Which kingdom are you living for?

I am joyfully preaching through the book of Philippians. There are a number of different themes in this amazing epistle such as joy in Christ, suffering, humility, unity, etc.

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I must confess I was surprised when I really looked into Philippians 1:27, “Only let your manner of LIFE be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that your are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

No doubt what Paul is saying is that the gospel needs to be at the very center of our lives. Everything we do needs to reflect the beauty, grace and power of the gospel. What was surprising to me was when I began looking into the Greek word “life” in this verse.

Here is what Christ Centered Exposition Commentary wrote about this word:

The phrase “your life” doesn’t capture the idea of citizenship imbedded in the verb politeuesthai (the verb is built on the noun polis-city). He essentially says, “Live as citizens in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The same idea is conveyed later in Philippians 3:20, where Paul reminds the church that they’re citizens of heaven. Paul uses this political word only here in Philippians. He probably uses it because of the Philippians’ pride over their Roman citizenship.”

Philippi was a Roman colony and the temptation would have been great to live more like a Roman citizen then a follower of Jesus Christ. As I prepared my sermon for this past Sunday I was asking God how I could apply to this truth to our everyday life. What came to mind is the recent controversy regarding the American flag and the NFL players. Many people were very upset over the fact that players were kneeling during the National Anthem. I get it. I am a patriot at heart and love my country. But it got me thinking. Maybe this “flag controversy” reveals something about our heart. Perhaps it reveals something about where our true allegiances lie. Here is the question I asked on Sunday. What has brought you greater emotional distress over the past few months, the way that the American flag has been treated or the fact that we have so many people in the city of Watertown that do not yet have a relationship with Jesus Christ?

I believe the way in which we honestly answer this question will begin to reveal to us if we are living more as American citizens or as citizens in the kingdom of God. To live a life worthy of the gospel means that in all that we do that Jesus Christ is always seen to be our greatest and most precious treasure. Is this true in my life? In yours?

The Church and the Kingdom of God

In the gospel of Matthew the word ‘kingdom’ is mentioned 52x. The word ‘church’ is mentioned 2x. At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17). Later on Jesus told his followers that they should “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).

Maybe it’s just me, but this makes me wonder why we are so foggy on what the kingdom of God is all about. Is it a distrust of authority? Could it be that we are accustomed to living under a democracy not a monarchy? Whatever the reasons might be I’m thinking that our failure to understand the kingdom of God has seriously limited our understanding of the church and her redemptive purpose in this world.

We need a concise, biblical definition of the kingdom of God; “The kingdom of God, already present but not fully realized, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty in the world toward the eventual redemption of all creation.” -The Gospel Coalition

Here are a three ways I believe a robust understanding of the kingdom of God would impact the church:

  • Churches would grieve over the fact that God’s people skip from one church to another because they know that while a church grows this way the kingdom of God does not. Less competition and more cooperation among churches.
  • Churches would work harder at equipping their people to live out their faith in the context of everyday life. Jesus is Lord over area of life and therefore all of life is an opportunity for ministry just waiting to happen. We would celebrate those who serve God in the workplace. Just as we pray for Sunday School teachers and Small Group leaders we would pray for those who are faithfully living as ambassadors for king Jesus Monday to Friday in the corporate world.
  • Churches would measure their effectiveness, in part, by signs of the kingdom of God flourishing in their city or suburbs.

What are some of the ways you can think of that a proper view of the kingdom of God impacts the way we view the church?

