Practicality: People are always having to choose between loving and serving themselves (or idols) or God (and hence others), which are fundamentally opposed and mutually exclusive. Whether people belong to the
There is a powerful figurative thing that is often referred to, but little understood. Christ often spoke of it when He taught, as did the apostles. In fact, it encompasses so much of what it means to be a Christians that perhaps we, too, should spend as much time thinking about it as Jesus and the apostles did. I speak of the
What is it, and how does it relate to us? Before I give answer to that, I must describe a different kingdom, the one that is not of God. I will call this kingdom the kingdom of sin, and seek to describe it.
The nature of a kingdom is that it has a king, and kingdom is defined by the people who give allegiance to that king. Thus, people in the kingdom of sin are allied to sin – they serve it, they obey it, they live for it. In what way can someone be so allied to sin? Well, in my previous post on sin I described it as being a failure to love God and love others. Thus, anyone who is not devoted to doing this is therefore devoted to something else, and as I mentioned in my previous post, such devotion is typically to either themselves, or things that distract people from loving God and others (idols).
So, the citizens of the kingdom of sin are determined by their devotion to things that are unloving of God and others. At the extreme, this involves intentional harm to others – but nevertheless, such intentions are generally grounded in either selfishness or idolatry. Citizens of this kingdom therefore make as their king their own desires – and they are ruled by them. They are ruled by things like greed, lust, materialism, ego, unfairness, competition and appearance. These are the type of powers that Paul writes Christians battle against. The eyes of people living in the kingdom of sin are turned not to God and others, but to themselves and to things.
It is not good to live in the kingdom of sin. The ultimate futility of life in this kingdom can be easily seen, for we enter this earth with nothing and with nothing we will return. The prestige, wealth, and size of ego we gain is ultimately of no value, for it is only what we give that remains. What is worse, however, is that the selfishness and idolatry of the kingdom of sin lead to pain, dissatisfaction, lack of fulfillment, and relationships that are only a shadow of what they could be. Indeed, it is only in relationships that meaning for our existence is found, and so by loving on others but ourselves and meaningless things – we naturally destroy our relationships, for true relationship is inherently about loving someone else. People in the kingdom of sin ultimately find little but loneliness and the yearning for a deeper life.
Because the citizens of the kingdom of sin do not serve God or others, these two become things to serve what they are devoted to. They view God as something that will benefit themselves, or as a way to serve their idols. Naturally, God does not indulge them, for to do so would merely feed the selfishness and idolatry that keep them enslaved. What is worse, is that they also use others to benefit themselves or serve their idols. Such selfishness tends to hurt others, because instead of creating love and care among people it steals it away, and people are abused, wronged, cheated, lied to, enslaved, and even killed. Such a description is fitting of our current society, where we are so familiar and disturbingly comfortable with it that we do not imagine a different way of life, and that is exactly why Christ described the
So, in the
It is an appropriate analogy to describe the two kingdoms as two lands separated by a large distance. People in the kingdom of sin cannot be in the
The two kings therefore do battle for our hearts, and we choose who wins by who we serve. If we are selfish, we serve sin, but if we love God and others instead, we serve God. The two kingdoms are totally opposed and mutually exclusive. It is no surprise, then, that Jesus said that no one can serve these two masters. We serve one of these kings, whether we like to admit it or not.
But when do we serve God and when are we serving sin? The essence of faith is committed devotion, and so needless to say we should be always serving God. Indeed, if our selfish desires ‘die’, then analogy suggests that Christ-like character should come to life in us to replace it, and so selfishness should not come back to life.
Yet, we think we can be committed to serving both ourselves and God, so in fact we are committed to neither. We are like solders doing battle who repeatedly change allegiances during battle. Surely, the commander of such people would rather they do not fight at all! Such double-mindedness is condemned in the Bible. This lack of allegiance to either seems to be why the Laodiceans were described as “lukewarm” in Revelation, and it is surely why God disliked their behaviour.
So, we need to be committed to God’s kingdom, and to do that we must leave our selfishness that causes sinful action. These thoughts will lead us to the next topics I intend to discuss, repentance and salvation.