“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Characteristics of the Kingdom, by Randall D. Kittle

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Once we are born-again, we are no longer truly at home on this earth, for we have become citizens of Heaven. Since our citizenship is in the Heavenly kingdom, it would be good for us to understand the essential principles, the character traits so to speak, of this kingdom. Just what are the predominant characteristics of God’s kingdom that set it apart from the other kingdoms of this world? God clearly shows us the primary characteristics of His kingdom in His Word.

A Living Kingdom
The first characteristic of the kingdom of God we glean from the Bible is that it is a living kingdom. The fact that we are now part of a living kingdom should not surprise us, for Jesus told us in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus came to give us life, and not just any life but a more abundant life! The Greek word “perissos”translated here as “more abundantly” means: “beyond, superabundant, superior, or excessive.” Jesus Christ came that we might have superior, excessive, superabundant life!

How could the infinite, all-knowing God reveal to man what this abundant kingdom was like?
“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like …” (Mark 4:30). Over and over again the Scriptures show Jesus comparing the kingdom of God to a seed as He labored to reveal it to us. To illustrate God’s kingdom, Jesus told the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Wheat, and the Parable of the Mustard Seed. All of these show us that the kingdom of God is alive, growing, and reproducing. When we are born-again, the seed of the kingdom of God is planted into the gardens of our hearts. That is why Jesus told us that the kingdom of God is within us. “For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Like any seed, the seed of the kingdom of God that has been planted in our hearts should not only be alive but grow and multiply!

Jesus came to call us out of death and into life, and the whole journey of our faith is life-filled. First we are born-again by the living Word.
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). And because we have been born into God’s kingdom we now possess a living hope. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Then, God desires us to be built together as living stones into a body of believers. “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5). Our lives are then to become living sacrifices for our God. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). As we willingly offer our lives as living sacrifices unto God, we will find the kingdom of God increasing in our lives and being released from our lives until rivers of living water will flow from within us to a dry and thirsty world. As Jesus promised us, “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38).

Yes, the kingdom of God is filled with abundant life, and so should our spiritual lives be if we are part of that kingdom. Yet for too many believers spiritual things are far from excessively filled with life. They have become routine, mundane, and boring. Some have become so lifeless that the Lord is rebuking them like He did the Church in Sardis.
“You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). If you have found your spiritual-life growing lifeless, do what the Lord commanded Sardis to do, “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die … Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent” (Revelation 3:2–3). To awaken out of the mundane, first repent to the Lord for not caring properly for the precious spiritual life He has placed within you. Next, strengthen the aspects of your spiritual walk that remain alive. If your devotional time, Bible study, or prayer time still has some life remaining in it, strengthen it by thanking the Lord for it and being more disciplined and dedicated to its practice. And lastly, remember what you have received. Remember that you were once a sinner and have been redeemed — purchased for God — by the blood of Christ. Recall that eternity with you is why Jesus was willing to die. Remember that before the world began God knew you and loved you. That will bring any born-again believer back to life!

A Righteous Kingdom
The second characteristic of the kingdom of God clearly revealed in the Bible is that it is a righteous kingdom. It is a kingdom of purity and righteousness! According to Romans 14:17, “… the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” This should not surprise us for Hebrews 1:8 tell us that righteousness is the very scepter of Jesus’ kingdom.

As part of God’s righteous kingdom, we are to be a people undiluted by the world and unpolluted by sin. And the good news is that this righteousness is not a matter of striving. It is a matter of faith. Listen to what Romans 3:21–22 says,
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Those who have placed their faith in God are cloaked in garments of righteousness! “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Every born-again believer wears the golden breastplate of Jesus’ righteousness as their own!

Yes, one of the most awesome truths of the kingdom of God is that when we are born-again we are not only cleansed from our sins and stand justified before God — we now possess Jesus’ righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us this,
“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” All those whose lives have been hidden in Christ have now become the righteousness of God! If you were to say “I am the righteousness of God,” most people would think you are either arrogant or deceived. But the fact is you don’t have to say it, God already has!

So what should this righteousness look like? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus paints for us a picture of the importance of righteousness and what it should look like in the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). The heavenly kingdom belongs to the righteous. Then He goes on to say “You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13–14). Jesus is saying here that we should let our purity and righteousness affect, influence, and impact this world. This will produce either persecution, “… when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers” (Matthew 5:11); or fruit, “… everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16). In verse 17 Jesus says that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, which means to fulfill all righteousness. And then in verse 20 He declares, “… unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). When Jesus made that comment I believe everyone’s jaws dropped open as they wondered “How can I possibly live a life superior to them?” But Jesus was talking about a whole different type of righteousness. Not a righteousness put on from the outside, but a righteousness that is lived out from the inside. As we have seen, Christ’s victory on the Cross has made it so that we now stand in His righteousness, for we have become the righteousness of God.

