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Life Under God
The Kingdom Agenda 365 Daily Devotional Readings
By TONY EVANS, Cheryl Molin
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2014 Tony Evans
All rights reserved.
THE HEART OF THE PROBLEM
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)
The heart of our problem in our nation today—in our lives, families, churches, and communities—can be captured and summarized in these verses found in 2 Chronicles 15, a portion of God's Word talking about ancient Israel:
For many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law.... In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. Nation was crushed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every kind of distress, (vv. 3,5–6)
The first thing missing was "the true God."
The Israelites had not become atheists. Nor was their attendance at the temple down. The sacrificial fires continued to burn. Yet despite all of their religious activity, Israel had lost a correct view of the true God.
They wanted a convenient God, one they could control. They wanted a kingdom without a King. They wanted a figurehead, a puppet with the trappings of kingship only. Yet any god or king you can boss around isn't the true God, or the true King. The true God does not adjust to you. You adjust to Him.
Our culture doesn't want the true God either. Our culture wants to pay homage only—to offer a nice little prayer before public meetings.
Yet any time we simply pay homage without aligning our thoughts and actions under God, we are reinforcing our culture's false view of God as a harmless deity who doesn't have anything significant to say about the educational, scientific, entertainment, civic, political, familial, legal, or racial issues of the day. Doing so, we seek to leave God the title of King in name only, but give His powers and authority to others, or even ourselves.
REFLECTION: What is the difference between paying homage and true worship? In what areas of your life do you treat God as a figurehead king and not your true Lord? How can we align our thoughts and actions under God?
Lord, may I never want a kingdom without You as the King. Grant me the wisdom and ability to seek You in everything that I do and to live a life reflective of Your kingdom agenda.
THE STANDARD OF TRUTH
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
We often complain about what unbelievers do. And in 2 Chronicles 15, we see that the Israelites did not seek the true God. That was their first problem, and it is our problem in our nation as well. The second problem Israel faced, which led to their decay, was a lack of teaching priests. Again, the text doesn't say there were no priests at all. But the priests had stopped teaching the truth. They had traded enlightenment for entertainment. Worship had degenerated into a social club. The church was no longer the epicenter of all life and conscience of the culture, calling people to take God seriously.
Israel was suffering from an absence of spiritual leaders who took seriously the authority of Scripture for all of life. Too often today, pastors preach to please. They fear that someone might say, "Well, I didn't like that sermon." But if the pastor preached God's Word, that's the wrong response. The issue is whether it was true, not whether it was popular. Politicians need to be popular. Preachers need to tell the truth.
The issue of truth is all-important. The lack of truth leads to a "conscienceless" society. People become anesthetized in their conscience, losing their sense of right and wrong. In such a society every person becomes a law unto himself or herself, so chaos rules.
Yet in a world where everybody's truth is true and everyone's answers are right, nobody's truth is true and no one's answers end up being right. When a society loses truth, it loses meaning, because people are never really sure about anything.
There's only one standard of truth: the changeless word of the one, true God.
REFLECTION: What alternate standards of truth vie for your attention? Why is God's Word important to the Christian life? How can we keep our hearts focused on the truth of God's Word?
All truth comes from You, Lord. Your Word is the standard by which all is to be measured. I praise You and thank You for Your Word and for the ability You have given each of us to know You and to understand Your teaching.
... rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer ... (Romans 12:12)
When you look at the news from your community or your nation, would you describe it as chaotic or peaceful?
The third missing ingredient in Israel was God's law. When a culture has a false view of God built on bad information, God begins to remove the restraint of His law, and evil grows unbridled. What you and I are witnessing today in the rapid worsening of our culture is the reality that God is removing more and more of His restraint.
Even sinners who respect God won't do certain things. But once God is removed from or marginalized in a culture, then the standard for a society is gone and God becomes one's worst enemy and worst nightmare. That's what had happened in Israel.
