I wonder how your year is progressing. I wonder if, like me, you're feeling a little ... uninspired. It's far enough into the year that it's lost it's 'new year' shine. We've forgotten the resolutions and promises we made to others and ourselves. The summer holidays were a while ago, and weariness is settling itself back into our eyes and bones. And the all-pervasive routines are once again taking us over, so that quickly and quietly, days weeks and months are slipping by. It turns out this year might look an awful lot like the one before it. And the one before that.
Last Thursday I was feeling particularly despondent, as I was listening to a few different people talk in a church. The last of them was an older gentleman, talking about life with Jesus, who he's been walking with for over 50 years, and suddenly I found myself in tears. Before I was even aware of it, suddenly the line from the Coldplay song was reverberating in my head: "Oh let's go back to the start..."
And suddenly I realised I was desperately, desperately thirsty. Without realising it, I seemed to have taken my eyes of Jesus, my favourite One, and had focused... somewhere else? I don't even know where. There are so many options, I wouldn’t know how to single just one out. But like a kid who sees dinner and suddenly realises they're STARVING, when I saw Jesus, alive and dynamic in this gentleman, I realised I was so, so thirsty. Then the song line dropped into my head, out of nowhere:
Tell me your secrets
Ask me your questions
Oh, let’s go back to the start.
When Jesus began his ministry, he went around issuing an invitation - ‘Repent, because the Kingdom of God is at hand!' I wonder if we’ve not actually been taught what he meant here very well (or very much.) As a result, I think a lot of us hear Jesus' invitation into Life as a threat: ’Stop sinning, because your time’s almost up.’ I also wonder if a lot of us have gotten the Kingdom of God, alive and dynamic in the world, mixed up with our scholarly theories of atonement. The theological understanding of how Jesus took our sin on the cross is not the invitation into life in the Kingdom of God. It's very important, of course, but living a life thinking that is like entering into the front parlour of a house, but never finding your way to the kitchen, the bedroom, the lounge. You're in, but it's not much better than being out. And so as we hang out in that front parlour, we pray because we know we should, but nothing really happens. We read our bible but nothing jumps out at us. Maybe we fall asleep. Or just end up on Instagram. We go to church to see and be seen, not because we expect God to meet us there. And we compartmentalise our spiritual life, because nothing is changing. And we feel guilty, because maybe we should be paying more attention to it, but we don't feel like we get enough out of it for us to try. It becomes a social activity that we sometimes feel guilty about, but more often than not don't loose much sleep over. This is not abundant Life.
And something inside is getting restless. Thirsty. Wanting something more enticing, more exhilarating, more satisfying than this.
I want to set an idea before you: if you are feeling despondent in your walk with Jesus, the little voice inside you that’s saying "There's gotta be more than this..." may not be in opposition of your faith. It may be the Spirit of God, who wants to call you to a richer, deeper, truer life.
Jesus' call was that the Kingdom of God had come - is here - and that He, Jesus, was not only the messenger and teacher of the kingdom, but in a mysterious way, He IS the Kingdom. In him are all the riches and treasures of eternal life - that is, of life that has a quality that means it is full, free, beautiful, and undying. We do ourselves a huge disservice when we think of it as just a kingdom insurance plan that saves us when we die. It's saving you, and me, and everyone around us, now.
The word 'repent' literally means 'do an about-turn.’ It means turn around, stop what you're doing, and run in the direction of God. This wasn't "Hey sinners, your time is almost up,” this was "Guys! the heavens are breaking in, come and join in!"
And what is it we join in with? The in-breaking Kingdom of God, where what God wants done is done (as Dallas Willard puts it.) This Kingdom - light pierces through the darkness that says that you do not matter, or says that this life is just a waiting room for heaven, or that you are just one small person in an overpowered world. Kingdom - wisdom is that the smallest of seeds, falling to the ground, can produce a Moreton Bay Fig tree - with roots that are deep as the sea, and branches that are high and wide and made for climbing. Sister, if you feel like a tiny seed that has died and fallen to the ground, that is only the beginning. The Kingdom of God has come barrelling in to find us - to find you - which means that everything in your life has changed. Not just because you were once blind and now can see -though, that - but because now we are all citizens of the Kingdom where what God wants done is done. We have the Spirit of Jesus, which means we have access to the very thoughts and dreams and plans of God. You have been invited to sit at God’s kitchen table. He wants to tell you what's going on, and he wants to hear what you think about it.
When my husband asks me what I’m thinking, its because he doesn't know. Only I know. And I can tell him, or I can choose not to tell him - but my choice will define the quality of our relationship.
In 1 Corinthians 2:11 Paul says the same thing: ‘Who knows a person's thoughts except their own spirit? So it is with God - the Spirit alone, knows the thoughts of God.' But he goes on to say that because we have the Spirit, the Spirit can teach us what God's thoughts are.
The mind blowing idea that Paul is teaching you and me, is that God wants you to know what he's thinking. He wants to change the quality of your relationship.
This is not a new concept.
In the book of Jeremiah, God speaks to the prophet and says to him I know the thoughts I have towards you, Israel. During this pretty low time in Israel’s history, I’m pretty sure that Jeremiah might have thought to himself, I’m not sure we want to know..! Often we fall into the same trap - I’ve not been “good" this week, I don’t want to know what God’s thinking about me. Nonetheless, God tells Jeremiah what his thoughts are: to give the people of God who were in exile and were desperate and devastated, a hope, a future, a place and a community to be settled into.
In Isaiah, the prophet writes down what God wants to say to His people: You are precious and honoured by me. I love you. I would give ten thousand men to have you. Just as in the day of Noah I swore there would never again be another flood to cover the earth, so now I swear that I will never again be angry with you. Do not be afraid, because I am with you. I keep you in perfect peace.
In our day, the Spirit of Christ is willing to share with us His thoughts in the same way. And in the same way, they are not thoughts of 'why aren't you doing better', or ‘I wish you were different' - they're thoughts of encouragement. Of hope. Of love. Of righteousness.
He has always been this way. He has always wanted for you to know him.This relationship is not that of a master and a servant - you are invited to become friends with God. Jesus says in John that he calls us his friends,because everything He knows He has made known to us. He then talks about the fact that the Holy Spirit comes to lead us into all truth. This is what he means. This is what Paul is talking about when he writes in 1 Corinthians 2 about Spirit-taught words and explaining Spirit-taught realities. God wants to show you what he is doing so that you can join in.
I think that in the routine of everyday life, it’s easy to expect little: little change, little joy, little harvest. We get so used to it, that it’s very easy for us to expect little from Jesus. I share these thought with you today because I want to remind myself, as well as some of you, that our Favourite One doesn’t want you to be content with little. He wants to improve the quality of your relationship.
Jesus came and lived in the dirt so that the way would be opened to you. He went back to Heaven so that the Spirit could come and do life with you! All of heaven is reaching out to you and asking if you will join in with what they are doing. That is the Kingdom. This is our God.
I pray that if you are feeling despondent, if you feel like you may have once been at the kitchen table but somehow you’ve ended up back in the front parlour, that these few muddled thoughts would somehow be a cup, that holds some Holy Spirit water for you.
“The poor and needy search for water;
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched grounds into springs.”
Nicolie lives in Sydney, has two degrees (theology, & communications), and way more shoes than her husband needs to know about. She enjoys re-reading books, eating all your lollies, and asking hipster baristas if they have decaf.