Finding the Heart of Kingdom Territory (Lane)
Finding the Heart of Kingdom Territory
by Lonnie Lane
“Most of My people only live on the outskirts of My kingdom,” the Lord told me one day. I sat listening, expectant of what He would say next. “There is an interior land that very few have ever entered, let alone dwelt in. A few venture there and come back and tell others about it, but few have any idea that there is Kingdom territory that has yet to be entered and few have yet to make it a place in which to dwell.”
I sat and pondered what He had just said to me. I could see that there is a limit to how much Kingdom “territory” I actually do live in. I think of myself as a Kingdom-dwelling person, a loyal subject of the King. But I quickly knew that I wasn’t walking in total peace all the time, completely without any fear of man or of rejection such as the early church seemed to, I’m not as healed as I would like to be, nor am I entirely as free as the Gospel says I should be. There are constantly things I’m “working on,” as I try and be a better follower of the Lord. But most of all, I don’t live in an awareness of His presence beyond a teaspoon full when an ocean is available to me. I had to admit I’m not living in the interior of Kingdom life but on the perimeter of all God has for me. I have yet to dwell in the heart of the Kingdom.
As I thought about it, I knew I wasn’t alone. Many of us are camped out here on the outskirts pretending we’re safe in the center. Like Israel, we have the deed to the Land of God’s Promises but too many of us are still living in a desert in comparison. When the Lord made that statement to me, I was immediately reminded of Moses sending ten spies into the Promised Land. They came back with tales of how glorious it was, of how enormous the fruit was, of how lush and prosperous the Land appeared to be. But only two believed God’s word to them enough to act upon it and be willing to go forward and move into the Land to make it theirs. As we know, the fear, reticence and unbelief of the other ten consigned the entire nation into forty years a generation’s worth of time of wilderness-wandering instead of Promised Land-dwelling. And only the two who believed God lived to enter the Land and inherit their own territory. “Not any of these men, this…generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers except Caleb…; he shall see it and to him and to his sons I will give the land on which he set his foot because he has followed the Lord fully” (Deut 1:35, 36). Wow, followed the Lord fully! Would He say that about me? The other of the two was Joshua and we know he got to lead Israel into the Land. Little did he know when he chose to believe God that day that he would one day take over when Moses died. If Joshua’s lifestyle of trusting God and believing His Word is also ours, we have no idea what Kingdom work God may have for us.
Having been reminded of this, I decided to read in Deuteronomy to see if the Lord had more to say on this and there in the first chapter I read, “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, who this day have no knowledge of good and evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it” (Deut 1:39). What? No knowledge of good and evil? The words stopped me short. The entire generation who were afraid to enter the land refused to do so because they were fearful that their children would be victims of the giants in the Land and would not survive. They didn’t know the Lord well enough to believe He would protect their children. But somehow, these same children had “no knowledge of good and evil.”
“Lord,” I asked, “what does this mean, that a generation was without the knowledge of good and evil?” This was the very thing that God warned Adam against even before He created Eve: “From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Eating of the tree brought to him the knowledge of good and evil. This resulted in spiritual death first, and though it took Adam 900 years to actually die physically, eating of that tree hurled Adam and Eve from a place of sublime peace and security in the glorious presence of God, to a life more like what we know today, far from any experience of living in God’s full glory and immediate intimate fellowship with Him. It was the greatest tragedy of creation and we have yet to recuperate from it. They became spiritually dead to God and suddenly they feared Him and hid from Him. He was still the same; only they weren’t. And mankind lived from that time on unresponsive to God as if they were dead to Him. Many centuries later, mankind would even think that God was dead, because He didn’t seem alive to them.
How then could there be a generation without the knowledge of good and evil? We have a constant barrage of thoughts going on in our minds: This is good…that’s bad…she’s really good…he’s really bad…that’s not half-bad (meant as a compliment)… oh, I just love this…I really hate when that happens…on and on. We assess things and people and situations continually as to their worth. As we grow in the Lord and we live more in His grace than in our own opinions and prejudices, we come more and more out of that mindset. But was that generation that inherited the Promised Land devoid of such judgments? They were, after all, pretty much isolated from any other nations so that their morals, ideals and values only came from God’s Word to Moses we call Torah. “Is that what it means, Lord? To keep ourselves isolated from the world around us?” Many have thought so. The Essenes withdrew into the desert (though some of them did live among the rest of the population of Israel) with the intent of extricating themselves from the corruption of the priesthood in the Temple at the time. The monastic movement was certainly an attempt to isolate from the corruption of the world.
But Yeshua made it clear that He was “not of the world” (John 8:23) and neither were His followers to be, but we certainly are to be “in” it as a light and a witness of Yeshua and the salvation of God. How could the world know of Him if all the believers ceased to live among them? How could we be salt and light to influence the communities in which we live if we didn’t live in them? No, that’s not what He meant. Perhaps the issue is about not being judgmental. We are to be as Yeshua was and He “did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47). When the disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven because of a town that didn’t accept Yeshua, He told them, “You don’t know what kind of spirit you are of” (Luke 9:55), meaning, that kind of thinking is not from the HOLY spirit, but from another spirit that wants to destroy rather than save. His ministry was one of mercy and salvation. Even His words to the Pharisees, which many see as judgment, couldn’t have been judgment because He himself said that He didn’t come to judge. They were rather words to try and get them to rethink their positions against Him. He wanted with all His heart for them to change their heart attitudes toward Him. He knew His destiny on earth was to die, but it broke His heart to think these men would consign themselves to an eternity in hell if they did not turn to Him instead of against Him. And many of them in fact did turn to Him.
