The Kingdom of GodA Summary of Christs Teachings

The kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 10:7)

The Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of Christ, the Kingdom of God—these are all the same Kingdom. It was called the Kingdom of Heaven in deference to many Jews who were averse to speaking the divine name, lest His holy name be made common or possibly be profaned. The Kingdom is Christ’s because Christ is God’s Son, and, therefore, He is heir to the Kingdom. This Kingdom is God’s, and He is the rightful King not only because He alone is divine, but because His subjects have freely invited Him to rule over them.

I hasten to add, however, that He chose us as His subjects long before we chose Him as our king. He led us to Himself with an utterly uncoerced coercion. God did this and is doing it today through the cross—His and ours. The demonstrated love of Christ dying as an atonement for our sins evokes our love. But God is also drawing us to Him through the suffering of our personal crosses. When the deadly cup of suffering finally kills off all intention of self-rule, we are made ready for the rule of God.

The twelve disciples, and later a group of seventy followers, were sent out to proclaim the reign of this Sovereign. Christ sent them to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6). Why them? They understood. They were ready right now. Christ’s message to them was this: “My Kingdom is also right now. It’s here.”

For us today, the Kingdom of God is also at hand. I understand this to mean that we should not think of the Kingdom of God as some past or future event. Nor should we think of it as something which we must bring into our lives by hard work. Everything has been done. The Kingdom of God is now, at the very moment you are reading these words.

I had a dream which made all this clear to me.

In my dream, I had been invited to speak at a weekend retreat, and I chose to speak on the Kingdom of God. At the close of the conference, we had a banquet. The chairman spoke with appreciation and enthusiasm about my earlier presentation. This surprised me because, frankly, it was not that good. What surprised me even more in this dream was when the chairman asked me to rise and say a few more words about the Kingdom.

As I got to my feet, the strangest thing happened. I saw a vision in my dream. The heavens rolled back like a curtain, and what I saw revealed will never be forgotten. A trumpet blew and a voice announced, “In My Father’s house are many mansions!” I then saw a city a very clean city. It was indescribably beautiful. The mansions were made of brick with lovely red tile roofs. It was a city set on sloping hills, and again I noticed how clean it all was.

I could not contain my excitement and so, turning to my audience, I cried, “Do you see it? This is the Kingdom of God! It’s here—right now! Don’t you see it?”

They did not. They were laughing at me as they walked out of the banquet hall. As the retreatants left, I overheard one say to his friend, “The man is crazy! It’s a good thing he works in a mental hospital. He needs help.”

And then I awoke—agreeing with them, and also laughing with them. Because I know very well how crazy it is to speak of the Kingdom of God as being here, right now.

The Kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21 KJV)

When a person in his heart says “Lord” to Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God exists. To say that, however, presupposes that one no longer says “Lord” to oneself in the Kingdom of Self. This is all an internal arrangement. The kingdoms both of God and man are within man.

There is a God-created throne in the heart of every man. That throne is intended for God alone, and yet without exception, every man enthrones himself, and then, as a penalty for insurrection against the Almighty, earns death. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Sin is self-enthronement in one’s heart long before it is externalized in specific unlawful acts. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19 KJV). Now if the wages of sin is death, then the wages of Christ as King of one’s heart is life. These kingdoms are within us.

We can, on this basis, account for the natural antagonism which we, in our egocentric state, feel toward God. The reason so many fear God in childhood and hate Him in adulthood, is because He is seen as a pretender to the throne on which self rules. God is the Enemy. It does no good to tell the person who holds this conviction that God loves Him. No! He feels God hates him, and he hates God. What may help such a person, however, is to explain that in the scheme of his own thinking, in the system of values he holds, there is no place for God because the person himself insists on playing god. This god-playing takes place in his heart. The contest between the kings takes place within us—because that is where the kingdoms are located.

The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed. (Matthew 13:3 1)

The beginning of the reign of God in a human heart is so inauspicious, so paltry and small, that it is frequently unnoticeable. Even when it is observed, it is difficult to believe that from this tiny seed of faith, a great tree of life will develop. I know from my work as a chaplain that many of my parishioners have entered into the Kingdom of God in a very simple manner. For many of these people, the journey to the Kingdom of God was begun with the simple step of asking for an appointment. I recall a man who casually remarked, “Sometime I’d like to sit down with you and talk a little.” Since it could hardly be said that he was storming the gates of God’s Kingdom, I decided to test his intentions. I simply took out my datebook and asked, “Shall we set a time?” My friend, somewhat compliantly, set a time.

