Kingdom Mindset: On Earth as in Heaven
A major movement among Christians of all backgrounds today centers around grabbing hold of an emphasis on the kingdom of God. Take a quick scan through the Gospels and you'll see that the kingdom (of God, of Heaven) is a central feature in the life and mission of Jesus, yet I think many readers will relate with my own experience when I say that, for most of my life, I have heard very little about this idea of "the kingdom."
So what is it about the kingdom that is capturing the hearts and imaginations of believers today? I plan to take the next few blog posts to highlight some themes that are common to what we might call the kingdom mindset that is energizing and inspiring some of the most effective ministry and evangelistic efforts in our time.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he demonstrated to them a way of praying that was to paradigmatic of all Christian prayer - what we know as "The Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father." Right in the middle of this prayer we find the words, "On earth as it is in heaven." Since Jesus would not have instructed us to pray a futile prayer, we really only have two options for how we take these words. One option is to apply them to that future age when the New Jerusalem descends and the kingdom of God is finally, fully established on earth. The other option is to say that this is a prayer for today, and that Jesus was inviting the disciples to step into a new level of faith in their prayer.
QUALITIES OF THE KINGDOM
Those who embrace a kingdom mindset lean heavily on the second option. They take the nearness and accessibility of heaven very seriously. "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand," Jesus said (Mark 1:15). The kingdom is something that is "among us" or even "within" (Luke 17:21). It may have been established in seed form (Matthew 13:31), and yet that seed grows and works like yeast (Matthew 13:33) to influence everything around it. Jesus compares the kingdom to a pearl so precious that it can become our singular obsession (Matthew 13:46), and he promises provision to anyone who "seeks first the kingdom" (Matthew 6:33).
At the heart of the kingdom is the Lordship of Jesus. Because he humbled himself in obedience to the Father, he received "the name that is above every name" (Philippians 2:7-11) and was given "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). While this authority applies first to his authority over the Church (the people of God), the scope of his authority extends beyond people to the whole of the created order (both spiritual and material; cf. Ephesians 1:20-22).
How can we recognize the presence of the kingdom? Most of us are familiar with the signs of the kingdom that pertain to people (repentance, conversion, personal transformation, holiness of life, empowerment by the Spirit). But Jesus tells us to look for certain other signs as well, including the driving out of demons (Matthew 12:28) and healing of the sick (Luke 10:9). Whenever John the Baptist begins to entertain doubts about whether Jesus is the promised Messiah, Jesus sends this message back to John: "The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them" (Luke 7:22). In other words, what further evidence do you need?
SETTING THE STANDARD
Whenever we read the words of Jesus in the Gospels, it is good for us to try to hear them through the ears of those who were with him. At the time that Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer, they had seen all of these things taking place, they had seen Jesus restoring brokenness in every sphere of life. The disciples had even participated in doing it themselves! You have to imagine that they wondered to themselves just how far this thing could go.
And so in teaching his disciples to pray, he gave them their measuring stick and guide: "On earth as it is in heaven." It was as though Jesus was saying, "Take everything you've ever imagined about what heaven will be like, and now apply it to your present reality. And if there is anything in your reality that does not line up with heaven, then don't stop praying until it does!"
This is part of what it means to have a kingdom mindset. It means not passively embracing obstacles and brokenness as mere reminders of the fallen condition of the world, but as invitations to press in all the more for breakthrough. It means remembering that Jesus has been established as Lord, and that he possesses all power to remedy any situation that does not align with the standard of heaven.
But ability is one thing, and willingness is another. In the next post, we'll move on to the another aspect of a kingdom mindset: the Goodness of God.