Sunday, May 20, 2012

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt 6:33, KJV)

THIS IS A LONG ARTICLE. Take your time to read. It is worthwhile, for there are very few good expositions on this.

First thing first, this verse is speaking to believers, and NOT, “it is NOT speaking to believers”. In other words, you, as a believer, cannot say, “Since I am a believer, on my entry into salvation, I have been made fully righteous, and so, it cannot be that I still need to seek His righteousness”; and agreeing incorrectly, with those who insist that the verse must be talking to non-believers.

Where is it stated, it was speaking to believers? The answer is in the reading of the preceding verses to verse 33. You can backtrack a few verses, to verse 30, if you like, and begin there, or you can even just backtrack one verse, to verse 32. Even from verse 32, we can tell it was addressed to the believers. Verse 32 reads as follows:

For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matt 6:32)

First, we are to understand that this is part of the “Sermon on the Mount”, in which Jesus addressed the “crowd”. Who was the crowd? Of course, anybody could be in a crowd. But we do know from the overall counsel of the New Testament, Jesus primarily was wanting to speak to the children of God, the Jews. Would there be Gentiles or pagans in that crowd, of course there would be. Pagans were non-children of God; and non-children are equivalent to non-believers, in today’s term; and so, the “pagans” were the non-believers. For the manner it was written, “you” as in “you need them” are NOT pagans, meaning “you” are NOT non-believers; “You” are believers; how do we know? It is because “your heavenly Father” would be used only on the children of God, or in today’s equivalent, believers.

Exposition proper
Next, in turns, we will look at the followings, concerning the verse:

1. But;
2. Seek ye first;
3. Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and
4. All these things;

The “But”
When we see a “but”, it means before this, certain things were said, which now the verse, v33, is saying things, contrary to those earlier said things.

So, what were the “certain things” said in the earlier verses, relevant to verse 33. As have been said, this verse 33, was part of the Sermon on the Mount which started at Matt 5; but if we go there, that would be a long, long way back; it is NOT necessary, for much of Matt 5 and early part of Matt 6, were already self-addressed; in other words, Jesus raised “objectionable practices or observations” and he then already prescribed “the ways”. A reasonable place to start is verse 24, and so, I will give below, the text from verse 24 onwards:

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt 6:24-34)

These are the things, the “but” was addressing:

1. Jesus observed people serving Money (v24);

2. Jesus implied, and correctly implied, that people serve Money because they worry about their lives, what they would eat or drink; or about their body, what they would wear (v25a).

3. Jesus said, that was NOT wise; people were NOT focusing on the more valuable thing, life itself (v25b).

4. Jesus explained the foolishness in the worry of the people (v26-v31).

5. Jesus then explained that our Father God knows our needs (v32).

Jesus then, in anticipation of question from the people, of what then should they do (instead of serving Money, and instead of worrying), prescribed “the way” (v33);

So, the “but” were meaning to say, “instead of serving Money, and instead of worrying”, subscribe to “the way”; and that way is to “seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness”. Jesus said, when we have done that, what we need, they would be given us as well.

When “the way” is so, Jesus said that we do NOT need to worry about tomorrow. Jesus was telling us NOT to run ahead of God; we do our part each day; we just need to be seeking His kingdom and His righteousness each day, and we can expect God to see to our needs.

The “seek ye first”
I know some people noted that I am long-winded in my blog articles, and that I should have cut down on the “obvious”, but I do find, the “obvious” are often no longer obvious to many people, because they have been poisoned from erroneous teachings. And so, I will still be stating the obvious.

There are 3 parts here, as there are 3 words: seek, ye, and first.

Seek –

“Being conscious” or “I know that” often don’t cut it, as seek; let me illustrate with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable can be found in Luke 10:25-37. Here, the expert of the Law asked Jesus what he must DO to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered him back with a question of what was it, the Law said. And the expert answered Jesus with the absolutely right answer – the twin pillars of love (they are NOT new, in the way many think! Their origins are in Lev 19:18 and Deu 6:5, and the expert was NOT wrong to have quoted them as from the Law). What did Jesus answer, to the correct answer? DO it and you will live.

Now, did or did NOT, the expert know what was required? Was or was NOT, he conscious of what was required, as the ways of God? The answer to both questions is affirmative; he knew that, and he was conscious. But what did Jesus tell him, the expert? DO it.

Do you think the expert had been doing it? No. How do we know that? Scripture said, the expert tried to justify himself. Justify himself of what? Of NOT doing it.

How did he justify himself? He asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Do you think that expert did NOT know who his neighbor was? He knew alright; how do we know? Jesus told him the simple story of the Good Samaritan, and posed him the question, of who the neighbor of the injured man was; and he answered correctly! What did Jesus again, say to him? Go and DO likewise.

With this Parable thrown in, I believe the Lord wants to speak to 2 categories of people:

1) the children, the believers, who are conscious and know, but do NOT DO it; and so, how must we seek? DO it; and

2) the ones like the expert, like the teachers of the Word; how do you teach or instruct? Do you exhort like Jesus did? Do you tell the children of God to DO it, or do you encourage them to be like the expert in the Parable, conscious and knowing, but NOT doing any of it? Do you explain the Word so that the children or believers understand the specifics to be done, and so, they are without excuse for NOT doing it? The Lord’s desire is that they do it and live!

Seek is NOT simply “Be conscious” or “I know that”. It is “you go and do it”. Yes, actions, man! Your actions or lack thereof, tell on your real heart-condition.

Ye –

In other words, you. Who is it, who has to seek? Is it the pastor? Is it God? No, it is you, and me; it is your life, you seek; it is my life, I have to seek.

