For born-again Christians, we are well aware of the understanding that there are two opposing kingdoms. One, the kingdom which we are called to serve is The Kingdom of God. The other, in which we live, is the “kingdom” of this world.
We need to understand, however, that the “kingdom of this world” is not just limited to that which we may term physical, secular, or non-religious, but it also extends to include the religious world in which we live. It also extends into the spiritual world, which our senses cannot normally discern.
Jesus tells us this plainly in Mathew 6:33 to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness….” We are to seek for His Kingdom, the Kingdom where God rules as King. If God does not rule as King, then there is no Kingdom; for by definition, a realm ruled by a king, is a kingdom.
If we acknowledge we are part of God’s Kingdom, yet do not let Him rule in our lives and in every aspect of our lives, we are traitors, liars, and in rebellion against the King. If we do not accept His sovereign authority over all aspects of our lives, we do not truly see Him as our King and do not honour Him with our obedience and fidelity. For those who find themselves in this camp, Jesus has a clear word from Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other.” The word ‘master’ here may also be interpreted as ‘lord’. Jesus is saying, if you do not serve the Lord your King, if you do not “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) then you are in rebellion and belong to the enemy. What happens to the enemy of God? Jesus tells us: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
This means that we are to serve God in every possible way. We cannot have split loyalty; split loyalty is totally unacceptable. We cannot pick and choose the works we do, they are assigned to us. We cannot pick and choose the verses from the Bible as to which we will believe and which we do not believe, or accept or reject. Jesus gave us no options: His way or no way. He confirms this in Matthew 7:13 where He says ”Go in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it.”
Let us look back at Matthew 6:33 where we are told to not only seek the Kingdom of God, but also “His righteousness….” Here, Jesus is setting a bar of conformity for us. Our “pass-level” is not our own righteousness, but “His righteousness.” As fallen and sinful creatures, we can soon all recognise that no matter how hard we try, we will ultimately fail this test. In this fallen world, we are tempted, and it is just a matter of time before we fail and fall again. Jesus told us this also in Matthew 5:20 so that we would not be ignorant “For I say to you that unless your righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” More bluntly, Jesus is telling his disciples here “in the flesh, you cannot do it – it is not possible!”
But as born-again Christians we have another way of looking at this impossible situation. For us, the impossible ‘performance standard,’ this striving for “His righteousness,“ has been given to us free as a Redemptive Gift through the propitiationary sacrifice of Jesus Christ who died on a cross at Calvary. Yes, that which is required of us and we cannot possible hope to achieve by the works of our own hands and minds, has been given to us as free gift. Jesus paid the price with His live that we may receive the redemption free, and by faith alone.
In view of the above, the only way we can interpret this now is that those who “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” will be provided the righteousness by the Lord. But it is conditional on us seeking Him. If we do not seek, we cannot receive; for it is impossible for us through our own work or hands to achieve the righteousness of God. Paul confirms this assertions in Philippines 3:9 as he says “and be found in Him; not having my own righteousness, which is of the Law, but through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith.”
We bear witness to this indwelling of righteousness by the fruit we bear and the changed life which is imparted to us from the inside out. The First Epistle of John 2:3-6 clarifies this for us, as John challenges us to test ourselves “And by this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, I have known Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His Word, truly in this one the love of God is perfected. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked.”
But all this only comes when we recognise the true and one and only sovereign King, the maker of heaven and earth, and accept His Son Jesus Christ as our personal saviour. Then we can receive the righteousness of sonship from the Kingdom’s King.
Amen and Amen.