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Kingdom Colony

Read this message transcript from the "Here’s the Church" message series

Harold Bullock: Good morning, this is Pastor Harold from Hope Church. I’m glad to be spending time with you today. We’re going today from house to house...from my house to your house in lieu of, given the kind of timeframe we’re in. We’re really grateful for telecommunications in all that we can do electronically. I’m glad to share the time with you. You kids who are involved and who are listening, I just want to say personally from me, Pastor Harold, to you, thank you so much for working with your parents during this unusual time and for all that you’re trying to do to be a help to them. Do what’s right. Thank you.

We’re going to be taking a look today at something that Christians understand a bit, but they don’t really understand. It’s one of the kind of challenges that we have, particularly in Western society. We’ve looked at several things in the past. Today, we’re going to be taking a look at the issue of the kingdom colony. Church—church is a term we use a lot of different ways in English. We go to church, or we have church. Or right now, we’re not having church. We go to church in the sense of going to a building. We’re not going to have church this week. I guess that means a meeting. That term just has a lot of different ideas connected with it in English. In the Bible, it turns out to be a really important term. Church is supposed to be a kingdom colony. I’m going to explain what I mean by that and the implications of it. 

God’s kingdom has already been experienced by those who have become Christ followers. The Scripture says that God has delivered us. He’s rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves in which we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. We’ve already experienced a transfer of kingdoms—the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of the Son, the kingdom of Light where we can understand and see life for how it is. Though we’ve experienced that transfer personally, we’ve encountered it and tasted some of the things of God’s kingdom. Church is something that gives Westerners, society people, a hard time with their thought life. We’re so individualistic in our thinking that whenever we think about what God’s doing in the earth, we tend to think of God’s plan. We think about God and me. As we look at the future, we think about God and me. That’s not wrong; we ought to be thinking about those things. But to fail to see the huge things in God’s plan that actually involve His group of people, not just one person like me but His group of people, we tend to miss what He’s doing through them. 

Every now and then we say things like, “The Truth ought to be light.” As we think of that, we think of ourselves personally being light we ought to be, but there’s something bigger going on. It’s true that each one of us has a personal relationship with God and that relationship is intensely valuable. But, it’s also true that a great deal of what God is doing involves not just us but His large group of people, and also the congregations that are a part of it. There are things that really cannot just be done by me. There’s this whole bunch of us, and God’s going to do things through that community of people, a group of people besides just me. There’s more He’s doing through the community. So, we Christ followers, the Bible says, actually make up a new kind of people on the earth. We’re a new ethnic group; we have new ways of thinking. Our actions are different from the world around us. We’re a different nation, a different ethnic group. 

There are truths about that that really impact how we live. Whenever an ethnic concentration develops in a major city, very often you’ll see it in the architecture, like Olvera Street in Los Angeles. It has a Mexican flavor to it; some of the old buildings go back a long ways. Or Chinatown—Chinatown looks very different from Olvera Street. The Chinese people—we’re all human beings but they have developed in a way that the architecture there makes all kinds of sense to them. Or in Westminster, further south in Los Angeles—there’s little Saigon. As we’ve vacationed in summers, we’ve often stayed near there. Architecture is pretty, but it's different from what Americans formally experience. However, it makes sense to the people around there. So it is with Christ followers. We represent a God-kind of people on the planet, and we have an approach to life that reflects the kind of people that we are.

Church is intended to be a kingdom colony on this planet, a colony of the kingdom of God. Peter says that we’re a holy people in 1 Peter 2. He says, “But you are a chosen people, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of God.” We’re a people. It’s a very interesting term. He says we’re a “holy nation.” The actual word he uses here for nation is ethne in the Greek. It’s the word we get “ethnic” from; we’re a new ethnic, and it’s a holy ethnic. We’re a people who are dedicated to God and God’s purposes. Once you were not a people, but now you’re the people of God, a holy nation, a holy ethnic group on the planet. Once upon a time, we were just scattered around the planet, but once we come to Christ, we’re forged into a new covenant of people, sort of like ancient Israel was a nation. It was a group that constituted a governing system. They were a nation on the planet, and their ways were different from those around them. We, in the church, are a new ethnic group, a new kind of man Ephesians 2 says. We’re on the planet with our new ways. 

