So…here we are. Seated in heavenly places as we simultaneously inhabit a world in which we are unwelcome strangers (Eph. 2:6; Phl. 3:20). Sometimes, no often, it seems impossible to reconcile both those truths. When we hit that wall of mental impossibility, we call it ‘mystery’.
But then there’s the tension: the daily spiritual, emotional, and physical tension of existing in two places at once. Because it’s absolutely true in Christ we have been raised into heavenly places. It’s just as true that in Christ we wearily make our way through the chaos of a hostile world alienated and rejected. Who can live like that? Apart from grace’s enablement, no-one.
An Unexpected Encounter
Mundanely shopping for odds and ends in a crowded outlet, I reached for an item at the same time as an elderly woman standing next to me. The incident led her to relate how she is suffering, how she wakes daily with painful hands and feet, how the doctors can’t help. I nodded my head sympathetically with the same sense of frustrated helplessness I’ve known in many other such encounters. Isn’t this where I’m supposed to lay hands on her, rebuke the swelling and the pain, and leave the woman and the startled onlookers glorifying Jesus and wanting more?
No, we both move on. But not before I have quietly reached out and gently touched her, and she barely noticing.
Now I wish I could tell you my lady was instantly healed and we held a glorious praise meeting there among the aisles of plastic ware, cotton balls and tooth brushes, surrounded by singing angels. That’s not what happened.
An Unexpected Conversation
A routine medical appointment to collect a needed prescription was not where I wanted to be that afternoon. Without trying I could think of at least ten other things I’d rather be doing. Necessary questions and answers concluded, I tucked the script into my bag, thanked the doctor and readied to leave.
But wait, could I tell her a little more about this, er what’s it called, ‘blog thing’, I do on the internet? How many people read it and how is it different to standing in front of a pulpit and just preaching out at people? Because it’s just that at church the other day they were saying sometimes people learn more about God in small groups than sitting in pews each week listening to a sermon and she was wondering, you see, if that might be true and …..
Her voice trailed off and my heart grieved for her. I recognised the spiritual hunger this woman of science was having difficulty articulating. We spoke for another few minutes, with me choosing my words carefully and inwardly praying for wisdom beyond myself. When someone has been sitting for a long time in semi-darkness, you don’t blast them with floodlights.
So I left her considering a simple question before she returned to her stethoscope and prescription pad, and I to those myriad of ‘other things’ waiting for me in the, ahem, real world.
I wish I could tell you that time stood still while we talked for hours about Jesus, agreed to meet regularly for prayer and I left my doctor friend filled with the Spirit and signed up to this blog. I really do. But that’s not what happened.
An Unexpected Message
Sometimes people write to me. Sometimes, unknown to them, I am struggling with the very same issues they’re struggling with.
The things I share on Bread for the Bride are always born from my own journey. Others may preach, teach, or write things they’ve ‘borrowed’ but not lived. Just for the record I am not familiar with that luxury. This blog ministry was established with the purpose of edifying, encouraging and exhorting Christ’s Bride. I cannot pass on that which I have not walked out. My fresh Bread gets baked in a furnace friends…..just sayin’.
The person who wrote to me shared how difficult it is to live as a Christian in this world, how very much they wanted to just withdraw and sit at the Father’s feet, secluded and hidden away. Could I identify? If you read this, my email friend, the answer is yes, to the moon and back! I suspect my messenger was expressing something many Christ followers are wrestling with at this moment in history – that uncomfortable sense of spiritual tension mentioned already.
How do we deal with that? I wish I could give you a formula; I wish I could list you a ten point plan; I wish I could prophesy something pretty that would distract you for a few days (nah, on reflection, scrap that last wish). But that’s not what’s happening. That’s not where the Spirit’s focused right now.
Each of the mini-events above occurred in the last week. And each speak of the invisible Kingdom currently unfolding in and around us. I believe we now stand poised on the crest of this glorious Kingdom. The Kingdom of God permeates the horizon lying before us for as far as our spiritual eyes can see…and beyond.
