Realizing the Kingdom (2)
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you [may be]…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
- Philippians 1.9, 11
We are considering the Kingdom of God, that spiritual realm from which Jesus Christ reigns supreme in the heavens and on earth. Our interest is in understanding and realizing the presence and power of the Kingdom, so that the reality of the Kingdom of God comes to expression in and through us as the Lord intends.
Critical to that result is our understanding the character of the Kingdom: the righteousness of Christ which gives rise to the peace and joy which attend the presence of the Kingdom. Only as we acquire a clear understanding of righteousness can we seek the Kingdom as Christ commands.
The Kingdom of God has been advancing through the course of history for nearly 2,000 years now, with implications and consequences for believers and unbelievers alike. Like earthly states and kingdoms, Christ’s Kingdom has a particular kind of character. We who are called to seek that Kingdom as our highest priority in life (Matt. 6.33) must make certain that we understand the character of the Kingdom, for we can have no hope of being fruitful in that realm without a clear grasp of and commitment to what Kingdom living entails.
The righteousness of Christ
The character of the Kingdom is summarized in the word, “righteousness” (Rom. 14.17). Righteousness is nothing less than the outworking of the life of Jesus Christ in our own lives, as we are transformed, from glory to glory, into the image of the Lord (2 Cor. 3.12-18). Righteousness, as we shall see, is a gem with many facets. The better we understand the true nature of righteousness, in all its various facets, the better able we will be to realize the presence of the Kingdom in and through our lives.
Paul says that we are filled with the fruit of righteousness when we are abounding more and more in love. Love is the leading edge and the principle substance of righteousness. This only makes sense because, as Paul notes, the righteousness which characterizes the rule of Christ actually comes through Christ, as He increases in us and expresses His own character through ours, into the everyday circumstances and situations of our lives.
In a very real sense we can say that righteousness is nothing more or less than Jesus Christ Himself, living in us by His Word and Spirit, and coming to increasing expression as we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. This is what Paul meant when He said, “For me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1.21), and “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me” (Gal. 2.20).
Jesus Christ comes to live in us at the moment we are born-again. He comes in the Person of His Spirit, converting us to Himself, granting us faith to believe, giving us a new heart, enabling us to call God our Father, and taking up residence in our souls in a mysterious and spiritual, but very real way. Christ lives in us, and we are called to grow up into Him in all things (Eph. 4.16).
His righteousness our own
And what Jesus is all about is, supremely, love – love for God, and love for our neighbors. This is why He came to fulfill the whole Law of God, because, in so doing, He accomplished the full righteousness of love that God requires in order to be pleasing and acceptable in His sight. That righteousness which Jesus fulfilled is credited to those in whom He comes to dwell as though it were their own righteousness (Rom. 3.21-26). In principle, all they in whom Jesus has come to dwell by His Spirit have all the righteousness they will ever need. It is a perfect righteousness, received by grace through faith, and it is sufficient to secure their place forever in the presence of God.
Yet though it is a perfect righteousness, it is not yet complete. The righteousness of Jesus must be nurtured, developed and, only finally in glory, perfected as we walk in faith and obedience. And we will know that this righteousness is being fulfilled when we find that love is increasing and abounding in us more and more.
The first facet of righteousness
Love is the leading edge and first facet of righteousness; it is defined by the righteousness of God’s Law, as embodied in the Righteous One Himself, even our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 2.34-40). We may expect to grow in love as we immerse ourselves in God’s Law and all His holy Word, and as we look to Jesus, exalted in glory, to guide us in understanding the requirements of love for each moment and situation of our lives.
If we would realize more of the presence and power of the Kingdom, we must strive to increase in love for God and neighbors. Love is the first and most important facet of the gem of righteousness. Where love abounds, righteousness abounds, and works to bring about the peace and joy which are the condition and consequence of the presence of the Kingdom of God.
As we seek the Kingdom of God, therefore, let us make the pursuit of love for God and others the first item on our agenda each day. Let us study love, plan for love, and take meaningful steps of love each moment of the day. For in so doing we will bring to a higher stage of expression the righteousness of Christ, which is the first attribute of the character of God’s Kingdom.
Tune: Aurelia – “The Church’s One Foundation”
“Sit by Me at My right hand,” the Lord says to my Lord,
“Until I make Your foot stand on all who hate Your Word.”
From in His Church the Savior rules all His enemies;
While those who know His favor go forth the Lord to please.
vv. 3, 4
Filled with the Spirit’s power, in holy robes of love,
From early morning’s hour they serve their Lord above.
Christ reigns a priest forever, the King of Righteousness
And King of Peace who ever His chosen ones will bless.
The Lord at Your right hand, Lord, in wrath shall shatter kings,
When judgment by His strong Word He to the nations brings.
Then, all His foes defeated, He takes His hard-won rest,
In glorious triumph seated with us, redeemed and blest!
From The Ailbe Psalter, which is available through our bookstore. For more insight to the character of the Kingdom of God and its impact on our lives, enroll in the course, PT 1 Spiritual Maturity 1: Revival. This free online course will help you to realize more of the presence and power of the Kingdom of God in your everyday life.