Kingdom of God vs. The Kingdoms of The World
This past Sunday, I read an excerpt from a sermon by one of my favorite preachers. His name is John Lynch and he is a pastor at Open Door Fellowship in Phoenix AZ. You can listen to his messages at www.odfchurch.org . He is a gifted communicator and teacher.
This excerpt is about Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the Wilderness. I really like what John says here and I think it provides a great foundation as we began to look at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 1:14-15) when Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
I wanted to post John’s words here because I feel that they are rather profound thoughts that require some attention (in other words, just hearing them once is not enough… it helps to read them carefully and consider them).
The temptation in the desert reveals a profound difference between God’s power and Satan’s power
Satan has the power to coerce, to dazzle, to force obedience, to destroy… and human governments have learned much from that power
Satan’s power is external and coercive.
God’s power is, intentionally, mostly internal and non-coercive.
And this drives us nuts… Do you see the cost of that?
The master of the universe will become its victim.
Powerless before soldiers in the garden.
God made himself weak for one purpose… To let human beings choose freely for themselves what to do with him.
Dorothy Sayers writes in her book Man Born to Be King,
“Herod tells the magi, ‘You can’t rule men by love. When you find your king, tell him that. Only three things will govern a people: fear, greed, and promise of security.”
Herod understands the same leadership principles that Satan operates by—the same ones Jesus is declining for you and for me in the wilderness.
At the cost of everything.
See, sometimes, I wish God used a heavier touch. My faith battles come from too much freedom—too many temptations to disbelieve. I want God to overwhelm me—to overcome my doubts with certainty. To get final proofs of his existence.
I want God to take a more active role in my personal life too! I want quick spectacular answers to all my prayers. I want healings for all diseases; I want full protection and safety for all my loved ones; I want a God I can point to for the sake of my doubting friends and say, “He always does things the way I want him to!”
But it is amazing his refusal to perform and overwhelm.
God’s terrible insistence on human freedom is so absolute that he grants us power to live as though he did not exist; he grants us power to spit in his face and to crucify him.
Jesus knew this as he faced down the tempter in the desert—focusing his power on the energy of restraint.
See, God insists on such restraint because no pyrotechnic display of omnipotence will achieve the result he desires.
Although power can force obedience, only love can summon a response of love.
Which is the one thing God wants for us and from us… and is the reason he created us.
Jesus said, “ I, when lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself.”
Love has its own power. It is the only power ultimately capable of conquering the human heart.
Jesus’ steadfast refusal to play by Satan’s rules does something else: It means that Satan, himself, could continue playing by those rules. He still had world kingdoms at his disposal—and, after all, had learned the lesson about God’s restraint. And so the restrained God offers opportunity for those who are opposed to God.
And you hear those opposed say it… “Well, if your God did this, why doesn’t he do this?!? Why can’t he just come down here right now and do this?!?”
And God says, “By living in the restraint of non-coercive love, I’ll have to wait a while—and keep hearing those slanders against me.
Satan gets to say that the kids, from his perspective, get to roam the island a little longer—apparently free of adult authority.
God could be blamed for what went wrong—if God insisted on not doing anything while the devilment like the crusades and the holocaust went on, why not blame the parent and not the kids.
See what Jesus is doing by refusing to give in to Satan’s temptations in the desert? He’s putting God’s own reputation at risk. And God had asked him to.
Whether you and I like it or not, Jesus is choosing to show his power in love.
And the cost is immense. For chapters and chapters and chapters, he looks weak and anemic. But he will be shown beyond powerful and beyond our definition of good.
And this is why I trust him.