A KINGDOM WITHIN
BY: LARRY HODGES
“The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, ‘Lo here!’
or, ‘Lo there!’ for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” – Luke 17:20–21
SOMETHING TO PONDER IN YOUR HEART
WHAT EXACTLY IS A BELIEVER?
FELLOWSHIPPING WITH DEVILS
IS THIS A SPIRIT OR A MARATHON
Quite in spite of the words of Jesus, “The kingdom of God is within you,” the Church has sought it every place else. The Jews sought it in a warrior-king like unto David, whom they thought would overthrow Rome and deliver them after an outward manner. Instead, He came clothed in the garment of humility and as a washer of men’s feet and a cleanser of their sins. They had no use for such a man or his message. The modern Jew is of much the same mind. After the holocaust and the tragic persecution, which took place throughout much of Europe, they have turned to the ADL, the American Defense League, for the championing of their causes. The ADL is, in a sense, their savior.
Generally speaking, the black community of our nation has largely turned the gospel into as much of a social instrument as many whites have in a quest for equal rights now. The NAACP is thought of by many of them and looked to generally as a savior as much as Jesus Christ. I say, “generally” because, of course, there are exceptions where those Spirit-filled, illuminated blacks are concerned. Martin Luther King, Jr. was and is their hero because he addressed their bondage, limitations and restrictions where social rights and liberties were and are concerned. I do not mean to suggest here that their charge of social injustice has been false or that their desire for its correction has been wrong. What we need to realize is that such things can never be legislatively successful.
Women, of all colors, are another group, which has suffered from social injustice. They have formed an organization called NOW, the National Organization for Women. Their acronym is a good description of their attitude and aim. “We want justice and we want it now!” They, like the other segments of society, look to their preferred savior rather than to Jesus or along with Jesus. Again, I speak in a general sense because there are, of course, exceptions to this rule.
Is it wrong to desire justice and equity? Is it wrong to want to be treated fairly? It requires not even a regenerated mind to respond correctly to that question. It is not wrong to desire justice and fairness. Such a desire has been implanted within our very natures and is a part of that image of God into which man was originally made before it was marred.
What is wrong is not that improvement is desired or even that it is sought, but the manner in which it is sought and the manner in which we desire the improvement seems quite definitely lacking. The kingdom of God is within. That means that God’s government is within also. It also means that those whom He instates as judges to rule and reign with Him shall and must themselves know that liberty, that freedom, that complete emancipation which stems from their inward spiritual life rather than from any outward source.
Social issues seem to have the tendency of encroaching upon the Church’s spiritual ground. The reason for this is that Reason has been allowed into areas of counsel where he has no business, but they cannot be solved by the adoption of a politically correct moral stance or through right legislation in Washington, DC. It won’t happen for the Jew or the black man or the woman. For we recognize immediately that legislation, no matter how right or proper it may be, does not solve the problem which is the heart of man. If actions and responses toward others are not from the heart, then no sooner are we outside the influence of said legislation than we are also beyond the effects that legislation sought to produce. It must be something arising from within one’s heart. Still, we can say nothing against those unregenerate ones who, through whatever means at their disposal, have brought about some degree of fairness in society. For the Christian, though, it must be sought and bought at a higher level.
What are termed “social issues” are not social problems at all, but spiritual problems. Abortion is a social issue but a spiritual problem. So is racism, anti-Semitism and male chauvinism and many other “isms”. These are all spiritual problems, which have their outworkings in society, but they cannot be addressed as a social problem, for they are essentially spiritual problems.
Are we not somehow out of step with God, with His thought, His purpose, His heart if we are expecting such things as our rights and due recognition – now? Was that the attitude of the first century saint as he was being fed to wild beasts? Is this not the cry of the man of flesh? Has it not always been his lament? The man of flesh is really not after equality anyway; he is after superiority and will not, cannot be satisfied until he has it.
Jesus suffered from the religious prejudice of His day. He was not welcome within the religious power-circles of His day. His response to this perpetual snub was that He seemed to care not about it. He seemed to have His sights set upon things of a higher nature and order and seemed to realize that those circles of power, so-called, were fairly impotent. In fact, He even instructed His disciples not to pattern themselves after the Pharisees or the Gentiles who lord it over their subjects.
