Living Life Over Before It’s Over, Pt. 7
Study Guide, February 7, 2016 – Pastor Clay Olsen
How do things get so complicated in life? A lot of problems come from miscommunication. Even companies have to be careful of how they market their products, especially in translating them into foreign languages. Remember KFC’s long-running slogan of ‘Finger lickin good’? In Chinese that came out as ‘Eat your fingers off’! When an American T-shirt company wanted to promote a recent visit of the Pope they thought their Spanish T-shirts were saying “I Saw the Pope”, but it translated as “I Saw the Potato”! Now when Pepsi was promoting their soft drinks in Taiwan, they may have actually gotten an unexpected boost to their sales because they thought their advertisement was saying “Come alive with Pepsi”, but it was translating out as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead”!
But it’s easy for things to get complicated when you’re not clear on what you are actually saying. Even when it comes to the concept of Kingdom living, many people complicate their thinking and their communication concerning what Kingdom living in this world is all about. They tend to make it about so many things that they get a little overwhelmed and sometimes just check out a little bit from the call to ‘seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you’, as Jesus stated.
What if we could compact into just three things what Kingdom living is all about? Would that take some of the stress out of thinking through what all the Christian life involves and what Kingdom living in the here and now is all about? Sure it would. And, Praise God, the Lord has already done just that for us, as the Spirit of God directed the Apostle Paul to record it for us in Rom 14:17. Notice carefully: “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” NASU
There we have it: The Kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. That’s the summation of what the Kingdom of God is about in three things. But many of us do have, as General Kemper once said to General Pickett, “You do have a talent for trivializin’ the momentous and complicatin’ the obvious!” That’s quite a talent. But how odd that many of us kind of have that talent! We tend to make life a whole lot more complicated than our God ever intended it to be for us. But to ‘uncomplicate it’ and to instead ‘simplify it’ does require prioritizing the ‘momentous’ and simplifying the ‘obvious’. And once again, thank the Lord that He has helped simplify this complicated life for us by specifically pointing out to us what the Kingdom of God is all about. But we do have to now prioritize it in our practice, or our lives will just go back to being complicated and all ‘mommicked’ as well. ‘Mommick’ is a great word that refers to everything from being ‘confused’ to ‘messed up’ to ‘slam wore out’, or to just being all ‘discombobulated’.
But the point is, we needn’t live ‘mommicked’ lives if we will prioritize the momentous and simplify the obvious. And that means focusing in on living by the Scriptural revelation of what Kingdom living is all about. It’s about righteousness, or righteousness in respect toward God; and about peace, or peace in respect toward others, and about joy in the Holy Spirit, or joy in respect toward our own experience, in relation to Christ’s Spirit within us, of course.
Now let’s get to it…It’s important to note that even the list of these three are prioritized for us. Righteousness comes first, peace second, and joy third. This is an amplification of Christ’s own words, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matt 6:33). One reason for much of the frustration of mankind is that peace and joy are sought without righteousness. But without the righteousness of God there can be no peace, and without the peace of God there can be no joy.
The righteousness that Paul is referring to here is the ‘practical righteousness’ of the life of discipleship for the Christian who has already received the ‘perfect righteousness’ of Christ for his or her salvation. One way to remember this is that our ‘standing’ with God is because we’ve been clothed in gift of Christ’s own righteousness, but our ‘walking’ with God is to be done through our giving the gifts of our service to God in practicing righteousness.
So we are to focus on practicing righteous living for the sake of our righteous King. In practice it looks like the original motto of the FBI: Fidelity – Bravery – Integrity. Now, we think of ‘fidelity’ as referring to faithfulness, like in a relationship between two people. But an additional definition of fidelity is this: ‘Accuracy with which an electronic system reproduces the sound or image of its input signal.’ When you think about it, what is God trying to do in you and in me? He’s trying to reproduce His image in us. Remember, the greatest compliment you can ever give another Christian is, “You know, I see a lot of Jesus in you.” When you are reproducing something of the moral excellence, something of the knowledge, something of the self-control, the perseverance, the godliness, the brotherly kindness, and something of the love of Jesus in your life in an audible and visible way, so that both God and others can hear and see that…then that’s when you know the King is greatly pleased and glorified in and through your life.
And the part about bravery? It takes a whole lot of courage to commit to trying to reproduce the character qualities of Christ in your life and trying to live righteously in the midst of an unrighteous world. It even takes courage to try to live righteously in the midst of God’s church in the world. And the reason for that is because there’s often so much of the world still living in the midst of God’s church!
How odd that consecrated Christians often feel so alone even in the midst of other Christians. Why is that? It’s because there seems to be far more ‘Cultural Christians’ than there are ‘Biblical Christians’. There’s a huge difference between ‘compromise’ and ‘consecration’. Sometimes consecrated Christians feel like Jeremiah when among His own people he said, “I did not sit in the circle of merrymakers, Nor did I exult. Because of Your hand upon me I sat alone…” Jer 15:17 NASU Sometimes you’ll have to sit alone or stand alone or walk alone even in the midst of God’s church because of your commitment to seeking the approval of God rather than seeking the approval of man or your old self. Choosing what God says is right over what others think ‘seems right’ will take you down the ‘paths of righteousness’. And that path really is the ‘road less traveled’.
