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Showing posts with label Lordship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lordship. Show all posts

Monday, April 11, 2022

Who Is Your King? (A Palm Sunday Message)

All four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—tell the story of Jesus triumphantly entering Jerusalem, riding on the back of a donkey while crowds of people hailed Him as king.  There must be an essential lesson for us if the Bible repeats this story four times.  What could it be?  I would suggest on important purpose is to lead us into honest reflection about who is really our king?

John 12:12-19
The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors 13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,

“Praise God![a]
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!”[b]

14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:

15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.[c]
Look, your King is coming,
    riding on a donkey’s colt.”[d]

16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.

17 Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others[e] about it. 18 That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone[f] has gone after him!”

Praise God – Hosanna!
The people cheered Jesus and praised God.  But there is more to this expression than first meets the eye.  The NLT says “Praise God!”  A more traditional translations is “Hosanna” an exclamation of praise adapted from a Hebrew expression that means “save now.”

The people of Jerusalem were cheering Jesus on as the man they believed would save them from their foreign Roman occupiers.  People 2,000 years ago are a lot like people today.  They tend to oversimplify issues.  The Jews believed the Romans were the source of all their problems.  If a savior could just kick the foreign oppressors out of the land, then everything would just be peachy, right? Well, no.  You may know that before Rome occupied Jerusalem in 63 BC, the city enjoyed nearly 100 years of self-rule.  It was terrible.  Jerusalem was filled with coruption, infighting, and miserable suffering.  Even when Israel existed as an independent kingdom in Old Testament times, they never fully lived up to God's plans for them as a faithful kingdom of royal priests who represented God to the world.  So, it's not like the Israelites could make life any better than their Roman occupiers. 

However, the Israelites wanted to be free of their Roman occupiers, so they start chanting the Old Testament prophetic phrase from Psalm 118 and Zephaniah 3 that promise a Messiah from the royal line of David, the Lord Himself, will disperse the armies of their enemies and at last their troubles will be over.  “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hail to the King of Israel!”  “Hosanna!  Save us now!” they demand.

Well, Jesus did come to save.  But the armies of enemies from whom we need saving are not the Romans.  It’s not a weak president or hyperinflation from which we need to be saved.  It’s not even Mr. Putin that is the real enemy.  These are the symptoms.  If we get rid of these but don’t address the core issues in the perverted human heart, there will always be more corruption and tyranny and death and suffering.  Broken humanity always invents new ways to oppress ourselves.  We’ve been doing it for thousands of years.

Why A Donkey?
Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:
15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.  Look, your King is coming,
 riding on a donkey’s colt.”

The conquering hero—the one the crowds in Jerusalem thought came to conquer their enemies—came riding on a donkey.  Why a donkey?

Well, if a king believed a city was in rebellion, they might come on a horse and attack and set things back under their control. But if the king came on a donkey, it meant peace.  And Jesus certainly would have been justified to attack Jerusalem as a rebellious city.  Jerusalem wasn't exactly being very loyal to God.  They were loyal on the surface, but the religious leaders were only using their devotion to God as a cover to maintain their own power.  All you have to do is read many of Jesus' parables and outright criticisms of the religious leaders to know he thought they were rebelling against God (see the Parable of the Evil Farmers Matthew 21:33-46).   

Fortunately, Jesus came riding on a donkey.  This was a symbol that Jesus came to make peace, not war.  It was another fulfillment of prophecy, this time from Zechariah, a prophecy from over 500 years before Jesus was born.

Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.”

Jesus came to make peace, not war.  He came to offer forgiveness and salvation to the Jews, but also to the Romans.  The Messiah’s came to save all people from ourselves.  It is not the rebellion of one nation or another that is the cause of human misery.  It is the rebellion of all humanity that is the culprit.  It is the seditious determination in each and every one of us that says, “This is my life and I will live it however I please.” 