Who would ever expect that anything worthwhile would ever come from such a poor beginning? I was even more doubtful after our first hour together, because all he wanted to tell me was that his wife was a first-class witch. Toward the end of that hour, however, I was able to share one or two impressions with him: I noted his strong tendencies to both judge and then execute his wife, explaining that this violent and fruitless way of relating to his wife was a piece of his long-used egocentric pattern of life. He understood. He also understood when I explained a new option to him: theocentric life in the Kingdom of God.

“I have a suggestion,” I continued. “Take a walk. Think it over. If you want to continue on your present basis, I’ll accept that. If you are ready for life in the Kingdom of God, come back and tell me. Either way, we will always be fast friends.”

My friend left. I prayed. Less than an hour later, he returned to say simply and softly, “I’m ready.”

I know that with those two words he had crossed the threshold into the Kingdom of God, and yet, it was such a small beginning. There remained acre upon acre of unsurrendered territory in his life. All we presently had were words—only two at that—and no deeds. But that is the way the Kingdom of God, it seems, always begins. Like a tiny mustard seed.

The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field. (Matthew 13:44 KJV)

Jesus told a story about a man who was walking across a field when suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks. There, through a crack in the ground, he could see a treasure chest. It took only a little digging to uncover it. He hoisted the chest out of the hole, opened its lid and—to his utter amazement—beheld ancient treasures of gold, silver, and jewelry in such abundance that no estimate could be placed on the cache!

The excited man quickly looked around to see if anyone might have observed this discovery. No one had. He immediately buried the treasure once again and literally ran to a local real estate office. The price on that particular parcel of land was very high. It would require selling his home and business, as well as borrowing a considerable sum. I suspect that the realtor was surprised over the readiness with which his client agreed to the price. Neither did he seem the least depressed over selling his home and business. Strange.

But not strange to our new millionaire. No sooner was the deal completed than he was back in the field, digging, with a big smile on his face. And there it was! the treasure was right where he had left it. Now it was his!

The search for riches was finished. He had them in hand. His heart was filled with joy.

This is a parable—slightly embellished—of the Kingdom of God.

16Our treasure is a Person—God. This treasure is not an idea, an explanation, nor an analysis. The answers to life’s problems are not in theology, nor in philosophy, nor in the sciences. The best these can do is present us with words and ideas. Only a Person—one whom we call God—can satisfy our needs, answer our problems, and end our search. He is the Answer. The “it” answers are no answers.

This Answer brings joy. Leon Bloy has said, “The most infallible proof of the presence of God in a person is joy.” Someone else has said, “Joy is the flag we fly from the castle-towers of our hearts when the Lord-King is in residence.”

Once we realize that the treasured Person has been found, it begins to register with us that our long search for something lost, something missing, is finished. St. Augustine said it long ago: “Our hearts cannot repose, O Lord, until they rest in Thee.”

Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

“Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). Little children are humble-minded (occasionally, when their egoism permits) because their store of knowledge is so scanty. This makes them open—open to mystery, paradox; indeed, to whatever is taught them. Adults, who have spent years laboriously building a system of knowledge which they have labeled “truth,” are open only to ideas which coincide with and enhance their present stockpile of learning. After years of building this monument to ourselves, some of us found that the whole effort was a waste of time. We were humbled by the results of our own folly—and finally, ready for the Source of Truth, God.

Leo Tolstoy, at the age of fifty, found that he had to become a child willing to be taught by some very humble teachers. Of him, Ernest J. Simmons writes:

Since the faith of worldly theologians and of the people of his own class repelled him, Tolstoy turned to believers among the poor, simple, unlettered folk: pilgrims, monks, sectarians and peasants. The life of his own spoiled and rich circle had lost all meaning for him, but the life of the laboring people, of the great masses of mankind that produce life, now appeared to him in its true light. ... The humble people of Russia had led Tolstoy to an understanding of the meaning of life and to a belief in God.*
*Ernest J. Simmons, Leo Tolstoy (New York: vintage Books, 1960], vol. 1, pp. 360,370.

When I entered the mental hospital chaplaincy, I was told that I was well-trained for my work. I, too, believed this. I had taken the right courses, gotten the best training, received the proper accreditation. I set to work with vigor. The results were disastrous. What had been taught me was not really helping people, and in some cases, it was adding to their problems. I was in a state of despair, ready to quit both the hospital and the ministry.

It was at that point that God turned me to some recovered alcoholic patients. These men had no degrees, no training in counseling—all they had was sobriety. I was struck also by the fact that they were quiet inside. I was not. It was at the feet of these broken people that I first began to learn. They taught me at the age of thirty-eight my first lessons about a living God—after I had been in the ministry nine years. Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:60)

That means obedience. Obedience, that is, to terms other than our own. The obedience is to the King. This terminates the rule of Self.