When the rule of God's law is missing, chaos replaces community. You cannot have order and structure in society without God. Men become enslaved by the very freedom they seek.
We have ungodly people in our culture who don't want any divine standard to which they must be held accountable. But when God leaves a society, hope goes with Him.
As long as you have God, you have hope. He's the one thing you can count on. If God is still in the picture, and as long as His agenda is still on the table, it's not over until it's over.
Even if circumstances collapse, God will keep you. As long as God is front and center in a culture, life, family, or church, there's hope. But when He is removed, just like when people and their taxes leave the inner city and go to the suburbs, God goes to the spiritual suburbs, and the inner city's cultures crumble.
REFLECTION: How does a false view of God harm an individual? How does it harm a community or a culture? In what areas has our own culture gone astray from God's Word? How has my family followed culture instead of God's way—and how can we correct that?
Heavenly Father, help me to always keep You front and center in my life. And I also pray that You will help the believers in this nation to do the same as well. Remind us of Your preeminence over all.
And He said, "How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade. (Mark 4:30-32)
When you look around you, it seems like everyone has an agenda. People have plans, programs, things they want to accomplish, and specific ways they want to accomplish them. They make lists, set goals, and try to reach them. Maybe you've got your own agenda as well.
God is no stranger to agendas. In fact, He has an agenda, too; something He wants to accomplish in His way. Scripture calls this agenda God's kingdom. The kingdom of God is the alternative to the kingdom of this world. An "alternative" simply means that it is another way; there is another idea on the table. As God's people, we are not limited by the choices this world offers us. God has an alternative plan for us—called His kingdom agenda.
In the same way that our culture and our country want us to be regularly reminded about our citizenship in this kingdom called America, there is another kingdom—a greater and more perfect kingdom—of which we are a part. It is the kingdom of God.
REFLECTION: What are the three most important items on your life agenda? What do these agenda items say about your life priorities? What place do kingdom values have in your priorities?
Father, reveal to me the majesty and magnitude of Your kingdom, of which I am a part. Cause me to know both my place and position, and use me within it for the good of others and Your glory.
And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand." (Luke 8:10)
If you are an American, you are most likely an American because you were born here. Likewise, if you are a part of the kingdom of God, it is because you have been born again into His kingdom. This foundational truth not only affects you greatly, but it is also the key to grasping the truths of the Bible.
The unifying central theme throughout the Bible is the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. The conjoining thread from Genesis to Revelation—from beginning to end—is focused on one thing: God's glory through advancing God's kingdom.
When you do not focus on that theme, the Bible presents itself as disconnected stories that may be great for inspiration but seem to be unrelated in purpose and direction. The Bible exists to share God's movement in history toward the establishment and expansion of His kingdom. It highlights the connectivity throughout, which is the kingdom. Understanding this principle increases the relevance of this several-thousand-year-old manuscript to your everyday life, because the kingdom is not only then, it is now.
REFLECTION: How does understanding the Bible's theme help us read it? If you were to summarize the Bible's theme briefly, how would you describe it? How is it comforting to know the Bible isn't really about us, but about God?
Father, open my eyes to see Your Word in light of the purposes and stories of Your kingdom. Show me the connections throughout Scripture and reveal to me the unifying heartbeat of Your own heartbeat, which is Your kingdom.
GOD'S ALL-INCLUSIVE KINGDOM
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13–14)
The kingdom of God is His rule, His plan, His program. It is all-embracing, covering everything in the universe. We can define the kingdom as God's comprehensive rule over all creation.
If God's kingdom is comprehensive, so is His kingdom agenda. The kingdom agenda may be defined as the visible demonstration of the comprehensive rule of God over every area of life.
Greek word Scripture uses for kingdom is basileia. This means a "rule" or "authority." It includes the concept of power. So when we talk about a kingdom, we're talking first about a king or a ruler.
