“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21
In seeking to pursue and announce the kingdom of God (Matthew 10:7, Matthew 28:19)), we model what Jesus did on earth. We demolish arguments and reject every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God in Christ, and take captive every thought and desire that would set itself up against the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the Son of God (2 Cor. 10:5), returning to submission under God’s Kingship in repentance, rest, quietness, and trust (Isaiah 30:15).
In obedience to Jesus, we seek the kingdom of God first, above every priority on earth (Matthew 6:33) trusting Him completely so as not to get bogged down by the anxieties of the world, the desire for riches or our renown, or the chasing after other possessions or security. Believing that we can neither serve “both God and man” (Gal. 1:10) nor “God and money” (Matt. 6:24), we respectfully decline the offer to build any kingdom that is not His. Any spiritual and material gifts He gives us to will be used to grow the kingdom (Matt 25:14-30). We don’t hoard wealth, we give it with profound generosity, trusting Him to provide for us as we go. Our primary job is to announce the good news of kingdom (Matthew 3:2). Everywhere we go our feet are fit with the gospel of peace (Eph 6:15), not as the world gives, but as Christ gives (John 14:27), a deep abiding peace of His presence that flows out to create a kingdom of mercy, righteousness and justice. We are ministers of that peace to the world (Matt.5:9).
BEING SUBJECT TO CHRIST AS OUR ONE KING
We are subject to governing authorities as long as they do not conflict with our obedience of God (Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 2:11ff), but our main objective whether we live as slave or free is to unashamedly make disciples wherever we are placed. Even as we honor authorities, our heart’s allegiance is not to governments, institutions, organizations, or denominations, but to God Himself who has established the reign and rule of His Son Jesus Christ (Phil.3:20). As heirs to this promise of ruling and reigning with God (Rev.20:6), and as those under His authority (1 Cor. 15:22-26), we desire to see His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:13). We only build for Christ now. There is no time to build for any other kingdom.
We lay down our lives for our friends and for Christ. (1 John 3:16). We seek to diminish that He may become greater. In doing so, we lose our desire to be noticed or affirmed. We serve out of love and submission to Christ and one another. We lose our fear of man (Gal.1:10) and therefore they lose their ability to manipulate us into building their kingdoms. We make disciples easily because we understand this to be our main purpose, so we learn to do it in a way that is natural and compassionate for us individually. We intentionally seek to become better disciple makers, not through strategy, but by listening to God on behalf of and alongside others. (more on this later)
RUINED FOR ALL ELSE
Now all of who have died with Christ, have died not metaphorically, but in the most real way possible, a spiritual death to our own definitions of good and evil, and to our quest for riches, renown and reputation. We actually die to self. We must. We are slaves of Christ. We are ruined for anything else but the kingdom.
We have to acknowledge how those truths are not simply creed of church jargon. We have to actually decide if we are going to leave fishing nets, which represents dependable livelihood, We have to decide if obeying God is worth leaving our income, homes and land (which represent security), parents (Luke 9:60), children, and wives and husbands (temporarily–not in divorce) if God calls us (Luke 18:28-30). We have to be ready to leave ministries and even friends and family who genuinely need us at the drop of a hat because Jesus is worth it and we can’t look back (Luke 9:62). When we work for the kingdom of God, the only voice capable of commanding us is the voice of God. Just like Jesus, we work for the kingdom. It is the narrow way that few find.
Here’s what Jesus said this will be like:
- Foxes have holes and birds have nests but you will, at least at times, have no where to lay your head
- You won’t be anxious about your life, what you’ll wear, what you’ll eat,
- You will give your possessions to everyone who asks and practice hospitality joyfully,
- You will help anyone you see who needs immediate help around you, many times at the expense of your schedule
- You will turn your cheek when you are injured,
- You will be motivated by love for God, not fear of man,
- You will not live by bread alone, but you will live on the Word of God.
- You will let the dead bury their own dead, but you will go and proclaim the kingdom of God
- You will put a hand to the plow and never look back
- We will follow Him like sheep, like one who hears the voice of the Lord, because we do.
Could it be that the tension we try to live in is because we are not actually obeying Christ in seeking the kingdom first but trying to coexist in two kingdoms? Some of us are even building kingdoms we thought were for Christ, but we know in our hearts we are not on the front lines. What are the kingdoms you’re building, friend? Is it his or yours?
