We are called to pursue the kingdom, a kingdom quite unlike any other; to seek it first, not as the first in a whole list of things, but as the one that governs all others on that list. And to do so, it’s essential we understand the dynamics of the kingdom, because sooner or later we’ll be confronted by them, and if we don’t get them we’ll find ourselves in trouble, and somewhat confused by the Christian life.
Dynamics can be defined as, “The forces or processes that produce change inside a group or system.” There is a dynamic to this world, to differing cultures within that world; there are dynamics in business, dynamics in politics, dynamics in marriage, dynamics to family life; there are dynamic forces for good or evil. And there are especially dynamics to the kingdom of God, dynamics that seem illogical to the fallen mind – a counter intuitive order to the motives and ways of this fallen world.
The Sermon on the Mount is just such an example of Kingdom dynamics, a sermon which we know Jesus shared more than once, and no doubt repeated many times. Mountains we know as the domain of revolutionaries, and when you read this sermon, I mean, really read it, that is, get beyond the religious veneer we’ve put on it to make it more tolerable, or the dispensational escapism that places it in another age (how convenient), it is so radical it makes you think that all other revolutionaries who have gone before or since are really no more than tinkerers, making small adjustments to the old way of doing things. Yes, this kingdom was unmistakably different! It was ground shaking. It involves a reordering and realigning of the things that are. It wasn’t about tweaking the outside, shuffling the pieces and trying it another way, this kingdom would challenge and change the very core, the source and motivations from which a person lived, worked and served.
And it began right there with Jesus himself. Born in Bethlehem, he grew up in obscurity. Though he was born in the south, he grew up in the north – yes, there was a north/south divide even then – He didn’t live in the big city, but a place where people asked somewhat disparagingly, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Scripture says, he had nowhere to lay his head, he had no place to claim as his own. He came not to be served, but to serve. He was a king who came riding on a donkey – not in a Rolls Royce! And whats more, scripture says of him, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” Is 53:2. He didn’t stand out from the crowd. There was nothing impressive about him physically, he was an ordinary guy, and I’ve used that word deliberately. In many ways he was just another man. There’s was nothing about him physically that would make you say, “wow! He is God!” No stature, no halo, no walking six inches off the ground, no royal robes.
It was right there in those Jesus chooses to bless as he begins the sermon, the unblessed; i.e. poor in spirit – spiritually poverty-stricken: the simple minded, the untalented, those who weren’t making the grade, the religiously unsophisticated!
It was right there in the life style he unpacks, covering good works, self control, anger, sexual expression, oaths, loving enemies, giving alms, prayer and fasting, wealth, health, loyalties, anxiety, judging others, profanity, the golden rule and the narrow path, integrity in word and deed, and avoiding false teachers i.e. Matt. 6:21-48. This was not about behaviour modification/adjustment but a radical transformation…. “You have heard…” said Jesus, “but I say to you….” And it got under their skin, they recognised the radical nature of what Jesus was saying.
One thing we must learn as Christians is that the ways of God are fundamentally different from the ways of men, God turns conventional wisdom on it’s head, he says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). And in the New Testament Jesus adds more weight to it when he says, “What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). That is saying something! The way the world thinks and acts not only doesn’t even grade with God, but it is an abomination – hear that!
That means its vital that we are schooled in “kingdom dynamics;” or, the ways of God. That means, a deprogramming and a reprogramming must take place if we are to understand the ways of God and truly engage his purposes.
The sermon on the mount does just that, it brings in a different order, a counter intuitive wisdom, a wisdom that in many ways was not so new – think of Abram and Sarah, the fall of Jericho, the choice of the shepherd boy David as king, David opposing and defeating Goliath… It appears later in the letters when Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 speaking of the cross refers to it as “the foolishness of God” a scandal to Jews – “If he was the Messiah, he couldn’t be crucified; if he was crucified, he can’t be the Messiah,” and just moronic to Gentiles who believed the gods can’t feel and therefore suffer, and they certainly don’t become flesh. It’s there too in the latter half of the chapter when Paul talks about those God calls, “not many mighty….” Etc. that no-one should boast in him or herself. 1 Cor. 1:25.
Kingdom dynamics then is diametrically opposite to what obtains in this world and especially to what panders to the pride of man (and let’s be honest it doesn’t take much).
• Every valley is exalted and every mountain and hill made low (Luke 3:5).
• Disadvantages, relating to appearance; poverty; lowliness; unskilfulness; illiteracy; and backwardness are exalted in the kingdom, and so called advantages, such as beauty; wealth; high status; intelligence; skill; education and sophistication are made low.
• Political power, religious power, business principles, consumerism, social engineering, are not the order of the day.
Aspects of this radical dynamic:
Radical love: mercy, grace, forgiveness (we’ve touched on that in previous posts) – a love that involves loving your enemy not just your friends; a love that was about non retaliation and non resistance! Jesus teaching on love, mercy, grace and forgiveness, infuriated some people, and unless ours is we are not getting or communicating it!
Radical attitude: humility, not the pride of this world. We serve a humble God. Its not about dazzling lights but humble service.
• The first is last – Matt. 19:30; 20:16
- If you want to be filled, you need to be empty – Luke 6:21
• In order to live you must die; to gain life you must lose it – Matthew 16:25-26; Mark 8:34-38
• If you desire to lead, you must serve – Mark 10:42-45; Matt 20:25-28
• You shouldn’t resist an evil person but rather turn the other cheek – Matt 5:38-40.
• If you are sued, then give more – Matt 5:40
• If you are required to do something, go the extra mile – Matt 5:41
• If you want to be rich you need to give and not hoard
• The path of suffering leads to glory – Luke 24:25,26
• Big comes from small, not big – mustard seed, Matthew 13:31, 32
• Not about the sword, politics, power, the big hit…
Radical living: not by rules, but from a transformed heart found in a living and vibrant relationship with God. Knowledge of the kingdom enables us to welcome every day with all that it brings, rather than waste it as we wait for the right moments, right feelings, better day, etc…
• Race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.
• My strength is made perfect in weakness.
• Treasure in jars of clay…. , carrying the death of Jesus in our body that the life of Jesus may also be displayed in our body…. 2 Cor 4 – death is at work in us, but life in you…
Radical wisdom: the majority of this wisdom is not wisdom deduced by evaluating human experience or nature but comes through revelation. A wisdom gained by walking with God, listening to his voice.
The dynamics of the Kingdom then are vastly different to the dynamics of this world. For many today Pauls description in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (take time to look it up) of what he went through for the sake of the Kingdom doesn’t make sense, yet he knew the presence and power of God and saw the Kingdom coming in greater measure. It is especially a cruciform dynamic that requires us to die to ourselves, our methods, our motives, our ambitions. On the individual level that means that as long as we think that another degree, a higher wage, a better job, a new lover, a bigger home, a different location (city, country), etc. is what we need to make life work—we will not know the powerful dynamic of the kingdom of God.
The Kingdom comes where we are, in the midst of the weakness, the messiness, the uncertainty of our lives. We don’t need to wait for a better day, but seek first His Kingdom and justice, and who knows what the rest of the day might look like or the future will be!