Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
– John 18:33-18a
“The great enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ today is the idea of practical work that has no basis in the New Testament but comes from the systems of the world. This work insists upon endless energy and activities, but no private life with God. The emphasis is put on the wrong thing. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation….For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). It is a hidden, obscure thing. An active Christian worker too often lives to be seen by others, while it is the innermost, personal area that reveals the power of a person’s life.
“We must get rid of the plague of the spirit of this religious age in which we live. In our Lord’s life there was none of the pressure and the rushing of tremendous activity that we regard so highly today, and a disciple is to be like His Master. The central point of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship with Him, not public usefulness to others.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
In His discussion with Pilate, Jesus says that His kingdom is in another place. Indeed, when you tie that in with Chambers’ reference to Luke 17, Jesus and the kingdom of God is within us.
Jesus told the parable of the sheep and the goats. For a time, some portions of the Christian followers felt that Jesus was speaking literally, and when you helped some unfortunate soul, that person might really be the reincarnated Christ. This belief did not last more than about a century or two.
We must not lose the concept of service toward others, but our primary goal must be to become more like Jesus. Read the Gospels again. Look for instances where Jesus sought people to heal versus times when the infirmed did everything that they could do to get Jesus’ attention. There was a crush of people who sought a miracle from Jesus. At times, Jesus just wanted to be left alone. Oddly, on a few occasions, Jesus simply passed through the crowd and off to a solitary place. I wish I had that gift. When people try to drag me into the modern ‘religious’ service machine, they attach themselves like leeches. They will not let go until all the blood is drained.
But what do we do when invited to serve? First, we need to determine whether the service is doing God’s will or the will of someone else. Then, we need to know whether the service is a good fit for us. Will it detract from our goal of becoming more like Jesus? Will it take up too much of our free time? Is there an escape clause or a clearly defined end date? Once we have that information, we still need to pray about it.
If the person wanting us to volunteer applies pressure, run away. First, no one in a ‘religious’ service organization should try to stop you from praying. But, I was taught that in a job interview, if the hiring manager applies pressure, they are deceiving you. There is something wrong about that job offer and they want you to commit before you learn what that bad thing is. In the case of doing volunteer work, there is something wrong about the service project or the job you are being offered within that organization. Something lays hidden, and it is not pirate gold.
But when we have budgeted enough time in our daily lives, not just occasionally, to reading God’s word and prayer, then we will have enough strength, God’s strength, to do a lot in the time remaining. Building on what Chambers says in the quote, that private life with God will become a relationship of which nothing gets in the way.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.