Jesus continually talked about the Kingdom. It was the subject of many of His parables, and the conscious setting and context for all He did and said. It is important to understand why He spoke about it so often and why it was such an emphasis of His teaching.
I believe that being Kingdom minded is what Christ is determined to build into us and how He intends us to live everyday. I serve the King of this new kingdom and my ultimate hope is found in that kingdom and His ever present glory. Whatever I have here on earth is only a dim image of heavens reality. It can't begin to compare to heaven. I want the real thing!
It is important to know this because His goal was to redeem us from this fallen, broken world, and make us new creatures that are fit for His glorious Kingdom. We must understand that God is not interested in fixing our brokenness. He doesn't want to just patch us up. He wants to recreate us, and to do this we must die so we can be reborn. We must let go of our selfish ambitions, our fleshly temptations and desires, our small dreams, and earthly affections that distract us from this new life we now have in Christ. That is what Paul was talking about in Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me, and delivered Himself up for me."
Jesus also taught this truth as He taught the disciples about the new life. He asked the disciples in Matt. 16:13-16 "Who do men say that I am?" One by one they answered and Jesus listened to their answers and then asked, "But who do you say that I Am". His true interest was what they thought, not everyone else. He is asking each of us the same question. Our response has to be what we believe, not what someone else says or believes. Peter then responded "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God".
Then Jesus continued sharing His plans to build the church on such faith. He also told them He was going to have to die. He also made it clear that there was a cost to following Him.
Mt. 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after me, let Him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me".
It must be remembered that when Jesus spoke these words, the disciples knew nothing of the cross that awaited Jesus. Their only image of the cross was a horrible instrument of death reserved for criminals and enemies of Rome. That is exactly what Jesus had in mind. The picture was clear. To follow Jesus they would have to die to themselves and only then could they know the new, abundant life He promised. Nothing less would do. That was their cross and He was making sure they knew that allegiance to Him meant death to self.The new life - the recreation of us, is also what Jesus was alluding to in the parable of the wineskins:
Matt. 9:17 "Nor do men put new wine in old wineskins, otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."
He is talking about us when He mentions fresh wineskins. The new wine is the Holy Spirit.
I must die and be reborn as a new creature, one that has never existed prior to Christ's redemptive work in me, so that two very important things become possible:
The first being that Jesus can now live inside of me and allow me to live this new life.
The second being that I am now fit for heaven and can, in my new redeemed state, fully enjoy and abide the glory of God for eternity, starting now and going forward forever.
With our new nature and the transforming of our minds that comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can now see this fallen world from His perspective and with His eyes and His motivations. Jesus made our new state of existence very clear on the night before He died as He prayed to His Father in the hearing of the disciples. He said this:
John 17:16 "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
Why is it important that I know that I am not of this world, and what is the evidence that this transformation from this world to His Kingdom is really happening?
It is important that I know that I am a new creature and the citizen of His kingdom because as this new creature that He is creating me to be, I am becoming more aware everyday that I am an alien and a stranger on this planet. As this awareness grows it shapes how I see the world around me, how I look at life, money, things, my time, the people around me and on and on.
The evidence that the transformation is happening is that I find myself living out of my new nature as I respond from a God heart to the world around me. I am also more and more aware of how this must all look to God as He watches broken, lost men try to solve the problems of life apart from Him, knowing He alone is the answer, and this too is evidence of my transformed mind and heart. I am more and more aware that the things that break God's heart now are breaking mine. I also find myself thinking often "Father, this must break your heart to see what sin has done to Your perfect creation." That also tells me I am being transformed, and God is making me into the image of His Son.
I now carry His heart in me, the heart that constrained Him to come to set free what has been enslaved and broken - both men and His creation. It motivates me to tell the lost and broken I meet on this journey, the truth of the Good News in the hope of seeing others set free to new life and new hope. God left us here to be light and salt to a dark and tasteless world. He also gave each of us gifts that allow us to do what He commanded - Go into all the world. It starts at your door step and you never know where it will lead each day, but we know it ultimately leads us to the heart of God, and one day entrance into His presence where we will look on Jesus face and throw our crowns at His feet as we enter the fullness of His Kingdom.
I also know I am being transformed because I am homesick for Heaven. I am a new creature and was made for His Kingdom and there is in me a longing to be there when He decides the time is right. I believe that resides in all of His children. It should! He has promised that He will come again and the hope of that promise resides in all true followers of Jesus. Until the time when He will take me home I have the privilege and joy of carrying Christ to a lost and broken world and I am constrained by love to do that in whatever way God gives me opportunity.
This journey only makes sense in the light of His Kingdom, of which I am part here and now, also knowing the full experience awaits when He calls me HOME! That isn't just true of me. It is true of all who have given their lives to Christ and follow Him. Don't settle for a lesser journey of small dreams, earthly ambitions and fleshly desires. As those who follow Christ, we are made for so much more, and He has offered us all the riches of His glory and His presence every step of the way. We have what the world is looking for even though they don't know it. The beauty of the new life is that we only really experience it when we give ourselves away as Jesus did. That is what we are made for and He has given us all we need so we are fully capable of living sacrificially and we never have to worry about the cost. It's all covered in Christ - the risen Lord. He already payed for us, so live with abandon and sacrificially and you can't miss the blessings and the wonder of this incredible journey. He is with us every step of this amazing journey.