WOULD IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE IF YOU CARED MORE ABOUT WHAT GOD EXPECTS OF YOU THAN WHAT PEOPLE THINK?
- You cannot use the heartbeat of others to tell you that you are alive (T.D. Jakes)
- The church faces her biggest challenge, not when new errors start to win, but when old truths no longer wow (Trevin Wax)
- Worship is a believing heart’s response to the work of the Holy Spirit, not an emotional response to the quality of the music (Matthew Westerholm)
- The path to unbelief usually does not start by unbelief in God. Instead, it starts with disbelief in the devil (Justin Barret).
- There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them (C.S. Lewis)
Text: John 18: 33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Jesus Christ made it clear that he was born to introduce a kingdom that is different from the kingdoms of this world. If understanding the kingdom that Jesus told Pilate about was the reason he was born, was not understood by his disciples, how about us? After being with his disciples, teaching and manifesting the power of that kingdom, his disciples did not understand, as revealed by their questions. ‘Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority’. (Acts 1:6-7). Is there a possibility of assuming that one is serving in the kingdom of God, while serving another kingdom? Remember the words of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21 -23). It is therefore important to examine our understanding of the kingdom of God and the requirements to be its citizen.
Jesus' encounter with Pilate explains that there is a kingdom of this world into which all human beings are born. It therefore means that entrance into the kingdom of God is not natural. One cannot just drift into it.
SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Power – Any kingdom is a power encounter. Human beings are born with the desire to be in charge, to influence, to rule, which are expressions of power. One of the temptations to Jesus at the onset of his ministry: ‘The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:5-7). This temptation is one of the most common. This is because of the human need for affirmation and significance. People who have had the threat of failure, in a culture where that is considered shameful, will see the opportunity for power as an escape and a proof of making it. Unconsciously, the desire to be affirmed, makes the availability of money, or opportunity to serve in teaching or pastoral or community governance, as the opportunity to meet the unmet need. Some very subtle temptations come through giving value to the number of people that gave their lives to Christ, or the churches planted or the church attendance, among others. Accompanied by all kinds of forms of affirmation and ‘feel good’ responses, one follows the bait of having authority and splendor, people’s opinion becomes the key drive in whatever a person does. Unfortunately, it is not possible to live by the truth that Jesus came to testify to, while receiving identity from an outside source or label. The core values that determine the foundational beliefs on which one stands, determine the king he serves.
Kingdom mindset – The kingdom mentality is what allows the subjects to see things from the king’s perspective. The understanding of the king’s point of view is what determines how decisions and choices are made. Every day, people face questions of authority. The power that guides people as they make their choices, whether of little or great consequence, reveals the kingdom one is serving in. It is important to explore the authority that nurtures the inmost thoughts determining the standard of what is true, good, and beautiful. Since we are born into the kingdom of this life, one has to be intentional in seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and continually have the word of God renew one’s thoughts (Romans 12:2). The king whose word is revered and meditated on is the one the individual is seeking to please. That is how the prevailing thoughts guide people toward what is considered worthy of pursuit whether privately or publicly or both and are influenced by the kingdom within which one operates.
Desire to expand the territory – The strength of earthly kings is in the size of the territory, physically and culturally, thus increasing people and wealth by adding taxpayers, and hence becoming famous. The concept of power comes in many different forms. ‘The souls of emperors and cobblers are cast in the same mould. …The same reason that makes us wrangle with a neighbour causes a war between princes’ (Michel de Montaigne). There is a major difference between the kingdom that people come up, and that of God. they rise, expand, and fall but the kingdom of God is everlasting. earthly kings seek expansion of their territories driven by ambitions and jealousies that motivate any one to want to get more. This is the belief that lure many Christians to use their positions of authority. Get the difference- ‘God is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to be lost, but he wants all people to change their hearts and lives’ (2 Peter 3:9). Christians are those who have accepted His Lordship and a relationship that is based on friendship. Those are disciples whose burning desire is to obey the instructions that God gives and they long to make other disciples. The love and loyalty of genuine disciples of Jesus Christ, cannot make them think of taking their master’s glory.
The King and the domain– The central source of power of any kingdom is the king. The realm over which the king reigns is the kingdom or the domain of the king. The subjects in a kingdom have a sense of awareness of who they are and what the king expects of them. That is why a Christian who has been given power to become the child of God (John 1:10-13) has a longing to hear from the King. One sign of drifting away from the kingdom is to have no appetite for the word of God. When a Christian goes a few days without reading the Bible, he, or she soon finds resistance when the inner urge to get back to it comes. The more one caves to that laziness that resents picking up the Word and opening it, the more one finds him/herself saying (or thinking, or both): “I have read the Bible. I know it already. There’s nothing new there. Nothing will change whether I read the bible or not. It’s boring.” Those are subtle lies of the enemy making entrance into the mind so that he can take lordship. It does not take long before other ideas set in because human nature defies vacuum. What fills the vacuum becomes the controlling power. It can be desire to be recognized or appreciated or greed for what reflects higher status. ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’ (Matthew 6: 24). In addition, Jesus said “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:25). ‘How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.’ (Matthew 12: 29 -30). To spend time meditating on people’s opinions or how to do that which impresses them is to fail to give full attention to the King, yet Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God’ (Matthew 5:8).
