Tag Archives: Jesus

We Need a New King

King of Kings

There were great differences in the culture of the Greco-Roman world from the Jewish culture that the Apostles lived in. They faced a great challenge evangelizing a culture with a vastly different cosmology. The primary state-sponsored religion of the empire was emperor worship. Most people adhered just to get along. Emperor worship evolved as a natural progression of the pantheon mixed with the humanistic cosmology of the Greek philosophers. The “gods” of the Greco-Roman pantheon were worshiped primarily by middle/ lower class agrarian people. The “gods” of the pantheon were nothing more than glorified humans with very human characteristics, including their sin nature. Greed, envy, lust, jealousy, etc. were common to the pantheon. The pantheon gods were worshipped for their power. Thus, it would be natural to look upon the emperor as a god. The humanistic/ atheist philosophies of the Epicureans and the Stoics were adhered to primarily by the educated and academic classes. These upper class folks would have been the type that Paul witnessed to at the Areopagus.

It is important to understand that most Romans were not very satisfied with their cosmology. The emperor could be a cruel tyrant. He was noted for authoritarian control, the taking of property and oppressive taxation. The gods of the pantheon had not served the masses well in defending them.

It is amazing to consider how God prepared the 1st century Roman world for the spread of His gospel. Most scholars credit the Pax Romana, the peace of the empire, which enabled the evangelists to move about the empire freely. But there were other important contributing factors. The existence of the Jewish diaspora was crucial in making people familiar with the one God of the Jews. The neighborliness of most Jews and the unique nature of their God appealed to many disillusioned Romans. The God of the Jews was unique in that He was not only powerful, but He was “holy”, that is completely different than humans and without the sin nature of the gods of the pantheon. But, perhaps most importantly, the one desire for true freedom that God places in every human heart was what motivated Romans to receive the gospel message with gladness. True freedom from outside oppression and inner bondage can only be found in Christ. The Romans were ready to hear about a new King that offered eternal freedom. The message for which the Apostles were martyred was that there was a new King. They were not martyred for telling people how to get to heaven. The emperor could not have cared about that. But, another King was a threat.

Our society today has many parallels to ancient Roman. People have been promised security by an over arching and controlling government. They have neither security nor freedom and they are disappointed with the god of the state. They need to hear the message that there is a King that offers true and everlasting freedom.

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Surviving the Passion

Christ's PassionTruly, truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me, the works that I do he shall do also, and greater works than these he shall do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12)

I remember walking out of the theatre after seeing “The Passion of the Christ” and hearing one man say, “No man could survive that.” My thought was, “Was he saying, as many believe, that it didn’t happen?” Or did he mean that Jesus was not a man and that He survived by His supernatural power? The answers to those questions have important implications for all of us.
Surviving

To the first point, the idea that Christ’s passion did not happen contradicts the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts and classical Christian orthodoxy as revealed in the scriptures. It did happen. The veracity of the gospels has never been successfully challenged. In accord with standard literary tests of historical accuracy for ancient documents, the gospels are unparalleled both in terms of the volume of manuscript evidence and the proximity in time of the manuscripts to the actual events. Christ’s crucifixion is also verified by a number of extra biblical contemporary historians, most notably Josephus. Additionally, we must consider the cost paid by the gospel writers as evidence of the reliability of their work. Would all of them suffer torture and martyrdom for a lie, when all that they had to do was recant? Not a single one changed their account. We should reject the notion that Christ’s scourging and crucifixion did not happen. The scourging is recorded in Mt. 27:26-30. It was a fulfillment of what was prophesied and recorded by Isaiah in chapter 53 of the Old Testament book of Isaiah, written almost 700 years before Christ.

To believe that Jesus endured the cross simply because He is God is to believe a half truth. We must not forget that Jesus came as God in the flesh. Christian orthodoxy teaches that Jesus endured the limitations of a man. He was and is completely God and completely man. The Genesis prophecy of His birth was that Christ would be of the “seed of the woman.”(Gen. 3:15) John’s testimony was that Jesus is the “Word made flesh.”(John. 1:14) (Note that the original text is “the Word” not “a word” from the Greek “Logos”, meaning universal or unifying principle, being a reference to deity.) Jesus claimed that He only accomplished His miracles by the power of His Father, that is, not by His own power. (John 5:19) He referred to Himself as the Son of Man to emphasize his humanity. The book of Hebrews reminds us that He was “tempted as we are.” (He. 4:15)

We need to understand, theologically speaking, that in order to satisfying the sacrificial requirements of the second Adam (He. 2:14-18), Christ had to come as a man and lay aside the privileges of deity, as explained in Philippians 2:6-8: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” His humbling was illustrated in washing His disciple’s feet at the last supper. In forfeiting the privileges of deity, He refused temptations to use supernatural power for His own selfish needs. He rejected Satan’s invitation to use supernatural power to legitimize His identity. He rejected the mocker’s plea to remove Himself from the cross.

