The Kingdom of God is God’s Country!
Mark 4:30-32 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
I’m an American. And they say this is “God’s country.” But — my dad’s from Ireland. That means I can also claim citizenship in Ireland. I’ve been to Ireland – have you? — it’s a beautiful place. Some would say Ireland is “God’s country”, it’s so beautiful. I wouldn’t mind getting back there soon.
Here’s today’s question: is any one place “God’s country”? I mean, I always say that up in Aquinnah, this is “God’s country” — but what I’m really asking is, can a country like America, or a country like Ireland, truly be God’s nation?
Well. Some folks say America is a Christian nation, formed by God. So maybe America is God’s country. Didn’t the charter of Jamestown in Virginia state that its purpose was to propagate the gospel? Wasn’t that true of a lot of the colonial charters, especially those of the Pilgrims – to be in covenant with God? To be God’s country?
Nah, that couldn’t be. Look at us now: too many unbelievers. There’s too much violence. Too much ungodly behavior.
What about Ireland? A nation of monasteries and saints! The land of St. Patrick and St. Brigid, once a nation under the authority of the Catholic Church itself – or, later, the English Crown, the head of the English Church. (Complicated subject)…Nonetheless, isn’t that a covenant with God? To be God’s nation?
Ah, but what about the wars? The terrorism? The drunkenness?
These places aren’t perfect, or I should say, its people aren’t perfect. They don’t all bear the fruits of the spirit of God, do they? So it’s safe to say, these countries are not “God’s countries”.
Well, did I mention my mother is Jewish? I can also claim Israeli citizenship. I’ve never been to Israel. I hope to go there one day, and soon. I’ve always longed to go.
Israel — what about Israel? Isn’t Israel “God’s country”? Moses said to Pharoah, “The LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son.”
“And who is like your people Israel — the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself.” (2nd Samuel 7:23)
Surely the modern day State of Israel, Medinat Israel, is God’s country? God said, “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey…. the land I promised in an oath to [your] ancestors…” (Ex. 33:3; Deut. 31:20) — surely that meant the Land of Israel, Eretz Israel, where the Medinat Israel is today.
Ah, but – like America, what about the unbelievers? What about the violence? The ungodly behavior? Like Ireland, what about the wars, the terrorism, the drunkenness? If these shortcomings shatter America and Ireland’s hopes to be “God’s country”, doesn’t that also shatter Israel’s hopes to be “God’s country”?
This is the million dollar question. It’s not just a million dollar question, it’s a thousands-year old question – with a two thousand year old answer. The answer’s name is: Jesus Christ.
Long, long ago, God told the people of Israel, “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Moses delivered this message when God saved the people from the slavery of Egypt. But He didn’t say, “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation because you live in the land I will give you….” It was the other way around: if you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, then I will give you the land.
It was if/then. Moses’ successor, Joshua, said, “If the LORD is pleased with us, then he will lead us into that land” (Num. 14:8)
But did this happen? Look at this story about Joshua. What did the people of Israel do after he said these words? They threw stones at him to kill him! They rebelled against God. So the LORD said, “Not one [of them] will ever see the land that I swore to give their fathers. None of those who have treated Me with contempt will see it.” (Num. 14:23)
He doesn’t stop there. Even those of the faithful who make it to the land “when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant.” (Deut. 31:20)
They broke God’s covenant. The covenant is if/then: If the Lord is pleased with us, then he will lead us into that land – into “God’s country”.
Does the Lord sound pleased with them? No. And that was just the beginning. They rejected Moses, they rejected Joshua; a thousand years of bloodshed later, filled with kings and wars and captivities and exiles, and martyred prophets warning and trying to save the soul of the nation, the Lord Jesus Christ looks over the capital city of Jerusalem and says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Behold, your house is left to you desolate!” (Mt. 23:37-38).
Less than fifty years later, the city was razed to the ground.
Consider how much of a failure this must have made Jesus Christ, if this city were meant to be the throne of his Kingdom. Jeremiah said that in the days of the Messiah, “they will call Jerusalem the Throne of the Lord,” (Jer. 3:17). Jesus himself called Jerusalem “the city of the great King” (Mt. 5:35). It’s where the Kingdom was supposed to be. It was supposed to be God’s country.
