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Friday, August 29, 2014

A City Under Siege?

Jesus said once that, 'the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force' ( Matthew 11:12b ). He was speaking of the ministry of John the Baptizer of which His own ministry was the continuation, or fulfillment. In today's day & age, it seems sometimes like this is still the case, but we may be assured that Jesus was not speaking of this present age, but rather of the current age in which He first uttered these words!

'How can we be assured?', you may well ask! Well, when Jesus said this, He was currently dealing with the problem of the troublesome Pharisees who thought that the Promises & the Inheritance belonged to them, simply because they were made to Israel. The only thing is, these Promises WERE made to Israel, and Israel alone, but the Promised Inheritance was for Israel according to the Spirit, and not Israel according to the flesh!

Just prior to His statement above, Jesus said, 'from the days of John the Baptist until now'; in other words, He was telling His audience that the Pharisees were trying to enter the Kingdom by force ( of Law ) because they thought that it was their by Divine Right, and if anyone threatened to wrest it from them...............well, you know the rest of the Story!

Jesus signaled the very Presence of the Kingdom of Heaven! He told the Pharisees ( Luke 17:21b ), 'the kingdom of God is within you' ( not that the kingdom was within THEM personally )! Other translations might say, rather than 'within you', 'among you', or 'in your midst'. In context then, Jesus was saying that the Coming of the Kingdom of God & Heaven was not an observable phenomenon, but was rather something that was a matter of the heart. With the change of heart would come an observable change of actions, yes, but Jesus made a point of saying, as He did elsewhere, that it all begins with the heart!

Many in Christendom, most in fact, still have a view of the Kingdom as if it is still under siege! There are doubtless still enemies of the cross, so to speak, but since the Death of Death ( the ministration of death ), the Victorious Cross of Christ has seen all enemies placed beneath His feet! No more does sin & iniquity separate the Covenant People of God from the Blessings of His Presence; those who were once far off have been brought near as well!

The Kingdom of God today is being daily expanded, not by force & violence, but by the gentle wooing of the Spirit! The People of God often take part in this gentle wooing, although, in the past ( remember the crusades, the Inquisition, etc.? ) our 'wooing' has not been very gentle; in fact, the History of Christianity has been pretty violent! Much of this violence can be blamed on a false eschatology, as well, because the Crusaders thought their City was under attack!

We may be assured that the Kingdom of God is present today by the very fact alone that our Heavenly Father has made His dwelling with us ( John 14:23 )! We are His Kingdom! It is evidenced in our lives when we keep His commands & live according to His Word! Those who do not live according to His Word ( follow Jesus ) do not enjoy the Blessedness of His Presence, but they are still within His Kingdom, in His Presence!

As we, His People, live our lives thus in His Kingdom, let us, as much as lies within us, determin to live at peace with all men ( and women ), to love them as ourselves, and so gently ( not by force & violence ) to work together with the Spirit in Courting them for His Kingdom!

Charles Haddon Shank

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