The Primacy of the Soul (3)
“We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14.22
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6.33
The right framework
Like the Lord Jesus Himself, the apostle Paul understood that the salvation of the Lord, while it begins in the human soul, is much larger than the soul, even than all the souls of all those God will save by grace through faith throughout the course of human history.
Salvation begins and unfolds from within, in the human soul. The stronger our souls become, the more of the Lord’s great salvation we will be able to experience.
But the soul is only the most immediate context in which the salvation and Kingdom of the Lord begin to be known on earth as in heaven. The growth and progress of the Kingdom must begin in the soul so that it may come to expression through a strong soul into every area of life.
The Kingdom of God is the larger, historical and even meta-historical reality within and toward which our salvation unfolds. We are saved into the Kingdom of God, and we are saved for the sake of the Kingdom of God. What has been planted and is growing in our souls is the seed of the Kingdom. As that seed is strengthened within us it grows and bears fruit unto righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit – the character, condition, and consequence of the coming of God’s Kingdom (Rom. 14.17, 18).
And as we grow in the Kingdom, the Kingdom increases through us, advancing along many fronts as it brings heaven to earth throughout our spheres of influence.
Thus our souls can only be truly strengthened, as the apostle Paul rightly understood, when they are continuously focused on and being fitted for seeking and advancing the Kingdom of God.
Why is this so?
Called to the Kingdom
In the first place this is so because we who believe in Jesus Christ have been called to the Kingdom of God, and to His glory (1 Thess. 2.12). The Kingdom of God is our home country, to which we have been conveyed by our heavenly Father through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 1.13). The Lord Jesus gives His Kingdom to us so that we might find our true place, and the proper unfolding of our salvation, within that glorious realm (Dan. 7.18-27). All believers are citizens and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God; thus, the Spirit of God within us works to strengthen us for this calling, beginning in our soul, so that we might enjoy and contribute to the righteousness, peace, and joy that He is establishing, on earth as it is in heaven, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If in the Name of Jesus we are seeking anything other than His Kingdom, we have not understood our calling as we should.
This is why Jesus made so much of the Kingdom during His earthly ministry. In parable after parable Jesus sought to cast a vision and whet our appetite for the coming Kingdom of God. He told us that God was eager to give the Kingdom to us, and made it clear that this involved the gift of the Holy Spirit and His powerful working in our lives (Acts 1.1-8). So it’s no wonder that Jesus, to focus our hopes and aspirations, and to give direction to our experience of His salvation, commanded us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
The Kingdom of God is the natural habitat of the redeemed soul. Our souls are meant to flourish in, toward, and for the Kingdom of God. When we direct our mind, heart, and conscience to the fuller realization of the Kingdom of God, the Spirit of God at work within us strengthens our soul for Kingdom progress, precisely as we see in the book of Acts.
The Kingdom of God is thus the backdrop, framework, game plan, and objective of the life of discipleship. All who profess faith in Jesus, and those whose ministry is to spend and be spent for people’s souls, must ever work to sharpen their vision of and gain the skills necessary for realizing the Kingdom, coming on earth as it is in heaven.
The Kingdom and the soul
Seeking the Kingdom has profound effects on the redeemed soul. It expands and illuminates the mind, unifies and clarifies thinking, and gives shape to all our visions and plans. As we study and contemplate the Kingdom of God, we learn to think like the Lord Jesus Himself, Whose mind we have (1 Cor. 2.16) and Who even now rules at the Father’s right hand for the progress of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (Ps. 110).
The Kingdom affects the heart as well – our affections, what we desire, hope for, aspire to, and long to achieve. As we understand the vast scope of the Spirit’s power – how He works to transform us increasingly into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18) – and submit to His instruction in God’s Law and all His Word (Ezek. 36.26, 27), we begin to realize more of the beauty, goodness, truth, majesty, and greatness of our King and His Kingdom; and all our deepest longings and greatest delights take on a new aspect and vigor. We love what Jesus loves, and the effect of this is to see the increase of His powerful, glorious rule welling-up within our soul and flowing, like rivers of living water, through us into our world (Jn. 7.37-39).
And this focusing on and desiring the Kingdom alters, adjusts, and fortifies the conscience – all our priorities and values – so that we will what God the Father wills in every situation (Phil. 2.13).
Our souls will only be strengthened when the Kingdom of God is our aim. We must through many struggles and trials gain fuller possession and greater experience of that heavenly realm. As we give ourselves to improving our vision of the Kingdom of God, and as we work for its coming in and through our lives, we will see more of the Kingdom, and we will seek it more earnestly, unto the strengthening of our souls and progress of the Gospel.
1. What does it mean for you to be called to the Kingdom and glory of God?
2. Why do we say that the Kingdom of God is the believer’s native land?
3. How can we grow in our vision and experience of the Kingdom of God? Why does growing this way strengthen our soul?
Next steps - Preparation: On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the highest rating, how would you rate the clarity of your Kingdom vision at this time? How much does the vision of the Kingdom frame your thinking, direct your affections, and establish your priorities? Review your assessment before the Lord in prayer.
T. M. Moore
Your soul in the Kingdom of God
Jesus has conveyed us into the Kingdom of God. It is in the context of seeking the Kingdom that we can grow strong souls. Our book, The Kingdom Turn, can help you understand and begin making yourself more at home in the Kingdom of God. Order your free copy by clicking here.
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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.