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We Are Called To Live As Citizens of Christ's Kingdom

This article on being good citizens of the Kingdom of Christ is Part II of an ongoing series on building a thoroughly Christian Worldview. To read the previous article, Cultivating a Kingdom Mindset, click here.

Worldview Is Defined By Citizenship

A person’s worldview is largely defined by his collective presuppositions. A person’s presuppositions are influenced by his experiences, education, and the beliefs and behaviors of the culture around him. That means, that you can expect people who live in community with one another to share similar experiences and education, and therefore similar worldviews.

In the modern West, where multiculturalism and pluralism are touted as absolute virtues and necessary advancements, you will find pockets of competing culture within a single nation, state, or even city or neighborhood. That isn’t the natural condition of human civilization. Under normal or natural conditions, communities, societies, and nations form where the population shares a common worldview. A common worldview is based on, among other things, a shared history, ethnic heritage, and religion.

On a grand scale, you can expect that citizens of a nation will more-or-less share a common worldview. This is in fact necessary for people to dwell together in peace and cooperation. If people within a nation do not share the same worldview, even though they share a common language, they will not even agree on what those words mean. Where people in a community do not have most of their worldview in common, you will find conflict and frustration that will typically only be resolved by one worldview obtaining dominance over the others.

Why is this question important to our current conversation?

As Christians, we are not citizens of this world. Not primarily or ultimately. As Peter put it, we are elect exiles living within and among the nations yet owing allegiance to a higher banner. Until we come to grips with, and embrace this reality, we will struggle, experiencing inner turmoil and conflict. We may have many things in common with the non-Christians around us, but we do not share those things that are most important and foundational. No matter how much we feel like we have in common with unbelievers, even those who may be close relatives, we will not see the world around us through the same eyes. If we are thinking biblically, we will not share the same priorities and presuppositions as they do. No matter how many shared experiences we may have, we have conflicting worldviews. We have opposing cultures. We are citizens of a different kingdom.

Rival Kingdoms

From the very beginning, God placed His mark of dominance on the earth by stamping His image on a unique creature who would exercise dominion over all creation. Earthly kings often place statues of themselves throughout their territory as a way of signaling their reign. God established man in His image and tasked him with ruling over His creation in His stead, to be His direct image-bearing representatives in the world.

From the beginning, the world was God’s realm where His image ruled supreme. Creation could be said to be His kingdom. You might call that kingdom the Kingdom of Light. A supposed rival stepped out in opposition to God’s reign in creation. Satan desired more than his created station, and he convinced a host of angels to follow him in his rebellion. You might call that rebellion the establishment of the Kingdom of Darkness.

For an unknown time, the Kingdom of Darkness existed, yet had no real or physical presence within or alongside God’s Kingdom of Light in creation. That is, until Satan convinced God’s image-bearers to also be discontent with their created station such that they joined in rebellion against God’s command. We all know that story. Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, and in so doing they plunged mankind and the rest of creation under the curse of God and into the Kingdom of Darkness. This is precisely where all men find themselves unless by faith in the finished work of Christ they are rescued and transferred into the Kingdom of Light.

Radical Two-Kingdom Theology

There are some who hold to a different understanding of the opposing kingdoms present now in the world. They would classify them as something like the Common Kingdom and the Redemptive Kingdom; or perhaps the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Men, the difference between the sacred and the secular. This is referring to what in theological circles is termed as Radical Two Kingdom Theology (R2K).

Essential to understanding Radical Two-Kingdom theology is that Christ’s Kingdom and reign belong to the heavenly realm, and will not extend to the earth – at least in a real or impactful way – until the end of the age. Christ’s reign is more spiritual in nature than it is tangible during this current age. As such, there will not be a call for Christians to try and influence culture with God’s Law according to God’s standard. They can be good citizens, but they should not try to Christianize society.

Under this framework, all men live within the Common or Secular Kingdom. Much of the common daily lives of men exist within this realm – including most of the institutions and structures of society. It is not inherently wicked; it is only common and ordinary. However, the path to salvation lies in the Sacred or Redemptive Kingdom that Christ established in His death and resurrection. It is there that people may pursue righteousness and live in obedience on this earth.

In this system the Christian life largely consists of knowing how to navigate between the two different kingdoms. There are appropriate allegiances owed to both. A person ought to be a good and honorable citizen of the Common Kingdom and obey Christ as far as His Kingdom has authority. The details may be argued, but the kingdoms are to be kept separate, and Christians must learn to
navigate both.

Christian Worldview Banner

Kingdoms At War

We do not adhere to the Radical Two-Kingdom Theological position. We do not think that is how Scripture teaches us to understand the conflict between the two kingdoms which seem to be most often referred to biblically as the Kingdom of Light, Kingdom of Heaven, or Kingdom of God and then the Kingdom of Darkness.

