First the Kingdom 18, Building in the Kingdom
In a well-known passage of scripture Jesus said that He would build His church, and in that context He also spoke of the keys to the kingdom. It is being said today that only Jesus can build His church and His kingdom. But is that true? Are we simply passive spectators, watching the rise and fall of worldly kingdoms while we wait for that glorious day in the future when Christ finally comes to set up His Kingdom?
Maybe the ancient philosophers were right. Maybe God is like the two great powers, Fate or Fortune who control everyone’s lives. Or maybe the Eastern Guru’s could teach us how to passively accept the way things are — their path to inner peace?
The apostles of Christ and the First Century Church evidently did not have this information. They took risks every day as they carried out His directions. Some were beaten and killed. others were driven out of their homes because they were driving back the very gates of hell! All of these troubles could have been avoided if they had simply stayed to themselves and quietly meditated in private.
Of course we must always remember, Jesus said without Him we can do nothing. Absolutely nothing! I cannot take my next breath without Him! However He also said that all things are possible with God! With God. In Christ. Through Christ. These words describe the reality wherein believers in Him have power. The earliest believers were said to have God working with them! They are also described as being filled with God the Holy Spirit!
There are times to be passive as we await the Spirit’s direction. There are also times when we know what to do and that is nothing! This should not define the overall mindset or mode for those following Christ. The accounts we have of the lives of men and women in the Bible are there for a reason. It is not always that we should copy their actions precisely, but we can certainly learn from them. We can easily see that God often moved them to actions which impacted situations in the world around them. When they moved with Him, He moved with them.
Prayer to God was always the undergirding force. They were people who knew their God. Some of them were educated and intelligent. Some were simple people. Some were important figures in the world, others were virtually unknown. The important thing was that God wanted to use them, and that they responded to His call.
There are many instances in the Bible where God used people instead of His direct intervention. I am convinced that He is still working for the being He created in Genesis to reflect His image, and to care for is creation. Our participation is required in that process. One does not become responsible overnight. As a child my mother did everything for me. Gradually I learned to feed and to dress myself. Amazingly I can still remember being taught to tie my shoes. That was a rewarding experience! I was growing up, and I felt the satisfaction of that simple accomplishment!
God knows His children are not ready to command the wind and the waves, and to rule over creation under His authority. He only gives us greater responsibilities as we are able to shoulder them.
Sadly, many people are denied the privilege of growing in both their natural and spiritual responsibilities and the satisfaction this growth brings. They are being tricked by the same snake in the garden that fooled Adam and Eve into relinquishing their rightful place in the universe to him. The same desire for physical pleasure and foolish pride keeps people today from finding the greatest pleasure and fulfillment of them all, the glory of God!
Jesus proved without doubt that human beings were here for greater things. He demonstrated the dominion and power that was available to those who return to the simplicity of living in and loving the One Who designed us for that very purpose. We were never intended to be subservient to the powers of nature. Jesus revealed the future He has in mind for the creation. As God’s people grow unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, when they are finally revealed to be who they really are in Him, the groaning of the creation will end. As we fully find our place in his plan, and as we demonstrate that we are free from the results of the fall, so will creation be set free. Then will this planet be ruled and cared for by the nature of God revealed in humanity!
But we have to start now, by assuming the responsibilities God gives us little by little, day by day. He has brought those who have repented and placed their trust in Him into a special place. We are in His Kingdom now! We are learning to be faithful in small things so He can allow us to be in charge of greater things later. Having a view of the goal is important, but taking steps toward that goal is even more so.
People who believe that it is not yet the time for God’s Kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done in the earth now are constrained by false limitations. They put off important Kingdom activities to a future time when Christ Himself will do it all. They see these efforts as doomed from the start. I admit that the mission Christ has given looks more like the Mission Impossible, or the Impossible Dream of Don Quixote sometimes. And yet He often surprises us through simple people who are naive enough to believe Him! Jesus said some amazing things to those who believed in Him. He announced that from them would rivers of living water, and that they would do greater works than He had done!
Jesus also said He would build His Church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Why then do we see ourselves as weak and unable to obey Him? It was Paul who called himself a wise master builder and a fellow worker with God. I submit that the proper perspective is that we are helpless without Him, but also more than conquerors though Him! Our mission is not doomed to failure, but only because it is God’s desire and plan. He cannot fail. Next time we will look in detail to see how each of us has a different part in His plan to transform this world.