Serving and wanting to serve God is a good thing, right? Overall the answer is yes, however, it is an area where we are all ripe to be tempted and deceived. It is real easy to get caught up in our own kingdom in the name of serving God.
Ways we can get caught up in seeking after own kingdom. We can desire God, desire to serve God, desire to reach out to others, but we can let ourselves corrupt matters. Each of us can easily seek to serve God through means of the lust of flesh, lust of eyes, or pride of life. We can easily move from service to and for God, to meeting our own needs for love, significance, and security. There is even a very popular church program around being “purpose-driven” which definitely can move in the direction of self oriented and direct service.
Now if you look at scripture, what God want most from each of us is surrender. Take a look at Romans 12: 1-2 (NIV): “1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
We are called to daily surrender. We are called not to conform to the pattern of this world. What is the pattern of this world? Seeking self-satisfaction or engaging in need satisfaction. We are called to change our thinking not to ourselves and satisfactions of our wants and needs but focus on God and the Gospel through the Word of God.
There are several ways seeking our own wants, needs and engage in building our own kingdom occur. One particular way we can shift to building our own kingdom for God is becoming obsessed over a being used in a particular way. Some people may in fact approach God and ask “make me a prophet,” “or make me a healer,” or “make me a revivalist.” God can certainly meet those prayers. But it can turn into an obsession of a particular gifting of God with loss of site of other gifts. And if God hasn’t called or chosen the person for the particular gifting then it clearly can be something that moves into satisfying own selfish desires or needs. For example, think of a really bad singer or dancer on any audition for popular reality television shows, the ones that have no talent but are convinced they have talent, sometimes we can be just like them. We can be so enamored with ways we want to be used that we lose site of what God really wants to do in our lives.
The Bible states in Romans 12:3-9 (NIV): 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
The passage clearly indicates that God gives gifts as He will. We are each created differently and He chooses to give us different gifts. Rather then asking God for a particular gift, it is better to ask God to gift use as He will. If there is a desire on the heart, bring it before God in submission and ask Him to reveal to you what His will and gifts are. Accept the ways God has gifted you and learn to walk in those gifts in surrender.
It is important not to forget 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (NIV): 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
We all have roles within the body. We are all a cell in the body of Christ. However, God made us a particular cell and each cell serves a distinct purpose. The cell doesn’t determine it’s role, it is determined by the creator. Science has even shown this with the discovery of stem cells, which do not take on their function until given the instructions. Per the passage, we receive entrance into the body through the Holy Spirit, and as such it is when we receive our instructions and placement in the body. True we have gifts and natural skills at birth again given by God, and God takes those things into account in placing us within our place in the body of Christ. God as made us and arranged us as He wants, it is not about what we want.
In the passage it is clear another way we each can lose focus, which is to get jealous or envious of another persons gifting or place in the body. We can easily focus on people who God gifts to heal, or God uses to raise someone from the dead, or God uses to harvest many souls into the Kingdom of God. And according to the above passage, the parts of the body with “dishonor” are given greater honor with God. Yet, we often look at the “attention” getting gifts or the ones that demonstrate power or knowledge. So think of whomever in the body of Christ that draws no honor, perhaps a handicapped person who simply prays and worships God because of no capacity to anything else. In God’s kingdom and perspective, such a person has a higher honor. We at times envy and desire things that externally look exciting or note worthy, yet with God it is what happens that goes unnoticed that has the higher honor, yet we don’t envy or desire such gifts.
When we lose focus on serving God’s kingdom, and view from our own perspective another way to easily get wrapped up in serving self is when it does become about building our own Kingdom’s literally. It becomes about wanting to be a leader or gain power and influence in the church. Often times it can start out well meaning, wanting to reach others with the Gospel, build a church or ministry that will impact others. However, power is enticing and corrupting. Once you have a vision of serving God suddenly amassing more power and influence becomes the priority. The bible says some pretty specific things about leadership.
For example: James 3:1 (NIV): 1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. This passage clearly indicates that teaching and leadership results in greater judgment. It is not to be entered into lightly, for there is greater responsibility. As a leader a person is not just responsible for them selves but those that serve under them.
Also look at Luke 14:7-14(NIV): 7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The passage clearly demonstrates that we need to not seek honor, not seek to be someone considered important, but rather to humbly serve.
We also need to consider what Jesus said “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35b NKJV) Jesus demonstrated this consistently. He demonstrated in the washing of the feet. He ultimately demonstrated this at the Cross.
Now it is possible for us to not be seeking after power or leadership but rather get caught up in looking for external evidence of building the Kingdom of God. Looking for this external evidence can be a snare. We can look for numbers or external manifestations and look to depend on them or rely on them and get caught up in building our own kingdom in the name of building God’s kingdom. Things like attendance numbers, numbers of people coming forward at an alter call, numbers of small groups, numbers of programs, and so on.
We can get caught up in the numbers game because in our mind the numbers are what shows whether or not there is fruit. However, numbers are simply numbers and God looks at things differently. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NKJV):11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. This passage clear shows that what stand as good work and good fruit in the end is what passes through the fire. What we do building our own kingdoms will burn and doesn’t count. So we really cannot get to excited about external appearances.
Another good verse is 2 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV):12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. This passage clearly shows that there are limits to pay attention to, that seeing the good that God does certainly can be commended, but when we start comparing to ourselves or others we lose focus and become unwise. Numbers and externals are really about what makes us feel better. It makes us feel like something is accomplished, but often what God really accomplishes is unseen and unnumbered.
