11- Opposite Thinking In the Kingdom of God
By Colleen Donahue
1. Kingdom of the World thinking is most often opposite to Kingdom of God thinking. If we have come into the Kingdom of God late in life then our whole life has been lived thinking as the world does. Kingdom of God citizens need transformation in their minds so they can start to think as God does.
2. How does the Holy Spirit accomplish this transformation in our lives?
Psalm 119:9-11 / Philippians 4:8 / Colossians 3:2
3. If you are a new Kingdom of God citizen then it's vital to begin reading and studying the Word of God. As you do so the Holy Spirit will be your "live in tutor" to work the transformation needed in your life. For as your thinking goes so does your life. Why is the Bible the foundation for our transformation? Paul lists five things in these two verses.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
4. If you are a Christian who doesn't read or study the word of God, then you will most certainly think like the world which is your main influence. Moses warned us what would happen if we are ignorant of God's word and will.
5. If Christians look the same as everyone around them then we know what has happened.
2 Kings 17:15
6. And if we continue as Kingdom of God citizens to live firmly entrenched in this world what does John state is the sad truth?
1 John 2:15
7. But when we live in God's word and His will then the reality for us will be different.
1 John 2:17
Living according to God's Word and His Spirit will enable us to live Godly lives in this world which will prepare us for eternity. In this section called "Opposite Thinking" we'll look at five ways scripture is very clear as to how we are to think and compare it with how the world thinks today.
OPPOSITE THINKING #1 - Leaders vs. Citizens
8. In the Kingdom of the World the citizens often serve and do the bidding of their leaders. This is especially true in non-democratic societies. How does Jesus describe the way most leaders treat their "subjects" ?
Mark 10:42 or Luke 22:25
9. What did He say would be the norm in the Kingdom of God?
Mark 10:43-45 or Luke 22:26-27
10. To illustrate this Jesus did something unthinkable to his disciples.
This was a job left to a servant or for the individual to take care of himself. So when Jesus, (whom at least some disciples recognized as the Son of God) started doing this, they bristled in protest.
The outspoken Peter had been humbled by this act of servant hood-- as were many of the others. And so when the ceremony was over Jesus wrapped it all up by asking them a question.
He didn't even wait for an answer. He knew they didn't get it. And so came a clear and straightforward answer.
11. Whatever status we are in, our role is to serve those around us. If you are a parent that means your children. If you are a teacher that means your students. A leader is to respect and serve the citizens. The citizens are to respect and serve their leaders as well as each other. In order to do this what is the attitude that we must take towards everyone else?
It's the exact same attitude Jesus had towards us in being God but becoming a man.
Being a servant to everyone else is opposite thinking to this world. Most people want to get ahead, have a position of leadership and authority so that they can be served. But if your citizenship in the Kingdom of God is first in your priorities then you'll need to repent which means to change your thinking.
OPPOSITE THINKING #2 - Status in the Kingdom of God
12. In the world's eyes those who are most important in their work and influence are those who become great. But Jesus tells us that it will be different in the Kingdom of God. How so?
Matthew 19:30 (Also Mark 10:31 & Luke 13:30)
13. In the world all of us want to be honored and important. So we push our way forward where we can be seen and recognized.
But Jesus gives us some advice about this.
In the Kingdom of God what is always true?
14. The disciples who followed Jesus had lived "in the world" all their lives. They had been part of a religion but had no understanding of the Kingdom of God. They were a lot like us or more correctly we are a lot like them. How did they act?
Mark 9:33-34 / Luke 9:46 / Luke 22:24
In other words, they were ambitious for "self". Even as Christ's disciples, they each wanted to be somebody within their group.
15. What practical example did Jesus choose to teach and show us who is really the greatest?
Mark 9:35-37 / Luke 9:47-48
Matthew remembered this lesson well and tells us an added detail.
The world is always telling us to "grow up and act like an adult". But here Jesus is telling us that unless we become like children we will NEVER enter the Kingdom of Heaven! Strong words. What do they mean?
Jesus was talking about you and I taking on the character of a child. I think there are four basic attitudes most children have that we somehow lose when we become adults. First, most children are humble. They aren't self-conscious. They say and do things spontaneously. They are respectful of their parents, teachers and others in authority because they seem to know their place.
Second, children are dependent. Most children aren't thinking about getting food, having a place to sleep or what they are going to wear tomorrow. They instinctively know that their parents are going to provide all that for them and this gives them a carefree life.
Third, children are trusting. This is closely tied with being dependent. Because they are dependent on their parents for the basics in life, they trust that their parents love them enough to give them what they need.
Fourth, children are teachable. Most children are eager to learn and have open minds and hearts for new things. They haven't become know-it-alls and fossilized in their thinking.
