|Image from American Magazine.|
LIFE and Character
Right from the start of Jesus' ministry, he made clear what the Kingdom really is---it's producing fruit. And by "producing fruit," it's like how trees produce them. Trees do not work hard or use effort to bear fruit. They just stand there and wait for God to do everything for it. John 15 says we produce fruit by remaining connected to the Vine---by remaining in Christ.
It's really all that easy.
Remaining in Christ turns your life upside down and strangely different from the lives of other people, very different from the world, in fact. It's radically, eerily and even "frighteningly" so different that a lot of people get scared and turn away from it, even church people (or especially church people and their leaders). Jesus enumerated the Kingdom virtues on a mountainside one day.
Kingdom is life. It's not a religious organization or a particular theology or belief or doctrine or place or building that you need to propagate and expand. Like true Christianity, God's Kingdom is life---how you live, see things, relate and behave. And there's only one LIFE---Jesus---and this life needs to be spread and shared with people. People need to have this life with us so we may have one fellowship with the Father and Son. According to John in his first letter, this makes our joy complete.
The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
The Kingdom is about proclaiming the LIFE. And in proclaiming the Life, we seriously live it everyday. No effort or hard work---the life simply manifests because Christ is in us. The LIFE automatically makes us poor in spirit, meek, merciful, craving for righteousness, pure in heart and peaceful. Because this Life seems impossible and runs contrary to everything the world is about, it also makes us odious to people, especially those in love with the world (especially the religious in church who love the world). So, the LIFE brings us persecutions, insults and false accusations, to the extent that it makes us mourn.
Yes, Kingdom people often mourn, not because of regrets, but because of pain and suffering for Jesus. We each need to carry the cross Jesus puts on us so we can understand his power. Power is made perfect in weakness. Mourning and weakness may be pointless to mortals who do not understand the Kingdom, but to us it is power.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [1 Corinthians 1.18]
Mourning and sufferings also take away dross so the silver beneath appears and the silversmith can make a priceless vessel with it [Proverbs 25.4]. God allows them so we can be purified, because "godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret" [2 Corinthians 7.10].
These are things that are priceless in the Kingdom and make us fit to be salt and light of this world. Without them, you are "no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot," [Matthew 5.13].
LIFE and Character
Nothing is more important in the Kingdom than life and character. Accomplishments and trophies are nothing, zero, pfft! It doesn't matter if your ministry is small or remains small or even decreasing in size. A lot of pastors have been enslaved with the fear of being small or getting smaller in ministry, not understanding that what irks God is a wayward life and rotten character---life and character not conformed to the life and character of Jesus Christ.
Remember, Jesus came that we may have life and abundantly at that. He didn't come so we can have big ministries or mega churches or massive church membership or hefty church income.
What would it profit if you have mega churches and extensive outreaches and mission works and even if you gain the whole world in your so-called "evangelism," but you lose your soul due to spiritual and character rottenness? A lot of "successful" ministers have turned out this way. They bragged about their great church ministries but in character they had turned into something so ungodly, even horrible. They often fell into pride and arrogance, like their big ministries were the result of their own greatness, abilities and hard work.
Big ministries and big incomes are good. Successful evangelism is good news and we should all be deep into it with discipleship. But "success" in these things have nothing to do with your spiritual standing before God. It doesn't mean you're more favored. God can raise up sons of Abraham from stones. And these things are not what the Kingdom is about. The Kingdom is about fruit and life.
Remember what Jesus said about Pharisees who worked hard to evangelize:
You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. [Matthew 23.15]
Number one in ministry is that you yourself produce the good fruit in you. You bear the good fruit of the Kingdom. If you are a true child of God, you'd produce converts twice as godly as you are when you evangelize. But if you remain rotten, you'd produce converts twice as rotten. Imagine a mega church of people two times rotten as you are. You're not building God's Kingdom on earth. You're building Satan's kingdom with members "twice a child of hell as you are."