I am reading my way through the New Testament a bit at a time and I have been struck with how often the issue of permanence and impermanence shows up. Hebrews tells us, ‘Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…’ (Heb 12:28) and just a few pages later James reminds us, ‘For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes’ (James 4:14). In his first letter Peter speaks of our imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance and the perishable gold and silver which are unable to ransom us, so Jesus ransoms us with his imperishable blood instead. It goes on and on! Frankly this strikes me as backward. My life reality seems very solid to me. I have aches and pains, I have rock-hard financial realities I have to deal with, I want 25 year warrantees on everything I purchase, there is very concrete pressure all around. Life seems very substantive and its robust buffeting often gets in the way of my more ‘spiritual’ aspirations.
But God reveals to us through his Word that it is I who have it backwards! All these things around me and in me which seem so rugged and stable and impinge on my life so much are in fact to be shaken. They are a mist, they are passing away. The things which now appear to me so ‘spiritual’, that is vague, ephemeral, elusive, are in fact the only solid, permanent, immovable, imperishable things – the unshakeable kingdom which God has given us.
I get the image of shafts of incredibly hard glass that have been driven down into our world. We go struggling along in our solid-seeming-but-really-a-mist world and we bump up against these unseen-but-imperishable kingdom shafts. They are what is ‘really real’, not the mist which consumes our attention. We can choose to step into those shafts of kingdom life in Jesus, but we can’t yet stay in them continuously. They don’t yet fill everywhere. That is why we pray ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’. Drive more kingdom shafts into this reality. Make the kingdom more contiguous until the day you bring the whole kingdom crashing in at your return!
In the meantime the Lord through his Word tells us not to get too attached or too bent out of shape by the solid-seeming mist. He has us living here for the sake of discipleship (loving ever more Jesus and his kingdom) and mission (helping others to love Jesus and his kingdom). As the Spirit grows us we will be able to discern those invisible kingdom shafts better. They distort and shred the this-world mist around them. Bitterness turns to love, cursing to blessing, addiction to freedom, mourning to rejoicing, judgment to forgiveness, death to life! We begin to see where those kingdom shafts are and where new ones are being driven through the mist into the earth, and can begin to step into them and live there more and more—and bring others with us.
I have a long way to go. This life and its concerns still seem pretty solid to me. The more I bump into those immoveable, unshakeable, eternal shafts of the kingdom, though, the more I want to live there. The more the Spirit is opening my eyes to look for them and point them out to others so that together we can all live more and more in that kingdom which cannot be shaken.