There is a spirit afoot in the land today, which can go by no other name than the spirit of Eve. The Women’s Liberation movement is energized by this spirit. Because its cause is basically just in that women in the world are routinely treated unfairly, it has found its way, as these things always seem to, into the ranks of the Church. Some are teaching a women’s only theology. That is, as the fall is viewed by many to have been the fault of the woman, even so, according to them, God has thought to restore all of mankind largely through the instrumentality of the woman. One woman in the United States who writes a newsletter, sends out another one secretly to a very small elite group of women only. She advises her readers to burn the writings of others.
God has even been stripped of His masculinity in some quarters. The reason for this is that the male God of Christianity has been too harsh, we’re told. Sending His Son to the cross is seen as an act of Divine child abuse. I heard it said over the radio some months ago. Therefore we should look to a more kind and loving Mother God, or God-dess, rather than the harsh male God. They rally under the banner of Eve, of all people. Is she not a part of the fallen creation from which Christ, the New Creation, sets us free!? Is Jesus Christ known as the last Adam or the last Eve?
You may be saying to yourself, “Aw, who in their right mind would pay any attention to something so absurd?” Man has a natural affinity for error. It is truth rather than error which often causes men to be offended. One need only tie a rag to a stick and walk down the street to attract a following these days, if a following is what one is after.
I have watched women battle for years in an area in which men seldom have to do battle. It is that area in which a woman’s calling and the demands of God are heavy upon her and she can find only barricades before her in answering that call, barricades placed there most often by her brothers in the Lord. Men do battle in this area, but it is seldom the same battle. Often, where the woman is concerned, the great difficulty lies with the husband. If she has been anointed for some type of ministry, it is seldom that the husband has enough spiritual understanding to just get out of the way and let God work His work in and through her, or he wants to completely hinder her in answering her call.
She often cannot find an available pulpit because of the jealousy and ignorance of those men guarding their pulpits, many of whom are not themselves called of God to such a ministry. When she, by no less than a miracle of God, finally finds a pulpit, she must minister under a cloud of suspicion often labeled “discernment” and is thought of and often treated as if her ministry were somehow inferior to that of men. This has lessened somewhat since the beginning of the 20th century but it has a history which shall have to be accounted for one day. Thank God we’re coming into such a day and era that things of this nature will not have a place!
Concerning the male and female in the home and in the Church, the understanding about “order” is either completely abandoned or ignored to such an extent that it serves no practical purpose. It is not a popular subject to teach and has been so perverted that its mere mention generates almost as much suspicion as does the subject of finances. And both are very important subjects.
Is there an order concerning the male and female, the husband and wife, in Christ? Is that order simply whoever is more dominant in their nature, more forceful and assertive in their personality? Popular or unpopular, God is a God of infinite order. Everything in His vast universe is founded upon and works within the principle of maintained law and order.
What has made it so devilishly difficult for many women is their men. Either a woman’s husband is such a wimp, spiritually and otherwise, that she simply must take the reins and run things, or he sees the verse, “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” –Ephesians 5:22 and 24, as his legal and divinely appointed monarchy over which God Himself has given him authority to rule with despotic control. This has the expected result. The woman cannot allow her conscience before God to be defiled in submitting to such tyranny “as unto the Lord”. I personally know of one dear woman who came very close to being committed to a home for the mentally ill (an insane asylum), because of the entirely unreasonable, unclean and perverted requirements that were placed upon her by the man who was supposed to be her protection – her husband! In such a case, I believe divorce is fully warranted.
Our consistently mistranslated KJV states, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled:” – Hebrews 13:4 Such a rendering of the Word of God has led some men to happily believe that anything goes in the marriage bed, even perversions. It does not! Even though there is no place in the scriptures where we are explicitly told that one may go thus far and no farther. But the very Spirit of Christ instructs. When eating we are not told explicitly at what point temperance has been left and gluttony has been engaged in, but somehow we know, don’t we?
The Revised Version states – “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled:” Keep the marriage bed undefiled, is what God’s word actually says. The woman need not be subject to her husband’s base, immoral and unnatural lusts.
