Thursday, June 23, 2011

Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 2

Every day people get out of bed, get themselves cleaned up and ready for the day, eat breakfast or grab a cup of coffee to-go, and drive to work or school or play-dates.  We spend our lunches together at resturants or alone in front of a TV or computer screen.  We talk, converse, share ideas.  We work, play, and plan.  We come home to spend some time in rest or in more work with a family - watching TV, cleaning the house, helping kids with homework.  Then we get cleaned up again and climb into bed just to get ready to do it all over again the next day. 

Habits.  Rituals.

They are all necessary parts of life.  And each habit produces a desire and an idea of what is worthy of our desire.

We can't help but live this life.  Unless we are going to live a life completely separated from the world, we have to engage in these habits.

Smith's solution, in his book Desiring the Kingdom - his idea for keeping our hearts after the Kingdom of God - is to engage in counter-formative rituals.  The various elements of Christian worship, when made a habit or regular practice, will work to both show us the Gospel and give us the opportunity to practice living the Christ-centered life together.  He offers some great ideas in his book, aimed, I believe, at those heading churches and / or Christian education establishments.  I, however, have tried to use his ideas and bring them down to a practical and personal level.  Here are the first six habits I have adapted from his book.

  • Organize your time according to the Liturgical Year, observing annual celebrations and holy days as well as weekly Sabbaths.
  • Reserve the periods of Advent and Lent as times of penitence - times of denial, self-examination and waiting.
This habit of organizing your time around the church year will serve as a sort of exercise in desiring the Kingdom of God.  While we await a weekly day of worship and rest, and then, while we live through the self-denying periods of Advent and Lent, we learn to desire the coming of the Kingdom.

  • Regularly gather together for worship and fellowship.
  • Regularly gather together with other Christians that are not your mirror image - Christians who are quite different in so many ways from yourself but who share the common bond of Christ with you.
  • When you regularly gather with other Christians, make a habit of "invoking" the mercy and grace of God.
This habit of gathering together serves to bring renewal and restoration for us, the broken members of the Body of Christ, so that we can go out and suffer and serve a lost world.  We come together with our sins and weaknesses and look, together, to God for healing and strength, mercy and forgiveness.

  • Accept God's invitation to commune with him.  Practice regular interaction, conversation with God.
  • Regularly welcome others into your life and your home as God welcomes you into relationship with Him.
When we habitually practice hospitality, both receiving God's hospitality to us and extending hospitality to others, we are reminded that we need God. . . we need eachother. . . we need relationship. . . we come to desire it even more, that connection with God and our brothers and sisters.

  • Sing to the Lord, often.
  • Make singing with others in the body of Christ a regular practice, both at church and other gatherings, even just casual get-togethers.
  • Memorize psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
By ritualistically making music to the Lord, we first strengthen our faith and belief in Him and His word.  Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs are a beautiful reiterration of our belief in God; and they serve to both build up and reinforce our belief system.  When we sing together with other believers, we practice what the Bible teaches about serving as one body composed of many parts.  We can come together with Christians of all backgrounds and still create one beautiful melody.

  • Begin each day by looking to the Lord for guidance.
  • Make a habit of reminding yourself of the two greatest Commandments:  Love the Lord with your whole being, and love others as you love yourself.
A regular dose of guidance from God, a reminder of His Commandments helps us to reprioritize our lives and creates a desire for God's vision for our lives as opposed to our own that may be warped by the habits of our culture.

  • Confess your sins to God often.  Take time out of each day to reflect on your life and really take a hard look at where you are falling into sin.
  • Make a regular practice of confessing your sins to your brothers and / or sisters in Christ.  "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed."  Look, together with other Christians, at where you are all struggling personally as well as where you, as a body of believers, are failing to fulfill God's call.
  • Just as important as the practice of confessing sin is the practice of receiving God's grace and forgiveness.  If this is something that you struggle with, come up with a tangible way to remind yourself of your forgiveness, something that you can put on or touch or, perhaps, writing your confession on paper and then wadding it up and throw it away.
Sin, itself, is just a sign that we've misprioritized.  In other words, when we sin, we place greater importance on something other than God and His kingdom.  We love something else more - desire something else more.  Confession and repentence help us to reprioritize, to re-aim our hearts toward God.  And, when we confess, and then receive forgiveness, we play out the Gospel message both privately and then, also, corporately with other Christians.

Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 1
Desiring the Kingdom ~ Part 3
Desiring the Kingdom for the (Home)(School)

No comments:

Post a Comment