If you haven’t read last week’s blog, this one won’t make much sense.
Yes, Christians can actually hinder God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven and thus hinder the Kingdom’s impact in this life. And here’s how;
Last week I introduced you to my preferred term for the Kingdom of God, “The Family Business. There’s a chain of command in this business. The Father has given all authority in heaven and earth to Jesus, so as we continue to think about the Kingdom of God – Jesus, in complete harmony with the Father is our direct report as adults – for children it’s your parents.
Having said that, in this sense, the Kingdom of Heaven, or Kingdom of God, is unlike any other family business. It will never fail. But, here’s why I don’t like the word kingdom. Most of us are clueless what it’s like to live in a kingdom or under a king. The word and concept is biblically accurate, but not terribly helpful in today’s world. But, I realize that I’m not going to get all of Christendom to stop using the word kingdom, for the family business, so I’ll drop it for now. But, promise to think about it.
So, what do these sub-kingdoms of ours look like?
My sub-kingdom consists of my wife, (I’m also in her sub-kingdom) our six children, our grandchildren, the women who work with me, all my friends and family, everyone who I have even some contact with, all my spiritual gifts, my natural gifts, all my money, every day of my life, even the influence I might have with you, through my blogs or book. I could go on. It’s every person, resource and opportunity God has allowed me to temporarily possess, have authority over, or with whom I have influence.
Our sub-kingdoms are all the people and resources over which we have authority or with whom we have influence.
Perhaps you’re a high school student, your sub-kingdom is obviously much smaller. Unless you’re the captain of some team there’s probably no one under your authority, but many you can influence. Your sub-kingdom might consist of your family, friends, teachers, the kids in your school, your car, spiritual gifts, natural abilities, a small amount of money – you get it.
Back to my sub-kingdom and how does this authority, or influence thing actually work in real life, when we fail our assignments?
A few years back I sat with the teenage children of a woman who left her husband for another man. I’m confident she still loves her children and divorce is not the unforgivable sin, but she no longer holds the high moral ground to inspire them to take the high moral ground. She used to lead Bible studies and was active in ministries but she’s backed off from all of that now. Her kids live with her but no longer respect her as much. Of course much of her influence can be won back over time by heartfelt confession, repentance and virtuous living – but for now her once growing, vibrant sub-kingdom is in retreat. She got what she wanted – but lost what she had.
“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.” Luke 19:26
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:30-32
When I’m short tempered with my children, I diminish my ability to influence them, because their admiration for me dims, even if only for a few days. When I tell a lie and I’m found out, people trust me less. When I use my strong will to bully someone into doing something, their respect for me erodes. To be sure, I can recover, but each time it happens, something about my influence as Jesus’ surrogate diminishes. It doesn’t take outright sin to do that. Through laziness or indifference I can fail to accomplish all I might have if I’d been more faithful and diligent with all Jesus entrusted to me.
So, in a very real sense, because of sin, Christians can actually hinder the kingdom’s coming in their sphere of influence. Having said that, I’m a Calvinist, so when God makes up his mind that he absolutely wants something done, he’s not wringing his hands in frustration. He just causes it to happen, one way or another. But believers have the choice daily, hourly, to be Christ’s advocates and Christ’s agents here on earth. And when we fail in that assignment, something of the potential of Christ’s kingdom impact diminishes.
My mission from God is to use everything I’ve been given to care for the people under my authority or influence as if Jesus were actually here doing it in my place! I’m to manage my life the way Jesus would if he actually lived in my house, spoke to my wife, drove my car, interacted with strangers, hung out with my friends and wrote my checks. For better or worse, I represent the family to my world and I’m to be the loyal, loving, servant manager of everyone and everything Jesus has entrusted to my care. Yes, Jesus is coming to usher in the future, perfect kingdom someday and followers of Jesus ought to yearn for it. But it’s also here – now – today. A few years back I sat with the teenage children of a woman who left her husband for another man. I’m confident she still loves her children and divorce is not the unforgivable sin, but she no longer holds the high moral ground to inspire them to take the high moral ground. She used to lead Bible studies and was active in ministries but she’s backed off from all of that now. Her kids live with her but no longer respect her as much. Of course much of her influence can be won back over time by heartfelt confession, repentance and virtuous living – but for now her once growing, vibrant sub-kingdom is in retreat. She got what she wanted – but lost what she had.
I’ve had this thought. I’m standing in line on judgment day – staring at my feet – waiting my turn – ready to give my report – getting all my excuses in order, saving my best arguments for my close. I think I’m in pretty good shape. I wrote this book. I got that going for me.
I already know I’m in because of what Jesus did for me on the cross. So, the pressure’s off. Finally, I’m in front of Jesus.
As I’m about to swing into my litany of good deeds, I make the mistake of looking directly into his eyes – those kind eyes. The eyes that pierced Peter’s just before he fled the courtyard. I’m absolutely speechless. Suddenly all I was so proud of seems so pathetically shallow compared to how I might have lived – the lives I might have profoundly impacted – if only…. I’m then tempted to compare myself to others, but then it dawns on me that Jesus isn’t grading on the curve in this judgment of works. This is just between him and me.
What did I, Clare De Graaf, do with the life he gave me? What others did with their lives is between Jesus and them. I’m ashamed – and sad. That’s where this scene in my mind often ends.
Of course, Jesus will wipe away every tear – I just don’t want him to have to.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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