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The Kingdom Agenda
Life Under God
By Tony Evans, Philip E. Rawley
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2013 Tony Evans
All rights reserved.
THE CONCEPT OF THE KINGDOM AGENDA
Everybody, it seems, has an agenda today. People have plans, programs, things they want to accomplish, and specific ways they want to accomplish them.
God has an agenda, too; something He wants to accomplish in His way. The Bible calls this agenda God's kingdom. I like to think of it as the alternative, because that word says there is another way, another idea on the table. As God's people, we are not limited by the choices this world offers us. God has an alternative plan for us—His kingdom.
If you grew up in America, you were reminded to whose kingdom you belonged each time you said the Pledge of Allegiance or participated in the singing of our national anthem in school or before sporting or civic events. It was clear that our country did not want us to forget that we are Americans. We recited the pledge day in and day out, allowing it to sink in, enabling us to fully understand that no matter what our background, gender, culture, or color, we belonged to this kingdom called the United States of America.
In the same way that our country wants us to be regularly reminded about our citizenship in this kingdom, there is another kingdom—a greater and more perfect kingdom—of which we are a part. It is the kingdom of God.
If you are an American, it is most likely because you were born here. If you are a part of the kingdom of God, it is only because you have been born again into His kingdom. The reason you need to come to a full comprehension of the kingdom is not only because it affects you, but it also is the key to understanding the Bible. The unifying central theme, the common thread, throughout the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—is the glory of God through the advancement of His kingdom.
Without that theme, the Bible becomes a series of disconnected stories that are great for inspiration, but seem to be unrelated in purpose and direction. The Bible exists to share God's movement in history toward the establishment and expansion of His kingdom, highlighting the connectivity throughout which is this concept. Understanding that increases the relevancy of this several-thousand-year-old manuscript to your day-to-day living, because the kingdom is not only then, it is now.
Throughout the Bible, the kingdom of God is His rule, His plan, and His program. God's kingdom covers everything in the universe. In fact, we can define the kingdom as God's comprehensive rule over all creation. It is the rule of God (theocracy) and not the rule of man (homocracy) that is paramount.
Now if God's kingdom is comprehensive, so is His kingdom agenda. The kingdom agenda, then, may be defined as the visible demonstration of the comprehensive rule of God over every area of life.
This definition has some serious implications for us. The reason so many of us as believers are struggling is that we want God to bless our agenda rather than our fulfilling His agenda. We want God to okay our plans rather than our fulfilling His plans. We want God to bring us glory rather than our bringing Him glory. But it doesn't work that way. God has only one plan—His kingdom agenda. We need to find out what that is so we can make sure we're working on God's plan, not ours.
The Greek word the Bible uses for kingdom is basileia, which basically means a "rule" or "authority." Included in this definition is the concept of power. So when we talk about a kingdom, we're talking first about a king or a ruler, the one in charge.
Now if there is a ruler, there also have to be "rulees," or kingdom subjects. In addition, a kingdom includes a realm; that is, a domain over which the king rules. Finally, a kingdom also needs regulations, guidelines that govern the relationship between the ruler and the subjects. These are necessary so that the subjects will know whether they are doing what the ruler wants done.
God's kingdom includes all of these elements. He is the absolute Ruler of His domain, which encompasses all of creation. Likewise, His authority is total. Everything God rules, He runs—even when it doesn't look like He's running it. Even when life looks like it's out of control, God is running its "out-of-controlness."
God's kingdom also has its subjects. Colossians 1:13 says that everybody who has trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior has been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, your allegiance has been changed. You no longer align yourself with Satan, but with Christ.
And just in case there's any doubt, let me say right now that there are no in-between kingdoms, no gray areas here. There are only two realms in creation: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. We are subjects of one or the other.
GOD'S KINGDOM AGENDA IS UNIVERSAL
The problem we have in the church today is that people inadequately define God's kingdom. Some people secularize and politicize the kingdom, which means they think the solutions to our problems are going to fly into town on Air Force One.
These individuals believe that political involvement or social action will by itself usher in the kingdom. While there is nothing wrong with entering the political arena as an evangelical—it ought to be encouraged—we need to bear in mind that God's kingdom is not comprised of, or limited to, a political institution of mankind. God is neither Democrat nor Republican. He does not ride the backs of donkeys or elephants.
