God’s hidden Kingdom
Two coexisting rival kingdoms
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Mat 13:44
Jesus came and instituted his Kingdom “ahead of time”, as it were, while satan’s dominion on earth was still functionally intact. We know that God’s Kingdom is unshakable, and that it will continue to increase until all earthly counterfeits are done away with. But until that final day the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of man under satan’s domain coexist on earth. It is hardly a peaceful coexistence, as the enemy of God continually persecutes God’s saints, trying to wear them down through trials or trip them up with temptations.
Jesus left us in the world to bear witness to Him so that His Kingdom would increase. He could have taken each of us to Him the moment we possessed saving faith. But had He done that, who would have witnessed to the remaining lost of this world? In mercy, we were left here for the purpose of serving others.
Or we may think that at least God could have protected each of His children so that the sorrows of this world could not reach us as we went about our tasks. But if He had given his children a life of ease, then others would rush to join the side of Light not out of love of God, but out of selfish interest. So death has been permitted to reign during the present age, even over believers, to try our hearts and make us holy.
And so we are left in this sorrowful world to perform His will. This should not surprise us, for even Christ came to do God’s will at the cost of great suffering. Disciples should expect the same (1Pe 2.21, 4.1).
A matter of the heart
Thus it is that the Saved are in the world, alongside those who are not submitted to Christ. It’s interesting that at first glance, these two classes of people often seem indistinguishable:
Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. -Mat 24:40, 41
Each couple in the above verses is in the same place and doing the same thing. They’re probably wearing similar clothes. Their respective ages are not important.
Then what’s the significant difference between those taken and those left behind? The heart. In each case the person chosen has a heart devoted to God. Though he’s doing the same external thing as the other person, he’s doing it for different reasons. He’s working first of all to please God, and everything he does is consecrated to that end. (Col 3.23)
We are not saved by our externals. What we do, what we wear, who we know, how rich we are, are not significant in God’s eyes. God sees through the externals to the motivations of the heart. He looks for a heart of devotion. Everything else stems from that. He knows how to give just rewards regardless of circumstances.
God isn’t interested in winning mere numbers. If you study Christ’s ministry you will see that at various times Jesus did things with the express purpose of thinning the ranks of His followers (Lk 14.25ff; Jn 6.25ff; et al). God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. He changes men from the inside, out, and the devotion He requires comes not out of compulsion, and not for earthly gain, but from an awed recognition of who He is. God is looking for yielded hearts He can make holy.
Growing in maturity and holiness
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. – 2Ch 16:9
Each situation we enter is a test. We have the choice to pass or fail. The critical issue isn’t how well we perform externally. Indeed, we can fail in a given situation in the eyes of the world and still be promoted by God. The real test is whether we keep our hearts trained on God and do the things pleasing to Him, despite circumstances.
If we fail this spiritual test, we will repeat the lesson over again (Jon 2). If we continue to harden ourselves we may incur permanent loss. (Rev 2.20-23)
God can separate sheep from goats even in this age, and He can reward one and punish the other with the same sure stroke. If we chose to abide in the Lord and obey, giving Him honor in difficult circumstances, we will be promoted.
Spiritual promotion matures us in Christlike character and draws us nearer to God. It first brings inner peace and freedom, and then the power to witness to others. We are purified to receive more of God’s spirit, and we are entrusted to wield more of His power. (1Pe 1.22)
Spiritual promotion can lead to promotion among men. Once God lifts us up, others recognize God’s character in us and His favor on us, and they may promote us. But the disciple will work for the true promotion first, knowing that the favor man gives corrupts those who work for it. And while man’s favor can quickly be taken away, the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
These are some of the dynamics of God’s hidden Kingdom, the Kingdom of the heart. We want to be sure we understand them and comply with them. As we seek the interests of God’s Kingdom, our way will be made sure and God will convert every test brought our way into victory in Jesus.
And one day the hidden Kingdom of the heart will be made manifest. The works of those who labored in God will be revealed, and the faithful will enter into the joy of their Master.
Lord, I acknowledge Your Kingdom and want to be a part of it. I want to please You in all things, by making You my strength and doing things Your way. It is only by Your Blood that my sins have been washed away and I am free to enter in. Help me to get my eyes off myself and circumstances and onto You, the author and finisher of my faith. In the name of Jesus, which is above all other names, amen.
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