Talking about this, I always like to borrow this saying from a teacher of the faith, “What’s wrong with you. God gave you the food, you still expect God to eat it for you!” Faith has always been taught with an element of “we have a part to play”, and we do our part, and we look to God to do His part, until “grace baskers” start telling the children of God, the means and the end of our faith is to just bask in grace. No, it was and is clear, YOU do it and YOU will live” (see Luke 10:28); NOT you just fold your arms, and just sit there in your beach chair.

First –

Seek ye first, means you are to give top priority to the seeking, NOT half-hearted seeking, or when it is convenient to seek, you seek, and NOT when you have the time, you seek, or when you think it is time to seek, you seek, meanwhile, you do what you like. Often times, believers or children of God lament how God does NOT seem to be giving any priority to their issues. To be honest, we have to ask ourselves what kind of priority we accord to our seeking of His Kingdom and His righteousness, before we “point our finger at God”.

I am NOT saying, we have to merit or earn the grace coming from God’s love and faithfulness; but God’s grace flows out to us, is NOT necessarily, from just one head; it can be from several heads, including the head of righteousness of God. The subject of heads of grace is of itself, a major one; I will NOT elaborate here; but you can look forward to it being put up in time to come.

We do need to give priority to seeking of God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and NOT be merely, conscious, and knowing, and it is we are personally responsible for this; no one can do it for you and I; it is our life, afterall. It is His kingdom, NOT yours or mine, and it is we have to align to His righteousness and justice; and talking of “pointing finger at God”, if we are out of line, can we still have the audacity to accuse the King?

It is daily, “we have to seek first, ……” It is daily, we have to get in line. Talking about needs, which we will talk more, further down the article, many of us might be sub-consciously subscribing to this:

“These things that are said to be needs, I am ok, and so, it is alright I slack; when I get myself into a desperate situation, like unable to continue to service a loan, then, for that need (and that indeed has become a need for you), I get in line.”

It is NOT for you to be doing it, that way; neither is it the correct attitude to slacken again, once your need is being met. It is NOT “we seek first, ….”, only when we have an unmet need. It is “we still seek first, ……”, when we have no needs unmet. When we have no unmet needs, all the more we should seek His kingdom and His righteousness, because when get in line, we would be a blessing to others; for when we act in accordance with His righteousness, we are doing good works, we are producing fruit; and that is what we are made for - Eph 2:10.

The “Kingdom of God and His righteousness”
I will try to keep this short, as for this heading, one can write a whole book on it!

Scripture spoke about the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. A kingdom implied there is a ruler or king; and so, the kingdom of God has God as the king on the throne; and he reigns and rules His kingdom, the kingdom of God.

Who then is the king CURRENTLY of the kingdom of the world? Scripture led us to understand that Satan is in the moment the king of the world; maybe we prefer to say, Satan is the defeated king but NOT yet defunct king, of the world.

Now, the understanding that I have, concerning where the kingdom of God is, is this: When we enter into salvation, we enter the kingdom of God. As a place, the base of the kingdom of God is Heaven; spatially, the home base is in Heaven.

If you like, you can adopt the terminology I use; the kingdom of God has invaded the kingdom of the world. When you and I enter into salvation, we join the rank of soldiers of the army of God. In the Spiritual side of things, our Commander, Jesus, has won the victory already, over Satan; and we are to enforce that victory in both the physical and spiritual realms. When we enter into salvation, we enter into the earthly phase of the kingdom of God. Jesus when He preached in His earthly ministry, He said the kingdom of God was near or was on hand or within reach. The kingdom of God is within reach of a non-believer, and he can enter into it, just as we have entered into it.

So what does it mean to seek His Kingdom? Go, get ourselves killed, in the hope that we enter into Heaven, the home base of the Kingdom? Obviously NOT!

What about this; the kingdom of God is in us? Yes, Scripture does give us, in John 14:20-21, a picture of the kingdom is in us, but does that mean, we already got it, absolutely? No, if it were so, why the call by Jesus to believers, to seek first, the kingdom? So, what did Jesus mean?

He meant we have to subscribe to, and practise the ways of the Kingdom, and have the ways of God “rule” the place (remember the terminology, the world is being invaded); and it all starts with us, individually. Jesus has always been consistent with this. We just have to look at the prayer He taught the disciples - The Lord’s Prayer.

Jesus said, “Thy will be done”; “Thy Kingdom come”; and “Thy will be done, on earth as it is done in Heaven”. We have said a kingdom has a king, and He sits on the throne; the foundation of His throne is the foundation of His reign and rule; meaning the ways of the land got to be the ways of the King, as prescribed by the King as the foundation of His throne or rule.

A kingdom is fully come, when the foundation of the throne of the king is established firmly in the land; and the will of the King is fully done when the ways of the kingdom is fully established in the land. The believers, start with the kingdom in their heart, are to invade the land, establishing the ways and the foundation of the God’s rule in the land, with themselves, firstly, practising those ways, secondly, spreading them, and thirdly, countering the enemy of God; and through it all, working with the King (God, and His Spirit).

You will realize that a kingdom is firstly NOT a place, even though eventually a place is part of the kingdom. Believers have to understand that they are already in the kingdom of God, although the place is NOT yet fully “kingdomised”. Because you and I are already part of the kingdom, we have to be subscribing and practising the ways of the kingdom, and the kingdom of God is invading earth, and we are here, in this time and season; we are to advance the kingdom in our generation, until such time that we are called home.

We are NOT home yet, we are sojourning, and this journey is NOT without things we have to put up with; but God promises in that Matt 6:33, that when we prioritize to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness - getting His Kingdom fully established here, starting with us, He will help us to deal with the things we have to put up with. What do we have to put up with? We need to eat, drink, and be clothed and have a shelter over our head.

