What does it mean, exactly to be a part of God’s Kingdom?
In an earlier post we talked about being Born Again. That is the Foundation upon which we build our lives as Christians.
It’s also what distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. All religions have rules of good and evil. Principles for the supposed “Good Life.”
Only Christianity brings us a Savior who died for our sins, and who sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of us. We are changed from within our hearts. Truly a miracle!
Though Abraham wasn’t born again, he can give us a picture hinting at our truth.
By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going…For he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:8 (NIV)
Something similar happens to us when we receive Jesus. We realize that we have been called to a new “place.” A new paradigm. We don’t know exactly what to expect, but we know that we need to know our God. And we know that His plans are better for us than our own plans.
St. Augustine, who lived in the 4th and 5th centuries had this experience in a dramatic way.
He had lived a raucous life until he was born again. His life was drunkenness, fighting, and unruly living in general. After his born again experience, he changed completely, and went on to be one of the most important Christian leaders — greatly influencing early Christianity.
He was a prolific writer, grasping the significance of the Christian life.
Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.
Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions, 400ce
Every person on earth is looking for love and acceptance. Especially from God.
The interesting thing is that often people don’t know it. They may think that money will satisfy that restlessness. Or fame. Or beauty. Or sex. Or one more vacation.
But none of these fill the void. Otherwise, you would see all the famous rich people living joyful lives. Yet we know that this isn’t the case. Often they drink and drug themselves in order to dull the pain and restlessness they are experiencing.
There is only one thing which will fill that void. Or one Person.
When we meet Jesus — and receive Him as our Savior — we are changed. From the inside out. Not looking to outward things to bring happiness, but looking to inward, as our spirits come alive.
Several things change…
We become aware of God’s great love for us. We realize that He is not holding our sin against us, because Jesus paid that awful price for our sins.
We realize that Jesus is indeed alive — and His Spirit has come to live in us.
As we read the Bible, no longer do we merely see words on a page. These words seem to be written just to us and for us.
As we read and study, we come to know that we have entered a whole new realm. The Kingdom of God.
We will sense God directing us as we walk with Him.
We will be aware of God’s presence and His voice. Sometimes this voice will be audible, but not often. Usually it will be what we refer to as a “still, small voice.” Something like a gentle “knowing” from Him.
We will desire to share our new experience with others.
We have become citizens of a new country. The Kingdom of God.
In II Corinthians 5:16–20 (NIV)
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do no longer.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.
All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. That God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting peoples’ sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We are therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God has made Him who knew no sin to be made sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. The old is gone. The new is here.
We are Christ’s ambassadors. Ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.
If you were to become an ambassador of your country, you would have to go through training. You would be expected to learn many things about your country as you prepare for your mission. The history. The methods. The plans.
It’s the same with God’s Kingdom.
God has given us a manual: the Bible. And an instructor: the Holy Spirit within us. As well as other teachers who help us glean the truths from God’s Word.
As born again believers, we read, listen, and learn about our Kingdom.
Just as any good ambassador, we don’t want to represent our own personal interests to others. We want to represent our country — and our King.
We present His plans, and not our own plans, to the world.
Instead of hate, we show God’s love. His mercy. His forgiveness.
Instead of selfishness, we show an attitude of giving.
We are ministers of reconciliation — sharing the love of God with the world.
Over the years, I have seen some of the meanest people turn into the most loving. Some of the most troubled changed to the most stable. Some of the most depressed turned into happy, productive individuals.
God is real and His Kingdom is real. When you and others enter that Kingdom, there are many benefits waiting for you. They are treasures we must dig from His Word and apply to our own lives.
In John 17:14–19 Jesus is praying for His followers down through the ages. He says, They are not of this world, as I am not of this world. But then he says, Don’t take them out of the world, but protect them from the evil one. (John 17:14–19)
He wants us to stay and be His representatives — His ambassadors — to the world. To represent His plans and purposes to those we know.
Thus, we must be listening to God, obeying his word, and allowing His Spirit to be big in us.
With Paul, we say…
II Corinthians 1:12 (NIV) We have conducted ourselves in the world and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and Godly sincerity. We have done so, not relying on worldly wisdom, but on the grace of God
We are representing a Kingdom which will never end. One which is higher than any earthly Kingdom. And one whose King will reign forever — with love, goodness, and power.
What a privilege!
Let’s do this!
Note: This series is an adaptation of a series Ambassadors for Christ, taught by Mickey Estes at Good News Church in Blue Mountain, MS.
The year was 1985 and our family was visiting my parents on the southeastern coast of Georgia. As my husband and I drove over the causeway to Sea Island, we were overwhelmed with the beauty – the incredible expanse of marsh grass, the huge Live Oaks dripping with Moss, the windswept trees, the sand dunes, and the array of extraordinary vacation homes.
Each home was unique – representing the taste of its owner. There were some resembling ornate French palaces. Others exhibiting more of a rustic look. Some extremely modern. Others traditional.
There were also some common elements.