At the other extreme are those Christians who over-spiritualize the kingdom. In contrast to their politically active brothers and sisters, these are the individuals who are so heavenly minded that they wind up being no earthly good. They live with their heads and hearts in the upper levels of the ionosphere because the concept of the kingdom of God never moves beyond the esoteric stage within them. They lack the concrete ability to put feet to the spiritual reality of the kingdom.
God's kingdom agenda is not limited to the political and social realm. Neither is it limited to the walls of the church. When you were saved, the kingdom of God was set up within you so that it might be best positioned to reach outwardly while directing the circumference of your life.
Trusting Jesus Christ for your salvation will get you to heaven. But trusting Jesus Christ for your salvation doesn't automatically get heaven to come down to you. Getting into God's kingdom is through conversion, but experiencing God's kingdom in your daily life is through commitment. Commitment results only when the Jesus you placed your faith in is also the Jesus who rules within you in the kingdom of which you are a part. God's goal is to manifest in history the operations of heaven. Therefore, when history is not reflecting heaven ("Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" [Matthew 6:10]), God's kingdom is not visible.
FOUR FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS ABOUT GOD'S KINGDOM AGENDA
As we start our journey through the depths, clefts, and mountaintops that make up God's kingdom agenda, let's begin by examining four basic fundamental truths about this all-encompassing concept and teaching of Scripture.
God's Kingdom Agenda Originates from His Realm
Since the realm in which God operates is spiritual, His kingdom also originated in the spiritual realm. This is not to deny what was said above, that the whole created universe constitutes the domain of God's kingdom. What I am saying here is that the kingdom is from above, not from the earth.
We see this in John 18:28–40, when Jesus appears before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. The Jews want Jesus put to death, but they don't have the authority to carry out capital punishment. Since only Rome can do that, the Jews have to bring Jesus to Pilate to get his approval.
The Jews know exactly what accusation it will take to get Jesus executed by Rome. If He claims to be a king, He will be committing treason against Caesar (see John 19:12). So they decide to make the charge against Jesus that He made Himself out to be a king.
Now if you call yourself a king, that implies you have a kingdom somewhere. So the first question Pilate asked Jesus was, "Are You the King of the Jews?" (John 18:33). Notice Jesus' answer in verse 36: "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm."
Don't misread that. Jesus was not saying His kingdom is not in this world. He was saying it is not of this world. His kingdom does not originate from earth, but rather from heaven. It is not derived from history, but from the heavenlies. Jesus' servants weren't up in military arms about His arrest because He was not trying to overthrow the Romans militarily.
Jesus explained to Pilate, in my Evans translation, "If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would be out there with their swords cutting off much more than just someone's ears. They would be going to war. If My kingdom were man-made, I would not be going to the cross without a battle."
But because Jesus represented another King from another kingdom that was not of this world, He did not resort to the methodologies of this world in order to defend or advance His kingdom. The same holds true for you and me. To live life according to the kingdom agenda will have an effect on our choices. Our decisions will not align with the world's wisdom or methods. A divine frame of reference will punctuate all that we do.
Too many believers today are trying to find fulfillment and significance through human means. They are trying to discover their destinies through man's methods. However, man's methods have never accomplished God's goals. Jesus revealed that when He answered Pilate straightforwardly. In essence, He said, "My methods reflect My source." As believers, we are called to be in the world, but not of the world. Similarly, a boat is made to be in the water but not of the water. If the boat begins to be of the water and starts taking on water inside, it will soon go down.
To be in the world and yet not of the world means that the world, or worldliness—the system that seeks to leave God out—does not define the decisions, relationships, or priorities of your life. Your kingdom controls your methodology.
A Body of Truth
In John 18:37 Jesus said something else that was very significant. "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." By this statement, Jesus assumed the existence of a body of truth with which a kingdom agenda aligns itself. Simply defined, truth is an absolute standard by which reality is measured. It is God's viewpoint on the matter. This definition puts us as believers in conflict with our culture, because we live in a world where a commitment to truth no longer exists. People want relative truth, not an absolute standard that says what is always right and wrong, good and bad. But if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you must believe in, accept, and align yourself with the truth of God's Word—His absolute, governing standard that transcends time, culture, ethnicity, gender, preference, and all else.
