Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
Kingdom Civics

The Priority of the Kingdom

Seeking the Kingdom (3)

 

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6.33

Hearts and minds for the Kingdom

Seeking the Kingdom of God, as Jesus commands, begins within, in our souls. We must train our hearts to desire the Kingdom and shape our minds to envision and embrace it. Neither the heart – which is naturally deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17.9) – nor the mind – which in its natural state is corrupt and hardened against the things of the Lord (Eph. 4.17-19) – are able to bend themselves to the Kingdom of God. Rather, they must be ordered and disciplined to their respective tasks of desiring and knowing the Kingdom. This is the role of the conscience.

 

Referee of the soul

The soul is the immaterial and spiritual aspect of each human being which provides the motivation and direction to all of life. It consists of three overlapping, fully integrated, but separate and distinct entities: the heart, which is the seat and source of affections; the mind, which processes thought and manages the various elements thereof, and the conscience, which houses the values and priorities of the soul. Another way of thinking about the conscience is as the will – that inclination and propensity to act in particular ways which serves as a default in bringing heart and mind together according to ultimate values.

 

The conscience is thus a kind of referee in the soul, presiding in the contest of heart and mind to suppress whatever is not consistent with the ultimate values of the soul, and to shape and direct affections and thinking to work together in order to bring ultimate values and priorities to expression in words and deeds.

 

The natural state of the conscience

Like the heart and the mind, the conscience, in its natural state, is unable to fulfill its appointed task in a way that serves the interests of the Kingdom. This is because it has become encrusted with evil values and priorities (Heb. 9.14). Exposed to lies and half-truths and practiced only in self-serving decisions, the conscience apart from Christ is hardened against the truth of God and the priorities of His Kingdom (1 Tim. 4.1, 2).

 

Only the redemptive work of Christ can interrupt the conscience in such a state and begin to point it in new directions (Heb. 9.14). This is the work of the Spirit of God, Who, by dwelling in the believer, works to convict him of sin, righteousness, and judgment, by such inward work indicting the conscience and shaping the will so that it can function properly in relation to the rest of the soul and body (Jn. 16.8-11; Phil. 2.13).

 

Renewing the conscience

The immediate effect of the indwelling of the Spirit is to turn the will to God, leading the believer to cry out, “Abba! Father” in a gesture of submission and embrace which sets a new course for the conscience and the life (Gal. 4.6). From that moment the Spirit “lusts” to transform soul and body into the image of Jesus Christ (Gal. 5.16, 17; 2 Cor. 3.12-18). By His continual searching, teaching, and piquing the believer, He begins to redeem the conscience and, with it, the soul. The will, now righty and increasingly directed to the things of the Lord, begins to exert power and direction over the affections and thoughts, until a dialog and harmony is established in the soul on which the Lord can build for the sanctification of the believer.

 

This work of the Spirit in redeeming the conscience and the soul is one in which we must consciously participate (Phil. 2.12), beginning with the retraining of the will. The Spirit brings to the classroom of the soul the Law of God – the books of Moses and the prophets, seen through the life and work of Christ, and interpreted by the Apostles (Ezek. 36.26, 27). By stirring up our minds to attend to these words from God (2 Pet. 3.1, 2), the Spirit begins to establish God’s Word concerning His Kingdom as our chief priority, and this, in turn, forms the heart to desire and the mind to know the Kingdom of God.

 

Thus we must give disciplined attention to the renewing of our consciences – making sure that our consciences, with respect to God and men, are always “good”, always what God would want them to be (Acts 24.16). By faithfully reading, meditating on, and studying the Word of God, and by listening to and waiting on the convicting work of the Spirit (Ps. 139.23, 24), we may improve the health of our conscience, as well as our heart and mind. And by keeping all this renewing work focused on the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, we will be able to achieve a manner of life that is pleasing to God and beneficial to those around us (Rom. 14.17, 18).

 

We cannot do this work alone. We need other believers to teach and encourage us, to serve as examples and sounding-boards, and to hold us accountable in prayer and in person. The Spirit of God has given gifts to the members of Christ’s Body, the Church, which we are to use in building one another up into Christlikeness (1 Cor. 12.7-11). Thus, if we would know the full benefit of the Spirit’s work in shaping our consciences, not only must we submit to the Word of God, but to one another as well, that we might be mutually edified in seeking the Kingdom of God.

 

By such means we may expect the Kingdom of God to grow as the primary objective and value in our souls. Thus established, it will become the default setting for how we must think, feel, and choose; and this, in turn, will put us in good stead to set aside the everyday practices of our former sinful lives and begin to take up those which must characterize our new life in Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

Read about Patrick and his work in the Kingdom of Christ in T. M.’s book, The Legacy of Patrick, from our online store.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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