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.
Faith can seem like a strange thing. One day you are on top of the world. You are facing huge obstacles, yet you are trusting God and you know way down deep in that place that’s hard to describe, that you are going to come through this OK.
In fact, you are quite sure that the obstacles are crumbling before you.
Then there are other days. (You know, one of “those” days).
Just getting out of bed in the morning seems like a huge feat – and one that you might not be able to pull off!
So what happened? How can that be?
One day you’re up; one day you’re down. One day you see yourself right up there with David …and Paul! The next day, you’re more like Demas, the loser.
Will you ever be consistent and not wavering? You begin to doubt your ability to walk with God in a reputable way. Can you truly be His person?
Yes, you can. You just have to understand the nature of faith and why it may seem elusive.
One way to grasp the right perspective would be to compare your spiritual strength to your natural strength.
Life is fluid. Health is fluid. Strength is fluid. Strength of any kind is not like an object which you acquire and proudly display. It is part of your living being, and as in any part of life, there are efforts which are essential to maintain it.
Consider an athlete – such as an NFL player. Can you imagine what would happen if he took his strength for granted? He wouldn’t be around very long.
Even when he looks and acts like he has arrived at the zenith of physical perfection, he continues to work out and to practice. And, if he suffers an injury and has to sit out for awhile, his training increases to a new level upon his return. The athlete knows that his strength, endurance, and physical expertise are totally dependent on practice and training. He would never expect to maintain his desired level of achievement while in a total rest mode.
We need to take a lesson from the athletes. We need to honor the precious thing we call faith – our belief in God – our trust in His Word – and our zealous appropriation of all that He has for us. We must realize that our fath is a living thing. It grows or it diminishes. And a lot of the current status of this precious faith is dependent upon our current mindset.
The Bible says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17) The nutrition which feeds our faith is God’s Word, and if we aren’t nourishing our spirits with his rich food, our faith will be diminishing. Even if yesterday we considered ourselves spiritual giants, yesterday’s food will not keep us full of faith. It’s like the manna in the wilderness which became rancid on the next day. We need fresh food everyday.
Let’s go a little deeper.
“Word” in Romans 10:17 is the Greek word “rhema.” It means the spoken word. The revealed word.
As you read the Bible, verses will seem to leap off the page and “speak” to you. You will sense that God is speaking those verses to you personally, and your faith will be built up by them.
As you meditate on those words, they will become planted in your heart and your mind. They will become yours to believe and to act upon.
Then in Jude 20, we see that faith is built up by praying in the spirit. So how is your daily prayer life? Do you check in with your spiritual headquarters every day, listening for direction, heeding His nudge, and listening for His voice of encouragement and affirmation?
Do you speak His Word into the atmosphere around you, changing the fog of delusion into the clarity of His vision?
Remember, yesterday’s manna is rancid. (Exodus 16: 15-20). Every day we start with a new need for our Father and His Word. Every day we have an opportunity to build on our strength of the past, or to allow that strength to recede.
Staying the same is never an option.
As a pastor, my husband led those in our church to say often, “I believe God.”
That seems so simple, you might think, well of course we do. But as you say those simple words, you will find your spirit leaping within you. A resounding, “yes!” You do indeed believe God and not man.
All of society around us needs us to be true believers, strong in our understanding and faith.
So let me encourage you. Believe God and strengthen your faith continually.
Read His Word. Pray. Do those things which build up your faith, and those things which cause it to continue.
When you find discouragement creeping into your thoughts, run to Gods Word. Ask Him for guidance in what to read. Then read and meditate. Allow that Word to become part of you.
There is power in hope. Regardless of the way things may look, when you have hope, you can count on a brighter future.
For 25 years we lived in a house which had been built in 1877. While there, one of my delights was being surprised by many outbursts of color as shrubs bloomed or bulbs suddenly created a splash on the scene.
And there were trees galore – of all sizes and shapes.
One of my favorites was an oddity. There was a tree which had been cut down, but which had refused to quit! It had a stump dwindling away, but right in the middle of the stump, was a tree. Standing tall and proud, this tree had grown right up out of the center of that stump.
I loved that tree. It wasn’t really the prettiest one around, but it spoke volumes to me.
Then I ran across these verses.
For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again. And its shoots will not fail.
Though its roots grow old in the ground, and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant. (Job 14:7-9)
That tree became a picture of hope for me.
Is there something in your life which seems dead? Your career? Your marriage? Your relationship with a child?
If so, pray and ask God to show you how to proceed. He is a God of Hope, and He will begin to impress upon you pictures which are different from what you see with your eyes.
Ask Him to guide you to verses in the Bible which uphold your vision of hope, and start speaking those verses to yourself and to the world around you.
