Facebook Post, 19 April 2014: “It’s so easy to talk Christian and yet not live Kingdom.”
More recently, I have been declaring rather boldly that we must learn to discern between church and kingdom. That said, just because we agree with this statement, it does not necessarily mean we fully understand what it means or what it actually entails. To be sure, many of us have grown up in the tradition of the church and we have conveniently equated all that we know about church and church life as the kingdom. Not that this is altogether wrong, but I fear that this has led and caused many to miss the kingdom. If you don’t believe me, just try asking a believer to define the kingdom of God and you will find that most likely, he or she is unable to.
Well, if it’s any consolation, we are not the only ones. Even Israel, God’s chosen people to represent and show forth His kingdom, missed it big time. To be fair, the things of the kingdom of God are not quite as straightforward. That is why Jesus used the phrase “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” in Matt 13:11. And as if that is not challenging enough, Jesus chose to present these hidden truths of the kingdom in parables, or illustrative and symbolic stories. At first glance, it might appear that Jesus deliberately did not want the people to know anything about the kingdom, as if it was reserved for a select few. But I don’t believe that is the case at all. And it will become much clearer for us when we see the PROMISE as laid out by Jesus, and the corresponding PROBLEM as pointed out by Him.
“He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” Matthew 13:11–12, NKJV
Firstly, let’s recognise that the word of the kingdom is made available to all without exception. But not everyone receives it the same way. To the one who receives it rightly, it is given to him to know the mysteries. And that’s a promise! But that’s just the beginning. The more this person desires and craves for the things of the kingdom, even more will be given, to the point of abundance! In other words, there will be an unravelling of mysteries and a revelation of the kingdom dimension until it overflows to impact others. Who wouldn’t want such a promise! … until you realise the problem.
“Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull.Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’” Matthew 13:13–15, NKJV
Jesus presented the problem very plainly: there will be those who see but don’t see, hear but don’t hear, and hence, there is no understanding of what the kingdom is all about. The prophecy of Isaiah cuts to the chase and identifies the cause: “For the hearts of this people have grown dull.” Sadly, we have the same problem amongst Christians, God’s people, today. These could be regular in church, hear 52 sermons a year, actively serving in church and still miss the kingdom of God! And because church is regarded to be the same as kingdom, the agenda, structure and demands of the church organisation take precedence over the essentials of the kingdom. We preach and proclaim kingdom but what it is seen, heard and understood as is church. This has resulted in busy church members and even busier and burnt out full-time ministers, but not necessarily kingdom fruitfulness of thirty, sixty or a hundredfold. Why? I suggest to you that our calloused and distracted hearts have settled for the matters of the church but missed the mysteries of the kingdom.
To a large degree, this is the cry of Archippus Awakening. It’s not just about doing something for God, where we can serve in church but to know how every assignment fits into the bigger kingdom picture. For sure, we are not here to merely raise people to fill positions in the church but to awaken Archippuses to fulfil the purposes of the kingdom! To accomplish this, we have no choice but to uncover and discover the mysteries of the kingdom with hungry and humbled hearts that we may hear what the Spirit is saying.
Indeed, this is not a journey for the faint-hearted. Along the way, there will be baggage to cast off and many things to unlearn. I’ve got my Indiana Jones hat on. Who’s going to join me on this adventure?