CHAPTER 6 – SERIES – “THE KINGDOM OF GOD” This is somewhat of a difficult subject: “Time for an Attitude Check in the Kingdom – Commonwealth – Ekklesia” – or how to get along with one another under His Kingship? First of all, and again, we know that the “Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17) – but what does that look like? YOU’RE NOT ONE OF US – SO, STOP IT! “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. (Mark 9:38-41) Likewise, this has a whole lot to do with working with other ministries or within ministries whose aim is to thwart the powers of darkness by equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry – or for that matter – how we view the work of other ministries within the Body of Christ from that group’s vantage point or from that minister’s viewpoint. It appears rather obvious from these verses Jesus is pulling off the covers on how we look at ourselves in His Kingdom in relationship with others, especially, those who are in similar ministries as ourselves, but who are “not under our ministry” – not “doing it just like we do it” but still saying they’re doing whatever in the Lord’s name, just like us. How can Jesus say that if they are not against us, they are for us? Really? If they don’t come under our jurisdiction, then how can they be with us? No, they’re not against us; yet, because they have no intention of cooperating with us, doesn’t that tell us “neutrality doesn’t work” – you’ve got to take a stand – YOU’VE GOT TO CHOOSE SIDES sooner or later – so, get with the program and choose! “TEAMING UP” FOR THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL? We speak a lot about “teaming up for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27) in striving together rather than striving against each other—again, what does that look like? The sisters, Euodia and Syntyche, whom Paul was “imploring to be of the same mind”—although they labored with Paul and Clement in the gospel, and whose names were certainly written “in the Book of Life”—nevertheless, were NOT of the same mind . . . a MIND Paul speaks of in Philippians 2:5-11 which “was also in Christ Jesus” Who “made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” Who “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Apparently, although they labored with Paul, something happened between them which crept in damaging their relationship and, most certainly, found them contending against one another instead of contending together for the faith of the gospel. Casting dispersion on the ministry of other brethren seems to many, including myself (not trying to self-efface here, just the facts), a pastime which should be banished by the Cross of Christ so that His peace should reign between brethren in the Kingdom . . . yet, the “ugly head” of “we told him to stop, because he was not one of us” crops up now and again (John, the beloved [of all people], being the spokesperson for the disciples) with a gentle rebuke from Jesus (most of the time) . . . and at other times, a severe STOP IT, while we hear: “Stop comparing yourself with others – not wise” – as in: “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 show their ignorance” (2 Cor. 10:12—Berean Study Bible) . . . or put another way: Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant! (2 Cor. 10:12 – New Living Translation) Exactly, what’s going on here? Sounds like someone needs an “attitude check” now and again to stay on course! We either find ourselves in this unfavorable climate looking askance at others because “these brothers are not under our ministry banner” (doing it our way) or we look with a measure of envy suggesting we ought to pat ourselves on the back as they do but with a little more gusto . . . in both cases we’ve got our eyes on them or ourselves and not on the Lord; consequently, either way you look at it we’re missing the essence of ministry which is to minister unto the Lord and not unto man . . . even though our ministry is a service to humanity. ADDING INSULT TO INJURY Earlier in his letter to the Philippians, written from a Roman jail cir. 61 AD, Paul reflected on his plight, his chains/imprisonment and others who were “free to move about the cabin” – to wit: “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former (and these are normally the “brethren” with whom we compare ourselves with—in other words, we’re a whole lot better than these brethren because we don’t do what they do and if we do, we have a much better attitude than they—really?) . . . preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (Phil. 1:15-18). Imagine that? There were those who were casting out demons in Jesus’ name but who were not with the disciples of Jesus (and “To think they’re using the Lord’s name just like we do . . . how can they adopt our methods without coming under our ministry umbrella?”) . . . and then there’s others who are preaching Christ out of a contentious and pretentious spirit so that they somehow could “get back at Paul?” Wow! If I were Paul, I would just “let them have it!” Yet, Paul armed himself with the “mind of Christ” and literally rejoiced: “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (Phil. 1:18). HOW “DOWNERS” – THORNS – AFFECT A MINISTER Seems to me that a “prison experience” now and again, might have an affect on someone in ministry—to be precise, a rather humbling affect. I mean, look at Paul. Here’s a man who is “supposedly” under the Lord’s covering and winds up in jail—must be something going on there, right? Paul obviously heard back that certain “brethren” were about criticizing Paul’s imprisonment as indicative that something was awry in his ministry; otherwise, he would not have landed himself in jail. I’m not altogether certain about why they were so pretentious, full of selfish ambition with the intent of compounding Paul’s immediate misery by getting out the word they were having a hay day in “preaching Christ” without those embarrassing chains which saddled Paul. I’m fairly certain they were free to move about the cabin while contrasting their liberty with Paul’s confinement, more than suggesting their freedom was indicative of God’s blessing versus Paul’s restraints cooped up in jail: “Just goes to show you Paul didn’t have God’s blessing on his ministry.” Why is it in this business of “comparing ourselves with others” we, over the course of time, somehow develop this overweening sense of our own propriety? How is it that “my little ministry” – when I dare to compare it to the ministry of others (similar to my own) – is so much more enlightened than theirs? Think about it: Brother so-and-so is, in my eyes, really off the mark when he criticizes me and my ministry. For one, he’s so competitive and wants me to pick up on that from time to time thinking he’ll add insult to injury “to my chains.” Is that so? Brother so-and-so has had (whatever it may be) an obvious “in my chains” failure (or what can be interpreted as a failure) in his ministry—confining him, restricting him (he is NOT free to move about the cabin). Could have been a “moral collapse” – a despicable SIN, no less, known by all (or at least those “in the loop”) – or the brother’s ministry has had a financial or personal failure, even bankruptcy (if so allowed) – regardless, the “brother’s been exposed” and everyone knows about it! And, if they do not, we can always remind them—keeping the minister’s failure afresh before their eyes! Nothing like “falling into sin” for a season, right? Grief, the guy was “excused” or “asked to leave” or “kicked out” (however, you wish to frame the exodus) from XYZ ministry (that ought to tell you something, right?) – no sense bringing the person in such a state of failure to the fore again, he needs to “learn a lesson!” Really, a whole lot of grace NOT going on here. Sometimes it gets extreme as in: “Brother Failure is leprous – anyone working with him, even from a distance, will be contaminated by the very ‘sin’ exposed – worse, a ‘little leaven will leaven the whole lump’ – God can’t bless such a ‘ministry’ when the leading minister has been ‘exposed.’” When word gets back to Paul that this “hay day” is ongoing over his demise—i.e., the “preaching of Christ out of contention or self-ambition” is taking place—and that it’s not only happening but directed at Paul to add insult to injury (Can it get any worse?) . . . Paul responds by rejoicing that they are at least “preaching Christ”—bring it on! Amazing, wouldn’t you say? Paul did not take sides, not really. He was on the side of Christ—the “battle is the Lord’s” not mine. Paul’s attitude may have gone something like this: “I know the motivation of these brothers but that’s not my concern – my concern is getting out the message of the Lord Jesus Christ no matter what the motivation of others is – let the Lord be the judge of that – my job from my jail cell is rejoicing that by hook or by crook Christ is being preached – anyway, who cares about me (Paul)? I’m not the focus, Christ is!” ABUSING THE BRAND But what about those guys “driving out demons” who are not working with us? Why, oh why, can they “get away with using the Name of Jesus” just like we who are the ones “authorized to do so” without giving us credit for the seeming success in their “casting out of demons ministry” – at least they could give us credit for “some” of their successes! Dare they plagiarize our ministry! These “tempest in a teapot tidbits” could persist, couched in more sophisticated terms: “You can’t cast out those demons using Jesus’ Name because you’re not qualified to do so—you haven’t had the training that we’ve had. You haven’t the credentials we have earned—after all, we’ve been in ‘training’ for the last, nearly three years, and you, a Johnny-Come-Lately deliverance ministry, show up out of nowhere doing ‘our thing’ using ‘our methods’ with ‘our vision’ and ‘our practices’ . . . and you don’t even give credit where credit is due? Dare you! You’re definitely NOT with us and anyone who asks us about you, we’re going to tell it like it is: ‘No, that ministry has absolutely nothing to do with us—in point of fact, be careful with that bunch, some of these folks ‘took our message’ and ‘techniques’ and made off with them without our knowledge (some even think they’re ‘getting back at us’ somehow) – why, they think they can ‘do it better than we do it!’” Jesus’ comeback to this squabbling “comparing ourselves” effort on the