~ Misplacing the Keys to the Kingdom ~
Part 2 of 4
Jesus declared, "From the time of John the Baptist until now, violent people have been trying to take over the kingdom of heaven by force." (Matthew 11:12) Later He says, in chapter 16, "…and the gates of hell shall not have power against it [heaven]." Jesus' words create vivid images, that could be compared to people attempting to rob a palace. They are after the treasure inside, but are missing two things that are necessary to avoid forced entry: The authority to enter and the keys.
Ever misplace the keys to your home or car? Even though you have the authority to enter, you still must force your way in without those keys. So when Jesus provided His followers with the keys to the kingdom, what exactly was He giving us? Important to know.
Quite often it is as important to know what something is not as well as what it is. That's why the Scriptures' most eloquent definition of love (1 Corinthians 13) includes both what love is and what it is not. The keys to the kingdom are not the words of the Scriptures or the cerebral knowledge of Jesus. The demons are quite familiar with both Scripture and Jesus and "they tremble." Jesus told the people, "You search the Scriptures, because you think you will find eternal life in them. The Scriptures tell about Me, but you refuse to come to Me for eternal life." (John 5:39-40) Paul wrote, "When we told you the good news, it was with the power and assurance that come from the Holy Spirit, and not simply with words." (1 Thessalonians 1:5) So there are words; then there are words that are empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is not enough to be the authoritative teacher, preacher or writer. Words are dead, unless they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Even the experiencing of miracles or great spiritual events sometimes causes us to misplace the keys to the kingdom. Jesus sadly remarked that the thousands of people who kept following and looking for Him were really after another miraculous handout of food. (John 6:26) "After Jesus had said these things, He left and went into hiding. He had worked a lot of miracles among the people, but they were still not willing to have faith in Him." (John 12:36-37) Miraculous events and miraculous fulfillment of prayers do not, in themselves, foster a relationship with God. This He knows, and, consequently, sometimes goes into hiding.
I don't believe God "goes into hiding" (to use purely human terms) because He feels badly or wants to pout. Like all else, He does it for our best interest because He loves us so much. There is an intimate connection between His greatest commandment to love Him with all of our heart, mind and soul and the spiritual warfare described in Ephesians 6. The previous Reflection suggested Christ instructed us to pray that God's will be done because it isn't always. God's will and evil cannot co-exist, cannot work together, for He and His will are manifestations of pure love and holy grace, of which evil cannot have any part. Interestingly, Paul explained, "My friends, we were kept from coming to you for a while, but we never stopped thinking about you. We were eager to see you and tried our best to visit you in person. We really wanted to come. I myself tried several times, but Satan always stopped us. (1 Thessalonians 2:37-38) Here were Spirit-filled prayer warriors and servants of Christ whose personal wills to visit that church were not hindered by God having other plans for them, but by evil! Many Christians today would shrug their shoulders and explain that it "must not have been God's will" that we visit or do this or that. But Paul knew better. Many Christians today would ask, "Why did God take away my job? (or my home, etc.?) It doesn't occur to many that it isn't God who does the taking away. Gratefully, in His infinite love and mercy, God will use the taking away and satanic assaults to help us grow and achieve His ultimate desire for us: The most intimate relationship with Him that we permit. Paul was expertly familiar with spiritual warfare and his description of it to the church in Ephesus indicates he wants us to take it extremely seriously. So we pray fervently for God's will to be done here, as it is done in heaven.
Paul prays, "I ask the glori ous Father and God of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you His Spirit. The Spirit will make you wise and let you understand what it means to know God. My prayer is that Light will flood your hearts and that you will understand the hope that was given to you when God chose you. Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God's people." (Ephesians 1:17-18) And what will we do with this discovery? That requires holding onto those keys to the kingdom.
Click here for Part 3
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © May 11, 2000
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