But why has Jesus called us to the Kingdom? What should result from our coming to know the Lord?
He Himself explains, as we see in our text. The intimacy we enjoy with God, when it is true knowledge of Him, will result in fruit in our lives. God is glorified when His children bear lasting fruit (Jn. 15.8); thus also His children prove themselves to be such, and therefore to be justified in laying hold on His promises and seeking more of His Kingdom (Matt. 7.12, Jn. 15.8).
But in what does this fruit consist? We may divide our fruit-bearing into two sub-categories – fruit from within, and fruit borne without.
Fruit from within
The fruit Jesus brings forth within us is of two primary sorts, righteousness and love.
Righteousness. Jesus expects His followers to bear genuine righteousness, the righteousness of God’s Law, and not merely – like the Pharisees and scribes – as an external show of conformity to regulations and rules, but as the outward expression of a heart fully devoted in love to God (Matt. 22.34-30; 5.17-20; 23:25, 26).
This is not something we can achieve in our own strength. Nor is the righteousness that we express, to whatever extent we are able to bear such fruit, our own righteousness. Rather, it is the evidence and fruit of the indwelling Christ, Who, by His Word and Spirit, brings life and renewal in and through us to refresh all those around us (Jn. 6.63; 7.37-39).
Righteousness defines the character of the Kingdom of God (Rom. 14.17, 18). We must strive for this righteousness (Matt. 6.33). This life of righteousness is the way to fullness of joy in the Kingdom of God (Jn. 15.6-11), but we cannot attain it to any degree without abiding in Jesus and His Word and Spirit. Without Him, we can do nothing (Jn. 15.1-5).
Love. Chief among the virtues of righteousness, and defining all the others, is love. Jesus calls us to love our fellow citizens in the Kingdom as He has loved us, and to love our neighbors – whoever they may be – as we love ourselves (Jn. 13.1-15; Matt. 22.34-30). Jesus insisted that the Law and the Prophets are sufficient to instruct us in the ways of love, and He promised that whoever learned, kept, and taught these would be great in the Kingdom of heaven (Matt. 22.34-30; 5.17-19).
Fruit borne without
The fruit we bear without through the righteousness and love of Christ is also of two sorts – disciples of the Lord and the reconciling of the world to God.
Disciple-making. Jesus has instructed all His Kingdom citizens to devote themselves to the work of making disciples as they are going about the everyday activities of their lives (Matt. 28.18-20). We are called, that is, to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and to teach, encourage, and assist our fellow Kingdom citizens in growing to maturity in that glorious realm. Whatever else we do as expressions of love for God and neighbor must be expressed within this disciple-making cast.
Part of our disciple-making priority requires that we become seekers of those who are lost (Lk. 19.10). We cannot simply wait around for lost people to ask us what we believe. Like Jesus, we must go to them, get to know them, look for ways to serve them, and, as we are able, engage them in conversations concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.
Reconciling. Jesus understood that He was sent to earth, to bring the Kingdom of God near to men, because of His Father’s undying love for all the vast cosmos (Jn. 3.16). He also knew that God was at work in Him, to accomplish through His work of redemption the reconciling to God of all His creation (2 Cor. 5.17-19).
Whatever our particular involvement in creation may entail – work, cultural activities, involvement with the environment, politics – we must take a Kingdom perspective on it, so that we may pursue the vision of all these aspects of the creation reconciled to God.
As we have seen, in Jesus’ mind the Kingdom of God is primary. By bringing it near, and by drawing us into it, He calls us to embrace its priorities and to bring every aspect of our lives into joyous and fulfilling line with the purposes and course of the divine economy, as that is unfolding within the Kingdom of God.
How would you describe the state of Kingdom fruitfulness in your life at this time? Where would you like to see improvement? Talk with a Christian friend about these questions.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.