Book Reviews

Book Review: Seek First (Jeremy Treat)

What is the most important topic Jesus talked about? God’s love? Money? The cross? Eternity in heaven? What matters most to us is what we think of the most. It’s what we talk about the most. What Jesus talked about more than anything else was…(surprise, surprise) the kingdom of God. This might seem obvious because I’m reviewing a book on the kingdom of God, but Jeremy Treat (pastor of Reality LA, adjunct prof at Biola University, and author of the excellent The Crucified King) said he almost feel out of his chair when he first heard this in church as a teenager. “The kingdom of God?” More so, there’s only one thing Jesus said to seek first:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness
……..=> and all these things will be added to you (Matt 6:33).

What is the kingdom of God? Treat writes, “The kingdom is God’s reign through God’s people over God’s place” (15). God is the king. He rules and reigns over his people and through his people to those around them. We are saved by the death and resurrection of Christ for life, glory, and freedom to follow our savior in the kingdom of light (17). The kingdom will fill the whole earth in the new creation. Both John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was at hand, so all needed to repent (Matt 3:2; 4:17). But what was most surprising about God’s kingdom is that Jesus established the kingdom through his death on the cross and his resurrection to new life (as well as his ascension and exaltation to the Father’s right hand).

There are three sections to Treat’s book:

  1. Kingdom Perspective
  2. Kingdom Purpose
  3. Kingdom People

In Kingdom Perspective, we live in a grand narrative. Our grand, good, and wise King “uses his power to bless his people” (35). He enjoys it! The Bible’s narrative answers life’s questions:

  • Why are we here? The kingdom project.
  • What’s wrong? We rebelled against the King.
  • What’s the remedy? In the OT it was the promise of the kingdom; in the NT it was the coming of the kingdom in Christ.
  • How will it end? The eternal kingdom will come.

Treat briefly covers the grand narrative, looking at how good God is, how sin tries to replace him, but how God keep moving along with his plan to save us. The Majestic King Jesus comes onto the scene and, as the King, serves. He loves and cares for all people. He was crucified for us, transforming our bondage, shame, fear, and defeat into freedom, honor, faith, and victory. Death to life. He stood in our place on the cross, and by faith we stand in his place. We receive his benefits. We receive the Father’s love, and we are new creations. We participate in Christ’s and in his kingdom, even in the most mundane acts of life.

In Kingdom Purpose, we learn that disciples remain with, learn from, and become like Christ (87). With the gospel as the center, we aim to stop sinning because we love Jesus. Rather than being guilted into submission through statements, “Good Christians don’t sin” or “God will be disappointed with you if you sin,” Jesus comes to us through his Spirit, and shows us that we complete in him. Because the Father planned our salvation and gives us all the benefits Jesus has, we want to live out our Christ-likeness. We do this by developing our character in every-day mundane acts. We look for a community to whom we can contribute. We both receive and give. We see and experience God’s kingdom by people people filled with Jesus encouraging others filled with Jesus, and by talking about Jesus to those who don’t know him yet. And like the OT prophets and Jesus, we aim for justice for all people. There should be social justice along with the proclamation of the gospel.

In Kingdom People, we see how we are sons and daughters who have been adopted by the good and wise King who is now our loving and gracious Father. This happens through our union with Christ, his eternal Son. God’s kingdom grows, but this world is not our home. The new creation is not yet here, and we are sojourners and exiles waiting for the return of our king. We proclaim the kingdom gospel amongst many who are ambivalent or malicious against Christianity. We must remain faithful while reaching out to the world. We are both saints and sinners. Treat writes, “We have been saved from the penalty of sin. We are being saved from the power of sin. We will be saved from the presence of sin” (172). There is tension and struggle even within ourselves, but God is at work. We are holy saints in Christ, even though we still sin. Living in God’s kingdom, we now want to fight back.

Recommended?

I really don’t have anything to critique in this book. Treat fills his book with clear thinking and cultural references to create a bridge between what the Bible teaches and the very familiar culture we live in. He shows how the kingdom of God really changes everything for us. Living this life as Christians knowing God is the King, our Judge, and our Father, life looks different for us who know we live under his reign. We know he has promised us a future, and we know we should live a certain way now. The kingdom of God isn’t merely some cool theological concept. It pervades our life, and the better we understand it the more meaning it gives to our lives.

This book would be good for students, teachers, and in Bible studies. Along with this book, pick up any of the four books below (from easiest to most difficult):

  • The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross (review upcoming) – Patrick Schreiner
  • Living in the Kingdom of God (review) – Sigurd Gindheim
  • The Majesty on High (review) – S. M. Baugh
  • The Kingdom of God (review upcoming) – Nicholas Perrin

Lagniappe

  • Author: Jeremy R. Treat
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (April 9, 2019)
  • Sample: Read Chapter One

Buy it from Amazon or Zondervan Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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