This article has been published as a book. It is now available as a paperback and also on Kindle :
This book is addressed to those who take the Bible to be true and as their basis for understanding life. What you are about to read here may however challenge your entire understanding of the Bible and Christianity. Almost everyone who has heard this message said that it turned their understanding of the Bible and Christianity “upside down”. This message is not coming just from me. There are others who are also bringing this teaching on the Kingdom to God’s people all over the world. I recommend you to read the books listed at the end. All over the world, God is waking His people up to His Kingdom (Matt.25:1-13)
Books and papers on this subject are often written with a critical academic readership in mind, and therefore might be a bit heavy to read. In this small book, my hope is to convey this subject in a simple and readable form for the ordinary man on the street. This is my humble attempt to make what might perhaps be regarded as a complex subject, simple to understand. The subject is not complex actually, but it calls for a paradigm shift.
I often ask participants at the end of the workshops I conduct on the Kingdom, what they got out of the workshop. In one workshop, one leader said this, “Why is it we have all been through seminary, some of us even teach in seminaries, and we have all been leaders in various churches and mission organizations for so many years, but we have never seen this before?” In response I said, “There is a Chinese proverb that goes like this, “When you are on the mountain, you cannot see the mountain”. He burst out in laughter and said, “So we were all born on the mountain, and we never came down that mountain.” Then he added, “I think we just came down the mountain and for the first time we are seeing what that mountain looks like.”
In my first book ‘The Gospel of the Kingdom – Revealing the Heart of God’ I touched on the concept of paradigm shifts. Then I said that we need a paradigm shift in how we understand the Gospel – not as the Gospel of Salvation but as the Gospel of the Kingdom. Having come down the mountain, this essay takes us a further distance away, to get an even bigger picture of “our mountain”. As we do, we will also see other surrounding “mountains”, and we would no doubt appreciate our mountain even more.
Although Jesus did not use the words “worldview” or “mindset” or “paradigm shift”, I believe He was actually talking about the same thing when He talked about the eye being our lamp (Matt.6:22-23) and about wineskins (Lk.5:37-39). In other words, how we look at something and how we think is critical. It can lead either to light or darkness in the heart and mind of a person, and consequently to life or death. And those who refuse to let go of their “old wineskins” or fixed mindsets cannot receive “new wine” understanding of the Kingdom.
The apostle Paul said that we should no longer be conformed to the way the world thinks but we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may live out the good, acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom.12:2). If this message can be reduced to just 2 points, it would be this : We need to be set free from the lies of animism and secularism, and we need a paradigm shift from a “salvation from this world” worldview, to a “Kingdom of God on earth” worldview. Then we need to live out its truth as salt and light in this world.
Please note that this short essay is not a comprehensive study of the Kingdom of God. There are other vital aspects of the Kingdom, like faith and prayer, and the power and work of the Holy Spirit that are not addressed. I am only dealing with the subject of worldview and how it affects our understanding of the Bible, in particular, of the Kingdom of God.
One final thing to remember before you begin to read this essay : Jesus said the secrets of the Kingdom are hidden from the wise and learned but revealed only to “little children” (Lk.10:21, Matt.13:11).
- The world is ruled by ideas. Many of these ideas are assumptions and half-truths that come from a person’s worldview. Most people are not conscious that they have a worldview that is filtering and interpreting what they see. This includes Christians.
- Ideas have consequences. The worldview of animism results in fatalism, resignation, and therefore stagnation and poverty. The worldview of secularism results in fear, greed, self-centredness and ultimately chaos and destruction.
- The worldview of Biblical Theism sees life in relation to God who created us to be like Him : community, love, truth, righteousness, holiness, creative, order, structure, work, time, vision, planning, productive, progress, development, overcome/take dominion, etc.
- All cultures and nations have truths and lies in their worldview and beliefs. Truth leads to progress, development, health, and life (abundant life) as God designed and intended it to be. Lies lead to stagnation, perversion, death and destruction.
- Satan steals, kills and destroys the abundant life that God intended for us by planting lies in the minds of people. People are set free only when truths expose the lies.
- Christians may not be aware that they may have deep animistic and secular roots from growing up in, and being influenced by, their surrounding cultures.
- The core belief of most Christians is also erroneous, based on a “salvation from this world” worldview that assumes that the world is perishing and that God no longer cares about this world, and neither should we.
- The true Biblical worldview sees God’s Kingdom as having invaded the earth. Since Jesus has defeated the devil and has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, we are to work with God in His Kingdom advance by discipling, not just individuals, but nations, to bring about the transformation of cultures to God’s Kingdom culture.
Let me begin with 3 stories :
a) Indonesian farmers : I have a friend in Singapore who does agri-business. Some years ago, he started some farms in Indonesia to produce vegetables for supplying to supermarkets in Singapore. He engaged daily wage Indonesian farmers to work in the farm. They were paid US$1.00 per day, the normal rate that daily wage farmers were paid in Indonesia at that time. If they came to work they got paid the Indonesian Rupiah equivalent of US$1.00 at the end of the day. If they did not come to work, they did not get paid. When they had their first successful harvest, he decided to reward the farmers for their work and give them an incentive to work harder. He told the farmers, “From tomorrow onwards, you will be paid Rp20,000 (the equivalent of US$2.00 per day) instead of Rp10,000 (the equivalent of US$1.00 per day).” The farmers were glad to hear that.
Guess what happened the next day? No one showed up for work! The farmers took the day off. Since they were going to be paid US$2.00 for a day’s work, they decided that they would work on alternate days and have days of rest in between the days of work. They would still get the same income as before. But why not work everyday and get double the income? What ideas were playing on the minds of the farmers that caused them to think in this way
b) Indian donor : A church planter in India received some money from a donor to construct a church building. Before he started on the project he heard that someone in the village was going to sell his daughter into prostitution. He went to meet the man to persuade him not to do it. The man said he had no other way to get the money to pay the moneylenders to whom he owed money. They had threatened to kill him and burn his house down if he did not do so. He told the church planter, “If you give me the money, you can take my daughter.” The church planter called the donor and asked the donor if he could use the money for the church building to rescue the girl from being sold into prostitution. The donor said, “Give me 2 days to think and pray about it.” Two days passed. He did not call. So the church planter called him. The donor said, “I have decided. The money is to be used only for the church building.” Sadly, the father sold his daughter into prostitution. Why didn’t the donor think that it was more important to rescue the girl?
c) Priest and Levite : This story comes from Jesus. You know the story. It is known as the parable of the good Samaritan. A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was beaten up, robbed and left to die on the road. A priest walked by but did not stop to help the man. A levite came by and he also passed by on the other side. A Samaritan came and took pity on the man who was robbed and helped him and cared for him. Why did the priest and levite pass by on the other side? What was going on in their minds?
All 3 stories have something in common. In each, there was an evaluation of what was more important. The farmers valued the alternate days of rest more than the work and the extra income they would earn. The donor valued the church building (or his name that would be attached to it) more than the girl’s life. The priest and levite valued something else as more important than the life of the man who was robbed.
We cannot be certain where the priest and levite were going to, but since the man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho, but the priest and levite passed by on the other side, it is quite possible that they were going in the opposite direction – from Jericho to Jerusalem. Where else would a priest and levite be heading anyway? Perhaps they did not want to be defiled and therefore miss the temple worship, or they did not want to be late for the worship? Basically, whatever it was, they considered their religious activity more important than the life of the man who was robbed.
When we consider these 3 stories, it makes us wonder what ideas or beliefs were playing on the minds of the farmers, the donor, and the priest and levite, that caused them to value and decide the way they did. There is something else about the value system of the farmers that affected their decision. Not only was there something amiss in how they valued work, it was also how they valued themselves : “We are only $1.00 a day farmers. We are not $2.00 a day farmers.” They could not see themselves as anything more than $1.00 a day farmers.
Whenever I tell this story in the West or in Singapore or in China, no one can guess what happened the next day. But when I tell the story in India or Indonesia, or Bangladesh, or Papua New Guinea, or Africa, many can easily guess what happened the next day. It is quite common in the culture of these nations to regard work as a curse or punishment for the sins of your previous life, or as a burden to be avoided as far as possible.
It is also common knowledge in these nations that the poor cannot imagine themselves to be anything beyond what their karma (in Indonesia they call it “takdir” or nasib”) has destined for them. Their belief in karma forms the foundation for their values. As for the donor, the priest and the levite, their spiritual beliefs determined for them what mattered more – the church building or the temple, or their religion. Not people. These stories illustrate the power of beliefs or ideas and their underlying worldview.