Following this in Matthew 5:21–7:12 Jesus gives us a revelation of what kingdom righteousness looks like. I would encourage you to study that, but here is a summary:
• The righteous reconcile and speak life.
• The righteous think upon what is good and abstain from sinful or enticing thoughts.
• The righteous keep their covenants.
• The righteous tell the truth and keep their word.
• The righteous give to and serve others.
• The righteous display the perfect love of God by blessing, loving, and praying for others — even those who are hateful.
• The righteous do good and give without hypocrisy.
• The righteous pray without hypocrisy.
• The righteous forgive others.
• The righteous fast unto God and not unto man.
• The righteous give liberally to God, and keep God, not money, as their focus.
• The righteous have faith in their faithful God and do not worry.
• The righteous rightly honor spiritual things and are not judgmental.
• The righteous continually press further into the kingdom by asking, seeking, and knocking.
• The righteous treat others as they would want to be treated.
This, and nothing less, is the righteousness of Christ that has been given to us!

We are called to walk out, to work out, the righteousness God has placed within us when we were born again. When we sin, the real question we must face is “Why did we not choose to walk in the righteousness we have been given?” Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us, and now we are to live it out or “practice” it.
“Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7). We must renew our minds and align our wills! Are we willing to align our lives so that what comes forth from our lives conforms with what God has given us?

A Powerful Kingdom
Another characteristic of the kingdom of God is that it is a powerful kingdom. God’s kingdom is a kingdom that is both affirmed and advanced by power! Jesus’ ministry upon this earth was one where the gospel of the kingdom was preached and all kinds of sicknesses and demonic possessions were destroyed. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them” (Matthew 4:23–24). Jesus’ ministry demonstrated the powerful kingdom of God advancing on the earth.

When Jesus sent out His twelve disciples it was the same. Here is how it happened according to the tenth chapter of Matthew.
“And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. … And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” Jesus’ expectation for His disciples is that they, too, would demonstrate the power of His kingdom. It was the same when Jesus sent out the seventy disciples to minister. “After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also … Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’ … Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name’” (Luke 10:1, 8–9). Again, it was the same for Paul. As he testified in 1 Corinthians, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power … For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.”

If Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, the seventy disciples, and the apostle Paul expecting them all to do powerful things for the kingdom, He certainly must be expecting the same of us in this day. When you pray and someone is healed, they know that the kingdom of God has come near. You may ask, “What if they don’t get healed?”
What if they do! The Bible tells us that we have not because we ask not. Let us ask for the power of God to be demonstrated in our lives as the Lord has promised. Let’s pray for the sick, and believe they will be healed. Let us not settle for typical American church-life, but press on into the kingdom of God — a kingdom that advances with demonstrations of God’s supernatural power!

A Precious & Valuable Kingdom
The last characteristic of the kingdom of God seen in the Scriptures that I want to go over is the most important of all these principles. It is that the kingdom of God is a precious and valuable kingdom. God’s kingdom is a kingdom worth seeking! After all, if the kingdom of Heaven was worth Jesus dying to give us, it is worth us searching diligently after! In Matthew 6:33 Jesus exhorts us to “… seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness …”

God shows us the preciousness of the kingdom in the Parable of the Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44–46). The kingdom of God is so treasured, so priceless, that it is worth abandoning all to attain. Whether we have been one who found the kingdom quite by accident, or one who searched everywhere to discover spiritual truth, the fact remains that once we have realized that what we have discovered is the kingdom of the Living God, we should pursue it with all that is within us.

God has promised that if we seek Him we will find Him, but He has put
one condition on it. This is what God declares in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” It is only when we search for God with all of our hearts that He will be found by us. It is time for us to “sell out” for the Lord, to trade the precious pearls of our lives and say “Thy kingdom come … in my life!”

The Kingdom Is Our Best Buy
Last Fall someone shared with me an interesting story that reveals having this heart of a seeker. On the day after Thanksgiving my son and I went out for breakfast, and the woman who managed the restaurant come over to our table and told us this story. “I think my daughter’s crazy,” she began, “My daughter was at Best Buy this morning at 2:30.” “2:30 in the morning?” I inquired. She went on, “Yea. Well they had a really good sale.” This amazed me because the temperature that night had gotten down to 10º F, and they didn’t even open the doors till 5:00 a.m. She went on to tell me that her daughter had called her that morning to tell her she had gotten the new television she had wanted, but she didn’t get the computer. Why didn’t she buy the new computer she wanted? Because when she arrived at the store at 2:30 in the morning there were already too many people in line before her! Now there are some people who were seeking.

Think about that in light of our pursuit of God. We declare that we want to seek the Lord, to seek the King and His kingdom, but how desperate are we really for His kingdom? People of the world stand in the bitter cold for hours to get a good deal on some electronic equipment that won’t even function in a few years while the Church fails to seek after receiving the infinite King and His eternal kingdom. When it comes to having the heart of a seeker, many unbelievers put the Church to shame. They know how to pursue. They know how to seek. We need to truly see the inestimable value of the kingdom of God and gain the heart of a seeker who won’t be satisfied with anything less. Let us fix our eyes on the prize of Jesus and His kingdom. If we truly seek the kingdom of God with all that is within us, we need not fear,
“… for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).


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