Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Under Law You Must Seek -- Under Grace, You Freely Receive!

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6: 33)

This verse seemed like the answer to all things to me.

Just find the Kingdom of God, look for it, and God's righteousness, and everything else will come to you.

I read so many websites, books, devotionals, in order to understand "The Kingdom of God".

What is it? Where is it? How do I get there?

At the time, though, I had not learned the importance of rightly dividing the Word of God.

Other simple, common sense tips were not so common to me, but let's focus on rightly dividing the Word (2 Timothy 2: 15)

I had not learned about the Old Covenant vs. the New Covenant, and the essential importance of recognizing this distinction.

The New Covenant was cut in Jesus' Blood, which he clearly declared on the night of His betrayal:

"For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matthew 26: 28)

In effect, the New Covenant was not in effect until Jesus died on the Cross.

Here is the New Covenant outlined in full:

"10For 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:

11And 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.
12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8: 10-12)
Yet before Jesus died on the Cross, God had cut a prior covenant with the Israelites:
"5Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." (Exodus 19: 5-6)
No one can keep the law. No one is good, and because everyone is dead in trespasses, we need more than power to be good, we need life!
So, Jesus came to bring the Old Covenant back to its full, powerful, and impossible standard:
"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)
"48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5: 48)
What Jesus shared during His earthly ministry with the Israelites, with the disciples before He died must be interpreted in light of His Finished Work on the Cross.

Not only that, but then I read this verse in Luke:

"31But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. 32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.(Luke 12: 31-32)

Luke's Gospel records more than Matthew's, and Luke's pronouncement seems to contradict the truth of seeking -- how do you seek something that God gives you?

Luke's Gospel also shares:

"20And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17: 20-21)

Too many Christians are asking the same question, as did I.

A number of commentators brought up a telling point: these Pharisees would not have the Kingdom of God within them, since they so opposed Jesus and wanted to kill him.

They even try to rewrite the word "within" to mean "among", as though the Kingdom had already come.

Yet even Jesus had prayed (remember, still an Old Covenant in place): "Thy Kingdom come".

Now I was even more confused.

What's going on?

When Jesus died on the Cross, He cut the New Covenant, and on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was released onto the earth.

This Spirit is pouring out all the more, to this day all over the world!

With His Spirit, we receive 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)

When we believe on Him, receiving the Finished Work of the Cross, then the Holy Spirit lives in us!

I was reading Matthew, Luke, and Romans, and yet I was confused. I could not reconcile these seeming contradictions.

The one event which I was not resting in: the Cross!

The Cross is not just a moment, however, but everything! At the Cross, Jesus did not just die for us, He died for our sins, for all our sins, for our poverty, for our bad marriage, for every negative tremor in our minds and bodies.

So, because of the Cross, we do not seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, but we have been brought into His Kingdom and we have His righteousness:

"12Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:" (Colossians 1: 12-14)

By the Cross, the Kingdom receives us!

"20Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5: 20-21)

Paul was not telling the Corinthians to get reconciled, but rather to accept that they are reconciled. Why? Because Christ became sin for us, and we received His righteousness.

Now here is the greatest news:

Not only do we receive His righteousness and grace once, but Jesus invites us to keep receiving these gifts of righteousness and grace:

"15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5: 15-17)

Verse seventeen is more full and forceful than the King James brings out:

"For if by one man's offense death reigned by one, much more they which ARE RECEIVING abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."

This part I did not know about, either. We are not supposed to believe on Jesus, then live the rest of their lives in our own efforts.

He wants us to receive and keep receiving His grace. We should never believe, though, that if we get distracted, or if we fail, that we no longer receive His grace.

This grace is a never-ending waterfall, and God merely asks us to receive, and to keep receiving.

This grace and righteousness is ministered to us through His Word:

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (2 Timothy 3: 16)

And so:

"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God [lit. Christ] (Romans 10: 17)

As we keep seeing more of Jesus, as we receive more of all that Jesus did for us at the Cross, then we continue receiving His grace and righteousness, that we may reign in this life and life eternal.

Under law, under Jesus' earthly ministry, Jesus told His hearers to seek. Under grace, under the New Covenant, Jesus invites us to receive, and keep receiving His Kingdom, His righteousness, and His grace!

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