Living Like Citizens

By Cailey Morgan

What does it mean to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom?

We’re in the middle of a series on Gospel, Kingdom and Justice. In some ways, Gospel is the biggest picture—the story of God with us throughout history and the reality that He is for all who will receive Him. Kingdom zooms in a little to explain that God is King, so living out the Gospel (aka, living in His presence with Him) means we are citizens of His Kingdom: the realm in which what God wants done gets done.

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In coming articles we will dive into Justice—an even sharper focus on one of the key ways that the Good News of the Kingdom is enacted on earth and in heaven. But today, let’s look at one of the ways the Tangible Kingdom Primer describes God’s Kingdom on earth:

“We believe that whenever you see a group of people who find a rhythm or balance among communion, community and mission, you will always find the Kingdom. It will be tangible!”i

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Communion represents ‘oneness’—those things that make up our intimate connection and worship of God. Community represents aspects of ‘togetherness’—those things we share with each other as we live our lives together. And mission represents ‘otherness’—the aspects of our life together that focus on people outside our community.”ii

I can quickly give mental assent to this description of the Kingdom. It’s chock-full of missional-incarnational-community language that I’ve been steeped in as an apprentice of Cam Roxburgh over the years. But a life of communion, community and mission—living as a citizen of King Jesus’ realm—is not just a proposition I give a nod to, or a neat box for explaining a spiritual truth.

Choosing citizenship means action. It means intentionally striding toward the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14). And it means shedding all other attachments and allegiances in order to squeeze through that hole in the wall.

The authors of the TK Primer explain it this way:

“Nothing good ever comes easy. For sure, nothing of God’s Kingdom comes without resistance from our personal kingdoms or the world’s kingdom. Nothing of the Spirit of God comes without a good ol’ fashioned bar fight from our flesh….

God’s ways are natural, but they aren’t easy—especially at first. New ways of life must be formed in us through hours, days, and years of intentional practice. The future of your own faith and the incarnational presence of your community is ultimately about letting the Spirit of God re-orient everything about you.”iii

A Picture of Citizenship
This citizenship process is difficult, but not impossible. In Acts 2, we get a clear and beautiful glimpse of what happens when God’s people surrender to His Spirit and His Kingdom way; the Good News that God offers Himself to all is proven when He empowers those who say yes to respond by offering their all.

 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:37-47).

The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Wow. Yes please, Lord! So how does the Kingdom advance in this passage? Notice what begins to happen when hearers of the Good News let the Gospel take over in their own lives. It infiltrates every area of their devotion and action, and soon other people start to notice. And then those other people begin to surrender their all to living in the Good News of the Kingdom and the Spirit-led cycle continues.

Peter shows us the need for clear preaching and admonition, but this movement exploded because people believed what he said about Jesus with not only their minds, but their hearts and voices and wallets and calendars and homes and refrigerators. That’s evangelism.

Devoted. Everyday. Everyone. Everything.
I’ve read and prayed through this passage so many times over the years because it’s this type of abundant life that I covet for my family and my church and my neighbourhood. But when I opened again to Acts 2 the other day, God’s Spirit nudged me to consider whether I myself am living as a devoted citizen of God’s Kingdom. The conversation went like this:

Spirit: “All the believers were together.”

Cailey: “You mean, like, in the-same-place-spending-time-together type of together? Or emotionally together—like a shared purpose?”

Spirit: “All the believers were together. Every day they continued to meet together.”

Cailey: “I can dig it! With a few people. I’m kind of introverted, as you obviously know.”

Spirit: “All the believers were together.”

Cailey: “Like, the ones I get along with?”

Spirit: “Nope. All.”

Cailey: “How about the ones I know I can trust?”

Spirit: “Nope. All. Trust Me.”

Cailey: “How about the ones who have the same core value statements?”

Spirit:  “They had everything in common.”

Cailey: “You mean like they lent each other their stuff?”

Spirit: “Yes. And they shared their pain. And their joy. And their love for the place where I planted them. That’s why they sold property to give to anyone as they had need.”

Cailey: “As in, when they could afford it they gave offerings to support people who were trying to get back on their feet.”