In contrast, I must tell you a fourth story. Some years ago I made a trip to the US. My friend picked me up from the airport and drove me to his place. His home is in a suburb of a small city in the north western part of the US. It was February. Fresh snow had just fallen, but the sky was absolutely clear and blue and the sun was shining and the air was crisp and fresh. It was amazing. Coming from hot, humid Malaysia, I felt like I had just landed on another planet. Perhaps heaven might be something like this, I thought. When we arrived at his place, he told me his family was away. We decided to go for a walk to enjoy the beauty outside. When we came out of his house, he closed the door behind him and we started to walk to his front gate. I thought he might have forgotten to lock his house door, and so I said, “Hey I think you forgot to lock the door.” He replied, “No, I didn’t. We don’t lock our doors. No one locks their doors around here.” I was wondering if he was joking, so I asked, “You are not kidding me? Seriously you mean no one locks their doors around here and yet nothing gets stolen?” He said, “Yes, even when we go away for 2 weeks, we never lock our doors.” I was shocked. I thought to myself, “This is unbelievable. Have I just arrived in heaven?”
There was another time, I went to stay with another family in another part of the US – a small county on the east coast. We went to a store to get a carton of milk. There was no one in the store. My friend took a carton of milk and put some money in a bowl of cash and coins on the counter. Then he took the right change from that bowl and we went home to have coffee. That has been the practice in that small county for as long as he could remember. I was amazed. There are of course few such places left in the US, but what is evident is that the people living in these two places in the US value integrity, ownership of property, love of neighbor, and trust, so much so that there is no need for any laws there to compel them to right conduct. External laws do not change people. What is needed is internal change. When people’s worldview, beliefs and values change, right choices and conduct will naturally follow.
1. The world is ruled by ideas
The world is ruled, not by politicians or governments, but by ideas – why we exist, what’s the ultimate goal in life, what is important, what really matters, what’s success, what’s money, what’s happiness, what’s freedom, what’s work, what’s love, what’s business, what’s race, what’s religion, what’s truth, why there is injustice and so much pain and suffering in the world, what’s the solution to the problems in the world, what’s the role of a government, where is history ultimately going, etc. Whether we are aware of it or not, whatever ideas we hold, they have consequences. They shape what we become and they therefore shape the world.
Most people however are not aware of the ideas that are influencing their minds and shaping what they become, nor how ideas determine the direction they take in life. This includes Christians. Most Christians assume that their outlook on life is based on what the Bible teaches. Few however have stopped to consider what ideas are actually influencing them, or if those ideas actually originate from the Bible. Many of these ideas may have come from half-truths that have been planted by the devil not only in the minds of unbelievers, but also in the minds of most Christians. They look at work, success, poverty, social and political issues in much the same way as unbelievers do.
Aside from this, there are even grave errors in the core belief of most Christians about God and His purposes for us in this world, based on ideas that are not Biblical although assumed to be Biblical. As a result, the devil has quite successfully distracted and neutralized Christians from being engaged in God’s Kingdom advance in the world. Before we go on to examine what these false ideas, wrong assumptions and half-truths are, and their consequences, let’s consider the concept of worldview from which all ideas arise.
2. What is Worldview?
Imagine if we throw a stone into a pond of water. Like how ripples go out from the center where the stone hits the water, our worldview is the center of everything that we are, from which everything in our life emanates. This diagram explains why we are what we are, and why we do what we do :
Why do people behave the way they do? A person’s behavior arises out of the choices he makes. But how does he make his choices? The choices he makes are determined by his values – what he considers really valuable and important (whether consciously or sub-consciously). His values in turn come out of his beliefs – what he considers true.
Most people are aware of their beliefs, but there is however something much deeper and more fundamental than a person’s beliefs. It is his worldview or his perception of reality. Most people however are unaware of their worldview upon which their beliefs and values are based, that in turn determines the choices they make and the behavior and consequences that result. A person’s worldview is like a pair of invisible spectacles (that he is not conscious of) through which he looks, perceives and interprets everything around him. Since most people are not conscious of their worldview, then they would be unaware either of how it is determining what they see or how they see.
Consider for example, how different each of these persons would be looking at life and at this world : an artist, a terrorist suicide bomber, a businessman, a brain surgeon, a garbage scavenger, a hardened criminal, and someone like Mother Theresa. What vastly different assumptions they each make about life! What each person sees depends not on what there is to be seen but on how they see. In other words, we do not see things as they are but as we are. But most people are not aware of this filter or how they are seeing things. We could have a limited perception or even false beliefs about something based on false assumptions we are making but not know it because we are not conscious of the assumptions we are making.
For example, many people think that when we are talking about God, we are talking about the church or about religion. They assume God, church and religion are the same thing. They think that you are trying to get them to join your church, or that you are trying to introduce religion to them. In the West many have become disillusioned with organized religion. In Asia, many look at church and Christianity as a western religion. Another example is that of Asian parents criticizing their children on the assumption that that will build their character. Among less developed nations, it is also a common assumption that women are inferior to men. And most people start with the assumption that money will solve their problems.
A worldview is therefore a way of seeing that defines, interprets and explains what we see. A worldview may also be described as a set of assumptions and beliefs held consciously or unconsciously by a person about the basic makeup of the world and how the world works. These beliefs and assumptions that determine how we look at life, whether something is real or true, right or wrong, good or beautiful, are deeply ingrained in our minds. In many instances, we remain unconscious of their existence or influence until alternative views challenge them. Consider again the worldview of the Indonesian farmers, the donor, and the priest and levite. How did they look at life? What “spectacles” were they wearing?
3. Worldviews have Consequences
There are many different worldviews in the world today. Some count up to 15. I know those who study worldview will protest at my attempt to simplify things here, but for the purposes of this book, for the sake of brevity and for the ordinary man on the street, I think they can generally fall into three categories: Animism, Secularism and Theism.
In animism what is real is the spirit world; the physical world is an illusion. In secularism what is real is the physical world; the spirit world is an illusion. In theism, both the spirit world and the physical world are real. Here’s another way of looking at it : In animism there are many gods. In secularism there is no god. In theism there is only one God. Theism can be sub-divided into Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Each of course produce different consequences.
For the purposes of this essay, we shall look only at animism, secularism and Christianity. We will not be looking at the worldview of Judaism or Islam. The important point we must note is that whatever a person’s or a nation’s or a culture’s worldview might be, it has consequences. Worldviews give us the key to understanding why the world is the way it is – why cultures are the way they are, why some nations or cultures are progressive while others are backward and mired in poverty or even chaos and social disorder. As for Christianity, though there are other sub-categories, we will be looking at the difference between two main categories of worldviews : one which might be described as the “Salvation from this world” worldview, and the other “God’s Kingdom on earth” worldview. Each also has its consequences – whether we engage and serve and influence, or disengage and withdraw from the society around us.
Animists believe that it is the spirit world that is real. The physical world is an illusion. What happens in the physical world is determined by millions of gods in the spirit world who are capricious and unpredictable. For example, in Hinduism it is believed that there are 330 million gods. Floods and earthquakes, droughts and diseases, and accidents are the result of these gods or spirit forces. Bad things happen when the gods are angry or inattentive to man’s needs. The solution is to constantly appease the gods. Other than that, nothing can be done. People are trapped. The gods are in control. People are not in control. If you were born poor, then it was your karma that you should be poor as a punishment for the sins of your previous life.
In this worldview, people see themselves as powerless and unable to change anything in a world ruled by powerful people with spirit forces in control behind them. Consequently, they have a fatalistic outlook on life and they are resigned to their circumstances. Their goal is to survive the endless cycle of existence and escape the world. Suffering is fated and the way for one to work out his karma. Therefore there is no point in trying to change anything or to work hard or improve. In fact, trying to change your karma is going against the system and the fear is that worse things can happen to you if you try to go against the system.
Animists reason that it is better that they “pay their dues” and suffer it out in this life so that they do not have to go through it again in the next life. Not only do they not make any effort to change and improve things for themselves, there is no rationale for why people should be helped since enduring suffering would be regarded as a virtue that is valued for the purposes of moving upwards towards nirvana or moksha. Some animistic cultures may encourage kindness and forgiveness, but any effort expended by an animist in helping the poor may be done only for the purposes of accumulating merit and eventually attaining nirvana or moksha for oneself.
From the worldview of animism, some people are destined to be powerful to rule over others, while others are born to be ruled and to serve the powerful. The only way anything can be achieved is by being in a position of power or control. What are the consequences of such a worldview where everything is seen through the lens of power and where the weak succumb to a sense of powerlessness, fatalism and resignation to capricious higher powers (spirits or human)? It is obvious. It results in poverty. This is why we find most of the nations in the world that have animism as the predominant worldview in their culture are still deeply entrenched in poverty.
