The worst theft of all time would be to rob ourselves and others of the kingdom of God by allowing the kingdom of this world to take over our lives. Love of country must not degenerate into worship of country, because there is only one kingdom worth worshiping.
Let’s understand how the growth of God’s kingdom is unstoppable.
We will look at the worst theft of all time, why optimism over the church’s future is right, why the church will continue to grow as a hidden kingdom, initial religious experiences and why control freaks cannot control the uncontrollable.
Worst Theft of All Time
What could possibly be the worst theft of all time? Could it be the theft of native lands by colonizing powers? Could it be the semi-legal theft of personal finances by shady banking practices? Could it be taking excessive portions by the very wealthy? Could it be the immoral use of tax revenue? Would not the greatest theft of all history be anything that prevents or hinders the growth of the only permanent institution on earth, the kingdom of God (Mark 4:26-34)? When we steal material things from others, we are also engaged in a far worse theft. When we allow evil to reign in our lives instead of God we have stolen life’s greatest possible blessing from ourselves, the kingdom of God. There is nothing in life worth more and worth protecting more than our citizenship in heaven. This world’s institutions come and go but God’s kingdom will keep growing.
Optimistic Church Future
Many Christians in the western world are pessimistic about the future of the church. While numbers have declined in Europe and America this past century, numbers in Africa and Asia are increasing. Did Jesus prophesy anything about this? Mark 4:26-34 is one passage that speaks of the spread of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is where God reigns and God reigns in the church. There is no guarantee that our denomination or our local church will survive or that the church will always look like ours, but the future of the Christian church is good. Even while we sleep, the church grows. The church will grow to be the largest entity on earth. In fact it already is. Jesus seems to be ruling in the lives of up to a third of humanity. Now that’s a large kingdom.
The first Christian church in Africa was planted by the Apostle Mark in Alexandria, Egypt. Their descendants belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. How large has the church grown in Africa? This past century it has grown from 9 million in 1900 to 380 million in 2000. Among the earliest churches in Asia were those established by the Apostle Thomas in central Asia and India. The Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew spread Christianity to Armenia and the Apostles Simon and Andrew planted churches in Georgia. Between the 9th and 14th centuries the Church of the East spread as far as China and India, but declined after persecution, disease and isolation. Christian growth has returned to Asia. Within the next 30 years, Asia may have a larger Christian population than Europe. Jesus Predicted that his kingdom would grow large (Mark 4:26-34). It is not always obvious, because it is invisible.
The Hidden Kingdom
Mark 4:26-34 introduces to us the concept of the reign of God being a hidden kingdom. It is not recognized by the world around us and is often hard to detect. What is the kingdom of God? In modern terms we would say the reign of God. Where is that? It is among those who submit to divine authority. Although some people have such wonderful discernment that they can possibly tell who is God’s just by looking at someone’s face, most of us would have to have more information than that. It is like a crop that grows in the field. Initial evidence can be like a small green shoot poking through the soil and may be like noticing little changes in a person’s life. As God’s realm grows, it becomes increasingly evident that he rules a person’s life even though it may not be obvious at first.
The Religious Experience
A popular but false concept is that we must have a dramatic religious experience as initial evidence of the Holy Spirit’s intervention in our lives. While that kind of experience is certainly possible and does happen sometimes, if we understand Mark 4:26-34, then Jesus taught that it was not necessary or even normal. Like a crop in a field, the evidence of the kingdom of God in our lives may be totally unseen at first. This story also contradicts another popular idea, that we must exert extraordinary human effort to make God’s reign in our spiritual lives grow or to make our churches grow. The story explains that God’s kingdom grows whether we are awake or asleep, totally without our understanding as to how. Like the crop in the field, it is God’s action that makes his kingdom grow and human attempts to dictate that growth are often flawed.
Control Freaks Controlling the Uncontrollable
The Nicene Council not only introduced a good creed which summarizes some of Christianity’s most important doctrines, it also made a certain dictatorial tendency in the church worse. Nicea reinforced a power-hungry element that contradicts Saint Paul’s instructions of freedom regarding worship and conscience. If you don’t want people to use their minds just call a doctrine or council of the church infallible. Yet, when Jesus symbolized the kingdom of heaven like a mustard seed (Mark 4:26-34) he was describing a rather unruly plant that allowed hungry birds to sit in the family vegetable garden. Ever since, church leaders have tried to lord it over the faith of believers, something Jesus did not want (Matthew 20:25-28). The kingdom of God will grow where God wants despite human politics. Yet control freaks will continue to try controlling the uncontrollable. God’s kingdom will continue to grow. Our job is to make sure we don’t rob ourselves of a place in it.
The worst theft of all time would be to rob ourselves of the kingdom of God by allowing this world to take over. Love of country must not degenerate into worship of country, because there is only one kingdom worth worshipping. Jesus foretold that the church’s future is unstoppable and will continue to grow. It is a hidden kingdom, spiritual, and no one can stop the uncontrollable growth of God’s kingdom in us and in the world around us. Let’s make sure that we are a part of it.