Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rightly Dividing "Righteousness" and "The Kingdom of Heaven"

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

"Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matthew 6: 33-34)

When I read this passage, when I realized that Jesus wanted us to make "righteousness" our number one priority, and His Kingdom, I began to open my physical eyes.

I wanted to find this Kingdom, but at the time I had not learned to "rightly divide" the Word of God (2 Timothy 2: 15)

I was even more confused when I read:

"Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17: 21)

So, how do I seek  a Kingdom that I already have?

Then I read Paul's definition of the Kingdom of God:

"For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Romans 14: 17)

What happened between Jesus' teachings in the Gospels and Paul's letters?

The Crucifixion, of course!

Jesus died on the Cross! He ended one Covenant and started another one:

"If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

"For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." (Hebrews 7: 11-12)

What are the key elements of the new covenant?

"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

"And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

"In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8: 10-13)

The New Covenant is all about what God does for us: He will write His laws in our hearts and minds, thus directing us in all our ways through the Spirit of God (Galatians 5: 16-18). He will be our God, watching out of us, providing for our every need. We will receive Him within us through His Holy Spirit, that we may no longer have to run to others in order to know God (1 John 2: 20, 27).

And just to make sure that no one misses the point, the writer of Hebrews then writes:

"And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." (Hebrews 9: 15)
What key element enforces the rest of the covenant? That God will be merciful to our unrighteousness and remember our sins no more. That is all sin for all time.

In Christ, we are made THE righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5: 21). This righteousness we do not seek, but receive and abide in.

Now the passage in Hebrews 4 will make more sense:

"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

"For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." (Hebrews 4: 1-2)

What is rest all about, anyway? Just sitting and doing nothing? The writers of Hebrews explains:

"For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said."

It's about believing. But believing what? ---

"For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his." (Hebrews 4: 10)

That the work is done, that we do not have to do anything in order to receive God's righteousness and favor in our lives

The righteousness that Jesus told his "Jewish listeners" in the Gospel of Matthew is a gift which we freely receive through His Holy Spirit, the promise given to all flesh (Joel 2: 28; Acts 2: 27). But to his Jewish listeners. who had been bred on the false teachings of the Pharisees, who had watered down the law to make it "easier to keep." This is why Jesus also said:

"For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5: 20)

This "gift of righteousness" we can now receive at all times:
"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive [lit. are receiving] abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5: 17)

We receive it through the Holy Spirit, who attaches us to Christ Jesus:

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15: 4-5)

These fruits are the fruits of righteousness:

"Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1: 11)

So the Kingdom of Heaven is no longer a place that the believer in the Body of Christ seeks, but  you are NOW in the Kingdom, and by receiving His righteousness and grace you receive all of His power, purpose, and place to be, do, and have all that God wants for you!

The only trick that Satan has had left is to distract believers that "there is still something more that must be done."

The writer of Hebrews counters these fleshly temptations:

"Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." (Hebrews 4: 11)

Get the 4-1-1 on righteousness, be established in this everlasting righteousness (Isaiah 54: 14; Daniel 9: 24) that God has graced you with through the death of His Son (1 John 1: 9) and rest in your growing grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3: 18) that He is your God, and that His Spirit is leading you, empowering you, and gracing to you all things.

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