So here's a quiz for us:
A- Do you know your place before a holy God?
B- Are you dependent upon Him for everything? (Usually we can't answer this accurately until the "props" are knocked out from under us. This might be a bank account, a good job, or someone we love).
C- Do you trust God that He will give you what you need and when you need it?
D- Are you open to the Holy Spirit and other people teaching you and showing you something that is opposite thinking to what you thought you knew?
16. It's at least these four attitudes that are needed for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus knew this is directly opposite to what the Kingdom of the World teaches and that we need to be reformed. How will the reform start?
Humility is one of those elusive things that as soon as we focus on becoming humble we actually become proud. So the key is to focus on God, depend on Him, trust Him and let Him lead and teach you.
17. Don't worry about being a childlike adult. That is priceless to God. What does Jesus tells us is true about all children -- even adult children?
OPPOSITE THINKING #3 - Wealth: Giving and Receiving
18. The people of this world put their needs and that of their family first. Then if there is some leftover it might be given to someone else in need or to the church. This is opposite thinking to God's priorities for us. Jesus tells us clearly what is to be our first priority and it's combined with a promise.
When we seek for God and His Kingdom above all else, what is his promise to us?
Re-read Luke 12:31
Why don't we need to be afraid to use what we own for God's purposes here on earth?
Re-read Luke 12:32
Remember that wherever the king is, his kingdom is all there with him. God is happy to give us His Holy Spirit to indwell our lives. And having God means that we have it all. This is another example of parallel kingdoms. As we take care of God's work, using what we have to fulfill the needs of others, then He stores up treasure for us. What does God guarantee for us?
Re-read Luke 12:33 / Mark 10:28-30
19. In the Kingdom of the world, a man or woman can believe in God and keep all the commandments but not be a citizen in the Kingdom of God. They may populate our churches but they won't enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells a story that is often misunderstood.
The misunderstanding regarding this parable is that it is bad to have money and that all of us are to give away all that we have. Jesus dealt with this man as an individual and He will deal with you and I in the same way.
As Kingdom of God citizens we own nothing but have the use and stewardship of everything God gives us. This rich young ruler either didn't know this or had forgotten. Riches had gotten a hold on his heart even though he had been doing a lot of things right since his youth. Jesus who knows every heart was putting his finger on the one thing that was an issue for this man.
Re-read Luke 18:22
The fact that the man became very sad because he was very rich confirms what Jesus already knew. In the world we get all we can and keep it just in case we'll need it. But Kingdom of God citizens can freely give because it isn't ours to keep anyway. When Peter reminded Jesus that they had left everything to follow Him, what did Jesus assure him of?
20. The Kingdom of the world encourages us to keep building our supply of money and things in case we need it in the future. This mentality eventually gets a grip on our heart --- the way it did the rich young ruler. But this is opposite thinking to a citizen in the Kingdom of God.
21. When we have money and all the material things we need to get along in the world, it irritates us to see people begging and asking us for a little of what we take for granted. Haven't we worked hard for it? This beggar might be fooling me. Jesus tells a story about this very situation.
This is another example of parallel kingdoms. What we do here on earth matters as to what happens in the eternal world. So many of us live to our means no matter how anyone else is getting along. But real living is sharing what we have with others so that they can be blessed as well.
22. I was sorting out for myself what I should do with men and women who stand by city roads with a sign. The sign will say something like: "Lost my job, will work for food." "Can't find work. Must feed my family." I found it heart wrenching. But to give or not to give -- that was my question. I knew that some folks were false panhandlers. They were playing off the sympathies of hard working citizens. Still, most of them looked in rough shape and miserable. The answer came one day for me when I read these words from Jesus.
If I were a person in dire straights I would want someone to help me. So now I keep out some money each month to give someone asking for it along with an encouraging tract about the Father's love for them. It's an opportunity to give when I know I will not receive anything back.
And what if they really are panhandlers -- fooling all of us to think they are poor? Jesus answers that too.
Notice in verse 35 who the Father is kind to.
It's easy for us to look at others and based on how they look to judge them. We do not want others to do that with us and yet we are often guilty of it.
So for me, I stopped judging those I saw begging with signs by the road and now give as the opportunity comes. I have found Jesus' promise in giving absolutely true.
23. In the world we give so that we can get back. For example we invite and entertain so that we will be included in the group who is invited back. In the Kingdom of God who are we to give to and why?
24. The world operates by the protocol that if we do more work we should get paid more. But in the Kingdom of God, God makes the rules. He can do as He pleases with how he arranges things with us. The Kingdom of God is not based on what we do for God but what HE covenants (or promises) to do for us.
