Seek Ye First the Kingdom of Heaven and Its Righteousness (2)

Rev. denHartog is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California.

When we rightly understand the nature of the kingdom, we can also rightly understand what it means to seek the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness. The most common errors in understanding this great exhortation of Christ are the errors that follow from an earthly and carnal conception of the kingdom. Many imagine therefore that they are seeking the kingdom when they get themselves involved in the great social and political movements of the day, such as protest rallies against the evils of our society. These will often even go so far as to condemn the churches that do not get involved in these activities as "do nothing organizations." Even ministers of the gospel have followed this error. They have forsaken their pulpits in church in order to get involved in politics and social action, imagining that they will have a greater influence for the cause of the kingdom of Christ by doing this. They are sadly mistaken.

The mighty power of the kingdom is the preaching of the gospel. By the power of this preaching, the cause of the kingdom of Christ is advanced and the citizens of the kingdom are gathered. Through the preaching of the gospel the citizens of the kingdom are instructed in the righteousness of the kingdom, they are furnished with the equipment they need to live in good works, and they are strengthened for the great battle for the kingdom in their lives.

The church is central to the kingdom of Christ. We may say that the church is the capital city of the kingdom. This is a wonderful thing. Not Washington, not Rome, or Paris, or Amsterdam, or London, or any other earthly city is the capital of the kingdom. The true church of Jesus Christ is the capital of the glorious kingdom of Christ. To the church Christ has given the great commission of preaching the gospel which is, as we said, the great power of the kingdom of Christ.

Seeking the kingdom therefore necessarily means that we must be members of the true church of Jesus Christ. No Christian who loves the kingdom may have a disregard for the church of Jesus Christ. Seeking the kingdom is not done by Christians individually, independent from the church, but by Christians as they are members of the church. We seek the kingdom when we are living members of the true church where the truth of the gospel is preached. We seek the kingdom when we are ready to stand with this church against the false doctrine and the false church of our age. The false church is always much larger than the true church. The false church is always the most zealous persecutor of the true church. The false church claims to be the great advocate of the kingdom of Christ, when at the same time it denies the truth and righteousness of the kingdom and is in fact an enemy of God and of Christ. Seeking the kingdom involves separating from the false church and opposing her.

We truly seek the kingdom of Christ when we stand together in the church with fellow believers, loving and confessing the truth for the glory of the name of God. The whole reason for standing for the true doctrine of the Word of God is the glory of God and of Christ the mighty and glorious Lord of His kingdom. Few today have any understanding or appreciation of this. Kingdom seekers must be ready to make all kinds of sacrifices for the sake of being members of the true church of Jesus Christ. If such a church is not to be found in the area where they live, they must move even great distances and at great costs in order to be part of this church. No one who belongs to the true church ought to move to an area where there is no such church. Not even job promotions by large and prestigious companies, or glorious and lucrative careers ought to override the great importance for the kingdom seeker of belonging to the true church of Jesus Christ. Young people, when they choose a college or university to attend, ought always to make belonging to the church the great consideration. Not even as a temporary arrangement should one move to an area where he cannot be part of the true church, or where he can continue to be so but only with great difficulty. Seeking the kingdom first means always fulfilling our calling as members of the church of Jesus Christ in worshiping God and serving the church and her members. Seeking the kingdom first means that we must set priorities right in all our life no matter what. Being always part of the true church is far more important than going to a prestigious school somewhere far away.

Being part of the true church will mean that we must be ready to be members of a small and despised organization, an organization that is ridiculed and persecuted in the world. The vast majority of the ridicule of the true church comes from the apostate church that is many times greater in number in the world than the true church and boasts of its fame and glory and power and influence in the world. For the love of the truth and for the glory of the name of Christ the King, the kingdom seeker remains steadfastly and zealously a member of the true church of Jesus Christ.

Seeking the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness means that we stand firm on the righteousness of the kingdom. As regenerated children of God we desire to walk in that righteousness in every area of our lives. We seek the kingdom by personally and actively striving to live by true spiritual principles of righteousness in our lives. We seek the kingdom by opposing the wickedness and unrighteousness that is in the world, by condemning it and by separating ourselves from it. Seeking the kingdom involves us in a great spiritual battle with the ungodliness of this world and a struggle even with our own sinful nature that is deeply opposed to this kingdom. More and more in our day immoral life-styles are being flaunted. Even professing Christians imagine that an occasional immoral affair is not all that serious. 

The righteousness of the kingdom is that of the purity of heart and mind as well as that of our outward life. One can have great boasting about following King Jesus and standing for His kingdom, but when such a person disregards the law of righteousness of that kingdom and lives a life of ungodliness so that he can hardly be distinguished from the world, this man is deceiving himself. Such a person is a hypocrite in spite of all his great claim for zeal for the kingdom. He is doing the cause of the kingdom great harm and giving the world occasion to blaspheme the name of King Jesus. To seek the righteousness of the kingdom of Christ one must be ready to suffer great loss in the world. The kingdoms of this world are characterized by greed, covetousness, and corruption of every sort. When the citizen of the kingdom refuses to join the world in its great evil, often he must suffer great financial loss. But what does this matter if our hearts are set on the righteousness and glory of the kingdom of Christ?

A great issue of righteousness in the kingdom of heaven is true and genuine love among the citizens of the kingdom. The citizens of the kingdom glorify Christ their King and serve the cause of the kingdom in a most wonderful way when they are meek and merciful, and when they are ready to forgive especially their fellow saints. The Beatitudes, which Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount, certainly bring this out. Jesus further explains in the Sermon on the Mount what true love for the neighbor means. The Sermon on the Mount is not a charter for social concern and humanistic philosophy. The righteousness of which it speaks is a spiritual righteousness that only the regenerated child of God can practice. 

