kingdom of Jesus

In recent years, millions of people have been violently displaced from their homes and forced to live as refugees in foreign lands. These poor souls have endured catastrophic suffering and loss, and they have little or no hope of returning to a normal life in their homeland. All that they had is lost or destroyed. Many of them are victims of tyrants and warmongers bent on controlling land and resources to enhance their own empires and kingdoms.

kingdom of JesusDarkness is a tyrant that has made refugees of us all. Our native land is Eden, where our first ancestors experienced perfect communion with God. This is the life for which we were created, but that we have since lost due to the sway of sin in our hearts and the power of the dark forces of evil which wage constant war against both God and us. We are homeless and wandering, living in the ambivalence of being both victims of the dark tyrant and complicit in our own expulsion from Eden.

But God has seen our plight, and he has acted on our behalf. Colossians 1:13 says that “he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” The dark tyrant has been overthrown, and now we may enter a new kingdom – the kingdom of Jesus. In Christ we are granted far more than refugee status; we are made heirs of his kingdom! Jesus has not given us simple food and shelter; he has given us a crown and a throne. Imagine a refugee, broken and desperate, taken from a camp and made a member of Congress. This is the audacity of King Jesus, that he would take sinners like us, made refugees of Eden by the joint effort of the dark tyrant and our own weak hearts, and make us kings and queens of his kingdom through the means of his own death and resurrection, whereby we are redeemed from the dominion of darkness and all of our sins are forgiven!

intentional spiritual development

Spiritual growth doesn’t happen by accident. Nobody becomes more like Jesus by going through the motions of life, paying lip service to obedience, or ignoring the Scriptures and prayer. There is an intentionality demanded by spiritual development without which it is impossible to please the Lord, much less become like him. To use church language: salvation requires no effort on your part, but sanctification demands it.

Intentional-Spiritual-Development-WebIn Colossians 1:10-11, Paul lists four characteristics of spiritual maturity that bring pleasure to the Lord: faithfulness, wisdom, perseverance, and gratitude. Book upon book has been written about each of these characteristics, and I have nothing new to say about them here. But we must admit that, when it comes to spiritual maturity, none of us are savants. Nobody is born with a genius-level gifting in godly character. This is because we are actively oppressed by dark spiritual forces that seek to suppress and undermine our spiritual development.

So we have to fight – or to use a more biblical term, walk. Spiritual maturity is a journey. Becoming like Christ means going from where you are to where he is. This is why we walk. We must make conscious decisions to leave certain places behind, specific ways of thinking and behaving that do not please Jesus. We must walk from faithlessness to faithfulness. We must travel the road from foolishness to wisdom.

This is not a journey that you are able to walk on your own. Thankfully, it is a path well worn by the Holy Spirit. He is the guide on the journey toward Christlikeness. And not only is he with you, but so are countless other saints. Some are by your side, some far ahead, while others are lagging behind. Another name for this company of sojourners is the Church. In church, we walk together, guided by the Holy Spirit, on the path toward Christlikeness. Let us, therefore, learn from those ahead, encourage those behind, and spur on those at our side. Together, we will reach the destination.

Pleasing the Lord – 1:10b-14


…bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

There are four ways by which we please Jesus:

  1. Bearing fruit in good works;
  2. Growing in our knowledge of God;
  3. Being strengthened by God so that we can have endurance and patience;
  4. Giving joyful thanks to God the Father.

The four qualities could be summed up by these words: Faithfulness, Wisdom, Perseverance, and Gratitude. Certainly these are not the only ways that we can please Jesus, but they are among the most important.

We please the Lord when we do good works that bear kingdom fruit. This is not to be confused with the vain attempt to earn your salvation. Instead, good works honor the Good King. Jesus is pleased when we testify to the goodness of his kingdom by serving others in a sacrificial way. His kingdom goes forth in power as we lay down our lives for others, taking up our crosses and following him.

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The Spirit of Early Christian Thought

What the Book is About

The Spirit of Early Christian Thought is a survey of the greatest thinkers of the early church on a broad range of subjects. Each chapter is dedicated to a single topic, such as the Trinity, virtue, politics, or apologetics. Wilken artfully weaves thoughts from at least two primary writers in each chapter, diving to the depths of the issue, offering the wisdom of the ancients to a modern audience. Wilken is careful not to rely on the same thinker over and over, so the audience is treated to a wide range of authors, including Justin Martyr, Iranaeus, Athanasius, Basil of Caesarea, and others. He admits, however, that there were four giants, so to speak, to which he returned more often than the rest: “Origen in the third century, Gregory of Nysa in the fourth, Augustine in the fifth, and Maximus the Confessor in the seventh.” (p. xix) Any student interested in learning from the great masters of the Church would do well to start with these four.

As noted above, Wilken’s approach is to tackle one issue in each chapter, and to do so under the guidance of two ancient writers. While he does not typically quote any author at length, he pieces together their thoughts and gives them flesh through his own prose. The reader may be left with the hunger to hear more directly from Origen or Augustine, but the effect is to give the audience the best of their thoughts in modern formulations. A typical example can be taken from the first chapter, which dealt with the Christian concern of apologetics.

In the debate between Christian thinkers and their critics the central issue was where in the search for God reason is to begin. Christians argued that Christ had brought something new; the life he lived, though fully human, was unlike that of anyone who had lived earlier. …For the Greeks, God was the conclusion of an argument, the end of a search for an ultimate explanation, an inference from the structure of the universe to a first cause. For Christian thinkers, God was the starting point, and Christ the icon that displays the face of God. “Reason became man and was called Jesus Christ,” wrote Justin. Now one reasoned from Christ to other things, not from other things to Christ. In him was to be found the reason, the logos, the logic, if you will, that inheres in all things.-The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, p. 14-15

In taking this approach, the reader must trust that Wilken has done his homework, and is faithfully presenting the thoughts of each author. While I often found myself longing for lengthier quotations, I came to conclude that Wilken’s approach was best. Nearly two thousand years separate my mind from the ancient author’s words. In such a sweeping survey, it is helpful to have a learned mediator bridge the gap between the style of their writing and the form of prose which best suits modern readers.

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There is no bigger question for sincere, young Christians (or all Christians for that matter) than this one: What is God’s will for my life? When we face major life transitions (like graduating from college), we stare into an uncertain future, looking for any signpost that will guide us toward taking that first step into the unknown. Where should I work? Who should I marry? In what city should I live? Our questions are large in scope and specific in nature. Because we desperately want to get it right, we beg God to reveal his will to us. Unfortunately, when we are young, we often lack the wisdom required to see or hear God’s answers to these pressing questions.

Paul prayed that the people of the church in Colossae would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. (Colossians 1:9) That is a beautiful prayer, one that resonates with me every time I face a difficult decision. But Paul isn’t praying that this knowledge would magically drop on them from heaven. Instead, he’s praying that they would undergo a process of receiving wisdom so that they can know God’s will for themselves.

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