These homes were very expensive – and well-manicured. They were the vacation homes of well-moneyed families, top executives, greatest philanthropists, and even international royalty.
The richest of the rich. And many of the leaders of our nation.
I had taken this drive many times over the years and had loved it. It was refreshing and energizing to see the variety of homes and landscapes, and awesome to think of the money required to maintain such a lifestyle. Splendor and more splendor.
But this time it seemed different.
I felt a heaviness coming upon me – a sadness. I couldn’t understand why this could be. Suddenly I realized that God was calling me to pray. But why right now?
As we returned home, I went off alone to talk to God and He began to give me some revelation which has continued unfolding through the years.
Those homes were homes of the most powerful leadership in our country. Since they were the leaders, they also made a statement about the spiritual condition of our country.
Then I was in for a surprise.
The Lord led me to Isaiah 46:1,2: Bel bows down, Nebo stoops over…They bow down together. They cannot save, but are themselves going into captivity.
During this season, my husband and I had been studying about the time when Israel was taken into Babylonian captivity. They were captured and carried away to a foreign land – with foreign gods, and foreign customs. We were studying the underlying conditions of Israel which had caused that to happen, realizing that the natural episode was a type for a spiritual condition.
Then the Lord spoke very clearly, “My church has been taken into Babylonian captivity. No longer am I, the One true God, being worshiped, but the Babylonian gods are being worshiped. Bel (Baal) and Nebo are the idols of my church now.”
I knew who Bel (Baal) was: the god of prosperity. But who was Nebo?
I began to do some research. Nebo was the Babylonian god of handwriting, but by extension he became the god of education and the intellect.
Ah, there you have it. I knew what God was saying. He was saying that the church trusted more in money and in humanistic education than they did in Him, the one true God.
This new revelation took some pondering, because I knew that our God didn’t want us to be poor and ignorant. He wants us to be educated and to be prosperous.
But when we don’t put Him first, when we don’t look to God for our answers then the blessings of education and prosperity can become a curse. They can cause us to worship the creature and not the Creator.
We become humanistic in our approach to life.
I started to see how entrenched these idols have become in our culture, and the results are obvious. When we are worshiping ourselves, there are no standards. We think that whatever we desire is just fine. No restrictions. Lust, greed, perversion: no problem.
For many, the rule has become that whatever you can “get by with” is okay. Much hurt and confusion have come as these idols have caused us to trample God’s truth and to trample each other.
But God is calling back to Him those who will listen. He is calling us out of Babylon. He wants to cleanse us and show us His true nature. Then He wants to show Himself strong to the world.
So am I coming against education? Am I coming against prosperity?
Of course not! These are gifts from our Father.
But we are called to worship the Gift-giver, not the gift. When our hearts are pure and our perspective is clear, these gifts are true blessings.
They enrich our lives and those of others.
It all comes back to the attitude of the heart. When our hearts are in the right place, then we do have standards: God’s standards. And these standards are the foundation for our knowledge and wisdom. They become a base upon which we build our beliefs.
It seems like it’s time for all of us to do a heart check, and to continue to do these checks as we go forward.
There is much for us to do, and we want to have clear minds. We want to represent God’s truth to the world, not a skewed version of it.
Only pure hearts can do that.
It’s time to bow our knee and let God be God.
Let Him clear our focus.
It’s time to cast aside any Babylonian garment we may have acquired, and represent our father in spirit and in truth.
Many are talking about “awakening” these days. We are praying for it. We are believing God for it. Yet what will it look like? Will we recognize it when it comes?
Do you know what an “awakening” would look like?
Some think that it means there would be large meetings where almost everyone present will turn their lives to the Lord. That may be the case sometimes, but not always. Some think that street preachers will suddenly begin seeing many salvations. Maybe so, but not necessarily. Some think that TV and radio ministries will be bombarded with requests. That could be, but again, not necessarily.
You see, in the 70’s and 80’s (and maybe a little before), there was an awakening – and I was in on it. At the time, it was obvious that something unusual was happening…Looking back it is even more obvious.
It was an exciting time, for sure. My husband and I both were impacted by the Lord and His Holy Spirit during that season.
So what was it like?
As most of us know, salvation is a personal experience. Whether we are standing in a large crowd or on a beach alone, the connection we make with our Creator is personal. God and you, God and me, God and them – one on one. Hearts desiring more of Him – and receiving His very nature. That’s awakening, but what gets someone to that point?
If you talk to people who were a part of that great move of God, every story will be different. In my case, I had been going through some very rough waters, and knew that I needed God’s help to survive. And I had a friend, Cathy, who would drop gentle hints which were easy for a hard-headed person like me to receive. The day finally came when I laid face-down on the floor of my home and prayed to receive my Savior – if He was real. He was, and He changed my life forever.
My husband’s case was different. The life of a single professional – with plenty of money and lots of “good times,” was leaving him empty on the inside. There was something nagging at his heart, drawing him to seek more of God’s will in his life. He was ready when a friend gave him a copy of The Late Great Planet Earth. Finally he knelt at the foot of his bed, and asked Jesus to come into his heart. He too felt the call and responded while alone in his home.
