Seek first God’s Neighborhood and righteousness: life in God’s Neighborhood, part 2 (Matt. 6.33) [sermon 2-3-19]

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February 3, 2019 by jmar198013

Live audio and sermon notes for my message at Central Church of Christ, Stockton, CA, for February 3rd, 2019.

This was our first Sunday in our beautiful new building! We had two baptisms today, too. It was a glorious day!

The texts read during worship were Psalm 20.6-7 and Matthew 6.7-15, 19-34. This message focused on Matthew 6.33.

Live audio link is embedded below.


The Neighborhood is the kingdom

It’s another beautiful day in God’s Neighborhood.

So it’s our first Sunday here in our new building, in our new neighborhood.

But we’re also in our second week with one of the most famous sermons ever preached. 

It’s Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which is found in Matthew 5 – 7.

When Jesus preached on that mountain, he presented a vision for life in God’s Neighborhood. That vision teaches us how to be good neighbors. To God, and to other people.

Now, Jesus didn’t quite call it God’s Neighborhood. He used another turn of phrase. He called it the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven.

Now, kingdom of heaven is a perfectly solid expression. But if I say the word heaven, what does that mean to you? [The place saved people go after they die] So if I talk about the kingdom of heaven, you’re probably thinking about something that’s far off, in the distant future. Something that is coming later.

But that’s not really what the Bible means when it talks about the kingdom of heaven.

In the Bible, kingdom of heaven means wherever you see the will of God being done. Even right here and now on earth.

Wherever you can see and feel God at work—

making old things new again,

beautifying places that had turned ugly,

mending broken hearts,

restoring worn-out lives,

changing mourning into dancing,

healing, renewing, and redeeming people, places, and things—

wherever you notice God doing those things,

that’s the kingdom of heaven.

Even if it’s in your own heart. In your own life and relationships, here and now.

God has moved in and regained more ground in the world.

That’s why we’re calling the kingdom of heaven God’s Neighborhood. I don’t want you to think of the kingdom of heaven as a far-off place in the far-off future. God’s Neighborhood is alive and moving and working and growing right now.

God’s Neighborhood is always here to be found. You just have to look for it. 

What are you seeking first?

We even heard Jesus say that today. Matthew 6.33, Jesus said:  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.

So this raises a really personal question. A question I need to ask myself. You need to ask yourself. And church—we need to ask ourselves this question together:  What am I seeking?

  • Everybody’s searching for something [Self-help books]

Jesus had just finished talking about some of the things humans seek after. Like food and water and clothing. Now, we need those things to live, but he says looking for those things shouldn’t consume us.

  • Other things we seek that aren’t even about survival: advancement, attention, achievement, awards.
  • Church in new building in new neighborhood: What are we seeking? Why did we really come here? What are we doing here? Are we here to seek God’s will and do God’s work?

Mr. Rogers quote when he got his Star on the Hollywood walk of fame: It’s not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life that ultimately nourish our souls.

God didn’t put us here—not you, not me, not the church—so we could win competitions or be popular or amass a lot of money and stuff or make a name for ourselves. Not even to be comfortable or successful or secure. Not even just to survive. No, the really important work God has given us is to pursue his kingdom and his righteousness. And what we’ll find if we’re doing that, is that it won’t just nourish our lives. It will nourish our neighbors, too. And it will bring healing to our broken world.

What seeking God’s Neighborhood and righteousness looks like

I want us to leave here understanding what it means to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness. So I’m going to break it down for you like this:

But before anything else, y’all be seeking God’s Neighborhood and his righteousness.

  • But before anything else
    • This is a matter of priority. Not—instead of the things you need to survive [Jesus actually said God knows you need those things], career, relationships, personal growth.
    • In a world where everyone seems to be seeking first for success, for recognition, for stuff—Jesus wants his people to be known for quietly, stubbornly seeking God’s Neighborhood and righteousness.
  • Y’all
    • This isn’t something any of us do alone. We’re supposed to be seeking God’s presence and God’s will together with other believers. Jesus wants us to work together to grow and build and beautify God’s Neighborhood.
  • be seeking
    • Way of life. Not one and done. God is always working, acting, doing new things in the world. He’s always trying to show us something, always calling us to new adventures. We never stop seeking.
    • Seeking through prayer (your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven).
  • God’s Neighborhood
    • We are seeking for where God is already at work—and calling us to come and work with him. Where God is already building community. Where God is turning the soil and planting seeds. Where God is already laying foundations, fixing what is broken, slapping on fresh coats of paint.
    • Beatitude, pure in heart will see God. Purity of heart = single-minded, whole-hearted pursuit of God’s Neighborhood. When we make seeking God’s Neighborhood first priority, we will see God at work all around us, here and now.
  • his righteousness
    • Just like the Neighborhood is God’s Neighborhood, the righteousness is his, too. We’re not seeking first to become more righteous ourselves (even though that will happen, too). It’s his righteousness we’re seeking.
    • What we’re looking for where God wants to make things right again. Relationships that need to be restored. Broken lives that need to be put back together again. Lost people who need to be found. Lonely people who need to be loved. Neglected communities that need some attention and grace.
      • The Bible tells us that in the end, God will make all things well and right again (Rev. 21.1-5–everywhere is God’s Neighborhood). But God is always at work, here and now, in our world to heal and redeem and reclaim and renew. And he’s always calling us—his church, his children, his beloved neighbors—to join him in making things right again, right now. (All in anticipation of the day when he makes all things right again.)
        • That’s what it means to seek his righteousness.

The promise: all these things will be given to you

Comes with a promise: and all these things will be given to you as well.

What are these things?

Jesus was talking about the things we need … like food and clothes and shelter. God will make sure his children, who live in his Neighborhood, have enough.

But also the desires of our hearts. But as we seek God’s Neighborhood and his righteousness, don’t be surprised if the desires of your heart change, too.

God will bring gifts into your life that you didn’t even know you needed. He will begin to fulfill longings in your heart that you never knew were there.

Becoming the neighbors our neighbors need

Church, as God has brought us into this new neighborhood, let’s always be seeking his Neighborhood, and his righteousness. God wants to conspire with us to do beautiful things, for his glory and our neighbors’ good. Through the gentle work of the Holy Spirit among us, God is making us the kind of neighbors our neighbors need.

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