New Birth, New Life, New Kingdom…

Ben Schoettel   -  


“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (John 1:10-12)

The words above the head of Jesus as he gave himself up to death for our sake may have been meant as a mockery toward both Jesus and the religious leaders who betrayed him, but they are also the crux of the entire Gospel. The gospel is not the cross where our “sins were washed away” that is only part of the story of the gospel, which is that Jesus, the incarnation of God, is King. This point has been made in previous devotionals, but as we end “Holy Week” I thought it would be appropriate to dig in here once again.

None of us decided our family or country of origin. We really don’t get much say in the matter. I think that our lack of pondering this fact is what leads us to think our experiences and assumptions are the “right ones.” (You know what they say about assumptions, right?… I’ll let you finish that one…) The way I have been formed to talk is the right way. The way I have been formed to act is the right way. The way I have been formed to see the past, present, and future is the right way. Believe it or not, much of this is determined based on our families and cultures (for the sake of the point, let’s call these our kingdoms.)

The people in the times where Jesus walked the earth are no different. Some people in society were born Jewish, some Gentile. Some born into royal bloodlines, some born into priestly bloodlines. Some born with power, some born powerless. This fact leads everyone (now and then) to have an assumption about the Kingdom of God. Because the only kingdoms our bodies know are ones we have been born into, it is hard to imagine what it looks like to enter into the kingdom of God in this life.

The above verses from John highlights an important truth about Jesus as “the Christ” and expands the gospel beyond a response to sin but the always here and expanding kingdom. In the book How God Became King, N.T Wright points out a common verse that perhaps moves our view of the kingdom off course a bit. He says that in John’s gospel Jesus tells Pilate that “my kingdom is not belong to this world (or “is not of this world”) but how it really should be understood is to mean “my kingdom isn’t the sort that grows in this world.” He notes that whenever Jesus is referring to heaven or the kingdom of God “there is no question, but that Jesus is speaking of a kingdom in and for this world… the kingdom and cross connection is agape love (expressed through Jesus as we see in John 3:16)

So, all who put their faith in Jesus Christ have the power to become the children of God. This truth is what justifies us, but it doesn’t automatically force us into experiencing the blessings from King Jesus. This “new birth” happens to our already patterned lives that have been formed by our earthly kingdoms. We don’t get a fresh start in a different time or location, that new life starts now. We are gifted eternal life through the story of the cross, we honor that gift, and experience the transformative power of God’s kingdom, by carrying on that story.

Kyle Strobel writes in The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb, “We are called as his people to participate in Christ’s triumph over these powers by submitting to the way of the cross. We are called to be cruciform people, to live according to the cross-shaped way of Jesus.”

As many are invited around the world on Easter Sunday to believe and put their faith in the resurrection of Jesus, let us all be reminded that this moment in time was not the end of the gospel story, and it isn’t the end of our transformation story, it is just the beginning.

The more we unlearn the ways of our earthly kingdoms and take baby steps into life as children of God, we see the power of God’s love grow and spread the beauty of God’s kingdom all around us as Jesus, who was and is and is to come, continues to hold us in his graceful hand.

What is my next baby step as I learn to walk in this kingdom of God’s love today?