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Seeking First His Kingdom
By David A. DePra
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Mat 6:31-33)
These verses conclude the longer passage of Matthew 6:19-34. If you read this passage, you will find that Jesus is talking about our basic needs for living, and Godís desire to provide. In doing so, He makes Christianity something that must be lived. Clearly, God wants a relationship with us wherein we depend upon Him for everything. "Give us this day, our daily bread," would be a good theme for much of the passage.
The highlight of the passage is the above quote. Jesus had just spoken about Godís desire to provide for His people. But the fullness of Godís will in this regard has a condition attached to it. Jesus says, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." In short, if you want God to add to you, "all these things," you have to seek first the kingdom Ė the kingdom contains, "all these things."
Now, if there is nothing else we see in this passage, we need to see that God is not merely talking about a, "trade off." No. He is talking about the Truth. "All these things," are IN and UNDER the kingdom. Thus, we if want, "all these things," you have to come under the kingdom. The two are not detached, but as one. Seek first the kingdom, and, "all these things," will come with the package.
There is a Truth in this passage that is, quite frankly, awesome. It is one that is impossible to ignore if you want to continue walking with Jesus Christ. In one sentence, Jesus completely prioritizes true life in Christ. He says SEEK FIRST the kingdom of God. And He promises if we do, that God will take care of all else that we need.
The Right Basis
When a Christian tries to walk with God on the wrong basis, there will be confusion and other consequences. What do I mean by the WRONG basis? I mean that many of us try to walk with God, not in Spirit and Truth, but in flesh and error. Instead of walking with God in the light, we walk in darkness, and try to get God to join us. Instead of seeking to find the will of God, we try to get God to affirm our will. Instead of realizing Godís purpose is Christ, we make His purpose US. Instead of losing our lives to find them in Christ, we seek to save our lives for ourselves, and then try to get God to help us. Instead of walking in faith, we walk in unbelief. Maybe the most common wrong basis is this: That of our OWN righteousness. Christians by the thousands, in ways that they donít even realize, try to walk with God on the basis of their own righteousness, instead of upon the righteousness of Christ. We walk under law instead of under grace. This is an appalling fact.
The tragedy is that most of us donít know the difference in any of these things. We think that if we have a true statement of faith that we KNOW the Truth and have faith. Nonsense. The two are worlds apart. We donít do these things to deliberately self-destruct, nor do them to rebel against God. We simply have not seen the Truth. And until we see it there are going to be problems.
This command of Jesus to SEEK FIRST the kingdom is a case in point. If you read what Jesus is saying, He is giving us the priority for our living. Do you think it is optional? If Jesus says, "Seek first His kingdomÖ.and all these things will be added," do we imagine that if we seek first, "all these things," that God is going to give them to us, and then somehow tack on the kingdom? What Iím saying is that if we violate scripture and the promises of God we are IN ERROR. God wonít join us. He is the Truth. The only way in which we can walk in these Truths is to believe and obey God.
I would never say that God, in His mercy, would not provide for His people, if they are ignorant. But if we are NOT seeking first the kingdom of God, at some point we are going to meet a crossroads with regards to Godís provision. God is NOT forever going to add to us all things if we are NOT seeking first His kingdom Ė if we are, in fact, seeking the things of this life. He wonít.
Now, it is entirely possible to NOT seek first the kingdom and to prosper greatly. But it won't be the blessing of God. You can serve mammon and get rich. No one ever said otherwise. But we are here talking about God's kingdom. We are talking about it means to walk in the Truth.
Jesus pretty much put this whole thing in a nutshell when He said:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Mat 16:24-25)
Note that in the term Ė in the meaning Ė of the word LIFE is really everything. It is, yes, our physical life, but it is really everything about us. It includes every component of us, both inward and outward. Thus, Jesus is saying that we must lose ownership over ourselves into His hands, and if we do, then we will find true life. Well, ownership denotes KINGDOM. The life that governs us is the kingdom that governs us. Thus, we have to relinquish OUR kingdom Ė our government and rule over ourselves. But if we do relinquish our kingdom it is going to result in seeking first HIS kingdom.
We have to see this. To seek first Godís kingdom is impossible unless we are also losing our kingdom. Jesus, in our passage from Matthew 6 stated, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. "(Mat 6:24) Was He not talking about which kingdom we serve Ė which kingdom governs us? Absolutely. In the end, it is going to be one or the other Ė one LIFE or the other, one KINGDOM or the other Ė God or mammon.
But Jesus does not push these things off into the eternities. Neither does He merely give a nice teaching with no practical application. Rather, He brings this entire Truth of the kingdom right down into everyday life. He says, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things Ė provision for living Ė will be added unto you."
Where do we start to seek first the kingdom? We start by asking God to show us how, and to do what is necessary to bring us to where we can seek first His kingdom. And if we do ask God to do that, we ARE seeking first His kingdom.
The Kingdom of God
I have heard many interpretations of the command to, "seek first the kingdom." Some of them are, quite frankly, so shallow that it is appalling. On Christian television the other night someone said that to, "seek first the kingdom," means to send THEM money for the preaching of the gospel. Then, this person said, "God will add to you all things." Actually, the command to seek first the kingdom has very little to do with any of that. Yet people use it as a way of twisting the arms of potential donors.
What is the kingdom of God? I submit that we cannot seek first the kingdom if we donít understand the kingdom.
The kingdom of God is the reign or rule of God. It is not a place or a people, but the rule of God OVER those places and people. Or to put it another way, if God rules over me, I am not His kingdom -- but I am IN His kingdom, or we better might say, under His kingdom Ė because His kingdom is His rule and I am under His rule.
