced with the choice of either calling Caesar “Lord” or death in the arena, they choose death because they had no king but Christ.

This idea of kingdom is central to the life and experience of biblical Christianity. It’s what Jesus was about. It’s what the apostles were about. It’s what the early church was about.

Is it what you are about?

I don’t mean, “Are you a Christian?”. I mean, if you are a Christian, does the concept of Christ’s kingdom drive your choices? Are you a kingdom citizen, or merely a kingdom inhabitant?

The gospel is a call to invest your life in something majestic – in a kingdom that is victorious, that takes in the entire globe, that transforms lives, that has no limits, whose effects last for all eternity. God didn’t save us merely to get us out of Hell and into Heaven. He saved us to allow us to take part in the greatest empire ever seen.

But does our use of time or money or resources demonstrate that we are investing in a kingdom that cannot be shaken?

Consider the reply of the farmer who was asked what he did. He said, “I serve the King of kings, and I keep cattle to put food on the table.” That’s a kingdom perspective.

Consider the man who bought a holiday home in eastern Europe, but lets it out free of charge to local pastors needing a break, or to missionaries looking for accommodation.

Consider what joy you will have in Heaven if you invest your finances in supporting a local pastor in Peru for 10 years, rather than buying a newer model of car.

Consider that where we choose to live, even within Ireland, is a kingdom decision – where in the country needs Christians? According to one directory of churches, 82% of church workers in Ireland are on the east and south coasts. 52% are in the greater Dublin area. That leaves a vast tract of land up the west coast and in the middle. Where might the King want his citizens to live?

It’s a fantastically liberating concept. In 100 years from now where will our cars, homes, TVs, holidays be? Yet when we invest ourselves in living for Christ’s kingdom we will see the rewards for all eternity.

We are only managers of what we have.

Mission doesn’t start with speaking about the gospel. It starts with a fire that burns much deeper, a passion that comes from wanting to see Jesus’ kingdom spread, and pouring what resources you can into it.

When we live in such a way as to show that Christ is precious, then people will begin to take seriously our claim that Christ is precious and his kingdom worth being part of.

Kingdom living – let the Son set you free and you shall be free indeed.

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