The Presence of the Kingdom (4)
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90.12
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5.15, 16
Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” Luke 9.59, 60
To follow Jesus involves a complete turn, a translation into an entirely different state, orientation, context, quality, and direction of life. It is to move from darkness to light, fear to hope, and death to life.
Beginning within, in the soul of every believer, the Lord plants a new reality and presence which is increasingly characterized by righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Those who have been translated and conveyed into the Kingdom of God think with the mind of Christ. They receive a new heart with which to rebuild their affective and emotional life. And their conscience is purified and made ready for good works. The more they grow in grace and in the Kingdom presence, the more they are transformed into the likeness of Jesus, beginning in their soul (2 Pet. 3.18; 2 Cor. 3.12-18).
The Kingdom of God stands in stark contrast to the dying age of sin, and is advancing into, against, and over it as the followers of Christ proclaim and “signify” (one of the senses of Jesus’ carefully chosen imperative, διάγγελλε diangelle, “proclaim”) this new reality and realm by every possible means. We cannot signify and proclaim the Kingdom, ever seeking its progress and fullness, if we are anxious about and entangled in the things of this world. Of course, we must attend to our physical needs and those of our dependents. And we cannot escape the demands of participating in social and cultural life.
But if we are always considering such things as of first importance, as the man who was waiting for his father to die, we will never get about the business of proclaiming and signifying the Kingdom. Jesus' instruction is that the Kingdom and its advancement must define, shape, qualify, direct, inform, and rule every aspect of our lives here and now, so that in all things we are demonstrating, at all times, the reality of that new realm into which we have been translated as the sons and daughters of God.
Time for the Kingdom
Seeking and realizing the Kingdom of God takes time and happens in time. All our time. The gift of time comes to us from God so that in and with it we might seek the Kingdom and glory to which He has called us. We note that Paul mentions the time, rather than our time. We are not our own and neither is our time. All time comes from God as a gift to be used for His purposes. God intends His Kingdom to be established in the time of our lives, but this will not be possible until we learn to seek the Kingdom as the defining priority of every aspect of our lives, and not just one niche in a busy schedule of much else to do.
The Kingdom that is forming within us as a powerful presence of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit must overflow from us into the time of our lives—God’s time—where the newness, freshness, and wholly-otherness of the Kingdom becomes apparent to all (cf. Acts 17.1-7; 1 Pet. 4.1-4). Every moment of time comes to us fresh from God; yet, as an aspect of a fallen creation, it comes stained with sin. Time must be redeemed. We must lay hold on time and put it wisely to work for establishing the Kingdom presence in all our time. We need the wisdom of God to think ahead to the time of our lives, that we may number our days for Kingdom progress, prepare for using our time to God’s glory, and give all diligence to make our calling and election sure in all the time of our lives.
All time is time for the Kingdom of God. How, then, can we make the most of the time God gives us to realize a more vibrant Kingdom presence in our lives?
The Christian vantage point on time
We must gain a sense of time that matches the Lord’s sense, so that we can use the time He gives us as He intends, for His Kingdom and glory. One way to do this is to discipline ourselves to live in time from the perspective of a fourfold vantage point.
First, we look up to Jesus, exalted in glory, where we have been seated with Him in heavenly places (Col. 3.1-3; Eph. 2.6). We want to see Jesus, with the eye of our heart, and the ways His rule is practiced around His heavenly throne (cf. Rev. 4 and 5). It will do us little good to pray that the Kingdom of God would come on earth as it is in heaven if we do not have some compelling sense of what that heavenly realm is like. The goal is to be able to say, with David, “I have set the LORD always before me” (Ps. 16.8). This is the work of prayer, meditation, and singing—all disciplines which every believer is charged to employ.
Second, we need to have a sense of the past and how the Kingdom presence was expressed in previous eras. We must develop the discipline of looking back, remembering the work of God in previous ages and times, and noting the ways the Kingdom advanced in those days. The exhortation to remember the works of God in times past frequently occurs in Scripture. We ignore or neglect this aspect of our vantage point on time to our detriment.
Third, we must look ahead, nurturing a vision of what the coming of the Kingdom should look like as we seek and advance it. Scripture offers much helpful guidance in this, as in Psalm 22.21-31, Psalm 72, Daniel 2 and 7, and many of the parables of Jesus. What are we looking for as we go seeking the Kingdom and righteousness of God? Scripture can help us to flesh out this aspect of our vantage point so that we redeem the time of our lives in line with the promises of God’s Word.
Finally, we must look around and pay careful attention to our time. We want every moment of the time God gives us to be employed, as in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25.14-30), for the pleasure, purposes, and glory of God. If we’re not careful about how we are using our time at any moment, time can slip away from us, be hijacked by deceitful notions, or simply go to waste.
Look up, look back, look ahead, look around: If the Kingdom is to realize a vibrant presence in the time God grants us each day, then we shall have to prepare for that time, be watchful and diligent in using it, and review it before the Lord at the end of each day. The more we practice these disciplines, the more we may expect to realize a Kingdom presence in the time of our lives.
For reflection or discussion
1. What is your approach to making the most of your time for Christ and His Kingdom?
2. Why do we need all four “looks” for a proper vantage point on time?
3. What can you do, beginning today, to realize more of a Kingdom presence in the time of your life?
Next steps—Transformation: Pay careful attention to how you use the time God gives you. Make a point of committing all your time to the Lord throughout the day and of reviewing your use of God’s time after each activity.
T. M. Moore
To learn more about the Christian’s vantage point on time, order a free copy of our book, Vantage Point, by clicking here.
A companion book to this study of “Kingdom Presence” is available at our bookstore. Learn more and listen to an excerpt from The Kingdom Turn, by clicking here. Then order your free copy.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study.