Spirit: “No. I mean they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”

Cailey: “What if they don’t deserve it?”

Spirit: “What do you deserve?”

Cailey: “Touché, Lord. But what if they misuse the gift?”

Spirit: “If you’re asking that question, it wasn’t a gift.”

Cailey: “I don’t think I can do this.”

Spirit: “That’s why you have them! And Me!”

The Gospel news of God’s presence, His reign, and His constant, all-out search has been the reality since the beginning of time and is the reality today. Yes, one day we will have fully-realized heavenly life when the darkness of sin and separation from God no longer seeks to block out the warmth and light of Christ and the radiance of His Bride (us living together in the unity of the Spirit). But the Kingdom is already among us, as Jesus declared and His people have been declaring for twenty centuries.

When we—the citizens of that Kingdom—submit ourselves to the reign of the King, aligning our will with His, our very lives will point to this Good News, and our “evangelistic” declaration of truth will no longer be a hollow and awkward statement of beliefs, but a simple and natural explanation of why and how our lives are marked with contagious and brilliant Light. Sounds like good news to me!

Next week, we’ll jump into Advent by taking a look at some of the Old Testament promises and prophecies about Jesus, and the strong thread of a Kingdom of Justice that winds its way throughout history and Jesus’ teachings while He was here on earth.


i. Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, The Tangible Kingdom Primer: An Eight-Week Guide to Incarnational Community (CRM Empowering Leaders: 2009): 202.

ii. Graphic and quote from Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, The Tangible Kingdom Primer: An Eight-Week Guide to Incarnational Community (CRM Empowering Leaders: 2009): 201

iii. Ibid: viii.

Thinking Right-Side Up

By Cailey Morgan

A New Identity
In the apostle Peter’s beautiful letter to the church scattered throughout Asia minor, he presents a sometimes-poetic, sometimes-stark picture of the diverse and persecuted people of God as the new Israel: God’s family. Christians are the new children of Abraham, the new temple, the new priesthood. It’s a new way to live—a life direction opposite to the Roman culture they lived in.

If you’ve got 8 minutes, check out this visual walk-through of 1 Peter below to see how all these Old Testament pieces fit together with Peter’s New Testament definition of the church:

We can quickly find parallels between our context in 21st-century Canada and that of the God’s people in Peter’s time, not to mention the transient and exilic days of the Israelites, as Ontario author Lee Beach writes in The Church In Exile. So as you read this verse, picture yourself, surrounded by your congregation, when you hear the word “you” in Peter’s statement here:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). 

You have been called out of darkness and into light—an absolutely opposite experience from the life you used to have. And being this holy nation together not only shows up in the language we choose to employ or the “bad things” we try not to do, although that’s part of it (as a witness to God’s glory, 1 Peter 2:11-12).

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In His Kingdom, the last shall be first. In His Kingdom, there’s a new definition of success. In His Kingdom, the way we treat people is transformed. Power is perfected in weakness.

Right-Side-Right Right Here, Right Now
Some of this right-side-right thinking will come up against global power and cultural influence: Peter calls Rome “Babylon” in his letter in recognition of the pervasive, abusive corruption of political and military power throughout history. But foremost, right now, the way of Jesus confronts insignificant me and little old you. It confronts the root of pride I carry, and that hidden anger cycle in your heart, and that nasty little “me first” impulse that pops up seemingly before we can stop it and pulls our minds into making decisions that leave us with the credit and someone else with the suffering.

Living in the way of Jesus is something we simply can’t do on our own. We can’t see rightly without His lenses; we can’t think rightly without His thoughts; we can’t live rightly without His Spirit.

When His Kingdom comes in full, we’ll finally grow into the holy and beautiful Bride Christ is inviting us to be. But until that day, we pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And when we say those words, we’re asking the Lord to flip us right around, and give us the humility and the perspective to join Him in making the world around us more like heaven.

These next articles will be a study in opposites: how the Kingdom-of-God definitions of power and congregational success and leadership and conflict resolution contrast what we see around us (and even what we see in our own hearts), but how these ways of Jesus are in fact the key to being the chosen people and holy nation that we’ve been striving to become all along. I pray that you will see your identity as God’s set-apart sons and daughters and your life’s mission to “declare the praises of Him who called you” in every situation, every day.