This is what everyone was waiting for. As Jesus prepared to ascend to heaven after his resurrection, the disciples asked him, “Lord, are you now going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
Stop right there. Isn’t that the million dollar question? “When are you going to fulfill Israel’s hope of being God’s country? When are you going to restore the Kingdom?”
In other words — “When is your Kingdom going to come?”
Believers have been asking this question for millennia. How many times have you asked that question yourself? Some of you have probably even spent some time reading books on prophecy, watching the news, looking for signs of the Kingdom Come – that whole song and dance.
But again, stop right there. Check your spirit. What did Jesus, the man himself, say about the Kingdom Come? “The Kingdom doesn’t come with observable signs, nor can people say “[Look over here], here it is’” – in my land, in my dominion! — “or ‘There it is’” – over in America, or Ireland, or even Israel — “but behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” It is in your midst!
Looking for observable signs? Looking here? Looking there? Stop right there! The Kingdom of God is not like that. The Kingdom of God is “like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
It starts small, but it gets big, and it gets great. So big and great that it’s as big and great as the biggest and greatest of all shrubs. But this ain’t no shrub with observable signs, or any here or there. It’s a great shrub within you and among you – that starts from a small seed.
So what’s the small seed? It’s the Holy Spirit.
Let’s go back to Acts 1:6, when they ask Jesus if he’s about to restore the Kingdom to Israel. Contrary to pop culture belief, the disciples were not idiots, like my man John Lennon thought. They knew their scriptures. They had good reason to believe that with the Resurrection of Christ, the Resurrection had begun. And when they saw Jesus preparing to ascend to heaven, in clouds of glory, to take his throne – they knew that meant the Kingdom was coming, because this is what the Prophets all foretold. That’s why they asked that specific question, “Will you now restore the Kingdom to Israel?”
So don’t overlook his specific answer: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Is he gaslighting them? No way! This next part is the key: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to all the ends of the earth.”
When the Holy Spirit comes upon you. That’s the abridged version, and the answer to their question. When will the Kingdom be restored to Israel? When the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And the rest is history: on Pentecost, the Spirit comes down, and the Apostles preach the Kingdom of God to the Jews, both local and visiting from the diaspora, as they’re all gathered in Jerusalem.
This is the moment we all pinpoint as the beginning of the church of God – this is the moment the seed of the Holy Spirit is planted, and the Kingdom begins to grow “to all the ends of the earth”.
Because, you see, the Kingdom is not in the signs, it’s not in the here or the there – it’s in you. It’s in the people, in the hearts of those who receive the seed of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t be looking anywhere else. Don’t run after anyone who says, “Here it is, I found it!”
To this day, the Catholic Church maintains that it and it alone is the Kingdom of God. Well, it’s right about at least this: the universal church of Jesus Christ is the Kingdom of God. Our church, our assemblies, our congregations, comprise the royal priesthood of all believers – and what is an association of royalty but a Kingdom, and to whom does a priesthood offer its prayers but God the King?
The Church is the Kingdom of God. The Church is God’s country. It’s not the Medinat Israel, the State of Israel – it’s the Malchut Israel, the Kingdom of Israel, the Kingdom of God’s firstborn! It’s not a Kingdom that is here in this land or there in another, or a Kingdom of observable signs for the five senses: “For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire….
“Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to myriads of angels in joyful assembly, to the congregation of the firstborn, enrolled in heaven. You have come to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant.”
St. Paul wrote these words two thousand years ago. Was he seeing something we can’t? Was he participating then in something we can’t today? Of course not. But he said, “whether in the body, or the spirit, [he] know not” — he saw the hidden and heavenly realities of the Kingdom of God, the angels in joyful assembly, the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and even Jesus Himself, who is in Heaven.
The Kingdom he saw was of a spiritual nature.
Folks, in the days of his ministry, Jesus went around proclaiming, “The time has come! — the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Kingdom of God is within you, and the Kingdom of God is among you.” There were those who didn’t believe, and those who did. Those who believed had their lives changed forever.
They didn’t believe because they saw it – but like St. Paul, they saw it because they believed.
