Friday, February 4, 2011

The "Unchangeables" Part 2

In my last post I began a series called "The Unchangeables." As you are all well aware, we live in a world of shifting sand, and there is very little that seems to stay the same for very long. I mentioned in the last post that I have seen things change quickly that I never thought would change at all. With all this being the case, what can we hold on to that is sure and unchangeable? This is no easy question, but I believe the answer is simple: the word of the Lord. His word, and His words, are not only timely, but they are also timeless. King David told the Lord that His words were a lamp to his feet and a light to his path (see Psalm 119:105). As we navigate through a world of uncertainty, the Lord's words are meant to guide us and direct us.

We have already discussed the first unchangeable, which is found in Jeremiah 29:11. In this verse the Lord tells us that His plans for us are good plans, intended to prosper us, not to harm us, and to give us a future and a hope. His good plans for us and His heart toward us is the first unchangeable. This brings us to the second unchangeable: the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy. Those words are taken directly from Romans 14:17.

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He told people to change their spiritual direction and get their hearts right with the Lord because the Kingdom was at hand (see Matthew 4:17). Jesus didn't come to make us better people, instead He came to transform us into citizens of His kingdom. What exactly does that mean? When a person meets the Lord and He becomes their Savior and Lord, they enter into eternal life. Our eternal life does not begin when we die - it begins as soon as we meet the Lord. We will be with Him in heaven one day, but He intends for us to live in His kingdom right now. What does this kingdom look like?

We will spend the rest of our natural lives and then all of eternity fully learning the answer to that question. However, we do know that His kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy. A friend of mine was once approached by a friend of his with an idea. I don't know the particulars of this idea, but the gentleman was trying feverishly to convince my friend that it was the right thing to do. He was very insistent and didn't want to take no for an answer. My friend didn't know why, but this idea just did not sit right with him. It gave him a very unsettled and heavy feeling, so he responded to his friend: "You know, the kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy, and this idea doesn't give me any one of those things. That being that case, I have to pass." My friend was later telling me this story, and I was really struck by the wisdom in his answer. How many times have I ignored the initial lack of righteousness, peace and joy in a situation and then looked back later with much regret?

It is important to understand that the presence of peace does not necessarily mean a lack of conflict. The Lord will at times lead us into such seasons, but in the midst of conflict, or war - even in the shadow of death itself, His peace will guard our hearts. On the same note, the presence of sadness or a lack of comfort doesn't necessarily mean that we can't experience joy. The Lord will at times lead us into places that are uncomfortable, and sadness in this life is unavoidable, but His joy will be our strength during those times. We experience a true lack of peace and joy when our focus shifts from Him to ourselves. When we begin to trust in our own strength or resources, we begin to strive, and that will rob us of His supernatural peace and joy. We can only experience these, along with true righteousness, as we abide in Him and look to Him for the solution to our problems and for direction in our lives.

There is much more that could be said about these awesome characteristics of the Lord's kingdom, but even this basic explanation helps us to understand what He intends for us. How often do we short-change ourselves! Our lives are full of decisions. It is not always easy to recognize the best choice, but we can be sure the Lord's best for us will always bear the fruit of righteousness, peace and joy in our lives. If we are not seeing this fruit, it is most likely an indication that we have gotten off track somewhere. What is the fruit of some of our relationships? What is the fruit of our personal habits? What is the fruit of how we choose to spend our free time? If it is not righteousness, peace and joy, then we are short-changing ourselves and settling for less than His best for us. Let us determine to never settle and conduct ourselves as proud citizens of His kingdom.

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