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Where do you belong?

On 3 October 2013, a boat carrying migrants from Libya to Italy sank off the small Italian island of Lampedusa. Many of immigrants had come to Libya from other parts of Africa. When the Libyan uprising begun they sought to find greener pastures. Around 360 perished, with Italian Coast Guard rescuing 155. A week later another shipwreck occurred killing 34 people.

Lampedusa has become a hot destination of choice of smugglers ferrying migrants from Libya to Europe. The Lampedusa immigrants who perished had high hopes of reaching their new home, but they never made it to Europe. They each paid more than $ 1,355 per son and were crammed nto bought hoping they will get there. Many of the women endured rape, and men who rebelled were tied up and tortured. In the end they escaped danger in Africa only to meet it death later.

If you are a follower of Jesus you have also taken a journey from danger. You have been rescued from terrible conditions but unlike the Lampedusa immigrants you have not become shipwrecked.  You have been successfully delivered to a new kingdom. Apostle Paul describes your situation like this :
[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:13-14)
All true followers of Christ have been moved from captivity into a new Kingdom. Notice that this is not a transfer between two equal kingdoms. You have moved from a mere power (domain) to a functioning State under a King Jesus. Almost like moving from broken Libya to better organised states in Europe.

Your transfer as a follower of Christ is not merely a change of location  it is also about personal transformation. Jesus has not just changed your spiritual postcode he has changed you from the inside out. Everyday you are being renewed in the image of Jesus. And this process of change is taking place because you are now within the confines of this new kingdom you live in. So what sort of kingdom is this?

First of all, it is a safe Kingdom. You have not just been rescued from Satan and left abandoned. Nor have you been rescued and having to come under attack. A bit like Denzel Washington in the movie Safe House, where he play the CIA agent Tobin Frost who cannot be kept safe despite how many safe houses he is taken to. In the end he has to fight his way to freedom. A key message of the movie appears to be that you fight for yourself because no one else can protect you.

As a follower of Jesus Christ you have no Frost problems. You have been moved from total darkness and into light. Apostle Peter echoes this when he tells the Christians in Asia Minor (and all true followers), "you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

Being in a safe Kingdom does not mean trouble will now come your way. What it means is that Jesus is now your stronghold. An old prophet assured God's people people under oppression from Nineveh with the words, "the Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him”. Hundreds of years later Apostle Paul told the Colossians believers, “your life is now hidden with Christ in God”. Both statements reminds us that if you are a follower of Christ, you no longer need to rely on yourself for safety and protection because you are already safe!

This truth changes how you serve. You no longer need to fear the world when you talk about Jesus because you are safe in his Kingdom. May be you are a person prone to fear for many things. We live in an increasingly fearful society. Nationally, we fear the rumours of war that are gripping the world, the march of global terrorism and disease. At the individual level you may fear for your marriage, work, death and losing control! As challenging as these things may look, if you are a follower of Christ, you have come to a safe Kingdom and it cannot be shaken!

Secondly, the  Kingdom of Jesus is a loving Kingdom. You are wanted by God. I recently came across a news story late July, about an Australian couple who had paid a Thai surrogate to carry twins. When the babies arrived the couple only accepted the healthy baby girl but rejected her twin brother who had Down syndrome. The case sparked international outcry and pleas of help for the surrogate and her rejected baby.

Apostle Paul is clear that God is not like that Australian couple. God has "transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son" or the Son he loves. The point Paul seems to be making at one level is simply that we are a love token from the Father to the Son. This makes you highly prized before his eyes regardless of your background. You may wonder what gift God would buy himself to demonstrate his deep love for His Son. The answer is you! Quite amazing, isn’t?

But there's a deeper point being made here. Paul is saying that God has drawn you into a love relationship between God the Father and God the Son. All true followers of Jesus are now part of a great Kingdom marked out by love. In the words of Apostle John, God’s love is a “out-of this-world” kind of love. A love for wretched undeserving sinners! A love that turns those rejected into children who belong to one kingdom of love! You now have a home!

Finally, the Kingdom of Jesus is a forgiving Kingdom. Even though God has rescued you, there will be moments when you turn against God from time to time. In those moments you will quietly wonder, ‘How do I know God will not get angry with me and hand me back to Satan?’ This is a question many children who are adopted  or orphans go through. They struggle with acceptance and it begins to shape their behaviour in a negative way if it is not addressed.

Paul makes it clear that God our relationship to God in this new kingdom is marked by forgiveness: "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins". We are all sinners before God. Even when we became Christians we did not stop sinning. This is why Apostle John says, “I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins”

In other words if you have truly repented, not only are you rescued you from danger, but Jesus also offers permanent forgiveness that ensures we remain morally perfect before God. Jesus our king stands before God bearing his perfect redemptive sacrifice for our sins that has turned God’s wrath into our favour. God now looks upon each member of His kingdom as he looks upon Jesus. In this new Kingdom forgiveness is available for struggling citizens!

God never gives us the Norwegian treatment. Norway's government recently announced that it was considering withdrawing Norwegian citizenship from people taking part in terror activities and wars abroad. Governments around the world are having to make tough choices about who they allow to hold citizenship. Norway's government is saying : you are not one of us!  Thank God that under in the Kingdom of Jesus, God never says you are not one of mine, no matter how ugly our sins are! We all deserve the Norwegian treatment. But Jesus says to all who followers, 'my blood sets you free, go away and sin no more'!

What does it mean for you that we have a forgiving kingdom? It means that it doesn't matter how exotically righteous you are. It doesn't matter how pure you are in your dealings with sin. It doesn’t matter how strong or weak you are against temptation. As long as you are in the Kingdom of God you are totally forgiven because your standing with God is never based on your righteousness, but on his. The perfect life, death and death-defeating resurrection ensures that you stand forgiven in His kingdom.

It means that all of your sins past, present, and future have been covered by his blood. His righteousness has been attributed to your account. So even in your moment of greatest sin, you do not have to hide from God or fear his presence. Your penalty has been paid and eternal acceptance has been granted, so you can run into God’s presence, lost and broken as you often are, without fear of his rejection. The kingdom of Jesus is a kingdom of forgiveness because His grace guarantees your forgiveness, pays the penalty for your guilt, and lifts the burden of shame off your shoulders. So we see that in every dimension you truly belong to him!

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Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013


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