Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #8: Matthew 6:33

8.  Seeking God’s Kingdom and Righteousness
(This will be a long one because there is much to say about it.  And I am drawing in a lot that I wrote in other posts because I think it is all worth repeating again and again.)

            Matthew 6:33:  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

            We all know that we are supposed to be seeking righteousness and God’s Kingdom.  But are we actually doing it?  And do we really even know what that means? 
            The reason I ask is because our country is getting so lukewarm and relativistic about spiritual things.  Whole denominations are drifting away from Biblical Christianity and becoming social clubs where the speakers tickle the ears of the congregation and make them feel warm and cozy and comfortable.  But that is so not what Jesus did and what the Bible is about. 

            Jesus spoke often of sin and hell and eternal matters and the need to seek righteousness and be on alert.  He convicted and challenged and confronted.  And here we are, growing weak, lazy, and sleepy in our Christian walks because we only want to hear the things that make us feel good about our lifestyles and choices and priorities. 
            And the sad thing is, we are too comfortable to care that we are missing the mark.  I think many of us want to believe that we are doing “good enough.”  We have just enough of God to get by, but not so much that we feel guilty, convicted, or have to change our lifestyle.  But “good enough” falls far short of “great.”  Of "godly."
             The Bible does not call us to seek “good enough.”  It calls us to seek righteousness.  And in order to seek righteousness, we have to set aside our comfort and our focus on earthly things so that we can begin pursuing the Lord wholeheartedly.  We have to set aside our desires and plans and priorities, in favor of His.  Righteousness involves a “dying to self” so that we can become more and more like Christ and reach more and more people for His Kingdom.
            But I fear that we, in our country, have become too distracted by possessions, pleasure, people, and pursuits to bother with pursuing righteousness and God’s Kingdom.  Pursuing righteousness would just infringe on our comfort and joy, wouldn’t it?  It would mean that we have to put God’s plans and desires over our own, that we would have to deal with the selfish and sinful parts of our hearts and lives?  And who wants to do that, really? 
            A main part of the problem is that we (in the USA) live in a very selfish, materialistic age when we get whatever we want, whenever we want.  And when we get bored with that, we get the bigger and better version.  Our hearts and minds are consumed with “stuff.”  More stuff, too much stuff, better stuff, someone else’s stuff.  It’s gotten to a point where we do not know how to “do without,” where we evaluate our worth by our stuff, and where we feel entitled to more stuff.  (Just notice how many commercials tell you that “you deserve it.”  It’s insane.)  “Stuff” has become a huge idol in our country, and it’s taking the place of seeking the Lord and holiness. 
            (And if you have a lot of “blessings” in your life – a big house, a good position or job, many friends, success, financial abundance, etc., don’t be fooled into thinking that it must mean that you are in a right standing before God and living a God-pleasing, God-glorifying life for Him to have “blessed” you so much.  Sometimes our “stuff” is there because we fought for it, not because God wanted us to have it.  And sometimes, it’s more like a test or distraction than a blessing or an indication of our godly life.  And on flip-side, don’t think that if you don’t have a lot of “stuff” then it must mean that God is not pleased with you and has not blessed you.  The best blessings are not tangible anyway.)    
            Another problem is that we live in an age of relativism where the #1 Truth is “What’s true for you may not be true for me” and “The Bible is not really black-and-white.”  And if we make Truth relative, then anything goes because who’s to say which truth should supersede all others.  But as Christians, we believe Scripture supersedes all others.  However, in our country and around the world, the authority of Scripture is being ignored, downplayed, or attacked, not just by unbelievers and atheists but also by “Christians.” 
            And if we fail to keep Scripture as our authority, then we have no firm foundation on which to stand.  If we fail to immerse ourselves in it and evaluate our lives by it and teach the next generation to cherish it, then we are left to float along according to our own whims and views and misconceptions, helplessly bumping along with all the other floaters out there who are doing their own thing also.  The only way to stay on course - to seek the kind of godly righteousness that God calls us to strive for - is to live vitally connected to the Lord, through prayer and His Word.

