The Righteousness of the Kingdom
A Scary List
I grew up in a mindset that emphasised the fear of rejection, the fear that God would reject me for my weaknesses and failings.
I would read things like the beatitudes and be quite depressed thinking that if this is what God wants from me, I am doomed.
I mean listen to the list (by the way, the word blessed, as you all probably know, is “happy”, so I am going to substitute it in):
“Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Happy are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Happy are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Happy are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Happy are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.Matt 5:3-12
By the way, even the word “happy”, is inadequate in explaining the state of this person. This is a person who has a deep sense of contentment that can only be experienced in having God’s approval.
Let’s break this down. The ten commandments were a group of “thou shalt not” phrases, things to run away from, things to refuse to engage in. Don’t do this, don’t do that.
As holy and just as the Law of Moses was, Jesus is not looking for a group of “abstainers”, people who know how not to do things. Indeed, if we go through our lives never having engaged in the obvious signs of breach from the ten commandments, we potentially will never have done anything.
For some, I think that’s the goal. Live a life where you can’t be accused of breaking the law. Live a life staying as far as possible from any contact with the “world”.
But that’s not what we are called to. This is not what we are about.
James chapter 1:
So then, my beloved brothers, let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore, laying aside all filthiness and abundance of evil, in meekness receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, this one is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observed himself and has gone away, and immediately forgot what sort of man he was. But the one who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one shall be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceiving his heart, the religion of this man is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.Jas 1:19-27
He picks up this theme at the end of the epistle:
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.Jas 4:17
Jesus likewise says:
And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating… Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.Luk 12:47-48
Trusted with The Kingdom of God
We have been entrusted with the Kingdom of God. It is our possession to lose. It is ours to proclaim from the rooftops. We are now the representatives of the name and the obligation of the name is to proclaim it from the very rooftops.
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction. To do the will of Father is to visit those who yet lack a father – the orphans and show them the way to the Father of all. To do the will of the Father is to visit those who lack a husband and to bring them into the presence of the heavenly Bridegroom and to teach them to open their hearts to allow the Bridegroom to take up His residence therein.
We are to visit them. Not to wait for them to come to us. To get up, go out into the world and to proclaim to those who lack God and Jesus Christ, that God and His Son are waiting to enter their hearts and fill the void left by the brokenness of this world.
We Can’t “Not Do…”
You can’t exercise pure and undefiled religion by “not doing” – you must do. You have no choice. You must go into the world and rescue the hearts of men who weep for the father they never knew, the hearts of women who weep for the husband they never had. That’s why he finishes off that verse… “keep yourself unspotted from the world”. You can’t do this work until you go out into the world and preach the gospel to every man, woman and child. With this comes a risk that you might acquire some of the stain of the world.
But notice that he doesn’t tell you not to go. His clear instruction scripture wide is to get out into the world and preach the good news of the Father and His son.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not discipline his speech to speak only of the good news of Jesus Christ but lies to himself as to what manner of man he is, this person’s religion is worthless.
Go into the World and Speak
You are grass, you are the flower that fades, so embrace and speak only those things that remain forever. Speak from the heart, the salvation that lies within. Speak to the widows and the orphans and proclaim good news.
Jesus led the way. Listen to how Matthew was called:
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”Luk 5:27-32
Let me set the scene for you. Matthew is called and decides he wants for all of his colleagues to hear the gospel message and so as John Martin put it in his talks on the subject, he holds a reception for Jesus. Now it appears that some of the disciples joined him in reclining in a meal with tax collectors and others, but not all. Some stood outside looking in at the scene.
What were they thinking? Well possibly what they were thinking was echoed by the Pharisees that stood with them outside the group.
The Pharasees were asking, is he a prophet really if he keeps company like this? Perhaps the disciples were a little ashamed and so were seeking to maintain a little separation from the world. Whatever the case, they are not in amongst the tax collectors preaching, they weren’t going to be stained by the world… no way – they were outside… but Jesus was inside preaching, speaking of the good news of the kingdom of God.
Shout about your Happiness
Roar from the roof tops your happiness that you are no longer you. Shout that you are destitute of the things of this life, that you are dead and your life hid in Christ. You are the representatives of the NAME. God is becoming manifest in you – you are poor or destitute in the spirit that which makes us alive to this order of things, because you are no longer you, but you are the representatives of He who sent you. You mourn for a world that is decaying and broken and you desire to work the Will of God in healing it. You are happy in your personal humility, not aggrandising yourself but willing to spend and be spent in the service of the Most High.
You are happy because you seek to be satisfied only in God. You have finally abandoned all other idols and instead you are saturating yourself in the righteousness of God. You understand the heart of flesh that you have abandoned, you have gazed deeply into the perfect law that is Jesus, the freedom that we only have in our Lord and you know only compassion and love for those who have yet to dive into the love of Jesus.
You are happy because your heart has been purified by the indwelling heart of Jesus and you see God in him. You are happy because, no longer are you engaged with accommodating the world, but you have fully set yourself to seeking peace with God.
Because you have set yourself to seeking peace with God, ignoring the world, you are happy to suffer all things for the sake of peace with God, persecution and reviling mean nothing.
