"The Coming Inauguration, and This World's 'Lame-Duck' Prince"
Christ the King Sunday Nov.23/08 Eph 1:15-23
Why Associate with the "Lame-Duck" Leader?
A news story told of interesting developments in connection with the recent G20 meeting involving leaders of major developed and developing nations. The reporters related that US President-elect Barack Obama would not be attending. Although he won the election Nov.4, he's not officially inaugurated until Jan.20 next year. He's been respecting the current president's rights by insisting the US has only 'one president at a time', so he wouldn't be attending the big international meeting.
But other nations are more interested in developing agreements and forming alignments with the man who will soon be coming into power, rather than Pres.Bush who is increasingly unpopular and seen as somewhat a 'lame duck' without real power for the next few weeks. So Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his delegation were trying to arrange meetings behind the scenes with those of Obama's associates and staff who WERE at the G20 meeting. George W.is still 'occupying territory' though he now has very limited influence; Obama is waiting in the wings but already is being recognized as the greater authority, the more important one to listen to.
There's a parallel here to Jesus Christ and Satan, the devil. Jesus has an inauguration coming - at His return and the Millennium He'll finally be recognized among all the nations as the King of kings. Until then, Satan remains what the Bible calls 'the prince of this world' but Jesus says Satan "has no hold on Me", he's 'driven out', 'now stands condemned.' (Jn 12:31, 14:30; 16:11) The devil will soon be shown to be a fake, an impostor, not so important as he claims. It's time to stop giving ground to the 'lame duck' and heed the real Leader! As we recognize Jesus sovereignty in our own lives, we increasingly find we're more on track with what's lasting and meaningful and strengthening for eternity - God's Kingdom.
A Kingship Increasingly Apparent
As we look back over the centuries, we notice that Jesus' kingship was perceived and hailed from a distance by the great patriarchs and prophets of the faith in the Old Testament. Jacob (b 2006 BC) said in Genesis 49(10), "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his." In our series recently on meeting Jesus in unexpected places, we saw how several of the Psalms (45, 72, 110) anticipated Jesus' royalty when He arrived. The prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus in the 'Servant Songs', and passages such as 9:6f, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever..."
Daniel is another remarkable Old Testament character who clearly foresaw Jesus' kingship. The kingdoms in the dream about the statue with clay feet "were broken to pieces...and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth." He went on in reference to Jesus, "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever." (Da 2:35,44) Later Daniel had a very clear vision of Jesus: "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." (Da 7:13-14) Then there were other prophecies, like Micah's about Bethlehem being the birthplace of Him "who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (Mic 5:2)
While it would have been risking misunderstanding and charges of treason for Jesus to be called 'king' by His contemporaries, the titles for Him applied by other New Testament authors are just as weighty: "Lord" or Adonai indicates one in charge; and the term "Christ" is not a name but a title, meaning Messiah or Anointed Leader. Jesus admitted He was receiving the authority of a king: Luke 22(29), "And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me..." He admitted to Pilate under intense questioning that He had a kingship that was not from this world (Jn 18:37). The very charge nailed on the top of the cross was that Jesus was 'the king of the Jews' (19:19). Jesus accepted Nathaniel's recognition of Him as king of Israel (Jn 1:49). Jesus even taught that He was King; "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil...When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory." (Mt 13:41; 25:31,34)
For Jesus, the Kingdom of God (or heaven) was the main object of His preaching - from taking over from John the Baptist with the words, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" - all the way through numerous parables that began, "The kingdom of heaven is like...[a mustard seed / treasure hidden in a field / a net that caught all kinds of fish".(Mt 4:17; 18:23; 20:1; 22:2; 25:1)
But the Kingdom for Jesus was much more than just some idealistic political dream 'out there': by His life and death Christ actually brought the Kingdom of God in to reality for ordinary people, so its power is invading, effecting change here and now. He once told His critics, "But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you." (Lu 11:20)
When Jesus sent out the 12 and the 72 on short-term missions excursions, they were actually forays of shock troops expanding the territory of those brought into alignment with God's will and purpose. It was a foretaste of the Great Commission which He uttered after His death and resurrection in Mt 28(18ff), "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.[his initial, invisible inauguration at the Father's side] Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.[kingship requires willing obedience] And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." That being 'with you' Jesus refers to is what makes His Kingdom present in our lives.
