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The Kingdom of God
“The First Priority”
We began this new study this morning on the Kingdom of God in the message entitled, “The Kingdom Proclamation.” The reason for this series is that we have all these different subjects within Christianity but nothing that seemingly connects them together. We teach on salvation, justification, redemption, sanctification, atonement, heaven, hell, evil, faith, grace, mercy, hope, idolatry, judgment, obedience, and the list just keeps on going.
But these are just dots on a page with nothing to seemingly connect them, nothing to reveal the picture of God’s overall plan and purpose. Yet, in the Bible there is one connective thread that brings all of these together into a beautiful picture, and that is the Kingdom of God.
This morning we looked at the proclamation of God’s Kingdom that the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Therefore we’re to repent, and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15)
Tonight we’ll be looking at what Jesus said, that God’s Kingdom should be our first priority.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)
Jesus here brings to a head what He had been teaching about in our need not to worry or be anxious about what the world worries or is anxious about. It’s a part of a much larger sermon Jesus gave known as the Sermon on the Mount.
During the course of the Sermon Jesus make this general statement summing up His whole position, which is the essence of the Christian message.
Now the reason we’re exploring this so intently is because of the tragic and terrible confusion that exists about God’s Kingdom and Christianity, because if we take our understanding from what the newspapers and books say, then we’re in one big mess.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us the essentials of the very proclamation Jesus stated and that we looked at this morning.
There are, however, several general principles that Jesus brings out in His statement that cannot be overlooked.
The first is that the gospel message is completely different than anything and everything else. It’s completely different from what humanity thinks and believes is important, and challenges what humanity believes.
Notice what Jesus said just prior to this
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek.” (Matthew 6: 31-32a NKJV)
In Judaism the world is divided into two groups, the Jews and everyone else, those who have the right religion and those who don’t, and those who live by God’s law and those who live outside of it. And so you have the Jews and the Gentiles.
The Gentiles in our day are those who don’t know God as revealed in the Bible. They trust in religion or their own thoughts and ideas about God and life.
And so what Jesus teaches is altogether different than their point of view. His teaching is different from everything that man has ever thought.
This is a very important distinction, because what it says is that Christian way of life is totally different and stands apart from the world.
The next general point of emphasis is Jesus wording, which reveals that belief in Him is very radical from the world’s perspective. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” This is the first thing that we should do. It’s of top priority and should before anything else.
This is completely different than the world’s line of thought. In other words, the world is looking in a totally wrong direction. Humanity doesn’t need to be patched up; instead we need to be radically changed, which is what Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” (John 3:7) Humanity needs a brand new start.
Finally, Christianity and Kingdom living is a way of life. It isn’t a life style or some philosophy of life. Therefore it demands a total commitment. It doesn’t ask to be understood; rather it demands to be obeyed.
To know the truth and blessing of Kingdom living, we must give our lives completely over to it. The Bible says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) We’ll never know that the Lord is good until we’ve tasted His goodness for ourselves.
Theoretical knowledge isn’t going to work. There are a lot of scholars that have a lot of biblical knowledge, but don’t know Jesus. There are also a lot of homeless people who know the Bible better than we do but don’t know the Lord. And so Jesus is calling for a commitment, not head knowledge, but a heart relationship.
Such a commitment can be seen in what Jesus calls for all His disciples to do.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV)
Once the cross is on our shoulders there’s no turning back. And so Jesus is calling for a commitment to a way of life that is totally opposite of what the world offers, and it involves our total abandonment to it.
With these three general principles we can now look more fully at what Jesus said as to our first priority, which is to seek first God’s Kingdom. But in doing that we have to come to realize that…
Humanity’s View of Life is False
The world is filled with sorrow, pain, and unhappiness due to its false view of life. How we view life determines how we live, and if our view is wrong, then everything else will be wrong.
Prior to Jesus talking about our need to seek first the Kingdom of God, He talks about if our understanding is off, then everything else we be off as well. He does so in His teaching on the eye being the lamp of the body.
“But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Matthew 6:23 NKJV)
If the lens is wrong, then nothing will be seen clearly. The tragedy of the world is that its view of life is altogether faulty, and that’s because it’s putting everything else first.
We proclaim what and who we are by our priorities, so it really doesn’t matter what we say; our actions loudly proclaim what we believe.
Let me illustrate. Our attendance at church illustrates our belief. There are many reasons people use for not going to church. Being tired, it’s our only day off, families in town, or the big game is on TV. And while I’m not trying to be legalistic, people can tell what we say we believe by our priorities. It’s where the rubber of our faith meets the road of life.
Think about it this way, if we’re invited to see the President or the Queen of England, or had the opportunity to go to the Super bowl, would we use these same excuses? Would we say we’re too tired and it’s our only day off?