OPPOSITE THINKING #4 - The Ways of the World vs How We Act in the Kingdom of God
25. If we belong to the Kingdom of God then we must make a definite choice as to which Kingdom we will live in as our priority. Why did Jesus say this choice was necessary?
Luke 16:13 (also Matthew 6:24)
The religious Pharisees, who loved their money, heard all of this and scoffed at Jesus. How did Jesus answer them back.
So even if no one else knows whether you straddle the fence between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the world, God knows it.
26. Kingdom of God citizens have a different goal. They know that this world isn't all that there is. So while citizens of this world are always about promoting themselves, a Kingdom of God citizen is about promoting God's interests first. One of the hardest things for a Kingdom of God citizen to get hold of is this reality.
That may refer to your physical life, but most often it will refer to death to your soul life (mind, will and emotions) that is always reaching out for what this world can give us in the way of security, significance and happiness.
In verse 38 Jesus puts his finger on something we all do. We avoid difficulty at all costs. Everyone of us has a cross (it usually looks like a person) that God offers to us to pick up. It's not the cross that Jesus was asked to pick up but rather one that God knows will change us to look like his Son. If we refuse to bear it then Jesus tells us we are not worthy to be His. Luke adds an additional note as to how often we are to take up our cross.
In Matthew 10:39 (that we just read) Jesus also counters the world view that we should get all that we can here on earth and cling to it so that we can have the best that life has to offer. Instead, Jesus makes it clear that if we give up our self-life we'll gain the real life that Jesus offers us (his own Spirit indwelling us).
We need to get it clearly in mind that if we want to be Kingdom of God citizens -- disciples of Jesus, and part of the family of God --Jesus will expect us to do three things.
If we don't make the choice to put God's concerns first and continue to straddle the fence between two worlds, then we'll eventually get satisfied with what we have here. But at what expense?
Selfish living means a truncated life and eternal death is the end. So give up your life (i.e. make it available) and let Jesus live through you. It will mean experiencing real life here in this world and eternal life after this world.
27. Perhaps the most effective way that Kingdom of God citizens have changed the course of this world is by obeying what I think is Jesus' hardest command for us. In the section about giving and receiving we read these verses but let's re-read them.
If you think about it, it's always other people who cause the most grief to our lives. And they are not usually the ones you want to pray for or help out in any way. Even if we don't want to take revenge, we want to stay as far away as possible. So Jesus knows how we are thinking and feeling and he goes right on talking.
Note once again who God is kind to in Verse 35.
28. The world tells us that we should love our spouse and family more than anyone else. But who does Jesus say we should love first?
29. The world tells us that when someone sins against us (or someone that we love) they should pay for it and keep on paying so that they suffer as we did. They may indeed have to suffer the consequences under man's law but Jesus is very clear about our attitude with the person.
What is the consequence to you if you refuse to do this?
Matthew 6:15 / Mark 11:25
Peter thought he was being generous when he suggested that he forgive someone who had sinned against him up to seven times. How did Jesus respond?
The 70 x 7 was Jesus' way of saying to us that we keep forgiving. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that it frees us from letting that person control our thoughts and attitudes. For the truth is that they may not realize how they hurt you. The second reason is this:
Ephesians 4:32 / Colossians 3:13
Our lifetime of sins against God and his forgiveness towards us is the example we must follow. It's opposite thinking to the world for sure but it must be the way for all Kingdom of God citizens.
30. In the world it might be tempting for Kingdom of God citizens to hang around with only "the good and the best" people -- others like themselves who have made a commitment to Jesus. This is what the Pharisees did. What did they accuse Jesus of?
Jesus set the example for all Kingdom of God citizens. We are in the world so that others will see Jesus through us and want to also be part of the Kingdom of God. This will definitely mean involvement with the people of this world.
In fact, as Christ's ambassadors who are we making our appeal to?
2 Corinthians 5:20-21
Therefore to live having only Christian friends and acquaintances will not allow us to fulfill the great commission that Jesus gave to all Kingdom of God citizens.
Not only are we to have friends and acquaintances to engage with outside the Kingdom of God, but we are called to care for ones that no one else will care for. The Pharisees believed sinners were simply getting what they deserved. Whenever we think we are good then our pride judges others as bad.
Who are the ones that Jesus calls us to spend time with and help?
Re-read Matthew 25:35-36
Once again our actions towards others -- especially the ones Jesus calls "the least of these" -- will make a difference when we enter eternity. Jesus is keeping note of our actions and attitudes and there may be a lot of surprises.
31. In the world people do good things (like praying, fasting and giving) so that others will see them and think well of them. But this is opposite thinking to the Kingdom of God. How does Jesus say we should do "good things" like praying and fasting?
