Jonathan Cottrell recently interviewed me about the gospel of the kingdom and the present insurgence. Read it below.
There have been many books written on the kingdom of God. How is your newest book, Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, different?
That’s a great question. Let me begin by saying that I never choose to write a book. A book chooses me. I become so burdened with a message that I have to release it. The discomfort of keeping the message inside me exceeds the discomfort (and massive toil) it takes to get it onto the printed page.
But there is something else. I write the book that I myself want to read, but that doesn’t exist. This second reason gets closer to your question.
I’m familiar with most of the landmark books written on the kingdom of God that have been published over the last 50 years. And none of them does what I was looking for.
Here’s what I was looking for, but couldn’t find:
* A book that takes a comprehensive look at the gospel of the kingdom as it is presented in the New Testament.
* A book on the kingdom that’s NOT academic or heady, but is easy to read.
* A book on the kingdom that doesn’t align with the agenda of either the progressive left or the conservative right.
* A book that covers all the dimensions of the kingdom, not just one or two.
* A book on the kingdom that contains no hint of legalism, guilt, or condemnation.
* A book on the kingdom that gives practical exercises so the reader is helped to apply the message to their lives.
Since I couldn’t find a single book that did all of those things, I chose to take on the herculean task of writing it myself. Hence Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom was born.
What is the gospel of the kingdom, exactly, in your view?
In our time, we are used to hearing pithy shallow answers to complicated questions in sound bites.
That’s what our culture has conditioned us to expect. But trying to answer your question in a sentence or even several paragraphs is like trying to put the Atlantic Ocean into a coffee mug.
It cannot be done without diluting its power and draining its glory as well as raising a truck load of questions.
That’s why I wrote the book. Insurgence is the answer to your question.
I will say that most Christians have never heard the gospel of the kingdom. They’ve only heard bits and pieces of it. And in most cases, whenever parts of that gospel have been presented, it’s been couched in guilt, religious duty, and obligation.
People hear it and come under a pile of condemnation. For this reason, its effect is short lived and it doesn’t transform.
But the gospel of the kingdom, when proclaimed clearly and properly, is radically transformative. And it’s for the long haul.
I love a stirring book title, and your latest is no different. Tell us about the title – Insurgence – what it means, and how you came up with the title?
An insurgence is an organized opposition intended to change or overthrow existing authority. Other words for it are insurgency, insurrection, revolt, revolution, sedition, uprising.
I originally wanted to title the book “Radicalized,” but I was told I couldn’t use it, since many Christians would wrongly associate the book with terrorism. (There is a chapter in the book by that name, however.) When I came across the word “Insurgence,” I realized it was a better option to describe the book’s message.
This leads into another reason why I wrote the book.
There is a growing insurgence against what the New Testament calls “the world system” and a resurgence of the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom – a gospel that caused a cataclysmic eruption in the first-century Roman world.
The best way to spread ideas today – even beyond blogs and social media updates – is through a book.
Consequently, Insurgence casts a unique vision of the gospel of the kingdom that both deconstructs and constructs at the same time. It also answers questions and offers practical solutions, all toward fomenting the divine insurgence today.
The book also contains stories of people who have joined the insurgence. And each one is powerful.
Here’s one example. It’s a moving testimony of a woman named Ruth. She wrote it out, then read it aloud to a group of believers just before she was baptized after she heard the gospel of the kingdom for the first time in her life:
Thirty-four years ago I responded to a very weak and inaccurate gospel message that I had been taught all of my life. It was a message that was mixed with half truth and half lies. It was a perverted “gospel message” based on works and fueled by fear. I was baptized into that system of control. It’s important for me to be re-baptized today to declare my renunciation with that system and my commitment to the real, true gospel and to our Lord Jesus Christ.
