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The Operating System: A Parable

To the extent that a book can be a major influence on a life, The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person by E. Stanley Jones has been so on mine. Jones does as complete and thorough an explanation of the Kingdom of God as you can find. Jones relates in the Introduction how he was once told that “you possess the Kingdom and the Kingdom possesses you.” When I first read those words all I could think was “Yes!” because that was exactly how I felt but I found so few resources that supported that feeling. Only a page later he writes that he was accused by an Anglican bishop of being “obsessed” by the Kingdom of God. I have never been so accused. Because I so often raise the Kingdom in writings and discussion without much response, however, I often feel that the accusation just goes unspoken out of fear of offending me.

I recently learned that someone I knew had died. He was characterized as “having gone to be with the Lord.” When I heard that, it occurred to me that the statement reflects why I get poor responses in discussions about the Kingdom. Yes, he is now fully with Christ and in that sense is with the Lord and in the Kingdom of God. The implicit message of the phrase, however, is that being with the Lord is something that we experience only after we die. That is the product of centuries of teaching by the Church that the Kingdom is something we achieve after death when we are reunited with the Lord after a good Christian life. That may be a truth, but it is not the whole truth.

I fashion myself a wordsmith and overall a pretty good communicator. Nevertheless, I have been stymied in efforts to explain the Kingdom of God. I see it, feel it, and live in it, at least sometimes. That is why I have great passion for it. Nevertheless, I consistently have been unable to put it into words that reach others and explain the beauty and simplicity of the Kingdom. The Earth, humans, and the entirety of the universe were created to reflect the character of God, and not sometime in the future. This is not a trial run. We have been given life to live here in that Kingdom, but we have focused so much on reaching it after death that we just do not see it, feel it, or live in it now as intended.

Living in peace with God and others in the Kingdom of God is our natural state. It is why we were created. The Kingdom is the foundation of all that exists. It does not stand outside creation. Indeed, it is just the opposite. All creation, including Earth and everything on and in it now, exists within the Kingdom. It animates and orders all of life. We disconnect from that power and order, however, because we have been infected by sin, which has deluded us into thinking that we can control our lives and do not need to be connected with God. Stated simply, we have been created to live with God but experience disorder in our lives when we follow sin that leads us away from God. So why do I have such a hard time explaining that?

Maybe there is a new parable that will help. Jesus frequently started his parables by saying that the Kingdom is like…  He used everyday things with which his audience could relate to explain the Kingdom. I think if he was with us in body today he might say that that life in the Kingdom of God is like…your computer.

Most of us are familiar to a greater or lesser degree with the use of computers. We use a host of applications to be productive and informed in all manner of computers, from phones to pads, laptops, and desktops. We have an application that helps us create documents. Another application helps us use spreadsheets to organize data. Another application facilitates our email. Yet another connects us to and helps us use the internet. And so on and so on. There is an application to help us doing practically anything we want. If not, just describe the need and I am sure someone will invent it.

Behind all the applications in our computers is an operating system. We hardly know the operating system is present. It announces itself when we first start the computer but thereafter hardly even appears to be present. For most of us it is either Windows or Mac. Once we select an application to use the operating system seemingly vanishes. We do not see it or hear it. Nevertheless, it is what makes the application work properly as intended by the creator of the application. A virus in the application, however, will make it not function properly, or even not function at all. More sinister, however, is the virus that does not appear to diminish functionality, but silently steals data for use by others and perhaps disrupt our lives in ways beyond the specific application. To restore the application to its proper use and interaction with the operating system it must be purged of the virus.

The Kingdom of God is the Operating System for Earth. Without interference, the Kingdom of God would be assuring that Earth and everything in and upon it, including us, would function now as intended by God, its Creator. Each of us is a bundle of applications connected to that Operating System. We have an application called Faith, one called Sexuality, one called Career, one called Recreation, and one called Relationships for which we can select add-ins such as Marriage, Parenthood, and many others. We have innumerable applications from which we choose to create the bundle we call Life.

God not only created all of Earth, but he designed all our applications. He created them to work in harmony with the Operating System, the Kingdom of God. They do not, however, because they are infected with a virus called sin. Sin can infect every aspect of Life and cause every application to not function as created and intended. The infection can be dramatic and cause complete dysfunction of an application, or it can be silent and just eat away at us from within without us ever knowing it is happening, deluding us into thinking the application is working fine and we are in control. The problem is that sin has infected us so broadly and deeply and for so long that we are accustomed to it and prefer it because we do not know how our applications, our Life, will function without it. So, we choose to do nothing about the virus and just proceed through Life in a dysfunctional way not intended by our Creator. Left untreated, however, the virus in the end will destroy all the applications and cause the bundle of applications we call Life to cease functioning and end in death.