Perhaps being without the knowledge of good and evil means to be without judgment against others. I remember reading somewhere, “Grace is discernment without judgment.” Why? Because judgment condemns. Judgment judges the person you are judging as unworthy of grace. Be it about a major transgression or something as simple as unkindness, since “He has established His throne for judgment” (Ps 9:7), it would seem that judgment is the Lord’s own prerogative regardless of what it is. Further, “the Lord of Hosts will be exalted in judgment and the holy God will show Himself as holy in righteousness” (Is 5:16). Our judgments aren’t likely to be holy as God is holy. Not yet. And we can’t know the person’s deepest heart-motivation, which is where God’s judging takes place. “The Lord tests hearts” (Prov. 17:3) If we judge, are we presuming to stand in the place of God?
We are certainly in need of discernment, aren’t we, Lord? I asked. What a work You must have to do in us so that we are discerning and not judging. Aren’t we judging rather than discerning when we categorize even our own brothers and sisters in the Lord by their spiritual gifting or doctrines? If we decline to be in fellowship with people who don’t see things quite like we do, isn’t that judging? If we make a distinction that Yeshua never made, isn’t that judging rather than discerning? If we don’t accept someone that He accepts, aren’t we judging where He has not? Does that keep us out of dwelling in the spiritual Land of Your promises, Lord?
I continued to ponder this issue, asking God more questions as they came to me, trying to get a grasp on what it would mean to actually be a people without the knowledge of good and evil. And then, in the midst of an awesome worship service when you sense the presence of the Lord and His pleasure, as I continued to hold this matter in my spirit, He said to me, “It’s about Me. The knowledge of good and evil is about the way I am seen. It’s not about you (plural), or your behavior or desiring things that aren’t “good.” It’s about how you see Me.”
I was stunned. I sat down to let it sink in. What God told Adam when He warned him not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not about coming into an experiential knowledge of sin and all the bad and evil that they would come to know and even perpetrate, as I have always thought. It wasn’t a warning about what Adam would become or “do.” It was a warning that, if they entertained anything having to do with what God said was forbidden, they would begin to doubt the goodness of God which is all they had known. The goodness of God was their only reality. But God knew the temptation to doubt His goodness would be the calculated lie of the evil one and therefore the very doubt itself would be evil.
A people without the knowledge of good and evil is a people who wholly trust in the goodness of God without reservation. They believe His word to them is true and that God’s character and nature are altogether good and therefore they can put their entire… complete… full… whole… undivided… intact… uncompromised and total trust in Him. The generation that was born on the Sinai desert and experienced God’s goodness to keep them, one incident after another, had the trust in Him and the faith in Him that enabled them to overcome any giants or obstacles and to obey and take the Land so as to fully dwell throughout the territory God promised to give them.
So it stands to reason that the people of God for whom Yeshua will return, will be a people who see God as good, altogether good, entirely good and only good and who “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). We will love our Abba, and trust and obey Him, just as Yeshua did when He walked the earth. How else could we be a suitable bride for Him?
Now you may say, “But I believe God is good.” I hope so. I would have said so too. But then I began to see places where I doubted God’s goodness to me. The first thing that happened was I had a call from the doctor that I needed to come in after they got some blood tests results back. Usually they just called when I had a check up and said everything is normal. But not this time. “Lord, what’s this all about?” Nothing. I hear nothing. So I begin to …well, to worry a little. What if…..? Then my thoughts went to what if I had something serious. Would God allow that? What if He did? Would He do so to teach me something? I didn’t really believe that God puts sicknesses on people to teach them things. I’ve watched a dear friend die of cancer and that wasn’t of God, I can assure you. And if Yeshua went about healing people, if it was God’s will for people to be sick, He would have been going against God’s will and that certainly isn’t true. So why are people who love Him sick? Would He let me be one of them? Could I trust in His goodness then? I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is good. But what if He withholds His goodness sometimes? Why is there sickness and evil in the world? “Why do You still let evil happen in this world, Lord?” I asked, fearing lest my tone of voice have the least bit of accusation in it. “Why do you allow people to suffer?” No answer; I didn’t really expect one to this monumental question of existence. What if God defines goodness differently than I do and His idea of good isn’t what I would define as good? Then what?
As it turned out there was nothing wrong with my blood tests, but it showed me that I had doubts as to God’s goodness even though I really believe He is good and good only and always. In my heart of hearts, when faced with possibilities that were not-so-good I had doubts. And so I have begun to let God shine the light of His Holy Spirit into the deepest parts of my soul, of my personality, to let Him show me where any dark spots are hidden, and where any doubt as to His goodness might be. For that is the foundational issue trust! A while ago He told me that He was going to give me (us) new keys to ancient locks. I believe this is one of them. In fact, this having been the very issue God warned Adam about would make it perhaps the most critical of keys to unlock one of the most critical of issues for God’s people.
