Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 31: The Kingdom of God in us

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

We have been studying the model prayer of Jesus and are dissecting the phrase "Your kingdom come." Today, we begin to examine the Kingdom of God in us. (Jesus spoke so much about this that it may take a few days.)

John the Baptizer proclaimed, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." When Jesus arrived, He brought the Kingdom of God to earth. In Matthew 13, Jesus taught a series of parables to explain the Kingdom of heaven (or Kingdom of God) in us. In the parable of the sower, He described the way the Kingdom of God comes to us. The gospel of Jesus is the "word of the Kingdom". When the sower (those who share the good news of Christ) distributes the Word, it is much like a sower distributing seeds. Some of the seed falls beside the road and is eaten by birds, some falls on rocky soil or in the thorns. Some of the seed, however, falls on good soil and yields a great crop. The Word of the Kingdom comes to us in this same way. Not everyone receives the Word, but, for those who do, it yields an extravagant crop in our lives. 

Every time the seed falls on good soil, Jesus told the disciples, it yields a crop. In those instances in which the seed did not yield a crop, it was because the seed had fallen on inadequate soil. When the Word of the Kingdom enters my life, it will bear a crop. If I am sitting in a church pew every Sunday but am not being changed by the Word every day of the week, I am not bearing the crop for which Jesus was looking. If my life is not bearing "a crop", is not changed by the Word, I should be very concerned. 

If I am to be bearing a crop, I need to be able to recognize it. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, described the fruit of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. The deeds of the flesh, obviously, do not come from God and are not part of the crop resulting from the Word in our lives. These fleshly fruits include immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and similar behavior.(Gal. 5:19-21) If I have these things in my life, they are not pleasing to God, are not evidence of God's work in my life, and they need to go. It's as simple as that. 

When I allow the Word of God to take root in my life, it will begin to blossom into a crop of fruit that is recognizable to those around me. People who knew me before Christ will see a recognizable change in my behavior and in my demeanor. The fruit of the Spirit is the crop for which Christ longs, and includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This is the fruit for which I should aim. 

My life will always demonstrate that which takes greatest precedence. Either the ways of the flesh will predominate, resulting in the fruit of the flesh, or the ways of God, resulting in fruit of the Spirit. Paul's words are so clear that they bear repeating. 

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh 
with its passions and its desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 
Galatians 5:24-25 NASB

If I belong to Christ, then I will crucify my flesh and its passions and desires. I will not snuggle up to the passion of this world. Instead, if I belong to Christ, I will embrace the ways of Christ. If I embrace the ways of Christ, I will live by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit. I will live my life His way. 

This is so simple that I sometimes wonder why I have so much trouble with it. I belong to Christ, so I do things His way, and not my own. (Or that's what I should do!) The Kingdom of God has come to earth (in Christ) and it now dwells in me (by His Spirit). It is my responsibility to demonstrate the Kingdom of God to the world by the life I live. 

What a difference I could make if I actually lived the way I say I believe! What a difference we all could make if we lived the way we say we believe! 

As we approach Holy Week, let us examine our hearts and lives for the fruit we bear. Let's make sure we are sharing the Kingdom of God with our words and our deeds. Let's be sure the world sees the fruit of the Spirit in us.