Once we were like the world, but now we’re living here as foreigners and exiles. Peter goes on to say, “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world…” He talks about not handling ourselves like we used to, but now since we’re a different ethnic group, we’re sort of like people from another country in a country. We have our ways; we have to relate to the society, but we have our own ways. He says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that…” basically God will be praised. We’re actually governed in the church by the ways of our homeland, the laws, the life ways of our homeland, which is heaven actually. Philippians 3:20 says, “Our citizenship…” The Greek word is a word, politeuma, sounds a lot like “politics.” Politeuma—“...Our citizenship is in heaven. And from it await a Savior, Jesus Christ.” So, we’re like people from heaven planted on the planet. That word, politeuma, that’s translated “citizenship,” is actually a big word. It has a lot of implications. 

The Amplified Translation of the passage says, “But we are citizens of the state commonwealth, the homeland which is heaven…” State and commonwealth have implications to them. George Ladd is a New Testament scholar and a world class one. He writes about that word, politeuma. He says, “The word, politeuma, designates a colony of foreigners who have an organization that reflects their native homeland.” We’re sort of put together in a way that reflects heaven. He goes on to say, “So we have our home in heaven, and we are here on earth like a colony of citizens from heaven on the planet.” It’s true that we originally came out of this planet, but what’s happened in Christ Jesus has put heaven in our hearts. Ladd goes on to say, “The life and fellowship of Christians in history…” That is the way you live and I liven, the way we treat each other as we move through time. Life and fellowship and history is supposed to be a foretaste for everybody else of the kingdom of God. It’s supposed to reflect in the world something of what the final, the eschatological, reality is going to be. In other words, what’s going on in Hope Church because we’re a kingdom colony ought to be a foretaste. I’ve used the illustration of running your finger through the icing on a cake and tasting it and knowing that cake is going to be good. It’s a foretaste; it’s not the whole cake. It’s a foretaste. 

As people encounter Hope Church, they encounter...they’re supposed to encounter, people whose individual lives reflect eternity...people and the way they treat each other, fellowship, tastes like heaven. Wow. So, we deal with each other in a way that’s in line with the ways of heaven. We don’t just treat each other by the ways people on this planet do. We treat each other in a way that tastes like, in a way that has the feel of heaven to it. Now, we’re on the planet for sure, and we’re not perfect yet. People in heaven don’t have some of the problems we do. However, we’re still the heavenly people as a colony on the planet, and people look at that colony. They should get a taste of heaven as they sample our relationships and how we deal with life. It’s not, we’re not, fully there yet. Even Christ followers are not as kind as the people in heaven are. We try, and the people around us in the world are surely not as kind as the people in heaven are. But, we still live by the ways of heaven. We still have to use wisdom, but we have to love people. We have the Hope Core Value of “We love people wisely, “ but we still do love people. 

For each of us, each one of us is to be the first to initiate kingdom ways with people. We don’t just wait to see if someone’s going to treat us like heaven before we respond that way. We take the initiative; we do right, and if we mess up, we clean up. We’re not fully there yet. Albert Barnes says in his notes on the New Testament that “they were governed by the laws of heaven, a community associated as citizens of that world and expecting to dwell there…” So, we are governed by a different set of rules. In our church life, the way we handle our personal lives, the way that we deal with each other should reflect God's ways, not just societal ways, American ways. Not even our own personal excuses for not doing it...We're supposed to live by heaven’s ways. So in Hope Church, we operate by what God says. Our life ways actually include four things that the world just has a hard time doing. 

I grew up in this society; I grew up using a spoon, a knife, and a fork. When I normally eat, if it’s soup, I’ll normally use a spoon. If it’s a regular dish, I’ll use a fork. I don’t use chopsticks. Some of my friends living in China are very skilled at that, but when the world tries to do the things that we do and the way we live, it’s like the world’s trying to use chopsticks to each rice and beans. We just don’t do that well with that, and the world has a hard time. But among us, it should be natural...a struggle, but natural. There are four things that have the taste of heaven, and they actually go against the grain of our own flesh. Here they are: “truthing,” reciprocity, then unity, then God’s approach to things. What I’d like to do is just go quickly through these with you. On the handout, you’ll find verse references, and you can look these up for yourself. 

Truthing—Ephesians 4:15 says that a lot of translations…”we speak the truth in love,” but actually the Greek word that’s translated “truth,” is a verb. We truth in love; we’re truthing in love. That means talking the truth, thinking the truth, doing the truth. That’s how we operate. In the world...I’m going to do a contrast between the world and the kingdom colony. In the world, we tend to trim the truth to suit powerful people. In the kingdom, we hang onto God’s Word; we don’t modify it. It’s truth, and we don’t modify it to satisfy the society around us. Right now, we’re under a lot of pressure to change what God’s Word says to satisfy people. We don’t do that. Jesus said that if we are ashamed of His words among men, then He will be ashamed of us before the Father at the end, and we don’t want that to happen. The world utilizes deceit in order to get advantage. They’ll lie; they’ll trick...not everyone but most people. For us, we don’t lie; we don’t deal falsely with each other. Scripture says this very clearly. You can see references. People in the world may use the truth to damage. Sometimes you tell people the truth because it will really hurt them. For us, we speak the truth in love. We look to the value of the person and try to be a benefit. We truth in love; Hope operates in truth and with love.

