1 Peter 4:2 says, “…so as to live the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.”
That verse took on new meaning for me outside a little village in southwest Germany. After spending the previous day with Wolfgang Simson and my prayer partner, Cees, discussing everything concerning the Kingdom of God, I had experienced a restless night. Compelled by the Holy Spirit and the call of the Kingdom, I got down on my knees at the edge of the forest, and surrendered my life to the King and his kingdom call. “Whatever you want, I will do; whatever you ask, I will fulfil; wherever you send me, I will go.”
It was scarily freeing!
Later that day, on a flight beginning our journey home, I journaled on 1 Peter 4:2.
It is now time for me to live, v. 2, no longer by human desires—with myself as king—but with you as King, and by your will Lord God. You, Jesus, have come to earth as Christ the Redeemer and have returned home as Christ the Victor. In this you have proven yourself to be my personal Redeemer, freeing me from the enemy and certain death, from a life of purposelessness, something I could never do or have done for myself. You, the Gate, have taken me into your sheepfold, your castle. There is a drawbridge, and I am safe inside, coming in and going out through you, the Gate. This is abundant living. I go in and out to lead others to pasture.
Over this sheepfold-castle flies the ensign of the King (Isaiah 62:10), your royal banner.
Surrendering to you is not an onerous or burdensome act. It is freedom. It is surrendering to your protection, your completed work, and to your good and perfect will.
To fly my own flag over this castle would be insurrection, arrogance, and ingratitude. It would also not be recognisable to the enemy and so would leave me open to plunder. The beauty is that by your sheer goodness, your ensign has become mine.
So I now surrender everything to you. There is no longer anything I can or want to call my own.
I surrender to you myself, my job, my finances (what ignorance to call them mine), my marriage, my family, my sexuality, my plans for the future, my investments, my leisure …! All these are yours in the first place, and through redemption! You do, however, allow me to steward them on your behalf (1 Peter 4.10). What a generous King you are.
While living in your kingdom, under you as King, where everything is provided for and there is enough for all, I will not put up my flag again or fly my own ensign, for that would be to announce a coup d’état over you.
And when I do, bring me back afresh to you, to your kingdom plan and purposes.”
Upon arriving home, sharing all this with Julie, and praying about it together, we bought a house! For us, this was a clear Kingdom move simply because it is directed by the King.
Little did we know at the time that this was preparation for our current move. I was very happy in my role as Senior Pastor at Good Shepherd, Para Vista. I had been there for close to thirteen years, new staff members were coming on board, the congregation was maturing, and I was enjoying a somewhat lighter workload, as the empowered leadership structure truly kicked in.
But after a conference in Melbourne with Wolfgang at the Life Expedition Centre, everything changed. You can listen to the full 20 hours yourself here. That’s what Julie did when I returned. In a week, she listened to the lot. We knew there was a call from God for us in there somewhere. But to what? In what form? So we booked up five days and three nights away at a retreat centre together, just the two of us. We took our bibles and read … separately and together.
Three questions have helped lead us to where we are now.
Firstly: Is it multipliable? That is, is it reproducible? Is it birthing spiritual sons and daughters?
In those days away, Julie and I journaled, prayed, discussed, and even wrestled with God.
“Be fruitful and multiply” were words ringing in my ears. God was calling us to raise spiritual children who in turn would be able to connect with and reach and disciple and ‘father’ the 80% of Australians who would not naturally come to life in Jesus through the church as we know it. To do this would mean stepping out of what we currently knew and had experienced.
Secondly: Is it of God?
This question challenged me. I’m not saying what we had been involved in wasn’t of God. Rather, meeting the challenge before us was going to take more than good ideas or good work, but a new God-work or work of God.
My pragmatic leaning means I have a tendency do things in my own strength, with my own intuition, and then say that I’m walking in what God has called me to do. This can even happen with good things. But, as an old saying goes, “Not everything good, is God; but everything God, is good!”
We know we have been called to this. We know we have been called to live by faith. None of this makes sense to me. It doesn’t seem to be a good thing, but I know it is a God thing.
We want to walk in what he wants and not what we want. Which leads to…
Thirdly: Are we building a church-based kingdom, or a Kingdom-based church?
John the Baptist came saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4 says, “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”
We are called to be about the kingdom of God, which Paul says in Romans 14:17, “…is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
So, to quote Tony Fitzgerald, a friend of mine:
“We envision the world learning about, accepting and focusing on Jesus and His Kingdom on earth. We see authentic Christianity as coming under the loving Lordship of Jesus Christ and being joined to a community of believers who are learning to live a new life in a new way. We want each and every person given to us to live a self-governed life while fulfilling their God-given destiny within a community of believers.
The Great Commission was given by Jesus as an apostolic mandate to disciple nations. This was based on God’s original purpose stated in Genesis when He gave man a dominion and a domestic mandate. Jesus commanded us to preach the gospel of the Kingdom, not the gospel of the church.”
So, whether it is a network of house churches or whatever, we are being called to give birth to spiritual sons and daughters who will in turn multiply, discipling them to be on about the Kingdom of God, and thus not worrying about the many good things (food and drink), but about the God things: righteous and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
In this way I pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.”