3D Glasses for a 3D World

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.”—1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV

It’s crazy, isn’t it? How is it that we who gratefully delight together in the love of God, and in whom deeply resonate His unifying Word and Spirit of truth, can easily turn on each other in disharmony and division? Whatever the matter of contention, or even its degree of importance, the “e pluribus” within us can send the “unum” about us packing pretty quickly. Fondness freezes, bonds break, and we’re left to wonder—or to justify—what just happened, for when we understand and engage life solely through empirical means of knowledge and worldly ways of thinking, it is like wearing 2D glasses to a 3D movie—we miss the big picture. The authorities and ideologies of this world are familiar enough to us, yet we exist, also, in one of two realms of a different dimension. It is important we know this, and it matters which one.

To the question, “What is the Kingdom of God?” Martin Luther answered: “God sent His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil, and to bring us to Himself, and to govern us as a King of righteousness, life, and salvation …”1 Today’s sound-bite-friendly version might read: God’s kingdom is this—Jesus came to redeem us, deliver us, draw us, and govern us. This He has accomplished, for while we once “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient,”2 we instead rest our soul and rejoice in this: “[the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”3 The Kingdom has come, and we who are in Christ live securely forever under His power and authority.

Why then, our ready regression into old ways of division? While the Kingdom has come and “our citizenship is in heaven,”4 we still struggle against the rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”5 The Kingdom of God is here, yes, but we look to a day when the “kingdom of the world [will become] the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.”6 We are citizens of heaven living as strangers in a rebellious and tempting realm, so God sends us His Spirit “to illumine and strengthen us in the faith by His power.”7 His Kingdom is here, and in this confidence we wait for His Kingdom to come.

Our Father in heaven, you are holy. Come today in your Spirit to prevail among us, that we would live in amid the kingdom of this world as people of the Kingdom of your Son. In His name we pray. Amen.

1 “The Large Catechism,” The Book of Concord, accessed June 30, 2020, http://bookofconcord.org/lc-5-ourfather.php
2 Ephesians 2:2
3 Colossians 1:13, 14
4 Philippians 3:30
5 Ephesians 6:12
6 Revelation 11:15
7 “The Large Catechism.”

The Kingdom Not of This World

I came late to Facebook, and for good reason: to this onlooker it seemed social media had pulled people into a virtual vortex, draining much of their precious time. At the urging of my publisher, though, I took the plunge—and as it turned out, right into the icy waters of the Fall 2016 presidential campaign, where “friended” folks could be found screaming at each other in digital decibels of deafening tones. Some were actually climbing out of the pool for respite, exhausted by relentless shouts of “Marco” on the left and the reliable retorts of “Polo” on the right. Yet as I posted to my blog over the ensuing weeks and months, exploring Biblical truths in a relatable way, I noticed a shared warmth of response among its readers, a meeting of hearts and minds of believers in Christ from across a broad spectrum of political persuasion. Their comments (and emoticons, of course) revealed universal longings in individual souls and their unity in a King they share in common.

Standing before Pilate, Jesus confirmed His reign in a higher place of greater authority; “My kingdom is not of this world,”1 He told the Roman governor. Certainly, the Kingdom of which He spoke has proximity, for Jesus once said, “I have come down from heaven,”2 and before returning to the Father, He promised His followers, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”3 Yet the Biblical connotation of “kingdom” refers foremost to God’s kingship—His rightful rule in human hearts. He reigns in a measureless expanse and also in the repentant soul, as He himself spoke through Isaiah, “For this is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’”4

When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” we petition God for His kingship—His rule and reign in our heart. “Our Father, govern in our heart today; we would submit to you,” we might say. We look forward to the day in a place where finally there is no more death, mourning, crying or pain5, yet God’s place of authority in our heart is as ever-present a need as is our daily bread. So today we pray …

Our Father in heaven, you are holy. Send your Spirit to rule in our heart today. Govern us, good King, for we would submit to you. In Jesus’ name we pray as one. Amen.

1 John 18:36
2 John 6:38
3 John 14:3
4 Isaiah 57:15
5 Revelation 21:4

Growing in God’s Transformational Love

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Peggy and I find yard work to be relaxing and gratifying, and of the two of us it is usually she who has the clearer mental picture of a well-tended garden. It helps me to know what she is thinking, so before planting or pruning, I’ll proffer one clarifying request: “Just give me a vision for what you’re thinking.” Then with the same end in mind, we pursue it immediately and over time—we’ll know success as it blooms. In a far more wondrous way, God has a vision for what He is shaping us to be: when Christ returns, we will be like Him. We see ourselves as unworthy and think this to be impossible, and indeed in and of ourselves, this would be true. But God’s love is transformational love, steadily pruning and growing us toward the unimaginable: to be like Jesus and to share in His glory. This is where we are going.

Then how is it that we become like Jesus? Must I who have been saved by faith in Christ now somehow find it within me to change myself into His image? Thankfully, no. God’s command for us is this: “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”1 John tells us, “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”2 Long before the Messiah “became flesh and made his dwelling among us,”3 God foretold of a day when “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”4 It is through His Spirit in us that God unites us with Himself and changes us to be like Jesus in character, action and fruitfulness. Paul writes, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who … contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”5 He will never lead us in directions displeasing to God, but always in His ways of love, joy and peace, and “[a]gainst such things there is no law.”6 So today when we hear the Spirit’s voice, may we open our hearts and hands to Him, and follow. We will be changed.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:10-12).

Father, thank you for your great love. Do as you will: make us like Jesus, and be glorified in us. In His name we pray. Amen.

1 1 John 3:23
2 1 John 3:24
3 John 1:14
4 Ezekiel 36:27
5 2 Corinthians 3:17, 18
6 Galatians 5:22, 23