The Kingdom of Self
Matthew 3:1,2 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
I am no prophet, but I am pretty good at seeing the destructive behavior in the lives of those around me. I am quite skilled at looking past my own faults while maintaining keen insight into the stupidity of others. It is just so easy to diagnose destructive choices when it is not me who is making them. When I am making them, it is of course different. I have reasons, justifications, and motivations that no one else has, right? It is always different when it is me.
I however, am not John the Baptist, who was charged by God with the task of pointing out the destruction of those around him. As a Christian, it is often tempting to think of the truth as something I am to apply to the disasters around me while ignoring its application in my own life. So, when John says Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, it is my tendency to immediately think of the poor choices my neighbor is making. John’s message however, is for me.
Jesus insisted that the kingdom of God is in the midst of you (Luke 17:21). His audience hoped that He had come to establish an earthly kingdom to fix external problems but his message was that the kingdom of heaven came to replace the kingdom of self in each of us.
It is exactly the kingdom of self that prevents me from seeing the kingdom of God in my life. At any given time, the two do not coexist. I cannot pursue the flesh life while pursuing the spirit life and I cannot pursue the kingdom of self while pursuing the kingdom of heaven. This does not stop me from trying. I often attempt to pursue God while justifying resentment, anger, lust, pride and all manner of self. I always find John’s words to be true however. I need to continually evict the kingdom of self if I want to see the kingdom of heaven in me.
Though I am saved and have this eternal spirit life, which cannot be taken from me, I can have either a little or a lot of God’s kingdom manifest in me. John’s message to me is to repent, turn from self and turn to God. This is the same message of Paul when he insisted that I sow the seeds of the spirit instead of the flesh. It is the message of Jesus to his followers, to deny self and follow him.
I am at times, frustrated by what I perceive as God’s lack of presence in my life. When I feel that, John insists that it is mine to repent from pursuing me and to follow God. I cannot pursue the kingdom of self and God at the same time. I daily have to make this choice.