Monday, June 01, 2009

Welcome to The Neighborhood

Where do you live? You probably have a street address where I could send you a letter, but I’m looking for a deeper answer. Is there a place beyond your physical address where you reside daily? If you are a Christian, then you are called to make your home within the Kingdom of God. No, it is not a physical place here on this Earth, but it is as real as any physical address on any given street. Jesus came preaching repentance from sin and the Kingdom of God in Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15, Luke 4:43 and John 3:3. Paul picks up the theme and echoes it in Colossians 1:13. Peter does as well in 2 Peter 1:11. To Jesus and these other New Testament writers Christians realizing they are living in the Kingdom of God is significant.

It matters because it should have a profound effect on their lives and this affect should be noticeable in many ways. One of those ways is realizing who we are. If someone were to ask you who you are, what would you say? We would be tempted to tell the person about our gender, our race, our nationality, our family, our job and, perhaps, our life experiences. Maybe we would tell them about the part of the country we live in or where we went to school. We might even be tempted to tell them about the people we know or have met in an effort for them to better understand us. For the Christian, though, there is something deeper. Our identity in Christ is the most significant factor in the shaping of who we are.

When Jesus calls the first disciples in the Gospels His call is simple. He says, “Follow me.” Now, He’s talking about more than just walking where He is walking. He’s talking about learning from Him and receiving what only He can give. He gives redemption and restoration. These things are certainly about Heaven and Hell, but this redemption is about much more. To be redeemed is to be changed and to be changing. Paul says in Colossians 1:13-14 that those who are redeemed by Christ have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Son.

We say that we are changed in the notion that Christ has laid down His life for our sinful trespasses against God. He is now our substitute righteousness. When God sees a redeemed person, He sees the righteousness of Christ. In addition, we are being changed in the sense that now God is calling us to live righteously. This is not to earn or pay back our salvation, but to magnify the goodness God has shown us and, in turn, to magnify God. So Christians have a starting point in this relationship with Christ, but there is also an ongoing (and ongrowing) component to the Christian life.

So, we start there. Has your address changed? If so, is it continuing to change? By placing our faith in Christ our address changes from one kingdom to another. Then, after this occurs we find that living within the Kingdom of God continually changes who we are. I wonder if you have moved yet. In which kingdom are you living today? And, if you have moved, are there some boxes from that old address that need to be cleared away and put in the garbage bin so that you can magnify Christ in a greater way through your life? And, hey, welcome to the neighborhood.

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