            John 15:5:  “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” 

            But isn’t it true that many of us nowadays live like the Bible is optional reading in our daily Christian lives.  We don’t know the glorious, deeply satisfying feeling of hungering and thirsting for God’s Word . . . because we don’t dig deeply into it, as though we were searching for buried treasure.  Or maybe we do an equally troubling thing of dissecting the Bible and piecing together the pieces to fit what we want to hear.  Either way, we miss out on what God wants to tell us through it and on the kind of life God wants for us. 
            Not only are some denominations blatantly walking away from the Word, but there are many Christians who have simply gotten lazy about spiritual disciplines and who have all sorts of excuses for it. 
            How many of us have had this thought at one time or another:  Sure, the Bible is good, but I can get just as much out of my Christian music, my inspirational books, and my Sunday sermons.  Quiet time with God is just not necessary.  And God understands, because He knows how busy I am.  Besides, the Bible doesn’t specifically tell us that we have to have quiet time in the Word, does it?  And what about all the people who don’t have Bibles, or the Old Testament believers who didn’t have them?  How could Bible Time be “necessary” for us, but not for them?  We can do just fine without it!   
            While many of us wouldn’t actually say this out loud, if we dug down deep enough, we would have to admit that this is exactly how most of us live our lives day to day.  Even leaders at church can fall into this thinking.  We know the importance of the Bible, yet we find ways to excuse our failure to read it and meditate on it.  We find ways to excuse our failure to pursue righteousness because we are just too comfortable with the status quo.   
            I have four young boys at home.  I know the busyness of life and the need to find ways to meet with and meditate on God all throughout the day, even in the noise and chaos of family life.  Christian music and “radio sermons” uplift and encourage me as I go about my busy days.  They help me stay focused on God and have been an incredible source of comfort during my years of very stressful trials.  I value them immensely, but I do not think that these wonderful resources should take the place of personal, quiet Bible Time. 
            There are definitely times in our lives that are busier than others, times of crisis or severe stress that leave little room for quiet reflection and Bible reading.  (However, this is usually when we need it most.)  And it is possible during these times to have a spiritual walk that survives on the snatches of Scripture that we get from music, books, sermons, and other people.  But to live long-term with this practice, I believe, will threaten the strength and integrity of our spiritual walks and our faith. 
            I think that God gave different revelations of Himself at different times.  First, there was the law and the commandments, then there was Jesus, now there is the Bible.  While they didn’t have the Bible as we know it back in the day, they did have commandments, Scriptures, and the law.  And they were encouraged to read and meditate on them often, to write them on the doorframes of their houses, to hide God’s word in their hearts, and to have quiet times where they interacted with God.  The Psalms speak a lot of this:
            Psalm 1:2:  “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
            Psalm 4:4:  “. . . when you are on your beds, search your heart and be silent.” 
            Psalm 5: 3:  “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my request before you and wait in expectation.” 
            Psalm 37:7:  “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. . .” 
            Psalm 119: 1-2, 7, 9-11, 15-16:  “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.  Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. . . . I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. . . How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. . . I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.  I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”
            My guess is that people with this kind of devotion to, delight in, and respect for God’s words would hunger and thirst for the words of the Bible, if they had one back then.  They would probably hold the Bible in the highest regard and advocate searching it daily for His truth so that they could live more godly lives.  If they had a Bible back then.  They didn’t, but we do!
            I believe that we are all held accountable for what is revealed to us.  For cultures that do not have a Bible, they have the revelation of God through nature and the messages that He imprints on everyone’s heart.  But for us, we have the revealed, written Word of God.  And we will be held accountable for what we do with it, what we teach others to do with it, and if we bring it to those who don’t have it. 
            While there is no Bible verse that says, “Thou shalt sit in quiet with this Book for thirty minutes every morning,” it does show us by Christ’s example that quiet time is necessary.  Jesus gave us an example of getting away alone with the Father.  And He is God. 
            Mark 1: 35:  “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” 
            Luke 5:16:  “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  
            Jesus is God in the flesh.  He gives us His example to model.  And Ephesians 5:1 teaches us “Be imitators of God . . .”  Jesus, who is God, needed to and often got away on His own, in solitude, to spend time with the Father.  And yet, somehow we think we can fare better without regular quiet time with the Lord, though even Jesus Himself felt it was important enough to do so regularly?   
            Jesus also stressed the importance of Scripture when He said this:  Matthew 4:4:  “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Every word from the mouth of God.  Scripture is God-breathed.  It is a whole book of God’s words.  Music and sermons are only pieces, retold by someone else.  Yes, they are wonderful and necessary, too.  But Scripture supersedes all messages spoken to us by others - in sermons, in songs, in other books. 
            Scripture is the measuring stick that we judge all other messages by.  But you have to know it to be discerning.  And you have to read it for yourself to really know it.  In this verse, being in the Word of God is compared to bread.  Bread is a daily thing, our daily bread.  We eat to sustain our lives.  And we must eat daily, or we get weak and malnourished.   
            Have you ever stumbled across this passage in your Bible? . . . 