What then is His righteousness? I flip-flopped in deciding if I should put “His righteousness” as a separate heading. The reason being that, it is so very important, and so, it may be discussed separately, yet because invariably, as the righteousness talked about, pertains to the mighty one, the king, it too, must be linked to His kingdom. There is none like Him, and He is the Almighty, His kingdom must be reflective of Him, and so, His Kingdom invariably is tied to His righteousness; and so, the statement, “His Kingdom and His righteousness”.

I am a Singaporean of a certain “righteousness”, but the “Singapore Kingdom” is so very remote from it being connected to how I view thing, because I am NOT the In-Charge, and I am just one of several millions of people, living here. But the kingdom of God is different, the kingdom reflects Him; or we can say, “The Kingdom is He, or He is the Kingdom”. In other words, when we see the kingdom, we see Him; along the same line like that which Jesus said, “You see me, you see the Father”. So, when we see the kingdom fully come, it means we see the fullness of Him, God, at work. What is that? That is His righteousness. I said it again, the fullness of Him at work, is His righteousness.

Can we come down a little bit, and speak more pragmatically, what is meant by God’s righteousness?

Firstly, explanation of righteousness for the verse, v33, in this manner does NOT help: God’s righteousness is equated as the righteousness we get, when we enter into salvation; or commonly called, the imputed righteousness of Christ. So, you have it and I have it, and the kingdom of God is in us, and because the Kingdom is reflective of Him, His righteousness is in us; to seek His righteousness is therefore, to be conscious of our righteousness in Him.

Such an explanation belongs to what, in my varsity days’ lingo, called, “smoke” – appeared to have been intelligently expounded, but actually said nothing.

What is wrong with the above manner of explaining His righteousness that we are called to seek? It is like you are conscious you have an apple seedling in your backyard; but you are told, you only need to be aware of that; in other words, tending to it, like watering it or NOT, you are NOT command to. They tell you, “you got to get an apple seeding into your yard”, and so, you went and got yourself an apple seedling, and all you have been told to do, is to keep telling yourself, you already have an apple seeding in your yard.

Is that how we tell people how to grow an apple tree? Is that how we tell people to seek God’s righteousness? You have an apple seedling; you did NOT get a fully grown apple tree! You have imputed righteousness of Christ, you did NOT get your heart and your mind removed and replaced with Christ’s heart and mind! In other words, whether it is the apple tree or the full mind of Christ, it has NOT “fully come”.

Just as you have to grow the apple tree, you have to grow the mind of Christ in you; the full mind of Christ in NOT in you; it is in the Holy Spirit! Yes, the Holy Spirit is in you, the kingdom of God is in you, but the kingdom has NOT fully come, it is you who have to align yourself to have it fully come.

When does the kingdom of God fully come, first, in you and then, in the world? When the fullness of Him is at work in you, and out, into the world. The fullness of Him at work, we have said, is His righteousness. When His righteousness is in, and flows out, of you, into the world, that is when the kingdom of God is fully come, at least for the case of you, and in the moment you are aligned to His Spirit.

Did I say anything different? Yes, you have to grow the mind of Christ or God in you. It is NOT you automatically have the full mind of Christ or God. It is NOT sufficient to be conscious of the righteous God is living in you; you need to be aligning to it, and you do that by yielding to the Spirit of God in you. What is yielding; it is NOT “I know that” or “I am conscious, merely; it is I agree and I obey, and when I obey, it means I do it.

Some people say, “I don’t know about apple tree, but I have had papaya seedling in my backyard, and guess what I did nothing whatsoever, no watering, no pruning, no adding of fertilizer, absolutely nothing, and it grew into a fine papaya tree, and what do you know, the fruit was so sweet!” I have only this thing to say: The Christian faith is NOT about experience solely, and the truths and theology of the faith is NOT formed from experience, even as the Faith is experiential, meaning it can be experienced.

The Christian faith is based 100% on the truths in the Word. Mind you, it is your life, NOT a papaya or apple that we are actually talking about (metaphors!). You know what, that you still get sweet papaya, that is grace; but please don’t be a cockroach, the gate to Heaven is already narrow, don’t try the cracks in the walls, use the narrow gate; that one cockroach gets through that way (through a crack), by grace, does NOT mean everyone will get through. When God prescribes a way, use it.

Still perhaps, some is waiting for a more practical definition of what is meant by the righteousness of God! The simple definition is this: What God wants done and at the time He wants done, that is righteousness of God. So, very simply when we say a person is righteous with God, it means he gets it right as to what God wants done and the time He wants done. Therefore, seeking His righteousness is you getting your mind grown to have the mind of Christ or God. So, your pursuit is to get more and more able to know what God’s will is, for a situation, and when you can do that, you have reached a certain level of righteousness with God. It is NOT automatic, NOT even being conscious, can one attain active or volitional righteousness with God. Verse 33 of Matt 6 is NOT referring to the imputed righteousness of God, but rather the agreement with God; although if you are NOT yet a believer, you have to become one, before we can talk about level of righteousness with God.

Yes, it may be NOT quite appropriate to say, righteousness with God, as a “degree of rightness”, as such, as one is either right or wrong. But it is NOT wrong to say, one is at a certain level of righteousness with God, going by how frequent he is in agreement with God.

The overwhelming pointing of Scripture is that, a believer needs to align himself to the righteousness of God, and the way to do that, is to obey the Word of God, and to yield to His Spirit.

