Many evenings, as my daughters go to bed, I tell them a fairytale about a legendary princess who lived long ago. Every fairytale begins the same way: “Once upon a time in a land far, far away, in a great big castle, in the middle of the forest, there lived a princess, and her name was princess Bella. She was very humble and very kind. She loved her father, the king, and her mother, the queen. One day….”
For many years we have experienced the adventures, struggles, joys, and magical encounters of princess Bella. Every legendary tale contains a theme that is found on every page of Bella’s life, namely, kingdom-mindedness. Sinful but forgiven, Bella is a God-fearing teenage girl whose character is shaped by her father and mother, the King and Queen of Midland, whose just and gracious rule is known by people in all the land.
Princess Bella isn’t perfect by any means, yet she’s a young lady who possesses many of the characteristics that I do not. Her humility, kindness, and kingdom-mindedness are among the many qualities Bella possesses that I earnestly desire my daughters to possess, albeit only by the regenerating and sustaining grace of God. The concept of kingdom is one of the primary meta-narratives in Bella’s story. Bella’s father has taught her well, and she understands, as we must understand, that by nature, everyone is kingdom-minded. The question, however, is whether we’re kingdom-of-God-minded people or kingdom-of-self-minded people. Bella understands that while there are many people in her father’s God-honoring kingdom who wear the garb of professed kingdom-of-God-mindedness, some have shown themselves to be kingdom-of-self-minded people.
Amid the story of our own lives, this one particular dilemma enters every scene: What kind of characters are we in God’s grand story? Are we kingdom-of-God-minded people or kingdom-of-self-minded people? By nature we are self-kingdom-minded. We are consumed with self, and we pay homage only to those who pay homage to us, serving only those who love us, and loving only so that others will serve and love us in return. With scepters in hand and appointed, flattering court jesters at our sides, we establish our fiefdoms, and with self-serving, monarchical control, we demand worship from all our subjects, whether real, manufactured, or imaginary.
Genuine, kingdom-of-God-mindedness is a natural consequence of being, but it is by no means natural to our fallen being. Rather, only by the self-kingdom-invading means of the Holy Spirit, it is a supernatural condition of the re-born, restored, and mind-renewed child of our supreme King, Jesus Christ, whose self-kingdom-mindedness and God-kingdom-mindedness are one and the same.
Kingdom-of-God-mindedness is simple but never easy. It’s simple in that it consists in two foundational principles that govern everything we are and, thus, everything we do: Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). Being kingdom-minded is simple in that what we do is a spiritually organic manifestation of who we are in Christ.
It’s simple in that being God-kingdom-minded is often just the opposite of being self-kingdom-minded, constantly reckoning that the way down is the way up and that the way of the kingdom is the way of the Cross. Herein is found the abundant life of liberty our Lord spoke of: Abiding in his word—existing as his disciples—knowing his truth—being liberated by his truth (John 8:31–32). For it is only when we become bond-slaves of Christ that we are truly liberated to be, think, and go beyond our own, self-serving kingdoms to God’s glorious kingdom of which we are humble princes who delight in seeking first God’s kingdom and his righteousness.
Nevertheless, being kingdom-of-God-minded isn’t easy because, as C.S. Lewis’ pupil Harry Blamires writes in his classic The Christian Mind, “We deceive ourselves with our own conjuring trick.” We deceive ourselves by thinking that the way up is the way up; that the way of the kingdom is the way of compromise; that the way of success is the way of impressive numbers and money; that the way of spiritual growth is the way of looking busy; that the way of ecclesiastical fame is the way of opportunism; that the way of influence is the way of doctrinal appeasement; that the way of knowing God is simply knowing and talking theologically intelligently about God. In all these ways, we are kingdom-of-self-minded creatures who have made idols of our self-minded intellects. But God, who is rich in mercy because of his great love for us has poured out his love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whose kingdom is not in talk but in power and joy in himself, to the end that he renews our minds as he transforms us daily in the school of Christ to whom belongs the kingdom. Let us then live as becomes humble sons of the king with minds devoted to and delighted by the kingdom of God, for our own enjoyment and his glory, forever.