22 Of My Favorite Quotes From “Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work With God’s Work” -Tim Keller

  • During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through his grace. ALL PRAISE TO GOD…This album is a humble offering to him. An attempt to say “THANK YOU GOD” through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor. P.9-quoting John Coltrane
  • The book of Genesis  leaves us with a striking truth-work was part of paradise. P. 36
  • According to the Bible, we don’t merely need the money from work to survive; we need the work itself to survive and to live fully human lives. P. 38
  • So author Dorothy Sayers could write, “What is the Christian understanding of work?…It is that work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties…the medium in which he offers himself to God.” P. 38
  • Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place, as his representatives. P. 49
  • The current economic era has given us fresh impulses and new ways to stigmatize work such as farming and caring for children-jobs that are supposedly not “knowledge” jobs and therefore do not pay very well. But in Genesis we see God as a gardener, and in the New Testament, we see him as a carpenter. No task is too small a vessel to hold the immense dignity of work given by God. P. 49
  • All work has dignity because it reflects God’s image in us, and also because the material creation we are called to care for is good. P. 51
  • In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Paul counsels readers that when they become Christians it is unnecessary to change what they are currently doing in life-their marital status, job, or social station-in order to live their lives before God in a way that pleases him. In verse 17, Paul directs, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” Here Paul uses two religiously freighted words to describe ordinary work. Elsewhere, Paul has spoken of God calling people into a saving relationship with him, and assigning them spiritual gifts to do ministry and build up the Christian community (Romans 12:3 and 2 Corinthians 10:13). Paul uses these same two words here when he says that every Christian should remain in the work God has “assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” Yet Paul is not referring in this case to church ministries, but to common social and economic tasks- “secular jobs”, we might say-and naming them God’s callings and assignments. P. 65-66
  • Christians should be aware of this revolutionary understanding of the purpose of their work in the world. We are not to choose jobs and conduct our work to fulfill ourselves and accrue power, for being called by God to do something is empowering enough. We are to see work as a way of service to God and our neighbor, and so we should both choose and conduct our work in accordance with that purpose. The question regarding our choice of work is no longer, “What will make me the most money and give me the most status?” The question must now be “How with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to other people, knowing what I do of God’s will and of human need?” P. 67
  • It is pure invention [fiction] that Pope, bishops, priests, and monks are called the “spiritual estate” while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the temporal estate.” This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimidated by it, and that for this reason: all Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them except by office…We are all consecrated priests by baptism, as St. Peter says: “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly realm” (1 Pet.2:9). P.69-quoting Martin Luther
  • The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables. P. 76-77-quoting Dorothy Sayers
  • Research into the properties of the atom become the basis for the atomic bomb. In other words, work, even when it bears fruit, is always painful, often miscarries, and sometimes kills us. P. 89
  • Just because you cannot realize your highest aspirations in work does not mean that you have chosen wrongly, or are not called to your profession, or that you should spend your life looking for the perfect career that is devoid of frustration. You should expect to be regularly frustrated in your work even though you may be in exactly the right vocation. P. 94
  • Brooks’s first point is that so many college students do not choose work that actually fits their abilities, talents, and capacities, but rather choose work that fits within their limited imagination of how they can boost their own self-image. P. 108
  • Without the gospel of Jesus, we will have to toil not for the joy of serving others, nor the satisfaction of a job well done, but to make a name for ourselves. P. 112
  • “In the long term I think being a preacher, missionary, or leading a Bible study group in many ways is easier. There is a certain spiritual glamour in doing it, and what we should be doing each day is easier to discern more black and white, not so gray. It is often hard to get Christians to see that God is willing not just to use men and women in ministry, but in law, in medicine, in business, in the arts. This is the great shortfall today. P. 119-quoting Dick Lucas
  • Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff observes that modern culture defines the happy life as a life that is “going well”-full of experiential pleasure-while to the ancients, the happy life meant the life that is lived well, with character, courage, humility, love, and justice. P. 149
  • While from the outside there might not be immediately noticeable differences  between a well-run company reflecting a gospel world-view and one reflecting primarily the world-story of the marketplace, inside the differences could be very noticeable. The gospel-centered business would have a discernible vision for serving the customer in a unique way, a lack of adversarial relationships and exploitation, and extremely strong emphasis on excellence and product quality, and an ethical environment that goes “all the way down” to the bottom of the organizational chart and to all the realities of daily behavior, even when high ethics mean a loss of margin. In the business animated by the gospel worldview, profit is simply one of many important bottom lines. P. 168
  • So when we say that Christians work from a gospel worldview, it does not mean that they are constantly speaking about Christian teaching in their work. Some people think of the gospel as something we are principally to “look at” in our work. This would mean that Christian musicians should play Christian music, Christian writers should write stories about conversion, and Christian businessmen and-women should work for companies that make Christian-themed products and services for Christian customers. Yes, some Christians in those fields would do well to do those things, but it is a mistake to think that the Christian worldview is operating only when we are doing such overtly Christian activities. Instead, think of the gospel as a set of glasses through which you “look” at everything else in the world. Christian artists, when they do this faithfully, will not be completely beholden either to profit or to naked self-expression; and they will tell the widest variety of stories. Christians in business will see profit as one of only several bottom lines; and they will work passionately for any kind of enterprise that serves the common good. The Christian writer can constantly be showing  the destructiveness of making something besides God into the central thing, even without mentioning God directly. P. 179-180
  • God is creator of the world, and our work mirrors his creative work when we create culture that conforms to his will and vision for human beings-when it matches up with the biblical story-line. P. 184
  • But indeed, as Bible scholar Bruce Waltke points out, the Bible says that the very definition of righteous people is that they disadvantage themselves to advantage others, while “the wicked…are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.” P. 203
  • Without something bigger than yourself to work for, then all of your work energy is actually fueled by one of the other six deadly sins. You may work exceptionally hard because of envy to get ahead of somebody, or because of pride to prove yourself, or because of greed or even gluttony for pleasure. P. 230