Matthew 5:3-4 The Message Bible
"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
This is a difficult concept to grasp and live out, but it is one that we should strive for in every moment.
What does it mean to live with power in the kingdom of God today? In concept, it is made simple for us to understand. In practice, it borders on the impossible. Living with power for God does not require a special school, it does not require special gifts or talents, God's kingdom asks for devotion. 100% devotion.
Let's take a look at what 100% devotion looks like. This is very important. It is a big ask and God knows this, which is why we have a ready made plan set before us and no, it is not the bible. Your plan, the blueprint, map, or path, is a living person. If we had lived in the first century, in Corinth, and attended Paul's meetings, we would have had a pretty good person to follow in Paul. Paul shows us this when he says in 1 Corinthians 4:16 to follow his example, to imitate him. Paul urges this imitation. Later, in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul adds the phrase, "as I am of Christ". We are looking for living example, Paul is not living though we can find examples in his epistles of what devotion looks like.
We are going to work backwards, beginning with a hymn sung by some of the earliest believers:
Philippians 2:5-11 The Message Bible
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, —and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
Focus on the phrase, "he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death". Now, can you imagine living a completely selfless life? Seriously, selfless. Never a thought of yourself, ever. Nothing you did was for you. A couple of nights ago I traveled to Buffalo, NY with one of my brothers and my son to a rock concert, which was outstanding. The day before the show my wife asked if I was excited, of course I was, then she asked wouldn't you rather stay home with me? Wow! There is a loaded question. I responded with a half-truth, yes I would, but I also would like to spend it at the show! Is this a good example? I think it is, obviously my wife was not going to ask me to stay home, but when Jesus lived among us the idea of not going to the show was very real. Jesus lived for one being, God. Jesus was completely selfless!
John 5:19 NRSV
Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.
The son, Jesus, could do NOTHING on his own! I believe this was a very factual statement, no tongue-in-cheek joking around. Jesus only did what God was doing through him. That is 100% devotion. Jesus gave it all. Does God require this of us? Jesus gave a couple of clues.
Matthew 16:24-25 NRSV
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 19:16-24 tells the story of the rich young man. He wants to enter the kingdom and is very troubled at Jesus explanation regarding how to enter. Jesus gives some simple commandments which the young man says he has already done. Then comes the deal breaker, give all of your riches away. The young mans riches were his identity, if it was money, his money was who he was. It occurred to me recently that we could put Paul's name (Saul) as the young man. Paul was rich in heritage and in the law. If Paul was the young man, he left hanging on to his identity rather than that of Jesus. If we see this as Paul, he hung on to it so tightly that he eventually became bitter and raged against Jesus by persecuting Jesus' followers. Imagine Paul hearing the news that Jesus was dead and feeling empowered to persecute the mindless followers of Jesus. Then Paul had the visit, I can imagine God remembering the young man's visit to the living Jesus and thinking that Paul would be perfect for the work, after he was knocked down from his high horse. Paul tells of this very fact in Philippians 3. Now I am not suggesting that the rich young man was in fact Paul, but I believe it is an excellent illustration. Give this some thought by putting yourself in the story, what are you rich in? How does it identify you?
So, there are many examples of how we should be living in God's kingdom, but there is just one true ask. It is the one that I said borders on impossible. In fact, right now, it is impossible. We are a work in progress and thankfully we have a God of patience. Can we still live in the kingdom? Yes, I believe we can, in moments of power. The real power is in the total surrender of ourselves for the sake of others.
For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.
1 Corinthians 4:20, NRSV
God's kingdom is very powerful. Absolutely nothing can stand in it's way. It is a kingdom that has the power to change the lives of individuals, societies, and cultures. I believe the intention of God is that we live within his kingdom as engaged people, not passively waiting for a message or sign. God's kingdom is very active, super active, and those who understand this will be very busy manifesting God's work in their lives. It is natural for one living in the kingdom to show God's power, it is not easy, it is work, yet it is still natural. You see, God is not asking the impossible of us, in fact, the works of the kingdom were ordained ages ago, Ephesians 2:10.
God has a future goal, but today we need not be concerned with the future, instead we should focus our attention on right now. Today, this very moment. Why? Because the kingdom is now, it is not only in the future, but right now. This does not mean that you should not know of the future which God has revealed, it means that such knowledge should not cause in-action, stagnation, because we know that it will all work out in the end! No, we are called to action, today.
Ephesians 1:17-20 The Message (MSG)
But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven,
You might ask, is Paul referring to God's kingdom in Ephesians? I believe he is (more on this later). I love the language used in this translation; "focused and clear", "immensity" and "glorious way of life", "utter extravagance", "endless energy and boundless strength". These are all words of intention, power, endurance, and strength. Where does it come from? Christ Jesus, it flows from God through him through the resurrection.
So, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:20, that the kingdom is based on power, not talk. When Paul says 'talk', he is speaking of empty words, ideas that will never be acted on, setting huge and unrealistic goals, lofty ideas with no intentions or power putting them into action. Paul is getting after some folks in Corinth. They feel like they do not need any guidance, like they have it all. I love Jonathan Mitchell's expanded translation of verse 8:
1 Corinthians 4:8 Jonathan Mitchell NT (JMNT)
You folks already continuously exist being ones having become completely satiated, with the result that you are now fully satisfied. You are already suddenly rich. You people suddenly reign as kings apart from us! [note: these three statements could also be questions: Are you… Are you… Do you…?] And would that you surely did reign, so that we could also reign as kings together with you!
Did you catch the note? Paul is asking them, sarcastically. In verses 18 and 19, he says they have become arrogant, full of talk with no power. The Message translation says they are just hot air. Jonathan Mitchell frequently uses the term, "breath-effect" when speaking of God's spirit. When God speaks, it is nothing short of life, of power. These folks in Corinth are the complete opposite, just breath with no effect.
God's Way is not a matter of mere talk; it's an empowered life.
1 Corinthians 4:20 MSG
It is an empowered life. You see, that is what Paul is driving at in Ephesians chapter 1. There is real power in what God has for us and that power, the same power that raised the messiah, is dwelling in you. What are you prepared to do with it?