The Kingdom of God

A Hard Question

For eleven years I was privileged to serve on the Board of Ordained Ministry for my denomination. The responsibility of the Board is to work with people who are candidates for ordained ministry, helping them navigate their way through the long process. From assisting them in understanding God’s call in their lives to celebrating with them at their ordination, it was a rewarding experience.

Broadly speaking, the areas the Board focuses on are a candidate’s call to ministry, pastoral and leadership skills, psychological and spiritual well-being, preaching and teaching abilities, and theological soundness.

My particular position was to serve with the group that assessed the candidate’s theology. We were responsible for reading the candidate’s theological paperwork and then interviewing them in person.

One of the tough issues each candidate had to face is the topic we will look at in this chapter: The Kingdom of God? What is it? How are we to understand it?

Would you be able to answer those two questions? Correctly? It’s a hard subject, one that many Christians have not spent a great deal of time thinking about. Some candidates struggled with it as well.

The Focus of Jesus

Maybe you’re wondering why, if it is such a hard question to answer, would we ask the candidates about the Kingdom of God. That is not a hard question to answer. The reason candidates are asked about the Kingdom of God is because it was the central theme of Jesus’ ministry. Everything he preached on, did, and taught somehow related to the Kingdom of God.

Here are some examples of Jesus’ focus on the Kingdom of God in Matthew’s Gospel alone.

Matthew 13:24 – Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 13:31 – He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.

Matthew 13:33 – He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Matthew 13:44 – “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Matthew 13:47 – “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.

Jesus referred to the Kingdom over thirty times in Matthew’s Gospel alone. That certainly suggests this was an important topic for our Lord.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Our text finds us at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Matthew 4:12 reports Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been put in prison. We do not know how long it was after Jesus heard this news, but we learn Jesus returned to Galilee.

This is key because Jesus was moving from something of a wilderness setting to a much more highly populated area. It was one in which he would be able to minister to a greater number of people. Many roads traveled to and from Galilee. Many people lived there. The opportunity to reach more people with his message would increase considerably.

Interestingly, Matthew suggested this move to Galilee was a fulfillment of a prophecy found in Isaiah 9. That’s why he wrote in Matthew 4:13-16,

Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali– [14] to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

[15] “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,the way to the sea, along the Jordan,Galilee of the Gentiles–

[16] the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned

Then we read these important words in verse 17,

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

That phrase, “From that time on…” is important. Matthew highlighted that Jesus was beginning his public ministry, one that would eventually take him to the Cross.


And what’s the message of Jesus? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

You have likely heard the word “Repent.” When we hear the word, repent, we often think of being sorry for something we’ve done and then promising never to do it again. And certainly, there’s an element of that here. However, in the Bible, the word means more than that. The word repent carries a couple of ideas with it.

A Change of Thinking

First it denotes changing the way a person thinks about something. Instead of thinking about something the way “the world” does, in a self-centered, rebellious sort of way, repentance means agreement with what God has said about that issue. 

The Sermon on the Mount is a marvelous exposition or teaching on this very thing. Jesus teaches us the fallen world thinks one way, but he calls his followers to think another way, his way.

A Change of Life

In the Old Testament, and the way Jesus was using the word here, repent means more than a change in one’s thinking. It also means a change in one’s behavior. One commentator said by “repentance,” Jesus meant,

A radical change of mind and heart that leads to a complete turnabout of life.” (William Hendrickson, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 197)

Again, the Sermon on the Mount is focused on what this “radical change of mind and heart and complete turnabout of life” looks like.

Jesus also seemed to stress an urgency in his call to repentance. But what’s the hurry? Why the sense of urgency to repent? Because, Jesus stressed, the kingdom of heaven is near.

What is the Kingdom of God?

What is Jesus referring to here? What is this “kingdom of heaven” that is near? The Kingdom of Heaven, or Kingdom of God, is the sovereign and gracious reign and rule of God.

