Upside Down Kingdom
My kingdom is not of this world...
When I think of the phrase “upside down kingdom” it reminds me of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. A kingdom so obscured and obtuse, that the mere idea of it seems to defy imagination let alone reality. No doubt that (the author and director, Tim Burton) had this in mind when modeling the characters from the book and scenes for the movie. I see some interesting parallels to this and living in the light of God's Kingdom. Particularly in comparison with the “Red Queens'” kingdom of hearts (even the name there lends itself to biblical reference).
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place."
I imagine walking with Jesus and listening to his teaching must have contradicted most everything they'd been taught or learned all their life. Put in that place, I'd think the disciples encountered the very same (seemingly) counter-intuitive approach to their new found life with Christ. Their expectations may have been overwhelming for what was about to happen. However, having not fully grasped what the Kingdom was truly about yet, they were all but dashed to see Christ moving along a different path...
- Christ turning away the multitudes (John 6:63-67, Matthew 8:18-22, Luke 14:25-35, Luke 9:61-62)
- Christ rebuking the Pharisees (Luke 11:37-54)
- Christ NOT overthrowing the Roman government (John 18:33-38)
- Christ submitting himself to death on a cross
- Christ communing with sinners (Matthew 22:36-40)
- Christ then dining with the Pharisees (even in knowing the intent in their heats)
All this and for what purpose... That we would see, hear and model the same. But from a place of love for the Father and for the mission (2 Tim. 2:4).
23 Jesus answered, “If anyone [really] loves Me, he will keep My word (teaching); and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling place with him. (AMP)
5 Jesus sent out these twelve, instructing them: “Do not go among the Gentiles(ref.), and do not go into a city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Do not take gold, or silver, or [even] copper money in your money belt, 10 or a provision bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker deserves his support. (AMP)
Our affinity with having things "our way" is the culture of the day. What makes sense to us tends to take priority to the reality of Kingdom living (ala... love God with all your heart, mind, body, soul and strength and love others and living not for earthly things like possessions, accolades, making much of ourselves, etc; Matt 16:25, Luke 9:24-26, Luke 17:32-34). However the unseen things are not a shadow of our reality. Actually, the exact opposite is true. Looking through the lens of scripture, we are shown clearly that there is a heavenly world present and in progress since before earth was created (see ref. Isaiah 14:12-15, Luke 10:18, Rev. 9:1, Rev. 12:8-9) the fall of Lucifer and the third of the angels). Let us be aware of this today as the heavenly realm has not diminished whatsoever. I'd even venture to say its more real and tangible since it exists in eternity.
Christ does not do anything without purposeful intent.
As he only does what he sees the Father doing in Heaven (John 6:38, 8:28, John 5:19) e.g. His and our purpose emanate from Heaven and result in tangible outcomes just as His did and ours should.
Christ turned the multitudes away on one occasion in stating who qualified to be His disciples (John 6:35-66). He did this to clarify His intentions and our motives, and to see who was really present for Him (knowing, loving, understanding and walking the path that He was on and what that meant in the reality of where he was going) versus what He was doing for them.
One point we can learn from this, was that everybody, in fact many, of us who profess that we are with Christ are actually not. Let us be aware to check our motives and pride at the door, look at our actions and thinking and see where things align with His word... and where we do not.
37Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me.
Clearly, our thoughts are not His thoughts and our ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Where our vision should be focused and single we are divided (Matt. 6:22, Luke 11:34, Luke 16:13, James 1:8, James 4:8, Psalm 119:113, – divided mind, single eye). Where our minds are called to be on heavenly things (the things that are on the Father’s heart) we continually pray for this “thing” or that “thing” as a result of wanting His hand (what He can give us) rather than simply His presence or personage and time of intimacy with Him alone. God knowing this frailty within us and His fatherly love for us even the more promised us that “all these things will be added to us”...IF “we seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt6:33). That is loving and gracious. To recognize our weakness while circumventing our selfishness and still providing us the option of choice.
Christ rebuking the Pharisees seems to be fairly straight forward. However, this was the group descendant from the Levities, the priests, the ones meant to uphold the statues of the law. Unfortunately, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life crept in (1 John 2:16 – worldly characteristics via strategies from the enemy - see the exchange in the garden of Eden) and they lost sight of the charge of their calling, got comfortable and stop following the Father and instead relied on the traditions they’d created and felt "worked" to ultimately suit "their needs". In short, they compromised their post.
