The teaching that most of us have had regarding the Kingdom of God, places it, whatever we may think it is, off in the future. Many even think of the Kingdom as heaven itself. I suspect this is partially correct. However, at the invitation of some of my mentors, I have revisited this subject of the Kingdom and, in the process, encountered the kindness of God leading me into repentance (a change of mind) and consequently into a new level of abundant life.
In their fatherly spirit, my mentors posed this question to me, “If the kingdom is a distant-future event, why then did Jesus instruct us to pray that it come to earth as it is in heaven?”
I have learned, that for calculated reasons, fathers ask questions. The best fathers ask the best questions and are also the best listeners. As catalysts, fathers are not just interested in transferring information; they are focused on stimulating thought at the heart level. Although they recognize its value, they know the point is not just accurate doctrine; it’s the relationship. They know that when we commune with each other, we commune with God. It is in the flow of life’s dialogue that Love has many of His best opportunities to expand His Kingdom. My growing Kingdom family calls this “doing life together”. Note; It’s a much bigger idea than attending church. It is a bold stab at being the Church.
Perhaps when they are very young it is the command that is most beneficial to the child; but for the maturing child, it is the questions that the father poses and the invitations the father extends that are most important to the formation of the child’s spirit. The response to a command is compliance. The response to an invitation is an investment. Big difference (at least at the heart level).
The outcome of compliance may be visibly impressive. The outcome of an investment may not be visible for quite some time. But regardless of what is visible on the surface; from God’s perspective, His kingdom expands each time a human heart embraces Truth and makes Him (the Truth) their own. Father’s know this. They have no other objective than to see them mature into the full stature of Christ. Children are a father’s reward and glory.
Fathers invite instead of command because of the room it gives the child’s heart to respond. The right kind of response embeds the seed in the child’s heart such that it will grow up and eventually become a unique living expression of Christ Himself. The Word will eventually become flesh. A father’s greatest delight is to see his children becoming good stewards of their own hearts; becoming Kingdom investors in their own right.
Prophetic types have envisioned a kingdom expansion where Christ conquers the earthly realms of influence which include media, government, entertainment, education, science and the business marketplace (the arena where I have spent my adult life). Because I know that all things are possible with God, my imagination makes room for prophetic visions such as this.
Fatherly types compliment this. They envision a kingdom expansion where Christ actually conquers the realm of His people’s hearts prior to (or in the midst of) the conquest of these various mountains of influence. That is why you may hear fathers often say to their children;
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
The Kingdom of God is simply that timeless and eternal domain where Christ has reigned, is reigning and will reign forevermore. When God does answer the Thy kingdom-come prayer which he has instructed us to pray, he does not necessarily go to Warren Buffet and launch a top down revolution. That is His prerogative but more often than not He will come to you and I and work to establish our hearts as the primary domain of His rule. As we find favor, we may migrate upward to the pinnacle of these arenas of influence. However, if we do not become the kingpins of influence, we can take comfort in the kingdom reality that the last shall be first.
How astonishing that the beachhead of operations for heaven’s invasion of earth is your heart and mine! The allied forces of heaven and earth, God’s will and ours, are aligning themselves together to overthrow this earth’s real trilateral conspiracy; the world, the flesh and the devil. So, what will this Kingdom-invasion look like when it occurs, for instance, in the marketplace? I will offer you a report from my theater of operations.
Before I begin, I would invite you to keep three things in mind about the Kingdom of God. 1) It is as small as mustard seed; easily overlooked; a stock that is too obscure and risky for most to consider. 2) The irony is that, if we would see with our eyes of faith, we would know that the Kingdom of God is also like a hidden treasure; in other words: it is the stock pick of all eternity; it is that one investment that will pay dividends now and forevermore. 3) The Kingdom of God (that realm over which He reigns), is also within us. Our hearts – that realm where we live in Him and He lives in us, is an essential command post for God’s mission to reconcile all things to Himself through Christ.