Note that this obedience is not a feeling of agreement but rather an act of submission to the King, often in spite of one’s disagreement. In the above passage of Scripture, our Lord faced a man who wished to follow Him. Christ wanted the man’s services immediately. The man, however, wished to return home to bury his father. The would-be follower would not defer to Christ. His obedience was only a nice idea. When it came to action (which is what really counts in obedience), he held back. The only kind of obedience the King accepts, however, is the kind which goes into action.

But surely not just any kind of action we might choose. There are multitudes of religious people in the world who right this moment are knocking themselves out with their good deeds, their philanthropies, and their religious rituals. Good as these self-chosen acts are, if they are not preceded by the act of surrender of the will to God’s rule, the doer is working himself into a terrible delusion. God does not want our service. He wants our obedience. That means the unconditional surrender of ourselves on God’s terms, not ours.

The need for surrender first and service second is clearly taught in Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler. This man kept the commandments perfectly, but when our Lord suggested new terms, namely, that he sell all his possessions and follow Christ, the young man turned away in sorrow. He was prepared only to work hard for God, not to surrender and become obedient, for that would mean an end to living on his own terms.

The decision to act out our obedience to Christ does not require that our feelings be in full support of the act. Indeed, if we wait for our fickle feelings to endorse the commands of Christ, He will never become our Leader. Even the initial act of surrender to Christ need not be sponsored by feelings of glad willingness. The only thing necessary is that we capitulate, regardless of how we feel about it. God only wants our weapons on the table. He does not care how we feel about surrendering them. The rich young ruler was only asked to surrender. He was not asked to like it.

So this is the order—an act of obedience first, and then the feelings will eventually follow. The whole world wants that order reversed. People want to feel like doing something before they act. Christ rejects this nugget of human wisdom.

How can we go into action in obeying God?

A large part of our obedience to God is actualized through the instruments of human authority—such as laws, institutions, and role people. Paul tells us, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). Peter adds, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (I Pet. 2:13). We are counseled to obey God through surrogate authority except when such authority conflicts with our obedience to God. At such time, we are to obey God rather than man.

Normally, we think of human authority as being vested in law and government, but I think of it here in a much wider sense. Obedience is also expressed through “role people,” such as pastors, medical doctors, foremen, AA sponsors, etc. Indeed, a person can authorize anyone to function as a representative of God to him.

If you and I were together, and I was burdened with a sense of guilt, would you not hear my confession in confidence if I asked this of you? And would you not assure me, as God’s spokesman, that I am pardoned? If my guilt was the result of stealing something from a store, would you not also suggest that I return the stolen article? Now that suggestion means new terms. My terms are to keep the goods. You bring new terms, God’s terms. If I accept those terms, I become obedient. You, then, are an agent of God to me.

An. older friend of mine has a real hang-up with watching sports on TV. He is drawn like a magnet, especially to the body-contact sports—boxing, football, and hockey. This fellow got so emotionally involved in these programs that his fists, shoulders, and entire body were all in movement as he watched the programs. His family laughed at him and treated the matter lightly.

My friend, however, did not laugh, nor did he feel at all complacent about his sports craze. He knew he was addicted to violence, that he experienced strong feelings of guilt after these programs, that he was wasting his time, that he could not break free from his compulsive TV-watching, and that God wanted very much for him to be free from this bondage. It was a serious problem with him, and he knew it.

One day—when he finally had reached THE END, he said to his wife, “Honey, I’ve had it with these programs. Could you and I sit down once a week to decide which programs to avoid and which to see? And then, would you hold me to it?” His wife agreed.

Their agreement worked—immediately! A fundamental spiritual law in the Kingdom of God had been set in operation—namely, that the obedient person becomes the free person.

Obedience to God through people is also expressed in a Christian’s compassion for broken people. If our help to suffering people is based on humanistic ideals or the lovableness of those who suffer, we will soon turn away, because the helpers are all too ego-involved, and the helped are often very unlovable. There needs to be a better reason for helping people than people. Compassion based on obedience to God is the only way our actions can have real meaning.

Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 3:2 KJV)

Before one can be born anew into the Kingdom, one must first repent. Repentance means that one has a change of heart. Phillips translates this passage, “You must change your hearts—for the kingdom of Heaven has arrived!”

Repentance, therefore, goes far beyond sorrow over sins we have committed. When John the Baptist spoke these words, he had in mind the deepest possible change in a person—the change resulting from an invitation to God to take up residence in the human heart.

