Crosses and Such

The kingdom of God was manifested
perfectly in the person and work of the man
Jesus Christ. “For in him, all the fullness of
God was pleased to dwell,” Paul wrote in
Colossians 1:19. As Jesus lived on earth,
every thought, action, and word was a
kingdom thought, a kingdom action, and a
kingdom word. The way in which he
interacted with people—and the way in which
he called people to account for the gift of life
that the Father had given them—showed the
world that there was a better way to live. It
was possible, through imitation of the life and
work of Christ, to be formed into the image of
God. It still is. Yet that way of life was (and is)
fraught with difficulty and peril, precisely
because this way of living—kingdom living—
stands opposed to all of the kingdoms that
humankind has created throughout history.
But it is this kingdom, the kingdom of God,
which is eternal. It is “not of this world” (John
18:36), but rather it is heavenly and
everlasting. The “kingdoms” of the world will
continue to fight against the kingdom of God,
but the kingdom of God has already prevailed
in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Earthly
kingdoms are as nothing to God. “All the
nations are as nothing before him, they are
accounted by him as less than nothing and
emptiness . . . It is he who sits above the
circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like
grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens
like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to
dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and
makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness”
(Isaiah 40:17, 22-23).

The Gospel of Mark makes clear that
“kingdom of God” is the very gospel that
Jesus preached (Mark 1:15). And the
Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
shows us plainly how to live as children of
the kingdom. It is essential to note that
living in this way is not something that any
of us can do on our own. We must be in
Christ in order to be equipped to live as
Christ lived. By placing our faith in God,
and devoting ourselves to God’s way of
life, the Father—through the Son, and by
the power of his Holy Spirit—initiates in us
a process of transformation that is
intended to form us into his likeness. This
is not earned or merited in any way.
Rather, we are simply recipients of the
righteousness of God. That righteousness
is a gift from God, not a human
achievement. It is only through our faith in
the risen Lord Jesus Christ that we receive
this gift. And it is only through receiving
this gift that we are made able to live in
imitation of Jesus. It is Jesus Christ himself
who is our righteousness.
This free gift of grace is not without
obligation, however. Not at all. Christ calls
upon us to carry our cross. The apostle
Paul confirms this on more than one
occasion, that we are—like Christ—to be
crucified. That is, we crucify our “old self,”
we are “crucified to the world,” and so on.
In other words, when we come to Christ,
we make the radical decision to put to
death what we were before, in order that
Christ may transform us into what he
intends us to be. And just as physical
crucifixion is dramatic, intense, and
uncomfortable (to say the least), so, too,
will be our real separation from our former
life as we move into our new life in Christ.

Share This