All that glitters is not gold. I’m not really sure who to credit with that quote, but it certainly does carry with it a great impact. The condition, consistency, makeup, or appearance of the exterior doesn’t necessarily define the content of the interior.
Another anonymous quote that helps to drive home such a point is, ‘A man can make a suit, but the suit don’t make the man!’ By nature, we are visually oriented creatures. We tend to relate what we “see” to “truth”, or reality. Conversely, we try to act like or “dress ourselves up” to be something that we’re not. Doesn’t mean we couldn’t become that character we so desperately try to mimic, rather, true conversion requires something more than outward appearance. “Conversion”, is not acting. Conversion, is transformation. Something occurs within the heart of a person that alters their thinking, their values, their persona, to where they are no longer the person they were before. A caterpillar that enters his cocoon in the fall doesn’t merely put on a costume to look like a butterfly. When he emerges from that cocoon in the springtime, he is indeed, a transformed creature.
Someone dear to me was taken from their mother at a young age. After a time living in an orphanage / children’s home, she was adopted by a man and woman who also had two adult children of their own. It wasn’t long till the man and his wife were divorced and she spent time living with each of the adult children, neither of which realized the level of responsibility and commitment that being a parent required. Her “step-father” had a sister and brother-in-law who were unable to have children and they graciously took her into their home and would raise her as their own. They weren’t wealthy by any means, but they had a farm and a Christian environment and they raised her and loved her as their own, only child. After a while, they wanted more than anything to adopt her, but the process would prove to be financially difficult. One day, when the little girl and her new mother were home alone, she said to her mother with a maturity beyond her years, “Please don’t feel like you need to adopt me. You’re my mom and dad whether I’m adopted or not. We don’t need a piece of paper to say so.”
So it is with us all in our relationship with God. We live in the world, but as part of God’s kingdom, or family, we are to live according to his kingdom’s standards and values. What does it take to be part of God’s kingdom? To be a Christian; is it a list of do’s and don’ts, our nationality, how we dress or what we say?
The bible talks a lot about “the kingdom of God”. In Matthew 6, Jesus’ followers had asked Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus prays the model prayer we refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer” and it begins, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Last Sunday night I asked, “What does that mean? What is God’s kingdom? Does that refer to the second coming of Jesus? So, the kingdom of God is not currently here on earth; it’s something we’re still waiting for, like the Jews of Jesus’ time awaited the coming Messiah?”
Here’s how Jesus explained the kingdom of God to the Pharisee’s of His day. Luke 17:20-21 20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
The kingdom of God refers to salvation and those who have believed and trusted in Jesus Christ to redeem them. Those who have surrendered themselves and accept His death, burial, and resurrection as payment for their sins, have been added to the kingdom of God. But the kingdom of God is not a place, nor any kind of outward appearance. It’s an internal transformation that makes us into citizens of His kingdom.
His kingdom is a dynamic kingdom. It’s constantly moving toward His righteousness, His perfect will. As believers in Jesus Christ, He accepts us as we are, where we are; but He doesn’t intend for us to stay that way. As we earnestly seek Him, love Him, and honor Him we progress toward being like Him.
Notice in the Lord’s prayer it says, “your kingdom come, your will be done…”. Also in Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…”, in other words, His will. Believe in God’s Son and be baptized, and progress according to His will. Be changed, transformed creatures.
In John 3:1-7, Jesus explained to Nicodemus to same concept using “rebirth”, being “born again” as the metaphor for a transformed life. 3 “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
The kingdom of God is here and now and growing by the hour. The Jews thought they would be citizens of this earthly kingdom by virtue of their heritage, their nationality. Many today think their ticket to God’s kingdom is about being at church every Sunday and giving a prescribed amount of money, how they dress, what they eat or drink… These are only costumes, excuses for the real thing. You want to be part of the kingdom of God? You need to be changed from the inside, out. “You must be born again.”