A brief battle field overview. The earth and all that is in it belongs to God. It was created by Christ, in Christ and for Christ. It will all end up as a part of His Kingdom. It is an eventuality that every knee will bow and tongue confess that He is Lord. However the enemy is temporarily occupying territory that belongs to God. He is temporarily ruling this space with an elaborate campaign of misinformation. His is a kingdom of darkness where he manipulates men and culture with half truths and blatant lies. He is so successful that many saints are ready to pack their bags and leave this earth. They seem willing to relinquish the domain of this earth to him. What a grand strategy of the enemy; to dupe his opponent into believing that the battle cannot be won; to bluff him right off the battle field!
A day will come though, when the children of light will inherit their freedom and this fallen world will be forced to reckon with their righteousness, peace and joy. The love of these sons and daughters will finally be released as they walk in the security of their identities; their love will make the gospel actually appear to be good news. It will become much more credible to an onlooking wounded and cynical world. I believe the gospel is going to be restated with the credibility of transformed lives and the power of His Spirit. Do you believe in this Kingdom prospectus enough to invest? I can hear Jesus asking, “Do you believe I am able to do this?”
So how are we ‘foot-soldier-saints’ to assess the battle that is going on in our domain of opportunity/responsibility? First it is critical to understand what is the domain we are responsible for? And then, what does our responsibility look like? It is my belief that our realm of responsibility is simply our hearts and every living spirit God has sovereignly placed in relational proximity to us. Once identified; our mission is simply to love them as Christ has loved us.
Hint: If you look at your network and you see people moving away from each other with an attitude, rest assured the kingdom of darkness is ruling. If you see people headed for the back door with that “I’m done with this” attitude, the devil is having a great day. Any language that attempts to sanctify this like; “God has released me.” is just a sad cover up for a wounded, rejected, religious spirit that needs the Kingdom of God in their heart. If Christ is reigning, this attitude will have been dealt with at the cross. Until the judgements, bitterness and resentment are dealt with, Christ is not reigning; the domain of the Kingdom has not yet expanded into this heart. No matter how well we spruce it up with sanctified verbiage, it is death and sadly; it is contagious. It spreads and defiles everything around it. I am speaking from painful personal experience that I would not trade for silver nor gold.
Spiritual fathers and mothers see through all the disputes; all the turf wars; all the divorces; all the spirits moving in opposite directions and invites them to look at their own hearts with diligence (since it is from that place that life comes from) and assess from which kingdom did this attitude originate that says, “the problem is other people”. Spiritual fathers invite the children back to the table in the midst of their pain and encourage them to reinvest in the Kingdom (which is in them).
Oh, what a day it will be when we CEO’s, Pastors and Husbands learn to truly listen to the hearts of those nearest to us. What a blow to the kingdom of darkness it will be! We will make the astonishing discovery that the complimentary gifts and resources were there, right next to us, all along. We will discover those would be meddlers and enemies were actually gifts from God. We will discover that in the tension, we are being invited to die to our independence and pride so that Christ’s life will be be made visible. We will find that humility, patience and a host of other Christ-like attributes are present in even greater power than the pull and expression of our fallen natures (which we have mostly seen in the exaggerated strength religion adds to the flesh.)
In the presence of Christ’s progressive reign in our hearts, we will discover the grace to acknowledge our complicity with Satan’s kingdom of isolation, bitterness, fear, resentment, gossip, guilt, shame and pretense.
Father, awaken our hearts to the high calling you have for us to live innocently and blamelessly, free of judgements and bitterness. Help us to recognize the present day-value of your kingdom. Help us, this very day, to recognize where You are inviting us to invest in eternity. Thank You, Lord that You have come and that with Your Life, You inaugurated Your Kingdom. Thank You that, through Your Life in us, You will expand Your Kingdom until that day when all things are reconciled to You. So be it.