            “Now, brothers, we know that God has written down His Word and that it’s available to us all.  But we tell you that it is not necessary to read it for yourselves.  Christ’s death is sufficient for salvation.  And salvation is sufficient for leading a godly, righteous life. 
                        So let’s not add to your daily schedule by claiming that you should read the Bible for yourself or that you must meet with God in private quiet times.  It is simply not necessary for you since you have Christian music and a pastor to teach you what God tells him in his quiet times. 
                        We don’t think that God actually meant His Word to be read by everyone, just by the teachers.  So if you want to be a “good enough Christian,” there is no need to read this long, hard-to-understand Book.  All you have to do is listen to your Christian music, go to church on Sunday, and listen to what your spouse or friends tell you about the Bible.  That is so much easier anyway.  So let’s not complicate it. 
                        Besides, God knows that you are busy.  Therefore, let us, the teachers, do the reading of the Scriptures so that we can teach you what we think it says.  That way, you can keep your kitchen clean, your family fed, your Facebook page updated, and get rested and rejuvenated by reading your newspaper, watching your television, and texting all your friends.  By this, you will be a godly example for all to follow, and you will greatly impact the kingdom of God.  As long as you listen to good, godly music and go to church on Sunday, you will never go astray.”  (2 Bolognaians 1:1-10)    
            Neither have I!  Yet I think that many of us are hoping to someday find a passage like that.  Then we could feel a lot better about our busy lives and our lazy disciplines.  But, I’m sorry to say, there is no Book of Bologna-ians.  There is no passage like this in the Bible.  (Actually, I’m not sorry to say it.  It needs to be said.  Loudly and boldly and over and over again.) 
            Instead, I find this example in Acts 17:11:  “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  They received the message from their teacher, the famous and godly Paul.  And yet, they examined the Scriptures . . . for themselves . . . every day . . . to see if Paul’s message was on track.  And they were called “noble.”
            While Bible reading and quiet time are not necessary for salvation or to be a “good Christian,” I firmly believe that it does have a tremendous effect on our understanding of Him, our level of “righteousness,” our ability to be discerning, and the level of effectiveness that we have on God’s kingdom work. 
            How much we immerse ourselves in the Word (and spend time praying and listening to God and the Holy Spirit) should have a huge impact on how we live as Christians and if we are on target with God’s truth.  Training in righteousness, discernment, correction, wisdom, spiritual maturity (among others) are all things that come with immersing ourselves in the Word.  Guidance, peace, learning to discern God’s whispering voice (among others) all come with spending quiet time with God.    
            In this busy, disconnected, self-focused age, we should be challenging ourselves and calling others up to higher levels of righteous living and to drawing nearer to God through prayer, His Word, and the quiet times. 
            God is spirit, and He oftentimes speaks quietly, like a whisper.  And in Scripture, we are told over and over again to be still in God.  I think part of the reason we are told to be still is because that’s where we hear His whisper - in our spirits and through meditating on the Word.  But if we never slow down enough to do that, we miss out.   
            Deuteronomy 4:29:  “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  I’m going to guess that searching for Him with all our hearts and souls implies putting aside the necessary time to do it properly and deeply. 
            We, unfortunately, can go on deceiving ourselves for a long time that we are close enough to Him and doing just fine with our books, sermons, and music.  (Or is it just me?)  While this may make us feel better at first - relieved of our guilt for not maintaining quiet time with the Lord - it will leave us high and dry later.  Someday, we will wake up and wonder, Why don’t I feel close to God anymore?  Why can’t I hear Him or feel His presence like I used to?   It won’t be God who drifted.  Doing “just fine” falls far short of doing our best for God’s glory, with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. 
            What will happen to the level of commitment and the Christian character of generations of believers brought up on the idea that accepting secondhand Scriptural truths (without searching it for ourselves) is perfectly acceptable?
            2 Timothy 4: 3-4:  “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 
            This won’t just happen someday . . . it’s happening now.  And it is only by knowing and training ourselves in the Word - as God reveals it in His Bible - that we can correctly discern spiritual myths and ear-tickling fantasies.  To feed on what others tell us about Scripture (instead of having the disciplined, mature habit of maintaining personal time in the Word and in prayer with the Lord) is a sure way to make us susceptible to being misled by teachers who will say things that we like to hear, things that might sound good and right but that might not be Biblically accurate.  But how will we know? 
            We won’t be able to discern inaccuracy unless we are immersed in the Truth for ourselves.  These myths are not always blatantly obvious.  Satan’s best schemes are the super subtle ones that have an air of godliness.  By these, we end up nibbling our way lost because it “sounds good” to us.  And it’s what we wanted to hear anyway.  So we won’t seek any other truth.  But it takes careful studying and reading and discipline in the Word - in the God-breathed Word - to keep on track.
            Hebrews 5:12-14:  “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” 
            How do we get mature in this Christian walk?  Constant use of what teaches us to distinguish good from evil?  Constant use of Scripture leads to the spiritual maturity necessary to distinguish truth from falsehood .  Is our level of spiritual maturity something that we want to take casually? 
            So how important is Scripture and quiet time really?  I think that the Word of God itself has a lot to say about that, and we would be wise to take it to heart and let it convict us.
