Do We Desire the Kingdom of God or the Kingdoms of Men?

He is Faithful

Today we see well-meaning men and women building their kingdoms and pushing their agendas all in the name of Christ all through Christendom. Some put their hopes in who gets elected in the world’s political systems. Some are so bold (and blind) as to name their ministries after themselves, yet we take this all to be perfectly normal. Can you see a huge sign above the banks of the Jordan 2000 years ago reading, “John the Baptist Ministries”?  Can you see ushers seating all the people that went out to observe him in action, handing out baptism request cards, and taking up a collection (or two) at every “service”? Of course, all had to be done “decently and in order.” No, none of this nonsense was how the Spirit wind moved through John the Baptist. He upset the whole religious and political establishment and told everyone they needed to repent as he prepared the way for Christ to appear. The religious establishment didn’t take too kindly to him either.

How easy it is for us who call ourselves “Christian” to hold on to our worldly mindsets, values, earthly ambitions and views on what the Father’s kingdom should look like and how it should operate. Such was the case with the disciples of Christ. They all knew that when Messiah came, He would set up a new world order with the Jews at the top of the heap and themselves as its administrators. How wrong they were! He made it clear to Pilate at His trial that HIS kingdom is not of this world! Jesus finally told the disciples that He had to go up to Jerusalem, be rejected by the leaders of the Jews, be tormented by them and die the death of the cross. Their minds went “tilt”! Peter even took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be unto you.” (Matthew 16:22, KJ2000).

Do you remember where it is written that Satan stopped tempting Jesus for a season after His temptation in the wilderness? That season was now over. Satan was back in His face in the form of a beloved disciple who Jesus loved, trying to get Him to go against the will of His Father and save Himself. Until then, Jesus had always said regarding going up to Jerusalem, “My time is not yet come.” What was Peter thinking? Jesus answered Peter’s challenge by saying, “Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense unto me: for you consider not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Yes, Satan wants us to spare ourselves and save our lives by finding our niche here on earth. To this mindset Jesus went on to say to the disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” After this Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, AKJV).

Even though we might confess–as Peter did–that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that is not enough. Down deep inside we have to ask ourselves, “Have I truly been converted?” Or do we, like Peter, still desire and consider the things of men and operate in the ways of men–ways like seeking popularity, fame and wanting worldly safety and comfort more than the plan that God has for our lives? When Jesus bids us to take up our flesh-killing cross and follow Him, will we deny ourselves all these temptations of Satan and His world system and do the “unreasonable thing” even in the eyes of our fellow Christians? When God allows him to sift us, will our faith in Christ survive? It will if we submit to Christ’s preparatory work of the cross in us. We know for sure that when God calls us to walk in His kingdom way, we will hear those who are still in the world and not truly converted calling us to be “reasonable” and spare ourselves as Peter did with Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well:

“…the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (1)

God has no use for our flesh and its talents (see Romans 7:18). They are useless to Him. The more talented we are, the larger obstacle these talents become and the greater temptation to “do something great for Christ” without His Spirit leading us.

How many of us American Christians have heard the lie of Satan that we as Christians are called to live a happy, successful life in the eyes of the world as a living advertisement on why they should also be Christians? This is not the gospel of God’s kingdom, but rather a false gospel designed by Satan to keep us under his control in his kingdom. If we have bought into this, we are no different than Peter under the influence of Satan, desiring the things of men instead of the things of God. Yes, Satan desires the things that carnal men desire! The flesh of man wars against the Spirit of God and His Spirit wars against our flesh. Which side will our hearts come down on? That is the question.

If the cross has not yet met us in a real way and become a life changing crisis in our daily lives, we are still like Peter was. We have not yet been converted and we have not yet turned from the ways of the world in our hearts. T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

 You see it is a matter, in the first place, of the ground which is taken and occupied by the one concerned. When Peter took heavenly ground – “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” – he was in a very strong position. The keys of the kingdom of heaven, binding on earth and binding in heaven, were his. He was weak, and in a very weak position, when he took earthly ground, the ground of men, the ground of his own judgment and of his own selfhood. The ground taken decided whether he was spiritually strong or weak, and whether Satan had power over him or not. (2)

The flesh in man loves religion because religion gives him an opportunity to have the best of both worlds. With religion we can claim Christ as our Lord, yet remain the one in control of our lives, seeing His cross as a thing of the past and go after “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” After all, isn’t this our God-given “inalienable right”? This phrase from the Declaration of Independence is the opposite of desiring the things of our Father in heaven, yet you would think it came from the very mouth of Jesus Christ if you observe the lives and goals of American Christians. There is no life, liberty and true happiness outside of living IN Christ in obedience to and unity with the Father. We might think we are independent of Satan as we pursue the things of this world, but we are deluded and have not yet been converted in the eyes of God. We are still not seeking to find our lives in God’s kingdom nor His desires for us. Finally Sparks wrote,