PULL HIS CART
Remember how in session two we talked about coming under the yoke of Jesus? I want to expand on that saying of Christ here and extract all the beauty from it. He says “take my yoke upon you and learn from me because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” A yoke is a piece of carved wood that goes over the necks of two animals and attaches to the cart or plow. I always had asked Jesus to help me with my life—I used to ask Jesus to help me pull my cart, but then He asked me to leave my cart and come be yoked with Him and pull His. Here’s the picture again.
I finally realized Jesus and I were pulling two different carts!
The question is: What is the cart your pulling? Is it your cart or His? Are you ready to leave yours by the side of the road and come be yoked to Christ to pull HIS load?
There were a lot of really great things on my cart—things FOR HIM! So why would he ask me to leave it? Because those were my kingdoms, my temples, my gifts, my strengths. I left my cart on the side of Bethel Church Road three years ago. Now I only serve him in my weakness and His strength. I carry His load now. And I’m on the front lines. And I see His fruit. And it’s much more effective than what “my ministry” was before. What I found out was that my effort did not produce His fruit. His fruit is only realized as we abide in Him, listening and yielding in love driven obedience to His voice. That’s why it’s so important that we know His voice (from the last post). Here’s the amazing thing about His kingdom. According to Jesus, it will not be a hard thing to build the kingdom. It will be an easy and light load. I always felt my load to be heavy. Not anymore. Not in the same way. I still feel the anguish of Jesus, I participate in His sufferings, but I do not feel the pressure I used to live under all the time.
THE ALREADY-NOT-YET KINGDOM
The Kingdom began to be “with us” when Christ was born. (Luke 1:33) Christ announced it as He moved at the will of His Father through the earth. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”(Mark 1:15) We also see a fulfilled endgame of God in Revelation 11:15, when the angel announces a complete realization of God’s Kingdom: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
So we somehow live in a kingdom that is already realized but at the same time, we are building and announcing it! God is infinitely present throughout time, in time, and across time. So the kingdom is already His and not yet, because we have not seen the full realization of it in the earth. And we will not see the full realization of it on earth until Jesus returns and after the judgments are poured out on the earth. Everything is going to be decimated and then, THEN…God will bring a new heaven and a new earth that He is preparing for us even now. This is a beautiful tension we get to dance in. Now we are seeing righteousness and wickedness grow into maturity alongside one another like the parable of the wheat and the tares. But soon, the righteous in Christ will be separated from those who are not and this separation is the harvest of the world, which is ahead of us. Before then, we will see great revivals and a great “falling away,” a deception, leading to a great tribulation for the bold in Christ led at least in part by religious leaders. After those days of tribulation, Jesus will come, gather all His followers to Himself (Matthew 24-25). There will be a separating, a judgment, a gathering in of believers while the rest of the judgments of God’s wrath are poured out on the earth (Revelation 14). Jesus will be victorious in a very militaristic way over anyone who resists Him. Heaven and earth, itself, will pass away (2 Peter 3, Revelation 21). That is the basic timeline. Those are the details we know about the events coming, though we do not know many of the details or the exact day and hour. We can discern its nearness as we read the prophecies in scripture, and as things start happening, we will understand the times if we stay sober and alert, watching and praying for the return of Jesus and the fulfillment of His promises. But there is something else we know…
We are being invited to enter into and live in the kingdom of God right now in the way we live and in the authority we carry. The problem is very few can perceive it. As long as the church keeps running ourselves like the world, according to human structures and models, we will not enter into this kingdom reality. Entering the kingdom requires the trusting spirit and simplicity of a child. Just read the gospels and see how different life would be if we actually lived out what Jesus said the kingdom should be like. This was not for a mere 12 disciples. This was supposed to be all of us living in the kingdom mentality and operating in a kingdom reality in-not-of the world! We are supposed to be aliens and sojourners here, like exiles. (1 Peter 2:11-12) Are you ready to get on the front lines?
HOW DO I START?
Well, it’s simple. You listen and obey. God will start to move in your heart through circumstances, through scripture, through God meetings, through prayer, and through your time sitting at His feet.
Be brave. Let Him guide you. Actually. No contingency plans. Just sheer listening and obedience.
God’ purpose for you is not accomplished by building a resumé and earning a platform or level of influence. We live in a resumé culture, but God is inviting His people to rediscover our kingdom work placement outside of our qualifications. Think about what goes on a resumé. We piece together (sometimes literally) this picture of our qualifications, our education, our accomplishments, awards, and references (what others think of us). And then we present this to God and expect Him to “use” us, as if those things entitle us to placement in kingdom work. Since joining the front lines, I have been struck with not so much “how God has used me,” but how He did not choose to use me.
