“Pray then like this…‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…’” Matthew 6.9, 10
What do we expect?
I doubt there is a person anywhere in the world who professes faith in Jesus Christ who does know and occasionally recite the Lord’s prayer. In the same way, I doubt there are any such people who have no knowledge or awareness of the Kingdom of God.
For too many such people, however, the Kingdom, for the coming of which they doubtless occasionally pray, exists largely as an idea or a concept only. It has little reality either in or through their lives, and experiencing daily progress in that Kingdom is not something they expect to know or to realize, and, consequently, not something to which they give much conscious exertion.
“According to your faith, be it unto you,” as Jesus might say. If we know there is a Kingdom of God, and know something of its righteous and peaceable and joyous character, and, what’s more, if we know that our Lord has taught us to pray for its coming, then why should we not earnestly seek and fully expect to realize more of its reality in our midst? If we claim to believe in the Kingdom but are not realizing its outworking in and through our lives, then what does this suggest about the nature of our faith (Jms. 2.14-17)?
There are two reasons why so few of the followers of Christ today evidence so little of the reality of the Kingdom of God in their lives: First, most Christians do not understand how to seek the Kingdom; and, second, most of us have little real understanding of the ways the Kingdom makes progress through and among us. We affirm the necessity of seeking the Kingdom; however, because we do not know how to do so, or how the Kingdom actually advances in and through us, our lives are bereft of all but the barest manifestations of this righteous and peaceable and joyous realm of grace and truth.
We have seen that seeking the Kingdom involves desiring it as a thing to be possessed because of its beauty and power; cultivating a Kingdom mindset so that our thoughts and plans are filtered through the priorities of the Kingdom; and embracing seeking the Kingdom as the first priority in all ways. The Kingdom of God will never be a reality in our daily lives until it becomes the guiding principle and commanding vantage of our souls – heart, mind, and conscience.
It is to the practical outworking of the Kingdom in “all our ways”, here briefly introduced, that we now turn our thoughts.
The everyday practices of the world
When we were yet citizens in the “kingdom of the flesh”, as it were, all our thoughts, affections, values, and everyday practices evidenced and confirmed our patrimony, all day long. We thought, felt, valued, and lived like people for whom satisfying fleshly desires was the most important thing in life – make a living, be comfortable, have stuff, indulge our whims, satisfy every bodily urge.
Paul would describe us at that time as being “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world” (Gal. 4.3). That phrase, “elementary principles,” translates the Greek term, stoicheia. This word derives from a verb meaning “to walk” or “to conduct one’s affairs.” Hence “elementary principles” probably means something like “everyday practices” or “basic lifestyle.”
In the kingdom of the flesh everything about us declares our allegiance to material and sensual interests. What we dream about and hope for, the things that dominate our conversation and fill up our time, how we spend our money, and what brings us happiness, be it ever so fleeting – these “everyday practices” or “basic lifestyle” components are what they are because we are enslaved to the world. We don’t know anything other than what everybody else is living, and we don’t have the ability to get beyond that way of life into something different.
But once we have been born again by the Spirit and God, translated into the Kingdom of God’s Son, and are beginning to be grounded in God’s Word and filled with His Spirit, all that changes. Those “elementary principles” of the world must no longer be allowed to dominate our lives. Now, walking in the Spirit, we begin to learn new practices, building on the renewal that is taking place in our souls, so that the Kingdom of God advances in and through us by increments, in every area of our lives.
Everyday practice in the Kingdom
The effects of God’s Word and Spirit, as they work in our lives, are unto a salvation that brings to light the glory of God – His undeniable, fearsome, and awesome presence – in every area of life (Phil. 2.12, 13). This is our calling, to make known the glory of God which He has hidden in everyday things, so that men might know, fear, obey, love, and serve Him through Jesus Christ (Hab. 2.12; Prov. 25.2; Deut.10.12). As they do, everything in their lives will become a means of glorifying and enjoying the Lord (1 Cor. 10.31; Ps. 16.11).
The everyday practices of the Kingdom of God, coming to expression from our Kingdom-captured souls, will shape the way we speak (Col. 4.6), how we relate to others (Jms. 1.19, 20; Jn. 13.1-15), do our work (Ps. 90.16, 17; Col. 3.23, 24), manage our time (Ps. 90.12), use our resources and possessions (Ps. 24.1), and talk with those who oppose the life of faith (2 Tim. 2.24-26).
In the Kingdom of God we have been made new creatures by Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5.17); now we submit to Him – to His Law, Word, and Spirit – day by day, moment by moment, so that in us it might be seen that He is at work, willing and doing of His good pleasure, to bring that newness to expression in every detail and facet of our lives, little by little, but surely and ineluctably (Phil. 2.12, 13; Rev. 21.5; Lk. 13.18-21).
The importance of the self-watch
Thus it is important that all those who have come to the Kingdom of God nurture their souls on Kingdom food – the Word and Spirit of God – through the disciplines of Kingdom growth – prayer, reading and meditation, worship, study, conversation – and that they maintain a continuous watch over their lives to ensure that progress in the Kingdom is evident increasingly (Prov. 4.20-27; Ps. 119.59, 60; 1 Tim. 4.15, 16).
By so doing we seek the Kingdom of God, bear the fruit of the Kingdom in every aspect of our lives, and make practicing the Kingship of Jesus the real and increasingly powerful force of our lives and in the world.
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