Rev. John Willoughby
GOD’S GLORIOUS KINGDOM.
(All scriptures in ‘New King James Version’, unless otherwise stated.)
X. PRINCIPLES AND WARNINGS FOR KINGDOM LIVING.
1. THE PRINCIPLES OF RIGHT MOTIVATION.
Religion is concerned with keeping observances and laws, but the King is interested in the inner motives of the heart. The Scribes and the Pharisees specialised in religious acts, for they did all the right things, but often with the imperfect motive of being seen by men. It is good to sometimes question the reasons we do things with questions such as – ‘why am I doing this’, ‘is my motive pure’, or ‘what will be the end result’? The Psalmist wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:23-24). Three areas are mentioned for Kingdom motives:
a) Giving. Mt 6:1-4. For Christians financial giving can be a great blessing (Mal 3:8-12), but to those who hold back it can prove a serious curtailment to spiritual growth (Lk 18:22). The principle of giving regularly of 10% of our income came into being before the law (Gen 15:18-20) and is an act of faith in a big God. Jesus said, “Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use it will be measured back to you” (Lk 6:38). He also said that when we do give, it should be with the motive of blessing God and His purposes and should be done in privacy and with humility, for all we have is of Him.
b) Prayer. Mt 6:5-15. As with giving, prayer should be part of the Christian discipline, not only at special times, but also as part of our daily walk with the Lord. It forms part of the outworking of our relationship with Him and the more we do it, the more that relationship is strengthened. In v9-13 Jesus gives us not a religious set of words to be repeated, but rather a guide for our every day prayers. Our motives should firstly be to give glory to Him (v9-10), then to give our petitions and ending in proclaiming His power and glory in all situations (v11-13).
c) Fasting. Mt 6:16-18. It is good to note that Jesus said in v17, “when you fast”, repeating His words, “when you do charitable deeds” (6:2) and “when you pray” (6:5). Similar to giving and praying, our motives are not for self glory and the acclamation of men, but rather it is to be done, “in a secret place” to the glory of our “Father who sees in secret.” Fasting is not an option for a Christian, but should be part of Kingdom living and as with giving and prayer, it needs to be part of a disciplined lifestyle, with the result that there is often a battle with the flesh – but His grace is always sufficient. Fasting should not be done in a vacuum, but should be accompanied by other spiritual disciplines. Sometimes, especially when dealing with strongholds of the enemy, prayer together with fasting is the means of victory (Mt 17:14-21).
2. THE PRINCIPLES OF RESPONSIBLE STEWARDSHIP.
Mt 6:19-24. As citizens of the Kingdom we have given all our personal rights and all we have to the King, we therefore own nothing, but are simply stewards of what He has given back to us to use for His glory. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (v21), this is a key to responsible stewardship. Paul referring to the “rich in this present age” wrote, “Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may may lay hold on eternal life” (I Tim 6:17-19). Our heart follows our giving, not the other way around. What we invest our finances in, reveals where our heart’s affections really are. As Jesus said, “you cannot serve both God and riches” (v24). God must always come first. If we invest in earthly things – moth, rust and thieves will destroy, but treasures invested in the eternal Kingdom will not only show our heart’s loyalties now, but will also produce eternal rewards.
3. THE PRINCIPLES OF RIGHT PRIORITIES.
Mt 6:25-34. Worry about the future can rob us of our peace and joy, but He wants us to by faith trust in Him for all things. The good can often be the enemy of the best. Jesus clearly defines our priorities, “seek first the Kingdom of God …. ” (v33). As we make Him and His Kingdom our priority with dedication and commitment, so we will find that our security rests in a loving and faithful Father, who wants our good and in His timing all the things we need will be given us.
4. THE PRINCIPLE OF TOLERANCE TOWARDS OUR BROTHER.
Mt 7:1-5. It is easier to criticize others than to recognise our own imperfections – seeing the speck in somebody else’s eye, yet not seeing the log in our own! We should not, however, be blind to other’s faults (v6), thus ignoring them, but rather to minister to them in love and compassion, seeking by prayer and counsel to help them to overcome those weaknesses, but being always aware of our own fallibility. How we treat others determines how we are treated. Paul wrote, “let us not judge one another any more, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Rom 14:13).
