What does it mean to be a Christian? Attend a church regularly? Adhere to a list of dos and don’ts? Hold certain political positions and vote for certain political parties? I suspect these are some of the responses I’d received if I surveyed a cross-section of adults in my part of the world. I reckon they aren’t alone. What’s striking is that most of the ways people describe Christians today would’ve been alien to the early Christians, who were a maligned, oft-persecuted minority community in a pagan empire. Back then, it was unfashionable, even dangerous, to be Christian. So, to become a Christian, you had to be utterly convinced of a reality superior to the threat posed by your decision. You had to become a believer!
The threat of harm for becoming a Christian still exists today for some. But conversely, many have never faced the threat of persecution in their Christian walk. Nevertheless, the necessity for conviction hasn’t changed in either case. You cannot be a follower of Jesus if you don’t confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead [Romans 10:5-17]. While all Christians must believe this fundamental truth, it’s worth remembering that Jesus’s key message was the coming of the Kingdom of God into this world [Mark 1:15]. Those who believe in Jesus and His message are adopted into that Kingdom and become sons and daughters of God with full rights of citizenship [John 1:12, Ephesians 2:19].
Citizens of God’s kingdom are naturally foreigners anywhere else [John 17:14-16]. But Jesus’s intention wasn’t for the kingdom of God to remain confined to a tiny region of the Middle East. On the contrary, He instructed those who believed in Him to take His message to the ends of the earth, thus expanding God’s kingdom to the four corners of the globe [Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8]. All too often, Christians focus more on going to heaven, a transition that’s a guarantee for those who believe, than they do on expanding God’s kingdom through sharing the message of Jesus. I humbly suggest that our priorities are wrong if that’s the case, not least because our final destination is earth, not heaven [Revelation 21:1-4].
Admittedly, some of what I’ve written above sounds like a fluffy fairy tale. But Jesus didn’t send us out with just a message. He also gave us authority – the right to exercise power – to use His name and its inherent power to demonstrate the evidence of our claims [Luke 10:19]. I didn’t quite understand this aspect of the Christian experience until recently. The penny dropped when I realised that those who believed were mandated to share the Gospel, live out its message, and demonstrate the all-surpassing power of God’s kingdom through tangible manifestations. Jesus was unequivocal that distinctive signs would follow those who believe [Mark 16:17-18]. Elsewhere, Jesus also said that those who believe in Him would emulate the works He did [John 14:12].
I’ve written several blogs about sharing and living the Gospel – becoming living epistles [2 Corinthians 3:2]. So today, I’d like to focus on demonstrating the power of the Kingdom. It’s certainly not an aspect of the Christian experience I’ve mastered, but it’s no less relevant in conveying the authenticity of the Gospel. Jesus’s earthly ministry was full of the supernatural. He cast out demons, healed the sick, raised the dead, etc., and then instructed us to carry on the same works in His name. Something is missing from our Christian experience if the message of the coming of God’s kingdom we preach isn’t allied with a demonstration of God’s power [1 Corinthians 2:4]. Jesus pointed His doubters to His work as proof that He was sent by God [John 10:37-38]. We should do the same, not for shock and awe or self-aggrandisement, but as proof of Who sent us, and to glorify Jesus [John 15:16].
Many Christians are uncomfortable with the miraculous and the supernatural. We don’t understand how to use our authority, and usually, we don’t desire to understand either. Often we, or those around us, are beset by the maladies Jesus gave us the power to address. Yet, we do little about them because we lack the discernment and conviction to use that authority. It’s an uncomfortable truth that if we knew how to harness the power within us as believers, certain conditions wouldn’t exist in our spheres of influence [Ephesians 1:19]. For a significant chunk of my life, I believed the demonstration of the miraculous was for a select few, but I see now that I was wrong. Imagine a world where every Christian could heal the sick; how many more would pay attention to the message of the Gospel [John 2:23, 11:45]?
I’m hoping to stir up a righteous desire within you to demonstrate the power of the Kingdom to accomplish Jesus’s mission statement [Luke 4:18]. It’s not enough to believe the Gospel and live a godly life with integrity and equity as we wait to die and go to heaven. As great as that is, there’s more to the Christian experience. Moreover, demonic principalities and powers are warring against the Gospel, the Church and the manifestation of God’s kingdom in the lives of individuals and communities [Ephesians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 4:4]. The powers of darkness may not yield to eloquent apologetics, but they’ll bow in the name of Jesus [Philippians 2:9-10]. The great news is those who believe have the right -power of attorney – to use that name [Mark 16:17] and the mandate to reign as kings and priests on the earth [revelation 5:10].
So, if you believe, don’t stop there. Push on, insist your life demonstrates the reality of the Kingdom and bears witness to the power of God working in and through you [Mark 16:20].