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21
Despite the surrounding accumulated human stress constantly threatening to overcome us, despite the desperate longing to steal away with the Bridegroom and forget all about the crisis-torn world, despite the tension of existing both in heaven and on earth, do you too sense the expanding of this invisible Kingdom within us?
I’m pretty certain this side of eternity I won’t know what happened to that elderly woman with her health problems. I don’t need to. I do know the Kingdom broke through when the Spirit led me to touch her. I may never again have a conversation with the doctor like the one we had this week. I don’t need to. I do know the Kingdom manifested right there in her office.
And I don’t have all the answers to the email message I received. I don’t need to. I do know my messenger is not alone in their struggle with living between heaven and earth, and that only the grace of God can sustain and enable us in this impossible place.
The Kingdom is not just coming. It. Is. Here.
And with each passing hour its presence is increasing within every Christ follower who seeks it first. It has come upon us, just as He said it would, by stealth. It has come without observation.
We cannot say ‘go there to see the Kingdom manifesting’. The Kingdom is not a place, it is a spiritual atmosphere. Ultimately it is the atmosphere of the King’s Presence. At the present time it is hidden from the world within His followers. The world may observe its effects, but it cannot observe the Kingdom.
A call has gone out from the Spirit summoning us out of this world to live and walk as the rightful inheritors of this unseen, immeasurable Kingdom now manifesting on earth (1 Thes. 2:12).
We read in Colossians 1:13 that the Father has ‘delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love’. The English phrase ‘conveyed us’ does not give the full picture. This word is the Greek ‘methistemi’, meaning to transfer, transpose, remove from one place to another, change a situation or place.
While there is certain tension in living in two places at once, there are also advantages. As the presence of the King increases in His followers, the Spirit can ‘transfer’ any of us at any time from the realm of this world into the hidden realm of the Kingdom. In the Kingdom there are no natural barriers. The Kingdom will manifest in the world around us as needed, whether that be through healing, conviction, revelation, salvation, miracles, or whatever else. And if the Spirit so chooses, no one but you and God need even know how it was done.
He can do this, and He is already doing this. Our part is to allow the Spirit to realign our finite minds with our new parameters and learn to recognize the manifestation of the Kingdom among us.
And please understand I am not advocating what is known as ‘dominionism’ or ‘kingdom now’ theology. I am speaking of the Kingdom of God coming within us without outward observation. The world will not see the full manifestation of Christ’s Kingdom until His return to rule and reign in Person.
My friend Becky Johnson quoted from T. Austin Sparks in a blog post this last week: “If we are called into the sphere of the works of God….we are going to be made the sermon, we are not going to preach a sermon.”
Many of us have struggled under a religious system where sermons were delivered by someone else and passively received by ourselves. That has changed. In the ways of the Kingdom, you and I are the sermon. God is preaching to the Universe, the angels, the principalities, creation and the world, through you, and He intends to be glorified through you, His living sermon.
We are emerging from many hundreds of years of religious tribalism, where our particular denominational brand of Christianity was our rallying point. That too has changed.
The tribal religious system of chiefs and workers is swiftly passing away. The Spirit Himself leads us under one banner, one Name, one faith: the Kingdom of God and His Christ (see Psalm 2:1-2; Rev. 11:15; Rev. 12:10). The kingdom of the defeated one and the kingdoms of the world are aligned together against this all-conquering, invading Kingdom in which we are now being seriously conscripted.
This is a momentous hour in the history of the King and His followers. We have reached the point where the rubber meets the road. This magnificent Kingdom is now advancing forcefully, more forcefully than ever before (Matt. 11:12). It is irrepressible, irresistible and completely unstoppable.
Don’t look back.
Do not fear little flock, for it is Your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. Luke 12:32
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016 and beyond. All rights reserved. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.