What Does the Kingdom Look Like?
In what ways is God’s kingdom already present in the world? And how can it be that his kingdom is already present in the world, but not yet in some places? Here’s a helpful way of thinking about the present realities of God’s kingdom in the world: Wherever Christ is ruling, there the kingdom of God is. Using this as a grid, let’s identify various ways that God’s kingdom is already present and advancing in the world.
First and foremost, God’s kingdom is present in the gospel. The gospel is, as Jesus himself called it, “the gospel of the kingdom” (Luke 4:43). Understood correctly, the gospel is a declaration of Christ’s rule, and it’s for all people (Luke 2:10). Second, God’s kingdom is also present in the lives of all who believe in the gospel and are following Jesus. As Christ rules in our hearts, God’s kingdom reigns over our lives (Col. 3:15). Third, when Christ rules in our local churches, God’s kingdom is present among us (Rev. 1:6). In other words, when we gather together as a church—fully surrendered to Christ and in total submission to one another—the kingdom of God is among us.
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Remember that God’s kingdom advances every time a person hears the gospel and begins following Jesus by faith. My friend Bob is a great example of this. I (Ben) have witnessed God’s kingdom advance in and through him firsthand. He’s a retired salesman, and his wife, Mickey, prayed for fifty years that he would follow Jesus. Two years ago, at seventy-six years old, Bob believed in the gospel and was baptized at our church. God’s kingdom invaded his life and marriage, and his life is radically different now.
One year ago, Bob came to me and said, “So, I believe in the gospel, I’ve been baptized, and I’m attending church every Sunday. Now what?” That’s a great question, isn’t it? I asked Bob if he’d like to join a discipleship group with me and two other men. We studied the Gospel of Mark together, seeking to put Jesus’ teaching into practice one chapter at a time. When Jesus commanded something or we read of him doing something with his disciples in Mark’s Gospel, the four of us committed to doing it, too—together (James 1:22). As a new believer, Bob soaked it all up like a sponge.
Through this type of discipleship training, Bob realized that he was being discipled so that he could make disciples. As one disciple maker said, “Only disciples can make disciples.” When our discipleship group completed living together through Mark’s Gospel, which took us about six months, Bob immediately began his own discipleship group. And his disciple-making labor is bearing fruit, too. Soon after Bob started his first discipleship group, two people from his group were baptized! As I now write this, Bob is leading his second discipleship group and preparing to teach an equipping class for our congregation on making disciples.
Bob is a seventy-eight-year-old man who has been a Christian for two years, and he’s making disciples like crazy! God is exponentially multiplying his efforts, and Bob is experiencing the joy of the Lord. He is more than a conversion story and he’s more than just a great example of godly retirement; Bob is a clear testimony of how God’s kingdom is present and advancing in the world. When people are discipled in the gospel of the kingdom, like Bob was, and when they begin multiplying other disciples, like Bob did, God’s kingdom advances rapidly throughout the world! Jesus calls all of us, as Christians, to be discipled and to make disciples like Bob.