Our neighbours are not interested in ‘going to church’ and perhaps surprisingly, ‘the salvation of their souls’ is not on their top ten lists of concerns. They are worried about the world- climate change, pollution, finite resources, the Middle East, wars, poverty, human trafficking. They are often even more concerned about managing their time, earning a decent wage, raising a decent family and living in a safe and healthy community. Life in the hereafter and a God of the hereafter seem to have little relevance to their lives and anxieties. Could their perception be true? Is the church so heaven bound that she is no earthly good?
As the Spirit is moving the church to the margins of Western society, it maybe that God is calling her to hit the ‘refresh button’ and discover anew the nature and scope of God’s Kingdom and the essence of the church. I for one, am confident that the culture that was formed by the beliefs and practices of a future ‘up there’ Kingdom is not the last word for God and His people. The question is what is the grand story of God, His character and intentions, His relationship with the world? And how do those seeking to be faithful in following the Spirit and the Word in this new context reconnect with beliefs and practices that re-form us as the people of God on God’s mission in and for the sake of that mission, His Kingdom and glory?
God is Sovereign
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. Psalm 29:10
We begin with a renewed understanding of God’s Kingdom. From the very beginning, the Biblical account informs us that God is Creator and Ruler of all: The universe and everything in it is His Kingdom. While God’s Kingdom includes the heavenly realms it is not limited to that ideal future ‘place in the sky.’ God is not simply Creator of the universe (and all that is in it) but also its Ruler, Sustainer, Sovereign Lord and King! “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth.” An oft repeated phrase from the Reformed tradition declares that ‘every square inch is owned by Jesus.’ Verses like Psalm 10:15 remind us that the Lord is King forever and throughout the older Testament, God is referred to as Sovereign Lord by prophets, priests and kings. Daniel repeatedly proclaims that the “Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth.” In accounts throughout Scripture, we meet a God who controls wind and wave, armies of people and locusts, demons and diseases. Joshua can thus remind the Israelites, that God Almighty has acted “so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
If God is Sovereign Ruler, King of heaven and earth forever than heaven AND earth are His Kingdom! One cannot separate the King from His Kingdom. Furthermore, if God is sovereign over all the earth than we do not have to fear, deny or disengage from the world nor can I claim that it is evil and far from God. On the contrary, if the Sovereign One made, sustains and continues to reign than that reign extends over science and art, work and play, leisure and culture, hearts and hands, neighbourhoods and nations. O Lord, our Sovereign how majestic is your name in all the earth!
1 Genesis 1, 2; Psalm 24:1, also Exodus 9:29, Micah 6:2; Proverbs 8:26, Jeremiah 10:12, 51:15, John 1:10.
2 Acts 17:24; see also Acts 4:24.
3 Abraham Kuyper, source unknown.
4 Jeremiah 32:17; e.g. Genesis 15:28, Exodus 23;17, 34:23; Deut. 3:24, 9:26; Joshua 7:7; Judges 6:22, 16:28; 2 Sam. 7:18-29; Psalms, Ezekiel, Zech. 9:9, etc.
5 Daniel 4:17, 25, 32; 5:21.
6 Joshua 24:4.
7 Psalm 8:1, 9.