The Good News is that God knows there is the virus, sin, that has infected us and wants to remove it from our lives so that we can begin to have applications in our Life bundle that function now, not after death, as the applications were designed to operate. They can connect with and become part of the Kingdom of God as intended. For centuries God revealed himself and sent teachers and prophets to explain that to us. Then, at the right time, he came to us in the body and flesh of Jesus to show and teach us what it means to live life as part of the Kingdom of God; that is, to be completely connected to our Operating System. He even endured a dramatic and painful death to prove to us through his resurrection that we were not created to die infected by sin, but rather to live life fully and eternally connected to and as a part of the Kingdom. Not only that but he promised to leave with us his very spirit, the Holy Spirit, as the technician to help purge us now of the virus and restore the applications of our Life to their functions within the Kingdom as intended by God.

The Christian Church has well communicated the eternal aspect of the Kingdom of God and life eternal in that Kingdom. If, however, God intended to simply clear us of the consequences of viral death through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and restore us to the Kingdom after we die, expecting us to change our behavior to be as intended and do our best to live life as good Christians, then the Holy Spirit has no purpose. The purpose of the Holy Spirt is not to help us to act more lovingly, kindly, and joyfully. Those are all unquestionably fruits of the Spirit and often become the aspirational goals of many Christians to try to become better Christians. Those folks may work hard to improve their lives. The Holy Spirit, however, helps us be released from sin in our life and commence reconnecting us to the Operating System – the Kingdom of God. We are transformed into the people we were created to be, free of the virus of sin. As renewed and redeemed Christians, we then show the fruits of the Spirit not because we work hard to act fruitfully but because we become people who are naturally loving, peaceful, joyful, and kind. We become the people we were intended to be.

In Matthew 6:33 Jesus taught, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We can seek to do things that are more loving, kind, or patient. We may even succeed by doing loving, kind, or patient things. We may even be so strong in controlling ourselves that we come to practice and consistently exhibit those behaviors. If we try to do that as a matter of our will rather than as an operation of the Holy Spirit, however, it will be for nothing. The problem is that we are seeking to fix our applications by changing our behavior without first seeking to fix the connection with the Operating System. That does not purge us of the virus or restore us to life in the Kingdom now. We cannot bring the Kingdom into life on Earth by changing our behavior by our will. Only surrender of control to Christ, and thereafter transformation by the Holy Spirt, can do that. We cannot restore Life to the Kingdom of God by what we do. That can happen only through who we become. That transformation can happen only by Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. Seek first restoration to the Operating System then purging the virus from your applications becomes much easier.

Our great problem is that we have become so comfortable with the virus of sin operating in our lives that we actually believe we are in control and can make the applications of our Life function as intended. The problem is that the intent is ours, not the intent of the designer of the applications, God the Creator. The world, and we, can function as God intended now. The Operating System is operating in our lives now. We just do not see it because we are not paying attention, and the fact that we do not see it does not mean it is not there. Allowing the Holy Spirit to purge us of sin and restore us to the Kingdom may not be something we are able to do completely now, but we can begin the process, and see and feel how we were intended to live connected to the Kingdom now, piece by piece, application by application.

If you have ever had a virus in one of the applications of your computer and had it removed, restoring the functionality of the application as intended, the relief and peace you felt then is just a glimmer of what you can feel by accepting that you are controlled by sin and surrendering your life, and control of your life, to Christ and begin to live free of the virus of sin. Seek first the Kingdom — restoration of your connection to your Operating System — by acknowledging that sin has corrupted that connection and submitting to Christ for restoration, and all these things — the purge of the virus of sin from your applications — will be added unto you.

The purge is a lifelong exercise and never complete because none of us can completely surrender control to the Holy Spirit. That is what happens after death — the complete restoration and renewal of life as intended by God, in the fullness of his Kingdom. The time will come when Christ restores the Earth completely to the Operating System of the Kingdom and there will be a new Earth where the virus of sin and death is no more. Until then, we can begin to realize and live as intended as much as we can release of the applications of Life to purging by the Holy Spirit. It is a process of identifying dysfunction in one of your Life applications, surrendering it to the Holy Spirit for transformation, praying that you will discern the new ways in which you are led, and then acting on those new feelings and thoughts.

I am a very hard-headed person. When I have a problem in my computer it takes a great deal of humiliation before I turn to the Geek Squad for help. I always think I can fix it myself. My struggle with submission to and transformation by the Holy Spirit is similarly painful. I almost always go down fighting. There have been a few times, however, when I finally have surrendered just a small piece of my life and I have experienced the peace and assurance of knowing that I have become exactly the person, and doing exactly as, I was intended. In those moments I see how life is intended to be lived now in the Kingdom. It is amazing. Those moments are far too few because I still am way too hard-headed to think I cannot control what happens in my life. Why I am like that I can only attribute to the power of sin as a virus infecting my life. I truly know better even if I do not live by that knowledge. It is those few moments, however, when I have seen how my life functions in the Kingdom that have made me proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom whenever I can. And so, I have done it again here. If you find me obsessed, then I admit to it. But it is a glorious obsession!

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Welcome, I'm Tom

I'm Tom Trezise a retired lawyer and corporate executive with over twenty years of experience as a Methodist lay preacher. Raised in Appalachia, I proudly call myself a hillbilly at heart. I'm the executive director of The Everyday Kingdom, a non-profit devoted to fostering a community that helps people find and experience the peace, purpose, and joy available from living every day in Christ’s kingdom.

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