Jesus & the Kingdom of God, pt 4

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I’m back. I was on blog hiatus, enjoying my final week with my family before heading back to the office this week.

 

 

This is our third installment in a series on the kingdom of God. If you missed the first two, you might not get all I’m saying in this one… so, if you like, simply scroll down a little and get caught up.

Definition: the Kingdom of God is any time and any place in which the rule and reign of God is expressed.

That definition becomes inadequate as soon as you point out that the rule and reign of God is universal and eternal, and it is always expressed even when we fail to acknowledge it. And since the writers of Scripture do not make the equation that the (kingdom of God) = (everything, all the time), let’s make an addition.

Definition: The k.o.g. is any time and any place in which the rule and reign of God is expressed AND respected/enjoyed/responded to.

End it however you like; it entails a manifestation of the reign of God that summons forth a positive response from those who encounter it. In part one, I identified 8 manifestations of the k.0.g. In part 2, I introduced #8: the Kingdom of God Within. Today, I’d like to say a little more about #8, the Kingdom Within.

Or, as I have called it in my churches, the Royal Palace of the Soul.

I’ve heard all kinds of so-called Christian reactions to the culture around us. I’ve heard that we should be separate and different. I’ve heard that we should be integrated and involved. I’ve been told that society is going downhill so fast that we shouldn’t have kids. And as a dad with two little kids, I am concerned about the environment my children will grow up in.

pic-0040.jpgBut as a Christian, I have something I’m even more concerned about, and you should be too: not the environment my kids grow up in, but the environment that grows up in my kids.

God is not only concerned with your environment, he is at least equally concerned with your invironment.

That is why Jesus emphasizes the Kingdom within; an emphasis that is strangely overlooked in most Bible teaching today. I’m not sure why, but I have a hunch: pastors and teachers are overly concerned with works and behavior, and pressure their churches into activity. All branches and no roots. Or, to stick w/the analogy, all superstructure and no substructure.

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1. The Bible compares your inner life to a construction project: ““Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:” Matthew 7:24, NKJV. “Through wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 24:3, 4, NKJV. The word EDIFICATION refers to the building up of this inner structure. The task of the church is to convict sinners and EDIFY saints.

2. The purpose of the structure is to provide a suitable dwelling place for the Spirit of Christ. ““I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20, NKJV. And since it is God/Christ/Spirit living in us, that makes the dwelling a palace, does it not? That’s where I get the term: Royal Palace of the Soul (RPS).

I equate the RPS with the kingdom of God within. Why? Because what else would God be constructing in our souls but an increasing respect for his rule and reign? The RPS is a metaphor for an growing awareness of and responsiveness to the sovereign rule of God in our lives and our world. When that awareness/responsiveness become second nature, you’re will on your way to an intact Royal Palace of the Soul.

3. The degree to which God’s reign is manifest in you depends on the degree to which you build your very own Royal Palace in your soul. Consider the RPS a dwelling place for God in your soul. One of the word-pictures the Bible uses to teach this concept is the word edification. The Greek word (oiko-domeo) means “to build a house.” In the Bible, to edify doesn’t simply mean to encourage. It means to create structures in your soul that are capable of enjoying, manifesting, savoring, and responding to the presence of God himself. So all I can say is that if you really want to bring God in your your home, your classroom, your neighborhood, your marriage, your kids, your church, your job… then get building! You have a house to build IN YOU FIRST. “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19, NKJV. God gave church leaders for “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” Ephesians 4:12, NKJV. “…But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.” 2 Corinthians 12:19, NKJV. Is not edification the principal duty of church leadership as regards believers?

sistine-chapel.jpg4. The RPS is not only for God, it is for you too. It is God’s plan that you carry within you a Royal Palace: an environment INSIDE of you that can be a shelter from the storms of life; a place of rest and peace and luxury no matter what is happening outside of you. In 1913, Charles Miles wrote a hymn that became a classic

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses.
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear;
The Son of God discloses.
Refrain
And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there;
None other has ever known.

