”I do nothing on my own, but say only what the Father has taught me. And the one who sent me is with me – he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” – John 8: 28-9
The more you get into Christianity, the more you recognise its uniqueness. At the moment I’m reading through John’s Gospel and Matthew’s Gospel simultaneously, and with that comes wonderful insight into the wide character and nature of Jesus Christ.
One of the overarching themes, is the unity between Christ and his Father. They were, as they had always been, inseparable. The power, the love, the miraculous that Jesus displayed were as a direct result of that connection.
This relationship was not merely a Sunday relationship, one reserved for the moments when he attended religious ceremony, no this occurred moment by moment, step by step every day of his earthly life. What does that say about us? Well, later in John’s message, we see Jesus inviting us to emulate the same relationship with him, that he had with his Father.
With that possibility comes tremendous freedom in life, the allowance to go about our daily business, whatever that might be, while listening to and being guided by the Spirit each moment.
Unity in Christ amongst believers also makes for an incredibly rich existence in community. Each week in a gathering there are surprises. We don’t know what the Lord has been doing in each others lives that week, but stories abound, all to do with individual or collective responses to the leading of the Spirit. In spite of our differences, it makes us a collective joined by love too. Such a community, bound up by the love of Christ is a real attraction for the world outside. So, we are beginning to ‘export’ this community in Christ around to start other communities, centred around him. It is, after all, what he told us to do.
The hardest thing, as we speak of this Jesus to others, is to get people to see past him as a religion. One wonders, do the letters of John read like a religion? Does Paul’s enthusiasm for what he was doing, sound like our modern day church? For so long, we have been taught that God is what we do on Sundays, and possibly on Wednesdays and it has been so ingrained in every aspect of society, that it is a hard habit to break. When we speak of reaching unbelievers to church-Christians, the response is always, ‘invite them to church.’
It is this very thing that in our experience, blocks more people from coming into the riches of unity with Christ, than anything else. To the question we frequently ask, ‘do you understand who Jesus is?’ comes the typical response, ‘I used to go to church.’ It is the hardest thing to get past and in almost every instance, we walk away empty-handed, deeply saddened.
Yesterday, as we were bbqing down on the streets with some Brazillian friends, a drunk walked up to my wife and offered her the last of his bread rolls. So the conversation began. He told us that he was taking his friend out, who was a chronic alcoholic, friendless and unloved, for a day trip. It was something he frequently did, yet nobody knew of it. My wife replied that actually somebody did know of what he did, and that person was Jesus. In a tirade that then lasted 10 mins, he began to tells us of his appalling experience at Church, and told us repeatedly how he had turned his back on religion. Eventually, we managed to softly get the message through about Jesus, who he was and what was on offer. He left blessing us and thanking us, but still not really understanding.
So then, two things. Firstly, ‘the Kingdom of God is within us’, means that from the moment we accept Christ and put our faith in him, he dwells within us. Through his Spirit, we can have day to day, moment by moment interaction with him. This is what Jesus wants, and this is what eternal life is. If you think eternal life is a far-off place that we will one day go to, then think again. Eternal life is a unity with God in his Kingdom, and it is an existence that begins now. We can have the same day by day unity with Christ, as he tells us he has with his Father in these passages – believe me, that is what he wants above everything else. The place where that happens is not as relevant as his presence.
Surely then, this is very different to what we are taught; that God is still accessible only through a priest, and we can live an unnatural life, one day a week, pretending to be what we aren’t. It’s not what Christ tells us.
Secondly, a King Dom is where a King has his domain, or dominion. Jesus does not currently have dominion over this world, Satan does – the question is, does he have dominion over you? Are you responding to his kingship day by day, as any servant of the king would do or are we going through the motions, living an existence that doesn’t match up? He sees straight through us, but more importantly he knows that is not where our best interests lie. What is your desire then?
A day is surely coming when he is going to set up his King Dom, and those who want no part of it, will be removed from it. Theirs will be another kingdom, so contrasted to his it is unimaginable. Going to church will not save you either.
In his Kingdom, unity with him will be an every moment affair, he will communicate with us clearly such that we understand and do his will as it is all we will want to do. He wants us though, to practice now, and he wants us to tell others about the good news of his Kingdom.
Are we listening, are we ready?