June 20, 2007

The Violent Kingdom

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:12, NKJV).*
2007 1517 page14 caphen Jesus preached about the kingdom,  it was never a nice, passive talk that left people feeling warm and fuzzy. No one reached for a guitar to sing “Kumbaya.” The sheer power and forcefulness of His words were geared to make His audience uncomfortable with the status quo. Jesus deliberately refused to feed into the “don’t rock the boat” orthodoxy of that era. He encountered a religious culture that was passive in nature. It was public relations-driven to keep people thinking that the religious structure and culture was fine just the way it was.
Onto the stage of history stepped Jesus, who was bent, by virtue of His mission, on destabilizing anything that kept people trapped in status quo living—pecking around the edges of the great things God wanted to do for them and through them. It was destabilization with a purpose—a kingdom purpose.
At the onset of Jesus’ ministry, He cleared the deck of any ambiguities about what He came to do. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19). Christ’s mission was clear, focused, and concise, and no one was left guessing about why He was so passionate: The Spirit of the Lord is on me."
2007 1517 page14Wow! When the Spirit of the Lord is on you, there is a radical edge to your life. Status quo living is not an option. Simply going through the motions of being religious, moral, and upright is not enough. You have to do something with your life; something bigger than you are. It must so redirect and refocus your life that it becomes your life.
When we embrace a kingdom life motivated by the kingdom agenda, everything—and I mean everything—becomes centered on helping as many people as possible get saved. The episodic Revelation Seminar or Net meeting that comes to your church no longer shapes your evangelistic life; your entire life is shaped and focused on the kingdom business of salvation.
Does that sound like a radical way to live? It is! To be sure, there will be some who would see this type of radical living as unbalanced. On the contrary, it is very balanced. Here’s why: Jesus moved comfortably among people in everyday, garden-variety situations of life. He loved “hanging out” wherever people gathered (family gatherings, schools, parks, jobs, parties, sporting events, funerals, weddings, neighborhoods)—always looking for right moments to turn people’s minds toward things of the Spirit. The agenda of the kingdom was always uppermost in His mind. Jesus knew who He was, what He was about, and thus lived a powerful life of purpose. It’s kingdom living at its best; and it’s balanced.
The Violent Take It by Force
The New International Version of Matthew 11:12 reads: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men [and women] lay hold of it.”
This is “coming out time” for sold-out believers in Jesus Christ, especially those who believe His coming is right at the door. They have decided to step up and advance God’s kingdom agenda no matter the cost. The violent nature of the kingdom is not literal violence, but spiritual. The plan is militant, but it’s not complicated: depopulate the kingdom of Satan by populating the kingdom of heaven. It’s serious warfare because it’s a battle for hearts and minds. We can’t wait until the battle comes to us; we must take the battle to the enemy. Advancing the kingdom does not permit us to play defense (status quo living), but with every fiber of our being we must go on offense for the kingdom of heaven and take it by force. What a way to live!
*Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Fredrick A. Russell is senior pastor of the Miracle Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.