What word does Jesus use to describe religious people who love to be seen by others?
Re-read Matthew 6:5
What is the only reason that we let our good deeds by seen?
32. Man in his development of the world has built some pretty impressive structures. Many of us like to take vacations to have a look at them. One day when Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem -- perhaps for the first time -- one of the disciples was overwhelmed by the beauty and magnificence of the temple. What was Christ's response?
Was Jesus trying to throw a bucket of cold water over the disciple's enthusiasm for seeing such magnificence for the first time? No. He was making an important point to all of us. What looks great, impressive and immovable in this world may be destroyed just as quickly. Nothing built by man will ultimately last. This world is not to be our focus for it is passing away. This temple was completely destroyed in 70 A.D. -- less than 40 years after Jesus spoke these words!
33. Do you know that the world runs on fear of what might happen? Just study the ads on television and bill boards and you'll begin to see it. There is an insurance policy for every possible disaster. Take this supplement daily and your brain will stay in shape. Buy this gizmo and "app" for your home and the thieves will stay away. People in Jesus' time worried too -- about whether they would have enough to eat and drink and cloth their family. Fear and worry are often what drive our decisions. And while Jesus didn't sugar coat the fact that we would face trouble in this world, He did make a definite promise. What is that promise?
No matter how things look, Jesus is still in charge. When he rose from the dead he overcame death and defeated the Devil on our behalf. We will not be defeated or destroyed because in the end Jesus will triumph.
In verse 32 we see a phrase Jesus used often, "Do not fear". It's opposite thinking to this world but we can operate without fear when we truly trust that God loves us, is watching out for us and has worked out in advance that even what looks bad can be used for our good. We are to trust God and believe his promises whether we understand them or not. God always keeps his word to us.
Re-read Luke 12:31
OPPOSITE THINKING #5: God's Point of View vs. Man's Point of View
34. God's will vs. Man's will
I never quite get over how severely Jesus rebuked Peter in this exchange, but it should snap us all awake. Jesus had come to earth to die. That was part of his mission which he was trying to explain to his disciples. So here was "know-it-all" Peter taking Jesus aside and rebuking him for talking as he was. Although it was Peter who was talking, who did Jesus rebuke?
Whenever we are adamant about a point of view other than God's, we'll always find Satan behind it -- fueling our thoughts with his and getting us to think opposite to God. Notice also in this exchange that Satan was feeding Peter with thoughts and words that seemed right and good. Peter loved Jesus and so hearing him talk of death wasn't something he was willing to accept. But God's ultimate good may seem like man's bad and vis versa.
35. It is false teaching that says Christians shouldn't suffer for following Jesus. If we follow in Christ's footsteps then people will love us as He loved them - right? In this exchange with his disciples Jesus tells them what to expect when they head out to share what should be "good news" with others.
These are sobering words but they are as true today as they were then. While we think people should treat us with respect, the fact is that Jesus Himself was called Beelzebub or the "prince of demons". He was disrespected, persecuted, and put to death. So what does Jesus tell us will be true for any -- maybe all -- of his disciples?
Perhaps if you are a Christian who is not persecuted you are in the minority. We are not greater than our master and therefore we should expect trouble and persecution which is opposite thinking to what Christians (especially in the West) think today.
Ultimately, when people react against us, who are they really reacting against?
36. Keeping the Sabbath Day holy (which meant resting on Saturday for the Jews) was something that God had asked his people to observe for two reasons. It was to be a day where they would focus on God instead of doing as they pleased and thus a day to rest and recharge from their usual work by hearing God's word and worshiping with others.
The problem came when the religious Pharisees added literally thousands of rules and regulations to God's one law -- to keep the Sabbath holy. They made it hard for anyone to get through a Sabbath without violating some added law which Jesus called their "traditions".
Mark 7:8-9, 13
Men and women love keeping rules and regulations because it feeds on their sense of devotion and self-discipline. This shows off their self-righteousness and personal strength. The Apostle Paul later challenged us all about this.
God had asked his children to have a day that would honor Him by ceasing from their ordinary work in the fields and from trading. He was not barring them from doing good by helping their fellow men. In fact, loving God and helping our neighbor always goes hand in hand.
Matthew 12:1-14 / John 7:21-24
So here was an issue were God had one thing in mind but men had distorted it by adding to God's law and making their additions more important to obey than God's.
While there may be people who willfully want to deceive us, it will often be well-meaning believers (like Peter) leading us down a path opposite to God's and usually out of ignorance. It's up to us to discern the truth by the Word of God and by asking the Holy Spirit to show you the error. This is why both Paul and John give us this advice:
1 Thessalonians 5:21 / 1 John 4:1-6