An Invitation to Love
Under the law, obedience was relatively simple in appearance, but enormously difficult to perform, under grace, what we are to do is quite difficult to define but simple to practice.
Let me give you an example from Luke.
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”Luke 7:36-50
Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The key to entry to the Kingdom of God is quite simple. She loved me much – your faith has saved you, go in peace. And the woman went out at peace with God – rather than struggling to survive in an evil, broken world.
We must not overlook the connection between faith and love.
This sinner saw Jesus and she knew whom it was that she could see.
That seeing? That was the eye of faith, she understood the forgiveness of sins. She saw Him who is Love Himself dwelling within this man and it broke the hardness of her heart. She could not continue as she was… she simply couldn’t.
When we are confronted with the real Jesus, we have two choices… harden our hearts even further and walk away or face him who is to become our life and adore him.
Over the last couple of articles we have discussed being Citizens of the Kingdom of God and what is the righteousness of the Kingdom Heart. In this article we are we are going to look at accepting the invitation to dwell with God and Christ in the Kingdom of God.
If there is one thing I am hoping for from your reading of this article is that you embrace unity not with others as such (although that is vital) but rather with our God. That we will either make the leap of faith to our God or be strengthened in our devotion to His calling.
Hopefully, we will find ourselves encouraged to release the world and to embrace our calling.
A World of Evil
We live in a world that is broken.
In some of the richest places in the world, homelessness is everywhere. I recently heard of Mr Mukesh Ambani who lives in a $1billion skyscraper in Mumbai with his wife and three children. The skyscraper is 27 storeys but is the height of a 90-storey building because each floor is three storeys high. On the footpath outside an ABC journalist said he had to step over the sleeping homeless as he walked past the construction of this extravagance.
I should be clear, I know nothing about this person more than I have stated above. This world is evil, I don’t know if Mr Ambani is or not – I am not the judge of the world. I do think that the difference between our wealthy and our poor is truly evil. That one can live in opulence next door to another who has no place to dwell save a pavement is not good.
A couple of years ago, on a tour of China, I visited Tiananmen Square and toured the forbidden city. On the far side, the footpath was littered with the maimed beggars who everyday beg for money from the rich foreigners who pass. One man appeared to have had both arms burnt off, possibly in a workplace accident. Many of them had burn injuries and scar tissue over much of their bodies. I had little cash, but gave them what I could that day. I remarked to the tour guide at the sorrow I felt for them and her response in fairly pragmatic Chinese style was, “well they choose to be here”!
Civilisation in Decay
In the US, I visited New Orleans for work in 2018 and was given a clear vision of civilisation in an advanced state of decay. I think anyone who knows for example, Bourbon Street, has a fair idea of what I mean. Walking down the road, I was uncomfortable following a very attractive lady dressed in quite revealing fashion, so I sped up and passed her. We rounded the corner and I was getting close to my hotel, when I heard a torrent of verbal abuse from her. I spun around and found that she was being assaulted by a young man. I shouted something at him (I can’t remember what). He took off past me and I checked with the lady that she was ok and offered to walk her to her destination. She said she was fine and that it wasn’t far to her hotel. I continued on my way and suddenly thought (as you do) about the risk of being knifed or shot by the young man. I got back to my hotel and sat in the corner, realising that I had put my life in danger.
President Duterte in the Philippines accepts that the use of automatic weapons by police in their war on drugs in that country might accidentally kill innocent women and children. He states that even if Police do kill innocent civilians, they do so without risk of criminal liability and that the children killed in this way are collateral damage in the war.
The US, likewise bombs villages in the quest to destroy terrorists and in so doing murder the innocent and again, this is referred to as collateral damage – there is no such thing truly as a “surgical strike.”
The biggest killer of men aged under 45 is suicide. 65,300 people attempt suicide every year in Australia. 75% of suicides are men. In Australia, the rate of suicide was 12.6 per 100,000 in 2015. Three times more men than women suicide, but the rate for women is also increasing rapidly. Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, suicide rates are double the national average.
I work in the detection of Drugs and Alcohol in the workplace. We work all over Australia and with many different organisations and some of the wrecks that I have seen people make of their lives horrifies me. Forget the media hype, I am talking reality. I can’t speak publicly of specifics, but every day brings a fresh shock. Again, without specifics, there is no one profession that has more substance abuse than another. We find drugs in virtually every workplace, every strata of society and every location.
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.Eph 4:17-24
This is not our Home
The world of the Gentiles is darkness and brokenness. It is a place that we are forced physically to inhabit, but this is not our home. We, out of 7 billion humans on this planet have been made worthy by the calling of God. Worthiness, not of ourselves, but of our calling.
We have been called in Christ to dwell in the heavenlies in our minds whilst still physically we inhabit this barren place of evil and brokenness. A place at war with holiness and sanctity. A place where the kingdom heart finds no rest, no solace.
