Skip to main content

Working For or Against the Kingdom?

I can be dense at times. There are certain truths or lessons that some people pick up right away while it takes me a while to understand. I think the revelation that I had today falls into that category, something that many of you already understand, but it took me 35 years to figure out. This flash of truth came to me as I pondered James 3:1-12, particularly verses 9 through 12:
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water (James 3:9-12; ESV).

James tells us that there are two uses for our tongues. We can bless God and others with our words or we can curse God and people with our words. Of course there is a spectrum on which our words fall, but ultimately we are speaking to building others up and praise God or we are speaking to tear others down and curse God.

When this thought hit me I then made the application to our actions. What James teaching us in this passage has wider implications than just the words that come out of our mouths, for it also applies to how we live. With these bodies God has given us we can either sin and rebel against God or we can obey and worship God. While our actions fall on a spectrum of those two realities, in the end we are either living in obedience or we are living in sin.

In his book Surprised by Hope Bishop N. T. Wright devotes a whole chapter to “building for the kingdom.” Bishop Wright writes: “But what we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized, and directed by the Spirit, is to build for the kingdom” (p. 208). How do we build for the kingdom? I would argue that we build for the kingdom whenever we devote our lives to doing good works in the name of Christ Jesus.

Here is the point I want us to get today: just as our tongues can curse or praise God, our lives can either work for His kingdom or they can work against His kingdom. Ultimately what sin is is rebellion against God, and it has a corrupting nature, not only in our lives, but in the world. Remember, this world was created good, and Satan, sin, and death have been corrupting it. We are to leave sin behind because to sin is to join Satan in his effort to corrupt the good nature of creation.

On the other hand, we are called to obedience and good works because it is then that we join God in His effort to redeem creation, which includes other people. Our good works are not our effort to make us right with God, rather they are our effort to partner with God in bringing His Kingdom to earth.

I think the implication of this is that the more are devote our lives to God’s Kingdom the less we will be involved with sin. The reason is because we come to understand that our sin is corrupting the good work that we are trying to do. Just as salt corrupts fresh water, sin corrupts good works. Consider what the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:7-10, ESV).

Here we discover the key to good works: being led by the Spirit. The best way I know to allow the Spirit to lead our lives is be by students of God’s Word and to be involved in a church family. If we care about doing what God has called us to do, if we desire to be led by the Spirit, then we will make those things priorities in our lives. That way we can partner with God and work for His kingdom, rather than trying to work against God and His kingdom, because in the end that is what is futile.


Kay said…
This is such a great post. It is true
the more we do for Christ, the less
time we have for those things that defile us.

Popular posts from this blog

Prayer: Married Bedtime Prayer

My wife Jenny and I have been using the Bedtime Prayer that John Eldredge wrote for Walking with God as part of our bedtime routine.  As much as I have enjoyed the prayer I thought it was time for a prayer that was better suited to pray together.  Hopefully this will encourage you to implement prayer into your bedtime routine.

Our Father in Heaven, we pause at the end of this day to say thank You.  We give You thanks for the blessing of life, for the blessing of each other, for the blessing of family, and for the blessing of a home. You have richly blessed our lives. Restore us Father to Your Son Jesus.  He is the vine and we are the branches and He has become our source of life.  Open our hearts to receive the Holy Spirit's guidance, healing, and transformation.  May our lives and our marriage bear the fruit of the Spirit.  We surrender our lives and our marriage to You.  You have our bodies, possessions, and spirits; we give You our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.  We belon…

God Uses Unlikely People

One of the things that strike me about God is that the value society has given to people makes no difference to Him. In fact it seems that God would rather use the common, even the despised, people of the world to make a difference in this world. Consider Moses. God doesn’t use Moses when he is a prince of Egypt, but when he is a nomadic shepherd. Certainly God has used the rich and the powerful, but more often than not God has used the poor, sinful, and abused. God uses the unlikeliest people.

This reality comes our loud and clear at Christmas time. Think about the major characters of the Christmas story: Joseph who is a poor and scandalize carpenter, Mary who is a young and scandalized girl, Shepherds who are a bunch of untrustworthy characters. Only the Magi have credibility in society, but this diminishes in Jewish culture since these men were Gentiles. The most important event in the history of the world and God chooses people who are rejected and wouldn’t be believed by so…

Worship is a Lifestyle

"It's a lot easier to sing a song than it is to stop and touch the broken. It's a lot less taxing to go to church than to take 'church' to the world. But sharing with others is a sacrifice of worship that makes God smile." ~ Louie Giglio; The Air I Breathe

Worship isn't just about music. Worship isn't just an activity that is planned and programmed. Worship is about glorifying God with our lives. When we seek to honor God, we worship Him.

Worship happens anytime and anyplace. It happens Sunday mornings at church. It happens Wednesday night at Bible Study. It happens when we chat with our neighbor. It happens when we serve those in need. It happens when we show love to the lonely. Worship is what being a Christian is all about.

Worship is a life lived in response to God's gracious blessings. God has given us so much. We owe Him every breath we breathe. He is responsible for our talents we use. God has given us blessing after blessing. Only a life o…