by David Sisler
When the waitress walked over, the woman said, "I'll have the breakfast special. I want my pancakes well done--cooked all the way through and brown on both sides. I don't want butter, give me margarine instead. Regular syrup is too sweet, I want the dietetic syrup. I want my bacon lean, crisp and dry, and it must be served on a separate plate."
"Yes, ma'am," replied the waitress. "And how would you like your eggs cooked?"
The woman smiled and answered, "I don't care. I'm not fussy."
The Apostle Paul may have had people like that customer in mind when he wrote to the Roman Christians, "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Can you imagine giving such exacting instructions about pancakes, butter, syrup and bacon and then not being concerned about how your eggs are cooked?
Jesus said the Pharisees would pick a fly out of their drink and then swallow a camel. They were so scrupulous as to pay tithe of their spices, but the really important things, like justice, mercy and faithfulness, they neglected.
Paul's Roman audience was like that.
In those days, meat may have been dedicated to an idol god before it went on sale. One man's faith was strong enough to allow him to eat anything. Another man's faith was weak. He would only eat vegetables, because they were never offered to the heathen gods. One man insisted on a designated day as the proper day for worship. Another man worshipped every day.
The members of the church in Rome had trouble getting along with each other. They identified religion with such minor things as custom and convention. Personal idiosyncrasies were more significant than the deep things of the Gospel. Their religious life was defined in terms of trivial details.
The kingdom of God, God within our lives, Paul said is righteousness--life put right. So many people see life as a jig-saw puzzle with some of the pieces missing. They seem to be living in a maze and have no clue as to the right direction.
Paul said we must surrender to the reign of God. The Psalmist asked, "How can a young man find the straight way?" "I am the way," Jesus answered, "if you follow me you will not walk in darkness. You will not stumble over uncertain ground." That is God's kingdom--a life of righteousness, life put right.
God within our lives is peace--life at rest. Paul knew the deep unrest of his own life before he met Jesus. But in God's kingdom there is rest from the endless striving, from disappointments and regret, from remorse and guilt.
Peace is one of the most precious words associated with the Gospel. Jesus invited, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Jesus counselled, "Let not your heart be troubled, believe in Me." If you trade your past for His forgiveness, surrender your present into His control, and trust your future to His guidance, you will have peace.
God within our lives is joy that surpasses our circumstances. Jesus said the joy of discovering the life of God was like a man plowing a field. Suddenly, the plow struck an object underground and it was wrenched from his hands. The plow turned up a jar filled with treasure. With joy he ran home and sold everything he owned so he could buy the field and possess the jar.
Joy is the authentic note of God's righteousness, God within our lives. This is my Father's world. I am a child of the King. My future is in my Father's hands.
The kingdom of God, Paul said, is not trivialities. It is life put right, at rest, made radiant, because in our hearts we let God have His way, and crown Jesus Lord of all. That is not trivial. That is tremendous!
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 10/29/94
Copyright 1994 by David Sisler
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