“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” John the Baptist declares these words as he proclaims the advent of our Savior. He was announcing the coming of a new way of understanding life in relation to God. It wasn’t that God’s kingdom was coming in the future; it had arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. John announced the inauguration of a kingdom and if the kingdom has already come then that makes us subjects of the King.
This way of thinking disorients many evangelicals. They like to think of God’s kingdom only in physical terms. In this they often neglect the spiritual development of a present experience with God. Many become so consumed with future apocalyptic doom of the world that they are no earthly good. They swallow the pill of Left Behind theology and subscribe to the late night televangelists who make a living pedaling fear. It’s not to say that the full realization of God’s physical presence will not be established in the future, but only to say that we need to be celebrating the kingdom as a present reality.
Christ has come. He is incarnate. God dwells among us. The Spirit never forsakes us. God is making all things new and making all wrongs right. It’s called redemption. Valleys will be full, and are currently being filled. Mountains will be made low, and are currently being flattened. Rough ways will be smooth, and are currently being made level. What does this mean? Drastic changes in the way we think… old ways shattered and new ways recognized.
The key to understanding the kingdom of God is revealed in what you allow yourself to think. What you hear the most is what you think about most. You are what you think. If you listen to doom and gloom often, you will think about doom and gloom more than anything else. What you think affects how you act. What you think is what you become. As a person thinks in their heart so is that person (Proverbs 23:7). This means that if you want to change, you must start by changing your mind.
Jesus started his ministry with one message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mathew 4:17). Repentance means, changing your mind. It means altering the way you think. It means living in a new reality as a citizen of a Kingdom. Bottom-line: to enter the kingdom of God, one must learn to think properly about God.
Repent. Stop of thinking about the kingdom as if it is not yet. The kingdom has come and is coming. It has come in the person and work of Jesus Christ and is continually coming though they indwelling of the Holy Spirit.. The kingdom of God is a central message in the teachings of our Lord. The theme of the “kingdom” is the essence of God’s message to the world.
What did Jesus want us to understand through this message? To live inverted. To live counter to the spirit of the present age. To live in such a way that our presence in the world flips the world’s economy on its head. It is opposite of everything prevailing culture and society wants us to believe. It’s an upside-down way of life that challenges the prevailing paradigms of popular religious culture and societal norms. You are what you think… so what are you?
(Sources: Shane Claiborne; Donald Kraybill; Brian Zahnd)