Citizens of the Kingdom
The Power of Ideas
If ever you have doubted the power of ideas, just ask one of the Khmer in Cambodia.
Pol Pot was born Saloth Sar in 1925. He was a farmer’s son who was selected to study in Paris as a young man. Whilst there he became entranced by Marxist philosophy and conceived an idea of a bourgeoisie founded not in the urban working class as in Russia, but rather an agrarian utopia with no elites. In this, he was inspired by Mao’s cultural revolution and the purging of “Class Enemies”.
The ideas that first took root in Paris, became reality for millions of the Khmer. Pol Pot gained power in Cambodia and set about making his ideas reality. Two million alone were forced from Phnom Penh into the countryside at gunpoint.
Millions worked in the fields with a consumption limit of 180g (6.3oz) of rice per person per 2 days. They worked from 4am until 10pm every day and only rested twice a day. Small infractions meant death at the hands of the supervising teenage soldiers. Though the people were dying in the thousands from malnutrition, they could not eat the foods they were harvesting.
Anyone who was educated was executed under the slogan, “What is rotten must be removed”.
By the time Pol Pot was deposed by the Vietnamese in 1979, one in five Cambodians had been slaughtered. 1.7 million people killed in four years.
In Paris, in 1949, an idea that came to reality 30 years later killed 1.7 million human beings. In 1975, life expectancy dipped to less than 20 years. Today, it is over 70 years.
Don’t ever doubt the power of ideas coupled with determination to see them through.
The brokenness of this world is built on an idea that is opposed to God.
We live indeed in a world that is founded on two competing ideas:
- The Kingdom of God and an Earth filled with the Glory of God
- The kingdom of men and an earth that hates God and anything to do with him
Make no mistake about it, we are at war. We have been born into a world at war and in fact at the height of that war.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.Eph 6:10-13
Our war is not against ourselves as much as we often think that it is. It is so much more than this. Our war is against the corrupt rulers of this world that destroy people for profit, that ignore the plight of those who cry out for justice, that ignore those who don’t even have a roof over their heads, that are in such dire straits that they have nowhere to turn.
Our war is against the privileged in authority that oppose God and seek to maintain the present darkness of this world. We fight against the spiritual leaders who would lead the people of God to the darkness, who revel in the brokenness of this world.
Against such, we are enjoined to put on the whole armour of God, to stand firm as beacons of the light of God against a world that seeks to sweep us away. We must arm our hearts against the subtle forces that seek to remind us that we have bills to pay, we have responsibilities in this world that require us to live small to not rock the boat, that we are nothing and can do nothing to heal a broken world.
We must stand firm and we must represent our Lord in this world, for we are His vessels, we are His people, the places where we meet in worship are just a small microcosm of the Body of Christ. This is not our home, our home and future dwelling place is the Kingdom of God and we are called to live it today.
The Challenge of Being at War
In this article, I want to challenge you to change your life such that you choose to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God in prospect as well as in some degree in actuality now.
Take a few moments to reflect:
I want you to imagine how you would live if the Kingdom of God is now, not in the future. How in fact would you live? Forget the obvious limitations of right now – food, shelter and clothing. We’ll talk about this in our last article. Just stop a moment and consider the implications of living now as if in the Kingdom of God?
What actions would you take, what reactions would you have to things that you see? Take a moment and consider no boundaries, no limitations. You don’t need to worry about the mundane, you don’t need to think of anything except the service of the Living God. (In truth you don’t need to this of material need because God will supply your needs anyway, so don’t get distracted by this issue.)
How would you respond to some of the truly thorny issues you see around you? How would you tackle immorality on the grand scale that we see today? Would you play small?
What do you see the issues are around you that could not be tolerated in the kingdom of God?
What is “the World” to you? Is the “World” the petty misdemeanours of our brothers and sisters? Go back 30 years, and my beard would have been an impediment in some churches. Today, we still have shibboleths around tattoos, gambling and even dancing. For some, drinking alcohol continues to be a point of contention.
Most of this arises from people using “proof texting” (finding a quote, taking it out of context) to shore up their own preferences. For example, most rely on a quote in Leviticus prohibiting the people of Israel from marking their bodies ritually in ancestor worship or “for the dead” to make the case that Christians should not get tattoos. Personally, I have refrained from tattoos out of personal preference solely.
The fact is, these are issues of conscience. They are not in and of themselves, the WORLD.
But stack these issues up against what Paul describes our enemy to be. Rulers, Authorities, Cosmic Powers, Spiritual Forces of Evil.
We debate what kind of music we will play in our church, we debate endlessly over the smallest of issues in the brotherhood of Christ. We live tiny, insignificant, embarrassingly small lives in a world that is dying when we are called to live large, to enter into war, to go into battle with Cosmic Powers and Spiritual Forces of Evil.
We are called to dwell with God in the heavenlies. Think about this. We are called to represent Him to the nations around us.
Let’s lay the foundation of this calling.
The People of the NAME
Moses coming to the burning bush, asked God for a name that he could tell the people had sent him.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’Exod 3:13-17
You know what the implications of that name were?