Jesus doesn’t refer to the Kingdom as a place, in the sense of a geographical location. Instead, the Kingdom is God’s rule and reign. It’s wherever God’s will is being proclaimed and done. It’s wherever his influence is in effect. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, for example, in Matthew 6:10,

your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Kingdom of God is manifested in the hearts, minds, and lives of those who have bowed their knees to the King of the Kingdom, the Lord Jesus Christ. Wherever the loyal subjects of the King serve him, there you’ll find the Kingdom advancing, being extended into every sphere of life.

The Church and the Kingdom aren’t identical, but the Church, followers of the Lord Jesus, are the primary agents who spread God’s Kingdom.


What are some examples of the Kingdom breaking into our fallen, broken, and sinful world?

  1. Where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is faithfully preached in the local church, the King of the Kingdom is being exalted.
  2. Where parents faithfully disciple their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the Kingdom is being extended.
  3. Where a follower of Christ is doing all his or her work to the glory of God, God’s Kingdom begins to influence those around.
  4. Where Habitat for Humanity builds another house and shows mercy and respect to a family in the name of Christ, the Kingdom of God is breaking through.
  5. Where families without homes are treated lovingly and with dignity by local church ministries, the Kingdom of God is there.
  6. Where boys without fathers in their homes are mentored by caring godly men, the Kingdom of God is present.
  7. Where people in need can receive food, clothing, Bibles, toys, smiles, prayers, and warm hugs, the Kingdom is triumphing.
  8. Where a person who shared his faith in public is being defended from religious persecution, the Kingdom is advancing.
  9. Where a young nurse travels to India to care for the least and the last – scrubbing toilets without anyone noticing, the Kingdom of God is being manifested with power and grace.

The rule and reign of God, saturated in his grace, empowered by his sovereign Spirit, and directed by his will can be found wherever God’s people are at work for his sake and in his name.

United Methodists believe in God’s prevenient grace, the grace of God that goes ever before us, drawing us to Christ. We therefore hope and pray that even in those places where the name of Christ is not yet known or proclaimed, God’s prevenient grace is drawing people to the King of the Kingdom.

The Good News of the Kingdom

In verse 23, Matthew wrote, Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

What does Matthew say Jesus is preaching here? The good news of the Kingdom. The phrase “good news” is where we get our word “gospel.” The Kingdom of God ultimately cannot be understood apart from the good news or gospel of Jesus Christ.

The good news is what God has done in and through his Son to reconcile sinful, lost and broken people to himself. God sent Jesus, as his name implies, to save his people from their sin. The Kingdom cannot be properly understood apart from this.

God’s Kingdom turns all other kingdoms upside-down and not only offers salvation through Christ, but also sets patterns, attitudes, and behaviors for citizens of the Kingdom.

Already and Not Yet

The coming of Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God. Yet the Kingdom will not be fully consummated and enjoyed until Christ returns and we’re gathered to him. Theologians call this living between the “already” and the “not yet.” The Kingdom is present in our midst, and yet, it is not all it will one day be.

This “not yet” aspect of the Kingdom is perhaps why Jesus, while he was still with his disciples at the Passover meal, told them,

Luke 22:15-18 – “…I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. [16] For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

[17] After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. [18] For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Emphasis Added)

Living In-Between

Part of our understanding of the Lord’s Supper includes not only looking back to what Christ did for us, but it also emphasizes looking forward, forward to that day when we’ll dine with our King at the heavenly banquet he’s graciously prepared for us.

Until then, Christ’s faithful subjects are called to live in this in-between time, representing their King and extending his Kingdom into every sphere of life.

Walking Points

  • How have you experienced God’s rule and reign in your life?
  • How are you participating in extending God’s Kingdom and will here on earth as it is heaven?
  • Spend some time asking God to lead you to greater faithfulness in your life. Talk with your pastor and a few Christian friends to help you discover areas you can grow in “Kingdom faithfulness.”

Kingdom Discipleship

Luke 13:20-21 – And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.

A Definition

A Kingdom Disciple is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The phrase, Kingdom Disciple, is my shorthand way of communicating what it means to live faithfully as Christ’s follower, under his Lordship, and for his Kingdom. This distinctive is not mine. It’s neither innovative nor original. However, my goal in emphasizing Kingdom Discipleship is to help men see more fully what God has revealed in and through his Word about following Christ.

