What is the Kingdom of God WITHIN? (Luke 17:21)
Going back to our root definition of the kingdom of God (part 1), the kingdom is any time and any place in which the rule and reign of God is expressed. This expression is manifested in 8 key ways (part 1), one of which is the kingdom of God within you.
The parables of Jesus emphasize this aspect of the kingdom, a sadly overlooked fact in the body of Christ today…
“And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. “Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. “But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”” Luke 8:4-8, NKJV.
This is one of those rare occasions in which Jesus actually provides the interpretive key to his parable:
““Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:11, NKJV.
Please stick with me… I’m going somewhere with this. What does the seed (word) accomplish when it’s planted in the soil (the human heart)?
““But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Luke 8:15, NKJV.
or… to do some sleight of hand and jump to Matthew’s version:
““But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”” Matthew 13:23, NKJV.
Okay. I wish to make a really important point that waaaayyyy to many Christians (Christ-followers, disciples, Jesus People) miss. The point that Jesus makes is that BEARING FRUIT is the job of the IMPLANTED SEED, not the job of the SOIL.
Huh? In other words, the soil itself is not alive, the seed is. It has the power. It has the life. It grows. Yes, it draws nourishment from the soil, and the soil is the environment in which it grows. And yes, the soil can be rocky or thorny and choke out the life. But the soil itself doesn’t grow. The seed does.
And the soil itself doesn’t bear fruit: the seed, having grown into a tree, bears the fruit.
All of which Jesus compares to the kingdom of God.
May I tenderly express a grief that I carry? I grieve that so many churches/ pastors/ leaders are out there urging followers of Jesus TO GO FORTH AND BEAR FRUIT… when all we are is SOIL! Get it? Soil doesn’t bear fruit… seed, brought to maturity, does.
So, Dear Regenerate Soil: QUIT TRYING TO BEAR FRUIT!
Or to put it another way:
“And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, “and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. “For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.” Mark 4:26-28, NKJV.
Please notice the underlined words above: the earth yields crops BY ITSELF. Without your help. Without your magic. Without your striving. Without your life force. Hey, I’m just quoting Jesus & explicating what he teaches!
The Greek text here is wonderfully instructive: by itself = automatos, which one dictionary defines as, “moved by one’s own impulse, or acting without the instigation or intervention of another” (Thayer).
And all of this is what? The kingdom of God, says Jesus in the passage above.
The most pervasive problem within Christian-dumb is this confusion between soil and seed. Which leads to multiple malfunctions:
- A neglect of seed-sowing (a dissing of the Word of God, and minimizing its ongoing role in our lives).
- A neglect of soil prep (such a focus on outward behavior that we neglect the heart–the kingdom of God within)
- The harvesting of unripened fruit (good works that are sour to God and the world)
- Proud farmers, who take false credit for the miracle of growth.
- Discouraged farmers, who wonder why the seed fails to bear fruit.
Until our imagination is fully informed and matured by the Word of God, we will always imagine ourselves as the DOERS of our own holiness, instead of the implanted Word (Jas 1:21), which has its own POWER to make us holy.
We need our minds renewed (Rom 12:2) BEFORE we can rush out to heal our world, and its poverty and AIDS, and the environment, and injustice and every other social ill we may care about. Otherwise we bear unripe fruit and the world scoffs, and the gospel is diserviced, and Jesus is not happy, and we are not blessed and our fragrant offering becomes corpse-breath (Rom 3:13). We pastors must exhort GROWTH over SERVICE lest we burn out the sheep.
We must build the rule and reign of God WITHIN (the kingdom of God within) BEFORE we sally forth to enforce the rule and reign of God without (in the world). The failure to respect this order makes us come across as hypocritical morality police.
Yes, yes, yes, I am aware of many passages which instruct us to go forth and bear fruit. But I maintain that a thorough investigation of each such passage in its context will reveal that whatever fruit is borne, is borne by the power of God implanted in the soul of a human.
Which is the kingdom of God within. Or, let’s call it the Royal Palace of the Soul, and discuss it in the next blog.
Until then–Go forth and don‘t bear fruit! Let the immortal, supernatural SEED, which is the powerful Word of God, produce fruit within you FIRST (altering your personality), and then around you SECOND (in your world).