Throughout the Biblical Gospels and especially throughout the book of Luke, Luke often uses the term “kingdom of God” to refer to what Jesus was teaching and preaching. It is important that we don’t overlook this phrase, but notice that Luke was intentional in using the “kingdom of God” to refer to a lifestyle of faith. Simply stated, the kingdom of God can be defined as believing, living, and operating with God as King. If we are to understand this phrase in practical terms, the kingdom of God means that faith is more than just giving a verbal or mental ascent of believing in Jesus, but a true submission to Him. This requires that we are continually adjusting our lives to live in obedience to Him and not simply rejoicing in our sinfulness and what Jesus has done for us.
There seems to be a huge disconnect between professing faith in Jesus and people submitting their lives to Him. There are a growing number of people who never truly repent of sin, but only glory in what Jesus has done for us. This should not be. Even with as imperfect as we each are and how we may still fall into sin, there is no excuse to think that if we continue to embrace a life of sin, that we will be saved.
In sharing our faith with people, we have often reduced our efforts to a simple Gospel presentation. Many times our methods have revolved around telling people only about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and rising again that we might have eternal life with Him. And although this is absolutely critical and foundational to faith, without sharing about the implications of the life of a believer as we go forward, it is an incomplete gospel at best.
When urging people to not delay putting their faith in Jesus, we have also tended to fail to allow God to be able to work in people’s lives to bring them to a solid faith. In doing so, we have missed giving people the time and space to understand the true cost of believing in Jesus and the impact of sin in their lives. And since most people don’t have a Biblical background to begin with, it is even more important that they are given time to understand and work through these issues.
We must return to teaching and preaching about the implications of the Gospel and leave the results to God.
Many churches and believers have often fallen into the trap of being more concerned about the numbers of people making a “profession of faith” rather than the quality of the understanding of those that say they believe. And the results speak for themselves. As we look around at churches and professing believers, they tend to look more like the world and less like Biblical faith. In order to continue to get the results that are expected, the only way is through compromise. Instead of defining success by how many people say they believe, we should rather focus on each of us living and sharing our faith as a lifestyle of “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). This might mean that we may see less people putting their faith in Jesus, but we will be finding ourselves faithful nonetheless. Remember the Old Testament prophets.
We must be unwavering and uncompromising when it comes the Gospel. The Gospel must include what it means to live and operate with God as our King and not just assurance that we are forgiven. Therefore, we must be ready to make the investment to make sure people understand the implications of faith, without rushing them into some “decision”. If we are careful in making sure people know what it truly means to believe in Jesus, those that do put their faith in Jesus will more likely remain grounded in faith for their entire lives.
So as we go from here, it is a good reminder for each of us to find ourselves living and growing in our faith, as well as looking at evangelism as much more than a “sales pitch” that includes the greater implications of the Gospel. In the long run, I’m sure that the investment we make of walking alongside others, showing them what it means to follow Jesus, will have much greater impact and lasting results.