An Offer for the Living
My pastor tells the story of his college days, referring back to a time when he was what I would call a bit less settled. He was well known on campus for his riff raff antics, making him a target for the local religious clubs. They were determined and competing to get him saved, and he knew it. He describes one of their rescue missions in what is one of the most clever exchanges that I’ve heard. I have to be honest, I wish that I had thought of this, but at least I get to be the one to tell it to you.
As the story goes, the young rebellious student opens his door to a knock. There stood a couple guys, spiffy and spy, ready to scare their intended target (and hopefully trophy) right into the pearly gates of heaven. He entertains their introduction, and in short order, they present the burning question that would leave him in the biggest quandary of his life: “If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?” They could nearly smell the sweet aroma of their assured success. He stood silent for a few seconds, and as cool as only he could have said it, he replied “do you have anything to offer me just in case I happen to survive tonight?”
I find it damaging to the Kingdom of God that, like in the case of my pastor, the witnessing Christians have nothing to offer the living. They can only speak to the potentially dying.
Many believers really have no concept of the gospel that Jesus preached. In western civilization Christianity, it is taught and understood that Jesus’ message was mostly concerning an afterlife destination with a few instructions on behavior and some parables thrown in, just to confound the multitudes.
Jesus’ message was a very simple message; “The kingdom of God is here, in your hands, and if you believe me, you can have a part in it, from now and for eternity.”
Jesus and His disciples traveled, establishing the Kingdom of God by preaching and then demonstrating its glorious power in miracles, healings, driving out demons, and even defeating the power of death!
To understand the kingdom of God, we must understand that we are talking about a government. The Kingdom of God is exactly that; a kingdom government, with Jesus as King, and the rule of God as law. Likewise, the kingdom of darkness is a government. When we “accept” Jesus, we are accepting citizenship of His kingdom. Like most earthly governments, the kingdom of God comes with benefits, responsibilities, laws, and consequences of living outside of the established parameters. The whole idea, though, is that the Kingdom of God is a government for the living!
There is no kingdom in existence without people who make it work, and the kingdom of God is no exception. As Jesus trained His disciples in the workings of His kingdom, they waged war against the kingdom of darkness, and defeated it in every battle. Let’s look at it like this: demons are soldiers, diseases are weapons, and oppression is the law of the land in satan’s government. King Jesus invaded satan’s territory, conquered it, and claimed it as His own. The lives of believers are like flags posted, declaring the occupancy of the victorious kingdom! This is the Kingdom of God! It is a living, active and advancing Kingdom!
It is likely that you have never heard the gospel presented like this. Most people probably haven’t. Many who evangelize have no idea that they’re recruiting citizens into a powerful, active and thriving kingdom. The goal is not so much saving people from hell in death, but saving them from a fallen kingdom into a victorious one, where they can live and learn how to bring others into the kingdom of the living. The “saving” from hell is a benefit of being an active citizen of the kingdom of God, But it is not the main point of salvation. John 3:16 makes this clear. God loved the world (all of His creation) so much that He sent His son (to redeem it) and whoever believes in Him (joins with Him in His mission) shall not perish (be conquered by the kingdom of darkness) but will have everlasting life (as a citizen of the Kingdom of God).
The kingdom of God is a kingdom of faith, not fear. Fear cannot motivate a heart change and birth a new spirit in a person. Contrary to popular Christian tradition and belief, repeating words built on a foundation of fear is not the “salvation” that Jesus offered, and it is a horrible way to advertise a triumphant King, whose kingdom is actively dismantling the kingdom of darkness.
Let’s rewrite my pastor’s story. Instead of the “if you were to die tonight” speil, what if a new citizenship into a kingdom that defeated darkness was offered, followed by a demonstration of that kingdom? Do you see how that could be more effective? Now, they have something to offer, just in case he survives the night.