The Kingdom of God and Spiritual Growth (2)
The kingdom of God is closely related to spiritual growth. A correct conception of God’s kingdom will definitely help our relationship with God and at the same time benefit our spiritual growth. Most of Luke’s chapter six is called the “Sermon on the Plain”, which, like the passage in Matthew chapters 5-7, also talks about the kingdom of God and the standards to be lived by the people of the kingdom of God. Four important questions about the kingdom of God were answered there.
(1) When will the kingdom of God come? (Luke 6:12-19) – In addition to the material world, there is also the spiritual world. The kingdom of God belongs to the spiritual world. Jesus praying to God all night and performing miracles to heal the sick and cast out demons are signs which prove the existence of the spiritual world. Moreover, Jesus’ authority to perform miracles shows that the kingdom of God is not revealed in the future, but has already come.
(2) Who can enter the kingdom of God? (Luke 6:20-26) – Blessed are the poor. The hungry and the sorrowful are also blessed; the people who are hated, rejected, and insulted are also blessed! These people are blessed not because of their contribution to the world or based on their merits; but because of God’s grace. On the contrary, people who rely on the abundance, nourishment, happiness, and approval of the material world will not be blessed by God.
(3) What qualities should the people of the kingdom of God possess? (Luke 6:27-42) – Jesus said that everyone who lives in the kingdom of God has the qualities of the kingdom people. They are people who love their enemies, bless those who curse them, and never retaliate but instead are virtuous. In fact, we can see such a model in the Lord Jesus!
(4) How to cultivate these qualities? (Luke 6:43-49) – Don’t think that the gospel is about changing our behavior. Jesus didn’t want us to be “good” Christians, or to perform Christian “good deeds”. Jesus often accused the religious leaders of the time of their outwardly hypocritical behaviors while ignoring internal motives and attitudes. Jesus emphasised that what the people of God’s kingdom need to cultivate is an inner pure motive and a clean conscience, because a good tree will naturally bear good fruit.
To cultivate the uniqueness of the people of God’s kingdom, we need to adopt approaches or exercises that can renew and transform our hearts, which we can call spiritual practices. We will leave this to the next time.
(1) 神國何時來到？(路6:12-19) — 除了物質世界，還有屬靈的世界。神國屬於屬靈的世界，從耶穌整夜禱告神、行神蹟醫病趕鬼，這便展現出屬靈世界的真實存在。而且，從耶穌有權柄去行神蹟，表明神國不是以將來式展現，而是經已來到。
(2) 誰可進入神國？(路6:20-26) — 貧窮的人有福了，飢餓的人、哀哭的人也都有福；被人恨惡、拒絕、辱罵的人亦是有福的！這些人能得福，並不是因爲他們對世界有何貢獻，或有何功德；而是因為神主動地施恩予他們。相反倚賴物質世界所給的富足、飲食、快樂及認同的人，得不到神的賜福。
(3) 神國子民應有何素質？(路6:27-42) — 耶穌說，活在神國裡的人，都有神國子民的質素。他們是愛仇敵的、祝福咒詛自己的，並且是以德報怨的人。其實我們可在主耶穌的身上看見這樣的典範！
(4) 如何培養這些素質？(路6:43-49) — 不要以為福音是要改變我們的行為。耶穌不是要我們作個好的基督徒，或表現出基督徒的「好行為」。耶穌經常指責當時的宗教領袖拘泥外在的行爲，而忽略內心的動機及態度。耶穌強調，神國子民所要培養的，是內在純正的動機、清潔的良心，因爲好樹自然會結好果子。