The Kingdom of God part 2 – How to Live in the Kingdom
Note: This blog post was inspired by my wife Karry’s devotional that she presented to our CMA chapter in February. She was inspired by Edward T. Welch’s book Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel
In the first installment, I discussed what the Kingdom of God (KoG) is. The KoG is something we look forward to in full in the future. It is also something we live in now in the present. We wait for the fulfillment, but we live in the present Kingdom through the power of the Holy Spirit. The question then becomes, how do we live in the KoG.
The Gospel of Matthew provides for us the answer to the question. Matthew’s gospel is different from the other gospels in that he collected sayings and sermons form Jesus and put them in batches throughout the gospel. What we find in Matthew 5-7 is the blueprint for living life in the KoG.
The Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-11 have a similarity to the 10 commandments in that the work has two parts. The first four tell us how we are to relate to God. The second four tell us how to relate to people. Read the passage in that light:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the humble,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:3-10 CSB)
While we could take many blog posts to go through all of them, I want to concentrate on the first four. The first four lead to the second four, so they are essential to understand.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit”
I hate when life gets messy. It is hard for me to reach out when I need comfort. I want to be this self-sufficient superhero who doesn’t need anybody. It reminds me of a story Ravi Zacharias tells about Muhammed Ali. He was on a flight to some destination when the plane encountered turbulence The Captain asked that all put on their seatbelts. Ali did not. The flight attendant went to him and told him to put it on.
“Superman don’t need no seatbelt,” said Ali.
“Superman don’t need no airplane either,” said the flight attendant.
Being meek means that we know that God is the One who is in control, and we are not. When we realize, recognize, and verbalize our utter dependence on Him, then we can receive the fullness of who He is. When we are walking in the KoG, we can cry out, “Jesus save me” and He will be sure to answer.
“Blessed are those who mourn”
Mourning is a part of life. Whether it is the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or a significant life change, grief and mourning are common to the human experience. We want justice, satisfaction, and to be free form pain, but this world gives us just the opposite. How do we walk in the KoG and yet live in this reality?
The scriptures give us the language for our mourning and grief. The book of Job painstakingly moves through this subject. Job’s sin was not that he trespassed the law, it was not that he doubted God in His sovereignty, nor was it that He abandoned his faith. Job’s sin was that he called into question God’s character. God is all good. God is all-powerful. When things are not good, then we need to rest in God’s omnipotence. Part of learning how to mourn is learning how to relax in the attributes of God – who He is.
Jesus knows about mourning and grief. I wrote about this in my Father’s eulogy. Jesus knows about our suffering, because He, as God, the second person of the Trinity, experienced suffering and pain. Where is Jesus in our mourning? He is right there with us. Jesus wept with Mary and Margaret over Lazarus in John 11, not because He missed Lazarus (Jesus knew he was going to revive him). He cried with them because He felt their pain and mourning. When we mourn, Jesus mourns with us and comforts us in our time of loss.
“Blessed are the humble”
Humility is hard. Being the last and not the first is unnatural to us as humans – especially as American humans! We want to have and be the best. But in many places, Jesus emphasized that to be a citizen of His kingdom, we need to put ourselves last and consider ourselves the least. Submitting to God, walking with Jesus, means consistently, as Paul states, dying to self (1 Cor. 15:31 and Rom. 6:8). Relying on God seems to be risky. As a customer told me once, “Hope is not a good business strategy.” But that is precisely what God is calling us to. To be humble before Him and let Him drive. As for the risk, take a look at Psalm 37 and notice some of the phrases:
Do not fret
Trust in the Lord
Refrain from anger
When we are humble before God, He’s got us covered. While walking in His Kingdom, we inherit all of His creation.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”
Here lies the true nature of living in the Kingdom of God: we hunger and thirst for righteousness. The words Jesus uses are physical words. Hunger means that we need food to sustain us. Thirst means that we need hydration. Our lives are dependent on satisfying our hunger and our thirst. Our spiritual lives depend upon satisfying the hunger and thirst for righteousness.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-4, He quotes a passage in Deuteronomy:
He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then he gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:3 CSB)
Moses in Deuteronomy and Jesus in Matthew are saying the same thing. Our hunger – our innermost desire – and our thirst – our innermost need – must be for God, the source of all righteousness. Righteousness, in the Kingdom of God, means that we are loving each other. It means that we are loving those who are unlovable. Righteousness is based, first and foremost, on Love. When we are living in this righteousness, when we are living in the Kingdom of God, then our hunger and our thirst can be fulfilled. But the thing is, once we are filled with the righteousness of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, we find ourselves hungering and thirsting for more of Him. He is infinite. He will never run out.
Live and walk in the Kingdom of God by being poor in spirit, mourners, humble, and hungering and thirsting for Jesus!