We hear more and more talk about advancing God’s kingdom. That’s a good thing because it’s a major theme in Scripture far too neglected in the contemporary church. We’re also having more conversations about culture making which is also a good thing because we’re created to create culture. These two dynamics – kingdom advance and culture making – go together. Let me explain.
Part of the good news is that in salvation we’ve been delivered from Satan’s kingdom and reign into a completely new kingdom and reign: the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13). We are kingdom citizens submitted to a new king called to advance His kingdom in the midst of earthly kingdoms.
The Lord Jesus taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Lk. 11:2). When God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven His eternal, unshakable, spiritual kingdom is advancing in the earth. It is being brought to bear in the world. When we give a cup of water in Jesus’ Name we are doing kingdom work. To give something in Jesus’ Name is connected to His reality and gospel and opens up conversations about Him because of who we are and what we’re doing. That’s the kingdom advance part.
What about the culture making part? To be created in the image of God means that we image forth God’s character in a number of ways. For example, we can be kind to others because God is kind and when we’re kind we’re imaging forth the reality of His kindness. Now, God is the Creator and He has called us to be creators as well. For example, God told Adam and Eve to cultivate the garden. That is creative activity in terms of agricultural technique and in the production of more bounty and beauty. We can’t create something out of nothing as God can but when we create something new out of existing material we are still imaging forth God’s Creatorship in our God-given creativity. That’s part of what it means to subdue the earth as God commanded: to discover the rich resources God has hidden in His creation and develop them for the good of others and His glory.
When we cultivate or create appropriate things in appropriate ways we are creating for God’s glory and the good of others. In the words of Andy Crouch, we are creating cultural goods: we are culture making. When we write poetry, compose music, write computer code, coach baseball, develop more efficient methods in our place of employment, make investments, produce a crop, deliver packages, etc., we are either cultivating or creating a cultural good. When we do so in the Name of Christ we are creating, in the words of Darrow Miller, kingdom culture. Paul says that we are to glorify God in whatever we do whether we eat, drink, go to work, iron the clothes, or enjoy the sunrise with a loved one. If we are living in light of God’s reality for God’s glory we are living as kingdom citizens and preserving, cultivating, or creating kingdom advance or kingdom culture. We are to create culture that reveals the reality of God. That’s just another way of saying we are to glorify God in all that we do; we are to reflect His reality and attributes.
So, how do kingdom advance and culture making go together? In our homes, work-places, neighborhoods, communities, and indeed in all our spheres of influence we are to reveal God in different ways. We reveal Him by speaking the truth. We reveal Him by being concerned for others. We reveal Him by putting His character on display. We reveal Him by putting His beauty on display.
Think about that one – putting God’s beauty on display. We know that suffering, pain, and sin is the result of the fall. If there is natural disaster, war, crime, arguing, or anything evil it is the result of the fall and brought about by the influence of Satan or our own sinful desires (under the sovereign control of God to be sure). If there is ugliness of any kind it is the result of the fall. On the other hand, if there is healing, goodness, and righteousness it comes from God. If there is natural serenity, peace, goodwill, reconciliation, or anything good it flows in some sense from God’s goodness. If there is beauty of any kind it flows from the reality of God. He is beautiful and He is the source of all beauty.
I know a lady who loves to brighten our sanctuary with flowers. She blesses others with them as well. Sometimes people take little notice of those things. But I wanted her to know something one day. When I see the flowers she has placed in the sanctuary here’s what I think. God is the one who has given each one of us our particular gifts and talents. When this woman puts the flowers out before everyone arrives Sunday morning, she is worshipping God and serving us by using her gift. She is also revealing God in that. Moreover, she is revealing God’s reality by enhancing the beauty of the sanctuary with the beauty of flowers and in so doing she is putting God’s beauty – God’s glory – on display. She is creating a culture of beauty that reveals God. She is advancing His kingdom by doing His will on earth as it is in heaven. She is lavishing the blessings of Jesus on the rest of us. She is a kingdom citizen doing kingdom work that glorifies the King. She is fulfilling the purpose for which she was created: to create kingdom culture. That’s what I think about when I see those flowers every Sunday.
The next time you fulfill the purpose for which you were created (and hopefully that’s more and more everyday in all you do), think of it that way; you are creating kingdom culture. And indeed, that’s why you were created (Eph. 2:10).
For more written and audio resources, visit www.pbcsc.org.
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