So, the Lord came to offer mercy and a to plead for us to give up our rebellion and come back to God.  He didn’t ride in on a war horse.  He plodded in on the back of a humble donkey.  Apparently, the people of Jerusalem missed this symbolism.  John 12:16 tells us even Jesus closest disciples missed it at the time.  It says in John 12:16, “His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy.”

Isn't It Ironic?
Palm Sunday is a day of deep irony.  It’s a day of celebration, but it’s a celebration by crowd of people who don’t really know what’s going on.  It’s a day when people hail Jesus as king, but only with the expectation that the “King” will do what they want him to do.  And sadly, when their “king” doesn’t live up to their expectations, they abandon him and shout “Crucify Him!”

In less than one week, Jesus goes from adored Savior King to their despised and executed criminal.  On Palm Sunday, they hail Jesus as King.  On Good Friday, they beat him and mock him and they proclaim in John 19:15, “We have no king but Caesar!”

Man, people are fickle.  We all figuratively say "We have no king but Caesar" whenever we choose our own way instead obeying God's way.

Who is Your King?
And so, in the midst of our Palm Sunday celebrations, as our kids wave our palm branches and we sing “Hosanna! Hosanna!”, I have to ask you, honestly:  “Who is Your King?”

You might assume that Jesus is your king.  Surely, Jesus is our king?  Right?

But is Jesus only your king if He gives you what you want?  I mean, are you like the crowds of people shouting hosannas on the streets of Jerusalem, only because you expect Jesus to solve the problems you want Him to solve (and to leave everything else alone, thank you very much)?  Because, if Jesus is truly a king, The King, He doesn’t work that way.  He is the Sovereign and we are the subjects.

Jesus’ message was consistent.  He said “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2)  And he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)  And he said, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” (Mark 8:35)  And he said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

So we have to decide.  Who will we welcome as the King of our life?
Will we continue to try and be lord of our own life or will we let Jesus truly be Lord?
Will we put our hopes in the things and people of this world, or will we see Jesus is our only hope?
Will we welcome Jesus as king, just so long as he fixes things the way we think they should be fixed, or will we surrender unconditionally to the One who is Lord of all?

I pray you will truly receive Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords and give yourself to Him with no reservations.  He is worthy and this is the way. 
If you settle for anything less than full surrender, you will just crucify Jesus again and again whenever He challenges your sin and rebellion.

So, this Palm Sunday, I invite you to surrender, repent, and pledge your complete allegiance to the King who came to save you and the whole world.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Stewards of the Land - God's Green Earth, part 1

Grace’s Question
[Click here to listen to the podcast.]
My teenage daughter asked a simple question that sparked this blog.  She asked, “Why don’t preachers ever preach about taking care of the environment?  Why don't Christians talk about it more?”  Her question really got under my skin.  It bugged, because she’s right.  We don’t talk about the environment very much--at least not in the moderately conservative churches I've served.  We mention it and it's part of our social principles (and we recycle), but we don't dwell on it much.  I don't know if many people in my church would label themselves "environmentalist".

Environmentalism is a huge political issue in our times.  Politicians use the subject to garner votes because they either "care for the environment" or they are "not one of those radical tree huggers".  However,  I’m not interested in what politicians or people have to say about the environment.  I want to turn to God’s Word in the Bible.  The Bible is the unchanging Divine Truth of God.  It is the Christian’s foundation for how to believe and live.  What does God’s Word say about taking care of the Earth?  God’s charge to humanity to take care of His creation goes all the way back to the beginning of time.

Genesis 1:26-28
26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
27 So God created human beings in his own image.
    In the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

Stewards of the Land
God’s charge to humanity to take care of His creation goes all the way back to the beginning of time.  Some people zero in on the phrase in verse 26 that says people will "reign over" the rest of creation.  And some have used this as an excuse for people to do whatever they please to the earth.  But a more accurate understanding is reflected by the phrase, "Fill the earth and govern it."  A good governor does not use the governed for their own selfish benefit.  A good governor does what is best for the governed--protecting and caring for them.  God charged humanity to be stewards of the earth.  What is a steward?