What is he talking about? He’s talking about the RPS, though he’s not calling it that. It’s a place where no matter how crazy life becomes, you can quietly, restfully,christrefuge.jpg lavishly meet with God. And it’s in you. It’s like a Garden, it’s like Paradise. And it’s for you if you want it. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27, NKJV. You can have chaos outside you and peace inside you, in your heart. How? By building the RPS, the kingdom of God within you.

5. The Royal Palace is a supernatural building project. The builder is supernatural, and the building materials are supernatural too. The builder is the Holy Spirit and the material is the Word of God. Each brick is a verse, a promise, a principle, a doctrine, a rebuke… a truth from the Word of God. Does not the Spirit use the Word as his weapon/tool (Eph 6:17)? God is building a PALACE in you; consider it a BEACHHEAD for the kingdom of God in your daily life. As it grows, it changes your words, thoughts, and actions. It is the palace your heart was always intended to be–a place of communion with God, and shelter from the storms of life. God himself builds this as you continue to take in the Word of God.

“But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not [really] live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”” Luke 4:4, NKJV.

“But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”” Luke 11:28, NKJV. [Keep translates the Gk word phulasso, which means to build a garrison in your soul; another function of the RPS: warfare!]

1Th 2:13 “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” The phase, “effectively works” is there for all our readers who are concerned for good works. There you have it; the word of God does good works… IN YOU, before it does them AROUND YOU. The seed bears the fruit. The seed is the word of God… the construction material for the royal palace, the kingdom of God within you.

And one more principle, which to me is the big one…

6. The Royal Palace builds in you the same structures of thinking that feeling that Jesus had in his soul.

“Let this MIND be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (humility, grace orientation, mission) Phil 2:5.

“Arm yourself with the same mind [as Christ]” 1 Pe 4:1.

You can’t live like Jesus unless you think like Jesus, and you can’t think like Jesus without the Word of God. Question: in the soul of Jesus, was the kingdom of God primarily a set of ACTIVITIES, or a WAY OF THINKING? I say (b), a way of thinking.

Have no fear, those of you who think I’m advocating years of training before engaging in service. I am not. I believe we should grow in grace, grow mature, and grow spiritually ASAP… grow fast… and serve fast too. Just always leave a reasonable lag time between your being (first) and your doing (second).

The Kingdom of God within you, the royal palace of the soul. Try these verses on for size with that interpretation in mind:

  • ““But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33, NKJV.
  • “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17, NKJV.
  • “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” 1 Corinthians 4:20, NKJV.

I fear that many church leaders are not confident in the divine process of growing the kingdom within each believer. They end up pressuring outward behavior without enabling inner transformation. Isn’t that exactly what the Pharisees did?

Bottom line: to build a Royal Palace is to grow up spiritually. To grow up spiritually is to exhibit & respond to the rule and reign of God. To exhibit and respond to the rule & reign of God is to live in the kingdom of God. To live in the kingdom is to love God and to love the world for whom Christ died. Isn’t that our task? It all flows out of growing up.

  • ““So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32, NKJV.

 

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7 thoughts on “Jesus & the Kingdom of God, pt 4

  1. “a way of thinking.”

    I would agree, but expand…

    …the transformation of a fallen human being into the image of true humanity (as seen in the “Second Adam”) includes the mental realm (way of thinking) but also includes the emotional (feeling), social (interacting), physical (acting), but is ultimately about the spiritual realm (desiring, willing, being) as this is the central core of a human and is the guiding force for the other areas of human nature.

    I would also love to hear what you think of the way CS Lewis (among others) talk about ‘putting on Christ,’ where we act in accordance with the Kingdom as a means of transforming our spirit.

