The Kingdom. The question came up in a discussion after church this afternoon; what is the Kingdom of God? The way it was put, I thought it might have been a trick question, but basically the questioner and I agreed on our answer. The Kingdom of God is here now. It consists of all that and all those who are under the rule and reign of God. It includes all who have been born again by the Spirit of God into a new relationship with God as His children. There are two separate and contrasting kingdoms, and only two; the kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of the world consists of all that is opposed to God. Jesus said that anyone who is not for him is against him.
Frankly, I take a fairly radical view of the separateness of these two kingdoms. If we are in the Kingdom of God; more accurately, if God has transferred us into His kingdom; if we have bowed the knee and confessed Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, then the kingdom of the world is foreign territory to us. Therefore, I don’t, when all is said and done, put too much worry into what happens in that kingdom. Do they allow same-sex marriage in the kingdom of the world? I don’t really care. Is there sexual immorality in the world? Again, so be it. In my mind, the only concern we Christians need to have about the world is how what happens there affects or impedes people from being brought into the Kingdom of God. Yes, we are called to defend and help the sick, poor and the defenceless, but I think the ultimate goal, even in that, is to bring glory to God and people into His Kingdom. The Kingdom.
The Power. As our music team prayed before service today, we prayed, as we always do, that our music would be honouring to God and that He would be with us and use what we do to draw people to Him. But sometimes we think that it’s all up to us. As if what God determined to do depended on how skilfully we played our music; ultimately, to put it rather crassly, what kind of mood we set. Whether we played it spiritually enough. Our team leader was, as he put it, rather stressed, taking, I think in a sense, the whole burden of results on his own shoulders. One of the songs we played was Matt Redman’s, “The Heart of Worship,” and it brought to my mind the intent of that song: that it’s not about the skill or professionalism of the musicians, it’s all about Jesus. If God chooses to touch hearts and open eyes and bring people to Himself, He will do it by whatever means He chooses, whether through the reading or the preaching of His Word, through a particular word or prayer, or through, even in spite of, the music. Yes, it’s important to use the gifts He has given us to the best of our abilities, and there is no place for music played badly if it is done short of our best, but when all is said and done, the power is His and His alone. He will accomplish His will in His own timing and at His own pleasure. We have no power to change lives. Only God does, by the power of His Holy Spirit.
And the Glory. Our morning class for the last couple of weeks has studied John chapter 11, the death and raising of Lazarus. One point revolved around verse 4,
...Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."
Jesus deliberately delayed his response to the news of Lazarus’ illness so that God and himself could be glorified through it. (By the way, it seems pretty hard on Lazarus to be used in such a way, but it occurred to me that, if we believe that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord, the cruellest thing was not to let him die but to bring him back.) We see a similar incident in John chapter 9, where Jesus tells his disciples that a man was born blind so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
Yesterday the question arose, “Why does God want us to pray to Him, if He already knows what we want, and He already knows how He will answer it? What, in other words, is the point of prayer at all?” And it occurred to me that perhaps, in light of these studies, that the ultimate purpose of all prayer is to glorify God. Answered prayer gives glory to Him. The giver gets the glory, as our pastor has said. But if He just granted all our desires without our asking for them, without our expressing them to Him in prayer, where would be the glory? And that is why we present our requests, not our demands, in prayer. Otherwise God would become our servant, not our Master. That He deigns to answer our prayers keeps things in perspective and shows us Who is in charge and who is not; Who shows mercy and who receives it, Who gives grace and who receives it. To God be the glory.
All of it.