18-Life in the Kingdom of God -
Growing as Citizens in the Kingdom of God
By Colleen Donahue
When we are born again we pass through a doorway. Jesus rescues us from the Kingdom of Darkness and transfers us into the Kingdom of Light (See Colossians 1:13-14). Being born again sets us on a path of citizenship in the Kingdom of God or membership in God's family. Jesus gives us his own Spirit to abide in us and from the moment He moves in, we start to change and continue to change.
There are many who have had such a bad start in life that they feel they will always be second class citizens. But that is not so. All of us start as sinners having inherited a sin nature from our parents. We then become citizens because we exchange our filthy rags for Christ's own righteousness. Then we become a vessel of honor in being the home of Christ's Spirit.
So entering the door of God's Kingdom by being born again is a definite, one time decision. But ever after that we keep changing from "glory to glory". The verse "be ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect" is not meant to discourage us but to encourage. Because it means that change and growth and becoming like Jesus is now possible for us. And just as God gives us space and time to grow so we extend that latitude to each other.
In this study we'll examine how we grow in knowledge and grace in the Kingdom of God.
BEING ABLE TO PERCEIVE THE TRUTH
1- When we repent of our sins, turn to Jesus and then become filled with his Spirit, it's like a reset button has been pressed. Our dead spirit is made alive. This is what Jesus is talking about in his warning to us in these verses.
The eye is the organ of the body that perceives light. When it is "single", or sound and healthy, it enables the whole body to be full of light. But if the eye is diseased, it will be incapable of taking in the full measure of light. This has reference to our spirit. When we are "clean before our Lord" then we can keep taking in new truth that the Holy Spirit has to give to us and thus we keep on growing. But if we give way to fleshly passions, then soon our spirit becomes clouded and unable to perceive new truth.
The more light we have, the more we are able to shine for others and vise versa. We must never think that we can hide anything from Jesus or each other. What does Jesus say will clearly happen?
2- What part does God play in the spiritual growth of everyone in his family?
2 Peter 1:3-4
Then Peter gives us a litany of how we will grow when we respond to God's promises and live by them. Make a list of them.
2 Peter 1:5-9
3-When we enter the gate of God's Kingdom we become part of God's family. And once members, what do we become privileged to know?
Matthew 13:10-13 / (Also Mark 4:10-12 & Luke 8:9-10)
GROWING THROUGH THE WORD
4-How do we as citizens gain more understanding in the Kingdom of God?
The Word of God either spoken through others or through the Bible will always have an effect on our life if we act on it. But if that word never takes root in us, then even what we think we know will be taken away by the devil who is eager to haul us back into his kingdom.
5- Our growth in grace is dependent upon holding to what Christ teaches and living by it. Jesus tells us clearly that only true disciples do this. Then he reassures us that we never need to be afraid to live by his truth. Why?
6- Now when Jesus spoke these words he was asked the same question that we might be asking.
Why does Jesus say that we must be set free?
If we are a slave to any sin then Jesus is our answer to becoming free from it. And this is another way that you and I grow in grace and walk free from anything that holds us to this world.
DISTINGUISHING TRUTH FROM ERROR
7- It's vital for everyone of us to grow in our knowledge of the truth. In every era there are those who worm their way into the church and teach a doctrine that is slightly off so that even earnest Christians start to believe it. What must we be able to do?
8- As citizens it's vital that we read and study the Word of God and let the Holy Spirit apply it to our lives. In this way we'll be able to spot the deception and untruth that is everywhere. We'll know the difference between the truth and lies.
1 John 2:18-25/ 1 John 4:1-6 / 2 John 7-9
In this way we keep growing in the knowledge of our Lord. We must test everything. For example: not all miracles are from God.
GROWING WITH OTHERS
9- Kingdom of God Citizens need one another so that we can hold fast to our faith in Jesus and keep on growing in the faith. Therefore what is a vital part of our growth process?
Everyone of us has an individual story of how we came to Jesus, but once we are through the gates of God's kingdom we become part of a large family. There is no such thing as a "lone-ranger" Christian. A citizen off on his own is almost sure to fall back into the kingdom of this world. But by caring for one another we don't become spiritually dull or indifferent.
10- There is a common slogan today used by the athletic company, "Nike". The phrase is "Use it or lose it." Nike means that if we don't use our muscles, then we'll eventually lose the muscle power that we have. We could say that this is also true of the gifts that God gives to everyone in his family. One of the ways we grow in grace is by using our gift(s) for the benefit of others.
1 Peter 4:10-11
Parents expect that their children will grow from infancy to childhood to adolescence and then to adulthood. And so our Heavenly Father will delight in watching us grow to be like Jesus. We can't speed up the process but we can hinder it. He wants us to grow in grace so we can love and serve the Lord and his people.
WARNING: STAYING AS BIG BABIES
11- We end this study on growing in our faith with a warning.
It's by knowing the Word and living by it in the company of others that we grow to maturity. But the writer of Hebrews warns us that we can stay as infants by just focusing on the basic truths of our faith. For example, some pastors preach only on how to be born again. This keeps their church focused on that one aspect of faith. They don't move past it to sanctification and intercessory prayer and spiritual warfare. In essence they never really grow up past getting themselves into the kingdom.
12- Let's be like the Apostle Paul that presses on to the heavenly prize God is calling us to.