Someday, at the start of the Millennium, Jesus' kingship will become obvious to everyone on earth. We read in 1Corinthians 15(24) that Jesus will hand "over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power." The Book of Revelation describes Him wielding a sharp sickle to harvest mankind; the Lamb overcomes those who make war against Him (Rev 14:14; 17:14; 19:11,15-16). These things haven't become apparent yet, but they will be part of history.
But Jesus emphasized that His kingship was different from the style of earthly rulers. At a key juncture he taught His disciples, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.[and then He highlights His own style of kingship] For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mk 10:42-45)
Jesus' kingship isn't a burdensome laying-on of heavy taxes, draining us, but resourcing us, giving Himself to work through us and share His love and joy and achieve His goals while involving us. It's all about grace: He confers on us a Kingship - for example to the Twelve, "And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Lk 22:29-30) Paul looks forward to receiving the reward from His sovereign: "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2Ti 4:8) John in Revelation 1(6) says Jesus "has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father..." He authorizes and stands behind us in our own serving. To those who overcome Jesus promises that "I will give the right to sit with me on my throne..." (Re 3:21) What more could we possibly ask for?!
The Interim Impostor
Jesus' lordship forms a real contrast when we compare it with the tyranny Satan would suck us into. First of all, when comparing Jesus and Satan - there IS no comparison in terms of their nature or their might. While it's not wise to overlook Satan or pretend he doesn't exist, neither ought we to give him too much credit. He and his dark spiritual associates are but one source of evil and temptation; together there is the world in its fallen 'bentness' including things like generational factors that we grow up surrounded by; our own fallen 'flesh' or sin-bent and sin-prone human nature, damaged since the Garden of Eden; and the devil (world, flesh, devil). While Jesus is from eternity, the Son of God as well as born of a woman, Satan is created, a creature, limited in his ability, a fallen angel, not nearly on a par with Jesus in terms of power. In Revelation 20(1), how many angels does it take to seize and bind the devil? Thousands? Hundreds? Just 1 angel, with 1 chain. That's all it takes to lock Satan up in the deep Abyss for a thousand years. (But boy, what an angel! I'm looking forward to seeing that!)
While Jesus' titles reveal His majesty, Satan's other titles reveal his shadiness. He's the 'accuser of the brethren' - a constant critic, can't find anything good to say (Rev 12:10). He's the 'serpent' - low-down, sneaking along in the grass. He's 'prince of this world', prince of demons (Beelzebul means Lord of the flies), "ruler of the kingdom of the air" - no substance to him (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Mt 12:24; Eph 2:2).
While Christ saves and builds people up, think of Satan's effect on folks. He is the thief come to "steal, kill, and destroy" - in contrast to Jesus who came that we might have life abundantly (Jn 10:10). Paul writes "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2Co 4:4) Satan gets his jollies going around and putting people's spiritual eyes out - blinding them so they may never see how beautiful Jesus is. What is Satan's work? He tempts people to disobey; slanders them before their heavenly Father; inflicts disease, like Job's agonizing boils; he opposes the righteous any way he can; interferes when the good news about Jesus is preached; plants tares or weeds in the church; ruins body and soil, whether by degenerative disease or by excessive alcohol or other toxins; encourages people to lie and be selfish and greedy and yield to wrong desires they'll soon regret (Ge 3:4,5, Mt 4:1,3; Job 1:9ff, 2:7; Zec 3:1; Mt 13:19; Mt 13:38f; Lu 9:42; Jn 8:44; Ac 5:3; Eph 2:2). In short, as Peter puts it, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1Pe 5:8) Now, why would we even want to be in league with such an evil being as that?!
I've been reading the book Emily wrote about Bethany Homes for Children - how one couple fostered over 800 children through the decades. It's an enriching book, but it's also a very sad book when you read of the situations where so many young children originated - perhaps routinely beaten or abused by those in their own home who should have been protecting and nurturing them. In one story the mother's current 'boyfriend' sends the children off to buy ice cream, leaving one sister (the most beautiful) at home alone with him. The siblings return to find the house in flames and their sister tied up, dead, with a bag over her head. How sad! How wrong! How far from God's intention for people! But that's just the kind of ugly thing that happens when people give ground to the enemy. Thankfully, in the book there is a a happy ending for those who come to live with the Jespersons and experience God's care for tender, bruised lives.
