What does a successful life look like?
In our Americanized way of thinking, we usually answer that question with things like a nice home, a stable relationship, and a steady job with a good salary. Of course, none of those things are wrong in and of themselves. But we must never forget how, as followers of Christ, our definition of success must be shaped by God’s kingdom rather than this world.
After all, the things of this world are coming to an end. Last week, I wrote about 1 John 2:15-17. Allow me to share verse 17 again. It reads, “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (ESV).
In Hebrews 12, the author presents the kingdom of God as an unshakable kingdom. Verses 28 and 29 read, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (ESV).
As Christians, there is more to our lives than what meets the eye. There is more to our lives than accumulating riches, indulging in pleasure, and building a reputation. This week, we’re going to look at characteristics of kingdom living.
The author of Hebrews continues his message on an unshakable kingdom when he writes, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:1-6 ESV).
The first characteristic of kingdom living we see in Hebrews 13:1-6 is brotherly love.
In what ways are you loving your brothers and sisters in Christ? In our individualized culture, we struggle to understand gospel community. Kingdom living means caring for, praying for, and spending time with our family—that is, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Too often, we cling to statements like, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” But when we emphasize such a statement, it usually shows our lack of appreciation and understanding of God’s call on our lives to engage in gospel community (see Heb. 10:24-25).
Another characteristic of kingdom living is hospitality to strangers. As Christians, we should be hospitable with one another, but we should also show hospitality to those who don’t know Christ.
When was the last time you showed hospitality to someone in need of Christ? Have you eaten with any sinners recently? (see Mt. 9:11).
The author of Hebrews provides another characteristic of kingdom living in verse 3. He calls the believers to remember those in prison and those who are mistreated. Now, the context of this verse implies that those in prison are fellow believers in Christ.
Do you ever consider those in prison who have given their lives to Christ? Do you ever pray for them? As Christians, we need to empathize with one another, seeking to show one another the comfort Christ offers (see 2 Cor. 1:3-4). There are Christians in other countries who are currently in prison because of their faith.
Next, the author of Hebrews says a characteristic of kingdom living is honoring marriage and protecting the marriage bed. Of course, these are not popular ideas in the world today. But if we are to live as God calls us to live, we must view marriage and sex through the lens of Scripture rather than culture.
Lastly, in verses 5 and 6, the author of Hebrews instructs us to stay away from the love of money and to learn how to be content with what we have. Rather than thinking we always need more, we should trust in God’s faithful provision. Rather than finding our security in the size of our paycheck, we should rest in God’s promise to care for us.
As the author of Hebrews writes, God promises to never leave us or forsake us (see Josh. 1:5). Our help and security come from Him (see Ps. 118:6).
So, let us consider how we might show these characteristics of kingdom living by the Spirit’s power. Rather than focusing so much on the things of this world, we can live in light of an unshakeable kingdom.