How we each see God greatly determines what happens in our lives. Our values, our choices, our hopes and our aspirations all are linked to our paradigm of God and how we believe God impacts, or has no bearing, on our lives. That’s one reason why being “born again” (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:3, 23) so radically changes how we see God and see ourselves in relation to Him. “Unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Suddenly, we are aware of the Kingdom of God right there superimposed upon our lives. While not all may be born again, it still applies that how a nation of people generally sees God determines the destiny of that nation. The wars and activities of Islamic nations and their foreign policy are primarily directed by their idea of God. Israel’s view of God is evidenced in their military successes. Even those who are not religious believe that God will somehow take care of them and He has! Israel believes God has given them that Land and He will see to it that it is theirs, even if it may look otherwise for a season. God is patient but He will fulfill His Word. America’s values internally in our nation and in our foreign policy have historically been motivated by our Judeo-Christian beliefs. Our choice of a president is fundamentally related to what we believe, or don’t believe, that God expects of us in our national concerns.
But to return to our issue at hand, can we be a people, a world-dwelling, politically savvy people, a community-involved people, a media-inculcated people (meaning that our culture and cultural values are largely defined for us by the media), and not be judgmental? When God gave the Torah to Israel within those instructions is the manual for living without judgment. If you “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might” (Deut 6:5), you are trusting in His goodness to permeate your life. Yeshua said, “It shall be done for you as you have believed” (Matthew 8:13). A friend of mine was telling me just yesterday that at some point in her life she believed she would have to learn to live with little when she had gone into ministry in a foreign country. “You know,” she said, “that’s exactly what I had, nothing. But then God began to show me He gave me His very best in Yeshua, and He wanted to bless me. As I believed Him for more, more came to me.” When Israel believed God for good, good is what they experienced. The same applies, of course, for followers of Yeshua. We “follow” His faith in His Father!
In the commandments God told Israel to “bear no false witness.” (Exodus 20:16) Well, that’s certainly about judgment, isn’t it? Basically the commandment is saying, “Your opinions are false witnesses; don’t bring them to bear.” False witnesses are about seeing through the lenses of the supposed knowledge of good and evil in another person, aren’t they? But if we can’t really tell what’s in the heart of another person, we have no idea really what transpires between them and God, or what their motives in life are. So to draw a conclusion without full knowledge and to tell others what we think, is to bear false witness. You would think when God was giving Moses the commandments to establish a righteous nation, it would be about things of greater magnitude than… uh, well, gossip. But how we assess one another and talk about each other is the underpinning of a nation! You might think that’s a pretty outrageous statement to make, but God made it that important, not me. How many people or things have you entertained a false witness about? How about the fact that the media is largely based on such witnesses, don’t you think? Oi vey. I hate to even think about it. Do we really know what is going on in the hearts of those whose stories are paraded before us as if it was the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? I don’t think so?
How about the prime commandment to “honor your father and mother so your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you” (Exodus 20:12). There’s the matter of the Promised Land again. Judgments against one’s parents were punishable by death according to God’s laws to Israel. “He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death” (21:17). [We’ll pause for a bit here to give some of you a moment to repent.] Without that kind of judgment of parents in a society, there is no delinquency, no disrespect, no rebellion. Children who honor their parents grow up to be parents worthy of respect from their own children. Such a society is a stable one with pretty much no crime rate and just about nothing to fear, especially if you never have to fear that someone will “covet” (presumably so as to steal) what is yours, be it your property or your spouse. (20:17)
The more I thought about it, the more I could see that it is possible to be a people who live unto God apart from a knowledge of good and evil. In our quest to see the relevance of Torah, starting with creation, for the church today, being a people without the knowledge of good and evil would certainly be a significant part of that. The ironic thing is that it will take great discernment to enter into that. Discernment is always needed, along with wisdom. Grace, as was said above, is discernment without judgment. Yes, that sounds like my Yeshua to me. Harmless!
Each of us will have to make our own choices in good conscience unto the Lord on a daily basis to walk this out, incident by incident. As I write this, it is during the days prior to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a time to examine our lives before the Lord to see where we may need to repent, but anytime is a good time to repent. To repent means “to turn” (shuvee in Hebrew); we turn from what displeases God and turn toward Him and His ways.
As I seek to align my life with God’s Word and His ways, I am once again grateful to God for the gift of knowing that He is holy (not everyone does) and that He allows us to see into the practicalities of His holiness in these ways. As I come to Him to ask for Him to create Himself in me, I can turn from the knowledge of good and evil and say no to the tendency to judge according to my own standards. There may be things I have to disassociate myself from. Conversations I may have to opt out of. People I receive that others don’t. But what is of great value and precious often requires a sacrifice. Precious will be the fellowship of saints who also choose not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Those are saints you can trust to take the journey to holy territory with you without fear they may judge you and not extend mercy to you if you fall short. I’m headed for the interior of the Promised Land of His presence. Wanna come with me?