Archive for October 14th, 2009

By Jorge Madrid Sr. (Posted with author’s permission)

The King within us

The King within us

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20 -21)

In our culturally conditioned religious and pietistic thinking we have a tendency to associate the  New Testament terms “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” with the concept of “Heaven”, the eternal dwelling place of God and hopefully ours if we  accept the salvation provided us in Jesus, His Son. However, strictly speaking, Jesus and the Jewish people of his day used the term in reference to the Messianic Kingdom which had been promised to Israel through the prophets. Their use of the “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of the Heavens” instead of the “Kingdom of God” was done mainly to avoid using the name of God in vain when referring to God’s reign on this earth through His Messiah.

Jesus, without denying the truth of the eschatological nature of the prophetic terminology, amplified its meaning beyond the manner with which the culture of His day interpreted the term. He proclaimed the “Good News” that God, in His all-loving mercy, was providing immediate spiritual access to this Kingdom even though its physical realization in this world was yet to come[1]. Furthermore, by the citation above He was also indicating that access to this spiritual “Kingdom” was through His own person. That is why the term in the scripture cited above is sometimes translated “… the kingdom of God is amongst you”. Since He, the King, was indeed amongst them. For us, in whom Christ lives today, the translation “… the kingdom of God is within you” is certainly applicable as well. For when He abides in us the Kingdom of God is accessible within our spirits.  And when any one of us enters into this Kingdom the reign of God is able to be manifested through our lives in this world.

This is the Kingdom that Jesus preached and by which His works were manifested to the world. This is the Kingdom that He ordained His disciples to preach to the whole world with works following[2]. It is our Lord’s intent that all who come to Him not only become aware of this Kingdom but enter into it. The reason that it is a “mystery” is that this Kingdom is not discernible with our human senses or reason. The “Kingdom” that the Lord has said is “at hand” is within us and as such it is meant to be experienced in our lives through faith and not considered as merely an intellectual abstraction to be “understood” or “explained” in theological terms.

The “Kingdom”, like all things spiritual, is a “Mystery” of faith but God does not mean it to be mysterious. In fact, through our conversion to faith in Jesus we have already been translated into His Kingdom[3].  If we were still in the world we would not have access to this Kingdom but as believers we are inheritors of the Kingdom of God and have every right to function in this Kingdom. Our problem is that many of us are not even aware that this option exists for us much less enter into it!

This happens, first of all, because to some of us, the term, “Kingdom of God”, is a transcendental theological abstraction which we do not expect to have any relevance to our real everyday experience. Because of our confusion about the Kingdom, as I have mentioned previously, we are generally led to believe that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is a term equivalent to “heaven” (i.e., the blessed afterlife) and therefore not to assume that it can be experienced in this life. Secondly, even if some of us have an idea of what the “Kingdom” represents, we tend to approach it from a “religious” viewpoint rather than from a “spiritual” perspective. From this viewpoint the “Kingdom” is sometimes seen as represented by an organizational church structure or by compliance with a specific set of religious rules and order.  This approach  is  sometimes misused by unscrupulous sects or cults to achieve an inordinate control over their adherents. Now, it is true that the church, as the people of God, the Body of Christ, is the instrument through which the Kingdom is manifested at this time in history[4] but we should not place a particular church structure on a pedestal. That place belongs to the head of the church, Jesus Christ Our Lord! The church is here to lead us  to Jesus and keep us in Jesus not to replace Him. The third reason we are not fully aware of our inheritance in the Kingdom is because we are looking for it in the wrong way. This happens because our spiritual sensitivity has not been awakened. Without an activated spirit all our perception is accomplished through the prism of our mind and senses instead of with our spirits. As a result, although well intended, we tend to tend to think that the Kingdom can be experienced through increases in  our  piety and religiosity. The Pharisees and the Sadducees of Jesus’ day were extremely pious and religious but not only were they very far from the “Kingdom” but they also failed to recognize the “King” when He came.

Nicodemus, a member of the religious establishment of his time, was such a person[5]. As a member of the Sanhedrin and a respected teacher in Israel he certainly had the theological credentials and access to the scriptures to have some understanding of the  Kingdom which Jesus was preaching. Yet he was so constrained by the “religious” culture of his time that, he like everyone else, assumed that the promised Kingdom of God to be ushered in by the Messiah was only to be a temporal kingdom that would deliver Israel from her enemies. Confounded by  the teaching and works of power manifested in Jesus’ ministry, he came to Jesus by night to  inquire of Him so that he could reconcile within himself the thoughts he could not express in public. Could Jesus be the Messiah that was promised?  If he was the Messiah what about the Kingdom that was also promised to come with the Messiah? He thought that maybe that by questioning Jesus he could come to some conclusion about who Jesus really was. One thing he knew. He was “a teacher sent from God for no man could do the works that he did if God was not with him”[6].