Jesus had no sin nature to battle with. But His ability to survive the passion as a man is attributed to the indwelling Spirit of God. Thus, the second option is really a half truth. He did overcome by supernatural power, but not His own. What is important to us is that Jesus promised that same supernatural power to those who would believe in Him. By cleansing the filthy temple of our mortal bodies by His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus made a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit of God. Other men did survive similar torture. History is full of miraculous accounts of Christian martyrs.  Jesus told His disciples they would drink of His cup of suffering.  (Mt. 20:23) All were martyred but one. Paul survived being stoned and had been given up for dead.  (Acts 14:19)

The Bible references the empowering, indwelling Holy Spirit as Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) Jesus promised His followers that, “you will do greater things.” (John. 14:12) Jesus did many miraculous things and he promised that we would do greater things! Those great things can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible promises that we can “do all things through Christ.” (Phil 4:13) That requires surrender to God’s will and death to self interest. Jesus said, “Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:3)

Kiss feet

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True Worship

“And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire. And those who had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are Your ways, O King of saints. Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You only are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your righteousnesses were made known. And after these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony was opened in Heaven.” (Revelation 15:2-5 MKJV)

This is true worship. Worship opens the way into the holy of holies, the place where we meet God. Worship begins with praise, thanks and adoration. To be passionate for God, one must be able to express emotion. We should worship because it comes from the heart. It must be more than just an act of the will. Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Mt. 15:8) David was passionate. He danced before God. His wife, Michal mocked him and was judged for it; she remained barren as a sign of her spiritual barrenness. The symbolism is obvious; there will be no fruit without passion. The Holy Spirit is restoring intimacy to our worship; there is a God orchestrated shift to songs like the Psalms directed to God as opposed to songs about Him as though He were not in our midst.  Real passion for God should create new songs. New expressions of love and adoration are fresh bread to our spirits. We glorify God by enjoying Him. We should seek Him hedonistically like a thirsty deer seeks a stream, for the joy of knowing Him. Selfish interest for this kind of pleasure is a gift from God.Bow down

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Thy Kingdom Come

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Mat 6:10)

The idea of God’s kingdom on earth is a classical Christian belief. Christians affirm this belief in the Apostles Creed: He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead”. In modern western Christian thinking the concept of salvation is usually confined to the spiritual realm. We usually think of salvation in terms of a personal relationship with Christ by faith. We rarely discuss the idea of a progressive fulfillment of the concept to the physical earthly realm. We tend to think of heaven as the goal. But, biblically speaking, salvation is the restoration of the entire creation. That restoration starts with the individual spirit, but it will progress to the entire physical creation. Biblical salvation ends with the physical realm; the restoration of Eden.

Restoration is not accomplished in a single moment.  Quoting George Ladd, “The Kingdom of God belongs to the age to come. Yet the age to come has overlapped with this present age. We may taste its powers [Lazarus] and thereby be delivered from this age and no longer live in conformity to it.” The focus of the modern western Church has changed. The common message is usually about how to escape hell and get to heaven. It shows up in how we evangelize.  We ask questions such as, “Are you going to heaven?” or  we invite people to come to Jesus and get healing, peace, prosperity or some other personal benefit. You don’t very often hear an evangelist say, “Come to Jesus and die to yourself.”  Most Christians are not expecting His imminent return and the establishment of an earthly Kingdom.

The hope of the early church was, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live discreetly, righteously and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,….” (Tit 2:11-13) Jesus will rule on earth with His church. (Rev. 20:4-5; Zech 14:16) God created the earth for a dwelling place with man. His plans are not frustrated; He is not a loser; He doesn’t have a plan B.

God’s church will not be raptured away from this world in defeat.  God saves the best for last. The wedding in Cana was a type of the wedding of the bride to come. Just when we think that the wine is all gone, Jesus will perform His great miracle. He is the Creator and He is always doing something better. (Hag. 2:6-9)

But God’s people perish for lack of or a wrong vision. Our focus should be preparing for the Kingdom. Jesus will return when the gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the whole earth. (Mt. 24:14) Heaven will hold Him until He has made His enemies His footstool. (He. 10:12-13) Our part is to hasten the day of His coming. (2Peter 3:12)

How do we prepare the way? Do what Jesus told us to do. Make disciples, not converts, teaching them to obey the things that Jesus taught. (Mt. 28:19-20) Preach that the Kingdom is at hand and serve.  (Mt. 10:7-8) That requires being a preserving influence, being salt and light. We must be involved. It is disheartening to see so many Christians not involved in the battle. We are in a struggle for the culture and too many are silent. God has granted us a gift of having a voice in our civil government, but too many believe it is unspiritual to be involved in the fight. The kind of government we have will influence the kind of soil that we sow our seed in. The scriptures teach that God has prepared good works for you in advance. We are to expose darkness by turning on the light.

We must walk in true holiness, not phony legalism, loving God with all of our heart and loving our neighbor as our self. The task is attainable in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:16)

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