The principles of righteousness of the kingdom mean that we must be ready to bear wrong and to suffer for Christ's sake. The citizens of the kingdom do not avenge themselves. They turn the other cheek, not rendering evil for evil. They are always ready to go the second mile. They love even their enemies, blessing those who curse them and praying for those who despitefully use them and persecute them. This is the righteousness of the kingdom. The citizens of the kingdom do good unto all men as children of their Father in heaven. This is the perfection which Christ the King demands of the citizens of His kingdom.

Seeking the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness is the opposite of materialism and covetousness. The love of money and the desire for the glory and riches of this world is the chief sin that destroys in the heart of the child of God the purpose to seek the kingdom of heaven first. No, riches and material things are not wrong in themselves. They are good gifts of God and must be used to help us seek the kingdom. But we must pay attention to the many, many warnings of Scripture against the great evil of covetousness and the love of money which is the root of all evil. The love of money makes a man compromise on the righteousness of the kingdom. The love of money makes a man greedy and self-seeking and self-glorying. The love of money makes men corrupt. The love of money fills a man's heart with anxiety over the things of the world. This anxiety soon takes over the great spiritual concern and zeal that ought to occupy the hearts and souls of the citizens of the kingdom. The love of money destroys genuine spirituality. It has done that for many professing Christians, probably more than anything else. The church must never cease to warn her members of the great evil of the love of money.

Seeking the kingdom first must be evident in marriage and the Christian home and family. The desire for the kingdom of heaven must control the young man and young woman when they begin to look for a life partner. One of the great purposes of marriage is that husband and wife might assist each other in their kingdom calling. This is of course impossible if one of the partners is not truly and spiritually a citizen of the kingdom of Christ. This is so obvious that it is hard to believe that it is so often ignored by young people in their dating practices. How easy it is to be motivated in dating by the same things that motivate the world. The chief concern then is physical and sexual attractiveness, popularity in the world, and the enjoyment of the pleasures and sinful life-style of the world. We live in an age of the worship of the human body and the idolizing of sexual attractiveness as more important than anything else in life. Citizens of the kingdom must realize how absolutely antithetical the culture of the world is to the righteousness of the kingdom of God in this area. Young people seek the kingdom first in their lives when, already in dating, they fellowship only with those who by their confession and walk demonstrate that they are truly citizens of the kingdom of Christ. Scripture, after all, speaks of husbands and wives in Christian marriage as joint heirs of the kingdom of Christ.

Sometimes seeking the kingdom is imagined to be something done only in some faraway place and by becoming a missionary or minister of the gospel or a Christian school teacher. There is no doubt about the fact that the ministry of the gospel is the highest and most blessed calling in the kingdom. Young men seeking a life's career ought to consider the will of the Lord for them, whether the Lord has not called them to this great occupation in life. There is a great need for Christian school teachers. Being a Christian school teacher is a noble kingdom profession in which many faithful children of God have served well. On the other hand, it must be said that every Christian, in whatever occupation to which the Lord has called him or her, must seek the kingdom in that profession.

Many have mistakenly imagined that one seeks the kingdom of Christ by joining a humanistic organization whose only objective is to alleviate world poverty and the social evils and injustices of this wicked world. In the eyes of the world this may be considered to be very noble. But such organizations as the Red Cross Society and the Peace Corps and other worldly organizations fighting hunger and social injustice are not organizations promoting the cause of the kingdom of Christ. Sometimes such organizations claim to be promoters of the kingdom of Christ. They go by high sounding Christian names. However, before the Christian ever joins such an organization and devotes his life to it, he or she must be sure that it is not merely earthly and carnal in its objectives, as noble as those objectives may seem in the eyes of the world.

Let no one forget that seeking the kingdom must be our calling in our daily lives in all the common spheres of our life, in our homes, in our occupations, in church, and in society in general. We seek the kingdom by living according to the principles of righteousness and for the glory of Christ in every one of those spheres. This is greatly significant. Let none imagine that this means nothing and does nothing. Christ the King is glorified especially by this. Anyone who compromises the principles of righteousness of the kingdom, no matter how great he may imagine his earthly occupation to be, has lost sight of the great calling to seek the kingdom.

The husband and wife who bring forth covenant children not for their own glory but for the sake of the church and covenant of God are seeking the kingdom. The godly mother who resists the temptation of the world to get a glamorous earthly career but instead makes great personal sacrifices and works hard day and night in her Christian home to raise a God-fearing family, such a woman is great in the eyes of the Lord and does truly great things for the kingdom of Christ. The husband who is a citizen of the kingdom shows this in his deportment to his wife and family. He rules over his wife with love and tender affection, honoring her for her important place in the kingdom. He supports his wife. He knows his calling to lead his family in the fear of the Lord. He does not commit himself to carnal pursuits of his earthly occupation to such a measure that he does not have the time and energy to rule his children and teach them the principles of true godliness. Also for the husband it is urgent that he realize that money and career in the world are secondary, as important as they may be in themselves. By really following this perspective of life the godly man seeks the kingdom first. Even if that means that he has a less lucrative and glorious occupation in the world.

Many more practical things could be said. Let us examine our whole life and judge ourselves whether the kingdom of heaven is truly central and primary in all our life.

We seek the kingdom first, knowing the glory and blessedness of the kingdom. All the glory and riches of this world shall pass away. The things of this world are only of temporary and very limited significance. Our hearts are set on the glorious and blessed things of the kingdom of Christ. These things shall be our possession through all eternity. Our hearts are set on the blessed and glorious appearing of Christ our heavenly King. We know that some day we must leave all that we have in this world behind. But then we shall inherit the glory and blessedness that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive. We shall live forever with Christ our blessed King to praise Him for His glory and grace.