In responding to Nicodemus’ inquiry, Jesus responded by telling him that if he could recognize that God Himself was working through His ministry, he was already blessed by God because of this awareness. He told him that this type of awareness was a God-given perception that permitted him to “see the Kingdom”, that is, to recognize God’s personal intervention or rule in this world through the works that were manifested in  and through Jesus’ ministry. This sensitivity could only come if God had revived his spirit or, in other words had been “born from above” or “born again”.

Nicodemus’ religious rationalism was offended! He asked how could this be? How could a man “be born again”? Could a man be placed again in his mother’s womb?

Jesus was amazed that Nicodemus, being a teacher of Israel, was not aware of this truth since it was clearly stated by the prophets that God had promised such a renewal of  man’s heart (spirit)[7].  He then gently tried to tell him that this new awareness he had been given was just a door that had been opened by God for further blessings.  Not only could he be aware of the Kingdom but he could go through the door into the Kingdom and be a partner with the Father in what he wanted to accomplish with his Kingdom here on Earth. In other words he could “enter” into the Kingdom. All that was required once you became aware of the Kingdom was to make a decision. A decision to repent and be converted (a decision which culminated in water baptism), and to receive to the anointing of the Holy Spirit (the baptism in the Holy Spirit) required to truly be a channel for God’s supernatural Grace in this world.

Nicodemus still could not understand. “How can this be?” he asked in desperation. Jesus explains to him that only spirit can give birth to spirit and that our natural selves cannot bring forth spiritual life. Spiritual renewal cannot come from our own religious energy or efforts. Only God can renew our spirits. Jesus further tells him that those whose spirits have been renewed by God and have subsequently “entered into  the Kingdom”  have been given a spiritual awareness that enables them to sense the leading of the Holy Spirit. This sensitivity then gives them the ability to respond and cooperate with God’s will in a way that purely religious people like Nicodemus could not even imagine.

In the religious culture in which Nicodemus was embedded, doing God’s will was thought to be accomplished by assiduous compliance to the Law of Moses plus an onerous set of traditions that imposed further regulations on the faithful in order to prevent one from even getting close to breaking the 613 commandments (mitzvoth in Hebrew) encompassed by the Law.  Of course, keeping these commandments perfectly was impossible, so the Lord had mercifully provided a priesthood and ordinances for religious rituals that would assuage the self guilt that would result from the breaking of the Law.

In the New Covenant that Jesus was revealing to those who entered into the Kingdom, adherence to God’s will would come naturally from hearts that had been spiritually renewed[8].  Since their spirits would be in-dwelt by God, compliance would not be done out of obligation but from a truly willing spirit that desired nothing but to please the Father. Thus for us today, when our spirits are awakened we also become keenly aware of God’s desires in our hearts so that we can walk in the Spirit and put to death the desires of the flesh[9]. For we are no longer to be under the Law but under the Spirit[10].

Before the Lord awakened my spirit, I was in a worse situation than Nicodemus. I was not even aware of the work of God all around me – in my life – in my relationships – in my career and business dealings. Because of my religious training, I had some understanding (at an intellectual level)  that God was supposed to be present in my life but in actuality I did not have  an inner (spiritual) awareness of this. In fact, I did not even know that such an inner awareness was available to all Christians. In general, I perceived life as merely a set of random, unrelated challenges and events that I needed to overcome with my wit and my talents. I prayed to God in desperation only when my own efforts were exhausted and I did not know what else to do. My churchgoing was done purely from a sense of tradition, obligation, and perhaps an underlying sense of self-guilt that my religious practice helped me to assuage.

But then, through what I now realize was a clearly pre-determined set of events, the Lord opened my spiritual eyes to so that I began to “see” His Kingdom in the person of Jesus. What I saw opened the hunger of my heart to receive all that he had for me and so I made a full commitment to Him and His salvation, repenting of the hardness of my heart. That day  (May 10, 1975) I walked through the door He had opened to His Kingdom and on  Pentecost Sunday of that year I also entered in, receiving the Baptism of His Holy Spirit and His anointing on my life. Without the Baptism of the Holy Spirit I would not have come to a fully empowered life in the Spirit and an empowered prayer life.

Regarding the testimony that I have just related, amazingly, there are many Christians today that, like Nicodemus, would say, “how can this be?”.  Like myself, there are many who, although living religiously compliant lives yet, through no fault of their own, are still blind to the Kingdom of God. There are also many others who, even though seeing, are afraid to make the decisive commitment required to enter into the Kingdom and receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. To these Jesus would say, “Be not be afraid, only believe and enter in, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”.

[1] From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. (Matt. 11:12, NIV)

[2] Matthew 10:7-8

[3] Colossians 1:13

[4] After the Second Coming, the Kingdom will be materially manifested through a restored nation of Israel.

[5] Read about Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus in the third chapter of John’s Gospel.

[6] John 3:2

[7] Ezekiel 11:19-20

[8] Ezekiel 36:26-27

[9] Romans 8:13

[10] Romans 6:14


(excerpted with permission from “Thy Kingdom Come” by Jorge Madrid Sr.; © 2003 Madrid Family Trust, all rights reserved)


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