So all that falls within the sovereignty of God and is under His rule is IN the kingdom of God. This also means that despite the fact that God is sovereign over ALL that from a practical standpoint, there remains much that is NOT under His rule. Satan is not IN the kingdom of God. Indeed, we would not need to be born into, or enter into, the kingdom, if everything were already in Godís kingdom.
Entering the kingdom of God, in the Bible, is synonymous with salvation. Indeed, we must be BORN FROM ABOVE to enter the kingdom; to see the kingdom of God. But notice what this really means: It means that salvation equals coming under the rule of God. The two are as one. There is no such thing in the Bible as a salvation that does not go hand in hand with coming under the rule of God. Jesus is Savior, but He is Lord Ė there is no other salvation God has to offer.
Jesus is Lord of all. The kingdom of God must have a KING Ė and obviously, that King IS God Ė the term itself, "kingdom OF God," says it outright. But according to scripture, God has put all things under His Son, Jesus Christ. Indeed, Jesus often spoke of when, "the Son of Man would come in His kingdom." Jesus is the King of the kingdom. But this makes Jesus LORD of all who are under Him in that kingdom. In short, the kingdom of God is Christ in us, the hope of glory. But again -- not merely Christ as Savior. Rather, Jesus is Lord of all who have received Him.
This truly connects all of the dots between Jesus Christ in us, and the kingdom of God within. Jesus clearly stated that, "the kingdom of God is within you." And we know that through Godís Spirit, Jesus Christ is in us. Likewise, the Bible says that we are in Christ. And we know that we are born into the kingdom. Thus, Jesus Christ IN US Ė as our personal Lord -- is the personification of the kingdom of God. He is the King and because He is our Lord, we are in His kingdom.
Realizing the true nature of the kingdom of God Ė that this is Christ in us as Lord Ė tells us much about what it means to, "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness." To seek first the kingdom of God is to seek first the Lordship of Jesus Christ OVER MYSELF Ė and over all with which I have to do. It means that I continually LOSE my life Ė which is MY kingdom Ė in order to FIND HIS. Under this naturally falls obedience. But behind it all is a relationship with God through His Son.
But Jesus as my personal Lord also means something else. It means that the will of God for my life, indeed, in any situation, is absolutely guaranteed. Godís will is FIRST a relationship between Himself and us with Jesus as our Lord. But if that relationship is unfolding, then Godís will is free to unfold UNDER HIM. Godís will is that Christ be manifested in and through His people. That is always the outcome of seeking first His kingdom.
What I am saying is this: If we come under Jesus as our Lord Ė seek first His kingdom Ė the will of God is guaranteed as the kingdom is manifested. This is absolute. But if we donít seek first the kingdom, His will shall not be manifested.
Read the Lordís prayer. Jesus said to pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done." There it is. There is no complete will of God outside of His kingdom. Indeed, we are seeing that Godís kingdom IS brought to pass when His will comes to pass. And visa versa. The two are as one.
I mentioned earlier how Christians try to walk with God on the wrong basis. Here is the big example I noted. If we ask God for a THING we think is His will, yet are not willing to seek first His kingdom, or come under His rule, we are in error. We cannot walk with Christ and get far under such deception.
The Coming Kingdom
Herein we see a great and sobering Truth. Christian people often talk about the day Jesus comes back and sets up His kingdom. They expect to reign and rule with Him in it. But that cannot happen if Jesus is not reigning and ruling IN US and OVER US now. Sure. If we are not NOW seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, do we seriously think that when Jesus comes back that we are going to be handed His kingdom Ė to reign and rule with Him. Never.
There is a principle in this that is vital to see: To the extent that Jesus Christ is Lord over me now, I am reigning and ruling with Him now. That will correlate to my place in Him THEN. This is not about rules, merits, and earning rewards. No. Rather, it is about RELATIONSHIP with God through Christ. To the extent that I lose my life Ė relinquish my self-rule Ė I am able to find HIS life, and thus reign and rule with Him.
Read the many parables of Jesus that speak directly to this matter. Read how often people expect to receive a reward, or to be given authority, but who are completely deceived. They never allowed Jesus to be their personal Lord. And then they thought that He was going to hand them authority in His kingdom. He says, "I never knew you," or something that means the same thing. Again Ė you have to come under Jesus as Lord. You have to LOSE your life to find HIS. We cannot neglect these Truths. We will live to regret it if we do.
To seek first Godís kingdom is Godís will is NOT OPTIONAL. Have we realized this? It is not simply what we need to do if we expect God to toss a few bucks our way once in a while. No. If we want to be in the will of God and seeking the Truth, we must seek first Godís kingdom and righteousness.
But notice what else is NOT OPTIONAL: That God would provide all things. If we want to walk with Jesus Christ we are going to have to depend upon God for all things. There is no other Christian life. Indeed, I submit that there is no other possible outcome of seeking Jesus Christ than for us to come to the place of absolute dependence upon Him.
So what we have are two things Ė really one thing Ė that is Godís stated will: That we seek Him first in all things, and for all things, and that He provide for us all things. Or to say it another way, God wants us to depend upon Him for everything Ė to live from OUT OF HIM. And the result will be His provision.
Let me say this again: There is no other possible Christian walk IN TRUTH. There just isnít. The kingdom of God Ė Jesus as Lord Ė is a REALITY. We either live in it or we donít.
What we are seeing in all of this is that God wants ALL of us so that He can give us ALL of Himself. There isnít any middle ground. You cannot come to God only for help. You cannot come to God only when you need Him. You have to seek first the full Lordship of Jesus Christ over you Ė including over the matter that is at hand, but for everything else. A Christian, by definition, BELONGS to God and has been bought with a price. This is not only the Truth for now, but will simply expand throughout the eternal ages. As the OT says, "His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom." "And of His kingdom there will be NO end."
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