What the Bible says about
Kingdom of God, Seeking First
(From Forerunner Commentary)
We are not helpless against the evil desires of our human nature. We can do several things:
1. Recognize that human beings have an unstable, insatiable nature. Ecclesiastes 1:8 says, "All things are full of labor; man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing." Being aware of this biblical truth can give us a better grasp of what we are dealing with. Do not be deceived; happiness is a fruit of true spirituality. God has not put the power into anything material to satisfy man's spiritual needs.
2. Seek God first. Our Savior advises in Luke 12:15, 31: "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. . . . But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you." Paul adds in Colossians 3:1-2: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."
We must purposely and deliberately study, pray, fast, and meditate. Further, we must consciously practice God's way of life. This takes sacrifice and discipline, but it fills the mind with the kind of thoughts that will eventually make it impossible to sin.
3. Hate covetousness, not things. Proverbs 28:15-16 states, "Like a roaring lion and a charging bear is a wicked ruler over poor people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor, but he who hates covetousness will prolong his days."
It is very helpful to observe what covetousness produces. Some sins are clearly understood, but covetousness is generally less easily observed, requiring careful attention to comprehend the very beginning of many sins. Making such observations is helpful in evaluating the self. We need to remember that coveting violates the basic principle of God's way of outgoing concern. It also keeps us from listening to God, so we must be attuned to detect its presence.
4. Learn to be cheerfully generous. Luke records Paul saying in Acts 20:35, "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" The apostle adds to this thought in II Corinthians 9:6-7: "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."
We need to keep in mind that we have such an abundance of self-concern mixed with a natural fear that, if we give things away, we will not have enough. God intends that we overcome these fears. Self-centeredness must be excised from our character. Working on it is an excellent discipline.
5. Learn thoroughly what grace teaches. Titus 2:11-14 tells us what this is:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Isaiah 1:16-17 adds, "Cease to do evil, learn to do good."
Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the power that motivates us to sin. He gives His power to those who strive to overcome the remnants of their old nature. Certainly, it is a tough and in many cases a long process, but with God's help, if we make the efforts, we can overcome it.
The dynamic of this new life is the coming of Jesus Christ first to us by His Spirit and then to this earth to rule it. When royalty is coming, everything is made spit-and-polish clean and decorated for the royal eyes to see. That is what we are doing: The Christian is one who is steadfastly making himself ready for the arrival of his King.
To this end, let us strive consistently and mightily to think the right thoughts that produce right conduct.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment
In Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus informs us what our primary focus regarding work should be:
Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Undoubtedly, earning a living is important to life. However, we can easily drift into over-emphasizing the day-to-day, wage-earning job above Christian responsibilities. At the same time, the Kingdom of God can easily suffer from the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome. To guard against this happening, we must consciously put God's Word and work as our highest priorities. This is not to say that Christian works should be given the greater time but that we must have a higher regard for them. We must consider it an absolute necessity not to neglect them.
Work is defined as “the physical or mental activity directed toward the accomplishment of a project one has either been assigned or undertaken on his own volition.” God, in whose image we are being created, is our overall Model. The first image God gives mankind of Himself is of Him working.
Genesis 1:26 establishes the early time-setting when work was shown as an assigned responsibility of mankind:
Then God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Most of the Bible's first two chapters are comprised of showing God working. In our culture, people generally think that as one rises in importance, he is relieved of most work, a flawed concept to say the least. In His culture, nobody is higher than God, and in John 5:17, Jesus states that God works continually. Genesis 1 and 2 provide as clear an example of His activity as is found in Scripture.
Hebrews 1:3 further clarifies the Creator's continuous work:
. . . who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the majesty.
His “upholding” indicates continuous, purposeful, and energetic movement toward carrying out a purpose.
Genesis 2:15 adds to our understanding of God as our Model of work and of work being an assigned responsibility: “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” If we follow the orderly, step-by-step sequence of events as God creates, He did not create Adam and Eve until everything physically necessary for living was in place and operational. The narrative shows that He led them to the Garden, and His first command to mankind, represented by them, lets them know that they had to work to guard the Garden from deteriorating and to make it productive.
Note three significant things from this opening revelation about work:
1) God gives no indication to man that he is entitled to something for nothing.
2) The command to work preceded Adam and Eve's sin, so we must understand that work is not a penalty for sin. Genesis 3:17-19, God's pronouncement of Adam's curse, makes this point plain:
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
The curses for their sin definitely made work more difficult, but the responsibility to work continued otherwise unchanged.
3) Therefore, Ecclesiastes 2:24 highlights God's original command regarding work: “There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.” Thus, work is a blessing, a valuable gift from God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Two): Works
The Kingdom of God will be the recipient of slings and arrows and wars and temptations, and its own people will need to be violent in return. He means "forceful." It will take a titanic struggle to enter it because so many things are acting against us. Jesus warns us it will not be easy. We are going to have to work vigorously and "violently" at times, to force ourselves to do what is right, because the Kingdom of God is now under siege in so many ways. Therefore, we have to fight as warriors in battle and violently engage the enemy.
From John 17:11-18, we know that the Kingdom functions in the world, and Jesus is not going to take us out of it. But He asks His Father to give us His protection from the Evil One so that we can at least have that added strength. We must constantly deal with the world, human nature, and the Evil One himself, as well as his demons.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 2): Leaven
Though physically disabled and disfigured by her stooped spine, she, just like the man with the withered hand (Luke 6:6), does not allow her problem to keep her from formal worship of God on the Sabbath. Her physical condition makes it very difficult for her to go to the synagogue and sit through the service. It is also humbling for her, since people often feel awkward around those with disfigurements. She goes anyway.
Surely, she has prayed and asked God for help, yet she has not been delivered. However, God's seemingly neglectful and unconcerned lack of intervention does not make her bitter or resentful. She attends synagogue despite the obstacles, appreciating her spiritual opportunities and cherishing the worship of God. Her dedication and faithfulness do not go unrewarded.
How many blessings do people give up when they skip going to church? Spiritually and physically, we benefit by regularly attending where we can hear God's Word and worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). This woman learns that the best help she can give her body is to be first concerned about her spiritual health. Had she not been concerned enough about her spiritual needs to be in the synagogue in spite of her condition, she would never have been healed. As Jesus promises, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Stooped Woman (Part One)
Paul is telling us where the focus of our attention needs to be. We can give our minds over to a lot of things, for instance, to our jobs - and there is a place for that. We can give our minds over to physical things - exercise, eating well, and so forth - and there is a place for these, too.
Indeed, humans need to set their minds on many things, but they need to be prioritized correctly - put into the right niche and position. Then each of these things has to be seen in relation to the Kingdom of God. Our priorities must be set according to this standard - the overriding goal of our Christian lives.
"Set your mind on things above" adjusts the focus of our attention so that we do not become distracted by things that are less important for any longer than needed, so that they occupy the right proportion and amount of time in our lives.
John W. Ritenbaugh
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