Jesus told His disciples that he spoke in parables regarding the mystery of the kingdom of God in order to make it more challenging for the casual seeker (Matthew 13:11-13). He was looking for men and women who were truly motivated to obey God (2 Chronicles 16:9). Though Jesus shared these kingdom truths with cloaked language, he still sought to convey important insights about how we can experience God’s kingdom reality in our daily lives.
Let’s begin by looking at the nature of any kingdom. Every kingdom has at least three central components: a king, a king’s subjects, and a territory, or realm, in which the king’s authority is extended. Here is a working definition of the kingdom of God:
The kingdom of God is the right, the power and the authority to carry out the will and the ways of our King, Jesus Christ!
Living in the kingdom means we are allowing Christ to reign IN US, advance His kingdom principles and practices THROUGH US, and to establish His rule WITH US during His theocratic reign on earth at the end of the age.
A famous passage about the kingdom of God being “in us” is found in John 3:1-8, in the story of Nicodemus:
“3 In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ 4 ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ 5 Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.'”– John 3:3-8 NIV
Let’s unpack this passage a bit more:
3:5 In Jesus’ analogy, the fleshly or natural birth corresponds to being “born of water.” During pregnancy an unborn child floats in the amniotic fluid within her mother’s womb. During delivery, this water is expelled. The child is literally born “out of water.” The expression “of water” is used here as a figure of physical birth.
3:6 In this verse, Jesus is declaring that there can be no evolution from flesh to spirit. Just as physical birth is necessary for life on earth, so spiritual birth is necessary for life in heaven. Out of necessity Nicodemus had to be born from above. His Pharisaical self-efforts would not bring him under God’s rule or into God’s kingdom. He needed a new birth!
3:7-8 The words “born again” are best translated, as “born again from above.” Because Jesus starts talking about the wind He is giving us an understanding of what it means to be born again from above and born again by the Spirit.
The wind creates movement. It is powerful, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. So it is with the Spirit! When we are “born again from above,” we are swept up into the “wind” of God’s Spirit. He is all about moving us to action, obedience, power and courage! The momentous movements of God’s Spirit align perfectly with what we know about the kingdom of God. Far too often, however, the words “born again” conjure up nurturing, protective, or tender images. God’s love and care are wonderful aspects of our new lives in Christ, but I believe the tender ideas associated with being “born again” have led Christians (especially new ones) to feel incapable and overly dependent. In fact, the institutional church today tends to coddle and excessively protect new followers of Christ for fear that they may be incapable of adequately living their Christian lives. Older believers are apprehensive about newcomers sharing their faith, and have little confidence in their ability to grasp deeper truths of the faith. Where do you think this lack of trust in God’s Spirit comes from?
Perhaps if we treated new Christians as though they were “born from above” by the “fire of God’s Spirit” as God’s word says they are, we might see kingdom results from their behaviors! What do you think?
In my experience, those who are most zealous, eager to grow, and willing to step out in obedience are those brand new to the faith! Instead of babying them, we ought to expect more from new believers. We should challenge them to submit to their King as His obedient subjects and to start advancing His rule and reign in the strategic places God has situated them.
When I was a young follower of Christ at Oregon State, my campus ministry challenged and expected me to evangelize the third floor of the McNary Dorm. Do you think this forced me to learn and experience the power of the Holy Spirit in me and through me? You bet it did!
In the coming weeks I will continue to teach about the kingdom of God and specifically that it is not only IN US but it is meant to flow out of us as the kingdom is UPON US. This may seem like a slight distinction, but let me assure you the implications are huge for our lives!
To get you thinking in the right direction, take some time to meditate on Paul’s words in Romans and 1 Corinthians:
“17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” –
Romans 14:17 NASB
“20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.” – 1 Corinthians 4:20 NASB
May the Lord powerfully lead you this week as you keep in step His Spirit!