So today I do this before you as witnesses, God, and all the heavenly beings, both holy and the demonic beings, because they need to hear my renunciation and proclamation: By my baptism today, I publicly declare my intentions to completely break ties of loyalty to and come away from this world’s systems and all of its entanglements, distractions, and counterfeits. I choose to forsake all that gets in the way of me fully coming into the kingdom of God—into the Lord Jesus Himself. I repent of being baptized into a legalistic system that taught my acceptance by Him was based on my performance in addition to what Jesus did for me. I renounce any agreement with the fear that this belief produced in me if I didn’t measure up. Although I believed I would go to heaven, I did not know then what it meant to forsake all and to fully enter His kingdom; to “come follow Him.”
I sever my ties to a mixture of lies and half truth, which resulted in a lack of seeing the power of the pure gospel’s effect in my life. I repent of not receiving the fullness of the power of the resurrected Christ in my heart, but instead followed a lie of Him still on the cross. I choose to live by the power of the resurrected Christ and by His grace to appropriate my full inheritance that He paid for, to be a radical laid-down lover of Jesus who will bring this kingdom everywhere I go, to be the royal mature bride that my Beloved deserves and to impact the world with His love.
By His grace, I have counted the cost as best as I know, and I choose to be “all in” toward Him and all out of the world today and forever. I go under the water so that I might die to myself and everything that has tentacles around me, including compromising the gospel. I come up in newness of life, into His glorious light, putting to death all known or unknown agreements to darkness or to living by my flesh or man’s systems. I will be a new creation, a new citizen who is fully immersed in God’s kingdom! I will live by Jesus’ gospel, not any version of man’s invention. Today is a new day, a new start!
What do you believe are the most common misunderstandings about the kingdom of God among Christians today? And how do you feel those misunderstandings have misled today’s church, especially in the west?
Generally speaking, there are five major misconceptions about the kingdom among believers today.
Misconception 1: The kingdom of God is the equivalent of social justice and social activism. It’s the attempt to make the world a better place by engaging in political activism and sitting at Caesar’s table to affect laws. Many people who identify with the progressive left view the kingdom of God this way, but it’s misguided since it makes the body of Christ just another branch of the world system.
Misconception 2: The kingdom of God is associated with the Christian effort to take dominion in the world by influencing lawmakers to pass laws that represent Christian values. Many people who identify with the conservative right view the kingdom this way. One of their goals is to bring America back to the moral climate of the 1950s.
Interestingly, the exact same premise undergirds misconception 1 and 2. Each camp just cuts the moral line in a different place. But both involve God’s people sitting at Caesar’s table to change laws and to Christianize the world (whether that means laws which favor the poor or laws that outlaw personal choices regarded immoral).
Misconception 3: The kingdom of God is the equivalent of working signs, wonders, and miracles on the earth. This view is held by many in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. Interestingly, these movements are recent to church history.
I’m not a cessationist. I believe in the supernatural power of the Spirit for our time. However, signs and wonders are never mentioned in Jesus’ central teaching on the kingdom of God (Matthew 5 – 7), except at the very end, and what He says is chilling. Namely, “many” will say that they did signs and wonders in His name, but the Lord will say to them, “I never knew you.”
God is not after gifting and outward power. He’s after brokenness and inward transformation. While both are associated with kingdom citizens, the latter is always the priority.
Unfortunately, there is a tendency for these two movements (Pentecostal and Charismatic) to exaggerate (and even fabricate) the miraculous. And so there’s a great deal of mixture to sort through in both. I know this firsthand because I grew up in both the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements myself.
The point is that the kingdom of God isn’t the equivalent of signs and wonders. It’s far more than that. To reduce it to outward signs removes its cutting edge and its power to transform the mind and heart.
Misconception 4: The kingdom is “within” every believer. Therefore, it’s an individualistic, privatized religious experience. This idea is based on a misunderstanding of a statement of Jesus in Luke 17. I deal with that text in the book. While Christ lives in every genuine believer, the New Testament says we enter the kingdom.