No Contest When It Comes Down to It
One time the Pharisees tried to say that Jesus cast out evil spirits because He was in league with the prince of demons. He made it very clear that He's not with Satan but against him; those in Jesus' kingdom must be fighting against the enemy. Mt 12:24-28, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." So God's kingdom is not just some yet-to-be realized hope at the end of time; God's kingdom is active today, fighting the powers of evil by the help of God's spirit. Church isn't just a warm place to sing happy songs and be with people we like; the church is in the trenches, making advances against the destruction Satan would bring if left unopposed.
There's no contest between Jesus and the devil. Heb 2(14), "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he [Jesus] might destroy him who holds the power of death-- that is, the devil..." Or as the apostle John puts it in his first letter, "He who does what is sinful is of the devil...The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." (1Jo 3:8) Whose side are you on? Who's driving your bus - the serpent or the Son of God?
The Bible doesn't keep it a mystery what happens to the devil and his associates in eternity; Rev 20:10, "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever." However glittery that temptation, however sweet that stolen bread or that forbidden sensation - weigh it against eternal torment before you choose.
Armoured Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom: Resisting the Enemy
What then is the practical application of this excursion into the contrasts between Jesus' kingship and the lame-duck impostor whose time's running out? How can we avoid getting snared on the downward spiral?
First, if Satan's tactic is to blind the minds of unbelievers - keep letting God's spirit renew your mind by the Word so you'll spot spiritual counterfeits and traps every time. Jesus resisted Satan during His temptation in the wilderness by responding, "It is written...It is written..." Every word that comes from the mouth of God gives us life. (Mt 4:4) Psalm 119(11) says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." When Paul's going down the list of the spiritual armour in Ephesians 6 he notes our one offensive weapon is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph 6:17) Scripture is your basic protection against spiritual ambush.
Second, don't give the enemy an emotional inch. Our feelings can be sabotaging traitors if we let them. Life is tough, we get beat up, tired out, depressed, exasperated by all the 'stuff' out there that shouldn't be so. Our spirit has to hold our emotions in check. Eph 4:26-27, ""In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." Note the apostle warns our anger can give ground to the enemy, offer him a base of operations. Grumbling gives ground - check that attitude!
Third, keep looking up through the 'night-vision binoculars' of prayer and worship. It's harder to yield to temptation when you're prayed up and have one of last Sunday's worship songs ringing in your heart. In Eph 6(16,18) Paul urges us to "take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (He adds) "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." Prayer and piety tune us to be alert, on the lookout, snuffing the enemy's despondent darts. Luther said, "Satan hates music: he knows how it drives the evil spirit out of us."
Fourth, Be on about God's business. While the expression "Idle hands are the devil's own workshop" is not from the Bible, it goes a long way back - probably Chaucer in the 1300s. In the Lord's prayer Jesus follows "Thy Kingdom come" immediately with "Thy will be done": the kingdom is where God's will is put into effect, where God's reign is actively in control. Jesus taught us to seek first God's Kingdom and His righteousness: what's that translate into in my circumstances? (Mt 6:33) What's 'the right thing to do'? As we're seeking what God wants and submitting our wills to that, Satan's gotta go. James (4:7) counselled, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
Fifth, practice self-control (one of the 'fruit of the Spirit Gal.5:22f), saying 'no' to yourself. Satan isn't your only enemy - remember the 'flesh' (our sinful human nature with its passions and desires) and the 'world'. He's a roaring lion looking for victims, trying to 'bait' you: don't be enticed! Familiarize yourself with the exit signs in each situation - 1Cor.10:13 says God in His faithfulness "will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." But you need to start making your way toward that exit, that 'way out'. Call your buddy if that accountability will help you decide.
In closing - a quote from the Reformer Martin Luther: "I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing that makes him so angry as when I attack him to his face, and tell him that through God I am more than a match for him." We have a far better King to serve! Let's pray.