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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What the Kingdom Is

Prophetic Ministry

1. A New Life

First of all, the Kingdom of Heaven was a new life, altogether other than that which men knew anything about in all their history from Adam onward. That is what the Lord meant in His own first reference to the Kingdom, when speaking to Nicodemus about his soul's need. "Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God" - because it is another life that has come in, as by a birth. It is not just the energizing of an old life. It is not just the swinging over of an old life into new interests, turning from one line of interest to another, from one system of occupation to another: once you were all out for the world, and now with the same life and interest you are all out for Christianity. No, it is another, different life, a life that never was, given from God Himself. The very essence of the Kingdom of Heaven is that it is a heavenly nature in a heavenly life, given as a distinct gift at a crisis. Another life - that is the Kingdom, to begin with.

2. A New Relationship

It is a new relationship, a relationship with God: which is not simply that now we become interested in God - that God becomes an object of our consideration and we swing over from one relationship to another because now we have taken up Christianity. No, it is a relationship which is of the essence of this very life itself. We have an altogether new and different consciousness, so far as our relationship to God is concerned. The great truth of the Gospels, especially as emphasized in the Gospel by John, is that a new revelation of relationship with God has come by Jesus Christ. "I manifested Thy name unto the men whom Thou gavest me out of the world" (John 17:6). That name, of which He is always speaking, represented a new relationship - "Father"; not in the sense of a general and universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man, but a specific, new relationship which comes about only by the entering of the Holy Spirit into the life in a definite, critical act. "God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6). When did that happen with you? What was the very first lisp of your new life? "Father!" - uttered out of a new consciousness. Not now a God Who is afar off, unthinkable, all-terrible, of Whom you are afraid; no, "Father!" When we are "born of the Spirit," there is brought about an entirely new relationship.

3. A New Constitution

Then the Kingdom of Heaven is a new constitution. I am not thinking now of a new set of laws and regulations, but of a new constitution so far as you and I are concerned. We are constituted anew, with an entirely new set of capacities which make possible things which were never possible before. It ought to be recognized - and I would have you lay this to heart anew - that the child of God, the member of the Kingdom of Heaven, is the embodiment of a miracle, which means that there are supernatural possibilities and capacities in every such one. What tremendous things go on in the history of a child of God! When we see fully and clearly at last, we shall recognize them to have been nothing less than Divine miracles again and again. We do not know all the forces which are bent upon the destruction of a child of God, and how much his preserving through to the end represents an exercise of the almighty power of God. Some of us know a little about that: that our very survival is because God has exercised His power over other immense hostile powers, that we are kept by the power of God - and that it takes the power of God to keep us!

The inception of the life of the child of God is a miracle. 'How can a man be born again?' There is no answer to that question except that God does it. "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" (John 6:52). That is, how can the child of God be supported throughout, without anything here to help, to succor, to nourish? There is no answer to that either, except that God does it; and if He does not, the child of God, because of the extra forces centered upon him or her for destruction, will simply go under. The consummation of the life of the child of God will be equally a miracle. "How are the dead raised? and with what manner of body do they come?" (1 Corinthians 15:35). The answer to that is the same - God alone is going to do it.

The whole matter is a miracle from start to finish. it is a new constitution, having in it possibilities and capacities which are altogether above and beyond the highest level of human abilities; that  is, above and over the whole kingdom of earth and nature.

4. A New Vocation

Further, it is a new vocation. It is something for which to live, something in which to serve, something to bring into operation. It becomes the sphere and the means of a new life ministry and - purpose. The very consciousness of a truly born-again child of God is like this - 'Now i know what I am alive! I have been wondering all along why I was born; I have grumbled about it, and felt I was hardly done by in being brought into this world without being consulted as to whether I wanted to come; but now I see there is purpose in it - I have something to live for!' A truly born-again child of God goes off and tells people that, after all, it is worth being alive! He has discovered, behind everything else, that which has Divine intent and meaning - it never existed as an active thing until he was born anew and entered into the Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven is a new vocation, a  new sense of life-purpose. It gives to life a meaning. That is the Kingdom.

Is that not altogether a different idea from that which would make the kingdom a place with certain laws and regulations - 'You must' and 'You must not' - something objective? "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21), and it is after this kind.

5. A New Gravitation - To Heaven, Not Earth

It is moreover something from above, and that surely implies that it is transcendent in every way. It is something that lives, and it brings life up on to a higher level. That is, if the new life comes from above, from heaven, it will always gravitate back to its source, and if this new life works in us, it will be lifting us, pulling us upward to God. It will so work that we shall feel first of all that this world is not our home. It was our home; everything for us was here until that happened; we saw nothing beyond. Now we do not belong to it, we belong somewhere else; and in some strange way we are steadily moving further and further away from this earth. We find that we become less comfortable here every day. You are in the Kingdom if you have something like that experience. If you can be comfortable and happy and content to go on here you ought to have grave doubts as to where you are as regards the Kingdom. But if you are increasingly conscious that inwardly the distance is growing between you and all that is here, then the Kingdom is truly at work, the Kingdom of Heaven has come.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - "The Kingdom Come But Also Coming")

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