In other words, the righteousness of God is given in His Word, and in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that indwelled us. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would come in place of Him, for He was going back to the Father, in Heaven; and the Holy Spirit would remind the believers of what Jesus had taught, and to teach them all truths. Together with scriptures which talked about the laws of the faith, would be inscribed on the hearts of believers; we are to understand that it is the Holy Spirit who would be bringing the laws alive to the hearts and consciences of believers. So, it is right to say NOT just that the righteousness of God is in His Word, it is also with the Holy Spirit. To be right with God (and that’s righteousness with God), is therefore, to do as the Word and Spirit dictate.

Being just conscious of the righteousness of God, is just the beginning, the infant mindset; don’t listen to people who tell you to stay there; you don’t grow up that way. Being just conscious only, won’t get your mind renewed, at least that is NOT the prescribed way, and if you do get renewed, that is grace of God, and when it is grace, and NOT the prescribed way, it can work for one, it is not necessary to work for another, for it is grace (it is entirely up to God).

The picture given by Scripture is that, you and I, got to will it, and NOT merely conscious or “I know that”; in other words, you and I, have to, volitionally want the righteousness of God, meaning, we want to get it right, meaning, you and I, want to get it right, as to what God wants done and when he wants done.

To will the will of God, to me, is work; although so many people want to put a 10 feet pole between themselves and the word, on concern that other people may accuse them of preaching works or more precisely, salvation by works! To go against the current, is work-what. To go against the ways of the world is work. Please-lah, a spade is a spade, and we should call a spade, a spade! To yield to the Holy Spirit is work, as it is going against the trend we used to go, to yield to the flesh. The Apostle Paul never minced his words, he painted to us, the picture of a “tug-of-war” going on, in the believer; if it is NOT work, what is work! You know, what is NOT work? Just stay basking yourself in the sunshine (or grace!); that is NOT work.

If it is NOT yet obvious to you, that His righteousness, meaning what He wants done and when He wants done, and His justice are the foundation of His rule, meaning you and I, cannot have it any other way, under His rule, it is stated in Scripture for us. Ps 89:14a reads as

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;”

The same is also said in Ps 97:2. In other words, if you and I want to be well in His Kingdom, we have to subscribe to His righteousness and justice, there is just no other way. God is Holiness and He is Wisdom, out of the interplay of these 2 fundamental nature attributes of God, comes forth, all His ways; we have said, the fullness of Him at work is His righteousness.

What about His love and faithfulness? Yes, it is also stated in the very important key to the understanding of the Kingdom of God, Ps 89:14. The entire verse of Ps 89:14 reads:

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.

As foundation, it is still His righteousness and justice, NOT His love and faithfulness. But as given, even as God demands His kingdom be operating according to His righteousness and justice, He administers with love and faithfulness. In Hebrew, there is a word to describe this aspect of God’s love, and it is called `ahab love – the love of God for man is love unto righteousness. In other words, God’s love for us, men, is subject to His own righteousness. It may come as a shock to some of us, God cannot anyhow love us! God does NOT love us anyhow, but only in righteousness.

Jesus died that cruel death, because God’s love must satisfy the demand of Holiness (of God Himself). The play-out of the Holiness and Wisdom of God resulted in the righteousness that must be met, that which was met, by the sacrifice of the sinless life of Jesus.

To summarise, the kingdom of God is come, but NOT fully come. The fullness of Him at work, His righteousness, is with the Holy Spirit indwelled in us (and also in His written Word), but we have NOT yet been fully transformed to be with the full mind of Christ; and it is that we have to align to have the Kingdom to fully come, in and through us, for the world; and that alignment requires a part from us, to want to yield to the Spirit of God, to allow Him to progressively transform us, so that more and more, we are able to be in agreement with God, and so, be righteous with God. Seeking that Kingdom of God and His righteousness, is NOT merely to be conscious of the will and desires of God, the substance of His righteousness, or to be “I know that” of the same, but to be doing them.

It is by the constant doing of the will and desires of God, that one can come to know what is good in God’s eyes, and what is evil (Heb 5:14); in other words, be in agreement with God, or to be having the righteousness of God. Having the righteousness of God is NOT referring to the passive, imputed righteousness of Christ; it is having the fullness of Him at work in and through us; it is God working in and through us, with us un-hindering in anyway. Having the righteousness of God is having Jesus living once again, out of us. Think about it, Jesus did NOT live a life of doing nothing (just basking); He did NOT live His life paying lip-service to the Father God; He worked, served, and He loved. To be seeking the kingdom and His righteousness is to adopt the mindset of “It is NOT only I who live, but Christ who lives in and through me. It is NOT only I who act, but God who acts through me; and it is NOT only I who love, but God who loves through me.”

The “All these things”
What are the “all these things”? When you have read from verse 24 downwards, you know that they were referring to food, shelter and clothing; in other words, our needs. We all have needs, living on earth. Verse 32 stated plainly to us, that our God knows we need them.

They are specifically referring to our needs, NOT our luxuries or frivolous desires (although, at times, it can be something outside of the strict class of base food, clothing and shelter). If you get more than your needs, thank God for them, you got them by grace. I have always said, if it is by grace, it means it is entirely up to God to give or NOT to give, to grant to one, and NOT to another, unless He has promised specifically; in which case, He cannot dishonor Himself by dishonoring His promise to you.

What exactly did God promise here? Very simply, God promises conditionally that He will let you have your needs met. What is the condition? The condition is that you and I, must seek first, His kingdom and His righteousness.

People do NOT understand that things come from God to us, in 2 ways: One, it comes to us because it is promised by God; and two, it comes to us, because God gives it out of His grace. In other words, things can come to us from God, from 2 heads, head of promise, and the head of grace.