This worldview of power also explains why these same nations are the most corrupt nations in the world. It is a common practice in animism for those who feel trapped and unable to do anything about their situation to appease the spirits in the hope that the spirits will not harm them but will instead protect them and bless them. By the same reasoning, those who see themselves as powerless appease (bribe) those who are powerful and in control in the hope that they will come under their protection and/or that some blessings will roll down to them or for some favor within their control. Meanwhile those who rule over the powerless or who receive bribes believe that to be their karma – that they are blessed by their gods to be in their positions of power.
Bribery and corruption is thus inherent and rationalized in the cultures of those with an animistic worldview. If you compare the UN’s list of the wealthiest and most developed nations to the least developed nations in the world, with the list of the least corrupt to the most corrupt nations in the world published by Transparency International, you will find they are almost parallel.
Since animists regard the physical world to be transient, it is also quite normal for them to not value or take responsibility for their environment and to accept the dirt and degradation in their public spaces as a normal part of their transient life.
Secularism is the opposite of animism. Secularism sees reality as ultimately physical. The physical and the material is all there is. There is no creator, nor a God who cares. Whatever cannot be seen, detected or measured by our 5 senses does not exist. Therefore the secular world operates in a closed system where resources are limited : for one person to gain, another must lose.
What are the consequences to this? Though there may be secular people who may exhibit compassion, secularism (otherwise known as naturalism) by itself, as a worldview and philosophy, cannot but breed fear and greed – fear of not having enough and greed for more. On the premise that resources are limited, the fear is not having enough for oneself, and thus the overriding concern is to conserve for oneself. Self-preservation becomes the primary importance and motivation for living. Based on this approach, trust and love of neighbor are absent. It is every man for himself. If we are secularists, we pity the poor and give only what we think we can afford without too much cost to ourselves. Insecurity and fear drives people to believe in the need for control – even of controlling others to eliminate perceived competition.
The worldview of secularism is spreading, infecting and transforming cultures around the world, but few stop to consider its consequences. Taken to its logical conclusion, secularism leads to disillusionment and possibly even the ultimate destruction and cessation of life itself. Most secularists have not considered all the ramifications of their assumptions, but if there is no one supreme God who created all things and defines all things, then everything is subjective and relative. If each person is his own compass, and there is no external moral compass or objective reference point that will tell us whether anything is morally good or evil, or right or wrong, or true or false, how then can anything be said to be good, or evil, or right, or wrong, or true or false?
From the secular worldview, we may have evolved to be the most superior species, but if man has no soul or spirit, and you and I are just a bundle of chemicals, and even our thoughts and feelings are just chemical processes in response to external stimuli, by what criteria or process are we to distinguish between right and wrong? We may over time and experience judge things to be desirable or undesirable, or we may agree among ourselves for laws to rule us, but that is not the same thing as saying something is good or evil. If humans are no different from any physical substance that has no inherent moral quality, neither would there be anything within a human that can tell him what is morally good or evil.
If what is true for one, may be false for another, would lies and deception not also become acceptable? If whatever passes as truth or values (including what is agreed and accepted as law among a people) is shifting sand and can change anytime depending on what and how anyone might define it, and every man defines what is good or evil, true or false, and right or wrong, for himself, what hope can we foresee for such a world? This is what the culture of the West is evolving into and these ideas are being spread throughout the world through the ever growing reach of modern media.
What are the consequences of such a worldview? When the West abandon their Christian moral foundations and abandon God and make themselves the center of everything, then man will be his own god. Not only does he determine for himself what he will be, what life means, and the direction he will take, some will even play god over the lives of others. They become more and more clever and powerful at controlling and manipulating others and creating structures that serve their interests. Meanwhile resentment, hatred and disillusionment will grow in the others who are not able to climb to the top.
Isn’t this what we see increasingly in the world today as ideas from secularism and materialism spread throughout the world? Do we see people becoming more and more compassionate, or do we see people becoming more and more disillusioned, skeptical, and self-centered?
What if everyone were to believe as secularists do, that there are no moral absolutes and that we exist in a closed system where resources are limited, and it is ultimately every man for himself? What are the consequences when profit takes priority over moral considerations and people do not care what impact their money making machinery may have on others, and the world’s natural resources, and the environment?
Isn’t this the reason behind so much inhumane exploitation of cheap labor in third world countries? Isn’t this also the reason behind so much industrial pollution and wanton destruction of natural resources that is leading to global warming, that in turn brings about even further deterioration and destruction of the world’s eco-system and natural environment? And, what if everyone were to believe as secularists do, that there are ultimately no answers and that life is ultimately meaningless? Would that not result in chaos and the eventual breakdown of everything?
We cannot of course say that all secularists have no morals at all and that they disregard life and have no concern for the world’s natural environment. People in Scandinavian nations for example are tending more and more towards unbelief in God, yet are known to be the happiest people on the planet with deep convictions about integrity and value for human life, and the greatest concern for the natural environment. But we have to ask, from where did they get such values? Certainly not from secularism. What would we find if we take a nation that is largely secular and that has not had the benefit of Biblical values worked into their culture?
China is a case in point. If not for the authoritarian rule of the communist government that is preserving law and order so that profit and materialism can continue to thrive, secularism in China is fast destroying traditional Chinese family values and fast destroying their natural environment. If both are secular, what then accounts for the difference between the quality of life we see in the Scandinavian nations and the quality of life in China? The difference I believe is this – the culture of the people in the Scandinavian nations had a long history of being influenced and indeed being transformed by Biblical values, whereas the culture in China did not have the benefit of that experience.
There is something about China though that demonstrates so clearly what happens when people have a change of worldview. The economic growth and development of China has been phenomenal over the last 30 years. Though there are other factors involved, the turning point that came was when the Chinese government made a fundamental shift in how they looked at their population – not as one billion mouths to feed, but rather one billion people whose cultural heritage had already had deeply ingrained values of education, hard work, entrepreneurship, order, structure, duty and responsibility. By recognizing that and simply allowing free enterprise and turning their people loose to work on their own, the GDP of the nation has sky-rocketed since that time. China however has a long way to go to see their people as humans made in the image of God, not just workers or machines that produce economic wealth and power.
6. Biblical Theism – Worldview of the Kingdom of God
If animism results in chaos and poverty, and secularism results in self-centeredness and the eventual breakdown and ultimate destruction of everything, what is Biblical Theism and what are its consequences?
I often ask this question in the workshops I conduct on the Kingdom : Why did God create us? The usual answers I get are : to obey Him, to serve Him, to worship Him, to love Him, to take dominion, and to steward creation; but the one that is most common is “to glorify Him” but not many are able to explain what that means. In one meeting someone who was in her late 70s answered, “I think your question is the same question as, “What is the purpose of life?” I readily agreed. Then she said, “I have thought about this question for a long time and I have come to the conclusion that there is no answer to this question. It will always be a mystery. God must have His purpose why He created us, but we shall never know.”
Someone has given a good illustration of what has happened to the church. He said it is like we were late for the start of a movie. By the time we found our seats in the dark of the cinema hall and sat down, the story was already into the rescue and we got caught up and swept away by the drama of the rescue without knowing the start, nor what the story was actually about. All the answers – to obey, love, serve, worship, etc. and especially to glorify Him, are no doubt correct but they miss the heart of the matter. If God were sitting with us right where we are, and we were to ask Him why He created us, I am certain what His answer would be. I am certain because the answer is already in the Bible. It has been in the Bible for the last 4000 years but somehow most believers have never seen it.
In Gen.1:26 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image and in Our likeness ..” In other words, God would reply, “I made you to be like Me.” In Biblical Theism, all of life is defined by the One Supreme God who created us to be like Him. The ultimate destiny of each person, who has been given a heart and mind to choose, is to be changed to become more and more like Him. It is from who God is, from what He is like, that we find our purpose. And it is as we reflect His character that we glorify Him. The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of His hands (Ps.19:1) but of all that the Artist has created, surely there is no work of art that would glorify the Artist more than something that the Artist made to be like Him .. who actually lives out that design and purpose.
So what does it mean to be like God? The church has been faithfully teaching some of the attributes of God like holiness, righteousness and justice. There are however other attributes that God has revealed to us of Himself that I wish to highlight here. These other attributes that I am about to share here will give us a more complete picture of who God is, and therefore of what we were designed to be, or how we were designed to function. They also reveal to us what the Kingdom of God is because the character of the Kingdom comes from the character of the King :
6.1 Community and Love
Most Christians know the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be the “Holy Trinity”, but seldom stop to consider that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a team, a partnership and a community. If we were made to be like Him, then God intended us not just to be individuals but to also be community. That means we are incomplete without each other. That is also why loving our neighbors as ourselves is part of the greatest commandment and should define for us what true spirituality is. True spirituality is not as many suppose some kind of self-focused “inner spirituality” (as taught in eastern mysticism) but a focus on others. In the dialogue between the expert in the law and Jesus, why did Jesus tell the parable of the good Samaritan? Why did He compare and contrast between the religious priest and Levite, and the non-religious Samaritan? Obviously it was to correct wrong ideas that the Jews had. True spirituality is not the performance of religious duties, nor is it measured by how much we pray or know the Bible. True spirituality is love for God and love for people, especially those in need.
