His Kingdom and His Righteousness

Q. I have the following questions:
1. Mt 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. What are His kingdom and His righteousness?
2. What is the meaning of “If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.”

A. The kingdom of God means His rule on earth, His domain or realm:
Lk 17:21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (among you, inside you)
• Rom 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

In other words, it is God ruling in your heart. For the person who repents and believes in the gospel (Mk 1:15), God gives him Christ’s righteousness. He has peace with God (reconciliation) and joy in the Holy Spirit. His relationship with the triune God is restored and he becomes a subject of God’s kingdom.

His righteousness means God’s righteousness made available to us through faith in Christ:
Rom 3:22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;
• 1 Co 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
• Php 3:9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

So, seeking His kingdom and righteousness should be the most important thing in anyone’s life, because without that you are lost and alienated from God.

“My way, My statutes and My commandments” appears twice in the Bible, both times God speaking to Solomon:
• The first was when Solomon became king and God appeared to him in a dream, in 1 Kings 3:14 If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.”
• The second was when Solomon turned from God, and God warned him in 1 Kings 11:38 Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.

The meaning is clear. God has His ways, statutes, and commandments (Deut 26:17, 30:16; 1 Kings 2:3, 8:58; 2 Kings 17:13). If we keep them, we will live and multiply, the LORD will bless us, and we will succeed in all that we do and wherever we turn. If we don’t, we will be chastised and disciplined.

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God’s Training

God's training 1

Q. Everyone talks about discipleship but what should we really be trained in? Evangelism? Leading bible study? Praying? Is there a scriptural curriculum? What is the goal? How do we know whether we’ve done our job?

A. All the subjects you mentioned (witnessing, studying the bible, prayer), along with worship and fellowship should form part of a new believer’s basic follow-up. They contribute to the new Christian’s growth and balanced development. Having said that, the Bible does specify a few things we should be trained for, the process, and the desired end results:

Goals:
2 Sam 22:35 He trains my hands for battle, …
• Psalm 18:34 He trains my hands for battle, …
• Psalm 144:1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle;
• Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
• Hebrews 12:11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

In the OT God trained David for battle. We apply this to NT times and today to spiritual battle, more specifically to discerning good and evil, and training for righteousness. These are particularly important in the last days when people reject the truth and lose their moral compass.

Process:
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
• 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

The training process involves applying God’s word from spiritual infancy. This requires discipline and practice over the long haul. There are no short cuts and quick fixes. The prevalent classroom method is not the best approach. On-the-job training is much more effective.

End-Result:
Luke 6:40 A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.
The desired end-result is that the disciple will be like his Master Teacher. Conformity to the image of Christ is the standard by which we ought to be measured, not completion of number of courses or obtaining a certificate or diploma. In this sense our job is never done this side of heaven.

Being Like Christ

Christ-like 1

Q. 2 Co 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord…”. What is the final state of being Christ-like and being united with Him? Will we have all His moral characters, think and act like Him? Will we be able to comprehend what He does and why? Will we acquire ultimate wisdom?

A. The final state of being Christ-like is conformity to His image – we are predestined to that. When that happens, we will be like Him:
Rom 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
• 1 Jn 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

His image does not mean physical resemblance, but His attributes such as wisdom, righteousness and holiness, along with morality, decision-making and aesthetics.
See https://rayliu1.wordpress.com/2015/11/28/image-of-god/
We will also be changed from perishable to imperishable, and from mortal to immortal:
1 Co 15:51-53 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.

So I believe we will have His moral character, and think and act like Him. I also believe we will understand what He does and why:
1 Co 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

However, I don’t think we will acquire ultimate wisdom. Christ is God and infinite. Christians are creatures and finite. By nature we have limitations; He does not have any. What’s finite, even though it may be astronomical compared to what we know now, can never compare to what’s infinite. The creature will be like his Creator, but never His equal. That’s what Satan wanted, and his downfall.

Image of God

creation of Adam 2

Q. What does “we are created in God’s image” mean?

A. The phrase “image of God” appears only three times in the NASB but is not explicitly defined:

Gen 1:27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
• Gen 9:6 Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.
• 2 Co 4:4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Whatever it means, it could NOT be referring to physical appearance as God is spirit and does not have flesh and bones:

Jn 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
• Lk 24:39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Though undefined, there are clues:

1. “Image” and “likeness” are used interchangeably;
Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; …
• Gen 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.
• Jas 3:9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;

2. Christ is the ultimate image of God.
Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Also 2 Co 4:4)

Theologians have therefore suggested possibilities based on God’s attributes. For example,
• God is Creator (Gen 1:1). Since we are created in His image, we are creative.
• God communicates (Jn 1:1); therefore we communicate too.
• God is love (1 Jn 4:8, 16). Being created in His likeness, we are loving.
While it is true that we are like God in some, though not all, of His attributes, I am not fully satisfied that this is the answer, because many animals have some of these characteristics too e.g. intelligence, loving their young, even though they are NOT made in God’s image.

Furthermore, these are based on our deduction, not directly stated in Scripture. Accordingly I believe the stronger clues lie in Christ as the image of God, the exact representation of His nature (Heb 1:3):

1 Co 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
• Eph 4:24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

I believe the image of God consists of wisdom, righteousness, and holiness, among other attributes. I did not include redemption because it is unique to our Savior.

• Wisdom is a moral rather than an intellectual quality. To be wise is to fear God. To be foolish is to be godless. Animals can be intelligent, but they are not wise. No animals ever worship God. Only humans do.
• Righteousness is the character or quality of being right or just; being in a right relationship with God. Man can be righteous or unrighteous, but not animals.
• Holiness is being separated unto God, from evil things and ways. Again, sanctification applies primarily to man, though it is also used of sacrificial animals and objects dedicated to God’s use.

My opinion is that these constitute the major component of the image of God, among other elements such as morality, decision-making, aesthetics which are also true of man but not animals, but are not directly cited in the Bible. I believe these form part of the glory of God and are embodied in His image:
1 Co 11:7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

Hope this helps.

Is God Judgmental? (3 of 4)

God intolerant 1

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we saw that God’s people did not keep their covenant with God. Did He in His wrath strike them down right away? No, He was slow to anger and forbearing, giving people time to repent so they won’t perish:

Neh 9:17 They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness; And You did not forsake them. (Also Ex 34:6; Ps 103:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2)
• Rom 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
• 2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

But if He is so gracious and compassionate and abounding in loving-kindness, why can’t He lower His standards and just forgive people as they are? He can’t, for two reasons. First, it won’t work. Sin is lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4), any deviation from God’s law. Let me use cancer as an analogy. Cancer cells are cells that grow and divide at an unregulated, quick pace. They are a deviation from normality, just like sin. If you have cancer, you would want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Now how much cancer cells would you tolerate to remain in your body without removing them by surgery, or killing them by radiation or chemotherapy? 10%? 5%? 1%? No, you want them completely eliminated, or you die.

The so-called “tolerant” believe that God is love and should cut people some slack. They think if God didn’t set the bar so high, they would make it on their own. Actually they have too high a view of themselves, and too low a view of God. For the sake of argument let’s just say God concedes to their request. What they don’t know is whatever concession God makes, that sin will kill them, just as that trace amount of cancer cells left behind will kill them. Tolerance to sin just doesn’t work.

Let’s use another illustration. You love your spouse and want him/her to be faithful to you. Would you tolerate your spouse to be 90% faithful? 95%? 99%? No, only 100% will suffice, anything less is adultery. It’s all or nothing.

(To be continued)