The Kingdom of Heaven

In Matthew Chapter 13 Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven.  Other places there are references to the Kingdom of God.  Some say Jesus uses these interchangeably.  Others say these are two different things.  Some say it’s in the future, the Millennial reign or heaven.  I don’t know.  I just know what this says to me.  I know how it’s affecting me.  I know where it wants to lead me.

Jesus had a lot to say about the Kingdom of Heaven.   He used parables, illustrations.  Tares among the wheat, a fisherman’s catch, mustard seed that grows into a tree, yeast that permeates the whole loaf.  And these don’t sound like illustrations of the Millennial reign or heaven.  There are enemies in this Kingdom of Heaven.  The sense you get is that the Kingdom starts small but it’s influence grows and grows till it overtakes the world.

Then there are these other two parables.

 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Jesus said that whoever believes has eternal life.  Salvation is by believing, not sacrifice or works.  He told the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem till the Holy Spirit came.  Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a gift.  So what is this Kingdom of Heaven that calls for our all, our everything?

There’s another scripture that speaks on this.  Matthew 11: 12.

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.

Some translations make it sound like evil people from outside are breaking in and plundering the Kingdom of Heaven. That may be the correct interpretation.  I don’t know.  I’m not a Bible scholar.  But right here, right now this is saying something different to me.  I landed on a Charles Spurgeon sermon that in part says what I am feeling.  Let me put it in my own words.

Hugh crowds are following Jesus, hanging on His every word.  He finds a natural amphitheater and He sits down to teach.  You wind up on a far hill on the edge of the crowd.  You can’t hear everything He says.  You get His words passed from person to person to person.  You get the words of Jesus second and third and forth hand.  And that’s unsatisfying.

The crowds follow as he walks.  He heals the afflicted and you hear about it second or third or forth hand.  And you are not willing to settle for that.

So you fight your way through the crowd.  You are determined to hear words directly from the lips of Jesus.  You want to see the miracles first hand.  I remember reading a version of this scripture that said ‘the violent are pressing in’.  Maybe ‘determined’ would be a better word than ‘violent’.  ‘The determined are pressing into it, into the Kingdom of Heaven’.

It seems to me that that’s where I am now.  My prayers seem more direct, more connected. Some mornings when I’m praying my prayer list, God steps in and redirects me.  Sometimes I’m doing a lot more listening than talking.  God sets me to praying at particularly unprayerlike times.  Joy seems more joyful.  My sins are more obvious and hurtful.  God seems to be talking to me about distractions, things that aren’t necessarily sin but that soak up my time.  There are harmless distractions that entertained me six months ago that I thought I could never give up. Those things seem unimportant to me now.

I don’t want you to get the idea I’m some Holy Joe.  I’m not.  Whatever is going on I didn’t start it.  I don’t think I just decided to start seeking God, seeking a closer walk.  I think He initiated the call.  He started pulling me in.  I think Jesus wants to take over my life.  All of it.

So why do we have to press in?  Why do we have to ‘take it by force’?  Has God got His foot against the door?  Is He keeping us out?  I think not.  It’s the downstream tug of this world that keeps us out.  It’s the whispers in the ear that says ‘you’re good enough’.  It’s the raucous shout that says God is a lie.  It’s the complacency of the good times.  It’s the fear and anger of the bad times.  It takes determination to fight the surging tide of this world.  It takes a violence, a holy spiritual violence.

This is the battle worth fighting.  It’s not the marching, the picketing, the boycotting, the facebook rants that will win in the end.  Who wins the election becomes almost insignificant compared to this battle, the battle to draw near, to draw close to God.

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About Angus Lewis

My wife and I lived our whole lives in Arkansas until ten years ago. We moved to the Kansas City area in 2011 (a job change). That was the reason for the 'From a Far Country' title. Our children and grandchildren were in Arkansas. Six months ago we sold our house and bought one in Sherwood, Arkansas and my wife moved back down here. Two weeks ago I retired and moved back too. (I'm probably going to try to find something part time to keep me out of trouble.) So maybe the 'From a Far Country' title is not so much of a fit anymore. But I think I'll stick with it. I'm still not home. Not yet. The Bible says we are all strangers and pilgrims here. Our real home is with God and some day we'll be there. We'll be home.
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