The natural position of being offered peace in place of the strife of this world is overwhelming joy and love for the one who invites us to dwell with Him.
Responding to the Call
The only proper response to the Call of God through Jesus is to simply drop everything and leave this place. Abraham did it and many others since.
Compare Matt 4:
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.Matt 4:18-22
There is no hesitation, no consideration of their position, they left their nets and followed him.
Now in fact, this was not their first encounter with the Lord, but there came a time when Jesus made the final powerful call, “follow me”. The call then was unmistakable and unequivocal. Follow me and they did.
So of course, it is for us. We heard of it, we considered it in one fashion or another and then we heard the unmistakable, insistent call to follow him and we made a decision in that moment to commit.
Not Blind Faith
You see, this is the thing about our faith. Many seem to want to assert that our faith is blind. It is not. It is a considered faith.
In John 1:35:
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).Jn 1:35-41
Andrew had been listening to John, thinking about what he said, understanding that the time of Messiah was upon them and John, seeing Jesus, exclaims – “There he is!” and Andrew went about and convinced his brother, and from there it snowballed as James and John also hear and believe and follow.
Now we find that Philip is called and he follows the same pattern and in consequence he brings Nathanael with him.
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”Jn 1:43-45
I don’t want you to see this as a simple decision on the part of these men.
I think it plain from a close reading of the Word that this was a considered weighing up of the situation, of discerning that this was Jesus the Messiah and that there was a cost to this decision.
Counting the Cost
I am not talking of the cost to Zebedee of his sons leaving him to tend the boat all on his own. No, this was a determined accessing of the Grace of God which costs a man his life.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in “The Cost of Discipleship” that:
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without [submission]… Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.Bonhoeffer, D., & Leibholz, G. (1958). The cost of discipleship. New York: Macmillan
He writes that:
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son. ‘You were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.Bonhoeffer, D., & Leibholz, G. (1958). The cost of discipleship. New York: Macmillan
Peter says it best:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.1 Pet 3:18-22
Our appeal to God from a good conscience takes an accounting for the cost, and consideration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and a determination proclaimed through the waters of baptism to live as he did.
So, the invitation to citizenship is not something to take lightly. The possession of the Kingdom of God in prospect requires that you cultivate the salvation that lives within you.
So, then, my beloved, even as you always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much rather in my absence, cultivate your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work for the sake of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings, that you may be blameless and harmless, children of God, without fault in the midst of a crooked generation, even having been perverted, among whom you shine as luminaries in the world, holding up the Word of Life, for a boast to me in the day of Christ, that I ran not in vain, nor laboured in vain.Php 2:12-16 (Lit Translation)
Cultivate (“work out” in the AKJV) your salvation. Let’s consider this practically.
What do we do to cultivate the kingdom heart, our salvation which dwells within us?
In the next Chapter, Paul talks about what he does to attain the resurrection from the dead:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Php 3:12-14
Forget Old Entanglements
He forgets what lies behind, all those old entanglements and regrets and strains forward toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matt 11:29-30
Jesus asks that we submit to the Will of God in him and accept his easy yoke and light burden. What does this entail?
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”Jn 6:27-29
As Paul says in 2 Cor 4
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.2 Cor 4:1-3
An Open Statement of Truth
Paul tells us to “Give an open statement of the truth”. Paul again:
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.2 Cor 4:11-15
Forget all the trappings around you that are part of that which is dying, belief requires one thing: An open statement of Truth.
Belief Provokes Action
And belief provokes something powerful in us:
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.1 Cor 9:16-27
Love, Life and Light
God works in you. We know that God is Love, Life and Light. Therefore, at the core of your character, working in God and God working in you, is Love, Life and Light.
If this is so, and at your core is Love, Life and Light, then you must do as Christ did. You must demonstrate that God is light and in Him is no shadow (1 Jn 1:5), you must have Love at your core and demonstrate that God is Love Himself (1 Jn 4:8, 16) and above all, accepting the invitation to be citizens of the Kingdom of God, you must be life giving spirits for the one you worship is Life Himself (1 Jn 5:11-12, 20)
You are called from death into Life that you might render life to all others. You have heeded the invitations to pass from this life, to be dead to this life, to deposit your life with Christ in God, and to pass on this invitation to others, that they too might be dead to this world and alive with Christ in God.
The Only Response
The only valid response to the invitation to be a citizen of the kingdom of God is to deposit your life with Christ, to forget all your entanglements and to cast off the sin that so easily besets you and instead to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God that dwells in your heart. Go out into all the world and preach the Gospel, visit the widows and the fatherless in their affliction and speak without fear the righteousness of the Kingdom of God. Exercise self-control, keep yourself unstained by the world, but meet them where they are and show them a better way.
Make Christ the centre of your existence and let all else revolve around him.