Misconception 5: The kingdom of God is the equivalent of going to heaven. According to this view, the task of every Christian is to bring as many people to Christ as possible and wait for the kingdom to arrive at Christ’s return (or our entrance into the kingdom at death). This view is incorrect because it turns the kingdom into something completely futuristic, which it is not. It’s only partially futuristic.
All of these views are misguided in that they take a biblical truth and expand it to unbiblical proportions. In other words, there are aspects of the kingdom of God that tie into some of these themes, but the kingdom and the gospel of the kingdom (in particular) are way beyond all of these viewpoints.
I detail all of this in the book. And what I argue has the testimony of Scripture and the witness of church history behind it, I believe.
I understand that you have some supplemental articles that go along with the book, which I always enjoy along with your books. Tell us about those and how readers can find them.
Yes. The book was too long in its original form, so the publisher asked me to cut some of the chapters out. Therefore, I removed the following chapters from the book, but made them accessible online as stand-alone articles.
The Origins of Human Government and Hierarchy
The Radical Cost of the Kingdom
Rethinking Water Baptism
Aware of His Presence
How to Break an Addiction
A Word About Political Elections
The Kingdom Present and Future
Action Terms for the Kingdom in the Gospels
You Will Not Taste Death
Daniel’s Seventy Weeks
The Mission of the Insurgence
The Kingdom in the New Testament (Every Reference)
In the book itself, there are instructions on how to download each of these articles. They are all free.
Insurgence is rather unique in the way its chapters are arranged. Share a bit about how it differs from other Christian books in the formatting.
I wanted the book to be read by every serious Christian who desires to love the Lord more and learn more about the passion of His heart, specifically His kingdom.
That includes teenagers as well as theologians and scholars. It includes people who love to read and people who hardly read at all. (The book is in audio format as well.)
What’s unique about Insurgence is that I wrote it in a style where a high school teenager could pick it up and understand it and where a scholar would benefit also.
Each chapter is very short. I am a voracious reader, but I get discouraged with books that contain long chapters. They make me feel like I’m never going to finish.
By contrast, Insurgence fits right into our culture which presents material in small digestible chunks. So even though it’s not a small book, it’s a quick read.
Here are the main sections. Each one contains many chapters which are only one to three pages long.
PART I – THREE DIFFERENT GOSPELS
PART II – UNVEILING THE KING’S BEAUTY
PART III – THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
PART IV – ENTERING AND ENJOYING THE KINGDOM
PART V – OUR GLORIOUS LIBERTY
PART VI – ADVANCING THE KINGDOM
Having been personally impacted by your work more than any other author today, I know that you are absolutely fixated upon the eternal purpose of God, which is what you frequently call “His magnificent obsession.” How does that obsession intersect with the gospel of the kingdom?
Great question. In the beginning of the book, I talk about how the gospel of the kingdom relates to the Eternal Purpose. They are really two sides of the same coin. I explain exactly how throughout the book.
If one thing happens when people read Insurgence, what do you hope that result is in their life? In essence, what’s in it for your readers?
Radicalization to Jesus Christ as well as the emergence of kingdom communities that are living out the gospel of the kingdom together. The implications of both are brought forth in the book, including practical instructions on how to flesh both out.
This brings up another unique feature of the book. Every section is followed by a “Taking Action” section which gives practical exercises on how to walk out the message. This makes the book a practical manual in addition to a visionary work of comprehensive teaching on the kingdom.
Though this question isn’t directly tied to the book, I know you are always aligning your work to what you feel Jesus is doing right now. As a result, if you could see the church grasp one thing above all others today, what would you pray she grasps?
That God’s people would get very clear on the gospel of the kingdom and fully respond to it. If this happens, it will shake the earth once again just as it did in Century One when that incredible gospel was first proclaimed and received.
Do you have a sampler available where people can get a taste of the book?
Yes. There is a sample on the book landing page. Just click the SAMPLE link in the menu to download it.