Sunday, April 17, 2011

Citizens of God's Kingdom

{Ephesians 2:19-22; ESV}
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:11-18, reminds his readers of their previous reality. They were excluded from God’s Kingdom, and therefore they had no hope. Yet, something happened to change their status. That something was Christ Jesus who broke down the wall (verse 14). Through Jesus they were given hope and they were reconciled to God.

Stop for a moment and remember what your former life looked like. Even those of us who have grown up in a Christian family can remember the time when we realized that we were outside of God’s Kingdom. I vividly remember the night when I realized that I couldn’t rely on the faith of my family and that I had to have my own faith. That was a scary night, but fortunately I knew the One I had to turn to in order to find forgiveness and hope.

That is what served as an introduction to what the apostle Paul wrote in verses 19-22 of Ephesians 2. What Paul wants us to understand is that we are part of a great sacred community: The Kingdom of God.

Before, while we were in our sin, we were outsiders, we didn’t belong to God’s Kingdom, but now we do. We were citizens of the world, and foreigners in the Kingdom of God, but now our citizenship has changed. The world is no longer our home, we are pilgrims in this land, because our citizenship is now in Heaven.

I want to point out two implications that come with being citizens of God’s Kingdom. The first implication is that we are not alone.  I am not the only citizen of the Kingdom, and though it might feel like I am all alone at times, that is just a feeling and not reality. In this Kingdom reside all the faithful who lived under the Old Covenant as well as all of the faithful who follow Christ Jesus. The writer of Hebrews writes of a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). It encourages me to think about all the people who have lived faithful lives, because it reminds me that I am not the only one to experience the struggles of faith.

The second implication I would like to point out is that there are certain expectations for a citizen of God’s Kingdom. One of the things that have horrified us, as U.S. citizens, has been the accusation of brutal and inhumane conduct by our military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have an expectations that our military would conduct themselves in a better manner.

There are expectations for living the God has placed on the citizens of His Kingdom. One of those expectations is that we are to be servants. We need to help those people who are in need and in the process bring God's love and hope into their lives. A second expectation is that we live moral lives. The moral standard that we live by needs to be better than the rest of the world. People need to recognize that there is a difference in the way we live and the way the world lives.

What a word of hope we find in this passage. We are part of God’s Kingdom! You and I need to allow this reality to shape the way we live. Why? We are representatives, ambassadors, of God’s Kingdom, and is essential that we to play the part.


Liane said...

I strongly agree with something I've heard said: for some people you are the only Bible they will ever read. How sad if someone turns away from God because of the way that we've represented Him? It makes you think about how you behave as a child of God. That is precisely why Jesus cursed the fig tree. If the tree had leaves it also had to have fruit. This tree had leaves, but upon closer inspection a hungry Jesus found nothing under the leaves. When other people come closer to us - hungry for something better than the world offers - do they only find leaves and no fruit, or do we produce the fruit of the Spirit in the way we live? Some good food for thought!

Paul Steele said...

Thanks for your thoughts Liane. I agree with you. We need to be so aware of what we are saying about God and His Kingdom by the way we live our lives. We also need to encourage people to live lives that are worthy of the Kingdom (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Our Identity

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