Friday, November 22, 2019

Seeking a Kingdom Where God Still Works

For a very long time, I have been conscious of this over-riding prime directive: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”[1] Since “first” means “first”, there cannot be any higher purpose in life but to seek everything it means to live in the kingdom and righteousness of our Creator.

Yesterday morning, I began looking at this directive in partnership with something amazing that Jesus said to explain his ministry. When challenged about how he would dare to “work” on the Sabbath by healing someone, Jesus went straight to the heart of the matter: “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”[2]

When that Scripture was first drawn to my heart’s notice back in 1992 (as best I recall), my first interest was filled with a delightful hope. Was it really possible that what Jesus said then was still in effect now? Can the disciple of Jesus say that the reason we do what we do in ministry is because God is working until now and that explains why and how we are working?

The first clue to the answer comes from what else Jesus said in this confrontation. “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.’”[3]

It did not take long to recognize that this is absolutely reiterated in the way Jesus described our relationship to him. As Jesus could “do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing,” guess what he told his disciples!

That’s right! Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”[4]

The concept of Jesus not being able to do anything on his own, but only what he saw his Father doing, is identical to Jesus’ instructions that we cannot bear fruit apart from him, but abiding in him we can bear “much fruit”.

For someone who grew up handicapped by the “orphan mindset,”[5] the consideration that Jesus wants his disciples to have the same working-fellowship with him as he shared with the Father has been absolutely mind-boggling.

At first it was like a joyful shock of having difficulty believing such a wonderful thing could be true since it clashed with everything I had learned about myself as a worthless street rat. Then it turned into a settled agreement with God’s word that it was indisputably true because God is the one who breathed-out the words he wanted me to live by.[6]

And then I found an exhortation in God’s word that brought this to a wonderful conclusion for me. Our brother Paul, wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”[7]

It is the second half of this sentence that describes the way our working attaches to God’s working. Although our part is listed first, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” the “for” that is given as the reason for what we do is, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

In other words, parallel to what Jesus said about how he knew what work he should do, is that there is a work that God himself is doing in us, and that work is to draw us to have the same “will” as he has, and do the same “work” as he is doing.

Now, notice that there is something God is working on in his children that is measured by what he calls “his good pleasure.” This does not mean that he selfishly demands that we do what makes him happy instead of what makes us happy, but that we join him in working out the very things that the perfect experiencer of “good pleasure” has in mind.

This is why our growing fellowship with the Holy Spirit may squash some of our dreams or goals. This is why we may find that our increasing understanding of what God is working in us feels more like a journey into the Beatitudinal Valley than anything resembling a genie granting us whatever we desire.[8] Our Father has the highest and best understanding of “good pleasure” working for our good, so everything he is working us to will and work is toward our experience of his joy.

Our part in this relationship is to do what Jesus did. We “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” because we live in a world that argues against everything God is doing. Our own flesh (sarks) despises the idea of us working out the things that another person is working into us. It cannot understand the wonder of such a liberating relationship.

But the new heart of the child of God knows something that is hidden from the world, the flesh, and the devil, so that they cannot appreciate it no matter how well they comprehend teachings of God’s Book. God’s word says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”[9]

It is a unanimous encouragement among God’s children that our Father is always working things together for good, which means to restore us to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. However, our greatest experience of the Father’s work is when we ourselves are working with him in the things he is working into us. As we work out the issues of our salvation with fear and trembling, we find things happening in us that only the Father could work in us to will and to work for his good pleasure.

And, when we join our Father in what he is doing, it makes us all the more like Jesus who has always related to his Father in just that way.

© 2019 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8


Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Matthew 6:33
[2] John 5:17 (context is John 5:1-47)
[3] John 5:19
[4] John 15:4-5
[5] The Orphan Mindset is how I describe something I learned about myself back in my 30’s. As I began exploring my own need for freedom in Christ, I discovered that I was hindered by this strong inner belief that I was a worthless orphan that no one had ever wanted. When I began addressing God about that, both pouring out my orphan-minded soul to him with all the pain it contained, and embracing all the fatherly love he was pouring into my heart through the Holy Spirit whom he had given us (I loved finding that in Romans 5:5!), a very real transformation did its work.
[6] II Timothy 3:16-17 make it clear that all Scripture is “breathed-out by God”, and Matthew 4:4 reminds us that Jesus set as top priority that we “live… by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
[7] Philippians 2:12-13
[8] I have long seen Jesus’ description of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 as a valley that first humbles us until we are hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and then transforms us into joyful peacekeepers who cannot be stopped even by persecution. Here is one blog post where I explain this: You can do a search of my blog for others if you would like to ponder it more deeply.
[9] Romans 8:28, explained in the immediate context of Romans 8:28-30, and the larger context of Romans 8:1-39

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