If the promise is unconditional, you just get it. There are very few unconditional promises in the Word. Even passage of time can be a condition. But if passage of time is the only condition, then when the time comes, you get what is promised you. Now, if there are other conditions attached to a promise, it is NOT unreasonable of God to expect the fulfillment of those conditions, before He gives whatever He has promised. If you and I ignore the conditions, then we cannot blame Him for us NOT getting what is promised. If He does waive one or more condition for a chap, it is His prerogative from His sovereignty; you and I have to accept that, too.

Things we get from grace solely, it is entirely up to Him; and grace can flow out to us, from several heads of grace, and NOT one (commonly understood as from love and faithfulness of God). No, the grace of God flows out to us, from other heads, too, like from the head of righteousness and justice of God, from the head of sovereignty of God, and even from the head of glory of God. The more predictable of them all, is the grace from the head of righteousness and justice of God, the very foundation of His throne. If you ignore this head, you are depriving yourself of a lot of goodness that can come, for situations where His righteousness and justice are practised or lived out.

What about when we work and we earn our wages, and we then are able to get our needs met; is there no God element or it is also with God element, since I mentioned we are getting things from God in only 2 ways? Working and earning wages are ways within the righteousness of God. In fact, Scripture does warn against idleness.

Generally, a lot of things we received flow from the grace, flowing from the head of righteousness and justice of God, and it includes our work. When we work, we put our hands to the plough, NOT being lazy, and idle, and that is a righteous thing to do; God is for you, and grace is likely to be extended to you. How much you get, or we say “the increase”, it is up to God, according to the measure of His grace He would like to extend to you. The promise of Matt 6:33 is also working for you.

So, so long I am NOT idle, whatever I do, God’s grace is poured out to me, correct or NOT? No, it depends on what you do; you can be working on evil and get paid; what you get is NOT a blessing from God; it is NOT a grace from God, it does NOT matter if you want to say it to be, it is NOT. And Matt 6:33 you cannot claim, too.

It is important that Christians should only want their wellness to be coming from the grace and blessing of God and/or His promises, and NOT from any other. If your wellness does NOT come from the grace and blessing of God and/or His promises, that wellness may have come with a great price against you. Ultimately, one cannot go against the foundation of God’s throne, which is His righteousness and justice. Scripture said God cannot be mocked; and that means His righteousness and justice, the very foundation of His rule, cannot be mocked. At times, we might think that people get away with it, in actual fact, we can expect that they did NOT, and it is that time will tell. Then, we must also understand that God allows for repentance. If you have done wrong, or sinned, turn back; repent and ask for forgiveness, and get back on track.

“Good, since you said that, we, working for our needs, without engaging in evil, are righteous, I don’t need to be bothered with this verse, so long as I work, right?” I am saying, to work per se, is righteous; I am NOT saying anyhow you work, is also righteous. For example, if God revealed that His desire is for you to be engaging a certain work, but you don’t want to do that, instead, you want to do what you want to do; a work which is of itself NOT evil or anything like that, but is nevertheless NOT the thing God would like you to do, you are still acting UNrighteously.

Now, even if you are doing what God would like you to do, but you want to do it, your way, instead of being led by His Spirit, doing in His way, you are NOT being righteous, too. The demand here includes requiring you to be NOT working so very hard, as to be chasing after money, with no time for God, for God’s work, and for your loved ones, or even for yourself!

“Then, aren’t you talking about obedience?” I am talking about righteousness, and yes, obedience is inevitable; for it is about His righteousness, NOT yours. Well, there will NOT be obedience when and only when, His righteousness has become your righteousness, or His ways, your ways; in other words, when you come to a case of, while you are doing what He wants done, you are doing what you want done – there is no more obedience there, much like the picture the Apostle Paul painted to us, when he said, a matter was no sacrifice (to him). Paul has grown to be so aligned to God, that he could say, “to live is Christ and to die is gain”. In other words, whatever God found it desirous, he, Paul, was glad to go along. When you have your mind and your ways so aligned to that of God, like the case of Paul, you then can say like what Paul said, “I don’t even judge myself” (1 Cor 4:3), for that would be judging the Spirit! But please, don’t go round saying Paul taught that we do NOT need to “judge” (self-examine) ourselves. No, Paul taught that we are to examine ourselves (2 Cor 13:5).

I am NOT Paul yet, and so, to me, I just tell people, “I obey”, “I sacrifice”, and “I work”. I don’t pretend I am already there, and really there is NO need to pretend; God accepts, we are trying to get there, but I don’t think He is pleased with us pretending we have arrived (And, please, please, don’t mislead children of God, encouraging them to think like they have arrived). God looks at the heart and God looks at the man’s ways. It is both, although more commonly we hear people saying the former. But I tell you, watch your ways; they (the ways) tell on your heart. Tell you a “secret”, God applies “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”!

Does God ever delight in a man’s way? When is that? When your ways are His ways. So, what is the right attitude to have, concerning our needs of life? Do what is required of us in Matt 6:33, and rest in that promise contained therein, that God will meet our needs. If you need another passage, saying much the same, which you can steadfastly hold onto (but you also must note, the same righteousness condition), is this, Ps 37:23-25:

23 If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm;
24 though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

But I really find it hard to do that!
Hard to, NOT worry; hard to, NOT work terribly hard; hard NOT to amass money, despite I have much; hard to stop for God, and for others.

That is because you have NOT known your God enough. Too many of us do NOT spend enough time and effort to know more ABOUT Him. Then, we also do NOT experience Him; and we do NOT experience Him, because we lack the “doing part”; we only stay at the “I am conscious or I know that” stage, and NOT go further to obey, by action.

