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When things are upside down
- Jacob Ninan
When the apostle Paul went to Ephesus and preached the Gospel, many received the word of God and were born again. Many of them had been sorcerers earlier, and when they realised that they had been wrong earlier, they came out in large numbers and destroyed all their magic equipment and books (Ac.19:19). Just imagine what would have happened if Paul had started on a campaign to expose sorcery and conducted publicity campaigns against them instead of preaching the Gospel first? People would have turned against him as their enemy. When John Wesley preached the gospel in England and people were converted, they gave up their drinking and bars had to be closed down. Would it have worked if Wesley's campaign was to close down bars?
God understood the root cause of man's problem as sin in the heart, and He declared that unless that was set right, man could not even understand ('see') anything concerning the kingdom of God (Jn.3:3). First, man had to be born again, his heart set right, and only then could he have any real, lasting changes in his behaviour. When people repent from their sins and receive forgiveness from God because of what Jesus has done for them, God gives them a new spirit and writes His laws upon their hearts (Ez.36:25-27). Only such people will have a place in the kingdom of God (Jn.3:5). What God wants those who have already come into this kingdom to do is to preach the Gospel so that others too can come in (Mk.16:15).
Even entering into God's kingdom in this way is not all there is to it. Those who have just entered are spiritual babies, and they have to be fed first with milk (1Pe.2:2), and then with meat as they grow up (He.5:13,14) before they can be useful for God. This is another task for the church to help believers to grow up and become mature (Mt.28:19,20).
In the body of Christ, where different members have different functions (1Co.12:7), the evangelists bring the sheep into the fold by preaching the Gospel, and the prophets, teachers and pastors (shepherds) nourish them to grow into maturity and become useful to God in turn (Ep.4:11,12). God's kingdom is not a worldly one on the earth (Jn.18:36), but it is a spiritual kingdom with Jesus as King and those who are born again as its citizens. Because these citizens have a different nature compared to the one people outside this kingdom have, they can shine as lights in the midst of the darkness of this world (Mt.5:13,14). Hopefully, as people show their lives as testimonies for God and preach the Gospel, others also will get attracted to this kingdom. Humanitarian services carried out by the people of this kingdom because their hearts have been changed by the King also will serve as beacons of light drawing others to Jesus.
On the other hand, when we see many things upside down in this world, can we hope to put them right merely with good examples or teaching? Wouldn't it be like washing the pigs who will only return to the mud later?