Kingdom Transformations in Society

By Anton Bosch

Even during Jesus’ ministry the question of the role of the Kingdom in society was a hot issue. Both Jesus’ disciples and the Jews wanted Him to transform their society to one that was just, liberated from Roman oppression and free of poverty. Satan tried to convince Him to build His kingdom on feeding the hungry (Matthew 4:3); Judas argued that the precious ointment could have been used to feed the poor and the other disciples could not wait for Him to set up His Kingdom and chase the Romans into the sea.

Eventually Constantine merged church and state and Christians thought that utopia had finally arrived. But, rather than the church transform the government, the state began to degrade the church and eventually plunged it into the dark ages and Catholicism. Much later Calvin thought he could legislate righteousness as he in vain tried to beat the citizens of Geneva into submission by setting up a “Christian” city-state. Even as I write Mr. Thomas Monaghan is working towards building a city in Florida, to be called Ave Maria, which will be run on Roman Catholic laws and norms.

In the mean time millions of dollars have been spent by churches trying to eradicate poverty, disease, moral decay and social injustice. While many have done good work and use the feeding schemes as an opportunity to preach the Gospel, most have been sidetracked as the gospel became the side issue and the social program became the main focus. (The Salvation Army is but one example).

Then there are those who adopt a more spiritual tack and try by “spiritual” means to change entire communities, cities and states. The methods they use range from the bizarre to the devious. There are those who in vain have tried to bind the demons, gone on prayer marches, visited the high places and done “spiritual warfare”. The Transformation Videos claim to show entire villages that have been “transformed” by these methods. None of these claims have ever been verified. In Pensacola, Florida, where the Brownsville Assembly claimed crime had declined as a result of the church doing weird and crazy things, the police chief insisted that the contrary was true. In the last few months Bruce Wilkinson admitted failure and beat a hasty retreat from Swaziland when his prayer of Jabez failed to fix that country’s problems. And right now Rwanda is Rick Warren’s purpose driven nation prototype.

The bottom line is we have no mandate from Jesus Christ to “transform” society by any of these means. That does not mean that the church will, and should not, have any impact on our societies. There are countless examples of how revival in the church changed society. During the Welsh revival pubs and bars closed down because there were no patrons any longer. As a young boy I remember the pictures in the newspaper of literal mountains of weapons, drugs and demonic paraphernalia being burnt in Duncan Village in South Africa as a result of thousands being saved under the ministry of Nicholas Bhengu. Many missionaries have provided proof of dramatic social change as entire villages turned to Christ in many parts of the world.

The difference between true social transformation and the pseudo kind is that the true works from the inside out, one believer at a time. The false kind tries to work from the outside in and vainly attempts to change entire societies by either mystical means or political maneuvering. Underlying all these methods is the false notion that the church will set up the Kingdom of God.

Communities can only be transformed when the individual people that make up those communities are changed through the power of the Gospel. When a man is dramatically changed, and stops doing all the wrong things and begins to do the right things because his heart has been changed, that does have an effect. First it affects the family, as families are transformed by the working of the Holy Spirit, their neighbors are impacted and so it spreads. Unfortunately the number of true Christians in most societies is so small that the impact is often imperceptible to the human eye. We are called to be salt and light and even though the percentage of salt in food is minute, its presence or absence makes a real difference. Jesus said that “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). One candle in a dark world does make a difference, even though it cannot totally dispel all darkness.

But these changes cannot be brought about by rules, laws and governments. As the transformation of the individual can only come as a result of a changed heart, the change of a community can only happen as those true believers begin to put their lights on a lamp stand instead of under buckets. This does not mean bigger advertising budgets. It means that Christians need to begin to live the lives that please the Lord. The world is not interested in our message as long as our lifestyles contradict the message of the Bible. When we begin to live holy lives, exhibit a zeal for the things of God, act righteously in all our dealings, order our families in a Godly way and begin to manifest the fruit of the Spirit, then our neighbors may begin to listen to our message and be drawn to the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the meantime we can sign every petition we can find, wear our shoes out on prayer marches and claim the city for God all we like, none of that will make any difference. Are you tired of a dysfunctional world? Well it has to begin with you. Only once you become the person the Lord wants, will you be able to have an impact on your family. Once your family begins to reflect God, then you may begin to have an impact on your church and your neighbors. Will we ever change out city, country or continent? I very much doubt that but that is not your and my concern. Charity must begin at home. There are more than enough politicians out there who are trying to run the world when they cannot even run their own lives. You get right with the Lord. Everything else will flow from there.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

The Kingdom Rewards Claimed by Hirelings

[The insistence on transforming society in order to manifest all the rewards of the kingdom of God on earth leads to the expectation among believers that, as King’s kids, they should live in material affluence. Anton Bosch discusses this attitude among deceived Christians in the context of the parable of the prodigal son – ed.]

