The price to follow Jesus is still the same, everything! The kingdom of God is an all or nothing proposition. There is no middle ground. Only when the kingdom and the person of its King and His cross has no rival in the heart can anything count for anything in terms of eternity. Where this unbending standard is compromised, persecution might be avoided, but the church will no longer be the entity that Paul calls “the pillar and ground of the truth.” So what is the church? Where is the church? Before it is the somewhat mixed visible assembly of the elect children of God with all who gather to hear the Word and the kingdom call to radical discipleship, the essence of the church is the indwelling Christ, the divine nature in those who fellowship in that nature and labor to bring its light to the nations.
Before it’s greater conquest of the kingdoms of this world, the kingdom is first and foremost where Jesus sits as King on the throne of the heart. When the heart is fully possessed by the High King of Heaven, there is the kingdom of God in its mightiest display of sovereign power. Part of the “mystery of the kingdom” in its present hidden form is that it is no less powerful in its present working as it will be in the day when it will fill all of redeemed creation. Until then, with the exception of certain occasional demonstrations of outward power, the kingdom in its present working must appear to the world as weak and contemptible. This, since at its center is the scandal of the cross, not just as a historic event of redemptive necessity, but in its character as a cruciform way of life where the kingdom is not only entered once, but continually ‘being’ entered.
Not only when the kingdom began to be preached by John and Jesus, but no less since, “the violent take it by force” (Mt 11:12). Or, as in Luke’s version, “every man presses into it” (Lk 16:16). It cannot be otherwise! The straight gate of the kingdom that only few will ever enter will not swing open to casual interest (Mt 7:13). It requires a violence of desperation to enter at all cost (Mk 9:47), and none can presume to have entered if its value and priceless beauty has not far exceeded and eclipsed all else (Mt 13:45-46). The kingdom can brook no rival in the heart. It is all or nothing, and the fruits of the life of the kingdom will demonstrate this radical singleness of eye and heart in the life of it’s true heirs (Mt 6:22-23).
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