And so the world is in its present problems because it’s putting the wrong thing first. Jesus looks at a few of these for us.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19 NKJV)
Wealth is one of humanity’s chief priorities because according to the world, wealth is power. But Jesus says that’s not God’s way; rather it’s the way of the Gentiles; it’s the way of this world, but not the way of the Kingdom.
A little later Jesus said we cannot serve the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. We can’t have mixed priorities.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (or possessions).” (Matthew 6:24 NKJV)
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 NKJV)
What is interesting is that there are several top rated reality shows and whole networks devoted to these very things. We’ve got reality shows where people compete to be top designer or top chef, and then we have HGTV and the Food Channel.
Money, food, drink, and clothing, these are the things that Jesus says that people live for, and it’s no different today, maybe even a little bit more.
What Jesus is saying is that the tragedy of life and the problems of our world is that humanity is living and thinking that they’re only physical beings. Therefore all thought and attention is geared towards the physical realm.
“Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6:27 NKJV)
Earlier Jesus said, “Don’t worry about your life.” No one can add an extra inch to their height, at least not naturally, nor can we add one more second to our lives. And people have been stressing about these very things from the beginning.
Now, I’m not saying we’re not to take care of our bodies. God has given humanity the way to help treat many of the diseases, but our time on earth is not in our hands, but rather it’s in the Lord’s. Therefore we’re not to make existence our top priority.
What Jesus is saying is that all this stuff and the accumulation of it leads to slavery, because it leads to anxiety, worry, and fear. What Jesus is basically saying is not to worry or have an anxiety attack over these things.
It seems like today we live in an age of anxiety, and that’s because all of this stuff doesn’t really satisfy.
Therefore the world’s chief problem is that it has the wrong view on what constitutes life, which in turn has messed up its priorities. Humanity’s chief need, therefore, is to get a true and right picture of God, and then of humanity.
Jesus never said, “Don’t do all that other stuff,” rather He said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)
We need to stop thinking of ourselves as merely physical beings. We’re more than that; we’re also spiritual beings.
Our bodies are finite and destined to die, but our souls and spirits are infinite, therefore this is where our priorities should lie, and what we should be focused upon. We’ve been made in the image and likeness of God therefore this is what we should be paying attention to.
We’re to get our minds off our desires and start thinking about God as our creator and sustainer. Jesus confirms this when He tells us to behold the birds of the air and how God takes care of them.
What happens when we don’t seek God first, is that we start making ourselves out to be our own gods, or we start making gods out of all this other stuff, and we end up worshipping and serving the creation more than the creator.
This is why the world is in such big trouble. We put ourselves and our kingdoms before God, hence wars and violence. This is what the Apostle James brings out.
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? … You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:1, 3 NKJV)
To seek first God’s kingdom means we should be seeking the rule and reign of God in our lives. By seeking first after God’s kingdom and His righteousness means we are under His government and not man’s. And while we are to obey those who are in authority over us, and the laws of the land, the rule and reign of God should always be our first priority.
Further, by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, what this means is that God’s kingdom isn’t coming; rather it’s already here, and God sent Jesus into this world to establish it. And then one day He will return and judge the world according to His righteousness.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” (Romans 1:18-19 NKJV)
God isn’t judging us based upon our own righteousness, because we don’t have any. The Bible makes this clear saying that no one is righteousness enough for God, and that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, or short of God’s holy and righteous standards for life. (Romans 3:10, 23)
Rather God is judging us based upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that’s why we are to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.
Jesus came into this world to give us the righteousness we could never achieve on our own. Jesus is the only one who is righteous as He is not only the righteous servant of God, but His name is “The Lord our Righteousness.” (Isaiah 53:11, Jeremiah 23:6)
It is therefore through Jesus that we become the righteousness of God.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:12 NKJV)
Probably for me the most wonderful aspect of this verse about seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is that it means that because of His sacrifice for our sins, taking our place and dying the death we deserve, is that we now can have a different view of what Jesus said about “all these things.”
Before we lived to eat, drink, and clothe ourselves, but now, while we still eat, drink, and clothe ourselves, we no longer live for them.
Now we have a new view of life, where we’re no longer anxious for the stuff, but rather we’re anxious to know God, and that’s because we are His children and citizens of His kingdom. And what that means is that He is no longer our judge but our Heavenly Father.
The world and all the stuff are temporary while God’s kingdom and righteousness are eternal. We’re merely pilgrims passing through. As pilgrims we know that death is what ushers us immediately into God’s glorious presence and an eternity with Him.
And so Jesus gives to us our priorities, and that is God’s kingdom and righteousness, everything else comes after that. Nothing else matters in this life, not food, clothing, money, possessions, not even life itself. Nothing else matters but our relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
So let’s stop worrying about all this other stuff; instead let’s get our lives right with God, and enter into His kingdom and righteousness. Let’s seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first; let’s make it our top priority.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study