Reciprocity—this is another big difference between the kingdom and the world. In the world, people are really glad when they’re blessed. They look out for themselves, and  that’s not bad, but we also look to the interests of others in the kingdom. We do look out for ourselves, but we look to the interests of others. When blessing comes in the world, people are glad for it. God blesses some way; they’re glad for it. As a matter of fact, they’d like to get as much as possible. Then, they keep it for themselves. In the kingdom colony when God blesses, He’s already blessed us in Christ. What we do is first of all, we’re glad, but we express gratitude to God. Then, we actually give back to Him in some way. Then, we take what He’s done for us, and we pay it forward. Because He’s blessed us, we bless other people. In the world when someone blesses someone, people may send thank you notes; they may not. In the kingdom though, we do more than thank you notes. If someone’s blessed us in one way, we look for ways that we might be able to be a blessing to them, maybe in a completely different way. If someone helps you with this, you help them with that. If someone gives you money, maybe you help them in another way. Reciprocity in the kingdom—the word is koinonia. We keep the good things going around. If they come from God, we pass them around. If they come from others, you return good to them. The world tends to just look at its advantage and that’s it, but it’s different among us.

Unity and peace—Ephesians 4:1-3 says that we’re to live in such a way that’s worthy of the people that God has chosen to be His own. “Always be humble and gentle...put up with each other and love each other...try your best to let God’s spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living peacefully…” Living at peace… We have a unity among us that’s created by the Holy Spirit. He’s in each one of us, and He creates a unity. It’s up to us to preserve that unity because in the world, unity is a very rare thing. In the kingdom, it’s supposed to be the way we live. Some contrasts for you—in the world, people love to have their own way. In the kingdom colony, we treasure unity and peace. In the world if you’re going to have your own way, you’re going to have conflict. You’re willing to fight for it. We treasure unity and peace. We don’t treasure stupidity or soft-headedness. We’re willing to ask questions, but we do treasure unity and peace. 

In the world, people avoid feedback. They don’t like that. You tell them if you have a disagreement. In the kingdom colony, we’re willing to accept correction, and we’re willing to give it, too. In the world, leadership standards tend to be pretty low. You have to obey your boss, but in the kingdom, leadership standards are very high. Following leaders is different; in the world, because they’re just not very good anyway, you sort of have the excuse, “Well, I don’t have to follow that.” In the kingdom, we have high standards, and we intelligently follow leaders. It’s an issue of unity. Again, we ask questions; we don’t follow anyone to disobey God or to do harm, but in the world, whenever you don’t like what the leader does, you tend to form coalitions. Groups that sort of begin to work against the leadership. We intelligently follow leaders. In the world when leadership says “such and such,” you acquiesce openly and outwardly, and then you undermine quietly. In the church, we actually defer to what’s best for the church not just what I want but what’s best for the church. 

Then we also deal with underminers. Sometimes people start undermining in the church. There are practices that people get into that undermine things. Then, there are some people who are underminers. Practices like being hurt. Once you get hurt, relationships tend to fall apart, so we forgive and clean up relationships. Clear them up...and misunderstandings. Gossip—in the kingdom, we just don’t do it. The Bible says don’t. Triangling—that’s where you pull someone together, and you talk about that other person over there. That’s one, two, three. That’s the triangle, and we don’t do that. It’s related to slandering actually. Grumbling is another practice. People do that kind of thing. We grumble and grumble; we don’t like that, and we get together and we grumble. In the Scripture, what you’re supposed to do is give input to those in charge and not just quietly grumble. If you think things are wrong, let them know. Then, stop the grumbling. God despises it. You can check this out in 1 Corinthians 10. 

Stubborn dissent—sometimes people are just stubborn. We get into that mode, and we don’t want to give up our ideas. We try to look at things from the church and what’s good for the church. We take that angle. Sometimes divisive people crop up, so those of us who are in leadership the Scripture says in Acts 20 are to look out for self-exalters. That’s people who want to rise up and create a faction, so we watch out for false teachers or for people who are just really proud and who create division. We warn them. The Bible says you warn them first, and then you warn them a second time, and after that you disfellowship them. We’ve rarely had to do that, but there have been some times because unity is important to God. Peace is important to God. 