OUR USEFULNESS IS ONLY IN OUR AVAILABILITY
Here’s the thing about our Father’s wisdom. He keeps us humble by often asking us to operate out of our weaknesses and insufficiencies (that is, what we do not have), not our strengths (think Abraham, Moses, David, Gideon, Ruth, Joshua, Mary). He has recently seemed to ONLY “use me” in my places of weakness. I am very sorry to tell you this. Kind of. But it’s actually really good news. Are you ready?
Your usability for the kingdom is not your skills and qualifications, but your availability and intimacy with God. That’s it. But what about all my skills I have worked so hard to build? What about all my qualifications? Well, most people that I see being used mightily of God on the front lines of the kingdom are operating out of reliance, dependence, and the very clear recognition of God’s strength in their weakness.
WHY GOD CHOOSES WEAK, CHILDLIKE, AND FOOLISH PEOPLE
Recently, after a very busy week where my time with Jesus had been limited to just quick prayers, I actually came in angry and yelled at my husband the following borderline blasphemous statement: “If you were God, why would you actually make it impossible to function without you? Why can’t I even pull myself together for a few days without sitting at His feet!” My sweet husband looked at me, dumbfounded, then smiled and uttered a simple, “I don’t know.” Poor thing. Somebody give the man a trophy for putting up with me through this process—over and over.
But now I know why God asks us to operate from our weakness and in complete dependence on Him. He does this to keep us locked into trust—reliant on Him and His power.
Warning: Living in this kind of trust and reliance will destroy your ability to function without Him.
But here is the wisdom I think, behind why He does things this way. You know why we can’t function without Him? It’s because He wants relationship. That IS the goal! He wants oneness with you. He wants trust. He wants intimacy. He wants to lead you in real time, like He led Jesus, step by step.
The solution–yield. Find yourself at His feet. All. The. Time. This is the truth from the ground.
YOUR PLACEMENT IS NOT A PUZZLE
Be warned, all you planners. He does not always place you where you think you should be placed in the harvest. Your “being used” may not be tied to your job description, your skillset, or your ideas of “usefulness.” Instead your ability to be used is determined by your availability and sensitivity to Him leading you into step-by-step trust, just the same way Jesus lived, in complete dependence on hearing, knowing, and obeying the directions of His Father in every situation.
Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19
For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. John 12:49
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. John 6:38
To re-phrase, because this point is crucial, you can stop trying to find and lock into your “role” in God’s plan…simply ask Him place you daily in his agenda, his arena of glory and to open your eyes to what He is doing and direct your steps and words to love Him and serve others in those places. You will be amazed at the opportunities to bring the Kingdom into this world that come your way when you lay down and just becomes clay in His hands. Focus on Him, not you. Seek his righteousness and His kingdom rule first and everything else will come. As you rely on the Spirit more and more, you will notice SPIRITUAL gifts emerge. These might align with your natural giftings, but they probably won’t (because of the principle of God delighting to use us in our weakness). Your natural gifts may still get an outlet, but it will not under the same pressure to find a way to use those for God. It will just be out of JOY of a child playing with a gift their dad gave them! Serious joy! Your spiritual gifts will be the ones given to you, well…by the Spirit…as you seek Him and serve Him in quiet, hidden places.
In this mindset, our usability is based in us being at His feet as soil, hosting His life as seed, abiding “in Him” as fruit-bearing branches, and at His side in the field. He reserves the right to move us and lift us up to places we never aspired to be or bring us all the way down to the lowest task.
It will drive you crazy until you decide to be soft and obedient and let Him be who He is. He is the Lord of the Harvest. What if you forget about your life plan? Desire only to be led by Him (which requires learning and recognizing His voice, which happens when you listen to someone for a long time). Die to all the things He asks you to die to (this is a very personal process). Your life then will naturally get wrapped up in His presence, His purpose, and His praise, and He will take you on a great adventure that is beyond your plans—beyond your wildest imagination!
SERVE OUT OF REST
One of our problems in Christianity is that we have prioritized a theology of usefulness and hard work instead of availability and rest. We believe God desires our rest and reliance on Him. The people he chooses to use are not the wise and learned ones, but the available ones who sit at His feet and know His voice. The most useful person to God is the most lovingly, trustingly reliant. Our only pertinent qualifications are our deep, continual connection to Christ, the desperate, penetrating thirst for His Holy Spirit to lead and empower us for witness, and a passion for His glory, not ours. That’s all. Again, our usefulness to the kingdom of God boils down to simple trust, listening, openness, reliance, availability, and immediate obedience out of all this love and trust. He is calling the weary and burdened to build out of a place of rest! To take His yoke and learn from Him. He describes Himself as gentle and humble and our yoke as easy and light. That’s how we build the kingdom.