It is important to discuss this opposing understanding of the two kingdoms, because many of us have been taught, explicitly or implicitly, to see the world through a similar lens. We have been taught to simply assume the appropriateness of dividing the world into that which is sacred and that which is secular. To keep one sphere separate from the other.

Have you ever been told that you cannot legislate morality? That we should not attempt to make others follow God’s standards just because we believe them to be right for us? That is the mindset that flows out of the desire to keep the sacred and secular separate.

The first question is ludicrous on face value. Morality is all you can legislate. Every law is an attempt to force others to recognize and obey a moral standard. Do not murder. Do not lie or steal. Do not put other people’s lives at risk by driving too quickly or under the influence of alcohol.

As to the idea that we should not try and make unbelievers follow God’s standard just because they do not believe in Him, what other standard would you suggest we use in its place? All law is either in line with God’s standard, or it is wicked and unjust.

Scripture makes clear that there is a conflict between light and darkness, and it also makes clear that we as Christians are to see ourselves as citizens of the Kingdom of Light. From the beginning there was the promise of conflict between light and darkness, in this case the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.

GENESIS 3:15 {ESV}
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

When King David sat on the throne of Israel, God made it clear that he was but a foretaste of the great King who would follow and whose reign would extend over all creation bringing everything back under the rightful reign of God.

PSALM 110:1 {ESV}
The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

The prophet Daniel was given a vision of what it would look like when God sent His Son, the Son of Man, to take up His throne and His enemies would be placed under His feet.

Jesus talked about His work on the earth as seizing back from Satan what had been taken – of binding the strong man.

Matthew 12:29 {ESV}
Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

After His resurrection, Jesus confirmed what Daniel foresaw: all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him.

Matthew 28:18-20 {ESV}
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

How Then Should We Live?

If Jesus came to establish on earth the universal reign of God that had once been shattered when God’s image-bearers became disobedient, then how should His followers live in the world?

Throughout the Gospels Jesus made a distinction between the ethics and standards of His Kingdom in contrast to those of the Kingdom of Darkness that had so long held dominion on the earth. What is very clear, is that Christians are to live as citizens of the newly arrived Kingdom of Heaven, not
according to their old manner of life. As the Apostle Paul put it:

Colossians 1:13-14 {ESV}
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

We are not called to live balanced between the things of this world and the things of God. We are called to follow Christ, to be children of the light, to live as citizens of the Kingdom that Christ inaugurated in His first coming, and on whose throne He sits at the right hand of the Father on high.

1 John 4:19 {ESV}
We love because he first loves us.

While in context it was pointing to our love for our fellow believers, that love for fellow believers is itself tied to our love for God. Jesus said:

John 14:15 {ESV}
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

We cannot separate love for Jesus from obedience to Him. He has called us to radical obedience to the standards of His Kingdom. How far reaching is Christ’s Kingdom? If you believe what Jesus said in Matthew 13, His Kingdom will overshadow all the nations of the earth. How far does His authority extend? Over Heaven and Earth.

We need to understand the battle between the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness because we are citizens of light living in a foreign and hostile territory. That means that our allegiance is to Christ. We are working for the advancement of His kingdom, which means we seek the tangible manifestation of His reign over every inch of His creation.

There will be opposition along the way. There will be seasons, or even centuries, when things do not look like they are going well for our side. It is not for us to decide when or where we have been placed, but it is our duty to live as faithful citizens of Christ’s kingdom and to labor for its advancement. Therefore, we train our minds and our bodies, and we join with others who share our ambition and our worldview to that end.

Allegiance to Christ

We need to understand the battle between the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness because we are citizens of light living in a foreign and hostile territory. That means that our allegiance is to Christ. We are working for the advancement of His Kingdom, which means we seek the tangible manifestation of His reign over every inch of His creation.

There will be opposition along the way. There will be seasons, or even centuries, when things do not look like they are going well for our side. It is not for us to decide when or where we have been placed, but it is our duty to live as faithful citizens of Christ’s kingdom and to labor for its advancement. Therefore, we train our minds and our bodies, and we join with others who share our ambition and our worldview to that end.

Podcast Season 2 Episode 12

Christian, Where Does Your Allegiance Lie? {Season 2: E12}

Listen in as Caleb and Lindsey discuss the important of having a thoroughly biblical worldview. In part two of this ongoing worldview series on the Reformed Faith and Family Podcast, you will learn about the different views of the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness in Christendom, as well as how Christians should live in light of God's revealed truth on this matter.

Are You A Kingdom Builder?

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Get some conversations going with this blatant testimony to God's Word that claims everything our culture is actively attacking. Be bold and wear your faith literally on your sleeve.

Like what you see? Read more!

God is the Author of All History

Theology Is Not Neutral

We Are Called To Live As Citizens of Christ's Kingdom

Cultivating a Kingdom Mindset: A Christian Worldview Series

Bible Investigators: Creation Book Review

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