Many of us have the idea that kindness and good works is the Kingdom of God. If that were so non-believers would be just as good at kingdom building as we are. But they aren’t. And many of us as Believers are no better at seeding situations with Kingdom spirit and life than the well meaning atheist or agnostic.
I know people who are quite chuffed with themselves when they have been seen to have busied themselves in acts of self-sacrifice, going out of their normal routine to help those whose homes have been flooded or burnt out. They do excellent work hosing mud from the floors and encouraging distraught victims with their presence. Yet we are left with the feeling that some of this, at least, is done to convince themselves and others of their self-worth and earn merit with the Lord. Not a few have made religion out of doing things for others. Certainly this may be part of our fruit but it is not the core of Kingdom life. The Spirit of Christ in you is this core and the difference between the Kingdom of God and kindy effort.
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you--they are full of the Spirit and life.John 6.63 NIV.
Acts of human kindness are beneficial. But not always the Kingdom of God’s life. Anything done to earn approval with God while being a blessing to the unfortunate cannot be accompanied by spirit and life. That’s because its actually about us and our need to serve. It’s a way of authenticating and legitimating ourselves as genuine Christians. But what if ‘Christians’ was not what Jesus was looking for. What if He is looking for those who are sons of God?
Church activity designed to secure good will in the community has no capacity to be the vehicle of Christ’s spirit and life if it is not a spontaneous effect of the person of Jesus in us. Jesus asserted that the flesh has no effect on advancing the Kingdom of God. He said it is worthless. ‘What counts,’ He said ‘is spirit and life.’
Spirit flows through us when are in Jesus and thus joined to our Father. Spirit and life flow through us from our Father, and the Spirit of Jesus into the situation and the people in need. There is a spontaneous witness of the King and the Kingdom of Heaven that takes place without artifice or effort when Christ is our life. This mode of Christ our life should be the norm of every Believer. We are called to live in Christ, to be filled with His presence because this is the new covenant. Christ has unilaterally placed Himself in us.He is not there as a means to obedience, grace and kindness. He is that grace and kindness. He is the spirit and life that flows from heaven into earth through us.
A frustrating feature of our many attempts to advance the Kingdom is that the busiest and most hard working folks are frequently the most impervious to living out of Christ rather that out of themselves and their works. As a result they are apt to hinder their own life and fruitfulness in the Spirit because they are such avid workers in the flesh. And because their very industry suffocates their understanding of what that Kingdom actually is: The spirit and life of God. One suspects that their unwillingness to grasp life in the Spirit comes from their intention to maintain control of their try harder mentality and remain as lord of their own manufactured self-worth.
The authors of Trinitarian Conversations write,
‘Before you can move forward in ministry, with congregations, you ﬁrst
have to allow Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to begin to transform your
vision of what it means to be a Christian in the church. Otherwise, if you continue
to operate out of the vision that’s implicit on the church today, no matter what you
do, it just simply perpetuates the same problem. [The problem of manufacturing death in the name of life] There’s a wonderful story about Major Ian Thomas that illustrates this. He became a Christian when he was in high school, and he became a whirlwind of activity for Christ in high school and all through college. This went on for about seven years until he burned himself out.
One night in desperation, in despair, he got down on his knees by his bed and he prayed. He knew that God was going to be terribly disappointed that he’d reached this point of crisis in his life, and so he said, “Lord, for the last seven years, I’ve done everything in my power to live my life for you. I tried to bear witness in the gospel, I tried to being faithful, but I’m sorry,
I just don’t have what it takes to be a Christian. I’m sorry, I quit.”
Thomas said, “I thought that Christ was going to be very disappointed.” But he
said, “No sooner than those words left my mouth, I sensed Christ breathe a great
sigh of relief. It was as if Christ was saying to me, “For seven years, with great
dedication and misguided zeal, you’ve been trying to live a life for me that only I
can live through you, and ﬁnally, I’m in business.” Thomas went back and read the New Testament, and he was amazed at how much there is about this in the New Testament. “It’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Or in John 15, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If the branch remains in me it bears much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.”
Don’t try to live a life that only Christ can live through you. Rest and be yourself in Christ. He is in you and with you. Ensure that you know what is meant by ‘Christ my life’ and live that life in peace and contentment. Works of kindness are satisfactory. When Christ is in you because he is your life these works multiply spirit and life. They witness to heaven and to God rather than to you and your need to earn acceptance with God and with men. When Christ is our life we live in freedom and un-self conscious joy. And rivers of the spirit-life our heaven flow into earth from our being.