That change is so drastic in the human heart that at first it registers as one’s death sentence. I suppose that is why the Bible speaks of “dying to self.” The self, however, does not really die. The self “dies” only as to his egocentric position in the world. We were positioned squarely in the center of our world, and of course, that meant that God (as Jesus Christ, the Son of God) had to die—which He did in actual fact as a means of confirming what every man does to the divine Christ. In a real sense, we all killed Christ, because whenever we live the egocentric life, Christ is dead to us. But when Christ lives in us, then the self takes its rightful subordinate position.

Love one another. (John 15:17)

Judge not. (Matthew 7:1)

Do not resist one who is evil. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:3 9)

Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:44)

Christ gave us only one commandment to follow. He did not command us to be good, right, knowledgeable, nor did He command us to be custodians of ultimate truth and manifestations of religious piety. He commands us only to love.

It is always difficult to put into words what our Lord meant by love, but for our purposes, it is sufficient to think of love as a combination of acceptance, caring for another, and the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of the beloved.

We have little trouble with such attitudes as long as the person with whom we are dealing is attractive, responsive, and lovable.

A more difficult test of our acceptance-caring-sacrifice arises when it must be practiced as an act of will, simply because the love object is so unattractive and even, at times, repulsive.

The ultimate test of our love, however, is when that unlovable person attacks us. Christ addressed Himself to this problem. He is very clear that we are not to judge our tormentor.
17We are not to resist one who is evil. And, more positively, we are to love our enemy so that he feels the full force of our acceptance-caring-sacrifice with neither abatement nor termination.

All this brings gloom to the heart of any egoist. He has trained himself from the beginning to retaliate, to trade hate for hate and to escalate the violence. Christ’s teaching about non-judgment, non-resistance to evil, and loving the enemy strikes at the very center of our egocentric philosophy of life. Nowhere is our self-life contradicted as flatly and sharply as in these doctrines of Christ. It is important, therefore, that we linger on our Lord’s teaching of non-violence for a few moments.

How is a citizen of the Kingdom of God to respond to the attacks, the violence, and the hatred which the enemies of the Kingdom aim at him?

The person under God is to leave all judgment of his enemy to God. The enemy may be dead wrong. Yet God must punish sin. Punishment is not a function of man. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Nor can the enemy’s errors be used to sanction anger and justify retaliation. The man of God realizes that “justifiable resentment” and “righteous indignation” are the worst and most hypocritical forms of anger.

Non-violence toward an enemy, therefore, means much more than refraining from shooting him. It means more, also, than refusing to hate the doer of evil. Ultimately, non-violent love means doing the enemy good. Attack him with kindness. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink” (Romans 12:20). Difficult as it is, the citizen of the Kingdom of God seeks positive ways to express acceptance-caring-sacrifice.

The strategy of non-violent love is basically beneficial in at least two ways: (1) It heaps “burning coals” (Romans 12:20) upon the head of the enemy. That is, the approach educates rather than humiliates. This method holds some hope of enlightening and reforming one’s opponent. The way may thus be open for a reconciliation of the parties involved; (2) Non-violence benefits the person who practices it. This simple strategy frees one from resentment. To be free of resentment is to be free of our most damaging emotion, If resentment is allowed to remain in our hearts, it will surely burn a hole in us. What we should do, therefore, is refer our judgment and resentment into the hands of the Judge of all the earth. No one benefits more from this than the non-violent person himself.

In this simple way, a great moral victory is assured us. We do not need, nor do we want that false and foolish “victory” which violence brings. Everyone loses in such a struggle. No one ever wins any kind of a war. Both parties always end in fatigue, the winner being the one who delivers a weak final blow to which his weakened opponent is unable to respond. Any victory by physical or verbal force is no victory. A moral victory is assured the person who practices non-violence. If his “opponent” is humbled in the face of this moral force, he is then invited to share in this victory. Behold—two winners.

I think I speak the mind of the King in suggesting the following steps in the non-violent approach to human problems:

A. Take your stand, not because you are always right, but because you humbly wish to place yourself on the side of God’s truth, law, and love.
B. Explain your position to your “opponent.” Never mind knocking his position. He has a perfect right to his opinion. So do you. Explain it to him.
C. Give up your “opponent” to God. Let go . . . let God. Let God judge and change the other person. When we grab these functions, we leave no room for God. Our Lord told us what to do with our enemies. We are to pray for them, that their hearts and lives may be changed.
D. If attacked, love your enemy. This sounds like a paradox but it works. You are not up against a deep-eyed villain but only a man who has done wrong. Even though you are striving to undo the wrong, show good will to him no matter what he does. Do not vilify, ridicule or humiliate him at any time, in any way. Let him know at all times that you are out to establish justice, not to defeat him.*
*How to Practice Non-Violence, published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Box 271, Nyack, N. Y. These five suggestions borrow heavily from this brochure.