5. THE PRINCIPLE OF DISCRIMINATE TEACHING.
Mt 7:6. Pearls are formed in the hidden depths of an oyster and are formed by friction and hardship. The deep things we learn of Kingdom life, that which are precious and valuable, need to be guarded and not given to those who will not receive them, but rather shared only with those who are hungry for the truths of the Kingdom. We read in Prov 9:8-9, “Do not reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser; teach a just man and he will increase in learning”. We are to share the message of the Kingdom with all, but the mysteries of the Kingdom are only for the committed.
6. THE PRINCIPLES OF CONSISTENT PRAYER.
Mt 7:7-12. The ‘asking’, ‘seeking’ and ‘knocking’ are all a continuous action in the original language, thus ‘keep on asking’ etc. We may see a progression in prayer in these verses:-
* “Ask and it shall be given you.” Making our requests known to God with thanksgiving and faith is the simplest form of prayer. As we continuously ask, so our heavenly Father will give, “good things to those who ask Him” (v11).
* “Seek and you shall find.” A deeper level of prayer is seeking after God – in order to know Him, to be changed into His likeness and to make Him known to others. He promises that, “You shall find Me, when you seek with all your heart” (Jer 29:13). This type of prayer demands more time, dedication, repentance and sacrifice, but it also results in greater rewards, both in answered prayers and in a deeper spiritual life.
* “Knock and the door shall be opened.” This is not an aggressive faith, which often insists on an immediate answer, but rather a persistence in prayer. As we discern what is the mind of the Holy Spirit and follow Him in gently knocking daily in prayer at His door, so our petitions will be answered in His timing and in His way (Lk 11:5-8). It can be discouraging when we do not see immediate answers to our prayers, however, Jesus encourages us to, ‘keep on knocking’.
7. THE PRINCIPLES OF TRAVELLING THE KINGDOM PATH.
Mt 7:13-14. Jesus said, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6) and “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me he will be saved” (Jn 10:9). Entry into His Kingdom is only through Christ, which puts us on the narrow path of daily faith in Him alone, as opposed to the broad way of the world, which would include all other paths of faith living, whether in false gods or the world system. Travelling the way of the Kingdom often leads to many difficulties and persecutions, as we stand for integrity and righteousness, but it “leads to life” (v14) and stretches into eternity.
8. THE WARNINGS OF FALSE:
a) Ministries. Mt 7:15-20. Those who have matured in their Christian walk by taking the, “solid food” of His Word and have put its truths into practice are also able to discern, “both good and evil” (Heb 5:14). John wrote, “Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I Jn 4:1). How important it is to, “test all things” and “hold fast what is good” (I Thess 5:21), especially in the last days (Mt 24:11). All ministers of the Kingdom must be tested by the fruit of their lives and their ministry must be in agreement with God’s Word, when dealing with fundamental doctrine.
b) Disciples. Mt 7:21-23. It is false to proclaim Jesus as Lord with our lips, yet deny Him with our lifestyle. He said of those who would follow Him, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15). James warned us, “be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (1:22). Only God can cause miracles and bring healing. He may in His grace use one of His servants to bless others, but the most important thing is that our hearts and lives are wholly His and we give Him glory at all times.
c) Foundations. Mt 7:24-27. We read in Eph 2:20-22, the “chief cornerstone” of the Christian faith is Christ Himself, “in whom the whole building , being fitted together grows into a holy temple in the Lord”. Wrong foundations can prove disastrous for any physical building, but how much more important it is for those who are, “being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (v27). Peter was given the revelation that Jesus is, “the Christ , the Son of the living God”. Jesus replied, “on this rock (truth) I will build My church” (Mt 16:16-18). How important it is that the foundation of our lives as Kingdom people is built on the solid foundation of the rock of Christ.