UPSIDE DOWN KINGDOM
"Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. But Jesus intervened. 'Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It's not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.'" Luke 22:24-26 (The Message).
Would they ever learn? Three years with Jesus, watching, listening and even imitating Him had not yet convinced them that He had no intention of overthrowing Roman occupation and setting up a renewed Davidic kingdom. What more did He need to do to get the message past their misplaced expectations?
Vying for position in His kingdom was an old story. It cropped up regularly and now that it was becoming clear to them that this new kingdom was just around the corner, it became even more urgent that they sort out who would occupy the most important positions in Jesus' "cabinet" - or so they thought.
How patient Jesus was! Once again He had to explain to non-comprehending, thick-skulled, ambitious, so-called "disciples" that His kingdom was not just another earthly system to control and regulate people, not even one as glorious as the kingdoms of David and Solomon. He was operating in a realm which functioned deep within the inner workings of human beings, exposing the source of the unseen power that influenced them to be who they were.
He had come to take back the authority and power to return His estranged people to fellowship with the God who had created them and designed them to be mirror images of Him. Satan had derailed God's plan by deception but, by giving His own life as a payment for man's going astray, Jesus was on the brink of restoring man to God and putting him back on course to compete the Father's plan.
This was the kingdom He was talking about, but this kingdom's values were the opposite of the values subscribed to by the world's systems. At His trial, Pilate asked Jesus, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' and Jesus replied, 'My kingdom is not of this world.' John 18:33, 36 (NIV).
So what does God's kingdom look like?
Firstly, it a system that rules by choice, not force, by obedience, not coercion and by truth, not deception. We are in it because we chose to believe the truth and God responded by supernaturally setting us free from our slavery to the devil and relocating us to His kingdom which He rules by truth and love. Every time we choose to obey God, His Holy Spirit enables us to do what we have chosen to do.
Secondly, the values of God's kingdom reflect His nature and are opposite to the world's ways. As Jesus had painstakingly taught them, true greatness lies, not in lording it over people but in serving them. He showed them how by giving His life for them. Our needs are met when we meet the needs of others; we receive by giving; we live by dying; we are happy when we make others happy; we find life by losing it; we lead by following. It all becomes real when we "just do it".
The disciples did not get it until after Jesus' death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, who did exactly what Jesus promised He would do. When He took up residence inside them, He brought into sharp focus everything Jesus had taught them. All the seeds of His word which had lain dormant in their hearts sprang to life and began to grow and bear fruit.
As believers, we have to swim against the current of world systems where power lies in force. The power of God works within in us, changing us as we believe and respond to His truth and choose to follow and obey Jesus. Eternal life is a dynamic partnership between ourselves and God, drawing us into union with Jesus and teaching us how to be sons of God.
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