The Kingdom According to Jesus by Gregory A. Johnson on the Independent Author Index
The Kingdom According to Jesus by Gregory A. Johnson
August 2, 2012 |
Posted by Gregory A. Johnson
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Church today is not always what Christ intended it to be. Many attend church but ignore the larger inequalities that tear apart society both inside and outside the walls of the church building. In The Kingdom According to Jesus, Gregory A. Johnson revisits the Kingdom of God revealed through Jesus’ actions and words. It is a Kingdom built on justice that is driven by faith. Citizens of the Kingdom are recipients of God’s grace, practicing love and peace while tackling inequalities of race, gender, health, and economics with a holy passion full of Christ-given life.
Johnson is unabashed in his zeal to take on the problems that plague the modern church. To make a dent in the inequalities that trouble our society, he demonstrates that we need to look at ministry beyond church walls. To arrive at this goal, he introduces some thought-provoking terminology that may be new to readers such as “point-of-need ministry.” Just as Jesus ministered to people where his love was needed, point-of-need ministry spreads the Gospel by connecting with society’s vulnerable where they are most in need. It is a practice that returns the church to its first-century roots in connecting with the vital needs of the teeming society around it.
While its calls to action may seem radical, The Kingdom According to Jesus is thoroughly grounded in scripture. Each chapter is built around Christ’s teachings and helps the reader develop a solid understanding of the Kingdom. For instance, in Johnson’s chapter addressing inequities in access to health care, the pastor carefully notes that Christ’s ministry was built on tackling the problems of our imperfect, terrestrial world. “Jesus came into our world, defeated evil, and established His Kingdom on earth. That Kingdom is not inactive; it is active. It’s not weak; it is strong,” Johnson writes. “It resides in Christ’s followers and is revealed to the world through their actions as they continue the point-of-need ministry of Jesus. It will be consummated on earth when He returns as promised.”
In the book, each of the Kingdom attributes, such as love, grace, race equality, and economic equality, merits a chapter of its own. By the time the reader is finished, he will have a clear understanding of what it means to be a citizen in God’s Kingdom and how to model that citizenship through actively engaging in point-of-need ministry. Unlike what some church leaders may say, the Kingdom is not just the church and it is not just built through growing church attendance. Rather, God has already revealed His Kingdom through Jesus Christ, who walked the earth and revealed a divine message through holy actions and teachings. In the reader’s hands lies an action plan for carrying out Jesus’ words of Kingdom building.
The author has rated this book G (all ages).
What is the Kingdom of God? What does building the Kingdom mean? How does one work in the Kingdom? If you were asked those questions today, how would you answer?
I’m sure that some people would answer that the church is the Kingdom, and building the Kingdom involves growing church attendance and membership. Many would define working in the Kingdom as volunteering expendable time to church activity, mostly taking place within the walls of a building and the confines of a service. Those answers may involve good things to do, but is all of that correct?
To truthfully answer all of these questions, we will have to look to Jesus. God did not define His Kingdom to us in the old covenant, nor has He revealed His Kingdom to us through church doctrines and traditions. Instead, God revealed His Kingdom to us in the person of Jesus Christ. As He walked this earth, what did Jesus say and what did He do that revealed the Kingdom to us? We must explore Scripture, which enlightens us to the teachings and the life of Christ, developing in us a solid understanding of the Kingdom.
In my first book, The Characters of Christmas: God at Work in Our Lives, I write about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the angel Gabriel’s message to her from God. It will do us good here at the beginning of The Kingdom According to Jesus to look at a portion of what the angelic messenger communicated to Mary. Gabriel said, “‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end’” (Luke 1:28-33).
God had a marvelous work to do in Mary; He revealed to her that absolutely nothing is impossible with Him. I discuss in my first book how that work in Mary is relevant to the work that God is doing in us in our day, as He also favors us. In The Kingdom According to Jesus, I want to start off by bringing to your attention, God proclaiming through Gabriel, that the Kingdom is established in Jesus, and His Kingdom will never end. His Kingdom is infinite. It always has been and always will be—just as Jesus.
Jesus left glory and all of its riches to come into our world and reveal His Kingdom. Theologians refer to this emptying process that Jesus willingly went through as “kenosis.” After the resurrection, the opposite of kenosis took place—Jesus was re-glorified. Jesus is now back in His original state of glory.
John, secluded on the island of Patmos, received a revelation of the re-glorified Christ. He testifies: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’” (Revelation 1:17-18).
John caught a glimpse of the re-glorified Christ and tried to describe what He saw, the best way he knew how, with his limited vocabulary. It was a spectacular sight that words cannot adequately describe. John says: “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:12-16).
Beloved, as revealed to John, Jesus is no longer a babe in a manger; He is no longer a savior on a cross. He is so far above what we could ever imagine or comprehend. Citizens of the Kingdom now serve the glorified Christ; He is ruling over His Kingdom, both now and forevermore.
When Jesus walked this earth, He revealed His Kingdom to us through His words and His actions. The secret to understanding the Kingdom and living as its citizens is found in the life of Christ. Jesus and the Kingdom are the same; He is the Kingdom embodied. Jesus gave us the first hint into what His Kingdom is all about when He preached His first sermon in His hometown of Nazareth.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21).
The chapters ahead in The Kingdom According to Jesus will explore the Kingdom that Jesus revealed. I set out to show that the Kingdom includes love, grace, peace, and life with race equality, gender equality, health equality, and economic equality for all. Is this list of Kingdom attributes exhaustive? No, but it is a start, and it is based on the teachings and the life of Christ.
Restricted by a finite mind, and depending upon Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s revelation, I must confess up front that there are many things about the Kingdom that I’m still learning. I’m convinced that we will always be learning, as we follow Christ until the conclusion of our journey, but there is one thing concerning the Kingdom that I’m certain of today—it’s all about Jesus.
Let’s now begin our exploration into The Kingdom According to Jesus. Under the unction of the Holy Spirit, I am compelled to share with you what God has laid on my heart through my years of Scripture study, ministry experience, and being a Christ follower. By the concluding chapter, I pray that each reader will have a better understanding of the Kingdom and how he or she can be a citizen of it.
Let’s begin by praying this prayer: “Father, open my understanding to the Kingdom that has been established in Jesus. I desire to learn all I can about the Kingdom that Jesus has revealed by His words and actions. Please intensify within me a desire to seek the Kingdom above all else. Utilize the Scripture I read to spark a desire to learn more so that I can be a model citizen in the Kingdom. Give me ears to hear what the Holy Spirit may speak to my heart as I read the pages within this book. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Copyright© Gregory A. Johnson. All rights reserved.
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