 Then, if we are really going to come through to the place of spiritual power as did Peter, that ground of the enemy must continually be forsaken and refused. The enemy has to be robbed of that which will destroy us and give him power to destroy us, and we have to be very ruthless with anything that arises to give him that position and defeat God’s intention where we are concerned. This battle of heaven and hell, God and Satan, goes on in our souls, but there is for us this consolation, that we have a High Priest ever living to make intercession. We have a great asset in the continual intercession of the Lord Jesus for us. Let us close on that note of encouragement and assurance. (2)

May God continue to draw us ever deeper into Christ and out of Satan’s delusions in this world. Only then can we know the love and unity that is ours in Christ, the abundant life of which He spoke.

(1) The Cost of Discipleship, pp. 99

(2) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000476.html

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21 comments on “Do We Desire the Kingdom of God or the Kingdoms of Men?

  1. Pat Orr says:

    Thank you for the blog. I pray that I will be single minded and desire the Kingdom of God.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Amen to your prayer, Michael.

    Although I am not an American Christian, I fully agree with what you so excellently explained in this article. ⭐

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Thanks, Susanne, for your encouragement. I am afraid that America’s brand of Christianity with all its falsehood and lust for the things of this world has spread throughout the whole world and I know that you have seen some of its excesses there in Germany as men use the name of Christ to build their own cross-less gospels and kingdoms. As Paul put it,

      I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Gal 1:6-8, KJ2000)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. David Murry says:

    Such a seasoned and wise teaching for exactly the right “season” for His body. Thank you, Michael for sharing this biblical foundation so thoroughly and clearly. I know I can always use this reminder to shed all that takes any “form of Godliness ” but in reality, denies the truth life and power of the kingdom of Heaven.
    Again.. Thank you.

    David

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ken Dawson says:

    I eccentualy agree with you–however in all fair reality I do want to mention to you about Peter–you did mention him many times–Later he got himself in trouble with Paul by compromising with the Jews from Jerusalem and this was all done by him and others in Antioch who had inside of them Gods very Spirit Being–they were converted but they were not perfected–Yes we all do need to learn the ways of the Lord and be dead to our own ways but Oh how long it takes!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Thanks, Ken. I am afraid that as I read about Peter and all his ups and downs, I find similarities with my own walk in Christ. It was good for me to read that after Paul rebuked Him in Antioch for trying to appease those law keeping Jews from Jerusalem, Peter went on to make amends and spoke up in favor of Paul in their midst in Jerusalem in Acts 15 and called law keeping a burden which even they could not carry and proclaimed that faith in Christ and salvation by grace alone was enough for both Jew and Gentile. Tradition says that his final act was to request to be crucified upside-down because he said he was not worthy to die the same way that Jesus did.

      I wish I could say that we are totally changed (converted) into the image of Christ in one fell swoop by an act of the grace of God in our lives, but that is not the case. Just as God did not allow the Hebrew people to conquer the whole of their inheritance at once, but only gradually as they could take dominion over it, so it seems to be the case with us, we must grow into the fullness of Christ by overcoming in many trials and testings until we no longer put any trust in our flesh and cry out to our Lord to do an ever deeper work in us that the fullness of Christ might be made manifest in lives which are lived IN Christ. But we have this hope, “It does not yet appear what we shall be, but when He appears we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” In our weakness Christ is being made perfect.

      God bless you, dear brother,

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  5. TJ says:

    Amen & Amen!!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you, I needed to hear this today. I sometimes say we have to seek Christ’s favor over the favor of men. He must come first. It seems as if in the Western world we have created this situation where people often seek to become Christians, to join the church, so as to acquire the favor of men. Then it becomes like this competition where we must earn our grace by how well we have achieved the approval of men in the form of success, power, popularity. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is all but forgotten because we are now no longer looking towards him, but towards worldly evidence of our own status. It’s quite a bit different from John the Baptist simply saying, “I must decrease so He can increase.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Michael says:

      Gabrielle, what you brought out here is so true. The standards of the world have become the standards by which today’s churches measure its members. For instance, I have found that the ones who are made elders are chosen from the richest business men in the congregation, so naturally they judge by the standards of the dog eat dog business world. Yet James said we should choose one of the least to judge matters between the saints and not give special honor to the rich, but rather the poor. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The rich who are not generous to the needy have already had their reward.