I have heard many of these stories, and all of them are different. Yet there are some similarities. My husband and I – and many others – had a stirring in our hearts which lasted for awhile. There wasn’t a one-day episode; there was a season of seeking, though we might not have known what we were doing. Thoughts, questions, desires, all drawing us to want to know what life was all about – and wanting to know more about God.
In reality, God was drawing us to Him.
When the day finally came for us to make a commitment to Jesus, that commitment was total. Though we had been living very selfish, worldly lives, that moment of salvation threw us onto a trajectory which was totally new and different, and we have never turned back. Of course, we had a lot to learn, but day by day, year by year, the new course was eternal – and nothing could ever turn us back to our original paths.
Another similarity is that we – along with many others – had a close friend or acquaintance who spoke some words, or gave us a book, or invited us to a small meeting – pouring water on the thirsty ground of our hearts. And, no doubt, those same people and others were praying for us – reaching out to God on our behalf when we didn’t know how to do it for ourselves.
There was a drawing, a seeking, and a permanent change. There was an unprecedented hunger for God’s Word and His Spirit. There was also an individual who was willing to be used by God to steer us to the truth.
During those years, there were countless stories with these similarities. In many different ways and under many different circumstances, peoples’ lives were being transformed by the power of God and by his Word.
As a result of this great move of God, many churches began to spring up. These churches were led and attended by those who wanted to experience God’s best through His word and by His Spirit. There was energetic praise and powerful teaching of the Word. There were also demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s healing and deliverance.
Exciting times for sure!
Now as we are looking for an awakening, are we ready to be a part? Are we ready to toss seed to our friends or co-workers or pray for them as God leads? Do we realize that we have a part in this?
Oh, for sure, there will be dreams and visions and life-changing events which seem to come from God alone. Yet our God always uses the individual, because there is nothing quite as beneficial as one-on-one mentoring.
Are you ready? Am I? I pray that we are willing to listen and to obey His bidding. If we do, we have some great times in store.
One here, one there, just as the awakening of flowers in the spring, we will see an awakening which not only matches the one we saw before. We will see the greatest awakening of all times.
Every year when we celebrate Independence Day, my mind wanders back to the roots of our nation. It is clear that regardless of all of the flaws of its people, God has blessed the United States of America.
“Why?” one might ask. “What’s so special about the US?”
That’s when I start reminding myself about our founders – like John Adams. They didn’t get everything right – after all, they were humans. They had some wrong ideas… some of them preposterously wrong!
Yet in their hearts, most of the founding fathers knew that there was a God who created us. They also knew that the Christian principles of the Bible had to be the foundation for the new nation.
That realization was what this country was built on.
Over the decades God has brought correction to us. He has addressed slavery and the rights of all people. He has guided us toward retribution and compassion toward the Native Americans.
And He has continued to bless us.
Today we can’t stop receiving His correction. A return to Biblical principles will answer much confusion and error in our current society. We will have to see our God as the source of all wisdom and knowledge – and the only One with the answers we so desperately need.
Listen to what John Adams had to say.
SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; JUDGE; DIPLOMAT; ONE OF TWO SIGNERS OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS; SECOND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.1
The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost. . . . There is no authority, civil or religious – there can be no legitimate government but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words damnation.2
Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company: I mean hell.3
The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity.4
Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be!5
I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.6
1, Thomas Jefferson The Writings Of ThomasJefferson, (Washington, DC: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, pp 292-294. In a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813.
2. Letter from John Adams to Benjamin Rush, from Quincy, Massachusetts, dated Dec 21, 1809.
3. John Adams, The Works Of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1856) Vol X, p 254, to Thomas Jefferson on April 19, 1817.
4. John Adams, Works, Vol III, p. 421, diary entry for July 26, 1796
5. John Adams, Works, Vol II, pp 6-7, diary entry for Feb 22, 1756 6. John Adams, Works, Vol X, p 85, to Thomas Jefferson on Dec 25, 1813
A couple of weeks ago, the Holy Spirit woke me up at 3 am and spoke these words into my spirit. “Stir up the gift which is within you.” (II Tim 1:6)
I knew exactly what He was saying.
You see, our church had been holding a campmeeting with Ted Shuttlesworth and his son, Ted, Jr. The building was packed out with visitors praising and worshiping God, clearly eager to receive the divinely inspired messages. And they were not disappointed. The rafters shook with the booming praise, clapping, dancing, and rejoicing over our God and what He is doing in the earth. Healings were dramatic and often. Throngs were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time.
As the night proceeded, I felt the gifts were being stirred in me – and others. In that atmosphere there is always an awareness of heaven’s touch – and the reality of the Kingdom of God.
It reminded me of earlier days…maybe because it was like earlier days. It reminded me of the days when there was rejoicing in the city by the many people who were turning to the Lord, getting saved, baptized in the Holy Spirit and shouting their newfound truth to the rooftops. (more…)