But God had something else in mind--a kingdom of the heart for the pure in heart. When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus answered, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). The kingdom of God is not detectable by the carnal senses. It does not come with outward display of the world's wealth and success. You cannot say of His kingdom, "See here!" or "See there!" It exists within the hearts of those in whom the King himself has taken up residence and rule. The same thing is true of kingdom authority. It also operates quietly and powerfully within the sphere of the inward governance of God.
Regardless of the profound truth stated by Jesus, men strive incessantly to build observable kingdoms in His name, with outwardly observable authority structures and palatial buildings where their authority cannot be questioned. They try to mix the authority paradigm of the kingdoms of this world, which are under the influence of the prince of this world, with that of the kingdom of God. This always leads to fighting and abuse.
In answer to Pilate's question "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight, that I wouldn't be delivered to the Jews. But now my kingdom is not from here" (John 18:36 WEB). Abuse and fighting are prevalent wherever this unholy mixture exists. No matter how outwardly holy it may look, if its origin is not heavenly it will express the nature of the world, fighting and lording over. If we embrace the world's form we must also use the world's power to enforce it, i.e., brute force. Where there is force you will also find resistance. Force and resistance equals fighting. If the kingdom of God has not come within us and quelled our inward lust that wars in our members, that inward condition will continue to express itself and the fighting will persist tearing up one fellowship after another. "From where do wars and fightings among you come? Is it not from this, from your lusts warring in your members?" (James 4:1 LITV). "Our wars," said Erasmus, "for the most part, proceed either from ambition, from anger and malice, from the mere wantonness of unbridled power, or from some other mental distemper."
When the guards of the temple and the high priest came to arrest Jesus, Peter, still operating in the paradigm of the kingdoms of this world, did what servants of the world's kingdoms do. He took out his sword and cut off a soldier's ear. Historically, great bloodshed has resulted because of this gross misunderstanding of God's kingdom. One historian wrote, "I saw in the whole Christian world a license of fighting at which even barbarous nations might blush" (Hugo Grotius, Prolegomena). Least we think that today's more enlightened Christians are above such barbarity, we should point out that recently one TV Evangelist proposed that the CIA "take out" the president of Venezuela because of his Marxist leanings. Peter, put away your sword! You know not what spirit you are of!
So, what is the answer to this kingdom confusion we see more and more in Christendom today? As simplistic as this might sound, Jesus is the answer. He is our example. Jesus came to show mankind the way back to that selfless dominion that Adam exercised before the fall. How did He do this? Though He was equal with God, Jesus emptied Himself, made Himself of no reputation and took a humble position at the bottom of the social scale. He modeled true kingdom greatness by denying what men so eagerly grasp for (worldly wealth and power) and taking on a form that ambitious men despise, that of a servant. From there He obediently humbled Himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a Roman cross, not for His own misdeeds but for the sins and sorrows of a world set on destroying Him. For this reason, God exalted Him and gave him complete authority, i.e., the name that is above every other name (Philippians 2:6-11). Anyone who would be great in the kingdom of God must follow this same path.
And so the question remains; who has the authority? This very issue is at the heart of all conflict in the world and in the Church. Who has the right to be in control?
After His resurrection Jesus said to His disciples, "I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go . . ." (Matthew 28:18-20 NLT). Many today act as though Jesus said, "I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore go and impose it on everyone . . . use force if necessary!" Though men today boldly profess that their churches are founded upon Christ and His teachings, their churches more resemble Augustine's assessment of the city and Church of Rome, "which. . .is itself ruled by its lust of rule." (Augustine, The City of God, Introduction).
When Jesus sent out His disciples into the world He said, "Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves" (Luke 10:3 NKJV). He did not send them forth as lions to conquer. When John had his heavenly vision of the throne of God in Revelation we read:
But one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals." And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain. . ." (Revelation 5:5-6a NKJV)
Jesus did not send us forth as conquering lions-- kings of the world's jungles. John was not even allowed to see Jesus in this light, but rather the Pattern Son appeared to the apostle as a lamb that had been slain. This is all he had to see in order to understand the power of the kingdom of God. Is Jesus a King? Yes, but a King that has conquered Satan by laying down His life for His friends. His servants conquer by living lives demonstrating nothing less--lambs among wolves.
How did we drift so far away from the example and teaching of the Lamb; the Lord Jesus Christ? To answer this question we must take a fresh look at Jesus' life and teachings, especially those passages having to do with authority. We think you might be surprised at what He really said!
- Chapter 1: A Fresh Look at Jesus' Teaching on Authority
- Chapter 2: The Cup, the Baptism and Kingdom Authority
- Chapter 3: Servant Authority
- Chapter 4: The Last shall be First
- Chapter5: Christ's Rule of Action
- Chapter 6: The Cross, Victory and Authority
- Chapter 7: The Way to Fruitfulness and Authority
- Chapter 8: The Lowest Place--Our First Estate
- Chapter 9: All You are Brothers
- Chapter 10: What is Judgment?
- Chapter 11: From Simon to Peter, From Brokenness to Spiritual Authority
- Chapter 12: Servant Power - Christ's Example Lived out by the Apostles