Now if there is a ruler, there also have to be "rulees," or kingdom subjects (Colossians 1:13). In addition, a kingdom includes a realm—that is, a domain over which the king rules. Finally, if you're going to have a ruler, rulees, and a realm, you also need kingdom regulations: guidelines that govern the relationship between the ruler and the subjects. These are necessary so that the rulees will know whether they are doing what the ruler wants done.
God's kingdom includes all of these elements. He is the absolute Ruler of His domain, which encompasses all of creation. Likewise, His authority is total. Everything God rules, He runs.
REFLECTION: How do you react to the statement that God's rule is "comprehensive ... over every area of life"? What areas are hard for you to submit to God's authority? How does your submission to God's authority allow you to function as you were created to function?
Father, I recognize and honor You as King and Ruler. Not only over all of Your creation, but over me. I exalt Your name as the one true King—knowing You are ultimately in charge of all things. Help me to walk according to Your rules and regulations because these will guard my life.
Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst." (Luke 17:20–21)
One of the problems facing modern Christianity today is that we have not properly defined God's kingdom. Some people secularize and politicize the kingdom. They try to look for the solutions to life's problems solely in our government systems or societal infrastructures. They believe that political involvement or social action will by itself usher in the kingdom.
While there is nothing wrong with entering the political arena as a believer in Jesus Christ—in fact it ought to be encouraged—we need to bear in mind that God's kingdom is not comprised of, nor limited to, a political institution of mankind. God transcends political parties. He sides with His own agenda.
Other Christians, though, often over-spiritualize the kingdom. In contrast to their politically active brothers and sisters, these are the individuals who are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. They live with their heads and hearts in the upper levels of the ionosphere while the kingdom of God never moves beyond the esoteric belief system within them.
God's kingdom agenda is much bigger than the political and social realm; neither is it limited to the walls of the church. It is best positioned to reach outwardly from each individual while simultaneously directing the circumference of one's life.
REFLECTION: Where have you confused or blurred the lines between God's kingdom and political activity? Have earthly politics become too important for you—or have you avoided your Christian citizenship responsibilities? How can you interact with political realities as a Christian?
Lord, may I not be so heavenly minded that I am no earthly good. May I likewise not seek to replace Your power, authority, and governance with solutions sought from the political or social realm that come apart from You. Rather, may my life fully reflect and radiate forth Your precepts and purposes through each and every realm.
ON EARTH AS IN HEAVEN
A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (John 10:10 THE MESSAGE)
Trusting Jesus Christ for your salvation will get you to heaven. But trusting Jesus Christ for your salvation doesn't automatically get heaven, and its subsequent power, authority, and blessings, to come down to you.
Getting into God's kingdom comes by way of the process known as conversion, but getting God's kingdom to visibly manifest itself in the daily abundant life comes through your commitment.
Getting into God's kingdom once this life concludes is a gift of salvation through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But getting God's kingdom provisions and sanctification to you in the here and now is a special grace given in response to your dedication.
Commitment and dedication results only when the Jesus you placed your faith in is also the Jesus who rules within you—in the kingdom of which you are a part. God's kingdom goal is to manifest in history the operations of heaven. Therefore, when history does not reflect heaven—when Thy will is not done on earth as it is in heaven—then God's kingdom remains hidden in the shadows of this world. It is not visible.
His kingdom is manifestly visible to the degree that the persons of history emulate the Presence of heaven.
REFLECTION: What does it mean for God's kingdom to be visible on earth today? What would it look like for your church, your neighborhood, your workplace, and your family to see reflections of God's kingdom today? How can you bring God's kingdom values into your own life?
Father, grant me the "more and better life"—the abundant life of which Jesus Christ speaks. I realize that this comes through commitment and dedication to Him and to You, as Lord and King. You also call this abiding. Teach me to abide that I may know while yet on earth the fullness of Your heavenly grace.
Excerpted from Life Under God by TONY EVANS, Cheryl Molin. Copyright © 2014 Tony Evans. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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