Kingdom Values (4)
I thought about my ways,
And turned my feet to Your testimonies.
I made haste, and did not delay
To keep Your commandments. Psalm 119.59, 60
New values, new light
Seeking the Kingdom of God will shed new light on our lives in many ways. We will begin to see things – in our lives and in the world – that are not consistent with the presence and progress of the Kingdom of God, to which we have been called and which we are seeking. Distractions and diversions will obscure God’s calling and deter our Kingdom-seeking, and transgressions and lack of diligence will find us straying from God’s path at times. If we don’t overcome these, we’ll end up frustrated and perhaps even abandoning the Kingdom values we’re trying to embrace.
The Christian life is always a work in progress. What Paul described as a “law of sin” continues to operate in our souls, so that our mind, heart, and conscience still bear some of the marks and tendencies of a more self-centered than God-centered agenda; and our words and deeds, as a result, will at times fall short of glorifying God in Kingdom ways (Rom. 7.15-25).
Thus, we need to put in place yet another Kingdom value, so that, when we recognize these distractions and potential deterrents or failings, we won’t back down before them, but we’ll take them on and overcome them and continue making progress in seeking the Kingdom to which God is calling us (Rom. 12.21).
And that value we may refer to as renewal.
A work of God
The work of renewing our souls and lives is God’s work. Our role is to agree that we will always have need of renewal, to be alert to when renewal is called for, and to seek it by the Lord’s prescribed means.
Renewing our souls and lives in the Lord is a process that involves three steps. As we, by faith, take each of these, the Spirit meets us with the Kingdom power we need to keep moving forward (1 Cor. 4.20; Phil. 2.12, 13).
First, we must be clear about what needs to be renewed. Whether it’s a thought we continue to indulge, some affection that’s out of whack, or particular words or deeds that are not in line with the righteousness, peace, and joy of God’s Kingdom, we need to face up to our shortcomings and name them for what they are. This is the work of confession– agreeing with the Spirit that we have turned away from the Lord in whatever area He is bringing to mind.
By settling the value of renewal in our conscience, we’ll be ready to direct our thoughts and affections so that, whenever the Spirit of God convictsus of some sin or shortcoming in our lives, our immediate response is going to be something other than to excuse or defend ourselves. We will confess our transgression, and thereby begin the process of turning back to the Lord.
Then, second, we can seek the Lord’s counsel for whatever next step will enable us to resume our journey of seeking the Kingdom to which God is calling us. This begins the work of repentance. The same Spirit Who convinces us that we are in sin also directs us in the way of righteousness (Jn. 16.8-11) and empowers us for obedience (Phil. 2.12, 13).
Let’s say we become aware, under the leading of the Spirit, that we’ve been harboring a bad attitude toward a co-worker. We resent him for whatever reason. We speak uncharitably about him behind his back, and secretly wish he’d get fired. Whenever we think about this person we scowl and get angry or depressed.
And then in His way and time, the Spirit reveals this sin, thus engaging our soul for renewal.
So what do we do now? We look to the Spirit, waiting on Him in prayer, to lead us back onto the path of righteousness, which He will do one step at a time (Ps. 139.23, 24). Perhaps the next step, after confessing this sin, will be to, whenever you think of this person, rather than scowling and getting angry, to offer a brief word of thanksgiving to the Lord for him. Think about whatever his positive contribution is to the workplace, and then dwell with thanksgiving on that, remembering that he is made in the image of God and susceptible to the law of sin, just as you. Take up just that much of a next step, and when you need the next one, to replace those negative thoughts with ones more like the way you’d like others to think about you, the Spirit will be there to lead you.
Finally, you have to act. This is the work of penance. Inward transformation must come to expression in outward actions – words and deeds. When renewal is established as a value in your conscience, you’ll want to bring renewal to full fruition through active obedience. Look for opportunities to show the love of Christ to this unlovable colleague, and when those opportunities arise, make the most of them (Eph. 5.15-17). If you have said anything unkind or hurtful to him, seek his forgiveness.
A lifestyle of renewal
What applies to us as individuals also applies to our churches. Churches need renewal whenever the Spirit indicates that they have left the path of the Lord, whether in worship, disciple-making, or mission. The same process of confession, repentance, and penance applies for bringing renewal to a congregation as to an individual.
Having renewal – the need for it and a readiness to enter into it – as a value in your soul will help to ensure continuing growth in the Lord. The more sensitive we become to the Spirit’s leading, and the more diligent we are at practicing the steps of renewal, the more renewal will work out in every area of our lives. We will grow in our Kingdom calling and realize more consistency in Kingdom-seeking as we take up the work of renewal every day, in every area of our lives, every time the Spirit leads and guides.
1. What are the signs that renewal is needed in your life?
2. How would you explain confession, repentance, and penance to a new believer? Why is each necessary?
3. How might a local church know when renewal is needed, and what should it do then?
Next steps – Conversation: How can believers help one another take up the work of renewal more consistently? Talk with a Christian friend about this question.
T. M. Moore
The Ailbe Cross, which you can see in the masthead of our website, incorporates the Kingdom values examined in this series. Watch this brief videoto see how all these values underlie our ministry.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.