part of His disciples was, I believe, somewhat unexpected. First, He did not say the observations of the disciples had any credibility—it would have been easy to do so—after all, weren’t the disciples simply trying to “protect the brand, the label?” No, Jesus did NOT say: “Brethren, I understand your concern, it’s wholly justified.” “Such infringement on the Jesus patent ought to be exposed for what it is: Stealing! These people are selling our product, sticking their own (ministry) label on it and, guess what, it seems to be working for them (i.e., casting out of demons in Jesus’ name) – how insulting can it get?” Jesus’ retort to all of this patent protection was “Don’t stop him!” What? When I was in the “specialty construction industry” with my father, I was always “pushed out of shape” about the unmitigated competition and would complain to my father: “John Wilkes has come to town using our product, with our methods and even some of our workers—isn’t there anything we can do to stop him from moving in on OUR TURF?” Daddy was something else (a wise man): “The more competition the better it is for us—people will hear more about the products and the services and will, as a consequence, think there must be something to it; so let’s call these guys over to the house and see what they have?” What an attitude! “Don’t stop him!” Yet, the disciples could readily be thinking . . . “But we have every right to stop him – what abuse in using Your very Name without our permission [as if the Almighty set them up to decide “who’s in and who’s out”]. Isn’t this the Kingdom of God? – Shouldn’t there be some order around here – good grief, pandemonium will persist if we don’t do something to control this thing – this could degenerate into a ‘free-for-all’ or ‘wild fire’ ablaze if we don’t put it out at the get go!” Jesus went further than just “Don’t stop him.” “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:39-40). This sounds a little like “love believes all things” – or “love always thinks the best of one’s intentions” (1 Cor. 13). WE SEE IT – THEY DON’T . . . EKKLESIA? Again, the disciples might have been thinking: “But Jesus, You’re letting this guy operate outside the parameters of Your Kingdom that Your setting up in and through the likes of US! Shouldn’t there be some kind of command structure here? We hate to tell You this, but this guy, these people casting out demons in Your Name, are going to ruin Your brand. Someday there will be so many ‘out there using and abusing your Name’ – we’re just trying to be careful here, just a little protective of Your Great Name!” Especially, how we do things, how we practice things . . . well, let us take the Kingdom’s Ekklesia-style “meeting and greeting” as well as “each one has” and “one by one”. Isn’t there a “right way” and, consequently, a “wrong way” in practicing Ekklesia—aka gathering in the Lord’s Name? At least there should be a “correct way of doing things” vs. a “deficient” way of doing things – or a way that can be “controlled” – right, we could label it the “proper order of service”? Don’t folks need to come under “our ministry” in order to “catch the vision” that we have—after all, these brothers and sisters just don’t “see it” whatever “it” is and since we “see it” – well, what more can we say?” Finally, we hear: “I know, let’s tell people in our ministry that brother so-and-so is NOT really one with ‘the ministry’ and has his/her own agenda . . . that will fix ‘um!” You see, eventually, when we cry out “stop him” it has a tendency to turn in on itself (ourselves)—we start the “process” among ourselves and wind up doing what Paul told the Galatian believers: “But if you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out, or you will be consumed by each other” (Gal. 5:15). Again, I find the peculiar phenomenon wherein those who claim fidelity to “I am of Christ” and vociferously proclaim their experience of the Body of Christ (how “one” they are with all Christians) – how non-denominational or inter-denominational they are vs. everyone else who is adjudged as being in BABYLON (aka “Dead Churchianity”) – i.e., in the confusion of traditional Christianity . . . tend toward becoming some of the most divisive – the most sectarian – the most arrogant among God’s people. Somehow or another, their brand of “Followers of the Way” takes on an aura of superiority. Ever meet “Torah Tormentors” or those from the “Church of the Immaculate Perception?” Alas! That which they feared the most has come upon them! I AM OF PAUL, etc. Lest we forget – “I am of Paul . . . I am of Apollos . . . I am of Cephas . . . I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12) was not said in a vacuum. Each one of these brethren had their own style, their “own take” of implementing the message of the “Gospel of the Kingdom” – rest assured. Paul did not defame any of these ministers in front of “those called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:2). Obviously, all the Corinthian “saints”, and those who tried to stay above the fray (i.e. “I am of Christ”), had their favorite apostolic styles and emphases but they were “but ministers through whom you [the saints in Corinth] believe, as the Lord gave