Seek First God’s Kingdom

Bob RoaneCounseling, Jesus Christ, Wise living

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 24:4-5)

Christ Still Teaches

Jesus is the unique Son of God, fully divine and fully human in one person. He came down from His throne to save His people, He put off His robes to put on our rags, and He came from Heaven to deliver us out of Hell. Christ fasted forty days that He might feast us forever. He came to Earth to take us to paradise one day and help us live for Him until that day.1 After Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification, He ascended into Heaven where He now rules over all things.2 Christ is still alive today and still teaching by His Holy Spirit using His Holy Scriptures. Since we have been raised to new life with Christ, He teaches us to obey everything He has commanded us.

In recent prison classes, we studied Jesus as the Master Teacher. These notes continue on the theme of “Learning from Christ” and expand on that class. This post builds upon Loving God and Neighbor and Loving Enemies and Forgiving.

Christ Teaches us to Prioritize God’s Kingdom and His Righteousness

Scripture: Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

Comments: This is the key verse of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7). Christ is the King of God’s Kingdom who brings us under His power, rules and defends us, and restrains and conquers all His and all our enemies.3 So the kingdom of heaven is already inaugurated and present because King Jesus is present. Seeking His kingdom means living under His kingship all our lifetime and in our daily priorities. Christ claims our allegiance in every square inch of our lives. Born again believers have already entered God’s kingdom. Now we live in that reality, drawing on God’s power and ordering of our lives. As we do that we seek His righteousness.

King Jesus Sends Paul

Christ’s words here in Matthew 6:33 are explained more fully by His apostle Paul in his New Testament letters. Let’s never forget that King Jesus sent Paul as His spokesman. Paul was not giving his own opinions. Christ said to Paul:

I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26:16-18)

Two Kinds of Righteousness

In his letters, Paul writes about two kinds of righteousness. We talked about these more in class, but here’s a chart to summarize some key points:

Imputed Righteousness Imparted Righteousness
Christ’s work for us Christ’s work in us by the Holy Spirit
Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship (handiwork, masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
2 Corinthians 5:21 God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin (the sin bearer) for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Eph 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Justification is the act of God’s free grace by which He pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight. He does so only because He counts the righteousness of Christ as ours. Justification is received by faith alone.4 Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace by which our whole person is made new in the image of God, and we are made more and more able to become dead to sin and alive to righteousness.5
In justification, our faith results in our being forgiven, accepted, and counted righteous in God’s sight because of Jesus’ obedient life, death, and resurrection. In sanctification, that same faith actively and eagerly takes up all the commands that Christ has given us so that we trust and obey God in the power of the Holy Spirit.6

Practicing Righteousness

King Jesus also sent the Apostle John as Christ’s spokesman. John wrote:

No one who is born of God will continue to sin (without repenting), because God’s seed remains in them. They cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. (1 John 3:9-10)

Because God is our Father, and Jesus is our Elder Brother, and the Spirit is our indwelling Comforter and Sanctifier, true believers do not want to continue sinning. We will still stumble and fall along the road to Heaven and Christ will restore us.7 But we will not be dominated by unrighteousness because the Spirit has transformed us and dwells within us.8 John is teaching us that kingdom life can be lived now. Sin will not define the lives of His believers. By God’s grace, on the whole, we will more and more walk in God’s light, not in the darkness.9

As we follow Jesus in paths of righteousness, our ever-caring, ever-watching heavenly Father will provide for us whatever we need. (Matthew 6:33)

Notes: 1 Adapted from R.C.H. Lenski.     2 Rom 4:25.     3 Westminster Shorter Catechism #26.     4 Catechism #33.   5 Catechism #35.     6 Adapted from Guy Waters.     7 James 3:2; Phil 1:6.     8 Romans chapter 6.     9 Adapted from “Practicing Righteousness,” Oct 14, 2005.