November 21, 2010

How is Christ a King? - Nov 21, 2010

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During His short ministry, Jesus shook the world up like no one before, or since. He made many claims about Himself that were absolutely astounding. For example, Jesus claimed that He was the Son of God, who had existed even before being born as a human being. More than that, Jesus claimed He had always existed, even before the creation of the universe. Jesus also claimed that He was so important and valuable that any sinner who put their trust in Him, could then stand before God Himself without fear of punishment. In fact, Jesus claimed that God the Father had given the authority to judge the world on the last day, to Him, and to Him alone. He claimed that any who rejected Him, rejected God and would forfeit the place in heaven He had earned for them by doing so.

Considering these claims, we must admit that Jesus was one of three things: He as either 1) A lunatic, 2) A liar, or 3) He was truly the Son of God, and all He claimed to be.

C.S. Lewis put it like this:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (C.S. Lewis).
Here at Redemption Church, we believe Jesus truly is the Son of God, the Savior of all sinners (including us). In short, He is our great God, the King of Creation, the King of Salvation, and by His inexhaustible mercy, the King of our Hearts.

Today is the last Sunday of the traditional church year. We call it, Christ the King Sunday. Today we’ll be examining the question: How is Christ a King? For the answer, we look to God’s own Word, the Bible.

LETTER: Colossians 1:13-20 (NIV)

13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Christ is King over all the universe, because He created it in the beginning.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe that Christ exists, or whether you trust in Him as your own Savior, Christ Jesus stands over the whole human race as King, because we were created by Him and for Him.

The power of Christ is showcased in this first reading from Colossians. Not only does it say that Christ is the creator of all that is, it also says that He is the one who holds the atoms of reality together. He is the glue which holds the universe together.

If this is true, this must lead us to fear Him. For the One who wrote the rules of physics which govern the universe, has also written the rules of human conduct, which we have failed to obey. With lies, and gossip, with careless words, and loveless actions we have sinned against our Creator. We have refused to be content with what God has given us, and have stolen what was not ours. We have hurt others in body and mind, instead of helping and building them up. We have been self-centered instead of God centered, and have constructed elaborate structures of self-justification to make it alright in our own minds.

But alright in our own minds does not mean alright in God’s eyes. If Christ is the King, than we are accountable to Him, our all-powerful Creator, for every loveless word, action and thought.

But this reading from Colossians has another message to impress upon us. Christ is not only our almighty Creator, He is also our rescuer. Verse 19 says…
“19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV).
Sinners we are, but we have been reconciled, brought back together with God because of the blood of Jesus that was poured out on the cross.

When the eternal Son of God because human and died a horrific death on a cross, He did so in our place. And all our failures to obey God were lost in the flood His willing, chosen death.

Our Gospel reading takes us to that cross.

GOSPEL: Luke 23:35-43 (NASB)
35And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” 36The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, 37and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” 38Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
39One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41“And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

Christ is King over all human beings, because He became human, and died on the cross to open paradise to all sinners.

The fact that Christ is gracious is emphasized in this reading from Luke. If Jesus is truly the eternal and powerful Son of God, the patience and love that He displays here nothing short of astounding. The King has stepped down from heaven to because one of us! And at the end of His life, instead of being lifted up on the shoulders of the people He created, He is lifted up and nailed to a Roman cross.

And there, His patience endures. The crowds of people look on, doing nothing to save Him. The religious rulers of the day sneer and make fun of Him, challenging Him to prove His power to them. Even the inscription above His head is meant as a joke – “This is the King of the Jews” it says. But what it means is, “Ha! What a pathetic king this guy is! Condemned to such an undignified death, who would follow this king?”

The criminal nailed beside Him even taunts Jesus, asking Him to save him if he can.

And there, His love endures. For that is exactly what Jesus is doing at the moment, suffering the wrath of God in the place of sinners like that thief. Suffering the wrath of God in the place of sinners like you and me.

And even in the middle of all this mockery and hatred, one man saw the glimmer of Christ’s crown. The thief to the one side of Jesus was sorry for his life of sin, and humbly asked the King to remember Him in love. And for a moment the cross became a throne, as Jesus assured the man that He would be in paradise, in the place where God is, on that very day.

On that day, Jesus became King over that man’s heart. And through his faith in Christ, His dark life was covered over with the righteousness of God’s Son.

Ever since the first two human beings pushed God away with their sins, God had been promising a King who would save them and all sinners. Our reading from Jeremiah speaks of this Shepherd King.

OLD TESTAMENT: Jeremiah 23:2-6 (NIV)
2Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the LORD. 3“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.
5“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
6In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The LORD Our Righteousness.

Verse 5 says, “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I will raise up to David a righteous Branch…” If you look back in the Old Testament (2 Samuel 7), you’ll find God making a promise to one of the Kings of Israel. To King David. The promise He made to David was this: that one day, one of David’s descendants would ascend His throne to begin a reign that would never end.

That descendant of David, was Jesus of Nazareth. He didn’t become the political leader of Israel. He didn’t come to be that kind of king. He wasn’t groomed to be a self-serving politician. He didn’t come to lay around in palaces where servants could wait on Him hand and foot. He didn’t come to be a rich and lazy king.

Instead, Jesus was a man of the people. And He served them by teaching them the way to Heaven. He served them by earning and opening the way to God for all sinners. He served us like no politician or president or king ever has. He gave us His all, even His life, and in doing so, He offers us His righteousness.

In this reading from Jeremiah Christ is called, “The LORD our Righteousness”. Do you get it? Do you really get what He’s given to us? He’s given us a life we couldn’t live. He’s given us a future we didn’t deserve. He has made us sinless in the sight of God, through simple trust in Him.

Earthly kings and presidents ask for our time and money. But we can’t give Christ those piddly things alone. If He’s our Savior King, those gifts are far to little.

Earthly politicians ask for our support and our words. But we can’t just give that to the Man who saved us from Hell. Instead, let us give Him our hearts.

Pretty words, pastor, but what in the world are you talking about? I’m talking about giving Christ the greatest thing we have. I’m talking about being honest with our Savior King by confessing our darkest sins to Him openly in a shamefully honest way. I’m talking about giving our King our inner, truest devotion. I’m talking about sharing our struggles, our thoughts and our dreams with Him in prayer.

He has bought us back from the brink of eternity apart from God and all God’s goodness. We are His. And He is ours. Our eternal God. Our gracious and patient Savior. Our great King. Let’s treat Him as His is, the King whose greatest work was to reclaim us for His eternal Kingdom.

Let’s sing a new song with the new life we’ve been given today because of Christ. And let’s make that song’s refrain be, “Christ is the King, the King of Creation, the King of Salvation, and the King of my Heart.”

Our Psalm for today encourages us to do just that (read Psalm 98).

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