At some point in the last hundred years the Western Christian fell victim to a charming yet deceptive narrative.
The narrative suggested that Jesus had only come to give Christians the “good life.” This fable says God’s will for us is to, “settle down, turn the TV on, the music up, and live for the moment.” Get comfortable, enjoy yourself, and wait for the Lord’s return!
The advancement of Jesus’ spiritual kingdom was traded for the never-ending pursuit of personal ‘happiness.’ Believers began to think this would bring Jesus’ kingdom ‘life’ to people. Changing the world would come through the blessedness of a perfect life.
Physical or spiritual kingdom?
When Jesus was on the earth, ‘blessing’ primarily referred to spiritual life, but in Western Christianity it’s 100% material and physical. Now we believe the biggest house and bank account, the best body and car, and the highest paying and prestigious job are what Jesus came to give mankind.
Jesus’ spiritual kingdom with Him at the centre became a physical kingdom of our own making with us as the focus. What’s worse, many now believe they are on a mission from God to bring that to the world!
The result of this error in thinking has produced Christians and Churches that look virtually identical to the world in what they possess, pursue, and preach. Most importantly, it’s changed who we are; worldly.
Worldly Influence vs. Gospel Influence
The proof has been in the pudding. Christianity’s influence on the world is severely waning. Laws are changed, gender destroyed, and entertainment perverted. Drug use is skyrocketing and becoming legalised and young people are giving themselves over to ever greater perversity and debauchery. Social media has been the biggest ‘tell’ to all this as we glory in ourselves and our ‘best-life-now’ Church of Self.
As Believers we’ve begun to think that Jesus’ future earthly kingdom is already here. So we live like the world, thinking we’re doing God’s will; and reigning just like Jesus would if He were still in human-form on the earth today.
Sadly, the Apostle Paul’s words are still coming true:
You think you already have everything you need. You think you are already rich. You have begun to reign in God’s kingdom without us! I wish you really were reigning already, for then we would be reigning with you.
But the mission Christ came to earth for was to advance a spiritual kingdom through the gospel, not a present physical kingdom through earthly pleasure and fleshly self-glory.
We see this in virtually everything Jesus did before the cross. He went everywhere preaching and proclaiming a simple but powerful message; “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near” (Matthew 3:2). By His death and resurrection, God’s spiritual kingdom came, and He charged His disciples, and thus believers today with a simple but specific life-mission:
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, …baptizing them, …and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Instead, today we have either entirely swapped that mission for a fleshly-one, or just as ineffectively and insidiously gone half-way. Half-way has looked like going to Church on Sundays, organising fun events, and huddling in our own small groups. Gospel-sharing and making disciples by actually “going” to the world has taken a back seat to comfortable self-absorption in the guise of putting God’s spiritual kingdom first. Lately this has even become a political crusade, after all, if our earthly Party wins, surely that means Jesus’ kingdom is winning, right?
A vain reign of self-pleasure & comfort
No matter what form it’s taken, whether the obviously fleshly or subtly fleshly, the awful reality is the same; we’ve designed ways to solely live for our own prosperity and pleasure in the name of “enjoying” and “advancing” his kingdom. But our reign of pleasure has been in vain. Like the Corinthian believers of Paul’s day, we think we’re ‘conquering for Jesus,’ when really all we’re doing is living for ourselves and compounding the world’s darkness by embracing it ourselves.
Now we’re reaping the grim results. Covid sweeps the world, holidays are grounded along with planes, economies are teetering, and the political world is in chaos. Truth itself seems relative to whoever has the loudest microphone, best personality, and best policy to benefit what we want.
Russia and China are rising up, world trade is faltering, and the old Order and post-World War alliances are faltering. No one seems to know the ‘right way’ anymore and solutions are hidden. Is it possible that’s because the light of God’s actual kingdom isn’t shining as brightly as it once was?
Unfortunately the answer is ‘yes’ but the solution is clear; the time for games and the endless pursuit of the ‘good life’ is well and truly over.
The Cross-Roads of all cross-roads: it’s now or never
If we don’t get back to Christ’s spiritual gospel mission now, it’s all over, and likely for all of us. After all, if the light goes out, only darkness remains. A small, selfish, half-hearted approach isn’t going to cut it anymore. We must shine the light again by imitating the book of Acts Church that went out into the highways and byways and share the gospel anywhere and everywhere.
We must shout it out at the top of our lungs, and plead with friends, family, strangers and neighbours to accept Jesus Christ!
Then we must show its power by loving the broken, going to the homeless, the sick, and the imprisoned. We must pray but we must also show faith that there is a God who answers by being Christ’s hands and feet ourselves.
And we must not just talk about it or agree with it, we must DO it!
This is what Jesus and His first disciples did, because this is the spiritual kingdom He came to advance, and commissioned believers to advance. It’s a mission that will cost and try us, and a spiritual battle that will be fierce and humbling. But if we lay down our lives for this spiritual mission and kingdom today, one day we will rule and reign in Jesus’ future earthly kingdom; where life truly will be perfect and blessed in every way.
So let’s stop our endless pursuit of perfect present happiness. Let’s quit playing games for our own kingdom, and let’s start advancing the gospel for His. It’s now or never!
Tim is a high school teacher in Queensland and just finished a season being a youth pastor in America. He has a passion for the gospel and for seeing lives changed by the power, person and love of Jesus Christ.
Tim Price’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-price.html