Let’s keep in mind, Christ had 30+ years to witness this group in action and understand what they were doing and teaching the people. Once His ministry began, He’d seen the deception they were operating in and at each exchange “made it plain” as it were. There are times we come to where we have experienced enough of something that we are able to make an informed decision, even more so that Christ knew their hearts and called them on it as they plotted not simply against Him but against the Father and the Father's will. Dangerous territory. Had they turned and repented surely they would have been forgiven. This shows us that their hearts were selfish and hardened toward all that God was doing. While they had a sense of who God was they denied Him by their actions preceded by their callousness of heart (Romans 1:21).
Christ so loved us entrapped by sin (desiring our ultimate freedom in Him) that he made it a point to engage them directly. Going to stay at their homes, eating dinner and communing with them, showing up in the areas where they’d be (John 5). The places that were considered unclean. His love for mankind overshadowed almost everything else, except His single focus of why he’d come (John 5:19). I believe His intention in this was not just to offer salvation to mankind but rather to offer us our true identity back (enter repentance). As sons and daughters of God. With an accurate perspective on who He is we can clearly see who we are.
Sin & Selfishness is not our true identity
...that is an inherited lie from our forefather, Adam.
God said “I knew you before the womb”, “He has set eternity in our hearts”, “He created them in His image, in His image He created them male and female” (Add SCRIPTUREs). This being the case, our exposure to sin came through birth into this world sponsored by a decidedly bitter brunch provided by the enemy in retaliation to God’s most cherished creation.
Now let us resolve with all our heart, mind and strength to live upside down, contrary to what we see and aligned with the heavenly unseen. The question then is, how? I would like to say its an easy answer, well easy enough to say (or write) but I’d be lying. While the answer is easy the process challenges us to our core.
- Will I believe?
- Will I trust? Even when it goes against what I am seeing.
- Will I pray for insight and direction even when its contrary to my will?
- Will I seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness?
- Am I going to prioritize Him above all else? Father, Mother, Husband, Wife, Son, Daughter etc... (learning how to do this gracefully)
- Am I going to obey His commands? Even if it costs me money, houses, jobs, comfort my pride... even my life? (btw, we get these back; see Matt 19:28-30, Luke 18:28-30, Rev. 21:1-8)
Seems like a lot...
Consider the alternative
This is the cost. It’s not figurative nor poetic (there are other beautifully authored parables and books that speak in that prose), this is a blatant, hi-contrast of what it means to follow Christ. If it were not written in scripture and clearly spoken by Christ some might think that these things are quite the embellishment. On the contrary, when we actually take the time to read the word for ourselves we get a different picture of the man found in the Messiah.
Here we have an encouraging crux, in that committing to follow the Christ in these ways we are no longer slaves or servants but brothers and heirs to the throne. That we will not only have eternal life in the Kingdom but that our Joy will be made complete by receiving the fullness of the Father (which is the point), to know that we know him and having recanted every worldly lust and passion wholeheartedly submit to what seemed upside down by the worlds standard but fully vert by the measure of the true King.
Keys for success:
- Read the Bible – Read it for yourself. Read for understanding, not just to check it off the list. If there’s something you do not understand... look it up, Google it, check and encyclopedia (so analog but, yes) ask a friend, your pastor, some one you respect the opinion of, go to an online Christian, Hebrew or Greek forum. There are so many avenues we literally will have no excuse not to be knowledgeable of the faith we profess or are seeking. Most of all, read because you actually are in love with the Lord. A common principle we all practice here is spending time with the ones we truly love. Whether a spouse, family or friends – these are the "one another's" (Matthew 22:36-40). It’s not simply a routine practice, its organic and all consuming. Reading God’s word is spending time with him.
- Take notes and/or journal – keep a running tab of questions and answers, how you feel about certain passages or even general things that are goings-on in your life. God is a lover, and He loves o hear about your day, this is a part of His character. Picture your notes or journal as intimate conversations with God. No one else has to see it. No one else has to know what’s written. Please be as laid bare and honest as you can be (both with yourself and with God). If you really trust Him, trust that He can handle it.
- Pray – not long elaborate prayers. Get to the point. Keep it real/authentic. We don't need to mimic what we see from the various pulpits, raising our voice or exaggerating our movements is a form of sensuality (relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of appetite : – see Ephesians 4:19, Colossians 2:23, 1 John 2:16, etc...).
- STOP and take time to listen for His response. Insert still small voice... once you actually quiet yourself and block out all the other voices in your head and heart competing for attention. This is key. Everything else in your life circumstances will clamor for a place on the throne of your mind, your focus, once you commit to this so be prepared. Turn off your phone and close your laptop.
How rude it is to be on a date, spending time with the one you love only to be distracted (or divided in your attentions and affections) by your phone or whatever device. That time is precious and actually critical to building the relationship and setting the foundation. Stay focused and take not for granted the time that you have and people that are in front of you.
The same principle applies to our time with the Father.