THE PRIORITY OF GOD'S KINGDOM

We looked last week at the priority of God's glory. The Bible gives a similar priority to God’s kingdom. God’s ‘kingdom’ speaks of God’s rule and reign, God’s dominion, and the recognition of and submission to God’s authority and God's sovereignty – that God is the One in the position of power, God is King, not us. Everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ has been placed by God into his kingdom [Colossians 1:13].

Concern for God’s kingdom is concern that God should be recognized as Lord and God over all that exists. It is a concern that all that opposes God and works against him and his rule should be either subdued or terminated.

It is a concern that the rule of God will come in individual hearts as people submit to Jesus Christ as their Lord and their God as the Gospel is proclaimed in our town, in our country and around the world.

It is concern that we ourselves will acknowledge him as our King in obedient response to his promises and commands every moment of our lives.

It is a concern to see and to hasten the coming of his ultimate, eternal kingdom, when all opposition to him will be ended and eradicated for ever.

Below are just a small handful of the hundreds of verses about the God’s rule, authority and kingdom. Each of these points to the priority of God’s kingdom in a range of contexts.

In the context of prayer: We learn in Matthew 6:10 that God's kingdom, like God's glory, is to be our primary concern in prayer. Jesus instructed us to pray 'Our Father ... your kingdom come'.

In the context of our possessions and money: In two small parables in Matthew 13:44,45 Jesus taught that 'the kingdom' is the ultimate treasure, of ultimate value - so to be treasured, so to be valued that it surpasses everything else we possess. So significant, so overwhelming that to find God's kingdom is to experience ultimate, fulfilling and final joy.

In the context of social expectations: Engagement in God's kingdom takes priority over social and cultural expectations. Luke 9:57-62 reports three encounters that demonstrate that those demanding human priorities that bind us to expected social norms, distorting our perceptions and dictating our practice, dissolve into insignificance beside the superlative importance of God's Kingdom.

In the context of the final reality: Similarly, in Mark 9:47, Jesus teaches us that even maintaining our present physical wholeness cannot be compared with the extreme necessity and urgency of belonging to God's present and eternal kingdom. This is because, at the bottom line, God's kingdom is not the opposite of neutrality or nothingness. No such option actually exists. Jesus states very clearly that there are only two options: God's kingdom or hell. It is better, Jesus says, to enter God's kingdom maimed or blind than to retain physical wholeness but end up in hell.

In the context of mission and evangelism: In Matthew 24:14 Jesus taught that 'the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.' When we engage in mission and evangelism we are telling our fellow human beings that God is the King - from whom all things have their existence, and to whom all people everywhere are accountable. When we engage in mission and evangelism we are preaching 'the gospel of the kingdom' - to every tribe, to every language, to every people, to every nation. In the visions of Revelation we find that in the eternal kingdom every tribe, language, people and nation are represented: they are all there before the 'throne' acknowledging the power and the glory and the kindgom of God and of the Lamb. This 'end' - the final expression of God's kingdom - will not, indeed cannot, come until this multi-racial, multi-national, multi-lingual multitude has heard and accepted the gospel of the kingdom

This priority of God's kingdom demands that we make every decision with his kingdom in mind:

Is this choice I am about to make submissive to my King and his command? Or is it a personal power play?

Will this choice extend his kingdom in the world? Or will it hinder the increase of his kingdom?

Does this choice express my belief that he is indeed the King? Or does it give sovereignty to my own weakness, doubts and fears?

Is this choice made in the light of his certain, immanent, powerful coming as the King of kings? Or does it reveal that I view his kingdom and his coming, more as a topic of theological debate than the motivating and empowering priority of my daily life?

© Rosemary Bardsley 2016