If it can be said that there are certain core truths in the Bible, I believe one of them must be that God is love and that we were made to be like Him, meaning we were made to love. We become most like Him, most alive, and find our greatest joy and fulfilment when we love – when we feel for others, when we give, and when we bring joy to others and serve others. Not when we are immersed in ourselves, and accumulate, and hoard and serve ourselves. This is a paradox but the more we seek fulfilment for ourselves, the further we will be from finding it, because the further we will be from what we were created to be. But the more we turn our gaze away from ourselves and love and give and serve, the closer we will be to what we were created to be, and the more we will experience fulfillment.
To be community is to share all the resources that God gives to us with others. My intelligence and skills and ability were not given to me by God just to bless “I, me and myself” and my family, but they are meant to be shared especially with those in need (Matt.25:31-46, 2 Cor.8:13-14). This is the greatest commandment, and we could even call it the constitution of the Kingdom : We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mk.12:30-31, Rom.13:8-9). When we know His love, and when His love rules in our hearts, not only would there be no fear (1 Jn.4:18), it would be a joy to give. And God’s promise is that it is more blessed to give than to receive, because the one who gives will get more in return.
In a world where, daily, the news is persistently negative, the unexpressed question that is continually being asked is whether man can really live together. With so many things tearing society apart, what does it mean to be community? Jesus told us it is love that binds us together and makes us community. Jesus prayed that we would be one just as He and the Father are one, so that by this love (not by our preaching, or talk about love, but actual love) people would be drawn to Him (Jn.13:34-35, Jn.17:21-23). This was evident in the early church (Acts 2:44-47, 4:32-35). The world is waiting to see true community again.
In Biblical Theism, God calls man to be united with Him and God gives us His Spirit so that we can be one with Him. God has also designed all life on earth to be reproduced through the union of the male and the female of each species. Nature attests to this principle, that life can thrive and be perpetuated only as there is love and unity and community, the fullness of which can be found only in Biblical Theism. Not so in animism where there is alienation between gods and humans, and between humans and humans (karmic casteism and tribalism), and alienation within the person himself (man is alienated from his own true identity as a human made in the image of God). Neither the case in secularism where there is alienation between humans and humans (every man for himself), and within the person himself (man is alienated from his own identity as a human with a soul).
If God is our creator, and we were created to be like Him, then we were also created to be creative. That means we are to use our minds to innovate and overcome challenges we face. It also means that we are to not only find solutions to problems we encounter in our environment but we are to also discover ways and means to progress, to develop and to enhance the quality of life for all on earth.
6.3 Order and structure
God is a God of order and structure. Though equal with the Father, the Son submits to the Father. Therefore we were created similarly to have order and structure in family and in our relationships. We were also created to have order and structure in everything in life. Not disorder and chaos, or lack of planning or no planning at all, that we see in so many cultures and nations where the minds of the people are still deeply rooted in false religions – a reflection of the chaotic spiritual world they believe in. The Bible tells us that whatever we worship is what we value, and whatever we value is what we will become. It is no wonder then why animistic cultures exhibit the chaos we can see of their way of life – a reflection of the chaos among the gods they worship who are unpredictable, jealous and capricious and at war with each other.
In the creation, God worked six days and on the seventh day He rested. Since God works (see also Jn.5:17) and we were created to be like Him, then we were created to work. Not only that, in Genesis, God put man in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Gen.2:15). This was before the fall. Work is therefore not a curse (as some teach) but rather a gift and blessing to be enjoyed. Like our creator, when we work with a spirit of excellence and produce something, we can stand back and look at it and feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment and like our Creator, say “It is good”.
When we do so not just in the big things, but in even something as simple as washing dishes, or sweeping the floor, or arranging the shelves, and we produce something of order and beauty, and we take delight in it, we are fulfilling a part of the image of God that we were created to be. That would be part of the worship (giving worth) to God for creating us. Cultures that value work and excellence in work and that take delight both in their work and in the product of their work are evidently far more advanced than cultures that regard work as a curse or as a burden just to put food on the table.
6.5 Vision, Planning, Organization, Step by step Progression, Development, Time Management
Before God created man on the sixth day, He created the environment that will sustain human life. He also gave man the beauty of the natural environment to enjoy. Just from the six days of creation, we can see not only order, structure and development, but we can see God as One who has vision, who plans (Ps.33:11, Jer.29:11, Eph.1:11) organizes, and works in a time oriented systematic step by step progression towards a goal. This tells us that God created us, like Him, to function in the same way in our lives – to have vision, planning, organization, order, structure, and systematic step by step progression and development. Not trapped in a meaningless cycle of existence or reincarnation as animism dictates. It is obvious that cultures today that still do not value or practice vision (Pr.29:18) and planning, and who are lacking in order, structure and organization, and time management, have little progress or development.
Sadly, the concepts of order, structure, organization, vision, planning and time management are viewed by many Christians as being secular. Because we fail to see these aspects of God’s character, and that we were made to become like Him, there are even devout Christians who believe that it is unspiritual to plan. Planning and work must of course be done with God, not apart from Him (Jn.15:5, Pr.3:5-6, Jn.5:19). God created all things for Himself, and Jesus came to reconcile all things to Himself so that He would be Lord over all (Col.1:15-20). That means that biology, chemistry, physics, math, medicine, geography, art, music, accountancy, law, economics, business, government, politics, etc. needs to be understood from a Biblical perspective, not a secular perspective.
Few people know this, but the first 123 colleges and universities in the US including Harvard and Yale were set up by people inspired by the Bible to bring development and transformation to the world. However, because of a false understanding of spirituality and of worldliness, the church withdrew into the sacred/secular divide and withdrew from the world. Sadly those universities were taken over by secularists, and they today define for us what this world is and how it is supposed to function and operate.
6.6 Productivity and Dominion
God also told man to be fruitful and multiply. So we were created to work creatively with what God has given us and to be productive. God gives us seeds to work with, but this is not necessarily limited to physical seeds that produce plants that produce fruits, but also seeds as creative ideas that can germinate in our minds to produce things in the sciences (engineering, architecture, transport and travel, medicine and heath, etc) and the arts (music, writing, painting, design, drama and plays, etc) of efficiency and beauty and that blesses the nations.
God intended man to take dominion and rule over all that God had created and placed under the authority of man. This means that we are to overcome, not to be overcome by nature or the elements or our circumstances, nor to bow down and worship them. To overcome of course requires creativity, vision, planning and work. Jesus told each of the 7 churches in the Revelation that they must overcome. Jesus Himself overcame and He now sits at the right hand of God His Father. We too are to overcome, not only the challenges we face and our discouragements (Rom.8:17-39, Heb.12:1-2), but the devil also (Rev.12:11) that we may reign and rule with Him (Rev.3:21). All of life, I believe, is actually a test and an opportunity to learn to overcome.
A good example of taking dominion and being productive can be seen in the contrast between the Palestinians and the Jews. When the Palestinians look at their land, all they can see is only a desert and they easily conclude that the land is cursed. But when the Jews look at the same desert what they see is the promised land that God gave them. So they use their minds and find creative means to work the land to produce not only crops and fruits but also other technical products including the breeding of marine fishes in the desert, to export to the rest of the world.
6.7 Communities founded on Biblical Theism
The Biblical worldview does not define the world or the universe as a closed system where everything is limited, but open to God’s purpose and intervention. Matter is not all there is. Where necessary, and when faith works with God and His plans, miracles can happen. But there is already an embedded miracle in each of us – we were made in God’s image! By creativity and hard work we can take what there is and make it many times more than what it was. Because God exists and He is almighty and present, and He cares, God can intervene, even in giving us fresh creative ideas, and everything is possible and there are no limits. We are only limited by our understanding of who He is and what His purposes and intentions are.
If we would be creative, and work with vision and planning, order and structure, and be productive, and love, and share our resources and the fruits of our labor, then there would be no poor among us (Deut.15:4-11). And if we would live by the other attributes of God – righteousness, holiness, truth, mercy, compassion, goodness, faithfulness, under His Lordship, empowered by His Spirit, and directed by His counsel (His Word and His voice speaking in us), that would give us a picture of the abundant life that God intended life to be on planet earth.
