For I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
In this one verse, the Apostle Paul expresses the central idea, the Divine mystery and the way of life of the Kingdom of God. But how many of us are looking for the benefit without the cross?
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been reading John Bright's The Kingdom of God for one of my classes. And I have had to read it three times, just to absorb all it has to say. But the central idea of the book, and I believe of all Christianity, is this: God rules over those whom He has chosen for Himself, and the path they tread is the path His Son tread, the path of the Suffering Servant.
Bright puts it this way in his chapter called "Captivity and New Exodus":
Here we learn that it is God's purpose to rule a worldwide kingdom, which men of all nations are invited to join. But the victory of that Kingdom, sure as God is sure, will be procured not by force or spectacular power, but by the sacrificial labor of God's Servant. . . . Israel is to follow the Servant, take up the cross of the Servant, share in the Servant's redemptive mission. The Servant can no more be separated from Israel than Christ can from his Church to which He said:'If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross' (Mk 8:34).
So we are dead men - and women. Dead to that ruling principle over which so many wars are fought, over which hatred has spread like a virus, that which deprives children of their parents, husbands and wives of their spouses, nations of their hope - self. Yet we, like Paul, still have the same bodies we had before we came to Christ. We look the same, we sound the same (as far as intonation and timbre of voice). We don't magically change our spots - on the outside. But we are different. We are His now.
Before we belonged to self - and by extension to Satan and his kingdom. We were destined for damnation, and justifiably so, because we were outlaws. But what the code written in stone could not do, God has done through His Spirit - written his laws in our hearts. Now what does that mean?
Andrew Murray in his book Two Covenants writes this:
God has planted the new heart in the midst of the flesh, which, with its animating principle, SELF, has to be denied, to be kept crucified, and by the Holy Spirit to be mortified. God has placed you in the midst of a world, from which, with all that is of it and its spirit, you are to come out and be entirely separate. God has given you your work in His kingdom,for which He asks all your interest, and time, and strength. In all these three respects you need wholeheartedness, to enable you to make the sacrifices that may be required. If you take the ordinary standard of Christian life around you, you will find that wholeheartedness, intense devotion to God and His service, is hardly thought of. How to make the best of both worlds, innocently to enjoy as much as possible of this present life, is the ruling principle, and, as a natural consequence, the present world secures the larger share of interest. To please self is considered legitimate, and the Christlike life of not pleasing self has little place. Wholeheartedness will lead you, and enable you too, to accept Christ's command and sell all for the pearl of great price. Though at first afraid of what it may involve, do not hesitate to speak the word frequently in the ear of your Father: with my whole heart.
This kind of heart sacrifice - the willingness to give all over to God, is our part of the drama. But even that willingness comes because God has called us to it first. It is not that we sought Him; He sought us and placed in us the desire to feel after Him and find Him.
How often do we see that? I don't very often. In the public debate we often see more service of self - whether through political power or intrigue or terrorism. The strife and hatred and bloodshed we see every night on the news comes from self - trying to preserve ourselves, further our political ends, make others conform to our ideas. But none of it comes from the Cross. Don't fool yourself - the Kingdom of God is not a political Kingdom. It is not obtained through force of arms, appointing judges, marching in the streets, hosting a talk show, or writing books. And the citizens of the Kingdom have a date with Golgotha.
Does that make it easier? No. But I know I need to press beyond my unbelief, to see the God who is able to do "exceedingly abundantly beyond all I could ask or think according to His power that is at work in me." He will enable me to love Him with my whole heart, and all my soul. Then I can echo Paul's words not only with what I say, but with my essence - who I am.