HOW TO FOCUS ON PLEASING GOD
Vision – Have a mental picture of who God is and who you are to Him. Think of the future Daniel saw as ‘Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever’. (Daniel 12: 2-3). It is important to visualize and consider whether the cheers and approval you are getting may land you to everlasting shame and eternal separation from God. Thinking of John’s description in Revelation 21 should envision one to give every effort where it has the highest returns.
Curiosity – Acknowledge that curiosity which has to do with a strong desire to know or learn something is God given and should be nourished. It is a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, and it is what made Moses seek to find out about the burning bush which was not getting consumed. Curiosity is heavily associated with all aspects of human development. Asking questions, reading, reflecting on what you understand, and the reality is key to keeping within the kingdom that ends up in everlasting life. Learn to listen actively and keenly and then examine what you hear using the word of God. To accept the status quo without checking into what is expected of those who are in God’s kingdom is not acceptable. Be curious to find out what God desires without assuming you know.
Undivided service – Jesus Christ invitation to those needing affirmation and recognition among other needs: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28). That is what releases one to give one’s all. Kingdom service is about actively making oneself available for the use of growing God's kingdom. It requires one to use their skills, time, energy, and finances to further the cause of God's Kingdom. It is not possible to build a personal kingdom while building God’s kingdom. A believer is a steward, not an owner, a sheep of God’s pasture redeemed by the blood of Jesus, irrespective of the title one holds. To find worth and value in what people think is a result of nourishing yourself from another kingdom and consequently failing the King who has your life in His hands (Daniel 5:27). The desire to be rated among the movers and shakers of this world is to build on the sinking sand. “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Ephesians 6:7). Be insightful, courageous, have the majestic dignity of a child of a King of kings, grateful in every arena of life to serve him.
Prayer – It is the language and the fuel that enables one to converse with the King who understands our confusion, anger, helplessness and still loves us. It is at the throne of mercy where we go ‘naked and not ashamed’ as we pour our hearts to one who knows every detail about us. The word of God is what informs us so that it is through the scripture that God directs us. We must resist the temptation to advise God or make requests based on worldly observations and desires. To be assuming that personal ambitions are God’s ambitions is dangerous. It is equally dangerous to assume that when one is given a position of responsibility is a sign of being favored/blessed. Any resources of positions or special giftings are to be used in service to the King and so cannot be source of pride and showing off. Prayer should arise from a deep understanding of who one is in the kingdom.
When God is allowed to be the King and we bow down in worship and reverence of Him, He then leads us to change hearts and history as we serve His purpose in our time and generation. If we ceased to seek praise from people, we would listen to God and follow His instructions. The wife of Jim Elliot wrote in his biography, “The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh, that God would make us dangerous!” It is hearts and minds that have a vision of God and His ways who find satisfaction in trusting Him wholly and finding Him wholly true. Avoid the teaching and preaching that make Christians fail to turn to God to meet their real needs. You may have heard of some people being referred to as men of God (MOG) presenting themselves as the ones through whom God’s blessing comes. The followers and admirers are expected to give money as a form of contact point and honoring of ‘spiritual fathers’ as a way or getting Gods blessings. That is an example of one who has been literally stolen by the enemy, a person who may have started in the spirit but is now operating in the flesh. In such gatherings, the word of God is used to support the fleshly warped up desires and as a weapon to dominate and subdue the docile naïve ‘believer ‘. If you desire to have a walk with God, ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’ (Ephesians 5:14). To get so preoccupied with living well as the main mission makes people trapped in the desire to be important at the expense of the one, they claim to be representing. The world will be drawn to Christ to the degree that Christians live like him. As love of God and of one another remains our prayer and desire, confessing sins that cause us tension, determined to obey our Father, and so refuse to be held captive by fear, is what will lead to a life that honors God. That is a life of freedom and intimacy with God and so becoming pregnant with His purpose and living out His plan and will. As Jesus taught the disciples, the desire expressed in prayer of His disciples is ‘May Thy kingdom come’. To have people gather and their ‘worship’, songs, messages, and interpersonal communication is not about the kingdom, the reason for which Jesus was born, should cause concern. What difference would it make if those who identify as Christians (born again, believers) are concerned solely for the kingdom of God?
‘When you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else’ (Oswald Chambers)