7. Why is there poverty?
Both animists and secularists think that the cause of hunger and poverty is external. For the animists it lies in the will of the gods. For the secularists the assumption and usual blame is either over-population or too few natural resources, or the result of oppression through complex, unjust social and economic structures. Based on both perspectives, the poor are encouraged not to bear responsibility for their poverty and they adopt a fatalistic, helpless and impotent attitude towards their plight and become dependent on others for their survival. The truth however is that there are some very developed nations that have large populations, limited land space and lacking in natural resources but their development comes from application of their creativity and minds, while many nations that have abundant natural resources continue in terrible poverty because of their animistic roots.
The Bible does not require any empirical study to confirm its truth, but interestingly a World Bank study in 2005 revealed that the wealth of the materially wealthiest nations came mostly (more than 75% contribution) from the application of the intangible human resources of those nations (mind and reason, creativity and innovation, knowledge and skills, conscience and morals, etc). Only between 1%-3% came from their natural resources (land, water, agriculture, minerals, etc).
People in poor nations that are rooted in animism however believe that they lack natural resources. They do not see that they have been created in the image of God to be creative, to use their minds, to see the resources God has given them, to work, to overcome, and to be productive. They look at themselves as powerless and they look at work as a curse or as a burden. Instead of applying their minds and working to overcome challenges, they adopt an impotent attitude and are dependent on Western aid.
8. Worldviews, Truth and Lies and their Consequences
Why are some cultures more progressive while others lag behind in development? Indeed why are some cultures mired in poverty while others are well able to overcome their circumstances? Economists can give us their theories but all economic theories describe only the surface – the behavior and choices. Some delve deeper into the values behind the choices, but none investigate further into what is behind the values. Ultimately, why some cultures are more progressive while others lag behind depends on how much truth or lies (false beliefs) are within the worldview, beliefs and values of the culture.
Every culture contains true beliefs and false beliefs (although assumed by the people to be true) in their belief system. Truth leads to life, while lies lead to stagnation, perversion, death and destruction. The more truth in the belief system of a culture, the more there will be progress and development. The more lies within the culture, the greater the obstacles and impediment for progress and development. The concentric circles we looked at earlier (worldview, beliefs, values, choices, behavior, consequences at point 2) is actually a model of culture and may be compared to a tree.
Just as what is in the ground determines the health of a tree, there are consequences to whatever ideas a culture holds in their belief system. Here are 3 trees that can represent 3 different persons, or families, or churches, or organizations, or businesses, or cultures or nations. What truths or lies (false ideas) are operating in the minds of people from which values and choices are being determined? :
What would the consequences be, for example, where people of a culture believe that work is a curse, or that work is only for slaves, or that education is a waste of money, or that no matter what, their leaders are always right, or that respect/face is more important than truth, or that it is perfectly ok to bribe, or that the purpose of being in higher positions in government is so that one can receive more bribes or pilfer more of the nation’s money, or that by his karma the gods have blessed him to be in the position to receive bribes, while the others are resigned to it and accept that those in power are somehow entitled to do so, or that it is ok to lie and deceive for a “higher cause”, or that you just have to be smarter and outsmart others and not get caught, or that the goal in life is to be in power to rule over others?
What would the consequences be where people of a culture believe that men are superior to women, or that women were born to serve men, or that children are a nuisance, or that people born into lower castes are fated to serve those born into higher castes, or that certain races or tribes are more superior than others? Or that man is merely an animal? There are cultures/nations where electricity cuts and water cuts, unemployment, sicknesses and disease and hunger are the norm. Why? There are also nations where freedom of information or religion or education do not exist. These cultures/nations are entrenched in poverty, corruption, chaos, or even civil war. And there are cultures where life is valued, where there are schools and universities, and work, progress and development, where there are free and fair elections, and where the nation is run by law and order, and politicians and those in power are held to accountability. What accounts for the difference?
Many think that it has to do with the right political system. But politicians and politics is only the expression of who or what the people are in the first place – both those who are in political power and those who support them. It actually all boils down to the culture of the people and how much truth or lies are within the belief system of the culture. When a culture embraces more truth than lies in their worldviews and beliefs, the result is development, progress and life. When a culture embraces more lies than truth, the result is stagnation, death and destruction. Most people are not aware that they are reaping the fruit of their worldviews and beliefs, whether of progress and development and life, or of stagnation, death and destruction.
From where do the lies in a culture come? Jesus said the thief (the devil) steals, kills and destroys but He came to bring abundant life (Jn.10:10). But how does the devil steal, kill and destroy? The Bible tells us that Satan, “the father of lies,” (Jn.8:44) distorts the truth and plants lies (false worldviews and beliefs) in the minds of people. Most of these are half-truths. These half-truths penetrate customs, practices, institutions, religious and social structures, and laws, with lies that shape all of us in ways we often fail to recognize. The worldviews of people (which may be a confusing mix) ultimately determine their “world” as they make it out to be. Satan deceives not only individuals but entire nations as well (Rev. 20:3). His lies are the ultimate source of all the suffering, corruption, perversion, and poverty we see in our own culture and around the world. Jesus said, “When you know the truth, the truth will set you free.” (Jn.8:32). Only God’s truth can bring release, freedom, and healing from satanic lies so that we can experience the abundant life that God intended for us.
9. The Progress of the West
From where did the West get their progress? The West is obviously not a perfect picture or example of cultures that have a true worldview. Despite many advances, many lies remain in the worldview of the nations and cultures of the West. Through the spread of secularism, moral principles are increasingly being compromised, and lately, for lack of any other alternative they can find to fill the hollowness and emptiness of materialism, enticing lies from animism in the form of New Age beliefs are being embraced by many peoples in the West.
However, it is obvious that the nations of the West were pioneers and continue to be much more advanced in many areas of progress and development based on values of human dignity (concern for the weak and physically handicapped), family, integrity, freedom, education, reason, creativity, hard work, accountability, vision, planning, order, structure, and organization – values that originally came from the Bible. These values were the foundation upon which Western civilization was built.
Not many want to acknowledge this, but it is from the Bible that the West first came to grasp and appreciate the idea of the dignity of man – as a creative, rational being made in the image of God, ruled by law and order. These concepts were alien to animistic cultures where man was ruled by irrational spiritual forces or ruled by man, not by law or rational thought. In these cultures the king was law. Kings and feudal lords (including a corrupt church in Europe) mercilessly subjected the people under their rule to inhumane servitude, until their authority/position were challenged by the people who became enlightened by Biblical truth. This eventually led to democratic government, and the concept and practice of democratic government was later brought to the rest of the world along with education, health care, and technological advances.
I am not advocating democratic government as the ideal because ultimately all nations must come under the Lordship of Christ. But I am not advocating for a theocracy with a pope or council of men claiming to represent God either. Until nations can see who Jesus is and what He came to do, and want to willingly submit to His Lordship (which will happen only when He returns – see Rev.11:15), I believe it is far better that we have democratic governments than dictatorial governments who elevate and keep themselves above accountability to the people they rule over.
Unfortunately the West has forgotten their history and the origins of their civilization, development and progress. Secular humanism has taken over. Instead of attributing and giving credit for the ascendancy of their civilization to their Biblical foundations, they are disseminating misinformation and relegating the Bible and Christianity to medieval backwardness. The greatest tragedy however is that Christians have also forgotten. Most Christians join the rest of the world in seeing the development and progress of the modern world as secular.
Western society has indeed become secular because God has been taken out of the equation. But it was not so at the start of the modern age which historians tell us coincided with the start of the Reformation in the 1500-1700s. By the early 1900s, when missionaries from the West went out to the rest of the world with the message of salvation, there was no teaching on order, structure, work, vision, planning, time management, productivity, progress and development as part of the Gospel of the Kingdom. After more than 300 years of progress and development, these things had become a part and parcel of Western culture and were therefore regarded as “Western culture”, not Biblical culture. Missionaries debated among themselves if it was right to impose their “Western culture” on the natives.
10. The Distorted Worldview of Christians
As Christians, we say we believe the Bible, but how much of our worldview and beliefs are actually Biblical? What are our ideas about life? Even as we discuss the worldviews of animism and secularism, we must ask ourselves, how much of our worldview are still animistic or infected with secularism. How much does our surrounding culture shape our worldview and beliefs?
Humans are social beings. We develop our mindset—our way of seeing the world—from our culture. We tend to think the way our culture thinks and value what our culture values. In other words, an American Christian is “American”. An African Christian is “African”. An Indian Christian is “Indian”, and a Chinese Christian is “Chinese”. Christians in the West and more developed nations tend to operate more from a secular worldview than they are aware of or would admit, while Christians in less developed Asian and African nations still operate from their animistic cultural roots.
To use the picture of a tree, the worldview of many Christians in Africa and Asia are like layered soil. Christianity appears on the surface like the top soil, but beneath that is secularism and animism. The population of many African nations for example are largely Christian, some even up to 90% Christian, but they are still mired in tribalism, fatalism, corruption and poverty. Many Christians in Africa, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. have replaced the many gods they used to believe in with one God, but they are still resigned to their poverty as “the will of God”, instead of the will of the gods.