Jesus Christ is Lord

By using the phrase, Kingdom Discipleship, I wish to remind disciples of Jesus Christ that our calling is to faithfully and obediently follow Christ in everysphere of life. This is imperative because Jesus Christ is Lord over every sphere of life. It was God who granted Jesus authority over heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18) and gave him the name above every name (Phil. 2:9). It would, therefore, run counter to the biblical witness regarding our Lord’s authority, for men to live compartmentalized lives as his followers. God doesn’t want us to submit to Christ for just 70 or even 95 percent of our lives. He wants all of us. To paraphrase Abraham Kuyper, there is not a square inch in all the universe Christ has not claimed for himself.

Therefore, our calling as his followers is to intentionally, faithfully, obediently, and joyfully extend his Kingdom – his rule, reign, will, and influence – into every sphere of our lives (in every area of responsibility, interest, relationship, and authority). Everything, the common and the uncommon, the sacred and the secular, is to be done for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) and according to his will.

God’s Kingly Influence

The influence of the Kingdom of God and of his Christ must come through gracious, loving, and truthful persuasion, modeling, and witness, never through coercion or manipulation. The kind of transformed individual, family, church, state, society, and world God desires will not, indeed, must not, come through violent political revolution or rebellion but by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and the subsequent “salt and light influence” of God’s people.

The Local Church

The primary means, humanly speaking, by which God’s Kingdom is extended in this way is through local assemblies of God’s people. It is in and through the life of the local church that the life-giving, life-transforming Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed, taught, and lived out. It is only as men, women, boys, and girls are reborn by the Spirit of God that they can enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-8). Then, as they grow in their faith, having their minds continually renewed and lives transformed, they become better educated, equipped, and encouraged to take this good news of the Kingdom into every sphere of their lives. And just as the woman’s yeast is mixed into the dough and worked until it permeates all of it (Luke 13:20-21), so too is the Kingdom of God extended into every sphere of life by his disciples.

Walking Points

  • Based on this devotional, how would you explain what it means to “extend your faith into every sphere of life?”
  • Have you tended to compartmentalize your faith or does it permeate and influence the different areas of your life?
  • What are some ways your faith ought to influence your home, workplace, and community?
  • What are you presently doing to be such an influence?
  • How can you help other Christians gain a larger vision of the Christian life?
  • Meet with two or three Christian brothers and pray for such a “kingdom expanding” revival among God’s men to begin today.


My great God and King, Lord of all, I ask you to forgive me for not submitting all my life to you and, therefore, not seeking to advance your rule and reign into every sphere of my life. Awaken me with your Spirit and enable me to see and hear more clearly the needs of the world around me. As your ambassador of salt and light, use me how you will to hold back the darkness and slow the decay of this world. Let my life be a shining city on a hill that cannot be hidden so that, upon seeing my good works, you will receive all the praise and glory in heaven. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

Every Sphere of Life

Matthew 28:18 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Philippians 2:9-11 – Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Compartmentalized Living Won’t Do

I remember when I first started using the phrase, “faith for every sphere of life.” It began as I started studying the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It just made sense that if Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth, then he is Lord of everything. And if he is the Lord of all there is, then I must submit to him in every sphere of my life, or else I should stop calling him Lord. Jesus said as much in Luke 6:46,

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? (NRSV)

This notion is in marked contrast to the way many people think and live, including myself in the early days of my faith. I, like plenty of others, had long been an adherent of a compartmentalized faith. Men, you especially know the drill: the Christian faith is fine for Sunday mornings, but it has nothing to do with the rest of your life. It’s embarrassing to admit, but that’s where I was.

Personal, Not Private

Instead, the Christian faith should be understood as a comprehensive view of life. The secular world around us, however, still prefers the church to remain silent about anything not having to do with personal prayers and worship on Sunday mornings. Faith, they say, is private. Sure, you can practice it at home, or even with other Christians on Sunday mornings, but don’t dare bring it into the public square. Jesus, however, doesn’t give us that option. The Christian faith certainly ought to be personal, but it should never be private. To paraphrase the Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, “there is not a square inch in all the universe about which the Lord Jesus Christ does not declare his own.”

