Let's get hypothetical.
Imagine a countryside divided into different lots. There are separated properties everywhere, and each one is home to a different person and the house they have built. I have one, you have one, and every other person on earth has one.
Amidst all these properties and their respective owners, there stands a giant palace. It's not merely a building, it's a kingdom. With towers that touch the sky and landscaping as sumptuous as a dream, it simply screams "Power." The roads are paved with solid gold, the river that runs through it is like liquid crystal, and the citizens work hard to expand its territory. The whole structure is awe-inspiring, and causes outsiders to tremble. The King is obviously a formidable opponent- not somebody to cross paths with. His servants are dedicated, His reign is unstoppable, and His display of power is impossible to overlook.
I've been living next door for some time, and so have you. I've got a little place of my own. It has a great view, beautiful woodwork, plenty of space, and everything I could possibly need. The roof might be leaking and I guess the windows have no glass, but I've got it under control. The floors get cold without any heating or rug, but it's nothing a pair of wool socks can't fix. I suppose the basement is more often flooded than not, but that's just life. Yes, I've noticed the bites on my body that the bed bugs leave, but it's nothing a quick wash of the sheets can't remedy. I've noticed your place, too. It's nice and cozy! You might consider letting in more natural light, seeing as you haven't got any electricity, but that's not a problem- at least it's a place to call your own, right?
Our neighborhood is a lovely community. We've all got our own place, just the right size for a single person to live in. Sure, our properties aren't very large, but that can be overlooked. We've all been invited to move into the Kingdom next door... but there really is no need. We usually have enough food for one good meal a day, and can just use perfume to mask the smell of the mould in our ceilings. It may not be much to look at, but this is home. This house is my masterpiece. It's my work of art. The Kingdom next door really does look like a wonderful place to live- but I just haven't got the time. I'm working on putting in new insulation.
You and I are just like Prince John from the tale of Robin Hood. We look around at the 'kingdom' we've made for ourselves, and see it as a glorious castle. We look at our achievements, our friends, our awards, and we see them as the products of our supreme rule. We ignore our title of "Prince," and instead parade around, calling ourselves "King." We ignore the bankruptcy, death, and decay that surrounds our houses, and instead boast of our authority over our lives. We exalt ourselves and imagine that we've got everything under control, completely overlooking the shambles and wreckage that our kingdom lies in. We're nothing but bumbling fools bragging about our great shacks, proclaiming them to be bigger and better than the palace next door.
You might be saying to yourself, "I never think that...." But we do. Every single time we push aside our time with God in favour of "Me" time, we turn away from the splendour of His Kingdom and begin to admire our shack. When we choose selfishness over generosity, laziness over ministry, or self-absorption over worship, we are bowing down to the mirror. How more much time do we spend looking at ourselves in the mirror than looking at ourselves through God's convicting Word? How much more do we compare ourselves to our fellow fallen humans than to the precepts written in His Book?
As we sit pridefully in our little closet, maybe we've noticed that our former neighbors have burned down their houses. The true servants of Christ have destroyed their shacks, and can now be seen building onto the magnificence of God's Kingdom next door. They have left our little impoverished community for the great Palace just across the Way. What do you make of it?
Psalm 149:4 - "He crowns the humble with victory."
Psalm 147:10-11 - "He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love."
Psalm 146:3-5 - "Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper- whose hope is in the Lord their God."
Need a bit more evidence? Well, there's a Bible full of the painful Truth: We suck, and God rocks. We are momentary blips who can produce nothing good on our own strength. And even so, the God who created the Universe is CONSTANTLY thinking of US. Meanwhile, He is the Most Mighty Being, too Holy for even angels to look at... and we hardly consider him worth our precious time.
When it is convenient for us, we pay attention to the eternal One who is always paying attention to us and our needs. He never takes a break from His watch over us. He never stops calling us to Himself. He doesn't stop. We're the ones who occasionally glance at Him from a distance, content with the wreckage that we are living in. We are the kings of all we own, which leaves us as the kings of the rubbish heap. The mayors of Loserville.
We've been invited into the very presence of God, and there's only one requirement: the old has got to go. We cannot move into the city of God if our hearts are still tied to the trash pile we once called home. If we call ourselves ambassadors of Heaven, then our earthly pride must be done away with.
1 Timothy 6:17-19 - "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life."
Our riches can provide nothing but momentary pleasure, extensive uncertainty, and stress. Let's rely on God. He richly provides. Let's do good. Let's allow our richness to come from our good works. Let's be generous and ready to be share. Let's store our treasure in Heaven. Let's take hold of that which is truly life. Could anything else be so fulfilling?
Daniel 2:44 - "During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever."
Galatians 6:14 - "As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died."
Matthew 6:33 - "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
Grabbing hold of this True Life will be a struggle. It involves turning from the mirror to the Bible. It involves getting out of bed and putting effort in. It involves getting so low that there is nowhere to look but up. It involves acknowledging our weaknesses, and recognizing the majesty and perfection of Him who never abandons us. It involves dying to ourselves, and coming alive in the service of the Most High.
It involves setting fire to our shacks, and moving in to the Castle next door.