I am so grateful for the ministry of Russell Moore. His leadership at Southern Seminary and the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission have been both courageous and gracious. This week, however, I am most grateful for his ministry at my own church, Valleydale Church, in Birmingham, AL. Dr. Moore preached at Valleydale on Sunday from Luke 4:16-31 on the what, the who, and the why of the Kingdom. Dr. Moore told our church that Jesus came to inaugurate the Kingdom, and that the church now is a preview, or a picture, of the eternal Kingdom of Christ that is to come. So, in the eternal Kingdom of Christ there will be peace, unity, righteousness, and honesty. So, my question to us as a congregation is, “Is the world seeing an accurate or inaccurate depiction of the Kingdom and eternity through Valleydale?” What do we need to do to insure that the Kingdom becomes a reality among us?
I think it happens when we begin to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds, and all of our strength, and when we begin to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. It happens when we get more focused on Jesus and His Kingdom than we are on ourselves and our kingdom. It happens when we approach the church as a place to serve and not just as a place to be served. It happens when we care more about discipleship than we do about comfort. None of this is natural, and none of us will do any of this until we are, in the words of Dr. Moore, “changed by the voice of Jesus speaking to our hearts in the gospel message.”
Dr. Moore also taught us about the who of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not just for the jew, but also for the gentile. In Luke 4, Jesus went out of His way to tell the people of Nazareth that God was pursuing people that were even hostile towards Israel (the chosen people of God) because He wanted to save them. When you look at Valleydale, we are predominantly a white, well-educated, Christian-background kind of church. In some ways that is reflective of our neighborhood, but in some ways it is a reflection of our desire for comfort. We like people who are like us, and while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, there is something in the heart of God that desires something more. God is calling people who are far from Him from every corner of the earth to come together around His eternal throne. When we really begin to see the heart of God and get a vision for the things of God, I believe that God will give us a heart for people who aren’t like us, and a picture of the eternal Kingdom will begin to form. If you are only comfortable around people who look like you and have the same background as you, then you wouldn’t be comfortable with Jesus, and you won’t be comfortable in his eternal Kingdom.
Lastly, Dr. Moore spoke to us about the why of the Kingdom. Why? Because we, like Christ, are on a mission – His mission. We are being shaped to be kings and queens in the universe that is to come, but for now we are called to carry a cross. He calls us to sacrifice today’s desires and tomorrow’s goals for His desires and His ultimate goal for our lives in His Kingdom. God is producing something that is so glorious in His grand scheme – something so much bigger than what we can see and touch in the here and now. If you only have a 5-year or even a 75-year view of your life, then Christianity makes no sense. But, if you have a ten-thousand year view, trusting in the timeless and glorious plan of God, then it becomes irresistibly beautiful. I pray that God would give us such a long view of His Kingdom and that even through pain, heartache, and difficulty we would stay faithful to Jesus for His glory and for the hope of His eternal Kingdom.