            2 Timothy 2: 15:  “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  We are responsible for how we handle the “word of truth.”  Is correctly handling the Word leaving it on the shelf for extended periods of time?    
            2 Timothy 3:16:  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  This says “all Scripture,” not just the few passages that we learn about through other people and through music.  Think about how many messages and lessons we would miss out on if we felt that it was “good enough” to just listen to the Sunday sermon or Christian music. 
            [I think it’s interesting to note that James 5:16 says “. . . The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  And we just saw that Scripture is useful for training in righteousness.  I think that there is a link between abiding in the Word, seeking righteousness, and the power of our prayers.  Now, it’s not our righteous acts that make our prayers powerful and effective.  It is His righteousness working through us as we humbly submit our lives completely to Him - for His glory!  And since we will always sin, we need to be remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s convictions and to return wholeheartedly to God in genuine repentance whenever sin has broken fellowship.]    
            Hebrews 4:12:  “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit; it judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart.”  Scripture is living and active, and God leads us by it.  But if we are not feeding on it regularly, we are opening ourselves up to being misled, spiritually immature, ignorant, self-focused, and self-serving.  And we miss out on what God would teach us through it today.  We miss out on seeing the messages that fit our needs each day, each moment we seek His guidance through it.  This is the living and active part of it: it interacts with us each day as though God were speaking right through it to our needs or blind spots.  It comforts, guides, convicts, and grows us in wisdom, as we use it (and need it) daily.  
            My fear is that we are growing into a community of ignorant, stagnant, weak, lukewarm, mal-nourished, easily-deceived, less-effective Christians.  We have filled our days with too much activity and technology and noise to really dwell on God anymore.  We are just too busy and too self-focused.  We don’t want to be convicted of our shortcomings.  So not reading the Bible suits us just fine.  And we welcome any excuse that gives us permission to put spiritual disciplines on the back burner. 
            And yet, we are offended by anyone that implies that we are not disciplined enough in our Christian walks.  And we look at those who diligently maintain quiet-time with the Lord as super-spiritual giants.  They are in a special class of believers that we can never be a part of because we “live in the real world.” 
            But the truth is that we just don’t make the effort or time to draw that close to God (or we are actively or unconsciously avoiding Him for some reason).  We want permission to focus on our lives while neglecting serious study of the Word, quiet time with the Lord, and the pursuit of righteousness.  And yet, we still want to be patted on the back by God and hear Him say, “I’m so proud of you.” 
            I have been there a lot during my life, wanting to believe that I was doing good enough with my music, my inspirational books, and my Sunday sermons.  I was a good Christian, and I loved the Lord, and I was growing in my walk.  But I was “so busy” with life that I convinced myself that these other things were enough.  Scripture was extra.  Beneficial, but not as inspiring as music and inspirational books.  And honestly, it was so familiar that it was boring and just not doing it for me anymore. 
            I wanted permission to remain slack in my spiritual disciplines.  But what I needed more was gentle encouragement to persevere, to make devotional time a priority in the midst of the busyness.  I needed to understand that my life, evidence of the “fruit of the Spirit,” my level of righteousness, and my effect on the kingdom of God are greatly affected by the quality of my devotional life and the priority that I put on meeting God in prayer and in His Word. 
            For so long, I didn’t know what it was like to passionately pursue Him, to meet Him in the pages of the Bible, and to know the living and active nature of Scripture . . . until He put me in the refining furnace of trials.  And through many trials which destroyed my over-confidence in myself (and five months of night-time demonic harassment which opened my eyes to the definite reality of the active spiritual world, explained in the “Supernatural Stuff and Spiritual Armor” post), God has broken me of my lazy, stagnating attitude.  He has shown me the vibrancy that comes with deep times in prayer and Scripture.  I always knew it was good and important, and I always valued it immensely.  But I didn’t know what it was like to drink deeply from it, to hunger and thirst for it.  Until recently. 
            And now, I have become incredibly jealous for it, for wanting to see God’s Word honored and valued above all.  It has become so precious to me - a cherished lighthouse of truth and a way to remain vitally connected to the Lord - that I want others to also know the joy and peace and vibrant life that come with hungering and thirsting for the Word and prayer.  I want them to know the delight (even in the midst of problems and pain) that comes with making the pursuit of righteousness and the building of God’s Kingdom main priorities.  It breaks my heart to hear, “I know I should read the Bible every day and pray more, but . . .”    
            The God of the universe has written His message to us in the Bible - the God who is available to us and waiting to meet us in His Word, to show us the best way to live and how to access His blessings so that we can live life to the fullest.  And we’d rather watch a mind-numbing television show. 
            How is it that we have enough time for TV, newspapers, the mundane and unglorifying television shows, a leisurely cup of coffee, sports, friends, the ridiculous amount of texting, emails, web-surfing, etc., but we can’t carve out at least thirty minutes a day to see what the God of the universe has to tell us?  If we are really “that busy” then we should be prepared to drop dead of a heart-attack in the very near future.     
