Jesus’ Subversive Kingdom – Part Twelve

In this world construct that we live in, you don’t believe something until you see it; with Christ’s kingdom, you won’t see anything until you believe it. Its subversive nature confounds the wise and resists the proud. By faith, not by sight, we understand that this invisible kingdom frames everything we do see (Heb.11:3). 

We’ve been looking under the hood (bonnet for you Brits) of our soul, so to speak, letting Jesus deal with the relational issues of the heart that can hinder the cooperative process with God for our transformation, along with the health of our relationships with each other. And only His Spirit can reveal these hidden things in us.

We’ve already looked at how Jesus answers the two questions, “What is the good life?” and “Who is a good person?” In Matthew chapter six,  He deals with seeking reputation from others and finding our security from material wealth. We will look at the first one today.

Reputation versus re-formation

When we don’t find our affirmation and identity as sons and daughters of Abba Father (Gal.4:4-6), we will act like spiritual orphans trying to find approval through others. This is especially true with regard to demanding respectability, which is how the scribes and Pharisees got their affirmation.

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (Matt.6:1-4 *)

First, Jesus isn’t saying that we should never do our deeds in public; the point is, we don’t do them to be seen by others. It’s about why we’re doing what we do.

Hypocrite was a very familiar term in Jesus’ day. It comes from classical Greek which refers to play actors on a stage. Generally speaking, it’s someone who’s not really who they appear to be on the outside. As Dallas Willard said, Jesus used this word seventeen times in the Gospels to make the distinction between our face to the world and our person before Christ (The Divine Conspiracy).

The “Christian” version of a hypocrite would be one who professes Christ, looks and talks like a Christ follower, but has not allowed Him to remove the “plank” from their eye (Matt.7:1-5), which is what this whole series is about.

As Willard goes on to say, the desire for religious respectability will immediately drag us into the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Our motive will be to look spiritual or important to others rather than doing things from a life formed through Christ’s other-centered, self-giving love. There’s nothing wrong with titles or even receiving awards, but seeking them, especially demanding them, is quite another thing. Christ’s kingdom operates quite differently.

In fact, Jesus launched the sharpest criticism against the Pharisees’ hypocrisy in Matthew 23, condemning their desire for religious titles and seeking honor from men:

They do good things so that other people will see them. They enlarge the little boxes holding Scriptures that they wear, and they make their special prayer clothes very long. Those Pharisees and teachers of the law love to have the most important seats at feasts and in the synagogues. They love people to greet them with respect in the marketplaces, and they love to have people call them ‘Teacher.’ (Matt.23:5-7 NCV *)

Then, Jesus goes on to tell us not to be like them…

“But you must not be called ‘Teacher,’ because you have only one Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters together. And don’t call any person on earth ‘Father,’ because you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 And you should not be called ‘Master,’ because you have only one Master, the Christ. 11 Whoever is your servant is the greatest among you. (Matt.23:8-11 NCV *)

Context is important here. Again, we’re talking about what motivates us. We know from other Scripture that teachers and spiritual fathers and mothers are an important part of the body of Christ. It’s using this position of authority to take advantage of, or to place oneself over, another that Jesus condemns. We’re all equal as brothers and sisters in Christ. If we wish to lead others, we do so by serving them for their benefit, not for ours.

The Kingdom motivation

We must decide if we’re going to follow after Christ or the praises of others. The only motivation behind what we do for God, and others, should come from our hidden life with Him, compelled by His other-centered, self-giving love…not out of duty or fear, not for reputation, fame, wealth, or the approval of others.

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Cor.5:14-15 NIV *)

* All emphasis added.
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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6 Responses to Jesus’ Subversive Kingdom – Part Twelve

  1. Amen! Well said. This is such a critical point because if we are genuinely following Christ there is usually going to be some push back.

  2. Arkenaten says:

    The problem you face is this:
    Even though we could suspend all critical thought and reason and accept that we are dealing with a god who once appeared in human form, and one could say, okay, I’ll ”follow” his teachings -even though this in itself has major problems as I’ll bet you anything you could not fully explain them – and I mean anything – , there is the looming threat of supposed eternal damnation if one does not admit to being a sinner.and acknowledge Jesus as god. And while the jury may be out among believers as to what this Hell truly is, it says much of the character of said deity to leave such ambiguity in the hands of humans to instruct on his behalf – knowing how idiotic, often vile and just plain stupid so many humans are.
    And once more a definition of this Hell will be almost impossible to fully quantify, but you are welcome to have a go for interest’s sake. I really would be fascinated on your take, Mel … and how you know, of course.

    So, after all this, one is still regarded as a sinner and one cannot ever be good enough to ”qualify”, even though this person supposedly took humanity’s sin upon himself by allowing himself to be brutally executed 2000 years ago. Or else … Yes, or else what? God would annihilate us? But he is also Yahweh, of course, is he not?
    So, a seemingly meaningless gesture, as he was apparently resurrected a few days later.
    Therefore, why on earth bother? A demonstration of power?
    Couldn’t have been an ego trip as this would be completely out of character for an omnipotent being.
    So a meaningless, and unexplainable brutal sacrifice to demonstrate a point? But no one has ever been able to explain this point. Not in a coherent manner.
    And of course, one has to acknowledge all this to ”qualify?” for entry into heaven I suppose.
    Preposterous bronze age melodrama that, based on the subsequent results of the heinous religious mayhem that followed, has to date served absolutely no apparent purpose whatsoever, other than to divide humanity, largely on religious grounds and with a new cult – Islam – currently taking centre stage in the violence stakes, much like Christianity did in times past.

    So, you’re the pastor, Mel. Please. be my guest. Try to explain exactly … and I mean exactly, how following Jesus will benefit anyone?

    Ark.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Ark,
      You give very long responses that having nothing directly to do what I’m talking about. That’s why I usually have to moderate your comments. Here, you’re obsessed with Christian doctrines on hell, Christology, etc.. But following Jesus simply means entering into a cooperative relationship with Him in how He deals with the human condition. And my direct reference was the Sermon in the Mount, dealing with all our toxic relational issues: anger, sexual objectification, treachery, manipulation, revenge, enemy hatred, hypocrisy, greed, insecurity, judgmentalism, and self-centeredness. What’s so hard to understand?

      If I wanted to answer all pf the unrelated issues you brought up here it would take about a dozen different post length responses. I’ve done it before but I may cover them specifically again sometime in the future.

    • Arkenaten says:

      Obsessed? Don’t be silly!
      I have never had cause to worry about it personally or express concern where my family is concerned either.
      We are having dialogue on a blog, that’s all. I just think it is simply an utterly disgusting piece of spurious doctrine that has no basis in fact whatsoever, and when indoctrinated into kids is nothing but abuse.
      Maybe you should d a post along these lines, refuting this garbage once and for all?

      following Jesus simply means entering into a cooperative relationship with Him in how He deals with the human condition.

      The biblical character is a narrative construct. Furthermore, there is no way to verify any pf the things he is supposed t have said thus much of it could simply be interpolation.
      And of the things you list, one does not need any sort of direction form this character as I outlined on the other comment.

  3. We each have a little hypocrite in ourselves yearning to break free. Therefore we must be constantly on guard. 🙂

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