The fourth thing is heaven’s approach/God’s approach to things, heaven’s wisdom. James 3:13-18 is a passage that I’d really recommend you read and think through it as your approach to life. If we operate out of bitter envy or bitter jealousy or selfish ambition…”if you have that in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth,” because there are people who create conflict in the church because of bitter envy and selfish ambition. “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. It is earthly, unspiritual and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. For the wisdom that is from above…” You know, the heavenly colony wisdom… “...the wisdom that is from above is first, pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere, and a harvest of righteousness is sown by those in peace who make peace.”

I’d like to walk through a quick contrast on this passage with you. Because again in the kingdom colony, Hope Church, we operate by God’s laws, God’s approach, not just corporate America. Corporate America has some good ideas. God’s approach is the difference between right and wrong. The wisdom from above and the wisdom from below—I’m going to go in that order. The ungodly craftiness. The Source of the wisdom from above is God. Of course the normal kind of strategizing, it often gets into church life, is the world. Actually, Scripture says the devil. The devil is the one that sets up this kind of thing. The motives—the wisdom that’s from above, the way that we’re supposed to operate is our motive. We’re out to please God, not please God and get in a few good things for myself. But, please’s pure motive, one motive. The world tends to be driven; the other strategies tend to be driven by jealously. Somebody has something and you want it, or they have it and you don't’ want them to have it. Jealousy or selfish ambition(selfishness). Attitudes in the kingdom—peaceable. We go at stuff to make peace not war. Gentle—we’re not harsh with people; we’re gracious. Considerate—we’re considerate. We don’t just run over people; we listen, ask questions, get feedback. In the world, it tends to be combative, not peaceful; pushy, not gentle; demanding, stubborn, not considerate; debating, not listening to feedback. For us the laws of operation are different. 

The general approach to handling things in the world is vindictive and hurtful. In the kingdom, it’s merciful. You find it’s helpful not hurtful. In the world, it tends to be favoritism. We’re trying to get a few good things for us and our buddies. In the kingdom it’s impartial; we want to see good done to everyone. In the world, it tends to be devious, tricky, very often hidden agendas. You’re in the kingdom; what’s sincere? What’s honest? What’s right? We don’t do the devious. The results that come out of the different methods—In the world, what you have is conflict. Foul things happen. Actually the phrase is “foul things” occur to people, and the organization begins to shred. It starts coming apart. It’s selfish ambition; bitter envy and selfish ambition get loose and it starts shredding, coming apart. In the kingdom, whenever you move the kingdom way, the result is...the first thing is peace. There’s just peace. Good things happen to people, not foul things. Good things—as time goes on, more and more stories of good things happening. Then, a harvest of righteousness—lives change for the better and the good. There’s an increase in right living. 

We truth; we don’t deceive. We pass around good. Those of us who lead are not out to accumulate all the good we can, but we’re passing it around, too. We handle ourselves in such a way that God is honored. We operate by His ways. We maintain unity, and we do it by operating in His ways. The world’s ways lead to uproar and deterioration. Things fall apart. God’s ways are peace and well-being. This has been our practice at Hope through the years, and as we recently walked through the leadership selection, the Lead Pastor selection process in the fall and early part of January, we walked through this way—upright, in truth, in love. It generates peace. Like a colony of people from another country, we in the church of the Lord Jesus are supposed to have different ways to live, different ways to deal with problems, different ways to treat one another, different ways to work together as a community. We struggle with them, but we do move this direction. This is the truth; this is the way to live. Those ways bless us, and actually those ways become something God uses to open people’s eyes to the reality of the kingdom.

I want to call you, you personally, to adopt heaven’s ways—heaven’s ways of handling the challenges you face, heaven’s ways of handling the stress that we’re walking through now with the Coronavirus inconveniences and problems. I also want to call you to walk by heaven’s way by the way you relate to people in Hope. Hope is a kingdom colony. If you’re one of the kingdom citizens, we live by heaven’s laws and out of that comes all kinds of good stuff. Christ followers in churches have significant issues as they move forward. One of them is trusting God; we’ve talked about that. Another is the carrot and stick that the world uses to try to motivate us. We’re upside down to the world. Its pretty and its glistening wonders deviate us from our course we’re going; we resist its pressures for what God wants. This issue of being a kingdom colony...we’re not just...We’re members of God’s kingdom. He groups us together as a colony to live in ways to show this world what He’s like. There are other things, though, and we’re going to be looking at those in the coming days. Things that are hard to of them that is very difficult to understand is testing...walking through difficult periods in which God has a purpose. We’re in a difficult time right now. I’d like to invite you to join us next week online as we take a look at this issue of testing, walking through the difficult.