Re-Lent

By Joell Haugan

Again we find ourselves immersed in the Lent season where we set aside something (often time, or fasting of various types) and replace it with some directed meditation in preparation of Good Friday and Easter. It is a powerful yearly spiritual exercise that is often lost on evangelicals—myself included.

Then I thought about the word “relent” and wondered if there was a connection of some kind. Turns out the root word is different, but that doesn’t prevent me from making a connection anyway!

Relent, of course, means to give in and become less aggressive while conceding the point. So, in an argument, the person who relents is the one who finally says “OK, you are right, I give up.” In a March storm (which all of Canada seems to be getting) the wind finally relents, stops and is replaced by placid (and often beautiful) calm.

Obviously, Christians often need to relent with God and concede to Him the point (whatever it may be). We often need to drop our defensive, aggressive stance of stubbornness and let God be in charge of life….again and again.

I often wonder if churches need to relent too. I wonder if the Holy Spirit is actually prompting churches, attempting to get us to see the harvest right in our own neighbourhoods instead of ignoring those very people that God has plopped us in the middle of. Prompting us to become churches that participate in Kingdom tasks beyond our own siloed (only our little group) jobs. Prompting churches to express God’s love in concrete ways in our cities/towns/areas instead of just assuming they will “get it.” And perhaps He’s prompting our churches to multiplying our ministries to new towns and new neighbourhoods instead of us trying get more people to drive further to our one location.

What is God trying to say to you? To your particular gathering of the saints which we call Church?

Maybe this Lent we can relent to God’s prompting in our personal and our corporate church lives.

Joell.

Build Your Kingdom Here

About a year and half ago, a friend sent me a YouTube clip to watch. I must have listened to it five times that first viewing! Why? Because the lyrics of the song so resonated with the message I had been speaking out wherever I had the opportunity. It expressed so vividly for me the cry for the Kingdom that Jesus expresses so often in His preaching and teaching.

 

Look at this line in verse three:

You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ
We are your church, we are the hope on earth.

I wonder if we’ve lost that: that as followers of Christ who dwells in us, we are the hope on earth, we are the Church. Now before you throw garlic at me, hear this out.

We are created in the image of God. Jesus, in His earthly journey, was God with skin on. He sent out His followers, His disciples to do what he was doing, teach what He was teaching, love who He was loving. He was and is hope on earth. He instilled that hope deep into the hearts of those who heard and responded to the call. And as Christ’s image-bearers, they took that hope wherever they went.

It spread the kingdom. It infiltrated the darkness.

It changed how people thought (repentance means to re-think and walk a different way) and viewed creation and created. So those first gospelers personified the hope living within them to those they lived, worked, played and prayed with.

This week in Victoria our CityReach Team (a city wide church collaboration) is hosting Ed Silvoso who will be speaking on transformation. We’ve had similar conferences here before which were very good and very inspiring and lots of Christians became fired up.

And then they went home and waited.

For what? For ‘it’ to happen. Can you imagine if those first gospelers did the same thing? Went home and just waited for it to happen. Instead they gathered together and prayed and when the Holy Spirit empowered them they went as sent ones out into the spaces and places they frequented and the lands that were foreign and brought the Hope of Glory into the known world, often one person, one relationship at a time, transforming lives and thinking and hearts and actions.

Friends, we are God’s Church, His people, and we are the hope on earth that your co-worker, your next door neighbour, your soccer buddy is hoping to discover, because that hope lives within us.

Verse two plays like this:

We seek your kingdom first, we hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives, for You’re our joy and prize
To see the captive’s hearts released, the hurt, the sick, the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for heaven’s cause
We are Your church, we pray revive this earth.

If we want to be church implanters (a term I’m currently using to express what we traditionally call planting) who have impact in the communities we are implanted in, we need to seek; we need to lay down our lives. Honestly, I don’t think any gaming experience or movie can replace the joy of seeing lives impacted and set free by the Hope of Glory that lives in you and lives in me.

Have a listen and let me know what you think!

Spurring one another on,
Shannon Youell
CP Co-ordinator/Director