Stop waiting for the Kingdom to come, because it’s here! — I know I may be challenging a fundamental belief for some of you when I say that. But then again, so did Jesus, and they killed him for it! I hope y’all will be nicer to me.
But I have to ask, anyone who holds this opinion that the Kingdom has not yet come – what is it you think you’re participating in when you come to Church? When you pray in the Spirit? When you pass the peace? When you take Communion, eating his body and drinking his blood, and asking the King of the Universe to come into your very heart? You’re participating in the new covenant! Is that not the very definition of inheriting the promises of Christ? And isn’t the promise the Kingdom of God itself? That’s what Moses and the Prophets and no less than Jesus Christ himself preached: the Kingdom and the Kingdom alone.
What are you waiting for! It’s here!
And chew on this. Jesus said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have [already] received it, and it will be yours.” Believe that you have already received it – put that into practice next time you pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” Amen? “Lord, I believe thy Kingdom has come.”
Whether you are a believer or not yet a believer, you might have preconceived notions about what “the Kingdom of God” is. You might hear all this and think, the “Kingdom can’t have already come”. Look at the state of the world – the unbelievers, the violence, the ungodly behavior, the wars, the terrorism, the drunkenness.
But that’s just what it is – the state of the world. It is not the state of the Kingdom of God. The world is not where The Kingdom is – but where two or more are gathered in the name of Christ, that’s where the King is, and so that’s where his Kingdom is too – the shrub that started as a little seed, it’s where the seed is. It’s where the Holy Spirit is.
Where the Spirit is, there is the Kingdom. Where there is pure faith, there the Kingdom has come. That’s why Revelation says that “nothing unclean shall ever enter it.”
Don’t misunderstand these words! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “Well, I’m unclean, so I’ll never enter.” Listen to me: no one unclean, no matter how unclean they are, stays that way when they are washed in the blood of Jesus.
If you believe that the blood of Jesus can do that, no sooner will you have made that confession than you find yourself dining at the table in the Kingdom of Heaven with the Son of Man himself.
But if you want to enter the Kingdom, don’t let it be because you think, “the world is an awful place and I can’t wait for the Kingdom to Come and blow it all away.” That’s the flesh speaking – that’s not the spirit of God. The flesh is always saying the grass is greener on the other side, nothing can be done about the state of this world – that’s not your calling – but the Spirit says, “if you have the faith of a mustard seed, you say to the mountain, move, and it’ll move” — that’s your calling.
The mountain you’re going to move is the low expectation of what God can accomplish in your life. The mountain you’re going to move is the low vibration of the world around you, and you’re going to move it by singing your song and marching to your own drummer ‘til they can’t help but get up and start dancing to the tune you’re piping.
“Behold,” says the LORD, “I’m making all things new” — and He’s going to start with YOU.
They say, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” So, be the Kingdom of God. Just like every cell of Jesus’ body was raised to life one by one until he walked out of that tomb, so does every person raised into the life of Christ by faith also raise up the whole of humanity by their resurrection – you’re one cell in the whole body of humanity. When the world around you is down, your song that you’re going to sing is exactly the chorus of that Blake Shelton song, “this is God’s country.”
This is God’s world. This whole thing is God’s universal Kingdom, God’s jurisdiction, where He has the power to do miraculous things – and He’s going to do them in your life.
This is God’s country. Us citizens of God’s country live in a supernatural Kingdom whose King is God. Our law is love because our King is Love. Nothing unclean may enter this Kingdom, but that’s ok, because anyone who wants to enter will be washed clean by the blood of Jesus, so that nothing can come between you and the love of God.
The world might be gone to hell – but where God is, there heaven is – and God is always with His people, who are washed in the blood of Christ Jesus. He died and was raised to give us a place in the Kingdom of Heaven, so that we may even now be seated with God in the heavenly realms. This a supernatural, spiritual Kingdom He has given us, and in which we are now participating, by faith and in the Spirit.
This is God’s country. It is a beautiful, open country, where all of God’s children of all stars, all stripes, and all colors are joined in the common law of love and entrusted with the ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation.
This is God’s country, a beautiful open country wherein is the river of life, and the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of all the world’s people.
This is God’s country. A beautiful, open country, one that you can’t see until you believe in it.
If you believe, can I get an Amen?