Realizing the Kingdom (3)
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent…
- Philippians 1.9, 10
Righteousness as love
We are considering righteousness, which is the primary attribute of the character of the Kingdom of God. As we grow in understanding righteousness we expect to make progress in realizing more of the Kingdom’s presence, power, and promise.
We have seen that the righteousness that comes to expression in us is not our own righteousness, but that of Jesus Christ Himself, Who dwells in our hearts by faith. As we yield more of our lives to Him, He becomes more evident in and through us, and His righteousness, which is identifiable in the first instance as love, comes out in us, abounding more and more in love for God and the people we meet each day.
The character of the Kingdom is becoming our character, and we are realizing the Kingdom more consistently, when the love of Jesus – the first facet of the gem of righteousness – is increasingly evident in us.
The second facet of righteousness is excellence. When we are filled with the fruit of righteousness, Paul says, we will approve things that are excellent. Our tastes, habits, choices, speech, and every other aspect of our lives will take on qualities and features that would “wear well” in the most excellent court of our heavenly King.
Now excellence is talked about quite a bit these days, especially in the world of business. There the pursuit of excellence is an economic necessity. If in our business we don’t do everything with the kind of excellence customers expect, they’ll go somewhere else.
But excellence is a little difficult to define. In its purest form it has to do with notions of beauty, goodness, and truth achieved or expressed at the highest levels – each of which is an expression of righteousness. When the judges in American Idol or Dancing with the Stars or any of the other popular talent programs, sit in judgment on aspiring stars, they are making a statement about excellence: some got it, some don’t. Early on in the tournament it’s pretty easy to sort out the wheat from the chaff. But as the competition continues and the gap between contestants narrows, then our judges need to fine tune their excellence meters and start explaining their choices a little more.
We should live every aspect of our lives like we were trying to please an elite panel of judges – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as that great cloud of witnesses – in every single area of our lives – not to gain their approval, but to demonstrate our gratitude. We want to offer up our conversation, our personal presence, all our works and words in every area of our lives in ways that are beautiful to God Himself, Who is the very embodiment of beauty. We want to achieve levels of goodness in all these areas that reflect the goodness God instilled in the creation during those early days, before sin began its ravaging effects on the world. And we want every part of our lives to be a reflection of the truth of God as well, illuminating the darkness of sin and guiding in the path of righteousness.
Our desire should be to please God as fully as we can, given the extraordinary lengths He has gone to redeem, save, adopt, and make us His own. The desire for excellence – superlative beauty, goodness, and truth – should inform everything we do, since we do everything before the watchful eye of God (Col. 3.23, 24).
Learn the standards
If we do not know what the standards of excellence are, we can make it our business to learn them. Just as a dog breeder would not think of entering his pet in an AKC contest without first mastering the standards of excellence, and then working hard to bring his dog up to them, so we must be diligent to search the Scriptures day by day, that we might learn the standards of beauty, goodness, and truth that will enable us to pursue a living example of excellence before God and men. We should read what great Christians in the past have thought about such standards, and talk with contemporary believers about this important aspect of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
The more we study and the better we learn the standards of excellence as God presents them in His Word, the easier it will be to identify ways we can improve our own Kingdom citizenship wherever it becomes apparent that excellence is lacking. We must not only “approve” things that are excellent, but we must embrace and model them as well.
Excellence together with love: these are the first two facets of the gem of righteousness, which is the principle attribute of the character of God’s Kingdom.
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.