Although the parable of the prodigal son focuses on the son that was lost and was found, there is a second young man in the story. We first meet him when he refuses to enter into the celebrations after his brother’s return.

His complaint was that he had served his father all those years and the father never gave him anything (Luke 15:29) while his brother was being welcomed back as a hero who he had, in fact, wasted his inheritance. It is interesting that the younger son came back saying: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15;19).

Even though he was willing to become a servant, his father restored him to his position as a son. The older boy had always been in the home as a son but he saw himself as a servant. Notice that he emphasized that “these many years I have been serving you” (15:29). His complaint was also that the father had never given him anything. It seems that he had the attitude of a hireling, rather than a son. He was expecting wages instead of realizing his true position as an heir in his father’s house.

When the father gave the younger boy his share, Luke says “So he divided to them his livelihood.” (v12). In other words he gave the younger his portion, and what was left belonged to the older boy. (By virtue of the right of the first-born, most of the stuff belonged to the older boy anyway.) So, while the older son was working in the family business, in reality it was all his and would pass into his hands at the death of his father. Instead of acting like the heir he was, he acted like a hireling and felt sorry for himself because the old man never gave him anything.

Both boys had the same problem. They could not wait for the appropriate time for the inheritance. They both wanted it here and now. The only difference was that the one demanded, and took, his share while the other lived on in bitterness and resentment. If only they were prepared to wait for the right time both would have been a lot happier and the father would not have had the heartache of having to lose, first the younger, and then the older son.

But this is the story of many Christians. We all, in one way or another, want the blessings and inheritance of our sonship now. Some will “name it and claim it” and do whatever they can in the flesh to get their share before it is due. Others look askance at those who are having a fun time in this world and feel cheated. “Why does God not pour His (mostly material) blessings on me now?” And why can I not have just a little bit of the inheritance today?” are some of the questions we ask. The next question that follows is; “does God really love me? If He did, surely He could give “me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends” (v29).

It is important to pay attention to the father’s reply to the older son: First. “Son, you are always with me” (v31). That should have been enough – just to know he was with the father and the father with him. Hebrews gives the answer to covetousness as: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

If only we could realize how blessed we are to have a relationship with Him and that He has promised to never leave us! If only we could just enjoy that fellowship and communion for what it is, then we would never want anything else. But it is when we are dissatisfied with our relationship with the Father that we begin to look for earthly blessings. If only we could realize how blessed and rich we are because we are always with Him and are accepted in the beloved.

The second thing the father said was: “all that I have is yours”. Yes, the other son had wasted his share. Everything the older son saw and touched was in reality his. All he had to do was just wait for the appropriate time. In the same way “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:17). Yes, this world and all that is in it will be ours when the Kingdom comes and that is not so far in the future as we may think. Very soon it will all be ours when Jesus sets up the Kingdom and on that day I would rather be a son than a servant. In the mean time, let’s recognize that “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32).

This problem is not a new one. The Lord was taking the children of Israel to the Promised Land with all its blessings. But the people grew tired of His daily provision and impatient for the fulfillment of the hope and cried out for the pleasures of Egypt. Instead of having their eyes fixed on the inheritance, they longed for the things of the flesh and thus not only incurred God’s wrath, but were ultimately banned from the land. Yes, the manna that sustains us daily may not be as exciting as the fish, garlic and onions of the world, but it is all we need to uphold us through the journey until we enter into the inheritance. Maybe the Lord also makes the manna a little less exciting so that we may not decide to just stay in the wilderness but that there may be a desire for the fulfillment of the promise.

The key then is to have our eyes fixed on the goal.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland…  But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13,14,16).

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:7,8).

Please, may we not, like the younger boy, have to lose all before we realize how blessed we are just to be in the Father’s house.

 

Anton Bosch

anton@ifcb.net

www.burbankchurch.org

www.abcd.co.za/plumbline/