I have attempted to show that kingdom culture is a spiritual culture revealed by God. This culture comes out of his character, which is unchanging. The spiritual culture of the kingdom is unchanging as well. How the people of God are to live is a constant that does not change from era to era. This characteristic of kingdom culture is markedly different from world culture, which is always in flux, changing and evolving. This is important to understand for the community of Christ by the way it lives life fulfills its prophetic role in the world to reveal who God is. Christians ought to be those who understand what God is truly like in character. They ought to be those who not only know about God, but who know him relationally. All the theology in the world does us no good if we do not know him. At the heart of kingdom culture is this spiritual reality: we can be reconciled to God through Jesus and truly know him. The Christian style of life revolves around this reality. God has made it possible for us to have a genuine and real relationship with him.
This relationship is open to us all, not a select few who form some kind of spiritual elite. The Holy Spirit is given to all who put their faith in Jesus. This is the wonder of Pentecost and the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-29). Paul writes that the Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing the future reality of our heavenly existence when we shall live eternally with God (Eph. 1:13-14). Jesus promised that he would make his home in us (John 14:23). Thus the Holy Spirit is the presence of Christ in all believers. He reveals Christ to us and points continually to Jesus and the Father. He reveals who God is and what he is like, for he is God. This revelation is consistent no matter where Christians live and what world culture they are surrounded by. This consistent revelation means that kingdom culture transcends all world cultures. The believer in Canada knows the same God as the believer in Africa; he is the same for them though they live in very different cultural settings. They can meet and agree that God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love. They can agree that God is good, kind, merciful, and full of love. They share the same spiritual culture of the kingdom. It is just as true for the believer in the United States that they should forgive those who sin against them as it is for the believer in China. The culture of the kingdom crosses all geographical borders and remains true and consistent in all places. The kingdom is not bound by borders because it is a spiritual realm, a spiritual country that exists everywhere and anywhere there are followers of Christ. There is only one king and he reigns over his spiritual kingdom consistently all over the earth. Bluntly put we should understand that we are citizens first of the kingdom of Christ, for this kingdom is indeed our ‘nation’. I am not a Canadian, so to speak, but rather I am a Christian with full citizenship in the kingdom of God. My friend Matt is not so much an American as he is a citizen of the kingdom. My brothers and sisters in Christ who live in Iraq are not Iraqis, but my fellow countrymen in the kingdom of heaven. We share one culture and are of the same spiritual people group. We are the people of God, the community of Christ. Our values are the same because of the spiritual culture we share in common.
There is one Gospel for all humanity, one light, one truth, and one way. While the complexity of communicating the Gospel to differing cultural settings may vary, the message is the same for all. The Gospel is the light of truth for all people. It is a call to humanity to enter the kingdom of Christ and to come out from the cultures of the world and live under his reign, to take on a new spiritual culture as we have been describing. This is why I believe the culture of the kingdom transcends all other cultures, for it is accessible to all who would believe and call on the name of Jesus. It is a message that can be presented in any cultural setting and be heard, for God is able to speak in ways that all can hear and understand. One does not need to reject their culture in order to hear and believe the Gospel, but they will find themselves drawn out of their world culture and into the kingdom culture as they follow Jesus. We must not confuse our particular cultural setting with the true Christian cultural setting of the kingdom, lest we cause others to believe that they must trade their world culture for another world culture. This is not the message of the Gospel.
We live upon a spiritual battleground where a very real battle is underway. The kingdom of heaven opposes the kingdom of darkness and opposes the powers of this world that do not worship Jesus as their lord, their savior, or their king (Eph. 6:12). At the center of this battle is the community of Christ. The spiritual culture of the kingdom is a revolution against world culture and the kingdom of darkness. Wherever Christians live they are faced with this battle in some way. When their loyalty is not divided and is given wholly to Christ their king, they choose to live a Christian style of life. This way of living does not adhere to the systems of the world and rejects the spiritual power of the kingdom of darkness. Pointing to Jesus and revealing what God is truly like is the Church’s prophetic role on the battleground. We are called to not only live according to the distinct culture of the kingdom, but to serve God’s purposes and will. We are his chosen means of bringing the transforming power of the Gospel to a darkened and dying world ever moving towards destruction under the influence of sin and death. We are the presence of the kingdom wherever we gather and we are to express that presence on the battleground. If we do not understand the spiritual culture of the kingdom and do not live the style of life that it calls us to we fail in our mission and the world suffers because of it. The Gospel we are entrusted with is the only hope for transformation and salvation in this world. When we fail in our mission we are denying the world of the revelation of Christ and the battle we are called to fight and win is lost.
The community of Christ finds itself on the front lines of this battle facing two main fronts. One is in the are of social justice. A deep concern for the welfare of the poor and the oppresses is central to kingdom culture. The community of Christ is called to be a community that works to help those in need and those who are oppressed. Opposing injustice in all its forms is a major component of the Christian style of life as we have seen (recall Isaiah 58). Another front is the spiritual transformation of ourselves and others. The Gospel is about redemption and salvation, setting free those who are spiritually imprisoned. As we have seen, love is the greatest weapon give to the Church. We transform the world around us when we reach out to it with the love of God. We transform the lives of people when we allow the love of God to move through us to touch them. The strategy of the kingdom of darkness has always been based in preventing this. If the Church can be lured into fear of the world it cannot reach out to it with love. If the Church can be convinced that its role is not love, but to judge, then it cannot fulfill the Great Commission. The Enemy has worked hard to convince the Church that in being distinct from the world it must separate itself from it or become like it in order to be relevant. Both of these strategies work to limit the Church’s ability to be light and salt in the earth. If we stand apart refusing to love the world our community is closed to those in darkness in need of the Gospel. If we become like the world, avoiding all that might offend by refusing to adhere to the absolute truths of the Gospel and the kingdom, our message is not the Gospel and holds little redemptive power. How do we love if we hide the truth? We open the door of the community but do not offer the light that is supposed to be found within it. Entering the kingdom of heaven is not like joining a social club. To enter the kingdom is an invitation to the narrow path that leads to salvation. The Church is to have an open door, but it offers a unique message and a way to transformation, a way out of the darkness into the light of Christ. The Church’s mission is salvation and inclusion in the family of God. When salvation and transformation are not found in the Church it has ceased to function as the Body of Christ, and it is this very goal that the kingdom of darkness works so hard at achieving. The battle surrounds the Church being a community of love that accepts outsiders, but offers them redemption and salvation, a way to be transformed in an environment inundated by love from God and his people.
The interior spiritual well being of people and social well being of the world around us form two of the major battle fronts the Church is called to fight on. One front is about rescuing those in the grips of darkness and the other is about justice. World culture is caught in the snares of the kingdom of
darkness. The spiritual enemies of humanity seek to maintain a state where humanity remains separated from their Creator and remain focused on the things of this world and on themselves as their own masters. Kingdom culture is a spiritual challenge against this reality. By providing a way of living rooted in relationship with God through Christ there is real salvation and an authentic means by which darkness is overcome. Evil is overcome by doing good, and this results from a style of life that is truly Christ like.
The battleground is a spiritual one and let us be clear as Paul is clear in Ephesians 6. The Church’s battle is not with their fellow man. It is not with those who are still caught in the grip of sin and darkness who may live sinful lives committing acts we cannot support or agree with. These are those who need the Gospel, who need the hope of salvation and transformation, who need us to be light and salt. Our quarrel is with the spiritual and earthly systems of power that further the kingdom of darkness and seek to keep humanity spiritually broken and separated from the redemption of Christ and the love of God.