Another easy way to get caught up in building our own kingdom versus the Kingdom of God is when we get caught up in a particular plan or program. It is real easy to get caught in the method, versus the Kingdom. There are ways and tools and programs that God has used in varied locations. However, it is a mistake to think that any plan or program or formula will work in all cases with all people. In the American church, the focus on programs as even gone to the point where there are prepackaged sermons and sermon series. Now, I can see the value in passing on particular series of messages that God has used. But we make a mistake if we think that God interacts and works with all people in that same manner.
Jesus himself did not always work in the same way or manner. He met individuals at there need, at their level of faith. He met them where they were at and always challenged them to go beyond and enter the Kingdom of God.
We can have the most thought out plans and programs and God may not be in it. Plans and programs are not bad, it is all a matter of what God is doing and how he is acting. For example, Paul had an excellent plan and spoke with all wisdom to the Greeks, yet it went no where. God’s wisdom and plans running contrary to human wisdom is evident in 1 Corinthians 1:17-21(NIV):17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
Building the Kingdom of God always comes down to what God is doing. He may not make sense to human eyes and human wisdom, but God’s path is clear. Again programs and plans can work, or the may be works that burn in the fire. The important thing for each of is to attend to what God is doing. We need to get beyond ourselves and consider each individual as Jesus did in the Gospels. A passage clearly outlining this principle is found in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV):19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Paul indicated that we have to meet people where they are at, and share the Gospel at a level they understand. We also can get so caught up not only in programs or plans but our own ideas and agendas about God as well. We each have experience with God, God shows us different things and we can often apply broad brush applications of our experience and demand the same of all, forgetting that God made us each unique. The Bible is filled with both God and Jesus working in different ways in people’s lives. However, we can instead of continually learning and testing all things, become convinced of an aspect of God and expect all to understand the same way and all that vary are wrong. We forget the admonition of Romans 12:3(NIV):For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Instead we get grand thoughts that every one needs to understand as we do. We can fail to listen and instead speak at and judge others.
However, the fact that we operate often from our own understanding and ideas doesn’t eliminate the fact that truth about God has been revealed through the Word of God. However we understand God it needs to be based on the scripture. As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:12(NIV): 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. The passage clearly show that our understanding is limited, partial. Yet God has revealed Himself and His truth through the Word of God. It is by studying the Word of God that in this life we can know more in full. We need to follow Proverbs 3:5:6: 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. and not be like the watchmen of Israel described in Isaiah 56:11(NIV): 11 They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain.
When we don’t understand something about God we need to seek him and seek the truth in the Word of God. The Word of God is the foundation as seen in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17(NIV): 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
God does promises that He will give understanding for example in Proverbs 2:1-51 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. As well as in James 1:5 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. We need to ask God and seek the truth. Our understanding is in part but God will give us greater understand as we ask and as we set aside our own understanding.
Now I could identify several other ways the church commonly seeks to build kingdoms in the name of Jesus but not truly building the Kingdom of God. Building the Kingdom of God is about surrender to the King of Kings. The bible does give some clear guidelines for building the Kingdom of God. Clear ways to walk in. 1 Corinthians 13 is a good start point. Evidence of building the Kingdom of God is rooted in love. But not only is the kingdom rooted and driven in love. It is the driving factor. It is for love of others that we seek to draw others into the Kingdom of God as shown in 2 Corinthians 5: 12-15(NIV): 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 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. How that kind of love looks is further expanded in other scripture as in Romans 12: 9-21(NIV): 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Now of course it would be worthwhile to examine each particular aspect of what sincere love looks like in practice but for now will leave the Word of God speak for itself.
The central point of this article is that we easily, each of us, can get caught up in building kingdoms that are not the Kingdom of God and do so in the name of building the Kingdom of God. Building the Kingdom of God starts with surrender and is driven by love. We each need to examine ourselves and our actions and our theology and our programs and whatever we do in the name of Jesus and see if there is anything that is of self, anything that is not about surrender and not driven by love. Again much more can be written on this topic and will write other articles fleshing out varied aspects of building the Kingdom of God but it is time for me to draw this article to a close. I will close this article with another set of lyrics from Daniel Amos that I think makes an appropriate point. I also recommend reading a parable at http://www.sheeptrax.com/articles/main.html that also makes and appropriate point. So now until my next article enjoy the lyrics to I Didn’t Build it for Me.
I Didn’t Build it for Me
from the album “Doppelgänger”
Words and Music by Terry Taylor and Jerry Chamberlain
©1983 Twitchen Vibes/ Paragon Music Corp. ASCAP
You think I built this for me?
You think I built this for me?
This isn’t mine- it’s yours, it’s really for you
I didn’t build it for me
I don’t have the time to enjoy it
I’m asked why I don’t use the facilities
I don’t have the slightest inclination
I won’t consider it, I didn’t build it for me…
There’s a plaque in the hall
My name’s on the wall
And a statue of my family
It wasn’t my decision
It was all in a vision
I didn’t build it, I never would have built it
I really didn’t build it for me…
One man stood alone
One man did succeed
I’m the man, I’m the one
I didn’t build it for me
One man stood alone
I’m the man, I’m the one
I’m the man of the hour!…
I used to say, “Why doesn’t somebody do something about this?”
I cried, “Oh, what about this need?”
Then a voice said, “You do something about it”
I said, “Oh woooow you mean me?”…
Filed under: Christianity Tagged: | agape, Daniel Amos, Daniel Amos lyrics, deception, defense of Kingdom, discernment, dominionism, driven by love, evangalism, false knowledge, false peace, falsehood, fear of God, Godly fruit, I did not build this for me, in the name of God, kingdom building, Kingdom now, kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven, knowledge of God, love, New Apostatalic Reformation, obeying commands, outreach, peace, Peace of God, Reformation, self-deceptions, service, serving God, serving others, surrender, understanding God