First the Kingdom, Part 12, The Kingdom Perspective
With all this talk about the Kingdom of God, some might wonder “what’s the big deal?” Does it really matter that we think in terms of how our actions are involved in this grand plan that seems to be taking a very long time to complete? Besides that, the majority report does not even agree with the things I have been saying. Who are we to question the more famous Biblical scholars in our day?
Today I will be taking the opportunity to address these questions. First of all, I hope that you will not be simply persuaded by my exhortations but by the Holy Spirit Himself, and through your own thorough studies of the scriptures. I am convinced that given that investment, you will at least see that the Good News of the Kingdom of God was important to Jesus. If understanding, loving and serving Him is important to you, this should become a priority in your life. He instructed His followers to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. He also told His disciples to pray that the Kingdom would come, and that God’s will would be done in earth as in heaven. Finally He told His followers to repeat everything he told them to the nations as they were being discipled! That in itself is a very big deal.
There is the fact that the Christian faith is advancing God’s will in the earth already, even among people who are not consciously thinking in these terms. God is always at work within us to fulfill His good pleasure, even when we do not fully know His plan. However, there are advantages to understanding His plan. And I think I have the backing of the apostles, prophets and even Jesus in that statement. There is the matter of having light on our path, a vision that we might not lose direction, and the wisdom that understanding brings.
Is it possible that believers in Christ could be more effective in spreading His Gospel than they already are? While I am encouraged by every sincere effort, some of the mistakes we make can easily undermine our efforts. Take for instance the competition that exists among churches. Is it possible that we have embarrassed ourselves in front of the watching world as we compete with one another over already converted souls? Would it not be much better to have a Kingdom perspective? Does Christ really receive the glory due His name when we are more concerned with pleasing people than Him? Why do we feel the need to constantly change our style of worship to keep up with the latest fad? Why do we fear losing members over trivial disagreements? why do we think so much about numbers and the church budget — things Jesus never talked about?
Is it because our vision is too small? Is it because we fail to present a victorious Savior who has no competition? Does a bigger, more luxurious building really serve to advance the Kingdom of God more than a small group praying in someone’s home? These are all things I have struggled with, and in which a greater perspective of the Kingdom has brought liberation.
While the Gospel is about meeting our need for deliverance from sin and death, it is also about satisfying the Father’s great desire for us! The Kingdom perspective is God’s perspective. It is the bigger picture. It is greater than our individual church groups. If all we are building is for our own church family, then maybe we are more interested in our own little kingdoms than God’s glorious eternal Kingdom that cannot be shaken or moved!
Here is a liberating thought: Everything is here for a purpose. Even after the fall due to Adam and Eve’s sin, there exists evidence of harmony in the universe. Life on earth depends up the balance between plant and animal life. Plants need carbon dioxide which animals generate, and animals need oxygen, which plants generate. The sun, moon and the planets move about in perfect order.
The only thing that is out of order is humanity.
The imperative, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” is the call for a “paradigm shift.” This is a change in perspective that works. It is a return to the balance and harmony that existed in the beginning. Paul the apostle put it this way, The Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) In this chapter, he was dealing with specific rules of conduct like the Jews had in their dietary laws. He was fine with those who continued to avoid certain foods according to their own consciences. It is just that the Kingdom of God is something else, on an entirely different plane. The paradigm shift is a shift in focus to this higher realm in God.
The shift in perspective that Jesus brought was to reorder our thinking to God’s thinking. He created each of us with a purpose. When we resist that purpose we are in fact resisting His righteousness, peace and joy.
It is also a change in allegiance. Whether we knew it or not, before the change in direction to follow Christ, we were actually in service to the enemy. Chaos is the devils friend. God’s order of righteousness, peace and joy is not easily seen from this lower, earthly plane of existence. That is why believers are called to seek those things which are above, and to be seated with Christ in heavenly places. Our enemy is in the business of distracting us, in order to keep our focus off of the Kingdom of God.
To seek first the Kingdom of God is to have a preoccupation with the person of Jesus Christ, His Lordship and His agenda in this world. If my traditions in the church begin to get in the way of His purpose, I have the freedom to let go of them. If my patterns of thinking are a hindrance, they can be cast aside as well. Sorry to say, some of this change has not been without an inner struggle. I have been so committed in the past to some beliefs and habits, that He had to literally tear them from me. And yet am I ever thankful that He did!
So here I am, reaching out to anyone who will listen, hoping others will receive what God has burned within my heart. The walls of traditional thinking have become so thick that my words often come bouncing back to me. Others who feel they have been freed from tradition can be equally hard to reach. The man-centered gospel has actually high-jacked Kingdom terminology to be grossly misused. It breaks my heart so see the greed, the pride, the arrogance of those who even see Christ as a means to getting the luxuries that they want in this world. It is even worse when this is identified with the Kingdom of God!
What will happen to these so-called “kingdom” people when the kingdoms of this world fail? Everything that can be shaken, will be shaken. If we are so tied to these worldly kingdoms, we too will fall. In Christ we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken, that will stand forever.
God is in the process of recruiting warriors who are willing to stand with Him. They see the bigger picture and are willing to deny themselves for a greater cause. If the cults and political activists can recruit their millions to support their vision of a perfect world, why is the church afraid to proclaim the true vision that God Himself has given to us? Jesus started with a small band of followers whose limited vision of the Kingdom enabled them to sacrifice their lives. How clear is your vision today? Will it sustain you through the times we are facing?
Our wonderful Lord encourages us with these words in Luke 12:32:
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
There must have been times when they trembled before the physical might of Rome. In Acts they gathered for prayer and God answered by filling them anew with the Holy Spirit and a greater boldness than before! What about us? Have we been intimidated by the recent flood of immorality in our modern world? Are we tempted to retreat into our Christian comfort zones? Or are we tempted to take up worldly weapons of anger, intimidation and the use of political power?
It amazes me that believers have so little interest in their history. We have so much to learn from the mistakes and the victories of the past. Those who had a direct connection with Jesus and His apostles were powerless in this world but oh so powerful in Christ! The more they were oppressed, the more victorious they became. Their total trust was in Christ, and not any worldly strategy.
Obedience to Jesus was their greatest weapon against the darkness.
Since we are 2,000 years removed from the experience of the early Christians, we tend to see things from our own perspective. And yet, we have the same Word of God and Spirit of God to help us recover the original intent of God, and how to apply the same simple and effective methods they used. I submit that their methods were effective primarily because of their Kingdom Perspective.
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