~ Misplacing the Keys to the Kingdom ~
Part 1 of 4
Ever since I could read, I studied the religions and mythologies of this world. Ever since my parents gave me the freedom to "venture forth" into the world on my own, I observed and participated in these various religious practices, from university campuses to mountain top gatherings. And without regret, for these experiences, encounters and studies burned in me a profound realization of the nature of my Lord and my God.
The God revealed in the Scriptures stands in awesome contrast to the God that is perceived through other means. Our God pursues us. The Creator Whom the universe cannot contain humbles Himself, to the point of allowing His incarnate form in the Person of the Christ to be judged, tortured and executed by His own creation. He gives us the keys of His kingdom. He endows us with the role of ambassador of His kingdom. He longs to live within us. He provides us with His own Holy Spirit. He calls us His bride. He says we are His Body, the Body of Christ. He invites us to address and approach Him as "Abba", meaning "Dad." We rebel against Him. We hinder His will for us. We hurt Him deeply with our lack of faith and doubts. We violate His love and very Spirit. Yet He took all this, our sin, our violence, our filth, from the beginning of time with Adam to the end of time with the final binding of Satan, placed it in that metaphorical cup, and consumed it Himself. Our God sacrifices Himself for us. He doesn't fit into many people's ideas of how a "God" should be or act. There is no other like Him!
Of course you "know" all this. It is taught in our churches and Sunday schools. And in our Scriptures. But to contemplate this God, to have all this knowledge sink in, to experience this Absolute Love, makes me tremble as my brain and nervous system are overwhelmed. It makes me fall in love with Him again and again, morning after morning. God's greatest commandment is to love Him with all our strength, mind and soul. The second greatest is to love you. In keeping with His humble and loving character, God isn't commanding this to make Himself feel good by having all of us love Him. That commandment is His call to intimacy with Him, and it is only for our good and benefit.
We humans long for intimacy. I suppose we get that from our heavenly Dad, in Whose Image we were created. Jesus asserted, "You teachers of the Law of Moses are really in for trouble! You carry the keys to the door of knowledge about God. But you never go in, and you keep others from going in." (Luke 11:52) In Matthew 16, Jesus said we would be given the keys too, but not to the door of knowledge but to the Kingdom of Heaven itself! Incredible. What gift and responsibility!
But so many of us are guilty of the same thing Jesus chided the teachers of the Law. He even told a story about us. You can read it in Matthew 25. The one servant, who was afraid to use his master's money entrusted to him to help further the growth of the estate to which he belonged, buried it safely. The master had harsh words for that one: "You are a worthless servant, and you will be thrown out into the dark where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain."
Speaking of servants, a good and faithful servant, in biblical times, was often rewarded with an endowment and freedom to leave by his master. (We are also given that choice by our Master.) However, often an intimate and loving relationship formed between servant and master, so often that a practice developed where the servant could turn down the gift of freedom and voluntarily declare himself to be forever bond to his master. He was then a legal "bond servant." This is the meaning behind the term, "bond servant of the Lord," to voluntarily give up one's own freedom and will and be bonded to our Master and His will. Paul opens his letter to the Roman church with, "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ." In Philippians: "Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ." Same in the letter to Titus. James opens his letter with "James, a servant of Godů" Peter and Jude open their letters the same way. Can there be any other response to God's inexplicable love? And faithful servants won't misplace or hide the keys to their Master's kingdom. I pray that our God helps us, His crazy, stumbling children, to humbly and faithfully use those keys and the infinitely powerful resources of His kingdom. What more can God do for us than He already has done? Let us continue to do just a couple of things: Tell others about our Father's wondrous character, gifts and love; be devoted and delighted bond servants of Him; express our gratitude in words and works in the witness of others; and not regard the Sacrificial Lamb as our hell fire insurance, but embrace and love Him "because God loved us first." (1 John 4:19)
Click here for Part 2
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © May 4, 2000
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