Why do we need to experience Him? Many preachers tell us to just believe the Word and NOT to go by sight-what! While it is true, what we are dealing with is faith, NOT facts, faith needs to be applied, and it is in the application that we experience God. You and I need to experience Him because that is the prime way to get to KNOW Him. How do you know another person (NOT talking about, knowing ABOUT that person)? Yes, you need to interact with the person to know him. It is the same, we need to interact with God, or in my words here, experience Him.

Take step to walk with Him, today. You can only walk with Him, when you walk where He walks. He is NOT in the evil, so don’t go there. He is in His righteousness; walk there; there you will find Him; there you will experience Him; there you will get to know more about Him, testifying to what the Word said about Him, your God. It is NOT always, with “thunder and lightning”, it can be “bit by bit”, it can be trying, too; but His grace is sufficient for you, said the Word.

Anthony Chia, high.expressionsPs 37:5-6 - Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. I say, “Why would it NOT be so, for then, your righteousness and your justice are His!” Amen.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Do I have to forgive (another man)? PART III

Forgiveness is an important aspect of the faith, and the reluctance to forgive on our part, can affect our well-being, even our physical health; hence the relevance of this topic to ministering Divine Healing (I conduct monthly Divine Healing Meetings, and this topic was preached).

In the 1st 2 parts, in total, we have covered 14 points. We will cover another 6 points, making this series to be of 20 points on forgiveness (For earlier parts, click: PART I or PART II).

Today, we will cover the negative implications of unforgiveness, its possible impact on our current life. Also, we will cover the issues of forgiveness and memory, forgiveness and trusting again, and forgiveness and restoration of relationship.

We continue with our “point-by-point” approach to this series.

Point No 15 – Not releasing forgiveness can be tormenting another, and you can be likewise treated

I call this the “boomerang” of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt 18). The front part of the story goes like this: A servant who owed his master, a big sum of money, begged his master for mercy when his master asked that the money be repaid; and the master forgave the servant of the debt. Then the servant went out to a servant of his, who owed him, the first servant, a small sum of money; and demanded repayment. When the second servant begged the first servant for mercy; he was refused, and the first servant threw the second servant to the jailer to have him tormented. The master of the first servant came to know about what happened; and this was what he did:

Matt 18:34-35 - “34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured {tormented}, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” {ending verses of Parable of the Unmerciful Servant}

In other words, if you do NOT forgive, our Heavenly Father likewise will NOT forgive you, as said in Matt 6:15. On top of that, in this parable, with an unforgiving heart, if you make the offender pay, with him being tormented, your Heavenly Father will likewise, do to you!

Please note that your mere refusal to release forgiveness to the offender, when he has asked for it, can cause him to be in torment, without you even realizing it. If indeed he was tormented by your unforgiveness, his “torment is on you”. If you live tortuous life, you should consider this point: Forgive people of the past who had wronged you, and if possible you have to go back to those who have asked you for forgiveness but whom you did NOT give it (then), to release your forgiveness.

The “Father will treat each of you …” likewise, in the passage, does NOT necessarily need to be, God acting against you, but it can be He lifting His hand of protection over you, giving the chance for the evil one to torment you. But always remember, it is NOT that God does evil, for His hand of protection is extended to anyone of us, by grace. By grace, means you and I did NOT merit it, it means God is fully entitled to stop, say, extending the covering/protection. You can read the Book of Jonah, a short book, and one of the lessons, to be learnt there, is this point – if we did NOT merit it, or it was received by God’s grace, God is fully entitled to stop the flow.

Also, from Ps 91, we do know that God’s protection is most assuredly extended to those who love Him. “Refusal to forgive” is NOT an act consistent with love, and loving God (remember point 3 of Part I – To forgive is to practise love).

I recap this point – if you do NOT forgive and do NOT release forgiveness to another, you can be tormenting the person, and if indeed the person is tormented, you can likewise be tormented.

Point No 16 – there are serious negative implications for unforgiveness.

1. Unforgiveness is disobedience to God’s commands. Col 3:13, for eg. commands that we forgive as God forgave; Disobedience is sin, and sin has consequence.

2. Unforgiveness is refusal to practise love. Refusal to love is NOT consistent with Jesus’ command to us, to love God and love our neighour as ourselves.

3. Not forgiving is also NOT consistent with the saying in Scripture of “he who is forgiven much, loves much” (Luke 7:47). If you do NOT love, you are insinuating by your action of refusal, that you have NOT received forgiveness from God.

4. Scripture is clear, NOT obeying God’s command is NOT loving God – Jesus affirmed this in John 14:15 & John 14:21a.

5. Unforgiveness, as NOT loving God, can cause us to fall outside of God’s protection favor (read and understand Ps 91; pay particular attention to verse 14).

6. Unforgiveness can be tormenting the offender, and it can boomerang back to us. We have just seen this, earlier, in Point 15.

7. Unforgiveness is NOT reflective of the Kingdom life; it goes against God’s desire to forgive us on an on-going basis; it may even impact our salvation consummation.

Point No 17 – negative implications of unforgiveness can impact/manifest in current life.

In the preceding point, I have listed some of the implications, and they can impact/manifest in our life, presently.

This is particularly inferred from Matt 18:34-35 – of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, and 1 Pet 3:9-10.

It is possible to read God’s like treatment of torment in verse 35, as referring to the eventual treatment, torment in the lake of fire in Hell, but I am personally of the view that it can also be referring to torment presently. The reasoning is along the line that while God may defer punishment, Scripture does indicate that it is also NOT that God cannot be punishing people, especially wicked ones, presently; and NOT forgiving is wickedness. In v32, the servant was described as wicked, for being unforgiving. Also, Ps 91:8 is indicating that some wicked ones are punished currently.