One of the major problems leading to the breakdown of society is that we have far too many opinions dictating life choices and not enough truth mandating them. Even among Christians, absolute truth isn't always the governing standard. We say things like, "Well, this is how I feel," or "This is what I think," or even "This is what my parents taught me." Although there is nothing necessarily wrong with thoughts or feelings, they ought not be the deciding factors with regard to what is true. Truth transcends feelings. For example, you may feel like you have a headache, so you take an aspirin. But the lab report might tell the truth that you have a brain tumor and an aspirin won't do you any good. The feeling of your headache was real; it just didn't reveal the truth that you have a tumor. When you miss the truth, you miss everything. Likewise, when you miss the truth of God's Word, you miss the kingdom.
Our problem today is that we have substituted relativism, pragmatism, existentialism, pantheism, and many other -isms in the place of absolute truth. But all of these -isms will become "was-isms" one day when they are ultimately confronted with God's absolute truth.
Jesus was saying to Pilate in John 18:37, "If you understood My kingdom, you would know the truth." The only lasting solutions to life are biblical solutions, because only biblical solutions are derived from a heavenly source and can address the cause-and-effect relationship between choices and consequences.
Cause and Effect
Here's what I mean by cause and effect when it comes to the kingdom. Everything visible and physical is always controlled or derived from that which is invisible and spiritual. So if you want to fix the visible and physical problems, you have to address the spiritual and invisible issues first.
Why? Because if you don't address the spiritual and invisible, you will not have addressed the divine precursor from which to solve the visible and physical issue at hand. What you can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell must first be addressed from God's perspective before you can make any lasting and real difference on the human level.
Satan wants to get us to skip the divine perspective because he knows that we will never be able to solve our visible and physical problems until we address them from the invisible, spiritual realm. But heaven rules earth, so what happens up there determines what goes on down here. If you are not in contact with heaven then you ought not be surprised if you are in a quandary down here on earth.
One of the greatest kings in history, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, learned this truth the hard way. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that disturbed him deeply, so he asked the prophet Daniel to interpret it for him. Daniel told the king he would lose his kingdom and be driven into insanity until he learned that "it is Heaven that rules" (Daniel 4:26). What Daniel prophesied then came to pass (see v. 28).
The Right Perspective
God's kingdom is lived from the perspective of heaven, not earth. That's why Jesus said, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). The pagans may run after the physical, visible things in life (see v. 32), but we are called to prioritize God's kingdom.
But far too many Christians want to mix a little bit of God with a lot of the world. As a result, they wind up not experiencing any of God because His kingdom is not of this world. When you bring the world into the Word, you are asking the King to bless something that His kingdom is not a part of, and He won't do it.
If you lose sight of the kingdom, God's perspective gets lost and you start focusing on the physical and temporal things in life. When that happens, your judgment begins to be skewed and your decisions become shortsighted. Rather than fulfilling your God-ordained destiny and purpose, you end up with wasted time, effort, energy, and emotions.
Yet when God's kingdom is prioritized, you get to see heaven both rule and overrule in your life. You get to witness God overrule circumstances and people that you thought had the last word. You get to experience God at a whole other level when you experience Him as King. Many people say that God is King but fail to experience God as King simply because they do not position themselves under His rule.
Jesus said earlier in Matthew 6 that if you are not clear on the kingdom—the things of God—then you can't see because you are spiritually blind (see vv. 22–23). And if you are spiritually blind, then your feet won't know which way to go. Spiritual blindness affects not only your eyes, but all of your life choices.
I will never forget the morning I got soap in my eye in the shower. My eye started burning, so I began to rub it with my hand. The problem was, I had soap on my hands. So not only did I not get the soap out of my eye, I managed to get more soap in both eyes. Now, instead of one eye that couldn't see, I had two.
With both eyes closed, I instinctively reached for the towel. Yet because I couldn't see it, I hit my head on the soap dish sticking out of the wall as I leaned over to try and find it. When I did that, I knocked the soap off of the dish onto the shower floor. You can probably guess what happened next. As I groped around for the towel in my blindness, I stepped on the bar of soap and went flying, hurting my back. There I was, flailing around in the shower with a headache and a backache and stinging eyes, all because something had blinded me.
Let me tell you, when you are spiritually blind you will wind up with more than just a headache and a backache, you will wind up with a "life ache," because you cannot live successfully in the physical realm if you cannot see the spiritual realm which affects everything else in life. God's kingdom operates from the realm of heaven. The only way you will be able to see life with clear vision is when you view all of life from a kingdom perspective.
Excerpted from The Kingdom Agenda by Tony Evans, Philip E. Rawley. Copyright © 2013 Tony Evans. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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