The basic questions are, is there a Biblical order which God favors? If there is, who is the leader in the marriage, the husband, or the wife, or both, or nobody? “And to the woman He says, ‘Multiplying, yea, multiplying am I your grief and the groaning of your pregnancy. In grief shall you bear sons. Yet by your husband is your restoration, and he shall rule over you'” – Genesis 3:16 Concordant Literal NT. The language here seems to support the idea that the woman is to be subject to the man in the marriage. It does not seem to support the idea that both are to enjoy the dominion or that neither are to have it or that there is no leader in the marriage. The whole world-over, even among men and women who do not know the Bible or care what it says, it is the same. The man has the leadership in the home, and even nature supports this in its example.
But when this is carried over into the kingdom of God, we should automatically arrive at a higher order than the way a natural husband and wife are meant to function with each other. It does not always work out that way because of some of the above listed reasons. What is it then? When we come to the Christian marriage how does that verse, “In Christ... there is neither male nor female,” affect things? Does the husband treat his wife as if she were not a female? Is the wife to treat and regard her husband as if he were not male? Garrison Keeler tells of Lake Woebegone, “...where men are men and the women are glad of it, and the children are all above average.” In the practical outworkings of things, women are women and men are men and both seem thankful that it is that way.
In a Christian marriage, a man who has spiritual understanding sees that in his wife he deals with a member of Christ’s body and that as such, in her he has to do with Christ. Likewise is it with the woman. Now in the measure that Christ has been allowed to develop in a man or woman, to that degree shall there be true spiritual order as the woman submits to her husband as unto Christ the Lord, and the husband in turn, loves her and gives himself for her in the spirit of sacrifice, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.
This seldom works perfectly and can never function beyond the limits to which that couple have attained in Christ. Usually, one or the other must carry the lion’s share of the spiritual responsibility in the marriage and usually it is the woman who is more spiritual. In those situations when the woman is not subject to her husband and takes the leadership in the marriage, more often than not, it is because the husband has been guilty of forfeiture. A truly spiritual woman desires the headship of Christ in her husband, and this headship of Christ in her husband in no way robs her of her headship of Christ directly. For as often as not, the husband must inquire of his wife and take into consideration her insights concerning spiritual matters; but he must lead in Christ.
I think the main thing that is often lost sight of here, whether it concerns the Jew, the black man or the woman, is God’s principle of increase. “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.“ – Exodus 1:12 There seems to be a great divine law that when affliction and pressure is brought to bear, God inevitably brings increase. During the revivals of Charles Finney “an impressive black man arose way in the back of the audience to speak. Said an usher to Finney, ‘Fredrick Douglass has something to say to the people.’ The great colored orator, now gray-haired and form-bent, came forward for forgiveness. He said, “When I was young and a slave, Mr. Finney, when my back quivered under the master’s lash, I clung close to God and felt the comfort of true religion. But prosperity has been too much for me, and I have come under the dominion of the world, and have lost my first love.” Finney, the soul-stirred preacher, wept aloud and cried, “God bless you, Brother Douglass! God bless you!”
Now no one in his right mind could possibly seek to justify slavery by any means, but what Mr. Douglass has shown here is that God makes such things work for good. The prosperity Mr. Douglass later gained when freed from slavery brought him into an even greater slavery, the dominion of sin; a mind not governed by God. Any freedom, any justice originating not from spirit will carry in it the seeds of its own slavery. America, the land of the free, has become such a cesspool of filth and corruption that it excuses sins that at one time it would have been shameful even to mention, and a man like Abraham Lincoln could not be elected today. When the Bible ceases to be the objective standard of morality by which men live, then anyone’s idea of a standard of morality is as good as anyone else’s. In other words, there is no standard.
Jesus was again and again approached by the Jews, sometimes by his own disciples, as to whether he would at this time restore the kingdom. There was such self-interest that some even asked if they could have a cabinet position in His kingdom, one on His right hand and one on His left. The rest of the disciples were no better. They were angry that they had not asked first. The unasked but well understood question was, “Will you overthrow the Roman government at this time?” It is extremely interesting that he who could easily have done it, never led them to believe that he would. In fact, he seemed completely unconcerned about such things.
