The Kingdom Presence: New Testament (4)
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17.3
…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings… Philippians 3.10
A threefold vision
All who understand the “here and now” aspect of the Kingdom of God will exert themselves to realize as fully as possible the benefits of the reign of King Jesus in their daily lives. Jesus has translated and conveyed us into that eternal spiritual realm over which He rules as King and Lord. And He calls us to His Kingdom and glory, that we may realize more of its presence, promise, and power every day.
Which means that those who serve King Jesus must strive and struggle and seek every day to gain more and more of what is ours in the Kingdom of God. This idea is implicit in every parable of Jesus concerning the Kingdom. We may possess it, like a pearl of great price or a treasure buried in a field. The Kingdom grows and bears fruit, attracting others and gaining power. We must lay hold on it with violence, forcing our way ever more deeply and permanently into the reign of Jesus Christ and His glory (Matt. 11.12; Lk. 16.16).
Jesus’ vision of the proximity of the Kingdom, therefore, was a threefold vision: The Kingdom is yet to come in all its fullness (there and then); nevertheless, at the same time, the Kingdom is unfolding in our midst (here and now); and thus every follower of Jesus Christ must make it their primary concern to seek and attain to more and more of the Kingdom of God every day of their lives.
Then and there, here and now, more and more: This is how we must think about the Kingdom of God and our involvement in it.
All things new
It is impossible to read the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and fail to see that He was promising and calling people to an altogether new way of life. The Kingdom of God, as He envisioned and taught it, is a new realm, entered by the new birth, and issuing in a new life of freedom in God’s truth, unto the praise of God’s glory.
To realize this life, one must be born from above, by the Spirit of God (Jn. 3.5-7). From that moment, life becomes a journey of denying oneself, taking up our own cross daily, and following Jesus in pursuing the priorities of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 16.24, 25).
But what are those priorities? What should we, the heirs, citizens, and ambassadors of the Kingdom, embrace as the guiding framework, template, and pathway of our lives?
According to our Lord Jesus Christ, two primary and overarching priorities attach to citizenship in the Kingdom of God: Know the Lord, and bear lasting fruit.
Let’s have a look at the first of these.
Knowing the Lord
Eternal life—life in the Kingdom of God—consists of knowing God and Jesus Christ (Jn. 17.3). This is no mere intellectual achievement. Rather, the kind of “knowing” envisioned here is deeply intimate, personal, and transforming.
Nor is this some casual undertaking, or some side issue in our otherwise busy lives. The apostle Paul considered knowing Jesus the “one thing” he must do while yet in this life. Only knowing Jesus makes sense, gives direction and meaning to, and taps into the power necessary for fulfilling our calling to the Kingdom and glory of God.
To know Jesus Christ is to participate, in a mystical and spiritual way, in His body and blood (Jn. 6.48-56). It is to know the experience of His resurrection power and to understand and obey His Word (Matt. 22.29). To know the Lord is to become a child of God (Jn. 1.12), to call upon Him as Father, and to pray to Him about everything (Matt. 21.22; Jn. 16.24). It is to receive His good gifts and to use them, like wise stewards, for the increase of His glory (Lk. 11.11-13; Matt. 25.14-30). It is to be indwelt by His Spirit so that the life of God is formed increasingly within us (Jn. 14.15-17).
Equally important, to know the Lord is to be known by Him, to have Him so personally and intimately involved in every part of our lives, so that His Presence is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 7.21-23; 28.20). We can accomplish many ostensibly religious and good things without knowing the Lord. But unless we know Him, and are known by Him in return, we shall have no part in His Kingdom.
To know the Lord is thus to “walk in step” with Him, embracing His mission, seeking His vision, relying on His Word and Spirit, and living according to His holy and righteous and good Law (Matt. 5.17-19). In the Kingdom as Jesus brings it, all the children of God gather to Him, like chicks to their mother, taking refuge in the shelter of His grace and truth, feeding on the gifts which He brings them, and growing to maturity in order to extend His offspring and Kingdom throughout the earth (Matt. 19.13-15; 23.37).
We may only know God through Jesus Christ, by receiving Him as the promised Word, Savior, and King, sent from the Father for our redemption and restoration (Jn. 14.6). Believing in Jesus is incomplete if it does not lead to a life of knowing Him. Knowing the Lord by taking on the yoke with Jesus Christ, and learning from Him (Matt. 11.28-30), is thus the highest priority for every citizen of the Kingdom of God.
For reflection or discussion
1. Why is knowing the Lord indispensable to being truly saved?
2. How should knowing the Lord affect the way we live each day?
3. How can believers encourage one another in knowing the Lord?
Next steps—Transformation: What would you recommend to a new believer as a proper course for growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3.18)?
T. M. Moore
What does it mean to know the Lord? How can we increase in knowing Him? Our book, To Know Him, addresses these and other questions about life in the Kingdom of God. Order your free copy by clicking here.
A companion book to this study of “The Kingdom Presence” is available at our bookstore. 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.