The Kingdom of Me and the Kingdom of God

Published on 8 September 2022

A message by Reverend Peter Wilson given to the Board Members of the James 1:27 Trust on 13 June 2009. 6 weeks later, on 24 July 2009, Peter went to be with the Lord.

In Chapter 29 of Deuteronomy Moses calls on the people to commit themselves and to renew the contract that they had previously made with God. Knowing God’s law is not enough, we must obey it. Read verses 9 – 14:

9 Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. 10 All of you are standing today in the presence of the Lord your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, 11 together with your children and your wives, and the foreigners living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water. 12 You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you...

It follows therefore that the covenant made with God is a two way agreement whereby we enjoy the benefits of a relationship with the Lord so that we not only know God’s word but that we also obey it. Sadly though, many of us tend to ignore the Kingdom relationship that we are invited into, and rather enter into a relationship where our whole focus and attention is one of self and where we spend a whole lot of time, energy and money controlling, polishing, protecting, and defending our own private little kingdom.

What could ever break through those impossibly thick walls of selfishness? What could ever change our perspectives in such a way that instead of living to serve ourselves we actually live to serve somebody else? To whom do we surrender the keys of the kingdom of self? We need to surrender to the Father who loves us unconditionally. The apostle Paul joyfully tells us “for He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son whom He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13 – 14). How then do we move from the kingdom of me to the Kingdom of God?

Once we surrender the keys to the Kingdom of self to The Loving Father, we are ready to give ourselves over to life in the Kingdom of God. But a voluntary surrender is the key. Jesus only comes in when he is asked. But that surrender leads to a life that is beyond our wildest dreams. Jesus’ invitation is found in Mark 8:34 – 37. First of all we need to deny ourselves! I am sad to admit that I am guilty so often of self-centeredness that has driven me to argue, to be on the defensive, to guard my turf and to say mean things to the very people that I love!

The second point that Jesus makes is that we need to take up our cross – not easy to define! But it is not a literal command; it is an attitude of radical obedience to God in which we are willing to accept any consequence for Jesus’ sake. We can all take the “curse God and die" approach of Job’s wife (Job 2:9) or we can take up Job’s approach; “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised!” We can all conclude that we will no longer serve the Lord if He doesn’t take the pain away, we can all conclude that he doesn’t really understand our desire for a change in our lives.

Thirdly we are called to follow Jesus. In one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, he has a riveting encounter with Peter. Jesus asks Peter three times in a row if he loves Him. Peter responds affirmatively each time, increasingly agitated and hurt because Jesus doesn’t seem to believe him. Suddenly Jesus changes the tone of the conversation, almost as if to say; “Okay, if you really didn’t mean it then let me tell you what loving Me will lead to.” “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted, but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you were you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the sort of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him; “Follow Me!”. With no excuses Jesus tells Peter what type of death he will die for his faith.

Why have I shared this with you? I believe that every one of us sitting around his table has a commitment to the Lord. This is particularly evident when one evaluates the work done by each of you in relation to child and orphan care, but I also believe that each of us is at one time or another guilty of a struggle against the kingdom of me! That certainly is my own experience. I had had a number of years in the fulltime ministry of Our Lord. I had been asked to stay on after my retirement age of 66 and work in a parish that was experiencing particularly difficult times. My wife Isobel and I had established two successful ministries amongst the children in the two parishes that we had worked in. The ministry in Nylstroom was receiving generous support from a number of donors. Then the bombshell was dropped, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer which was so far progressed that it was inoperable. I had in fact reached the stage that I was finding it increasingly difficult to take a full service. My doctor’s advice was to retire!

At a time like this there is a tendency to shake our fists at God in anger and accusation. Frequently our response is to pull away from Him in disappointment, disillusionment, and bitterness. We instinctively know that he could at least mitigate whatever suffering comes into our lives. “It is all His fault!” we reason. I was like Job that day, insisting answers to my prayers! But by the same token I must say that I am completely confident that God’s character is impeccable–pure, spotless, wholesome, wholly righteous and without even a hint of evil. Yes, He can be trusted in all that concerns me. The Bible speaks throughout its pages of a Good God, so being convinced of that truth, I run to him in my pain and NOT away from Him! I am certain that God uses pain to purify me and make me stronger and because of that I am willing to say that I am connected to Him (1 Peter:6-7).

The passage in Job that brought me wonderful comfort has now become my lifeline. I find peace that I cannot control how long I will live, but I can control how I will live. I cannot determine the length of my days but I can control the quality of the days given to me.

 

Peter Wilson was a founding Trustee of the Trust which he helped launch on 11 October 2004.