As you do this, you will be developing your very own arsenal of weapons against fear, doubt, and depression. You will find yourself seeing with spiritual eyes more than the natural.
Then do what He says.
That’s how you fight the good fight of faith. And it’s how you turn things around.
Now be persistent and be patient.
Be like that Tree of Hope in my yard.
When that tree first got cut down, I’m certain that it looked completely dead. There was no evidence that any life remained.
But at the scent of water (in your case the scent of the Holy Spirit speaking life to you), the green in the tree began to grow. It had to fight its way to become a tree again. It had to be persistent and patient.
Eventually the shoot overcame the obstacles and won its right to be a tree again.
That’s like you and like me. We are determined not to be cut down and destroyed.
We are coming back. We will make the changes we need to make, and we will come back. Stronger. Taller.
That’s the way it is when we follow our God’s direction. We always have hope for a better day.
Our God is faithful to guide us to that victory.
May your Christmas season be filled with God’s hope!
Frederick Douglass was one of the great movers, shakers, and thinkers of the 19th century. As a young slave in Maryland, he learned to read – and began to teach his fellow slaves by reading the Bible.
Determined to be free from slavery, young Douglass escaped and fled to New York to a safe community for freed slaves.
Then his attentions turned to freeing others.
Frederick Douglass established a newspaper, North Star, and became a writer and orator. Douglass traveled the United States and into Europe speaking for the abolition of slavery – and for women’s rights.
He wrote several autobiographies, sharing his stories of slavery, deliverance, and his Christian views.
Douglass was truly a remarkable man. One who stood up before his time. Before it was fashionable.
His quotes are significant nearly 2 centuries later.
One is especially significant today.
I have one great political idea. . . . That idea is an old one. It is widely and generally assented to; nevertheless, it is very generally trampled upon and disregarded.
The best expression of it, I have found in the Bible.
It is in substance, “Righteousness exalteth a nation; sin is a reproach to any people” [Proverbs 14:34].
This constitutes my politics – the negative and positive of my politics, and the whole of my politics. . . .
I feel it my duty to do all in my power to infuse this idea into the public mind, that it may speedily be recognized and practiced upon by our people.
An amazing man. An amazingly accurate outlook.
[Frederick Douglass, The Frederick Douglass Papers, John Blassingame, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), Vol. 2, p. 397, from a speech delivered at Ithaca, New York, October 14th, 1852.]
My grandson, Charlie, is in Middle School now, and a very bright guy.
Recently I thought of an episode which happened several years ago. He was about three, sitting on my lap, when with wide eyes, he began to tell me his story.
Spider Man, Batman, Pink Venom, Black Venom, and Green Goblin were having a “spend-the-night party.” He animatedly continued to create this adventure, which eventually led to a gi-normous (that’s bigger than gigantic or enormous alone) box falling on their heads and they had to fight it off.
All of us listening to Charlie’s imagination on steroids, couldn’t help but chuckle. What a creative mind! You could see the wheels turning as he churned out his tale.
Later, in a quieter moment, I began to think how we adults lose that creativity. What happens to us? Why are we always so methodical and logical about any visions or goals we might have?
Why do we always settle for the “norm?”
If everyone “settled for the norm,” we would have none of the cutting edge technology, space travel, or medical wonders of our generation. So some are not settling, but how about you? How about me?
The Bible says that faith is the substance of things “hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.”(Hebrews 11:1)
The hoped for is the thing I want to talk about today. The hope is like a blueprint in your mind of what you are believing for. If you don’t have a picture in your mind of what you are believing for, then how can you have faith for it? You can’t!
In another blog, I talked about the woman who came to Jesus, pushing through the crowd to receive healing from a hemorrhage. She had been living with the condition for 12 years, and had spent all of her money on doctors, but had not received her healing. Yet she clearly had a vision of herself being healed by Jesus, because she said that she knew if she touched Him she would be made well.
That was creative hope, which didn’t settle for what all of the natural evidence suggested.
Can you imagine what her family might have said to her that day? They probably would have told her that she had been to the best doctors, now just accept this condition and do the best you can with it. They might even have told her that God wanted her to be sick. But she knew better than all of them. She knew that Jesus could accomplish what natural man never could. And she was right!
That creative hope is from God.
He created us in His image, and He always has a special plan in mind about the progression of things. He has special plans for you, but if you are always too busy to spend time with Him, you will never know these plans. You will never develop the Godly hope He wants for us.
Let me encourage you today to spend time with God and His Word. Pray and expect Him to answer.
Ask Him to show you some plans He wants for you. As you continue in this direction, you will begin to see desires drop into your heart…Godly desires. Desires that your faith can then catapult into reality.
In the meantime, enjoy the journey. It’s truly an adventure when we are walking with God!