A steward is a person who manages or looks after another person’s property.  This is the core of what a Christian must understand when it comes to how we treat the earth.  Actually, it’s at the core of every part of life, not just the environment.  It is the recognition that the earth does not belong to us.  It belongs to God!  Psalm 24:1 – “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.”

Suppose a friend owns a mansion on the beach and says, “I want you to go down to Florida and enjoy a week’s vacation—free of charge—in my mansion on the beach!”  And they hand you the keys. Hopefully, you would be very grateful and you would go have a good time, but wouldn’t you also be very careful to take care of your friend’s house?  You wouldn't want to disrespect their property or damage it in any way so as damage your relationship with your friend.  Well, God has handed us the keys to His earth.  And He’s not just a friend.  He’s God.  He wants us to enjoy His earth, but we shouldn't do anything to damage His earth in a way that damages our relationship with God.

After playing in the snow yesterday, my kids came inside to get warm and they watched the movie, “Avatar”.  Have you seen this movie?  It’s a spectacular 3D movie directed by James Cameron.  "Avatar" was noted at it’s release for the whopping $237 million it cost to make (which I think was a record at the time).  The story-line is a stereotypical summary of the modern, secular (NOT Christian) worldview of environmentalism.  (And this may be why evangelical preachers don’t preach about environmentalism very much).  In the movie, an evil alliance between the military and a big business corporation is stripping the resources of a futuristic planet, Pandora.  The a group of environmental friendly scientist are studyong the planet and oppose military/industrialists who are greedy and ignorant.  The even purer native Pandoran aliens are idealized as they worship nature as their god.  The trees and plants and animals are sacred and the planet is alive.  And it's no coincidence the story is portrayed this way; it's basically the underlying worldview pop-environmentalists of our age.  It's mysterious, intriguing, simplistic, and it attracts a large following in our age.

The modern, secular environmentalist movement often treats nature as if it were divine.  They sometimes even call her “Mother Earth”.  Environmentalists wrap their arm around science and say, “See!  Science is on our side too!”  Meanwhile, they simplistically romanticize Mother Nature and turn her into their goddess.  The plants and birds and trees are all interconnected and spiritual and we need to love nature (or some would even say worship her).  This is what turns many Christians and more rationally minded people off to the label “environmentalist”.

God Cares About the Earth
If we truly care about God’s Green Earth and want to take care of the environment, we’ve got to get back to God’s plan!  The earth is very important, but it is not god.  Tree frogs in the Amazon rain forest are very important, but they are not as important as people.  We’ve got to be very, very careful that we don’t make nature into an idol we bow down to worship in our hearts and through our worldly philosophies.

At the same time, we’ve got to recognize that humanity is full of sin.  It is part of humanity's fallen, sinful nature that we selfishly think we are the only things that matter on this Earth.  Our selfish greed leads us to think we can use the earth’s resources however we want, even if it destroys the environment.  But the earth is not ours to use and abuse however we want.  The earth belong to God and the Lord allows us to use and enjoy His earth, but we must take care of it.

"But what can we do?"  Taking care of the earth is more than a philosophical debate.  What are some practical things you can undertake to do your part in taking care of the environment?  Perhaps you think I might say, "Reduce, reuse, and recycle!"  (That's a popular slogan these days for people who want to take care of the environment.)  And there's nothing wrong with those actions in and of themselves; they can be helpful.  But if we really want to make a difference, we've got to go deeper--all the way to the core.

The Most Important Thing – Repent
The most important thing you can do:  You must ask God’s forgiveness for rejecting His Lordship, repent of your sin, and follow Jesus Christ.  Please don't think these cliches that a preacher must say.  It is the very core of the what we must do.  You see, it's all about who's Lord.  If Jesus (God) is Lord and the earth belongs to Him, we must use it in ways of which He approves.  Jesus must be Lord of your life.  If you really want to make a real difference, you’ve got to change your worldview.  Recycling cans or protesting to save the whales just won’t cut it.  If humanity comes before God, then all is lost.  We will always do what we selfishly want to do regardless of what's best for the earth.  And if you treat nature as if it is god, it cannot deliver and you will be spiritually bankrupt.