When we preach the gospel of salvation to the poor in these nations, it simply reinforces their belief that in this life there is no hope, and they can be liberated from their poverty only when they die and Jesus takes them to heaven. There is little or no vision for the future for themselves, nor for the communities around them. Growing up in a culture of animism, they accept the degradation, dirt, mess, chaos and confusion around them as quite normal, and they look at the corruption and the power wielded by their nation’s political leaders in the same way the other people in their nations do – too powerful and entrenched to be overcomed.
Christians in poor nations also submit without question to pastors and church leaders who play “god” over the lives of their church members. In Africa, the tribal chief has been replaced by the senior pastor, but the idea upon which it is based has not changed. They look at their leaders as “anointed” by God to rule over them, a concept inherited from animism. Similarly in many churches in Asia.
Christians who have been influenced by secularism on the other hand look at everything as limited and they also live in fear and greed and are materialistic like everyone else around them. They pursue the same goals and live same lifestyles as secular people do, believing that they are entitled to be better off and to enjoy their material comforts and wealth as a reward for the hard work that they have put in to earn it. They cannot really share or love their neighbor as themselves, but they justify it with the belief that God wants them to be blessed. Churches today are also infected with secularism (self-focused, centralized control, guard territory) and view and measure “success” through a secular worldview (size, numbers, buildings, and material wealth). As Darrow Miller has aptly expressed it, “When the church fails to disciple the nations, the nations disciple the church”. Both the Christians who are still deeply rooted in animism as well as those who have been influenced by secularism “Christianize” and rationalize their beliefs and practices with Bible verses.
11. Salvation from this World Worldview
A Christian lawyer attended a seminar that talked about using our skills as ministry. He decided he would help hundreds of people who were languishing in jails, whose cases had never been brought to court because they are uneducated and too poor to engage a lawyer. In that nation, it is easy for people to bring false criminal charges against anyone they did not like and bribe the police to arrest them. The lawyer got really busy doing that, and he did it free of charge. He was happy he could use his skills that really made a difference for poor destitute people.
His pastor called him up one day and asked why he had been missing from church. He explained to his pastor the “prison ministry” he was busy doing. His pastor told him that he had been misled, that that was his secular work, not ministry. According to the pastor, ministry is preaching, teaching, worship leading, leading cells groups, etc. The pastor told him to stop doing that as that was distracting him from true ministry and return to church.
I started this essay talking about ideas ruling the world. There is a battle of ideas going on, not only for the minds of unbelievers but also for the minds of believers. It is a battle of truth and lies. Many of these lies take the form of half-truths that are more deceptive than outright lies. Christians are not only influenced by animism and secularism, the core beliefs of most Christians are also erroneous. Most Christians today have a salvation-heaven-focused church-centered worldview. They believe that Jesus came to save them from hell to take them to heaven. They believe that this world is not their home, that it is doomed to perish, and one day God is going to destroy this world, so there is no point in trying to change it. While they are still alive in this world, they are to keep themselves separate from this evil world and not be contaminated by it.
So for most Christians they are not concerned much, if at all, with the social ills and social needs outside of their church walls, nor do they get involved in changing society. Their only social life is within their church. Their church is like a life boat and their role is to try to rescue people and bring as many as they can into the church. The church itself is focused only on church growth and has hardly any concern for what is happening outside its 4 walls. Worldviews indeed have consequences.
12. Biblical Theism and the Kingdom of God
Jesus did not preach the gospel of salvation as we know it but the gospel of the Kingdom. The good news that Jesus preached was not heaven. The good news He preached is His Kingdom (Mk.1:14-15, Matt.4:23, Matt.9:35, Lk.8:1, Lk.16:16). He sent His disciples out to preach the same – His Kingdom (Lk.9:2 and 6). Not heaven. What is the difference between the gospel of salvation as we know it, and the gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus preached? The focus of the gospel of salvation as we know it, is heaven. We want to get everyone to heaven. With heaven as our focus, it is no wonder we are not concerned about what happens on earth. However, the focus of the gospel of the Kingdom is not heaven, but earth. Jesus taught us to pray, “Let Your Kingdom come and let Your will be done on earth as in heaven” (Matt.6:10). That tells us clearly that God wants His Kingdom to come and penetrate into every sphere and aspect of life on earth (family, government, education, economics, industry, business, the sciences, the arts, media, environment, sports, etc. and even entertainment) so that He would be Lord of all. He wants His Kingdom to rule both in the hearts of individuals as well as in every family, community, workplace and nation.
Today most Christians talk about church but hardly ever about the Kingdom of God. Jesus however kept talking about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is not the church and the church is not the Kingdom. When Jesus talked about His Kingdom, it was not about church growth or about escaping the world to go to heaven, but about being a part of His kingdom on earth where He rules over every aspect of life on earth. Few Christians however have a worldview and vision of the Kingdom of God on earth. Every Sunday, billions of Christians in this world pray, “Let Your Kingdom come, Let Your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven”, but have little idea what that means. Many nations and people groups have been “reached” with the gospel. Souls are “saved” and churches are planted, but most fall short of the Biblical worldview of God’s Kingdom on earth. What is needed is a paradigm shift – from just evangelism and church planting, and focusing on church growth, to being agents of God’s kingdom advance on earth.
13. God’s Kingdom on Earth
How will God’s Kingdom come on earth? The Bible mentions three kingdoms: God’s kingdom, Satan’s kingdom, and the kingdoms of the world (Man’s kingdoms). Every kingdom has three things : a king, his subjects, and the domain of his kingdom – the area, realm or territory under his rule or control. The domain of God’s kingdom is in heaven. In heaven, God rules as king. Everything in heaven moves according to God’s will. That is why Jesus called it the kingdom of heaven. On earth, people do as they will – every man does what right in his own eyes (Jdg.21:25). So there are, as it were, billions of kingdoms. There are also nation states, organizations and corporations under the rule of man. These are also the kingdoms of this world. Unless they are intentionally brought under the Lordship of Christ, by default they are part of Satan’s kingdom (Lk.4:5-6, 1 Jn.5:19), because man came under Satan’s authority. Jesus called Satan the prince of this world.
13.1 God wants His kingdom on earth
Jesus told us to pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” That clearly means that God wants His kingdom not only in heaven but also on earth – so that God will rule over every aspect and sphere of life on earth and everything on earth will move according to His will. How can that come about? A kingdom can come about in three possible ways. First, someone can stand up and by force assert authority over others and declare himself as king over his people, and the people submit themselves to his rule. Or second, someone can invade an existing domain or territory and by force compel the people to submit to his rule. Or third, a people can willingly invite someone to reign and rule over them.
13.2 God wants a willing people
Since God created us, He has every right to demand our submission and obedience to His rule. He can show up any time with an earth shattering earthquake and lightning and thunder, and kill off all who refuse to submit to Him. He can by force compel our submission and obedience. But God does not want us to submit to Him in that way. The Bible tells us that God is love and He seeks a love relationship with us. For that reason He wants people to know His heart and who because they know His heart, willingly and gladly submit to His rule. Not out of a fear of punishment if they don’t (see 1 Jn.4:16-18).
I believe that is what Jesus meant when He told His disciples, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (Jn.15:15). So God waits for us to invite and welcome Him to rule over us. Not many realize what they mean when they pray “Let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven”, but what we are actually saying to God is, “Lord, please come and reign and rule over us, over all the earth. We gladly and willingly submit to Your rule. We shall not be gods. Only You alone are God. We want Your will, not ours, to be to done on earth as it is done in heaven.”
13.3 Who has authority over the kingdoms of this world?
In Gen.1:26, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image and in Our likeness and let them have dominion.” When God created man, He gave man dominion over the earth. Ps.115:16 says, “The highest heavens belong to the Lord but the earth He has given to man.” But when Jesus was tempted, Satan claimed authority over all the kingdoms of the world because he said they had been given to him. This happened when Adam listened to Satan rather than to God, and submitted himself under Satan’s rule (see Rom.6:16). When Adam did that, he gave up his dominion/authority to Satan and Satan thereby became the prince of this world. God did not make Satan the prince of this world. Man did.
13.4 God wants to take back what belongs to Him
Imagine you went away on a long vacation. Before you left, you passed your house keys to a friend to take care of your house while you were away. Three months later, you return and discover that a stranger is living in your house. Your friend had passed the keys to him and he now behaves as if he owns your house. When you try to enter your house he arrogantly tells you to “Go away! Get lost! This is now my house.” What would you do? Would you turn away meekly with your tail in between your legs and say “Oh dear, I have lost my house. What can I do? I will go away and build another house and live somewhere else.”? Would you not do everything you can to kick this usurper out and take your house back? That’s exactly what Jesus said He would do (Jn.12:31).
