Just imagine an aggressive and ambitious young executive- extremely gifted, well pedigreed, highly educated, totally dedicated and very charismatic being groomed and empowered by those who count on his meteoric rise to the top-who gives it all up. He just walks away from the prestige, the power, the pay and the position. The guy must be nuts, right? Why would anyone do something this stupid?
I will let him tell you.
You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day, an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin, a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting Christians; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.
The very credentials these people are now waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash- along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant- dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him.
–Philippians 3:4-8 (The Message)
Later in this text the apostle Paul would conclude “all who are mature should take a view of things.” Paul had grown up to true kingdom thinking and had the ability to discern the difference between his former attractive but empty way of life and the more challenging, but more virtuous call of Christ. To him walking away towards Christ made perfect sense. Through kingdom thinking he understood how “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” and “the weak things of the world to shame the strong” and “the lowly things of this world and the despised things- and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are.” (1st Corinthians 1:27-28)
All who are mature would take this view of things. But unfortunately not many are. From my perspective the church remains populated by so many who seem to stay stuck in a surface level thinking and rarely ever ventures deeper into true kingdom thinking. Consequently we repeatedly fail to free ourselves from the grip of a worldly approach to life, to relationship and to church. Consider:
Whereas we should be thinking in terms of kingdom we think in terms of institution
Whereas servanthood should define us we grasp for power
Whereas grace should govern we create rules
Whereas we should be message-driven we choose to be market-driven
Whereas we should be about relationships we think programming
Whereas selflessness should reign we favor ambition
And it is my guess that most of us would join the chorus of “that’s nuts” if presented with Paul’s choice in a context outside of church.
So how do we change this? How do we grow up like Paul into kingdom thinking? I believe there is only one place to start- Matthew 5-7- the Sermon on the Mount. This is kingdom thinking at its purest. It is a totally revolutionary re-envisioning of who we are to be that is guaranteed to challenge, change and develop maturity. According to this sermon kingdom thinking:
* Honors a different set of values and behaviors- 5:1-12
* Calls for a transforming transparency- 5:13-20
* Elevates relationships above the institution- 5:25-42
* Redefines the parameters of love- 5:43-48
* Demands personal integrity in acts of worship and piety- 6:1-18
* Seeks a clear kingdom commitment- 6:16-36
* Requires honesty and personal accountability in relationships based on how God treats us- 7:1-12
* Demands choices to be made reflective solely of kingdom values- 7:15-27
There is no doubt that this sermon clearly sets God’s way against the world’s way and calls for radical rethinking for all who claim to follow Christ. It is unsettling, deeply challenging and to many- madness- just like Paul giving up his path to Pharisee superstardom. But only by embracing and internalizing this sermon we will grow up to kingdom thinking.
Isn’t it time to do this?