Christ the King?
When Jesus sends out his disciples on one of their practice runs, he gives thanks for what has happened on their mission. He prays to his Father, Lord of heaven and earth (Luke 10.21). After his resurrection, when he again sends out his disciples - this time for the real mission - he tells them that he has been given all authority in heaven and earth (Matt 28.18).
What will he do with that authority? He calls the nations to believe and obey him. He tells his disciples to go to the nations and make them disciples too. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you, he says.
Paul became a disciple a bit later. He too was sent to the nations. He understood that his task was to proclaim God’s great message. A message that concerned his Son, Jesus Christ the Lord (Rom 1.1). He was sent to bring about the obedience that results when people believe that Jesus is the Lord.
Paul thought that this was an important idea. He begins and ends his letter to the Christians at Rome with the same phrase, “the obedience of faith”. He means that through the gospel, the Gentiles, the nations, would be brought to believe and obey Jesus as the Lord. Or Jesus the King in the language of the Old Testament.
Or Christ the King. Christ the King is a kind of tautology. The word “Christ” implies that he is King. But better to be sure what we mean I suppose. Do you serve the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one who was to come to rule God’s people, to rescue them by his death and resurrection? Do you obey him as the King not just of the Jews, but as King of the world?
Well, never mind the world for the moment. Is he King of you, and your world? Does he rule your life? Have you become his apprentice? His disciple, his pupil, his servant?
One of the difficulties with following Jesus is that much of what we understand about Christianity is tied up in “church”. It is hard to see how we can be a follower if it doesn’t have something to do with church.
But that is what we must see. Serving the King has everything to do with all the life that is not “church”. That is where the King has placed us to make disciples.
At one ment
The strange year goes on. So many things are different. Many grieve the loss of well known ways of doing things - not least they way we used to do church. Some of us are frightened by the phrase "the new normal". As though some changes may never be changed back.
But amongst all this upset is our ongoing desire to see many people come to know the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems like a very good time to be bringing news of secure and permanent safety in a real relationship with God. So let us keep praying, inviting, welcoming, befriending and generally looking forward to helping people experience the love and power of Jesus and helping them understand what he has to say to us.
That is one reason we want to always be talking about the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is his death and resurrection that is the centre and foundation of our Christian life. No death of Jesus, no life. No resurrection, no hope. No atonement, no Christianity.
Atonement? Apparently it first turns up in Tyndale, to mean being at one with God. What a wonderful thing, to be at one with God, with nothing between us, no resistance or fear on our part, no list of sins hanging over us on his part, no outstanding accounts. An unrealistic fantasy were it not for the death of Jesus.
It is his death that makes it possible for humans to clear their debts, to expunge their sins, to be rid of their wrongs, to have their judgment cancelled. Not that we humans have much to do with any of that. It was all done by Jesus for us. That’s what his death was about. Taking our debts, sins, wrongs to death so that we could share in what happened next. Actually he was taking us to death, so we could share in what happened next – a new life lived at one with God. With nothing between us except God’s Spirit himself. How wonderful.
Is that your life? Is it not a wonder? Are you not really happy?
Sending out Evangelists
Last Sunday night a question was asked in response to comments I made in a sermon to the effect tha we should pray that God would raise up more evangelists and church planters, and that God would help churches release people with gifts of evangelism and encourage them in the task.
The question was along the lines of when will St Mark's send out teams in outreach. I said that we already had a small team (the Gospellers) which had been "going out" before Covid 19 started. You may remember the door knock and film we invited people to called For the Love of God.
There have been some other things as well. Some of the Ministry Teams, especially Mainly Music and Coffee and Chat have had a focus on reaching out to not yet believers.
However good as that me be as a start it doesn't yet measure up to signs of a church committed to evangelism. Any analysis of where we put our efforts and money will make it clear that we are pretty much in maintenance mode.