Ps.24:1 tells us that the earth and everything in it belongs to God. Has God ever given up ownership of the earth? I don’t find that anywhere in the Bible. God remains the true legal owner of all life on earth, but so long as man continues to submit to the devil’s desires, he continues to let the devil rule over him and to have authority over all that is under his dominion. God however has never changed His plan to have man in dominion. In Rev.5:9 we see that God will restore man to dominion but under the Lordship of Christ.
If man gave dominion to the devil, how can it be taken back? Paul tells us that when we sin we are giving in to the devil’s desire and submitting ourselves under his authority to rule over us (see Eph. 4:26-27). Jesus said he who sins is a slave to sin (Jn.8:34). None of us can by our own self overcome the power of sin in us. Not only have all of us sinned, every time we sin, we continue to give the devil authority over us. The only person who can overcome the devil and have authority over the devil is someone who has never sinned – someone who has never given even one inch of ground to the devil. Who is that? Only Jesus (Heb.2:14-15).
13.5 Jesus came to take it back
Ask any Christian what Jesus came to do, and possibly 99 out of 100 would answer that Jesus came to save souls to take us to heaven. Yes, Jesus came to save us, but not to take us to heaven. He came to save us out of Satan’s kingdom to bring us into His Kingdom (Col.1:13). He came to invade Satan’s kingdom and defeat Satan and establish His kingdom on earth. In Jn.12:31 Jesus said, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out”. After Jesus rose from the dead, He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matt.28:18).
John told us the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1Jn.5:19). But in Matt.11:12 Jesus said, “From the time of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing …” In 1 Cor.15:24-28, Paul tells us that Jesus will destroy all dominion, authority and power, and everything will be brought into subjection under His Lordship and then He will hand the kingdom over to His Father : “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”
So Jesus is already reigning and the process of taking back dominion is already underway. From what Jesus said, we see that God’s kingdom is invading Satan’s kingdom to take back what was stolen by the devil. Jesus will return one day to complete what He started, but we are to already be part of that restoration (Acts.3:21) that has begun and we are to be part of that kingdom advance now (Matt.16:18-19). Notice that Jesus said “now” twice in Jn.12:31.
What is the final end of this battle? One day all the kingdoms of this world will become subject to and under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In Daniel’s vision he saw the Kingdom of God as a rock that struck and destroyed all other kingdoms and it grew into a huge mountain that filled the whole earth (Dan2:35, 44-45). Isaiah prophesied the increase of His government (Isa.9:6-7) and John saw that one day all the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of God (Rev.11:15). This is a description of what will happen on earth, not in heaven. In Col.1:15-20 Paul said that all things were created by Him and for Him, and through Jesus, God will reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, so that in everything He would be Lord over all.
13.6 God’s kingdom advances as domains on earth come under His rule
Christians have been preaching the good news of salvation, but what about the good news of the Kingdom? The good news of the kingdom is that the King has come to defeat Satan and drive him out (Jn.12:31) and we can be set free (Lk.4:18) to be a part of His kingdom (Col.1:13). All of life (art, science, business, economics, education, politics, government, law, media, etc.) is to be brought into subjection under the kingdom of God. This means that the church needs a paradigm shift from a “saved from hell to go to heaven” paradigm to a “saved to be part of God’s kingdom on earth” paradigm. And from a church planting and church growth paradigm to a Kingdom advance paradigm. And we are to be agents of that Kingdom advance.
13.7 God’s Kingdom vs. Satan’s kingdom
Satan was defeated by Jesus’ death (Heb.2:14, Col.2:15, Matt.28:18). Satan and his principalities and powers, therefore legally and technically, no longer have any authority on earth. Wherever Satan, demons, principalities and powers are cast out and displaced by the Holy Spirit, there the Kingdom of God has come (Matt.12:28). A Greek word study reveals that these principalities and powers are spiritual or angelic beings that may rule over geographical/territorial regions, and over jurisdictions, systems and domains, not just individuals (Eph.6:12, Rom.8:37, Col.1:16, Col.2:15, Eph.3:10, Mk.5:9-10, Dan.10:13,20).
13.8 God’s Kingdom vs. Man’s kingdom
Since Satan has been defeated, the real issue now is not between God’s Kingdom and Satan’s kingdom, nor how to defeat Satan’s kingdom, but if we will surrender our kingdoms to God. As Wolfgang Simson has very aptly put it, when we pray “Let Your Kingdom come” we must also say “let my kingdom go”. In the garden of Eden, man communed with God and could consult with God on everything. But when he was expelled from the garden of Eden, he could not see God and he could not hear God. So he figured everything out for himself – what’s marriage, work, business, leadership, government, money, success, pleasure, the meaning and ultimate goal in life, etc. including what’s “church”. That is how the kingdoms of this world (which are opposed to God’s Kingdom) came about. It is not surprising therefore why Jesus told us we have to die to ourselves. He came to turn everything upside down to put things back up right.
So long as man continues not to submit to God’s rule, he remains in rebellion and by default he remains under Satan’s rule. That is how Satan and his principalities and powers can continue to rule over man. But wherever Satan’s lies are replaced with truth, and people (individuals, families, communities, businesses) submit to God’s rule, and the culture of the Kingdom and the Lordship of Jesus Christ is established there, there His Kingdom will reign.
14. Greek Dualism infected worldview
Most Christians, like the rest of the world, have been infected with a sacred-secular divided Greek worldview. Plato regarded this world as existing in dualistic realms. There is the higher spiritual/sacred realm and there is the lower non-spiritual secular realm. In the minds of most Christians, prayer, fasting, worship, Bible study, church, evangelism, miracles, etc. belong in the higher spiritual sacred realm while all other things that have to do with ordinary life like work, business, education, government, social issues, etc belong in the lower non-spiritual secular realm. This dualism is also the natural outcome of a “salvation from this world” worldview. As a result of this worldview, this is how most Christians regard the roles of the church and other institutions, and their areas of responsibility, influence, and purpose :
As for their personal lives, this is how most Christians would view their timeline :
With this dualistic kind of thinking, we have ceased to be an influence in this world, and we have become irrelevant, but it does not seem to trouble us. What is needed is a paradigm shift – from just a salvation gospel to a Kingdom gospel. From a Kingdom worldview, we are not only saved from, but saved to – to enter into and be a part of God’s Kingdom. Instead of the time-line above or seeing salvation as the center of the Kingdom, God’s Kingdom would be better seen and represented in this diagram where salvation is the entrance into the Kingdom, Jesus is King, we are his subjects, and within His kingdom are the various aspects of life as God designed it to be – all under His Lordship :
All over the world today the church has withdrawn from anything to do with how this world functions and we seem to be resigned to how the world defines what marriage, family, entertainment, art, science, business, economics, government, etc. are. Instead of exhibiting to the world, values of the Kingdom, and what God intended life to be, and discipling nations to God’s Kingdom culture, we are being influenced by and have absorbed the world’s ideas. The gospel however is God’s power for salvation not only for eternity but also for the present. The Gospel of the Kingdom traces back to God’s original creation mandate and spells out the reason for why God created us in the first place. The difference of course is that Jesus came to fulfill and make possible where man has failed.
Having defeated the devil, Jesus gave us His Spirit and sent us out to disciple nations. Because Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, discipling nations must go beyond salvation and personal discipleship. Nations and cultures must be taught and transformed into the culture of His Kingdom. Jesus said the Gospel of His Kingdom must be preached to all nations. Not just the message of salvation. The kingdoms of this world have yet to be confronted with the Lordship of Christ and the Kingdom of God (Matt.24:14). Between the time when Jesus first came to the time He returns, man is given a chance to decide if he would submit to God’s rule and become part of His Kingdom. When Jesus returns all who did not want Him to rule over them will be destroyed : Lk.19:27
What is our role in God’s Kingdom advance? We are to disciple and we are to be salt and light (Matt.5:16). I believe that means that we are to be an influence and an agent of change and transformation in every sphere of life in this world. The lies (false and wrong ideas) about life must be replaced with the truth about life. We are not to be salt and light only “to create a platform” or to use good works as a strategy to be able to preach the good news of salvation. We are to be salt and light because of who we are – children of our Father in heaven. As His children we are to reflect His character and so glorify Him – not only in terms of integrity and personal character, but also the way things are done – creativity, order, structure, beauty, excellence, time management, efficiency, productivity, sharing, etc. When we do so, we glorify Him by showing forth and reflecting the glory of our Maker.
