The Inside Out Kingdom
The kingdom of God is an inside out kingdom, in contrast to the nature and structure of most worldly systems and governments. Luke 17:21 (KJV, NKJV, GW, GNT) says, “…the kingdom of God is within you.” John 7:37-38 (NIV) says, On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” The NASB version adds, Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”
Romans 12:2 (MSG) says, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
Inside out involves processes, systems and/or outcomes which are organic and fruitful, and have divine origin and order. Organic here is defined as “developing in a manner analogous to the natural growth and evolution characteristic of living organisms; arising as a natural outgrowth” (www.Dictionary.com). In contrast, Outside in involves processes, systems and/or outcomes which are artificial and forced, controlled, or manipulated and have human origin and order.
There is a clear progression of growth from the inside out, from children to sons to fathers. It requires managing an “inside life”. The two key influencers are our Heavenly Father, and the inward or the outward focus from the world systems and structures. What we choose to love, and how well we love, will determine the outcomes and what flows from us individually and corporately.
I John 2:12-17 says, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
Babies are formed on the inside, in the womb, and birth is from the inside out. This is true not only in humans, but in all species. This is God’s design for reproduction, and for repopulating the earth and all species. The world’s way of life is from the outside in. Organization charts and Board committees are outside in efforts to try to bring structure, order and process to entities of various types. Marketing and sales and advertising, billboards, social media, television and radio, newspaper and magazines—these are outside in methods and media, respectively, involving processes, networks and programs to get your attention and persuade you to buy something or take some specific action. Effective marketing is realized when core values and needs on the inside are tapped into.
Credentialing, licensing, certification, and continuing education are from the outside in, from academic institutions, professional societies and/or regulatory agencies. These are competency and quality standards, and guidelines or requirements to ensure professionalism, but are not the mission or assignment of the practitioner, nor the service provided by them. The social currency of these credentials is also important, and is not always indicative of learned core values that are often realized in authentic cultures.
For organizations, the corporate culture is the inside out and reflects the core values of senior leadership and shareholders or stakeholders, depending on organizational type and mission. Mars Inc., for example, a privately-held, multi-national, multi-billion-dollar corporation, has five core values: Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom. Culture helps define, undergird, frame and drive corporate identity, mission, goals, policies and behaviors. Culture influences how employees, clients or customers, and other constituents are variously treated, trained, and compensated or rewarded. Essentially, culture empowers the life of the organization, especially if it has its roots in kingdom principles.
We must be born again of water (baptism) and the Holy Spirit to enter the Kingdom of God. John 3:1-6 (NIV) says, Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
Many vegetables grow on the outside of the earth, above ground, but several varieties grow on the inside, below the surface, like potatoes, carrots, radishes, garlic, onions, etc. When we plant a seed and it dies, it germinates and multiplies. John 12:24 (AMP) says, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone [just one grain, never more]. But if it dies, it produces much grain and yields a harvest.” Germination produces life from the inside out.
Soil is not only physical dirt, but spiritually we also put seed in people’s ears, in their hearts, and in the atmosphere. John 12:24-25 (MSG) says, “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”
In the same way that nature works, humans reproduce and demonstrate what is on the inside of them, in their hearts. Prov. 4:23 (NLT) says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” The NIV says, “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” And the NKJV adds, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
The heart expresses itself through both words and actions. Matt. 12:34 says, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander. These are what defile a man, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile him.” Similarly, Matt. 15:18 (NLT) says, “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.” And Luke 6:45 (NIV) adds, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Proverbs 18:21 (AMP) says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.” James 3:9-11 (BSB) adds, “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be! Can both fresh water and bitter water flow from the same spring?”
The heart also expresses itself through attitudes. Both Matt. 22:39 and Mark 12:31 tell us to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s not natural. You have to change on the inside to be able to do that. We are also told in Scripture to love our enemies and to pray for them, and for those who despitefully use us. Similarly, for those who are married, Eph. 5:22-33 discusses husband-wife relationships. Husbands are commanded to love their wives as their own bodies, and as Christ loved the church. Wives are commanded to respect their husbands and to submit to them in everything. This all requires change at the heart level to implement and execute on a daily basis.
We are further commanded to honor our father and mother, and to obey them in the Lord. Fathers are told not to exasperate their children, but instead, to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-4). Masters and servants are also instructed to honor one another, and to treat each other fairly and respect one another as unto the Lord. Employees are likewise exhorted and instructed to behave in similar fashion (Eph. 6:5-9, 1 Pet. 2:18-21, Col. 3:23-24). In our work relationships, God wants right attitudes. He cares about behaviors, and right behavior is important, but right attitude is far more important in God’s eyes. This is only possible by living from the inside out.
Col. 3:23-24 (NIV) says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” The NLT version adds, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.”
The MSG translation (vs. 22-25) states, “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.”
Christ-like attitudes also result in forgiveness, mercy, grace and love being a frequent and ongoing experience – a “new norm” – in the lives of Christians. Sanctification and maturity are ongoing processes for disciples of Christ, rather than destinations or events. These all take place and occur from the inside out, in the heart. Salvation, worship and prayer are also from the inside out, as are the holy sacraments – baptism and communion. John 4:23-24 (NIV) says, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Matt. 6:5-6 adds, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Even our giving is to be in secret – from the inside out – unlike the giving of the world. There are many possible motives for giving, and most gifts involve “mixed motives” – that is, the majority of gifts involve a mixture of altruism or unselfishness (other centric), and self-interest (self-centric). This can express itself in so-called “naming” gifts which result in adding your family’s name on a building, a charitable foundation, a program or school or department, a scholarship, etc. for legacy, reputation, and/ or prestige purposes. In contrast, Jesus taught that our giving should be done in secret. Matt. 6:3-4 (NLT) says, “But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
Moreover, when godly rebuke, admonition or correction needs to be given to another brother or sister in Christ, it should also be done from the inside out, by an individual or small group in a strong enough relationship with the offending party to be trusted, respected, and heard. The party charged to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) to the offending party must do so from a posture of prayer, humility, love, and gentleness, and only after first examining their own motives to make sure their heart(s) is pure and motives clean with the goal of love, restoration and/or reconciliation (Matt. 18:15-17, Gal. 6:1-2). 1 Tim. 1:5 says in this regard, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Finally, even in matters where a disagreement or dispute between believers has occurred, we are instructed to resolve that from the inside out in the Church or Christian community if at all possible, rather than accessing and engaging the world’s courts, which are only intended to be used by believers as a last resort if internal efforts fail. 1 Cor. 6:1-7 says, “If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!
“Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.” There are several reputable Christian mediation and arbitration services available.
In summary and closing, the kingdom of God is an inside-out kingdom. We are changed from glory to glory, and as our minds and hearts are renewed and transformed, we present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Our lives become a sweet-smelling incense unto God. 2 Cor. 2:15 (NIV) says, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” The NLT version says, “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” Our fragrance and aroma both attracts and repels those around us—some to life, and some to death.