            If we are not in the Word regularly, we are nibbling our way lost and opening ourselves up to being easily deceived.  By the Enemy and by ourselves.  And we are missing out on the kind of life that God wants us to have, that He wishes we would have for our best and for His glory and Kingdom.  (And if your church isn’t preaching straight from the Word - if it’s editing His Word to fit what they want to say, or only telling you about all the blessings you deserve and should grab ahold of, or if you always feel warm and cozy after a sermon, never convicted or challenged or uncomfortable - get out of there fast, and find a church that preaches God’s Word as God revealed it, the hard stuff and all.)   
            Not only does how we live and act reflect on Christ and influence people’s views of Him, but I believe that we can give demons access to us by how we live and act, which is why pursuing righteousness is important to our spiritual health.  We put out “welcome mats” to demons and give them “open doors” when we give in to temptations, when we say things we shouldn’t, when we watch and read and listen to things we shouldn't, when we act in a way we shouldn’t, when we give ourselves over to bitterness, anger, rage, lust, fear, jealousy, etc., and when we fill our lives, homes, ears, eyes, and minds with things that are not God-glorifying.  But we have more power to keep them back when we live more righteously, are more aligned with the Holy Spirit, and are relying on Jesus. 
            (Want to try a humbling experiment:  Ask God to bring to mind anything in your home or mind or life that does not glorify Him.  And then keep your eyes open to see what He asks you to get rid of.  It’s amazing how much un-glorifying junk accumulates in our minds, lives, and homes through our movies, music, books, attitudes, habits, thoughts, feelings, desires, pursuits, relationships, etc.) 
            People today do not want others to tell them how to live.  Even Christians do not want their lifestyles, choices, or behaviors challenged by other Christians.  Just try bringing up the moral questionable-ness of the way a person dresses, the websites they visit, the way they talk or gossip, the abundance of “stuff” they pursue, the relationships they get into, the music they listen to and movies they watch, the pleasures they pursue, the habits they have, the yoga they participate in, etc.  How many of us want our choices challenged by another believer?  How many of us want to set aside our desires to seek righteousness? 
            But God’s Word is very clear about our responsibility to seek righteousness. 
            Proverbs 15: 9:  “The Lord detests the way of the wicked but he loves those who pursue righteousness.”
            Matthew 6:33:  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
            The reason I am bringing up something that we all already know – that we need to pursue righteousness - is because we’re not doing it.  We would rather evaluate how well someone else is doing than how well we are doing.  We would rather God ask us to change our attitude and clean up our speech than change our hearts and clean up our minds.   
            And as I said, especially in America, we have become way too comfortable.  We are falling asleep, failing to engage in the spiritual battle around us.  We are relaxed in our spiritual disciplines because we have grown up in a country saturated with the knowledge of God and with His blessings.  And we are letting the knowledge of Him replace a relationship with Him.  We are enjoying His blessings without pursuing the One who blesses us.  We are running the rat race, getting more and better things, and climbing the ladder of worldly success just like the next guy.  We are self-serving and building up treasures here on earth.  And we are overly concerned with the fears of this life and much less concerned with seeking His righteousness. 
            In America, I do not think that our biggest moral failure has to do with things like abortion, homosexuality, rampant sex, materialism, pornography, drugs, etc.  (Although those are huge and so damaging to how God intended families and society to be).  I think that our biggest moral failure is that we Christians have grown lukewarm.  Comfortable.  Lazy.  Enamored with this world, instead of being enamored with God.  Focused on our priorities instead of God’s. 
            And what it all comes down to is that we are failing to humble ourselves at His feet - to fall on our faces before Him in genuine repentance, humility, thankfulness, love, obedience, and service – because we are much too busy trying to redefine Him and His Word so that we feel better about our choices, behavior, laziness, and selfish priorities.  We are so busy pursuing “happiness” that we fail to pursue righteousness.     
            But if we are not actively pursuing righteousness, we are sliding farther away from it.  Righteousness doesn’t just happen; we have to seek and pursue it, letting the Spirit transform us from the inside out.  And if we don’t, the Kingdom of God suffers for it.  Our biggest moral failure doesn’t have to do with worldly non-believers who live worldly lives, but with the Christians who do and who aren’t bothered by it. 
            This makes me sick and makes me sad.  And it makes me all the more concerned with starting with my own heart and my own life so that I can stand out as different from the world, reflecting to others the hope and truth and healing that they can only find in the Lord.  I take it very seriously that souls are on the line and that eternity is right around the corner.  And I’m asking others to do the same.  Wake up, Christians!  Before it’s too late!
            Okay, now, I want to clarify something here.  I think people can get a little nervous when the word “righteous” is mentioned because they think of a Pharisee.  But when I say we need to be seeking “righteousness” or living righteously, I am not referring to performing righteous acts out of a sense of legalism, or to make ourselves look better or feel better, or to try to attain some level of favor with God.  For God is not pleased with these filthy, righteous acts; these attempts to earn favor, mercy, or grace.  And I am not referring to our righteous (eternal) standing before God - because we are not “righteous” in God’s eyes by anything we do but only because of what Jesus did for us. 
            But we do have a responsibility to do our best to live righteously.  To submit all areas of our lives to Him as the Holy Spirit calls us.  To strive to be holy, as He is holy.  We need to humble ourselves before Him and abide in Him more and more, getting rid of the things that do not glorify Him and adding the things that do, so that our lives reflect Him more and more and bring Him the most glory possible.  This is the kind of righteousness I am talking about.

