I think it’s safe to say we all, at one point or another, want to do what we--ourselves individually--want to do; to make the choices that define our lives and exert our own control to create what we want. When we are in control of what is going on--from the smallest facets of thinking, to the leading of nations--it is the most comfortable place to be, since we are the ones calling the shots. There is no waiting; there is no relying on anyone or anything that you don’t want to rely on--you have the power to serve your own purpose. The ironic thing is, however, that when you believe and live like this, you really aren’t serving just yourself; you’re serving a kingdom that is opposed to God.
1) Which kingdom do you serve?
The truth can sound harsh, but it is because God loves us and is calling us to follow Him and serve His kingdom. Whatever your frame of thinking is, it comes down to asking yourself this question: who, or what, do you serve? Are you serving your own desires and purposes deep down? Are you serving another human being's purposes? Are you serving an ideology or religion? As humans, we are made to serve something; to give worship. Whether that be through the worship of idols and false gods, or through the worship of the Lord; we are constantly striving to fill a need within our souls.
This need is defined by what Jesus calls the kingdom of God. Throughout His ministry, Christ constantly made reference to this kingdom and made it clear that He was, and is, bringing it to us. Like in Matthew 12:28, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” This reality of the “kingdom” is important when addressing the need we have within our souls, along with our innate nature of servitude.
From the context that we find Jesus speaking in, He is explaining that no kingdom divided against itself will stand (Matthew 12:25). If Christ were to cast out demons by the authority of beelzebub (another same for satan), then it would mean the forces of evil are divided against themselves… it would be a contradiction in the order of good and evil. Essentially, Jesus is explaining that there is no way He could cast out demons by the authority of evil (beelzebub; satan; demons), because that would mean the side of evil is divided. Why would a devil cast out another devil and do something good? It cannot be, since the purpose of evil is not to do good.
And so we see, on the other side of the spectrum, that God is similarly constant: He is, purely and by nature, good. Therefore, God’s purposes can only lead to a good end for those who serve His kingdom. If we claim to serve God, but hate someone in our life, or seek to do evil against another person, then we are not serving the kingdom of God. And this is the problem: that by our decisions we establish our loyalty to the kingdom of which it serves. And we all have sinned under God’s standard of goodness--this doesn’t excuse sin or give us a reason to keep sinning, but it establishes our need for God (which explains why Jesus says Matthew 12:33-34).
Yet, despite our position against God, He has still provided a way for us to make peace with Him: through faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel. To be sure, God’s kingdom is eternal; He does not change, and therefore the kingdom remains (Malachi 3:6). God is God, and He is the One who was, and is, and will continue to be, long after all of us return to the dust. His kingdom is established on the truth that He alone is God; there is no other. And so when we serve any other kingdom than God’s, we are making ourselves an enemy against Him.
So, it’s been established that we all have sinned and are enemies of God, due to the choices we make to serve a kingdom that is not His. And we know that God cannot serve a kingdom other than His own; He is purely good, and cannot support or condone evil. Therefore, the only remedy to our nature of sin must be the grace given by God; and this grace as a gift in order to save us. This free gift of grace is made available only by the sacrifice of Jesus; that He stepped in and took our place as the enemy of God--and the consequences thereof--allowing us to walk free by “putting on” the righteousness given by Christ through faith (Romans 13:14, Ephesians 2:8). Thus, God extends His hand to us, that we may have the chance to turn and do good rather than evil; to serve His kingdom rather than satan’s. The choice comes down to what is in your heart: who, or what, do you serve? Is it the Light, or darkness? The hand of God is extended, but if we do not serve His kingdom, how can we be saved?
This is the imperative that we have been given: to believe in and proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection so that we would be saved. God’s message is simple and you don’t need to rely on a bunch of rules, theological debates, intellectual analyses, etc., to understand it--God wants us to believe in Him, not in our own understanding. The answer is simply found in Jesus, but it requires that we trust in God and have faith that He is who He says He is. Without faith, the reality of the situation is as Christ says, “He who is not with Me is against me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” (Matthew 12:30).