As a United Methodist, I have rejoiced that John Wesley took just such a view of the Christian faith. He called it Scriptural Holiness and said it was his purpose in life to spread such Scriptural Holiness over the land. For Wesley, holiness was inward but also outward. It was personal and it was social. There was no picking and choosing. Faith must permeate every aspect of a Christian’s life – prayer, personal devotions, worship, marriage, parenting, work, economics, politics, education, the arts, personal morality, relationships, civic duty, and serving the community, just to name a few spheres of life.

This Includes Your Life

I encourage you to prayerfully ask yourself what it would mean for you to understand there is not even the smallest corner of your life about which Jesus Christ, as Lord, is unconcerned. How would acknowledging and submitting to that truth change your life? How would it bless your relationship with your family and friends? What consequences would it have for you in your workplace? Can you imagine the possibilities? Christ is calling you to follow him in every sphere of your lives. Do you hear his voice? Will you follow him?

Walking Points

  • Look again at those questions in the last paragraph. They are not rhetorical. They are questions Christ requires we ask ourselves, as well as answer. More than that, we must live out those answers before a world in desperate need of godly men and women.
  • Write down as many “spheres” of your life as you can think of. Which of those spheres are you submitting to the Lord? Which ones are you keeping from him? Why?
  • How would submitting to Christ’s lordship in those spheres of life change the way you are living your life in those areas? Be as specific as possible.
  • Write your answers to each of those questions down in a journal or on an index card. Then pray over them, asking God to lead you to greater faithfulness. Meet with some accountability partners and discuss the questions and your answers and then pray about how each of you can help one another in this pursuit.


Lord of heaven and earth, remind me this day that there is not a square inch in all the universe about which you are unconcerned. While I rejoice that I have seen changes in my life through the gracious work of your Spirit, please show me those areas I am attempting to keep from you. Convict me of my sin and rebellion in those areas and turn my hard heart to flesh and joyful obedience. Please let my life faithfully bear witness to you as I serve as your ambassador to other men who are struggling with handing you the reigns in their lives. Together, may we extend your glorious Kingdom into every sphere of life here on earth, as it already is in heaven. In the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords I pray. Amen.

Kingdom Reformation

Matthew 6:10 – Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

God, Grant Us Reformation

In his book, Hot Tub Religion, J.I. Packer makes this observation,

“…we look at the church of our day and say, ‘We need another reformation.’ But do we know what we are saying? …We are in danger of settling for too narrow a perspective of what reformation is – too narrow a notion of what it was in the past and too narrow a notion of what it will be in the future if God visits us once more.”

Packer asks a good question. Do we indeed know what we are saying when we cry out for reformation? I was awakened to how little I comprehended the word when I began to study what reformation, biblically understood, truly means. I have discovered that this simple word is filled with great meaning. Contained within the word reformation are the ideas of revival, renewal, awakening, restoration, and even overhaul.

As I have considered these words, I have come to realize that the coming of the Kingdom of God was and is a reformation. As our Lord Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, he brought forth revival and renewal to people’s hearts, minds, and spirits. He awakened them to their great need for the living God. He brought forth restoration where only brokenness existed before. He turned existing ideas about God and humanity upside-down as he revealed God and his good news. He exchanged the temporal perspectives of man for God’s eternal perspective for every sphere of life. Because of this, I have come to see the need for reformation, biblical reformation, in three essential areas of life.

Reformation and the Individual

God uses individuals to touch and transform the church and the world. A.W. Tozer writes,

“It is mere common place to sing or pray, ‘Lord, send a revival, and let it begin with me.’ Where else can a spiritual quickening take place but in the individual life? There is no abstract ‘church’ which can be revivified apart from the men and women who compose it.”