            So to sum it all up, what does “seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness” really look like?  I think it means that . . .
            we call sin what it is - sin . . . and we repent . . .
            we seek God whole-heartedly, in prayer and in His Word . . .
            we let Him worry about our concerns while we worry about living obediently, doing the jobs He gave us to the best of our ability and for His glory . . .
            we make His priorities our priorities . . .
            we admit when we’ve been lazy, selfish, and overly comfortable, and we stop making excuses for it . . .
            we look at this temporary life through the lens of eternity . . .
            we live with an awareness that we are ultimately and always in a spiritual battle, and we get involved in that battle and maintain our spiritual armor, instead of hiding our heads in the sand, getting distracted by shiny, pretty things, or camping out on the side of the road.  (And if you still live like the spirit world and demons are mythical, just try to “holy up” your life - seeking humility and pursuing righteousness - and watch the trials and attacks start to pick up.  That's when my five months of demonic harassment began, after I began to deliberately and passionately seek the Lord more.  A comfortable Christian is no threat to the Enemy, but a growing one is) . . .  
            we work for eternal treasures and not temporary pleasures . . .
            we actively examine our lives and hearts for anything that does not bring Him glory, for any toe-holds, foot-holds, or strong-holds the Enemy has, and for any idols we are chasing . . .
            we actively strive to resemble Jesus more and more, to mold our lives around the Word,  to be radically obedient, and to seek God’s glory above all . . .
            we love the people He loves and forgive as we are forgiven . . .
            we live our lives in such a way that others want to know Jesus, too . . .
            and we live in humility and brokenness before our Heavenly Father (next post).

            Our lives should be lived with the goal of someday hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  And this does not come from taking the easy, lazy, relativistic, comfortable, self-serving road.  But when eternity finally comes for us, could you imagine anything more wonderful and rewarding to hear than that?

Matthew 6:19-21, 24:  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in a steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. . . . 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.” 

Deuteronomy 6:11-12:  “. . . then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

Matthew 6:25, 33:  “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? . . . But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  (If you want to, open your Bibles and read all the verses in between, too.)