We are happy because we possess grace, salvation and the kingdom of God in our hearts. We are dead to the world and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. We have taken shelter with the Most High.
Peace with God
To take shelter with the Most High, to release yourselves from the world is difficult. It is a wrench. To be selfless and to seek only peace with God with submission and love, to release the cares of this life and the responsibilities thereof is difficult. It is very difficult to entrust your responsibilities, your life to Him. Yet it is the only sane decision you can take in this broken world.
The Psalmist says:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”Psa 91
See that? Because he holds fast to me in love, because he knows my Name, I will deliver him and protect him.
In the last article we discussed being citizens of the Kingdom of God.
As citizens of the Kingdom of God in the present, it means we have taken shelter with the Most High. We have become totally saturated in Him, we are dwellers in the kingdom of God.
Recognising Kingdom Hearts
Do you doubt this? Do you know what it means to live with a Kingdom Heart? Can you recognise Kingdom Hearts in the people around you?
Take a moment and stop. Look around at the people who are around you. What do you know of them? Do they desire to serve God? In your observations of them, truly, honest observations – not hyper critical observations as we tend to indulge in – ignoring their flaws, do you doubt that they seek to serve God? They in their weakness, share your flaws, true.
Look into your own heart for a moment. Even in your occasional flaws and failings, do you ever cease to desire in your heart of hearts to serve the Most High?
We all experience doubts, we all forget the days of answered prayers and we all from time to time waver with our hands on the plough, perhaps even snatch a quick glance back. I know, I have been there and to my sorrow, may go there again. I can list very specific times of answered prayer, and yet there have been times when I have asked myself if I have believed a lie. Whether in fact, God even exists. I am shocked at myself for asking this.
Is that a momentary weakness? Do you doubt that it’s a momentary weakness in others?
What do you think Paul was talking about in Romans:
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.Rom 7:15-25
This is scary. We have two desires within us. The “I” who wishes to serve God and the “Flesh” who wants to serve the law of sin. But the thing is that God knows us and He puts this sin from us:
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.Psa 103:10-13
We are not our sin. God understands our weaknesses, He understands that we hate this imposter within us. He understands that we want to put it far from us and so He does just that. In Jesus, He removes our transgressions as far as the east is from the west. The inner man who is clothed in Jesus who gives heed to the spirit word and serves the law of God persists and remains, but the imposter who dwells within us that wants to serve sin, that man will fade and wither and die. He is not part of that which remains.
So whilst we are called to war with the high and mighty wicked ones of this world, we also have an internal struggle within. A battle for our heart to be opened to God and His Son.
Cleansing our Hearts
We are people at war within ourselves and our only hope is in making peace with our God, for then he will cleanse our Hearts. David cried for his heart to be made clean and God responded in Ezekiel and again in Hebrews:
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.Psa 51:9-11
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.Ezek 36:22-28
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.Heb 10:19-22
So again, look at your brothers and sisters around you. These are people who know your struggles for they are at war within themselves just as you are. Striving mightily against the heart that opposes God that their hearts might be at peace with God. Look on them with compassion because their struggle to open their hearts to God is much the same as yours.
So, if God dwells in your heart, and you are therefore a citizen of the Kingdom of God, what are the implications of this?
Salvation is yours
One of the major implications of allowing God and His son to dwell in your hearts is that salvation is already yours.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.Php 1:3-11
The most effective warrior in the battle is he who is already at peace with his death. Indeed, he counts himself already dead.
Do you count yourself already dead to this world? Then you no longer care for your own outcome. That wrench that we discussed earlier becomes easier and you care solely that the will of God be done.
Is that you?
I have heard so many people talk excessively about having a childlike obedience to God. That’s fine for a person in the early stages of life in Jesus, but once you have opened your heart to God and Jesus, you become representatives of God to the world:
You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.2 Cor 3:2-6
Life Giving Spirits
You become life giving spirits, you are the light, life and love of God to all around you. This is the inner character that the beatitudes represents in the world.
You can’t escape it, you are the people that “He who is becoming” has chosen to represent Him, proclaiming to the world the goodness of God and the good news of Jesus Christ.
No longer do you engage in childlike obedience, you instead know the Will of the Most High and you live it unswervingly. There is no delay in assimilating the command of God, instead you already know it and you seek to live it without double mind, and in joy.
No longer do you wait for the Kingdom of God but as citizens of the Kingdom of God already, you actively work to bring it to pass. Your inner life of peace with God becomes a desire to bring the world to peace with Him.
You look at a broken world and you seek actively to bring healing to it.
As a citizen of the kingdom of God, you war within yourself to achieve deliverance from this body of death, that you might live in peace with our God. You put to death the earthly within you and as the Chosen of God, holy and greatly beloved, you put on hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, being teachable, and understanding towards others and accepting that they too have flaws, forgiving them. Above all put on the love that binds us in harmony with God and one another.
Living truly at peace for Christ rules in our hearts, and he lives within us. Let us therefore sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness, and love in our hearts to our God.
Not bound now by the “not doing” of the law, but in word and deed, healing this broken world, visiting the widows and the fatherless in joy and with thankfulness in the name of Jesus Christ.