      As for what John said, you are right, we are called to decrease, not increase. Only as our flesh decreases can Christ increase His presence in us. What fellowship does Light have with darkness? Paul put it this way,

      And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2Cor 12:9-10, KJ2000)

      Bless you sister!

      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

  7. chuckabean says:

    “God has no use for our flesh and its talents (see Romans 7:18). They are useless to Him. The more talented we are, the larger obstacle these talents become and the greater temptation to “do something great for Christ” without His Spirit leading us.” Excellent insights, “mammon” and “commerce” are two spirits that I feel the church in the USA has submitted to, in place of Christ. In response to Ken Dawson, yes, the process does take a long time, but our starting place is from the place of undefiled, total, perfect victory in Christ, then when we fall, we repent to get back to that place, we are not working toward perfection, perfection is that starting point that Jesus bought for us.

    Like

  8. Michael…beloved, you have once again put into words what my heart, mind and soul speak to me. Jesus stood at the right hand of God as Stephen held ground…may He be standing when I do and may I gaze into Heaven seeing that Glorious sight and maybe even hear “That is my child!”
    Side note, I see so many (christian leaders and pastors by title) around me that are in great standing with the world even boasting of that. Yet I hear the Lord say “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Michael says:

      Alan,
      It is so good to hear from you again and that what I shared resonated through your whole being. You know, every time I hit that “publish” button it is with fear and trembling and I ask myself if I correctly heard the Lord and to get feedback like yours from a saint makes it all worth while. Yes, my brother, may we both hear Jesus say, “Father, this one here is My brother.”

      You quoted a very telling scripture by which we can be warned as to whether we minister to and from the flesh or not. If we are to measure our spiritual success by John the Baptist, Jesus’ earthly ministry or by Paul and those few shining lights in the New Testament, in the eyes of the world we are rebels and failures. I love it when today’s charlatans quote this verse to justify their lust for notoriety and success in the world, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” (Prov 18:16, KJ2000) The anointing that was on the Old Testament prophets often brought them before kings, but not to be honored. They were tortured, imprisoned and even beheaded for speaking the truth of God to these despots, but the false prophets were give honor and a voice in their courts. This should give us reason to pause and reflect on what we see of today’s highly visible church leaders.

      God bless you my brother,

      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Powerful, Michael. Thank you once again for your insight.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. dimple says:

    About “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”…you are exactly right.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. amongtheforgotten says:

    Hello Michael. I was recently talking with a younger brother about the life of the cross and our need to embrace our own if we are to be walking faithfully before our Lord. His comment was not all that surprising: “I don’t know anyone who lives like that.”

    It saddens me every time I see one “brand” of Christiandom going after or accusing another for some failure of one manner or another. Despite the validity of many such admonishments, such rebukes/corrections never really get to the core issue at hand. It’s similar to those “ministries” that make this or that issue or sin THE issue over the priority of proclaiming and living out the gospel. Any of us could have our theological bricks in order, even living a very moral life and still be completely devoid of Jesus’ life. Such is the day and deception in which we live.

    The solution to every problem we face in life can be and ought to be viewed through the cross. Just knowing we are born for adversity and disenfranchised from this world ought to give us pause. How much more knowing Jesus has commanded we die to every form of self or the many self advantages we believe we either have or could possess.

    I think Keith Green sang it well:

    He’s brought me low, so I could know, the way to reach the heights…
    To forsake my dreams, my self esteem and give up all my rights….

    It became clear to Keith and it can become clear to us. But a mere profession of faith or even in right things will not do. We need the real thing, the real instrument of God’s choosing and a willingness to embrace it.

    There is glory to be found in the Christian life, not merely through the cross, but more importantly in it. Keith saw and lived this which is why he named this song: Trials turned to Gold.

    Little do we hear these words of the wise these days, “I was born crucified, that is, when I became a Christian” To be a Christian is to live a crucified life. Any other stance is not merely a contradiction, but a fraud and deception of the highest order.

    I believe it was Paul who said, “I die daily.” That is our need today, as an individual, as a body of believers and as a powerful testimony in this earth for Jesus sake.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Michael says:

    Thank you, Michael F. for your insightful comment. Yes, the cross is the answer. Like Paul said, “yea, we ourselves have had the answer of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” (2Cor 1:9, ERV). It is sad that this young man you spoke to knew no one that lived this way in Christendom. I like those lyrics by Keith Green you quoted. With all the political hoopla going on it is interesting how many Christians are doing all they can to fight for “their rights.” But Jesus made it clear that “He who finds his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

    It is good to hear from you again, my brother.

    Liked by 1 person

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