No doubt there are reasons to explain this. Although not to justify it. Some of us have genuine gifts in evangelism and we should keep on encouraging and supporting them as we can.
But alongside this, indeed undergirding it, is the need for a congregation that really wants to see unbelievers become believers. Such a "really wanting" shows itself in prayer. It shows itself in people becoming educated, informed, full of inderstanding of the gospel. It shows itself in looking out for every person who turns up to church or one of its events to see if they can be drawn to Christ. It shows itself in being present with the body when it meets as a personal declaration that Jesus and his gospel is at the centre of your life. It shows itself in inviting unbelievers to join you at church or in reading the bible with you, or by bringing theme to where they can hear the gospel.
And maybe joining an outreach team.
John Calvin on John 10
And they shall hear my voice.We must observe the way in which the flock of God is gathered. It is, when all have one shepherd, and when his voice alone is heard. These words mean that, when the Church submits to Christ alone, and obeys his commands, and hears his voice and his doctrine, then only is it in a state of good order. Let us therefore remember that we ought always to begin with the Head. Hence also the Prophets, when they describe the restoration of the Church, always join David the king with God; as if they said, that there is no Church where Christ does not reign, and that there is no kingdom of God, but where the honor of shepherd is granted to Christ.
Verse 17. On this account the Father loves me. There is, indeed, another and a higher reason why the Father loves the Son; for it was not in vain that a voice was heard from heaven,
This is my beloved Son, in whom the good-pleasure of God dwells, (Matthew 3:17; 17:5.)
But as he was made man on our account, and as the Father delighted in him, in order that he might reconcile us to himself, we need not wonder if he declares it to be the reason why the Father loves him, that our salvation is dearer to him than his own life. This is a wonderful commendation of the goodness of God to us, and ought justly to arouse our whole souls into rapturous admiration, that not only does God extend to us the love which is due to the only-begotten Son, but he refers it to us as the final cause. And indeed there was no necessity that Christ should take upon him our flesh, in which he was beloved, but that it might be the pledge of the mercy of his Father in redeeming us.
That I may take it again. As the disciples might be deeply grieved on account of what they had heard about the death of Christ, and as their faith might even be greatly shaken, he comforts them by the hope of his resurrection, which would speedily take place; as if he said, that he would not die on the condition of being swallowed up by death, but in order that he might soon rise again as a conqueror. And even at the present day, we ought to contemplate the death of Christ, so as to remember, at the same time, the glory of his resurrection. Thus, we know that he is life, because, in his contest with death, he obtained a splendid victory, and achieved a noble triumph.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2-3). Jesus’ disciples responded to this man’s inborn blindness by looking for a cause. In their natural thinking the cause must lie somewhere in the past. Much like my devoted Christian friend, who when diagnosed with breast cancer remarked she had always taken care of her diet. Humans are driven to make sense of the world, so nobody questions past cause and future effect. Jesus, who knew the ways of the Father perfectly, did not think this way.
He knew by divine revelation that this man was born blind, like us all (Acts 26:18), in order that he might be healed. Christ uniquely understood the present broken form of the world in terms of its glorious future. When dialoguing with the despondent disciples on the road to Emmaus he spoke to them about the ways of his Father. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26). Jesus never felt trapped, as we might, by physical, political, economic or social necessities, but lived free in the obedience of faith to follow and enact the heavenly Father’s will. The power of Christ’s death-and-resurrection is that it is a free gift to a lost humanity without any external compulsion (John 10:17-18). This presents an enormous challenge to our living.
In a Christian way of thinking about the world, weakness exists for divine strengthening (2 Cor 12:7-9) and the experience of defeat for victory through faith (1 John 5:4). The Fall was permitted so that through it God would ultimately triumph over all evil; “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). Paul teaches, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18) and “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17). To thrive in the Lord our present trials must be seen through the lens of future joy (Heb 12:1-2). Let’s stop asking unfruitful back to front questions and come to Jesus for perfect soul rest (Matt 11:28-30).