I ended Kingdom 46 with how this present world we are living in with all its problems is really a test and an opportunity to learn to overcome and to learn to love. When we see this bigger picture we will no longer see trouble and suffering and challenges as a bad thing to be avoided. Every challenge, every trial would be seen as an opportunity to learn and be changed to become more like Christ.
Another thing, when salvation is seen as restoration, to be restored to being one with God and to love, then instead of hiding in our church buildings, or detaching ourselves from this world, like what some eastern religions teach, or seeing salvation as escape from this perishing world to go to heaven, instead of that, instead of hiding, detaching or running away, we would get out of the 4 walls of the church to work with God in what He is doing on earth, Amen? Like what Jesus said. He is not taking us out of the world but sending us into the world. We are to be in the world but not off the world. Working with God for His Kingdom to come into every place where the devil has been stealing, killing and destroying. I elaborated on all this from Kingdom 31-35.
This of course turns everything upside down, not just for our individual lives but also for church and ministry. But that’s exactly what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to turn everything upside down because man had turned everything upside down. So when Jesus turns everything upside down, what He’s really doing is He’s turning everything back upright – back to the way it was meant to be. One day when Jesus returns, the big shots, the rich, and the powerful will be cast out. The nobodies and rejects of society will rule with Him. I know I haven’t mentioned this earlier, but I’ll tell you more about this later. So the thing is this – instead of an introverted focus of having a big church, and big this and big that, we would, like Jesus, go to the nobodies, the unlovely, the outcasts, the downtrodden, the rejects, the lonely, and those who are forgotten. That’s what it means to be like Christ. That’s the main thing Jesus came to show us of what His Kingdom is – what I would call the heart and soul of the Kingdom. I’ll elaborate more on this in subsequent clips.
Another upside down thing or paradox is this – true joy and fulfilment comes from loving and giving because the more we give and love, the more we would become like God, which is what we were made to be. But the more we are immersed in ourselves, and accumulate, and hoard and serve ourselves and seek fulfilment for ourselves, the further we will be from finding it. Why? Because the further we will be from what we were created to be.
OK, so now we go back to the question, how can we truly love and be changed to be like God? We have to go to God to receive His love, and be changed to be like Him, so that we can love like He does. But this is the thing, no one will by themselves, of their own accord, go to God to receive His love, or be changed to become like Him. We are not only naturally self-centered, we are naturally very self-sufficient. That is why for God to change us to become like Him, He not only puts His Spirit in us, He allows trouble and suffering to break the self-centered self in us. It is only when we are broken that we will go to Him to be healed and we will learn to receive His love. I talked about all this from Kingdom 36–39.
Then from Kingdom 40–43, I talked about how in fact God designed us such that only He can fulfill our need for unconditional love, for identity, and purpose, or security, self-worth and significance. When people don’t realize it is only God who can fulfill their need, they will strive on their own to get it, and they will crave for it from man. But they will end up frustrated. But when God’s love fills us, we will be healed and delivered from the grip of self. Jesus calls all who are weary and burdened to stop striving on their own but to be yoked to Him instead.
There is something I already mentioned in Kingdom 14 that I need to bring up again. I have been asked this question many times, “When you say that as we work with Jesus to disciple nations that is how Jesus is going to drive Satan out, are you saying that we will succeed in getting the whole world to gradually and eventually be transformed into the Kingdom of God?” Let me make it very clear that that is not what I am saying. The end of the story has already been written. That is not what will happen. The world, as a whole, will reject Jesus. But He still expects us to be salt and light to infiltrate and permeate the world with the truth, and culture, and values of His Kingdom.
Many Christians are looking at the terrible state of things in the world and they are thinking it is an impossible task to do that. I think they are right. As I watch the news every day, it’s like the whole world is getting more and more enveloped in darkness to the extent that whatever we might be doing is not making even a small dent on Satan’s kingdom. But we would be mistaken if we throw up our hands and say, “So why try? It’s impossible!” Or I have heard leaders say, “If Jesus is going to wipe everything out and start all over again when He returns, why work at trying to bring any change to this world?”
I’m sorry but I have to say that that is a wrong way of thinking. Imagine if William Wilberforce, have you heard of him? Imagine if he had sat back and thought it pointless to try and do anything about slavery, because Jesus would someday come and wipe everything out and start all over again anyway, would slavery have been eradicated? And what if Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and others throughout history that have worked hard and fought for civil liberties, respect for human dignity and clean government, and emancipation of the poor, what if they had all sat back and thought it pointless to try and do anything because God is going to come and destroy everything one day anyway? And what if countless others like Issac Newton and Edison who blessed us with modern inventions and changed life on earth, what if they had thought the same? Can you see how absurd that kind of thinking is?
Many Christians are also thinking the Kingdom is somewhere up there in heaven and one day it will somehow explode into the world with a big bang at the return of Jesus, and He will come and clean up the mess and we will have a brand new earth then. Meanwhile we have nothing to do about the problems of this world. You know the Jews in the time of Jesus were thinking exactly the same thing? Read the parable of the servants in Lk.19. In Lk.19:11 it says, “While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” See? But Jesus told them that was not how it is going to happen. There is a process involved before the Kingdom will be fully established on the earth. There’s work to be done. There is a task He has given to each of us to do. Woe to those who think .. “Well .. the Kingdom will come when it will come. There is nothing for us to do about that meanwhile.”
When Jesus returns, He is not going to appoint anyone to be in charge of anything unless they have first proven themselves to be productive in what has been entrusted to them. When we read this parable in Lk.19 together with the parable of the talents in Matt.25, we can see that those who neglect to use what God has given them, their natural gifts, their knowledge, skills, money and time for the work of the Kingdom, they will be regarded as having been in insubordination and they will be regarded as His enemies and they will be destroyed together with those who refuse to submit to Jesus as King.
Whether we will succeed in changing anything or anyone, or whatever is going to happen or not happen, is actually quite immaterial. We are called to be salt and light to be agents of change irrespective of whether we will succeed or otherwise. Just like, we are to love, irrespective of whether our love is received or rejected, right? We are simply to be children who reflect who our Father is.
Although this world as a whole will reject Jesus, there are many lives and communities and many areas of darkness that we are to work with God for His truth and life to undo and reverse what the devil has done. Paul told us God can do exceedingly far greater than what we can think or imagine, according to His power that works within us. Eph.3:20. And Jesus said it is God who can make what is impossible, possible. In Zech.4:6, God said, “It is not by might nor by power but by My Spirit”. Only the Spirit can establish God’s Kingdom. Unless God directs, all our cleverness and ideas are flesh. The ways of the world cannot do the work of the Spirit in people. We are to learn from Jesus step by step and moment to moment dependence upon God. Working with Him but resting in Him at the same time.
OK this ends the second part of this series of talks on the Kingdom of God. In Kingdom 48, I will start on the 3rd part, which is, What is the Kingdom and how are we to work with God for His Kingdom to advance?
These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.