After a short diversion, (due to my concern over the deep political fracture in America), I want to pick up with ideas about receiving the kingdom. Just this week I had another friend say, “OK… so how do we actually do it?”
Just a quick review of the first two steps, and we’ll move on:
- Receive the Love of God, and stop trying to earn it. Nobody in the Gospel record ever had to earn the love of Jesus. He simply accepted people as they were. It’s when we finally accept the outrageous love of the Father without condition by faith that we’re born again into his life.
- Repent: which means not just turning from sin, but actually rethinking everything we thought we knew about God, his world, ourselves and the human race. No one can receive the kingdom while clinging to his own human reasoning, religious notions, and cherished opinions.
The next step of the journey seems to be following the King. Have you ever noticed how Jesus invites people to follow him, refers to those followers as “disciples,” and never once labels them “converts”? “Convert” is one of those terms we evangelicals would be hard-pressed to drop from our vocabulary. And yet its an idea the Son himself managed to splendidly avoid except for one time when he was taking the pharisees to task for traveling over land and sea to make a “convert.” Jesus was obviously more concerned about people actually following him as disciples than offering them a one-time religious experience.
To follow Jesus means to become a “red-letter” Christian, one who actually heeds his words, and follows him into the wide-open adventure of turning the other cheek, laying down our lives, giving away riches, feeding the poor, casting out demons and healing the sick. This is the life Jesus seemed to have in mind when he spoke about his kingdom.
Sadly, we evangelicals often make Christianity a personal affair, a transaction where we exchange “personal” faith for a “personal” experience that’s supposed to insure us a “personal” place in heaven while we too-often duck-out on the kingdom every chance along the way. I don’t know how God will do his accounting, but I worry that the safety we find in our “born-again conversion” might sometimes lead us away from the main point, which is the red-letter Kingdom of God.