Tozer points out that which should be obvious; that the church and world will not be reformed until faithful men and women begin chasing after God and his ways. Individuals do not have to wait for the church before they can be renewed to newness of life and the things of God. Our own faith must be real and personal before it can be social and corporate. Tozer adds,

“Every prophet, every reformer, every revivalist had to meet God alone before he could help the multitudes. The great leaders who went on to turn thousands to Christ had to begin with God and their own soul. The plain Christian of today must experience personal revival before he can hope to bring renewed spiritual life to his church.”

It is true, or course, Christianity is about community and relationships. No Christian is called to live alone on an island. However, this community is a community of men and women who have been personally and individually touched by the Holy Spirit and brought forth from death to life.

Reformation and the Church

One aspect that unites great leaders from Christian history, such as the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, and John Wesley, was their prophetic word to the church in their day. Sadly, they were sometimes viewed as John the Baptist – as lone voices crying in the wilderness. However, the Holy Spirit moved through these faithful men to bring about reformation in the church in their day. God is still using people the same way in our day. In my own denomination, the United Methodist Church, I see faithful men and women standing up for the true and living God and his Word.  I also see God renewing lives in his church through a variety of renewal groups.  And I know it is through the prayer of these men and women that God will bring a mighty reformation to our denomination. This is true for churches in every denomination or no denomination at all. However, we need to be guided by a proper understanding of reformation, so we might know what direction to take, and therefore, what path not to take.

The puritan pastor and writer, Richard Baxter, has helped provide clarity concerning the notion of reformation. In his book, The Reformed Pastor, Baxter showed that the idea of reformation, biblically understood, combines the heart and mind. In other words, we are not experiencing true reformation in the church when only one aspect is emphasized. Baxter points out that there must be inward spiritual renewal as well as outward correction of doctrine in Christ’s church. It does the church little good if she is only emphasizing correct doctrinal adherence and ignoring inward spiritual vitality. So too, a church that cares little for doctrinal faithfulness and only concerns herself with “religious feelings” cannot rightly be called faithful either. Instead, genuine reformation will reflect these two sides of the same coin. J.I. Packer comments,

“The Bible records many striking movements that textbooks usually call reformations. In every case this same two sidedness applies. These movements had an outward aspect; immorality and idolatry were put away. But they also had an inward side; men and women were stirred to seek God and renew their covenant with him.”

This is true reformation experienced in the Bible and in Church history. These two works, the inward and outward works of God, are really one work seen from two points of view. We cannot have one without the other. Prophetic voices must call Christ’s Church back to both emphases if we are going to experience real reformation. Martyn Lloyd-Jones declared that we have no reason to expect God to usher in reformation and revival if we are not being faithful to God in our present situation.

Reformation and the World

The Lord Jesus Christ came to a dark and lost world with the good and transforming news of the Kingdom of God. Individual believers, and the church, are called out of the world to bear witness to the Light of the world. We are called Christ’s ambassadors as we proclaim God’s message of reconciliation. Along with that beautiful, life-transforming message, God calls us to love our neighbors by serving them and standing up for them. We are called to be who we are in Christ – salt and light to a dark and decaying world. We live in the world though we are not of it.

Our faithfulness in our little part of the world will help bring about the reformation God desires. The Kingdom Jesus ushered in and proclaimed was not about slight adjustments here and there. It was about a complete overhaul – in our thinking, speaking, attitudes, values, priorities, beliefs, and behaviors. As God’s will is done in our lives as it is in heaven, God’s Kingdom-influence will be extended to the various spheres of our lives.

So, let us pray that God will bring biblical reformation into our lives for his greater glory and the blessing of our families, churches, workplaces, communities, and world.

Walking Points

Meet with some fellow Christians to discuss the following questions.

  • What areas of your life do you need biblical reformation? Explain each.
  • What are you presently doing to grow more faithful in these areas?
  • Do you regularly pray for God to bring reformation and revival into your life? Why or why not?
  • If you are part of a group of Christian men, watch the video and read the material, “If Men Will Pray.” (Click here for link) Discuss your thoughts with your group.
  • For one month, commit to regularly praying for reformation and revival for yourself and your group of men. At the end of the month, discuss what insights the Lord revealed to you.