Handling the Keys of the Kingdom
by Chris Tiegreen
I can still remember my “season of discovery”—that time after someone becomes a Christian when everything is new, the whole Bible comes alive and waits to be explored, and every truth becomes deeply personal. (Not that those seasons have to fade, but they seem especially intense in the first few months of faith.) And I can still remember the thoughts that went through my mind when I read that I had authority over snakes, scorpions, and every power of the enemy (Luke 10:19); that as an abider in Christ, I could ask whatever I wish and it would be done for me (John 15:7); and that I have the power to move mountains with my words (Mark 11:23). I felt like a spiritual Superman.
I tried out that authority, a few well-chosen prayers, and some choice words for the mountains in my life. Nothing. Well, nothing visible and immediate. Apparently there was more to being a spiritual Superman than putting on the cape of a few isolated verses.
I now understand these truths a little better than I used to. I realize how foolish it was to try out my newfound authority in Christ before trying out my newfound character, values, and priorities in Christ. Clearly, the kingdom agenda and abiding in Him involve a maturing process. Few of us receive the keys of the kingdom, stick them into God’s ignition switch, and immediately go for a spin on the highway. We need a little driver’s training first. We need to understand that we don’t grab for the perks of the gospel we most desire while ignoring the responsibilities that come with it. It’s a whole Person who lives inside of us, not just a power supply.
There was more to being a spiritual Superman than putting on the cape of a few isolated verses.
But I still wonder sometimes, in light of the extravagant promises of God, why divine power isn’t just oozing from my pores because of the Christ who lives within me. I’ve gotten clear glimpses of that power, of course—answered prayers, words that really did move mountains, and the unraveling of the enemy’s strategies. But I’ve also experienced painful contradictions to those truths. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced both extremes of that spectrum too. Undeniable miracles, irreconcilable contradictions. A clear “yes” right next to an apparent “no.” And a whole lot of theological gymnastics to try to explain the difference.
The Fork in the Road
I’ve noticed two reactions—both in myself and in others—to the juxtaposition of those extremes. Some people are drawn to God in it, and others are driven away. Some see the “not yet” of promise and pursue Him more zealously and intentionally, while others see the “not yet,” ask a demanding “why not?” and throw up their hands and walk away. This dynamic of partial fulfillment is really a very accurate tester of faith. It reveals a lot about a person’s heart.
Those who press through the questions and even the doubts will discover an encouraging trend. When we grow in God’s presence—when we live as though we are thoroughly and constantly aware of Him—we find that healing flows from our prayers and our hands in increasing measure; that our vision of eternal truths and purposes comes to the screen of our minds much more often; and that the treasure within us burns brighter than all the circumstances around us.
This dynamic of partial fulfillment reveals a lot about a person’s heart.
In the process, we find that brokenness of the vessel reveals the glory inside it (2 Corinthians 4:7); that submission leads to authority (Mark 10:43-44); and that the deepest truths are the simplest (Luke 10:21). It’s an unexpected path to superpower, and it requires the eyes of the kingdom to see the way. But it’s an assured path for those who follow it in faith. Those who come to this fork in the road of faith and choose to pursue the promises will find them wholly true.
A Matter of Presence
Live with the awareness that Jesus is not only with you, He’s in you. Most Christians heartily affirm that great truth and then live each passing moment as though it isn’t true. The fact of Jesus’ presence then takes on all the power of an encouraging pat on the back rather than a living reality. That’s sad—and so much less than God intended.
The only way to experience His presence as a living reality is to talk to Him as though He’s in the room, make decisions as though He’s in your mind, let your feelings blend with His so that your heart coincides with the divine heartbeat, and remind yourself—constantly remind yourself—that He is really, truly, effectively there. As your awareness grows, your experience deepens; as your experience deepens, your inner life is gradually but radically transformed until you are shaped to be like Him; as your life is transformed, the power of the promises becomes more tangible; and as the power becomes more tangible, the outflow increases and bears more fruit.
That’s when authority can be wielded with a sense of maturity, that’s when answered prayers become an observable phenomenon, and that’s when mountains move. When the true spiritual Superman rises in our hearts, the unexpected power changes lives. Especially our own.