“Out of his wonderful love, God invites us to live in his kingdom, to surrender willingly to his reign, to live in that place where his will is done. That surrender to God is no defeat for us, since God’s kingdom is the only place where we can live to the fullest. God created us to enjoy abundant life. This is not self-actualization or a “name it, claim it” gospel. It is not living successfully according to the fallen standards of our world. Instead, this is living a purposeful life in relationship with God and others. This is the good news that Jesus announced: we can live under the reign of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). But if we do not understand the nature of God’s loving invitation into his kingdom, we will miss the abundant life found there. Learning to live life in its fullest expression in relationship with our Creator is the purpose of genuine spiritual formation.
“How does “church” relate to kingdom? The church is to be a colony of God’s kingdom in our world. But not everything done by churches or every group that calls itself a church truly participates or lives in the kingdom. The kingdom of God is anywhere God’s will is done (see Matthew 6:10). A church comprised of authentic believers who have submitted their lives to God is a true manifestation of the kingdom. Those in that church are living according to God’s will and enjoying his gracious guidance. Once again, God’s kingdom is where his will is being done, where God lives his love through us.
“Living under God’s direction answers the age-old question, “Why are we here?” God created us in his image and his likeness (Genesis 1:26). He made us to be like him, made us for relationship. In creation, God gave humans the most exalted role, to represent and even share in the character and person of God himself. Those who choose this life under God’s direction embody God’s kingdom. They serve as God’s ambassadors, calling others to the joys of relationship with God.”
–Gary Holloway and Earl Lavender, Living God’s Love, An Invitation to Christian Spirituality, 28-29.
Teachers and authors Gary Holloway and Earl Lavender have done us a service by writing this book on Christian spirituality. It is my top recommendation for anyone desiring a deeper spirituality. Too often we mischaracterize and misunderstand spirituality as something flaky (so we avoid it), elusive (we fear we can never achieve it), or worse, irrelevant (so we ignore it). But true spirituality is something beautiful and godly and transforming. They contend that true spirituality is living out the love of God. Over the course of the next several weeks in this space I will share some insights from their book. In my morning sermon Sunday I called upon us, from Romans 12, to authentic spirituality: that is, to integrate into our lives what we hold to be true in our heads. Romans is one of Paul’s attempts to shape a community of believers around the life-changing truth of the gospel. The gospel declares the love of God for sinners, and that good news has implications for how life ought to be lived. As we conclude Romans, I think it helpful to have additional instruction in integrating into our lives the grace of the gospel message. Gary and Earl will give us instruction by reflecting on Scripture. We will begin there next week.
This is the first installment in a series I’m running in our bulletin.