That is how I see it, and ministry experience bears it out. In other words, condition does improve, when the ministee forgives people whom he/she previously did NOT.

1Pet 3:9-10 – “9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.”

Now, for this text, it is clear, consequences come in, as of now, in our current life. The “would love life and {would} see good days” of v10 hint to us that current life is impacted.

A couple of things can happen in our current lives, if we do NOT forgive:

1) a vengeful spirit may take root in us. Perhaps, starting with anger, resentment, bitterness; and finally a vengeful spirit develops. The biblical support for associating anger, resentment and bitterness with unforgiveness comes from Eph 4:31-32. Verse 32 said that the way out for these negativities is to forgive as God forgave.

2) we may experience torment, and

3) we may lose one, if NOT the key, blessing of the Kingdom, God’s forgiveness (Previously, under Part II, point 14, we established that it is possible that the blessing of 1 Pet 3:9, was referring to forgiveness)

All these 3 things, vengeful spirit or its lesser form as anger, resentment and bitterness, torment, and non-securing of God’s blessing, especially God’s forgiveness, work against our well-being, our wholeness.

Our health may be the first to go, and an opening may arise in us, that the devil can come in, to steal, kill and destroy us (John 10:10a).

On the other hand, when we continue to receive forgiveness from God, when we have forgiven others, we continue to have life, and that life is zoe life, an abundant life, a life of fullness, a Kingdom life, and that indeed, is the blessing that we all want.

This Point 17 –that the negative implications can impact/manifest in our current lives, is the main reason why I cover this subject of unforgiveness, for the Divine Healing Meetings I conduct.

We do NOT only want to minister to people, we also want to provide the understanding so that people can avoid getting into bondages connected to unforgiveness.

Point No 18 – forgiveness is always for a PAST wrong or sin

Forgiveness is NOT for a thing in the future, which may or may not happen. The great error made by the overly grace (or cheap grace) believers is that they do an eisegesis instead of an exegesis of the fundamental tenet of the Gospel. While exegesis draws out the meaning from the text, eisegesis occurs when a reader reads his/her interpretation into the text.

Practically, in the asking for forgiveness, there is only either the past sins or the so-called FUTURE sins, there is NOT the current or present sins, although commonly, people write, “all sins, past, current (or present) and future, …” Now, correct exegesis is the “all sins” are referring to past sins. Incorrect exegesis or eisegesis, as prescribed by overly grace preachers, is “all, including FUTURE sins”.

It is my contention that even though God can and does look into one’s future, when God forgives at your born-again (say now), he forgives what is in the past (including every sin you have just committed); nothing of the future is dragged in, and forgiven, for what is of the future has NOT happened, AND may NOT happen, because your life is NOT a completed movie script.

It is the same, when one asks another for forgiveness, it is for a past wrong; and when one forgives another, it is also for a past wrong. Do NOT forget this; we have said before, “forgive as God forgave us”. Once we bring in the future, all kinds of notions come into the mind - like he will do it again; I got to trust him; I must necessarily be reconciled, etc, etc. And the result; you become reluctant to forgive.

I want us to now read Luke 17:3-5 -

3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

One of the points Jesus was putting across to His disciples was this: In releasing forgiveness (and therefore, also in forgiving), you do NOT take into consideration whether or NOT the next day or the next hour the brother is going to “do it to you” again. Jesus said, “You forgive”, and when he next does it to you, again, Jesus said, “You forgive”! How many times altogether? Wow! 7 times in a DAY! And Jesus actually said, “Every time …”

In the first place, God did NOT leave in Scripture, the saying that He forgives all our future sins at our born-again (it was the overly grace or cheap grace preachers who imputed their own theology into it); and in the second, even as we are asked to forgive as God forgave, Jesus did NOT in any way indicated that, when we forgive someone, we are forgiving him for ALL his future sins against us, in that ONE time! If it were so, that when we forgive, we forgive even the future ones, Jesus would NOT have described how we are to forgive, with the scenario, as painted in Luke 17:3-5.

Would you forgive another, if that is the case – you forgive him once, and you will be forgiving him for all his future sins against you? In other words, which wise man will do that - give someone the license to do wrongs against him, for all times in the future! It is a preposterous suggestion!

In other words, don’t bring the future to bear on the current poser you are having – “Must you forgive the offender for what he has DONE?” Don’t factor in this: “But, tomorrow he will do it again!”; that is a separate matter which we will discuss; you just have to forgive the person for the wrong DONE to you. Always remember, forgiveness is for a PAST wrong.

The theology of God’s forgiveness at born-again included one’s FUTURE wrongs or sins, is heretic, or false. The efficacy of Jesus’ blood for future forgiveness and cleansing is NEVER doubted, but it is NOT, sins yet to be committed, were forgiven ALREADY at a person’s born-again.

Again, I repeat our point 18 – forgiveness is always for a PAST wrong.

Point No 19 – While you are asked to forgive, you are NOT expected to forget!

It is WRONG to counsel people that they ought to have forgotten the incident that hurt them once they had forgiven.

“Forgive and forget” is just a cliché way of exhorting Prov 17:9, which we will read it in a while; there is no such literal depiction of “forgive and forget” in the Bible; i.e. the Word of God does NOT suggest by forgiving, you can forget what was done to you. As the injured party (or victim), you are NOT likely to forget. Rather, it is that when you remember the matter, it does NOT “sting” you anymore; meaning it would no longer bring up in you, anger, resentment and bitterness which are the ingredients for the development of a vengeful spirit. If the matter still “sting” you, then it is a sign you have NOT fully forgiven – it has nothing to do with your memory as such; don’t bash your brains out on this!

