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First, the Kingdom (part 4)

Post Title: A Divided Government

How blessed are those that seek the kingdom first. They are the ones being healed and set free in a radically new relationship with their God and one another!

I have been summarizing the big picture ideas of the kingdom: it is a person, a power, a process, and a people. Further, I want to answer the question, what does it all mean for us at the beginning of this new year? To that end, let us continue our study by exploring some of the implications and applications.

The foundational principle of the kingdom is that the initiative always belongs to God; the response must always be ours. He is responsible for the kingdom; we are, in turn, response-able.

The king must have willing people over whom he can exercise his supernatural authority and power. The fullness of the kingdom comes when people say, "Not my, but thy will be done. Rule, Jesus! Take your rightful place over everything in my life." When Jesus is in charge, he takes care of everything.

He can take you through your deepest mourning and bring comfort. He can take you through your troubles and suffering, bringing redemption. The kingdom speaks of God's righteousness, and righteousness speaks of God's redemptive activity in the earth. The acts of God are saving in nature.

This is not rocket science stuff. However, it is incredibly challenging to our natural mind because the world's mindset is that we get by grasping. In the kingdom, you receive by giving. That reality is modeled and explained to us by king Jesus himself, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

But we are of a natural mind that says to become somebody, we to build up ourselves, even at the expense of others. But in the kingdom, we deny all that is false within us so that the king can be the real in us. To be somebody in the kingdom means you become a servant of all.

The initiative of the kingdom is always the king, but the response is always up to you. It is a partnership, a covenant relationship.

That is why, in Matthew 7:21, Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." In other words, it is not enough to profess and to confess, you must also engage in appropriate conduct. The kingdom is always bound up with loving actions in response to God's loving initiative.

Again, this goes contrary to our minds. We like to think theoretically, abstractly; Jesus always thinks concretely. The kingdom has to do with God's actions. That is why the first mention of the concept is on the heels of the redemption from Egypt. The sea is parted, Israel's been redeemed, and Pharaoh's army is destroyed. Then Moses says, "The LORD will reign forever and ever" (Exodus 15:18). In other words, He is the King.

In the same way, those who come under his kingly authority and power are known by their deeds, for their acts.

The adage that Christians are like teabags in that you only see their true colors when they get in hot water is born true so many times in my own experience and what I have seen in others. The fact is you can go to church, say "Lord, Lord," and even receive God's saving grace. Yet, when hard times come, when the storms arise, you find you have built on sand because you have not engaged in your response-ability to his initiative with acts appropriate for the kingdom.

To be clear, we are not now talking about God's initiative, the work of salvation. These are acts done in love and the power of the Holy Spirit. We are talking about yielding to and cooperating with his kingship in your life. We are talking about responding to his saving grace, building on the rock, giving Jesus full authority.

I heard the wife of a Vietnamese pastor speak one night. Her husband had been assassinated two months before, yet she was a woman filled with great joy. I remember her saying, "That we should die for the sake of the kingdom is not an odd thing to us. From our point of view, the kingdom is something you give rather than something you get."

Her powerful perspective brings me to my next point. In my experience, many seek the kingdom, but few seek it first—myself included.

There is mixture in our lives, dear friends—a mixture of the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God. We are experiencing in our country what it is like to have a divided government and it is not a very productive thing. A disunited government is basically paralyzed. If a divided house cannot prosper, how do you think the condition of divided kingdoms in your heart will produce prosperity, peace, wholeness, and integrity?

To the extent there is mixture in our hearts, we deprive ourselves of the redemptive ruling and reigning of Jesus over every aspect of our lives. And to that extent, we miss out on his shalom, wholeness, well-being, integrity, and restoration. Families can be made whole; relationships can be healed under his kingship.

Many seek the kingdom. We all want Jesus to be king. We even sing about it. But do we seek his kingship first?

What does it mean to seek first the kingdom? It means to pursue God's redemptive agenda in the world. God wants to redeem every aspect of your life. His plan is that the earth itself, along with the physical cosmos, will be fully redeemed and set free!

In the meantime, he wants to come in and set free every chain, every burden of your life. He wants you to know the liberty of Christ and the joy of service in his kingdom. How blessed are those that seek the kingdom first. They are the ones being healed and set free in a radically new relationship with their God and one another!

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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

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