The cross of Christ is posted up for all to see, and we do not have to go far to have it established in our hearts. God is near, and He is calling us to serve Him, rather than the gods we have made for ourselves. The ultimatum that Christ gives is very clear: those who are not for Him are against Him. Why is He so severe on this issue? Because, as we have explored, God alone is only good; He does not change. And therefore, if God alone is constantly good, then if we are not for Him, we are not for what is good. And if this is the case, then we are the ones in the wrong, not God--we are the ones who have changed; He has not.
2) Those who do not gather, will scatter
Another important concept to realize with Matthew 12:30 is that those who do not gather with Christ will be scattered abroad. This brings light to the reality that there is no direction and sense of order on the side of evil; it provides countless paths and an unending supply of faces. As previously mentioned, satan’s kingdom is served simply when someone serves themselves. That person may not even believe in satan or in any of this, but they are still serving the purpose that satan desires. This purpose is simply to oppose God and His way. There is no true loyalty in such a kingdom; there isn’t any truth, and love cannot flourish.
But with God’s kingdom we see a different situation: there is only One who is worthy and good, deserving of worship. And to worship God and follow Christ provides a clear direction and a single path to walk, and can be summarized in Christ’s words: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). It is the Living God that fills the void within our souls; He is the answer!
But do we really want to find that answer--to serve that kingdom? Would that mean I’d have to give this up, or stop doing that? If I followed God, would that mean I would have to change this certain part of my life, or start acting like that, or being like them? What!? We are presented with the opportunity to grow in a relationship with the God of all creation, and we are worrying about these worldly things? Is your image of yourself, or your lifestyle, so great in your own eyes or so set in stone, that it would make you throw away the eternal life offered in God? Do you think so highly of the world, that you would be willing to die for it? What has the world ever done for you?
When we serve ourselves and other things that are not God, and feed the desires of our heart and continue to sin, we lead ourselves on paths that lead to death. Assuredly, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). The kingdom of this world would have you serve yourself, and eventually fall to your knees in defeat. But the kingdom of God would have you humble yourself before the Cross, and from your knees, rise to face the powers of Hell and darkness, and having overcome all through Jesus Christ, to stand in victory.
There is much trouble, suffering, and mystery in this broken world that we exist in. For many people, there is much to fear in their lives--understandably so. But if we are to fear anything, let us fear the LORD, because it is He who holds all things in His hands; He is the One who builds up and destroys, molds and presses, gives life and wastes away. Why do we strive so much against Him? What is it about this life that causes us to look up and ask, “What are You doing? What is the point?” We live on this earth for 100 measly years (being generous), and we think we know enough to contest with the Creator? “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker— one clay pot among many. Does the clay ask the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’?” (Isaiah 45:9). We all must think long and hard on if we are willing to bet against God. Every day is a blessing; none are guaranteed. If you are willing to go to the grave with your fist raised against the Almighty, then do not be surprised when His fist is raised against you.
Nonetheless, be comforted; God is “gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.” (Psalm 145:8). If we can humble ourselves, lower our fists against God, and turn back to Him and seek His forgiveness, God will wash us clean and be quick to forgive. For Christ has paid the price, and He stands on our behalf advocating to the Father for our acquittal: justice has been served, for Christ has taken our sentence upon Himself, allowing us to go free. If we do not know Him as our attorney, how can we escape the sentence we are due?
It’s time we set down the idols in our lives that sit on the thrones of our hearts, and turn to Jesus and allow Him to change our lives, and then use us to build up His kingdom. Because, once Jesus lives within the heart, the service to the self and to the kingdom of this world will wither away; and, being a new person, the purpose becomes loving Christ and loving others as He did. Consider your life, and make your choice of what kingdom you will serve, for God says, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).