What exactly does Prov 17:9 say?

Prov 17:9 – NIV84 - “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” NLT2007 – “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” God’s Word Translation – 1995 – “Whoever forgives an offense seeks love, but whoever keeps bringing up the issue separates the closest of friends.”

The “forget” of “forgive and forget” saying is actually exhorting you NOT to keep bringing up the matter, for it will only separates. It is merely telling you to “let go”; it has nothing to do with your memory.

So, this point is inserted to dispel the notion that by forgiving, you will forget. No, you are unlikely to, especially when the matter really hurt you a lot. I repeat what is more important is that there is no more “sting”.

Point No. 20 – Forgive does NOT necessarily mean you have to trust the offender again or broken relation must be restored.

Firstly, let me say that, even so, I am NOT saying that, the de facto attitude is to distrust or refuse to re-form a broken relationship. I am saying it is NOT necessarily that you MUST trust or re-form a broken relationship.

Does my forgiving mean I must necessarily trust the person again? The correct answer is NO. Why NO? To know the answer, we have to understand what it means to forgive, in the first place.

What does it mean to forgive? To forgive is to forgo all your claims for whatever wrong done to you. It is for a PAST wrong DONE against you, nothing to do with possibility of future wrong; and therefore, nothing to do with trusting again.

For example, if I accidentally step on your toe, what must you do? It has happened, and you must forgive, regardless. If I say sorry, and ask you for forgiveness, you have to release it. It is as straight forward as that; you cannot factor in whether or NOT, I will step on your toe again. So, you cannot, in your heart says, “I will NOT forgive him, for he is likely to step on my toe again.” At the same time, since the future is NOT featured in your forgiveness, you are also NOT saying, nor is it required, that you have to trust me NOT to step on your toe again.

Don’t you factor in the future, of whether the offender will wrong you again, in your decision to forgive another, God is NOT pleased with that. Why? The reason is simple, when He forgave you, He did NOT make sure you are NOT going to sin against Him again (ever), before He forgave you.

Don’t you agree with me, that God does NOT make sure you cannot sin again, before He forgives you? He would forgive, right? Right. In the same manner, we are to forgive one another (Col 3:13). If you will forgive only if you are sure the person will NOT commit again wrong against you, then you are asking more than what God is asking of you. What does the ending verses of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant implied about this? If you do that, God will do it to you! So, don’t factor that, into your decision of granting forgiveness, even though we might commonly say to the person, “I forgive you. Please don’t do it again.”

If you automatically regard your forgiveness as meaning you have to trust the offender in the future, you may be unnecessarily putting yourself in harm’s way; you are NOT being reasonably wise.

God’s Word is NOT about how to be a stupid fellow or a fool. God is NOT pleased that we be fools! On the contrary, Scripture exhorts pursuit of wisdom, and tells people to be wise. In fact, Jesus said we are to as shrewd as the snake but as innocent as the dove.

Look, if I looked drunk to you, when I stepped on your toe, why do you, NOT want, to stay further away from me!

If you say, “Since I forgive him, I must trust that he will NOT step on my toe again”, you are being a fool. To forgive me, is one thing, to stay there and risk being stepped on again is unwarranted (unless you have another reason NOT to move away).

You may say, being wrong again by being stepped on the toe again, is no big deal; but it is the doctrine we are addressing, if you get the doctrine wrong, you can be applying it even in serious situations, like sexual harassment or physical abuse or violence, etc. You have to forgive someone for the wrong he has done to you, but it is NOT that you MUST trust him just because you have forgiven him, to put yourself at risk of being sexually abused again, for example.

Your forgiving a person for his committed wrong is NOT dependant on how much you can trust him after that; and how much you can trust him, does NOT depend on whether or NOT you have forgiven the person. Don’t fall for “But you have forgiven me, right? And so, you must trust me.” It is NOT a MUST.

It is understandable and reasonable to accept that, trust, once lost, needs time, as a minimum, to be regained. Similarly, relationship also can be strained, and it will need time, as a minimum, to heal. It is possible at times, that trust is never regained, and broken relationship never restored.

Is there a Biblical case to back up my argument that we need NOT necessarily trust or that a broken relationship need NOT necessarily be restored?

Yes, but I will only tell in brief, and if you like, you have to go back and read the entire account. It was the case of David’s dealings with King Saul.

There were times, King David, the man God said, was the man after His heart, was rebuked or negatively commented upon by God (eg. his affairs with Bathsheba, his wanting to build the temple), but God did NOT do that, as far as David’s handling of his relation with King Saul, who did multiple wrongs against David. And I suggest to you that perhaps, how David handled his relation with King Saul was a significant reason David was said as a man after God’s heart.

The wrongs that King Saul did to David, some of them, you can read from 1 Sam 18 to 1 Sam 27:1. David forgave King Saul time and time again, but David did NOT continue to just blindly trusted King Saul; and finally, in 1 Sam 27:1, we read that David decided, despite Saul’s apparent repentance, NOT to follow Saul back home; in other words, he left the broken relationship as it was.

1 Sam 27:1 – “But David thought to himself, "One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand."”

I recap this last point, point 20 - Forgive, but be wise, and NOT simply MUST continue to trust, or that you MUST necessarily be reconciled, where a relationship is already broken.

But of course, you must still forgive, and if you have NOT, you need to do that.

This brings us to the end of our series, here, on “Do I have to forgive?” It is possible that I may do an additional part for some other aspects raised concerning forgiveness.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - Forgiveness is always for a past wrong, NEVER for future wrong, for what of the future has NOT happened and may NOT happen.

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