Where is the kingdom?
The chief priests and Pharisees of Jesus’ time thought they had it all worked out for themselves and were sure of entering into that kingdom, but Jesus had something else to say about that, in [Matthew 21:31] He said that publicans (tax-collectors) and harlots would be going ahead or instead of them into the kingdom. The Pharisees never really understood how God would establish His kingdom, so they asked Jesus when the kingdom would come, Jesus replied in [Luke 17:20-21] NKJV “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, See here! Or See there! For indeed the kingdom of God is within you”.
Now this was a radical statement that Jesus made and it really upset the Pharisees and priests because they were looking for a physical kingdom according to their interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies and here was Jesus talking about the kingdom being within us. I can imagine how they might have shaken their heads in disbelief and thought that this man was a false prophet come to deceive the nation of Israel. This is what can happen to a person when he is so engulfed in religion that the Word of God just does not make sense to them. Paul said in [Romans 14:17] NRSV“For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”Yes friends, the kingdom of God is within you the moment you are born of the Spirit, and righteousness, peace and joy are signs of that kingdom within you.
Let us look at how we can identify the presence of this kingdom within us or in any other person. Now God did not just make this all a theological concept so that people could study, think and debate about it; instead He gave visible signs to the people who would accept Him and be born of the Spirit so that they could possess the nature of God themselves. Isn’t our loving Father so wonderful that He made a way for us to be able to partake of His very own nature? A born again Christian is characterized by the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness (gentleness) and self-control [Gal 5:22-23]. These fruits contain GODLINESS needed for our daily living here on earth. When we continuously allow these fruits which are in our spirit to dominate our soul (our mind) then this godliness reflects in our soul as well and that is how we become the salt of the earth and the light of the world [Matthew 5:13-14].
Baptized in the Spirit
We spoke about how when we realize our need for a Savior and we accept Jesus in our lives we are born again of the Spirit, but to fully operate in His kingdom we need the power of God to flow in through us and out into those whom God wants to reach out to, this is where we look at the baptism in the Spirit. The word baptism means ‘to be immersed’, in other words although we may say at this stage ‘we have the Spirit’, but for God to work in our lives we need to ask “Does the Spirit have us?” Remember that baptism in Spirit is different from baptism in water; though some can have them both as one experience (Jesus was baptized in water and received the Holy Spirit at the same time).
A person’s water baptism communicates his identification with the body of Christ; it’s like he is professing to the world ‘Christ is in me’. A person’s baptism in the Spirit communicates that the Holy Spirit has identified the person as belonging to Him; it’s like the Holy Spirit professing ‘You are in me’. The person is now enabled by the Spirit to operate in power and unto him is given gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are the gifts of utterance of wisdom, the utterance of knowledge, faith, gifts of healings, working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, diverse kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues [1 Corinthians 12:8-10]. Through these gifts God uses a spirit-filled Christian to reach out to others and minister to them. Remember it is God ministering to His people and not the spirit-filled Christian that does the ministering, so though we may see miraculous signs and wonders performed through them, it is God who deserves all the glory and honor.
Today we see many spiritual rallies, retreat houses and crusades where people get healed of their sicknesses and diseases in the name of Jesus. Sylvia and I, we both received mental, physical and spiritual healing in one such retreat. That was the first time I ever heard that healings and miracles take place in today’s world and that was the turning point of our lives. Since then I had been in search of this God who still heals and delivers people and now I understand that it is through these gifts of the Holy Spirit countless people are being saved, healed and delivered and their lives are being transformed.