“For in the human heart the Kingdom of God can be contained.” Saint Seraphim
The human heart can contain the Kingdom of God.
This quote shook me to the core. I’ve read Luke 17:20-21 before, “the Kingdom of God is within you” – in fact, I’ve meditated on it and given talks about it. I’ve also thought a lot about Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has also set eternity in their heart.” Yet, never before did such a revelation occur to me as when I read this quote by Saint Seraphim.
Hardly do we notice God’s Grace in our lives, or thank Him for it, but I wonder how many of us have ever really understood the Grace by which our heart is designed to contain the Kingdom of God. This is a mystery that, above all other things, deserves our praise and thanksgiving.
Truly when God created humankind, he did it with the intention and foreknowledge of His manifestation through Jesus Christ – in that, he made it possible for us to become living temples of the Most High God. We hear it so often, we are created in the image of God – we are growing in His likeness. But do we understand? This is not a process of moral purification as so many of us believe; it is a real death of the old self and birth of new life made possible only by the dwelling of the Almighty God in His Kingdom, in our hearts.
“So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Because God made our hearts His house, I am able to be IN Christ. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except that you abide in Me” (John 15:4). Thus, our entire relationship with God, our most intimate union with Him, the death of the old self and transformation into His likeness, and the gift of living in heaven on earth are all dependant on His design of the human heart, which is capable of holding the Kingdom of God.
Nothing is then more worthy of praise, for what did we do to deserve such grand design? Does this not bring to life David’s words – “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are your works; and that my soul knows well” (Psalm 139:14)? What could be more amazing than divine life dwelling inside a mortal body? It is proof that His intention from the beginning of our creation was (and still is) for us to live in unity with Him for eternity.
What does this mean for you and I? What have we to do with theology and divine design? Just about everything.
But first I want to talk about marriage. Your marriage. The greatest day of your life – perhaps I should say, eternal life. Everyday the Father and Son are knocking at your heart – they want to enter your heart and dine with you (Rev. 3:20). They want to build their Kingdom there, converse with you, and spend time in your presence. In your presence. Inside your heart. What is this dining with God, except a foretaste of our marriage supper with Him? For all of us, whether we realize what this means or not, will either marry our Lord Jesus Christ (there’s going to be an awesome ceremony and everything!!) and be in union with God for eternity…or the other option.
Think about the value of your heart in this light. Your heart was specifically designed to be the dwelling place of God – His Kingdom and dominion. Your heart is an eternal place – for where we are united with the everlasting God, we are living in eternity. Thus, your heart is where you can experience heaven now! Your heart is the site of your death and birth, whereby living in Him we are made new. Your heart is the source of divine life and presence. Your heart is where you are able to preview your marriage to Christ – your most beautiful and precious union with Him.
And this is what God desires, He created it after all.
“And you shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30). Mother Basilea Schlink said that God’s first command is the one most broken, for the battle over our heart is the fiercest and the hardest to detect.
If God so desires our heart, our most important possession, how can we be so careless with it? Think about how recklessly and easily we give our hearts to others – people we don’t know or barely know, people who don’t reciprocate our affections, people who we know full well will mistreat it; break it; or use it for their own benefit, people who have not given Christ a real dwelling place in their own hearts. Why do we do this? I think it is because we have been deceived about the value of our heart – our very own value – and so we let people trample all over it. We let people tear down His throne and destroy His temple, our most intimate meeting place with Him, without so much as a second glance.
We all have different reasons for doing it. Perhaps our natural and god-given desire for acceptance and affirmation has been perverted into a desperate lust for these things. Lust must be fulfilled immediately and at all costs, so we sacrifice the dwelling place of only One who can truly satisfy these desires (for it is He who gave them to us) in search of cheap alternatives. Perhaps we have reached a certain age and our lives aren’t meeting what is socially and culturally expected of us, so we trade God’s kingdom for the first person who can ‘redeem’ us from our ‘condition’. We throw away real redemption and real relationship. Perhaps we are have been so hurt and rejected that we can’t even see our own worth – that God would choose to dwell in our hearts, and all of the beautiful meaning that comes with that reality, is completely lost on us. We are blind.
There are many understandable reasons for the careless disposal of our heart. But just because we can understand something, it does not make it right. We need to carefully examine our lives and how we are treating God’s Kingdom – we cannot expect Him to reign alongside others. What King would dwell in a city without walls where His people welcome attacks from the enemy, where His people basically hand Him over hostage?
Whether we realize it or not, we all want God to reign in our hearts. Everyone wants abundant joy, unshakeable peace, the fire of that first-love relationship – those are things that come from giving God full reign in His Kingdom. These things are the result of a King at work. A King uprooting and destroying weeds, replacing them with His Grace – humility; love; gentleness; patience; self-control; wisdom, is a King enthroned.
Let us begin by confessing our sin in being so careless with our hearts in the past. Let us repent from this by learning to protect it from evil, unnecessary pain and destruction, and giving Him all authority. We must carefully reflect and identify the source of our reckless behaviour and bring whatever unmet needs or desires we have to God daily in prayer (and even fasting). We must review our relationships and seek the truth in them – what is their purpose and how do they affect God’s reign in our heart? Each morning, let us pray for God to show us His desire for our heart. Each night, let us sit before God and ask if He truly ruled there. Let us allow Him to fulfill us before we pursue fulfillment by any other means.
We must also realize that this extends beyond ourselves and to all people. If we have not been aware of the extraordinary price of our own heart, it is more than likely that we have likewise treated other people’s hearts with contempt. How often have we used someone? How often have we purposely or vengefully hurt someone? How often do we disrespect others in our thoughts? Let us come to the realization that each of these things we have done, we have committed against the Kingdom of God that we are so desperate to know personally.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
This proverb has never made more sense to me than now. Let us make it our active purpose to guard our hearts and the hearts of others. Then we will truly be soldiers of the Lord – protecting His Kingdom and promoting His reign.