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:25
These five things about Jesus and the Kingdom of God are vitally important:
- The person of Jesus and the message of the Kingdom should be simple enough for a kid or uneducated person to grasp. The kingdom accessible to anyone God reveals it to—usually not those relying on human logic or wisdom, but usually those who are childlike in trust that seems almost foolish.
- The Kingdom is revealed by Jesus (in scripture) and by His Spirit. The Son reveals knowledge about the Father and the Father’s will. He later said He was going to do that even more through His Spirit, who will also intercede for us according to the Father’s will! (John 16, Romans 8:26-27)
- You can perceive the Kingdom! You are meant to see it happening in front of you as you walk carrying the gospel of peace! We are to build this kingdom with living stones (people)! That means God can give you insight into peoples’ hearts so you can pour out His healing and salvation in Jesus’s name. You may heal the sick and cast out demons along the way…this is supposed to happen. But your true joy will be found in just being His–in being washed in His blood at the cross, in knowing and being known by Him, in your name being written in the book of life. `
- The kingdom is near. It is within you. Because (as we will talk about in the next session) the Word of Christ is planted in you and grows His life out of you and you multiply His seed to the heart soil of others where it also grows and bears fruit and spreads and Jesus takes over the world just by your attention being on the one thing necessary—paying attention to Jesus, the seed of Abraham, the kernel of grain that died and now is living IN US!! It’s pretty effortless! It’s just us being rested soil, and Christ growing in us! We joyfully speak the Word too, and in doing so, we plant it in the hearts of others.
- It is a kingdom of peace and rest for the weary and burdened and we get to provide that for people. We get to invite others into peace. We can help break yokes off of people and hand out forgiveness, mercy, and justice like free ice cream! It’s so exciting to just follow Jesus!
WHAT IS HE CALLING YOU TO DROP?
I love the way Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors and they left their nets and their tables and followed Him. What is the equivalent of that for us today? Is he asking you to drop something so you can move freely into the front lines of the Kingdom?
What would it look like if the church began to live like this? To return to rest, quietness, and trust and to spending our attention and focus on hosting Jesus and nurturing the Kingdom of God on earth. What if we were so singularly focused on Jesus that everything else paled. What if our only ambition was to see Him known among the nations of people? Would that change how we spend our time and efforts? Would that shift our attention off of ourselves and the trivial things of the world long enough to wake us up as a global church?
Bride of Christ, it is time to wake up and come alive again in Jesus. You have been called to leave your cart, take your blinders off, refocus, drop what you are doing and seek first the kingdom of God. People need Jesus. They want to see the Father. And He has chosen to be in the world through His people who are filled and flowing with the Living Water of the Holy Spirit. What an extraordinary gift to be living in this time and place!
Wake up Bride of Christ! The Kingdom of Heaven is HERE! MARANATHA! COME, LORD JESUS!!!
Verses about the Kingdom:
and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end!”
1 Corinthians 15:24
Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power.
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers there.
Then the seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and loud voices called out in heaven: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.”
Then I saw the thrones, and those seated on them had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image, and had not received its mark on their foreheads or hands. And they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
There will be no more night in the city, and they will have no need for the light of a lamp or of the sun. For the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.
“I have installed My King on Zion, upon My holy hill.”
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD. All the families of the nations will bow down before Him.
May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him.
All the nations You have made will come and bow before You, O Lord, and they will glorify Your name.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful in all His words and kind in all His actions.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.
The nations will escort Israel and bring it to its homeland. Then the house of Israel will possess the nations as menservants and maidservants in the LORD’s land. They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors.
For you will spread out to the right and left; your descendants will dispossess the nations and inhabit the desolate cities.
For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly destroyed.
In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will shatter all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself stand forever.
But at the end of those days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity was restored to me. Then I praised the Most High, and I honored and glorified Him who lives forever: “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
I hereby decree that in every part of my kingdom, men are to tremble in fear before the God of Daniel: For He is the living God, and He endures forever; His kingdom will never be destroyed, and His dominion will never end.
And He was given dominion, glory, and kingship, so that every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever–yes, forever and ever.’