Limitations? Restrictions? Unfairness? One came to him entreating him to make his brother divide his inheritance more equally and his response seems to some of us as rather brusque. “Who made me a judge or divider over you?” When John the Baptist was thrown into prison, where he eventually lost his head, Jesus never even visited him! I feel certain that John expected at least a visit from Jesus, a word of comfort, a pat on the back, a “well done.” Nothing! And it was this seeming total lack of concern which probably prompted John to ask by messenger if Jesus was indeed the One who was to come.
The sovereignty of our God is something at which to marvel when it is really seen in its true light. It is not that He causes war, famine, sickness, suffering and death. It is not as though He causes auto accidents, muggings, murders, rapes, abortions, divorces and all manner of such corruption, but nevertheless, no matter how corrupt, no matter how evil a matter is, no matter how much pain and grief such things bring on men through their own actions, He is still able to gather all up and use it for good and does so! …Even if we have not the wisdom to recognize it when we see it.
We are not to understand by this that God seeks to justify or defend such things as slavery, anti-Semitism, or the mistreatment and abuse of women. To have to say that He does not, would seem to be unnecessary. He is a God of Love. He seeks always to bestow the highest good possible upon the most possible. But as we look around us in the world today, where do we not see bondage, limitation, restriction, abuse and unfairness to at least some degree?
Where are they who exemplify having already entered into the fullness of the glorious liberty of the sons of God? That is the liberty that God is interested in bestowing upon us. The way into it? …Through the fellowship of his sufferings. …Through our drinking of the cup of which he drank. Until we come to the place where we are willing to pray from our hearts, “Not my will but thine be done,” and “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and we shall not know that rest which he alone holds out to us. We may come to the place where we no longer must sit at the back of the bus, we may come to the place where we are no longer persecuted because of our race or religion, we may come to the place where we are no longer considered inferior, of lesser consequence or not worthy of recognition because of our gender, but until we have come to that liberty within, that liberty which only the Lord can bring us into – we shall not know true liberty and we shall not be truly free.
So of what kingdom are we in search? If it is in this outward life, we may have it, but it will inevitably be quite temporal and very fleeting. It will also probably be most unsatisfying. But if we find His will to be our habitation, our rest, our liberty – we shall indeed have come into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Therefore, we do not gather to Eve’s banner, nor to the banner of the NAACP, nor to the banner of the ADL, nor to the banner of the ACLU. We gather to the blood-soaked banner of Christ, our Pattern and Forerunner. We have been called to the privilege of suffering for His namesake. We have been called to walk in His bloody foot-steps, whether we are black and mistreated, Jew and mistreated, woman and mistreated or simply mistreated. We are to commit ourselves to Him as unto a faithful Creator who is yet working in us to both will and to do of His good pleasure.
There was indeed a divine order in the first man and woman. It was violated. Satan tempted Eve with a question. There was a crafty purpose in this. The question roused her mind to action. When she reached with her mind for an answer, she was actually reaching for the fruit of knowledge. When she arrived at an answer, she partook of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.
What we see worked out before us in all this is an allegory of soul and spirit. The soul is feminine/Eve and the spirit is masculine/Adam. In God’s divine order the spirit is to have the ascendancy, the governing part, for He communes with the spirit, the man, who then drops it down into the soul, the woman. But here we are presented with a terrible perversion of this order in that the woman, the soul, not the man, the spirit, receives information and gives it to the man, the spirit. The scriptures state that the man was not deceived. The man, the spirit, simply received the information, the fruit, given to him by the woman, the soul.
When Paul says, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” – I Timothy 2:12-14, and “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but to be under obedience, as also saith the law” (italics mine) – I Corinthians 14:34, he says it on the basis of “as also saith the law.” The Torah, that is, the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – are considered to be the books of the law.
The above mentioned incident takes place in the book of Genesis and is considered as a part of the law and may well be what Paul is referring to and upon which he bases it. I find it more than merely difficult to believe that God will give a woman a gift of exhortation (preaching) and then forbid her to use it. I find it more than difficult to believe that God was speaking to the natural when He said through Paul, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” I find such an idea to be mind-boggling.