As I travel and teach in many parts of the world, I find that all over the world churches are focused only on church growth and are not even conscious of the Kingdom or that the church is supposed to be the agent of the Kingdom. The devil has been at work blinding and deceiving not only the nations from the truth of salvation, but blinding and deceiving the church from seeing the Kingdom and God’s purposes for us in this world. At the very core, it is a battle between truth and lies. The strongholds (“arguments”, “pretension”, “knowledge”, “thought”) that Paul spoke of (2 Cor.10:3-5) are not only in the minds of unbelievers but also in the minds of believers.
Churches know (or at least we think we know) what church is (despite the fact that there are more than 44,000 denominations/expressions of church in the world today). How about the Kingdom? Actually, even in regards to church, since the church gets its identity and role only in relation to the Kingdom (like how an ambassador gets his role and identity from the nation he represents), a church does not and cannot know what church is or ought to be, unless it first knows what the Kingdom is).
Throughout history, in various times and places, revivals have come and gone, impacting not only the people upon whom it came but also their culture and nation. One of the greatest revivals that impacted the culture and history of a nation was the revival in England (1700s) through the preaching of John Wesley. The spirituality he taught was not just inner piety but extended to human need and social justice). Few can discount how much England impacted the world after that time. But there is something coming that we have yet to see and know. We have yet to see the fullness of the Kingdom in all its splendor and glory transform nations. Habakkuk prophesied that it will happen. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab.2:14). God is waiting for us to give our all to see it happen.
Before I end, five things must be noted :
First, in case the point is not already obvious, when we talk about God’s kingdom advancing on earth, we are not talking about the establishment of a theocracy on earth. Until Jesus comes again to set up His rule on earth (see Rev.11:15), we are to be citizens of the nations we are in, as well as citizens of the Kingdom of God, ruled from within by His Spirit that indwells us. On a related point, no one can “build” God’s Kingdom. We can only submit to His Kingdom.
Second, it is not enough for us to just know the truth of God’s kingdom and go out to try to make changes in this world. We are coming against Satan’s kingdom. Not only is Satan not going to let go of control (over the minds of men, see 2 Cor.10:3-5) and give in easily, we must remember that it is only by the Holy Spirit that Satan can be cast out/displaqced (Matt.12:28). Jesus gives us the keys to His Kingdom (Matt.16:19) and He told us in Acts 1:8 that we can only do it by the power of His Spirit.
Third, we must remember that Jesus said that apart from Him we can do nothing (Jn.15:5). Jesus gave us the model for how we are to walk and work with God. He said, “The Son can do nothing of His own except what He sees the Father doing, for what the Father does, the Son does also.” (Jn.5:19). Then He said, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” (Jn.20:21). Not our plans, but His. We are to depend on Him for step by step direction. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the workers who build it, labor in vain.” (Ps.127:1). How can we work with God unless we are hearing the voice of our Shepherd and getting directions from Him (Matt.10:27, Isa.30:21, Rom.8:14)?
Fourth, many often ask, “Will we succeed in changing the world? Doesn’t the Bible tell us that the world is going to get worse and worse? Isn’t the Kingdom going to come only when Jesus comes again and then the millennium will begin?” Please note that I am not taking any eschatological stand. 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. We are simply to be children who reflect who our Father is. When the disciples were caught up with the question of when the Kingdom was going to come, Jesus told them that they should focus their concern more on getting on with the tasks that the master had delegated to them (Lk.19:11-27, Acts 1:6-7).
In my first book, I asked, what if William Wilberforce 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., Gandhi, 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, had 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, Edison, and Marconi who blessed us with modern inventions and changed life on earth, had thought the same? Can you see how absurd that kind of thinking is?
Fifth, you may have come across the “seven mountains” or “seven spheres” teaching. While there are similar aspects between that teaching and what I am sharing here, there is however a BIG difference between the two that I must point out. Much of the seven mountains/spheres teaching that is currently going around does not just talk about transformation. It talks about taking back dominion as well. Those who teach it say things like : we are to be “leaders in the seven spheres”, we are to be “the head and not the tail”, we are to “take possession”, “take territory”, “claim your mountain”, be “on top of your mountain”, be the “decision makers”, etc. I’m sorry but I have to disagree with this idea and call for us to take back dominion.
There is nothing in the Bible that tells me God wants us to dominate or be in a position of control to change the culture of the world from a top-down position or approach. In whatever position we are in, we are only to influence towards change. Not impose our beliefs or values or change the rules or compel others to submit to them. If our role is only to influence, then it doesn’t matter what position we are in. God used a servant girl to influence a Syrian General. He chose and used uneducated fishermen to confound the rulers of the day and turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6, 1 Cor.1:26-29). I do not see anything in the New Testament in which Jesus, or Paul, or any of the other writers, calls us to take dominion. If we study the New Testament we will find that all the promises of God, and what God intended for Israel (to be the head and not the tail and to rule over other nations) will not be fulfilled apart from God’s plan for that to happen in Christ. Paul said the Roman Christians were more than conquerors though they were killed by their persecutors.
It must never be forgotten that what should motivate us is not dominion or transformation, but love – love for God and love for man. Love is the heart and soul of the Kingdom. What is love? Love is “other centered”. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is self. Unless it is selfless love that motivates us, unless at the core we are dead to self, any “taking dominion and bringing transformation” will not be Kingdom advance but human dominionism. The end result will be building more of our own kingdoms.
We must also get back to church as Jesus meant it to be – a community of people who love and serve. Unless we do, what difference is there between the idea of the church today reclaiming the mountains of business, media, government, etc. that is being propagated by this 7 mountains teaching, and that of the Roman church of the dark/middle ages seeking to have dominion over the world?
The paradox of the Kingdom is epitomized in the King who showed us how He defeated Satan and regained authority – not by asserting dominion over what rightfully belongs to Him but by laying down His life (Philip.2:3-9, Heb.2:14). It is Satan who wants to be at the top of God’s mountain (Isa.14:12-14). Jesus went the opposite direction. Not up but down. He showed us the way to dominion. It is by the same way (Heb.2:15), by the laying down of our lives, that Satan will be brought down and will be overcome, and that is how the Kingdom will come (Rev.12:10-11).
God has not called us to take possession, dominion or control over any sphere. God has called us to be influencers (salt and light) and to follow the Lamb (Rev.14:4) – to lay down our lives for others as He did (Matt.18:4, Matt.20:25-28, Jn.20:21, Phil.2:5-11, 1Jn.3:16, Rev.12:11). It is to those who do, that God will confer dominion to possess the kingdom and rule and reign with Him (Dan.7:18-27, Rev.5:9) “when the times have reached their fulfillment” (Eph.1:10).
May His Kingdom and His Kingdom alone be established. May we, wherever we are, motivated by his love, become “salt and light” agents of His Kingdom advance.
 Darrow L Miller, Discipling Nations : The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures, YWAM Publishing, 1998
 Ronald Nash, Worldviews in Conflict, Zondervan Publishing House, 1992
 Darrow L Miller, Discipling Nations : The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures, YWAM Publishing, 1998
 Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations, 1993 cited in Darrow L Miller, Bob Moffitt and Scott D Allen : The Worldview of the Kingdom of God, http://crm.disciplenations.org/store
 Paul G Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews, Baker Academic, 2008,
 Darrow L Miller, Discipling Nations : The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures, YWAM Publishing, 1998
[12 Eng Hoe, The Gospel of the Kingdom : Revealing the Heart of God, http://www.amazon.com/The-Gospel-Kingdom-Revealing-Heart/dp/1477409408
 Darrow L Miller, Lifework : A Biblical Theology for What You Do Everyday, YWAM Publishing, 2009
 Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World : How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization,Thomas Nelson
 Scott D Allen, A Brief History of the Divided Mind and Life, http://www.disciplenations.org/resources/
 Scott D Allen and Darrow L Miller, The Forest in the Seed : A Biblical Perspective on Resources and Development, Disciple Nations Alliance, 2006
 Darrow L Miller, Discipling Nations : The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures, YWAM Publishing, 1998
 Darrow L Miller, Discipling Nations : The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures, YWAM Publishing, 1998
 Where is the Wealth of Nations : Measuring Capital for the 21st Century, World Bank, 2006, http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEEI/Home/20666132/WealthofNationsconferenceFINAL.pdf
 Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World : How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization,Thomas Nelson,
 Scott D Allen, A Brief History of the Divided Mind and Life, http://www.disciplenations.org/resources/
 Darrow L Miller, Discipling Nations : The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures, YWAM Publishing, 1998
This picture of the tree also serves to explain why Scandinavian nations though largely secular on the surface are progressive – they have a layer of Christian/Biblical values beneath that had become part of their culture.
 Wolfgang Simson, Starfish Manifesto, https://whileweslept.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/starfish-manifesto/