Seeking First the Kingdom of God - 08/01/14

Over the last couple of years I have spoken periodically about the disparity I have observed between what the Bible teaches about the Christian life and what is being practiced generally within the church of Jesus Christ in America. For the most part these observations have pointed out the compromises and accommodations that many (me included) within the church have made with the world system (ie. pursuit of the American dream) in direct contradiction to the Word of God. My opinion, based on my limited observation, is that we have embraced a different gospel, which is really not the Gospel of Christ at all. We have confused church membership with the task of making disciples. We have rejected Biblical teachings, with their associated meanings and implications, for messages that are more palatable for us and to those who visit our churches. We have employed a manner of life where thinking and/or talking about something is considered the same as doing it. And we have neglected to teach the whole counsel of God, thereby ignoring foundational doctrines and key teachings that would bring required correction to our living as “salt” and “light” in the world.
In my mind one area that receives little or no attention is Jesus’ use of the expression “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven,” Biblical phrases that are believed to signify the same idea. The expression “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” occurs over 100 times in the New Testament, and was a central theme of Jesus’ teaching and preaching. His pattern was either to proclaim the kingdom and then heal the sick or to first heal the sick and then proclaim the kingdom. But in either case proclamation was always accompanied by supernatural healings, and miracles of varying kinds. Life in the kingdom recognizes that there is a spiritual reality that is superior to our natural world, and that reality has broken into our world in the person of Jesus Christ.
Biblically we recognize that God’s kingdom is not a place but it is the acknowledgement of His sovereignty and a welcoming of Jesus as King. And just as there are natural laws that govern the natural order of things, so there are spiritual laws that govern this, a spiritual kingdom. With the football season soon to be upon us it may be helpful to consider an example from one of America’s favorite past times. If your favorite team were playing this coming weekend, there would be a couple of things that would need to happen if they were to have any chance of winning the game. First, they would have to take the field and actually play the game. They couldn’t stand on the sidelines and talk about playing the game or watch the other team play by themselves and expect to win. Secondarily, when they did take the field, they would need to play by the rules that have already been established. They have to stay onside before the ball is snapped, they must have the proper number of players on the line of scrimmage, in the proper formation, and so on. If the rules are broken, the play is whistled dead and penalties are assessed.
In a like way, if we are going to realize God’s plan and purposes for our lives we must live in the field of play, which is the kingdom of God. We also must recognize that the rules, life principles and practices that govern the kingdom of God, have already been established by God. We don’t get to make up the rules as we go and are disqualified from living in the kingdom if we don’t live by God’s established order. Many of these life principles are set out for us by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew chapters 5-7. These 3 chapters describe our call to live as salt and light in the world, the standards for righteousness within the kingdom, our need to forgive others from the heart, the kind of love that conquers evil, the role of prayer and fasting and the need for child like trust in the Father’s ability to provide for our every need. At the end of this body of teaching Jesus declares that only those that do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21).
I personally have been deeply challenged by Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:33 to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” and in my study over the last several years I have only begun to understand all this means. Jesus is calling us to a way of life, a way of thinking and behaving, that will enable us to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God. However, we must understand and then embrace the laws that govern His kingdom. There is no higher calling, or greater privilege, than living with King Jesus. Let’s journey together and experience the joy that accompanies life in the Kingdom of God.