Let me summarize this teaching because it is so important.
If you want to help advance the kingdom of heaven, together, we need to be people that are commended to God and commended to the world by our attitudes and actions; and we need to be going about doing good. The kingdom creates and organizes us in such a way that we function to do good works, like our Lord. I call it an incarnational view of the church combined with an ergonomic view of the kingdom.
The church is a kingdom people assembled for kingdom purposes, equipped with kingdom power. And his kingship advances when we, his loyal subjects, operate in his authority and obey his will. In other words, the kingdom advances in redemptive actions and good deeds.
"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," says our King in Matthew 6:33. Why does Jesus add the term righteousness? The answer is found in passages like Micah 6:5. It is a meaningful connection. "O my people, remember [...] that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD."
The righteous acts of God are his saving actions.
Jesus is saying, seek first to submit to God's authority by obeying his words and engaging in redemptive, saving deeds. The kingdom is not a place; it is where the Spirit's power is received and impels you in a walk of holiness, righteousness, kindness, abundance, generosity, humility, and service.
The kingdom advances in good deeds, done in the name of the King.
I know it's hard for you to think like this because you've been conditioned to be suspicious of doing good deeds for fear that you are trying to earn your salvation. The fact is, from the Bible's perspective, every Spirit-empowered good work you do in humility is a response to God's love that advances his kingship in the world.
Now, there is a culturally-conditioned tendency in the American church to think in grandiose terms; we need to infiltrate the government, populate Congress, get our candidates on the Supreme Court. But kingdom people must understand that ours is a mustard seed movement. It begins with little acts of kindness like helping an injured person, speaking a loving word, forgiving someone who is offended, teaching your children, paying fair wages, on time, if you have employees.
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). The kingship of God advances in every good deed. That's what truly honors your Father in heaven. In so doing, his gracious rule and reign come into the earth more and more.
When Jesus teaches us to pray, "Thy kingdom come," he means by it, we have to do the Father's will, "Thy will be done." These two things are inseparable.
Now, if the kingdom doesn't come until the end of all things (is strictly eschatological), then it doesn't matter what we do. We can play our guitars, we can sing, we can teach, we can motivate. But let's face it until Jesus gets back there is not really going to be any serious action.
There is a Hebrew word for that kind of thinking, say it with me, bah-lo-nee. Baloney! Nonsense!
That is why I say to you, stop going to church.
Get over that mindset. Going to church is not biblical terminology. It is found nowhere in the New Testament because it is not a biblical concept. It only makes sense if the church is a place, an institution.
So what is the New Testament terminology? Here is a brilliant example found in 1 Corinthians 11:17. It begins with a warning, "But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you." Notice the phrases, when you come together, and come together as a church.
The New Testament concept is this, kingdom people gather as the church of Messiah Jesus, which is the church of God (1 Cor. 11:22).
If the kingdom is a place, you can go to it. If the church is merely a building, you can go to it. However, if the church is to be an assembly of kingdom citizens, under the authority of the King, doing the King's will in the King's power—then it is possible to go to church and yet not be the church. You can be in a church building, but not be assembled as his church. Make sense?
You can sit on your comfortable pews and not be the church. You can go to church all you want, but that doesn't mean the kingdom is advancing. Please understand that my intent is not to be critical. I desire to be accurate because you deserve to know the truth even if it stings a bit.
We need to change our thinking and thereby change our actions and attitudes. When we come together, we assemble as his church. The Puritans understood this; they called the buildings where they gathered meeting houses, not churches. And they insisted their meeting houses had transparent windows, to remind them of the call to bear visible witness to the Lord in the world.
What a privilege it is to assemble as Jesus' church, the visible manifestation of his body on earth! It is an honor to worship the King in our midst. And to receive his instructions on how to walk out the door and advance his kingship.
I'll close with this. For the kingdom of heaven to advance, we must stop going to church and start being the church. There is a higher calling upon each of you as saints of God, then warming a seat. The mentality of going to church is dangerous if it is a place you attend to get your needs met.
By way of analogy, you must move beyond your concept of what constitutes a family. Here is my immediate family, and this is my extended family. That is the typical American frame of mind. But what about God's family? If you are only concerned about the needs of you and your family, you will miss the greater reality.
Listen to the apostle, "Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another" (Hebrews 10:24). It matters that you meet with us when we assemble as the church. It is a family gathering, and you are part of the Father's household of faith. And when someone is missing, our response should be, "Hey, where is my brother? Where is my sister?" Your participation matters. Your presence and gifting encourage the family.
"When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." 1 Cor 14:26
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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.
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