E. Keep working on your own problems. We have plenty to do improving ourselves. He who forgets this soon becomes a messianic egoist who spends all his energy leading lost souls into a promised land about which he himself knows nothing.

We should be aware that the principle of non-violence can be misused and twisted like anything else God has given us. Non-violence can feed the martyr complex in a dependent, passive personality. Martyrism is obviously an ego-trip in which a person uses suffering to gain glory. The correction needed by such a person, however, is not to stand up and slug it out. Characteristically, egocentrics either fight or run which is precisely what the belligerent attacker wants. What is needed is for the egoistic martyr to take his stand and then return good for evil.

The way of non-violence, though it will certainly save our souls from hatred, never guarantees us that we will be free from physical harm. Jesus Christ died on a cross. You and I may be asked to make a similar sacrifice if we follow in His footsteps.

On second thought, however, holding to non-violence to the end is not at all a bad way to end our days, if God so wills. What better way to die than faithful to God’s eternal cause? Dying for that cause certainly beats dying in a hospital bed with all those medical technicians frantically trying to get a little more mileage out of us. May the Lord spare us from such an unhappy ending! Dying for the cause of Christ far surpasses meeting my Maker on a battlefield, engaged in a foolish war which should never have been started in the first place. And if I have a choice between suffering physical harm as a result of practicing non-violence or suffering physical harm as a result of colliding with a drunken driver on a highway, I know which I would choose. Or, again, what comparison is there between suffering from heart disease and suffering for the cause of righteousness and truth?
18God may ask us to do both, but still, nothing else can give our lives real meaning as much as obeying Christ. If such obedience means death, it will be a death which will crown our lives with meaning and purpose.

In summary, there are two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Self and the Kingdom of God. If God’s kingdom becomes established in the human heart, it is hardly noticed at first, because we allow God only the smallest control over our wills. King Self surrenders by degrees. Ego-slaying and obedience are terribly painful, and yet afterward there is a quality of inexpressible joy which the presence of God generates in us. It is a law of the Kingdom of God that we must lose all to find Him. We must die to our egocentrism to be born anew into the eternal Kingdom. Finally, to live under the King who is God, means to live with other persons in a loving, non-violent style of life.

“If I receive God into my life,” a man once asked me, “will He overwhelm me? Will He take more than I am willing to give?”

I assured my worried friend that God, on entering our hearts, does not crush our wills. We retain the power of decision. Indeed, He enlivens our wills and presents us with new options. Formerly, we had only one choice in our lives—to choose our own strength, since it was the only power we knew. Now we have another choice open to us: the limitless power of God to deliver us from sin and its bondage in all our relationships. When this work of God begins in us, we come to understand that the Kingdom of God is the kingdom of right relationships to oneself and others.

Read Chapter 6
16 An unbelievable blunder. The hidden treasure is not God, neither can we declare that the treasure is Jesus Christ, the God-man.

The Kingdom parables, found in Matthew 13, speak of things both old and new (13:52). Old things are things documented in the Old testament. New things are things documented in the New testament. The parable under consideration here deals with things old.

From Psalm 135:4 and Exodus 19:4, 5; 39:8-14, we discover that the treasure is Israel.. The field is the world, and the man is Jesus. This man (Jesus) sold all that he had to buy the field (world) and take possession of the treasure (Israel). God (or Jesus Christ) cannot possibly be the treasure because we do not buy God...he buys us. We did not go searching for him, he was searching for us.

17 Here Rev. Jabay pulls Matthew 5:39 out of context and, like so many others before him, creates an unbiblical doctrine.

First of all, Matthew 5:39 is immediately preceded by verse 38 and is followed by verses 40-42. Together they read this way:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

The text Jesus is quoting is Leviticus 24:13-22 and deals with judging the magnitude of sin. The original text found in Leviticus is presented to judges who settle disputes between people. The central idea in Leviticus is “let the punishment fit the crime.” The word “evil” in verse 39 does not refer to moral evil, but that which is apt to cause us pain.

The plain instruction of Jesus is: When you have done something that warrants you making restitution, you should go beyond the basic requirement; more than make up for your offense. Jesus is in no way suggesting that we become the worlds punching bag.

18 Absolutely not! While we are given the arduous task of suffering for the sake of righteousness, there is no account, given us in scripture, where God asks (or requires) anyone to suffer sickness. God only asks us to believe him for healing.

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