The City of God on Earth, Part 3: The City Belongs to Jesus Christ

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Editor’s note:This series is created from a talk given by Wang Yi, a pastor and a leading voice in the house church in China. Wang Yi addressed a group of fellow pastors and church members, challenging them to view the gospel as the coming of the kingdom of God on earth, not just a means of individual salvation. This address was given at a 2014 conference in Hong Kong. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

In Kunming’s terrorist attack [a 2014 terrorist attack blamed on Uighur separatists, members of an oppressed Muslim minority group], we see how the conflict and hatred between a Rome-like empire and the barbarians it conquers make a city totter. At 4 p.m. on March 14th, [2014], there was a collective panic on Chunxi Road in Chengdu. Hundreds of people ran wildly in the streets, because a rumor had spread saying someone was killed. Perhaps someone saw a few people who looked like they came from Xinjiang [the province home to most Uighur peoples]. This panic showed us a defeated city and a divided people. In the past few decades in China, every day we hear news of defeated cities and divided peoples. But every day we preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in those defeated cities. We hear that one more city has been gathered up and taken in by the Lord himself.

Every day, in each city in China, people flee and re-gather. Meanwhile, each day, in each city in China, the Lord counts his towers, considers his ramparts, and goes through his palaces: his church in that city. Dear brothers and sisters, in the Old Testament we see that the captive Israelite people—who continuously failed in God’s grace—changed Jerusalem into a Babylon, into a Sodom and Gomorrah. But in the New Testament, we see the real Israelite people, the real sons of Abraham who are blessed with God’s promises. They came to Babylon and turned Babylon into Jerusalem. 

We see something really exciting when the Holy Spirit arrives. On the day of Pentecost, all the VIPs of Jerusalem gathered in the city. On that day there would be sacrificial offerings, ceremonies, and celebrations in the temple. But the Holy Spirit did not come to the holy temple. He came to a group of nobodies, of Galileans. God fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 46. He is with his people on earth, through the salvation made by his son, Jesus Christ. God made his lowly people into a holy place, the city of God on earth. 

The gospel itself means a city of God, which is built and expanded among the cities on earth. When you read Acts 2:9-11 about Jews from every nation under heaven gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, you find something very interesting: the huge Roman Empire appears in that list very quietly. Without the Lord’s presence, the city of Rome was accurately described according to Psalm 46 and Acts 2 as “the end of the earth” or “the desolation of the earth.” The commission of the gospel is to make the church the city set up by God, and for it to enter every city, unto the ends of the earth.


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Do you have the same experience as me? I cannot always find the things I need, even in my home. Sometimes this includes very important items. I search everywhere, but cannot find them. Later, I find a pile of things. As I clear away the pile—napkins, magazines, and books—I finally find what I need. It was buried at the bottom. This sort of thing happens every few months or so. In our lives and in the church of Christ, often the last thing we find is the gospel. As we look at our relationships with our cities, we need to be renewed in the gospel.

A few weeks ago, I went to church on my electric bike. As I passed a bus stop, a bus rushed by and pushed me aside. As I fell, I knocked an old lady off the step nearby. I am a pastor, and I knocked down an old lady. That could be a very serious issue. At the time, I felt my behavior in the following ten minutes was quite good. But later, when I arrived at church, I shared about it with my fellow workers. I realized I had behaved like a Pharisee, because I only accepted exterior responsibility. I kindly raised the woman to her feet, stayed with her, told her I would provide any help she needed, asked if she needed to be sent to the hospital and where her home was. 

What does it mean to be a Pharisee? It means that you take responsibility, so you can be regarded as a moral person. But in my heart, in those ten minutes, I was not focused on the Lord. My first thought was: “Something is wrong!” I was worried about myself, not about the woman: I messed up, I was in big trouble, I would miss the morning’s meeting with my fellow workers. My relationship with her was not a gospel-centered relationship, but a morality-centered one. 

Morality can define our responsibilities and evaluate our performances. Based on morality, as a pastor maybe I would receive a good evaluation. But the gospel does not put boundaries on our relationships with others. I dejectedly found that when I, a pastor, knocked down an old lady on the street, the matter did not become a means of expanding and presenting the city of God in Chengdu. 

Why? There was fear in my heart, which made me lose the power and mission of taking Chengdu as my parish. When I knocked down the old lady, I forgot the city of God, the city announced and prophesied in Psalm 46. I forgot Pentecost, when the city of God became present in a city on earth, when a new society appeared suddenly in the midst of an old society. In that moment, I almost did not believe the city belongs to Jesus Christ, the God of resurrection. In that moment, “though the mountains be moved,” I also moved; “though the seas shake,” I also shook. 

Brothers and sisters, when I examine myself seriously, I can see that when I knocked the old lady down, I faced an identity crisis. I was not acting as a pastor or as a Christian, but as a knowledgeable and cultured person, a respectable person. Although I am fat, I am still a gentleman, a glasses-wearing intellectual. That identity faced a challenge: I was a perpetrator, a troublemaker. I had to face the crisis. In the ten minutes after I knocked the lady down, I helped myself out of the situation through good deeds, but not by the gospel. I did not allow it to be a chance to make the city of God known in my city. God allowed it to happen “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28), so that I might believe the gospel more, so that his gospel might enter the city more deeply. He did not allow it to happen so I could keep up a respectable image.

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Further Reading

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Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
Read More
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Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
Read More
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Nanjing: A Welcoming City of Newcomers
Read More

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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Stories from Qingdao

About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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Stories from Xiamen

About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Stories from Chongqing

About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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Stories from Changchun

About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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Stories from Guangzhou

About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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Stories from Kunming

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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Stories from Chengdu

About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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