I don’t know what other things have changed in the last few weeks, but the Lord has been talking to me in depth about the Kingdom in the last couple of weeks in a way that is decidedly different and I believe that it has something to do with that prayer and finally seeing some of the major differences in the belief systems of the world’s system and that of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps it’s because I had started writing a new book about the Kingdom of God and He either didn’t want me to look stupid, or was concerned that I would do what so many others have before me have done and write about it from the wrong perspective (the world's).
The problem we Christians have had is that we are looking at spiritual matters through earthly eye and interpreting it through minds that have been trained by the world. In so doing we have elevated the wrong characteristics of the Kingdom far above the actual core values of the Kingdom. We have mistakenly thought that many of the elements that bring success in the world are actually Kingdom principles that have infiltrated the world. For instance, I have taught on 2 Corinthians 5:20a “Now then we are Ambassadors for Christ …” Webster’s 1833 Dictionary defines it as; “A minister of the highest rank employed by one prince or state, at the court of another, to manage the public concerns of his own prince or state, and representing the power and dignity of his sovereign. They are also called ministers.”
In truth, we are ambassadors, ministers and representatives of a superior Kingdom sent to a foreign one (in which we physically reside) to demonstrate the superiority of that heavenly Kingdom in comparison to the rules, regulations, laws and principles of this earthly kingdom and those that rule over it. Since our citizenship is elsewhere, we choose only to follow the laws of this realm as dictated by the laws of our own, choosing to practically demonstrate to the citizens of this realm the ascendant supremacy of our own, and the dominance of its benevolent sovereign head.
The primary means by which we Christian to express our demonstrations of the Kingdom is actually a limitation of it; Words of Knowledge, healings and deliverances; in essence, exclusively exercising the power gifts. These were certainly things demonstrated repeatedly during the ministry of Christ here on earth, but is by no means the limit of it, and “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.” (Matt 10:25) The idea behind limiting out expressions of the Kingdom to operation of the power gifts falls in line with the teachings of the system of this world; might makes right. If I kick out a demon, then say I love you, does that mean I’ve met the qualifications for Kingdom citizenship, or relationship? I think not.
So what other demonstration of the Kingdom do we need to include.
Well, first of all let’s back away a bit. The entire Bible is a book solely about relationship; a relationship that God chose to have with a special group of people. It is about the ups and downs, and the in’s and out’s of that relationship. The New Testament is the part where we are included in that relationship. It is the declaration of God’s love for us saying that even while we were still His enemy, He loved us and still chose us. So there is the requirement that to be in the Kingdom, we have to have a relationship with Him. In fact we have to be one with Him. (John 17) He so wanted to be with us that when we finally chose Him (salvation), He sent His Holy Spirit to join with ours on an individual basis.
But the requirement for Kingdom relationship doesn’t stop there. It is expected that it will be extended to others who believe in the King as well, and then, like Him, extended to those who are yet His enemies. When you take stock of the status of the American church today, as well as our individual belief systems, we see that relationship with our fellow believers (joint heirs) fails to meet the King’s expectation of the citizens of the Kingdom. In fact, for many it seems to have become their duty, even their identity, to point out their particular differences from the other factions, as though it confirmed their holiness to the Lord. Here in central Kentucky we have a group that identifies themselves as “Separate Baptists.” I’m not sure what that means other than by the admission of one of their own adherents when asked what the difference was, “Well, I’m not sure. We’re just not like the rest of them Baptists.” Well, I’m so happy for you all, but if “Judge Not” is one of the basic tenets of citizenship in the Kingdom, and you are also required to “forgive” and to “Love” those who are not like you, then there is an undeniable question about the legitimacy of your claim to Kingdom citizenship.
Philippians 2:1-4 “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (ESV)
Now I understand that there are differences in worship, preaching and teaching styles among our various sects, even slight differences in beliefs. Some we are more comfortable with than others and we naturally gravitate to the ones we are most at ease with. However, in so doing, we also separate ourselves along the lines of comparable values, similar life styles, education and race – not to mention the sect we were raised in or around. The problem with this is that as long as we doggedly hold on to our preferences, shunning others in the process, we cannot readily claim Kingdom citizenship anymore than those who identify themselves as “Separate What-evers” because of our judgments and exclusivity.
We have so clung to the efficacy of the minutia of doctrinal differences and how we practice them that we have utterly failed to consider the foundational requirement of the Kingdom of God, authentic relationship with Him and His other subjects, thereby insuring that we are not actually Kingdom citizens at all. The principle behind the elevation of distinctions that separates us has been taught to us by the world; If I am right in what I believe, then you are wrong.
We were created for relationship. Relationship is the essence of the Kingdom. It is the only thing that brings us true fulfillment and continual life. It is the life blood of community – and the Kingdom. It is the process of knowing and being known (Matt 7:21-23) in spite of our differences, for it actually our differences that make us valuable to one another. We tend to approach knowing and being known with some trepidation because we don’t want folks (much less God) to know “everything” about us, for they might reject us, or use what they know against us. So the fight for relational connection with man becomes a delicate fitful dance; too far, not near enough, how much can I say and still look good? How much pain can I expose without disclosing my need? How much is too much information and not really expressive of how I feel? I want to feel good about saying it, but not simultaneously reveal my weakness. And yet, if I am not “known” I will never feel connected.
These are always the risks of relationship and community. As citizens of the Kingdom we must face them in ourselves and in others with love, patience and bravery. We must not be afraid to encounter and completely resolve the hidden motivations of our heart, along with the anti-Kingdom principles taught to us by living in the world, and particularly the ones that we have transported into our expressions of life in the Kingdom, for they are the very things that will keep us from experiencing life to the fullest and will eventually keep us out of the Kingdom.
Matthew 8:11-12 “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (KJV)