When we accept the Jesus is Lord, and seek to worship and serve him, we find that middle road that leads us to truly love and care for all creation.  We will resist the extreme that worships nature and created things, elevating them to a status they were never designed to hold (and are not able to hold).  Neither will we abuse nature , thinking we can use it however we please, because we will strive to be the good stewards God created us to be.  We will know that God loves His creation and we will love it too, but love it for what it really is and not some romantic fantasy we've created in our own mind. 

Now what should you do to take care of God’s world?
Once you've got your heart right with God, is there anything else you can do to help others take care of the world?  Yes!  What did Jesus tell us to do?  He said, "Reduce, reuse, and recycle!" Wait? What? No! No!  He didn't say that!  Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of Jesus Christ, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."  You see, you’ve got to change people’s hearts and minds.  Isn't it interesting, with all the problems we face in our world--poverty, slavery, racism, sexism, addiction, trashing the environment, and so much more, Jesus never instructed his disciples to go stamp out these problems?  He said, "Make disciples..." because he knew something we're so slow to understand.  If you only attack the symptoms of brokenness in our world, you will never really solve them because the real problem is deeper.  It's in our hearts.  We are rebels. We've turned our back on God.  We want things our own way.  And our own way leads to all these issues--slavery, racism, sexism, addiction, trashing the environment, etc.  Win people's hearts for God and it will lead true healing.

Save the Planet
God’s ultimate goal is to redeem and restore all of creation.  People get saved, but so does the whole planet.  God’s green earth will be perfect once more, as it was in the beginning.  This is the whole message of the Bible!  There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth!  So, God’s Green Earth is not disposable and it’s not something we are allowed to misuse and abuse for our own selfish pleasure.  If you've been doing that, it's a symptom you're heart is still not really right with God.  It's time to wake up and make a change.  We are to be good stewards who care for God’s land.  “The Earth is the Lord’s and all there in.  You may make use of it in your need, but you shall not abuse it in your greed.” (Sandra Richter, “Christians and Creation Care: Seven Minute Seminary”)  

Perhaps today is the day you bow your head in prayer and ask for God's forgiveness.  Perhaps today is the day you decide to follow Jesus as your true Lord, to let Him truly be in charge of your life.  Perhaps you've already done that before, maybe many years ago; but today, you realize you have not been a very faithful steward of the earth.  Then now is the time to repent and let the Jesus be the Lord of your life in this area too.  Christ came to save you as a whole person and that includes every area of your life.  When you realize any area out of accord with his will, you must turn it over to him and seek the Holy Spirit's help in following Him.  I invite you to do so right now.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Proverbs Day 16

Read Proverbs 16
We can scheme to get what we want and set out to accomplish our plans, but God knows what's really best. He knows when our desires are out of line, when our motives are wrong, and when our steps are misguided. Ultimately, God is in control. He is behind the scenes directing the way things turn out.

Pastor Chris' Paraphrase of Proverbs 16:1-3, 9, 25, 33
1 People scheme to get what they want, but the Lord has the final say.

2 People always think they’ve done right, but the Lord looks deeper.

3 Surrender what you want to the Lord and your plans will take root and grow.

9 People choose their destination, but the Lord determines where they go.

25 There is a easy road before everyone that seems good, but it leads to death.

33 When the dice are rolled, the Lord decides what they say.

The wise person sees that God is the righteous Ruler of all and bows to the Lord and surrenders everything to Him. The Lord sees things so much deeper and fuller than we can ever imagine. The Lord knows what's right and the best way to get there and He will ultimately accomplish whatever He decides to do. Only a fool ignores the Lord's plans or tries to convince Him their way is better. Wise people align themselves with God's plans.

"Lord of all, forgive me when I forget You are Lord of all and try to go my own way. Help me to align my will with Yours and always live accordingly. Amen."