Part 11 in the series.
By: Tom Casey
We have been examining Biblical stewardship in light of the presence of the Kingdom of God. God’s Old Covenant people were unable to fully follow God from the heart because they had not received the Kingdom of God. His nature and character was revealed to them in the Law but a written document containing God’s moral and ethical code was unable to displace the domain of darkness as ruler of their hearts and therefore change the motives and intentions of their hearts. The Kingdom of God must change the heart, not just influence the heart.
In contrast, God’s New Covenant people have received the Kingdom of God – the very Spirit, nature and character of God ruling within our human spirits, changing our internal heart attitudes, resulting in sincere and eternal changes. In reality, the New Covenant expectations of God are nothing less than our consistent growing and maturing in the nature and character of God ruling our thoughts, motives and deeds. Jesus declared to those who followed Him that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees, they would not enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:20). Jesus said this because the Jewish leaders pursued and boasted in a righteousness based on their external behavior being in accordance with the written Law of God. Jesus said that this is not enough. Jesus was not abolishing the Law – nullifying its relevance and importance. He declared that simply changing one’s external behavior to comply with God’s written or spoken code will not make a person righteous. Only the nature and character of God entering, changing and ruling in a person’s spirit can do this.
To support this, Jesus set an example for us in His own life, as a human. He showed us what a life ruled by the Kingdom of God can accomplish. As a human, He allowed the will and fellowship of the Father to rule in His heart and life; His words and deeds being empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). As Jesus fulfilled the Law by speaking and living according to the rule and fellowship of the Father in His heart, so God’s Kingdom people fulfill the Law by living according to the rule and fellowship of God in our hearts, empowered by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:3-4; Romans 13:8-10).
This work of the Spirit in our lives is a divine process. As the nature, character, fellowship and resources of the Kingdom of God reside in and upon our lives, we must continually choose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and His Kingdom activities if we are to experience this restoration and transformation. We must continually choose the rule of God even as we are surrounded by the domain and works of darkness but are no longer ruled by it. We must continually choose to be transformed and retrained by a new nature and a new Kingdom that we cannot see or touch. God wants His Kingdom people to continually choose His rule and to choose it even though we don’t experience it with our physical senses. He wants us to continually choose Him and His rule by faith.
When we continually and freely choose the rule of God and His invisible Kingdom, we develop a personal, interactive and prophetic relationship with God. God calls this, living by faith (Hebrews 11:1; Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38). When we live by faith, by continually choosing the rule of God, we empower His Spirit to transform our lives according to the nature and character of God that indwells us. We also allow the Spirit to instruct and train us in the understanding and application of the Kingdom resources God as made available to us as His children and His Kingdom representatives.
God knows and understands that we are citizens of His invisible Kingdom – living by faith in the midst of the domain and works of darkness. When our Kingdom focus and affections are diverted or we lapse back into the previous habits and training we experienced under the domain of darkness, the grace and forgiveness of God is available to restore us. All we have to do is turn our affections and focus back on God and His Kingdom. He will respond by forgiving us, cleansing our affections, and continuing His transforming and empowering work in our lives. We are to move steadily forward, progressing from one degree of Kingdom reality to the next, through the equipping and empowering activity of the Holy Spirit (2Corinthians 3:17-18).
We must understand that God’s grace is not a license to sin and we should not live our lives with the attitude that it is okay to sin because God will forgive us (Romans 6:1-7). God’s grace is His ability in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to do what we are incapable of doing ourselves – transforming, equipping and empowering us as God’s Kingdom people. His grace is His compassion toward us to forgive, deliver and restore us when our affections and focus are diverted from His Kingdom and we cease living by faith.
As God’s Kingdom people, we are also stewards of the manifold grace of God (1Peter 4:10). As stewards and representatives of the rule of God, it is important for us to understand what it is to represent another and what our responsibilities are as representatives of God and His Kingdom. We will investigate this in my next post.