The kingdom of God is a power. Paul tells us, “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). It is the power of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, breaking into our lives and transforming them. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). This is the blessing of God’s kingdom. It’s a blessing which is more than mere words. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit – these are not just religious words. They are spiritual realities, the power of God at work in our live, the power of God which brings the forgiveness of sins, the power of God which brings new life, the power of God which gives us a foretaste of heavenly glory.
A foretaste of heavenly glory – This is what the kingdom of God is in our present experience. God’s future breaks into our present experience. Here and now, we have begun to experience the salvation of God. In heavenly glory, we will experience all the fullness of God’s salvation. Here and now, we have begun to see glimpses of the perfect love and the perfect holiness of God. these glimpses appear in our lives as we learn to walk with Jesus Christ. In the heavenly glory, we will dwell forever in the presence of the God who is both perfect in love and perfect in holiness. Paul contrasts this present life and the life to come. This is what he says: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). The contrast between our present experience of God and the fullness of our future salvation is the contrast between “the imperfect” and “the perfect”: “9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). What we have now is only a hint or glimpse of what we shall have in the glory of heaven. What we are now is only a hint or glimpse of what we shall be in the glory of heaven. To speak of heaven in this way is not to assume that everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will find place in heaven. “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).
As we look at what the New Testament says to us about the kingdom of God, we must give our answer to the question: Do you know the power of God’s kingdom in your life? Has the kingdom of God broken into your life as a transforming power, enabling you to trust Christ as Saviour and submit to him as Lord?
God’s future is not a faraway, distant future which has no effect on our present life. It’s not an airy-fairy irrelevance which is utterly remote from our life here and now. Those whose lives have been changed by the power of God’s kingdom are not to spend their days day-dreaming about a glorious yet irrelevant future. we are to live for Christ here and now, allowing the power of God’s kingdom to make us, each day, more like Jesus and more useful in the service of God’s kingdom. To know that you are going to heaven is a great privilege. It’s a God-given privilege. God gives this privilege to every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Do you believe in the name of the Son of God? – not in word, but in power. Has the power of God’s kingdom broken into your life, convicting you of sin, showing you your need of Christ to be your Saviour and enabling you to trust Christ and give yourself to him? To receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour is to receive the gift of eternal life. This is the great privilege of which the hymnwriter speaks, “Blessed assurance! Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine.” With this great privilege comes a great responsibility – to live as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. We are to live as men and women who have been changed by Jesus Christ. God’s Word says to us, “Do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). How can we avoid being squeezed into the world’s mould? We must learn to live in the power of the world to come. We dare not get bogged down in the things of this world. We must learn to turn our eyes upon Jesus: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full on his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” Look often to Jesus, and you will find that the world’s way of living loses its appeal. Look often to Jesus – not once but often. Turn your eyes upon Jesus – and keep your eyes upon Jesus. We must not only begin with Jesus. We must go on with Jesus. To go on with Jesus means putting the past, with its sin, behind us and moving forward, with faith, into god’s future. This is what Paul stresses when he writes to the Christians at Corinth. They, and we, are to leave the past behind us and press on to God’s glorious future. Corinth was a city in which there was much drunkenness and much prostitution. Into this situation, Paul wrote these words of warning:”9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). This is the situation into which the grace of God came with mighty power: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). What was Paul saying in these verses? Three things:
* Don’t forget what you were. That’s what you were. Don’t forget it.
* Remember that you have been saved from all that. What a great thing Christ has done for you. Never forget that.
* Don’t go back to the old life. Don’t go back to living the world’s way. The Lord saved you so that you might live the new life, the life of God’s kingdom. We are to live as those who have been “washed ,,, sanctified … justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
There is a past which we must leave behind. There is a future towards which we must move. 1 Corinthians 15 has been described as ‘the great resurrection chapter.’ It reaches its climax in these great words: “54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). With this as our future hope, how are we to live here and now? –
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). May God help us to live this kind of life – a life that is faithful, fruitful and fulfilled, the life of God’s kingdom within us.