  2. re point number 6…. Question: in the soul of Jesus, was the kingdom of God primarily a set of ACTIVITIES, or a WAY OF THINKING? I say (b), a way of thinking.

    i agree (in the sense of the chicken or the egg, and also of emphasis) but hope that the ‘set of activities” is not lost, for that is an important (not exclusive) sign or evidence, fruit if you will.

    the line between the ‘doing of the kingdom’ (living faithfully to christs teaching, which follow that the kingdom is being done) and making a kingdom can seem blurred but i think in reality it’s far apart from each other. it seems that those in history who claim christ and try and enact christs kingdom (or god’s kingdom) in a literal sense, inevitably get into trouble…..and it’s not that they go wrong trying to incarnate the kingdom, but that they think they can, or that that is what christs kingdom is made up of…..an example, when we say we’re going to church…..most of the time we mean the building where fellow believers meet, but isn’t that missing the point and the reality that the church is spiritual and that if we call a building ‘a church’ then our focus is off?

    to me the delineation of the spiritual kingdom vis a vis a literal one is of key importance to understanding what christ’s message means to us now. there seems to be a built in bent in us to ‘make it flesh’ and i think one of christs reasons or effect of his spiritually fulfilling those old testament shadows was to directly confront this tendency. we see it in the children of israels insistence of wanting a king, instead of judges. i think in some small way (and the example is fraught with inconsistencies i agree) this is one of those times that god was trying to steer humans away from our desire to ‘enact the/a kingdom’…..he knew what all that meant, the implications etc, and i think in some way he saw it as a diversion of worship or affection towards himself.

  3. Hi Steve,
    I did not limit the kingdom within to “thinking” only. As I wrote, it is having the same thinking and feeling; it is having an inner respect for and responsiveness to the rule and reign of Jesus. I think we’re on the same page here.

    I cannot comment on CS Lewis because I’m not familiar with what you’re alluding to. The New Man is your new self as it is morphed with Christ, so to speak. You plus Jesus, as opposed to the old man, you minus Jesus.

    Thanks for hanging in there with me, Steve.
    Bill

  4. Rick,
    Thanks for joining the conversation.
    Yes, I agree the activities of the kingdom are important; I am not writing them off. I am, however, suggesting that the activities easily become distorted and warped and inverted when they do not flow from a kingdom-saturated soul.

    I believe in the literal kingdom of God: the rule and reign of God tangibly and physically in the world when Jesus returns. It’s one of the 8 manifestations I listed in part 1. This series focused on #8.

    The spiritual kingdom to which you refer I think (can’t be sure where you’re coming from) means the societal kingdom: the values of the rule and reign of Jesus permeating a culture, family, church, or group.

    Bill

  5. i guess i’m not exactly sure of what a ‘societal kingdom’ is. to me the spiritual kingdom is a parallel one, parallel to the tangible. it would be noticed in our values for sure.

    would you say you believe that we live in a literal kingdom now? in addition to a literal one ‘when jesus returns’ (as in a millenialist view)? if yes, then how is that seen or what are the implications? would it include any physical coerciveness on anyone? i know that may sound off topic but it touches on views about the nature of the church and what it means to follow christ, now. force or coercion is an indicator of the divide between the literal and the spiritual understanding of ‘kingdom’… e.g. swords into plowshares, applicability of the sermon on the mount. i’ve heard the whole of the sermon on the mount taken away from the church and given to ‘jews in the (literal) millenium’ by dispensational theology.

    bill, thanks for having this forum!

    rick

  6. Oops, isn’t this supposed to be part 4??? Maybe I can’t count well enough, but I do see two Part 3s. Technicality….sorry, I’m a stickler for detail…
    How I am, however, enjoying this subject and your blog! Thanks again!

  7. The problem is that you are all trying to make sense of a text that is contradictory at best and flat-out ludicrous at worst. The bible defends blindly following all laws, regardless of who’s imposing them (Romans 13:1-7), like the leader of North Korea, for example. It also defends slavery (1 Corinthians 7:21-24), tells us to hate our families (Luke 14:26), and tries to scare you into believing (Leviticus 26:15-46). I thought we were supposed to come to the Lord by our own free will? If that were true why does God feel the need to threaten us if we don’t ? (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). It’s awesome that you guys are all good people and probably use the bible to condemn people like drug addicts and gays, but it would be better if you could at least shed your reliance on ridiculousness of the Bible. Don’t bother trying to reply directly to me. This is the only time I’ll be on this site. I’m so scared of the truth, I won’t be back (or at least that’s what you’ll tell yourselves).

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