I believe that in the above scripture the Holy Spirit was speaking to what He is ever speaking to – that which is spiritual! He is speaking of the spirit (man/masculine) and the soul (woman/feminine). I believe it pertains as much to men when they stand to speak for God as to women. Let the soul be silent in the church for it is not permitted for her to speak. It was the soul which first reached out and partook of the fruit of knowledge in the first place. If there is any speaking to be done in the church, let the spirit do the speaking – whether it is done through a male or a female. For in Christ, that is, in Spirit, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
SOMETHING TO PONDER IN YOUR HEART
We probably have all at one time or another heard and perhaps even said, “Well, I’m just not there yet.” It’s a phrase to which I have given a lot of thought. It’s a phrase I find disturbing. It seems as if it were intended to justify one in “not being there,” wherever there might be. I cannot imagine anyone in the infant early Church uttering such an alibi. “I’m just not there yet,” seems to imply that as long as one intends to go there it is alright in the meantime to be elsewhere. I realize that it is not a scripture, but the one who uttered it must have been inspired when he said that the road to hell was paved with good intentions.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A BELIEVER?
As I mused on these things before the Lord I found myself asking some questions the answers to which were even more disturbing. “Are you merely a believer?” Being a believer has always carried with it fairly high credentials in my mind. They were called believers at the outset of the Church, and it certainly sounds like a much better appellation than Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, etc. At least to me it does.
But what exactly is a believer? It’s one who believes, naturally. But it turns out there are at least two kinds of believers. There are those who believe and walk in accordance with what they believe, making them followers–somewhat more than mere believers – and there are those who simply believe and nothing more.
Of the former, the believer/follower, we are told, “These are they which were not defiled with women (the soulish): for (because) they are virgins (pure). These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth” –Revelation 14:4. To actually follow the Lamb right now, today, one must decide to follow Him rather than simply and self-righteously admit to not following Him. But doesn’t this cost? Of course it costs, which is why some are quite willing instead to continue saying, “I’m just not there yet.” We are where we are because of what we choose to do and because of the way we choose to live.
FELLOWSHIPPING WITH DEVILS
For someone to “believe” but not follow the Lord is to admit that they have not that faith which was once delivered unto the saints. I cannot imagine a Christian of the early Church, upon being hauled into the arena to be fed to hungry lions, saying, upon second thought, “Well, I’m just not there yet. I’ll recant. Anyway, the Lord knows my heart.” You bet He does! In our day, by uttering this phrase, many are attempting to justify eating at the table of devils while they at the same time attempt to eat at the Lord’s Table. They partake of the world’s entertainment and its distractions mainly because they are not satisfied with what they are fed at the Lord’s Table, for they have no appetite for the bitter herbs and other of the more nourishing things of His table.
We must have that faith which produces the walk we say we believe in. Otherwise we are empty, vain and are but fellowshipping with devils. “Thou believest there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” – James 2:19. The devils believe and tremble but have no repentance. Having the ability to remember many of the doctrinal points concerning the gospel of the kingdom and perhaps even being able to teach them is by no means an indication of where one stands in relation to those things. Agreeing with God’s word and affirming its truth is by no means an indication of where one stands in spiritual things. Only following is an indication of that.
IS THIS A SPRINT OR A MARATHON?
I had a dear brother once say to me, “I am God’s work. He will finish what He started. I can do whatever I wish, and He will still bring me to the place of perfection.” I believe this idea is the product of a misunderstanding of the teaching of the “reconciliation of all.” It focuses only upon the end result and not upon the means to it. What this brother failed to understand is that, yes, God will ultimately bring him to the place of perfection – either by his willingness to yield to His will now or else later by way of the lake of fire. There is no hell, wherever it may be found, whatever it may be called, whose flames are not fueled by self-will.
It seems that the foremost contributing factor in this inability or unwillingness on the part of some to follow is that they have thought they were involved in a sprint until they discovered it was a marathon. We often somehow feel that with a sudden burst of determination we can finish such a race – if it is but a sprint. But all of us seem to realize that we do not have the kind of determination which will last the duration of a lifetime marathon. Perhaps we feel a quick dash might be possible, but an hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year continual plodding–who but Christ is up to that? Patience is the essential element in the running of a marathon, and in the running of a spiritual marathon it must also have the element of faith. Here is the faith and patience of the saints – those who actually follow.
Our love for The Truth is measured by how far towards perishing we are willing to go without seeking to save ourselves with a lie. (Spoken by the Lord to a Sister.)
A KINGDOM WITHIN [Larry Hodges] 1