Efrem Smith: Pursuing a Childlike Citizenship

“Armed with love and with childlike faith, we become an army, advancing the right-side-up kingdom of God.”

My earthly father was known by a number of people in the community where I grew up. If I went to the local barbershop or community center, another person might see me and say to someone, “That’s Forice Smith’s son right there.” How I carried myself, how I talked to other people and behaved, were a reflection on how my dad was raising me. What if we lived like this as children of God? Can people tell by the way we live that we represent our Father in heaven? A child of God ought to represent God well.

Now, as a child of Forice Smith, I can point to times when I didn’t represent him well. And I don’t know whether we ever in this upside-down world perfectly represent God. But we should be ever mindful both of the responsibility of being beloved children of God, and of the Holy Spirit in us, equipping us in this effort. The discipline of God is a loving act of killing us softly, whittling away at our sin and brokenness so that we more fully and consistently reflect God’s image.

As I have made more room in my life to spend with God, I have gained a greater understanding of who I am. And there are moments when I have a feeling on the inside of being beloved by God. There are moments when I sense God’s presence surrounding me. Even if I am alone, I realize in these intimate moments that I am not alone. I begin to see things differently. I receive wisdom, revelation and insight. I imagine different ways that I could improve in how I care for people and how I can listen more. I begin to imagine what God could do through me.

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Sometimes these thoughts are overwhelming and intimidating. I wonder whether it’s possible for a God so mighty to use someone like me. I think about things I’ve said and done that I wish I hadn’t, and at times feelings of doubt and inadequacy set in. But then the almighty personal trainer, the Creator of the universe, mysteriously touches my soul. I imagine this is my experiencing God through the Holy Spirit.

I have a long way yet to go, but I want to live in this childlike relationship with my Father on a regular basis. When I miss concentrated, intimate time with God, I don’t need to feel guilty; I just need to acknowledge that I miss my Daddy.

So many Christians are trying so hard to be “grown-up” that it hinders our ability to advance the kingdom of God. Our attempts at trying to control our lives limit our ability to make Christ known. I wonder whether the church remains so segregated, so stripped of awe and so unlike Christ because we are so busy trying to be grown-up, and capitulating to the “grown-up” values of an upside-down world.

Citizenship in the kingdom of God is connected to being childlike. Jesus said so. We are not just a part of an eternal kingdom; we are part of a great family, brothers and sisters sharing the same loving Father. Armed with this love and with childlike faith, we become an army, advancing the right-side-up kingdom of God.

Don’t miss our exclusive interview with Efrem Smith in the May/June 2017 issue of Outreach magazine.

Efrem Smith is the president of World Impact and teaching pastor at Bayside Midtown Church in Sacramento, California. This excerpt is taken from Killing Us Softly by Efrem Smith. Copyright © 2017. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

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