Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"First things first!"

Day #279

Scripture Reading:  Luke 9 - 10 …

What comes first in your life?  When you get up in the morning, what are your first thoughts about?  As you go through the day, what is it that motivates you to get up and to do your best at whatever you are doing? When you are facing problems, struggles and trials of various kinds, what encourages you and gives you strength and hope?  As you look to the future and growing older and facing death, what is it that offers comfort and peace?  The answer to all these questions and more is "the kingdom of God!"

Jesus began His ministry by preaching "the good news of the kingdom," and in His first sermon He said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).  As He sent out the twelve, and later the seventy-two, His instructions were to "preach the kingdom."  The "kingdom of God" is the REIGN of God over all things and Jesus came to call people to submit to God's reign over them.  God had promised to be the God of Abraham's descendants and all who have faith in Jesus Christ are now the "children of Abraham," children who acknowledge that Jesus is King, to the glory of God the Father.

To show His power, Jesus "gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and He sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick" (9:1-2).  At this time people had no idea who Jesus was, and Jesus eventually asked the disciples who THEY thought He was ... and prompted by the Spirit, Peter answered, "The Christ of God" - the promised Messiah.  Jesus explained again that the kingdom would come in a way they would have never imagined.  "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priest and teachers of the law, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life" (9:22).

Jesus continually taught His disciples that there was more to life than what they could see.  He fed the crowd food for their bodies, but they needed more!  Jesus called them to a deeper commitment to Him and to His kingdom than most were willing or able to give.  He said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (9:23-25).  This life is not all there is ... there is the kingdom of God!

The transfiguration was a glimpse of the glory of God's kingdom.  There were Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets.  They "appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus" (9:31).  We even know what they were talking about:  "They spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem" (9:31).  In typical style, Peter wanted to stay there, but then how would the kingdom of God come?  As Jesus continued to preach and heal and as the crowds grew, the disciples argued about who would be greatest in the kingdom.  They didn't get it ... yet.  They were still thinking of an earthly kingdom, as many do today.

Opposition to Jesus was growing because of His hard teaching.  Some wanted Jesus for themselves, but they failed to understand that only those who were humble, who repented of their sin and who trusted in Him would be forgiven.  They could not know yet about the cross, about the perfect sacrifice for sin that needed to be offered to satisfy the justice of God.  They remained in spiritual darkness and missed God's grace.  Jesus called some to follow Him, but they were too busy!  Oh, how much like today these people were.  "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God," Jesus said (9:62).

Now on His way to Jerusalem, knowing what lay ahead, Jesus sent out the seventy-two.  "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field" (10:2).  Jesus will reap a harvest for the kingdom.  Every day His Word goes out and as Isaiah writes, it will not return empty but will accomplish the purpose for which God has sent it (Isaiah 55:11).  The seventy-two came back rejoicing because of their "success" in the eyes of men, but Jesus said, "Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (10:20).  

Generations had longed to understand God's plan to usher in His kingdom, but what the people of Israel and Judah had missed is that God was talking about more than a physical kingdom.  Isaiah and others talked about a new heaven and a new earth; they talked about the reign of the coming Messiah ... but the hearts of most were hard and their minds were darkened.  They could not understand.  They would not understand.  They had been told what to do:  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself" (10:27).  But they failed to see that they could never do it ... that they needed forgiveness ... they needed GRACE!!  They needed JESUS!!!!

Like Martha, they thought that by DOING things they could please God, but Jesus told her:  "Only one thing is needed"  (10:42).  The words of Jesus ... that's what Mary and Martha needed ... that's what the disciples and the crowds needed ... that's what you and I need.  The kingdom of God is present in the midst of those who draw near to God through faith in Jesus Christ as His Spirit works within us.  But there is MORE!!  Jesus tells us not to set our hearts on the things of the world, but to put first things first ... to put HIM and His kingdom first.  That's the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan and of all of Jesus' teaching.  "Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness."  

Acknowledge Jesus Christ as your King and live to serve God.  Put first things first and your Father in heaven will use you to bring forth fruit for His kingdom  

"Father in heaven, I thank You for revealing the reality of Your kingdom through the words of Jesus and in the words of Moses and Elijah and the Prophets ... as well as the Apostles.  Fill me with Your Spirit, that I may continually set my mind and heart on seeking FIRST Your kingdom and Your righteousness, believing that putting first things first brings the peace and joy I seek and gives glory and honor and praise to You.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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