But again, even this is not complicated, just consecrated. It just comes down to doing the right things, or the righteous things. It’s like a butcher who was asked what difference it made to him when Christ entered his life. He replied, “I stopped weighing my thumb.” He said that when he used to put meat on the scales his thumb pushed on the scales a little bit, too. After he received Christ and committed himself to righteousness in how he lived his life he stood back from the scales when he weighed the meats. In fact, he even added some meat to the former customers he knew he had cheated. (Story from Barnhouse’s Exposition on Romans)
So the Kingdom of God is about doing righteousness, for the sake of the King. And it’s also then about ‘peace’, both in personal experience and especially in relation to others. Remember the ‘Beatitudes’ of the Sermon on the Mount…or the ‘Be-Happy Attitudes’, as they are often called? Yeah, Jesus really honed in on this one in particular: Matt 5:9- “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” NASU Being a ‘peacemaker’ is actually another identity God intends for us to have of ourselves. And remember, your identity defines your purpose. So again, this helps simplify life for us. God has given us the mantle of being a peacemaker both in relation to others in their relationship to God and in relation to others in our relationship with them. Note 2 Cor 5:18-19- “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” NASU
There it is: God has laid the mantle of reconciliation upon us. Paul also calls it being an Ambassador for God, representing God to others and encouraging others in establishing and building the best relationship possible with God. And one thing that’s striking about this is that we have already been given that title. We have already been assigned that role. It’s like being a Witness. Jesus said, “You are My Witnesses”. You are My Ambassadors. Now we just need to adjust our attitudes and actions and communication to doing what God has already assigned us to be.
And then this role of being a ‘peacemaker’ also involves building a ‘cooperative’ spirit in our walk and talk with others, as opposed to defaulting to the ‘contrary’ spirit that lurks within our old self. Choosing to be a peacemaker with others also has a cathartic effect on yourself as well, or it brings a refreshing peace to your own soul as well. It’s like the proverb on being generous with others: Prov 11:25- “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” NLT How great of our God to make us like that; that when we seek to bless others the blessing returns back upon us.
Interestingly enough, sometimes peacemaking involves ‘establishing’ peace, and at other times peacemaking involves ‘enforcing’ peace. Officers of the Law are often referred to as ‘Keepers of the Peace’. Even what they carry in their holster is nick-named a ‘Peacemaker’, right? So establishing peace or enforcing peace is never about giving in to wrongdoing or wrongdoers; it’s about doing what is right, or again, doing the ‘righteous’ thing, which will allow for the right kind of peace to grow and flourish.
And when peace is promoted, notice what also grows. How about this Proverb: Prov 12:20- “Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil; joy fills hearts that are planning peace!” NLT ‘Joy’ is the intentional blessing in the life of the believer who intends on practicing peace. And this ‘joy’ is not just some sort of side-benefit of faithfulness in living. No, this ‘joy in the Holy Spirit’ is a key component of Kingdom living. It’s a little preview of the standard experience of Heaven. And God the Holy Spirit produces it in the life of the Disciple who is trying to live righteously in an unrighteous world, and trying to be a peacemaker in the midst of a contrary world, because this ‘joy’ is not only a wonderful blessing, it is the very strength we need to be able to continue our cause.
Is this verse not one of the most inspiring verses of all time? Neh 8:10- “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” NASU What is our strength…our strength for dealing with the pressures of life; our strength for dealing with the problems of life, either problematic situations or problematic people? What is our strength for dealing with the day to day responsibilities of work or family or community needs? ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength! No wonder Jesus said to His disciples: “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:11 NASU
This reference to having the joy of Christ was not foremost about them and us having the blessing of experiencing joy in our journey. It includes that. But it was a statement about the fact that this joy of Christ’s Spirit is the very strength we need to fight the good fight of faith all along the hard roads we will travel in our journey. ‘Joy’ is not a dessert on the plate of life. No, ‘Joy’ is the very bread of life! It is the sustenance we need to continue on day in and day out for living in fidelity and bravery and integrity and for being an Ambassador and Peacemaker and for overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil. The strength to do all of that is; the ‘Joy of the Lord’.
Of all the things you must guard in your life – guard your joy. For that is what the devil is trying to steal every day. Why? Because he knows the Scriptures, and he has found out that if he can steal your joy, he has stolen your strength. But we know the Scriptures, too. And along with that we know the Savior, and He is the Savior and Lord of our lives. And as we yield to His Spirit day by day, the Spirit produces His joy in as. And that’s what makes us strong; strong for our King, strong for our family, strong for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and strong in our mission to rescue the perishing and care for the dying.
Righteousness, peace, and joy…That’s what the Kingdom of God is about. And so that’s what we are to be about in our life now…before this life is over.