The Hebrew for “I AM WHO I AM” is something like “I am becoming, whatever I choose to become”. That’s who sent Moses to the people of Israel. Basically, he is saying, “I have observed you down through the generations people of Israel and I am calling you out now to be the people of my Name.”
Israel, you will bear my name, I am becoming whatever I choose to become, and I choose to be manifest in you.
And 21 chapters later in Exod 24, this is reaffirmed in a fellowship meal with the elders and representatives of the people as well as in an awe inspiring covenant represented by twelve pillars and dread sacrifices made under them on an altar.
There were so many rituals given over the next few chapters designed specifically to remind them of one fact, in Exodus 29:46
And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.Exod 29:46
He is becoming their mighty one.
But we know that those who were promised this greatest of gifts, of being God’s representatives on earth to the nations, those who were the priesthood of the Most High, failed. They called a golden calf, their Strength (Gods, Elohim, Mighty Ones). They chose an inanimate object and ascribed all of the wonder and power of He who would become manifest in them, not to God but to a crudely wrought cow, carved out of rocks and minerals.
As a result, instead of dwelling with them and communing with His people, God had Moses pitch the test of meeting outside the Camp.
Of course, this was symbolic that God was now removed from direct contact with them but also that he is not bound by geography, and His kingdom is not either.
The tent of meeting was really an idea. It was placed outside of the camp to inform the Children of Israel that they had lost the right of close communion with God. Ideas become reality and Israel over time lost their treasured place as the priesthood of God, instead being replaced by spiritual Israel. They still occupy a special place, of course – we hold fast to the hope of Israel.
A State of Mind
And now the Kingdom is ours, the promise is ours, God’s name has been given to us, He is becoming manifest in us!
Similarly, God’s kingdom at this time is an idea not a location. God’s Kingdom is not here in one sense but it is a state of mind while we await the reality. The Kingdom of God is in our hearts in one sense. Jesus Christ is the Kingdom of God and he dwells in our hearts.
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.
At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.Heb 12:18-29
So, what we have been called to is awe inspiring. If Moses trembled at the sheer awesomeness of what he came to, how much more should we also approach this with awe as well as with joy. We live on the edge of a volcano that is about to erupt. The kingdom of God made reality will result in the disruption of all that is around us. All that Paul in Ephesians tells us that we are wrestling with now, will be destroyed, torn up by the roots and thrown away. All that will remain are the things of eternity.
Therefore, he says, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken. Let us bring our offering in reverence. And let that offering be our striving against the evil of this world.
We are called to a present possession of the Kingdom of God. Salvation dwells in our hearts, for we have, in the same fashion as it was offered to the Children of Israel, been offered to be part of that mighty host that God states “He is becoming manifest in”.
We have been called to step outside the camp and to join Jesus there as priests ministering through his blood to the people. We bear his reproach, we bear his name.
In submitting to God and His Son, we invite them to form the prospect of the Kingdom of God in our hearts. In this sense, we are already citizens of the Kingdom of God.
The Implications for Us
If God and Jesus thus dwell in our hearts then it makes Paul’s words in 2 Cor 3 so much more powerful.
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?
For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.
For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened.
For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.2 Cor 3
So we are being transformed into the spirit of the Living God, we are becoming transformed into Life Giving Spirits to the Nations. Jesus is the manifestation of the Kingdom of God and we are being transformed into his Glory – therefore, we are the Kingdom of God.
The Indwelling Spirit
Our hearts have the spirit of God dwelling in them, engraved on our hearts. We are being transformed into the image of the Lord, as he dwells within each of us. Jesus himself said:
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.Joh 14:23
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.Joh 15:4-7
Paul reaffirms this:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.Eph 3:14-21
Jesus dwells in our hearts and that can’t be without implications.
We are Kingdom Living
With Jesus in our hearts, we are already Kingdom Living. Our hearts are already dwelling with Him in the Kingdom of God and that has implications.
Jesus looks on each of us and tells us to follow me; learn of me; do the things you have seen me do. Drink of my wine and eat of my bread. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the law and the light. Look unto me and you shall live. Love one another as I have loved you!
Will we be as the disciples who as each received that simple “follow me”, forsook all and followed him without reservation?
Over the next few articles, we are going to develop these thoughts.
- In this article, we discussed how an idea is a reality in prospect.
- We have talked about how the seeds of the Kingdom of God were laid in His name, that the best rendition of the Hebrew name is He who is becoming and we discussed what God is choosing to become.
- He is choosing to become manifest in people who have His spirit engraved on their hearts, whom Jesus dwells within.
- As such, we as the people who are growing into the manifestation of God on earth as we follow Jesus, are Kingdom dwellers already.
- As Kingdom dwellers, we work to create the Kingdom of God here and now.
Next article we will discuss the character of those who have hearts for the Kingdom of God and in the third article we will consider the response of those who have been invited to the Kingdom of God. Our last article will be more practical as we look at what it means to live a “Kingdom Life” today in this broken and dying world.