There are many political systems and rulers in this world. One list shows that there are still 43 monarchies ( https://www.infoplease.com/world/social-statistics/kingdoms-and-monarchs-world ), although many of them are merely ceremonial or cultural in function. But kings and other rulers are instrumental in defining what goes on in their countries. If you look at the shape our world is in, what with poverty, wars, corruption, genocide, nuclear weapons, high taxes, government corruption, etc., you could ask, like Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for you?” Perhaps a different kind of kingdom would result in a different world…
The Bible says it is so. “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bond-woman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bond-woman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.” (Galatians 4:22-23, 28-29 NASB)
According to the Bible, Abraham had a son (Isaac) born to fulfill a spiritual purpose according to the promise of God, and a son born according to the flesh (Ishmael). Isaac was a miracle, born out of time to a 99-year-old man whose 90-year-old wife was also well past the age of child-bearing. (There are some dots to connect here, so please stay with me!)
Ishmael was the result of Abraham’s own effort to jump-start the promise by impregnating his servant girl. Ishmael, the son born according to the flesh, later bullied Isaac, and there was conflict between them and their offspring that persists to this day. This dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit is a common Biblical theme, and it applies to us individually just like it applied to Abraham’s sons.
Flesh or Spirit
In John three, Jesus told Nicodemus that everyone is born of the flesh but that you must also be born of the Spirit. He said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” This conversation was popularized during the Carter administration when the phrase “born again Christian” was used to describe Jimmy Carter and other evangelical Christians.
When writing the introduction to his gospel, John said that “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” ( John 1:12-13) Nicodemus was confused by Jesus’ reference to the spiritual side of life, just like Pontius Pilate was later when he questioned Jesus. But, it’s something that affects every Christian.
Different Kingdom, Different Values
If you are a follower of Jesus, John says you are a child of God who has been adopted into His family. You are also part of a spiritual Kingdom with new potential and new possibilities. Christians hope for a redeemed and perfect world, achieved not through evolution or progress or science or technology, but through the Spirit of God. It is God’s Spirit that will bathe the world in love, that will be present in heaven, and will power the kind of kingdom where “the lion will lay down with the lamb”. It won’t be built on any kind of earthly power, but on the Graceful presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
Paul says here in Galatians that everyone born of the Spirit is an heir of the promises to Abraham. In Romans 7 and 8, Paul describes the natural conflict that exists between man’s fleshly nature and God’s Spirit. Romans 8:5 says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”
One of the things that makes Christianity unique is its reliance upon the Spirit of God as opposed to the works of man. Hindus believe in cause and effect; Karma teaches that what goes around, comes around. Islam proscribes keeping the law (efforts of the flesh) to be acceptable to God. (Legalistic “Christians” do the same thing, by the way.) Religions all start with man and his efforts to be like God, or to be acceptable to Him.
But, are man’s efforts adequate? Will they ever be? Anyone who tries to achieve righteousness in the flesh will always be at odds with those who accept grace. The kingdom of the flesh will always be opposed to the spirit. Based on the human logic of getting what you deserve, grace will never seem fair to those who try work their way into heaven…
Jesus’ kingdom was spiritual, not physical. It confused Pilate, and it has confused lots of folks ever since. It seems logical that we should work our way to God, but He has confounded that logic. Two takeaways: 1) it might be a good thing to depend upon God’s spirit, rather than your own effort; and 2) don’t expect a cessation in persecution anytime soon. It’s been going on for 3000 years, and as Paul said in Galatians, “so it is now also”.
Abraham was a shepherd man
Without much wealth and without a plan,
But God told him to start afresh,
To walk in faith, but not in flesh.
So Abram started, not by sight,
To walk with God both day and night,
Beginning a spiritual family that actually changed history,
And somehow the genealogy was opened up to you and me…
Sometime later in history, two men discussed a mystery:
Nicodemus–a Pharisee–went out at night and tried to see
If he and Jesus could agree on how God’s plan was meant to be.
Jesus said, “Nick, the problem is sin.
To live, you must be born again!
And Nicodemus sat in his room,
and said, “I can’t go back in the womb!”
Jesus said, “not that kind of birth!
I’m speaking of heaven, and not of earth!
As a teacher, you should be smart–or near it–
So understand this: Be born in the Spirit.
Only by being born again
Can you free yourself from the power of sin.
(Like Pilate, Nick couldn’t see the worth
Of a spiritual kingdom that’s not of this earth.)
What Jesus told Nicodemus to do
Is still correct and still holds true,
And is still the best option for me and you:
Like Abraham, just start anew, like Jesus told Nicodemus to do,
Not of this world, and not of men, just this: You must be born again.
Spiritual birth makes all things new
If that is something you’re willing to do. I’ve done it, so I know it’s true. If you want to do it, that’s up to YOU.
To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread