A Different Kind of Kingdom for a Different Kind of World

More Than One Option

There are many different kinds of rulers in the world, and their influence affects the nations and provinces they govern. If you look at the shape our world is in, what with poverty, wars, corruption, genocide, nuclear weapons, taxes, 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 kind of world…

“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)

Which Promise?

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.

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.” (1:12-13)

kingdom of God

Different Kingdom, Different Values

If you are a follower of Jesus, 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 a child 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.”

Spiritual Differential

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. They all start with man and his efforts.

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 work according to the flesh…

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”.

Different

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

Adopted Into the Royal Family: It Could Happen to You

“Yet 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 NIV) It would be pretty great to be part of a Royal Family. (We might have to be adopted, but it would still be great, wouldn’t it? Just the thought of it conjures up images of royal grandeur…)

Many little girls dream of being a princess, and the Disney Princess industry is actually pretty astounding in the breadth of its offerings. There are shoes and dresses and tiaras and play sets and dolls and castles and jewelry and accessories, and oh so much more! Have you ever imagined being Royalty? To live in palaces, to have servants, to be part of the royal family?

adopted royal

In this world in which we live, it’s not something you can choose. Being Royalty is something you have to be born into, or marry into if you are fortunate enough. It’s kind of like winning the human genetic lottery. If you are fortunate enough to be born in a palace, you might get to sleep on silk sheets and have servants. Someone fortunate enough to be a royal gets to live in opulence and enjoy benefits that most of us only fantasize about. Maybe we could apply for a job as a servant in the palace, but that’s the only way we would ever walk the Royal halls…

Is Adoption by Choice or by Chance?

In our world the average person has a much better chance of winning the lottery than of becoming part of a Royal family; yet John’s amazing introduction suggests that it is an option open to everyone. When he presents the Word made flesh, he ties the Bethlehem manger directly to the heavenly palace. Jesus affirmed that he had a kingdom, but told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

This baby who was born in an obscure place and away from the mainstream of worldly power had the authority to confer citizenship in a new kingdom. But wait, there’s more! He also brought every one of us the right to become children of God. As opposed to human convention, religious systems or earthly royalty, this adoption into God’s family did not depend on money or pedigree or ancestry, or on someone’s acceptance or approval, or even upon a husband’s will; it required only that we believe and receive.

Adopted Rights

Anyone who does that, John says, has “the right to become children of God”. It’s ironic that the baby whose own family was plagued by questions of legitimacy, whose mother was pregnant out of wed-lock under questionable circumstances, has the power to get us adopted into God’s family. The Word, who humbled himself and gave up his own rights, lifted us up and gave us ours. He opened the doors to the palace and invited us in. As a result, we can be God’s children, fully vested in His family, and joint heirs to everything in His kingdom.

The Word made us part of God’s family, with all the attendant rights and privileges. In him, we stand to inherit everything that is rightfully his. Funny—in a way, since he was born so far away and separated from his Father, Jesus himself was a bit of an orphan, raised in a loving foster home. He knew what it was like to be near and yet far away, to be surrounded by family but still somewhat alone…yet the only begotten Son of God still made a way for every one of us to join him as one of God’s beloved adopted children.

I’m sure if you ever feel a bit lonely or disconnected during this crazy CoVid season, He knows just how you feel. He’s invited you into the palace, not as a servant but an equal. If you’d like to sit at the family table, he’s saved a place for you. Believe. Receive.

Adopted Millions: The King Who Shared His Kingdom

He never had a scepter, or wore a royal crown;
He never slept on silken sheets, with servants all around.
Jesus never held a court, or walked the halls of state;
He didn’t do the things that politicians think are great.
He never had a palace or the rich material things,
Although he was the Prince of Peace, the very King of kings…

His Kingdom wasn’t of this world, sustained by war and greed,
But built upon his Father’s love, where he is Lord indeed.
And where the earthly system has degraded us and stopped us,
This king used his authority to love us and adopt us!
There’s just one catch: to be adopted, you must first believe Him,
And you’ll be in His family as soon as you receive Him!

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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread