John 5:19-40 – The Centrality of Christ

The Risen Lord by Chinese artist He Qi

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.

“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (NIV)

There are many things in this world of great importance: how we govern ourselves as a free people; addressing issues of poverty, disease, education, taxes, healthcare, racism, and international relations; building local community relationships; supporting small business; working to make a decent contributive living; being a responsible citizen; and, loving our families and faith communities. It is my unshakable conviction that all these issues need more than mental and physical attention; they need our spiritual resources. People need the Lord.

Seasons, years, centuries, and even millennia come and go. People are born, live, and die. Generations exist and then are no more. Civilizations rise and fall. Yet, through it all and above it all is Jesus.

Christ is alive, and he continually brings life from dust, beauty from ashes, and everlasting meaning from apparent meaninglessness.

Today, Christ is still on the throne of all creation. 

Human elections and institutions only have authority as given by Jesus, the Ruler of all. Presently, Jesus remains attentive to people, even interceding for us at the right hand of his Father in heaven.  At this very moment, God’s Holy Spirit roams the earth and continues to apply all the redemptive consequences of Christ’s cross mysteriously and graciously to the lives of millions. 

Sometimes we need to do the occasional spiritual fact check, to remember what is really of ultimate significance in this old broken world.  If people need the Lord, then it only makes sense to live in ways that foster connection with Jesus. 

So, this morning I did what I do every morning: I began the day with Scripture reading, prayer, reflection, and gratitude – all done with the realization that Christ’s authority is real and pervasive, and his reign is supreme.

No matter the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ is the exalted and glorified Son of God, the Sovereign authority over every dominion. Jesus is God. God the Father works through God the Son. The works of Jesus bear testimony to the cosmic reality that he is Lord of all. And, if that were not enough, Jesus shares his divine power with us, his people.

In the face of the greatness and majesty of the Lord Jesus, the only valid and appropriate response is sheer submission to Christ’s authority.  Just as Jesus listened to the Father and obeyed the Father’s will, so we need to listen to Jesus and carry out his will.  Just as Jesus enjoyed his relationship with the Father, so we are to bask in our wonderful relationship with Jesus. 

Since Jesus submitted to death on a cross and rose from the dead through God’s power, we now have access to that power by God’s grace through faith in Christ.

We need not bend to any other master other than King Jesus, the rightful ruler of the universe.  Let us put away all other “gods” in which we depend for solace and help.  Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation who guides us with grace into God’s will for us. Thanks be to God!

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ephesians 1:15-23 – Our Authority in Christ

Hello, friends! Welcome to Christ the King Sunday, a day which reminds us that in the coming Advent season, we look for both a baby and a king. Click the video below and let us acknowledge and worship King Jesus…

There is perhaps no better hymn for this day than Crown Him with Many Crowns:

For a contemporary song, it is appropriate today and every day to Sing to the King:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Amen.

Christ the King Sunday

Stained glass window at the Annunciation Melkite Church in Roslindale, Massachusetts

Christ the King Sunday is intended to help us see the cosmic reality that Jesus reigns over all creation as the only rightful Sovereign of the universe.  This Sunday always comes just before Advent so that we remember to anticipate both a baby and a king.

Christ as Lord of all exposes three problems humanity faces:

  1. Building our own petty kingdoms and setting ourselves up as masters over our own small worlds.  People who have been hurt (all of us) often attempt to seize power for themselves in order to avoid ever being hurt again, or in the belief that wielding power could have prevented others from being hurt.  The classic villains of movies and literature are ones who seek to destroy the earth so that they rebuild it in their own idea of how the world should operate.  It is protection of self and loved ones from pain. The irony is that much hurt is inflicted to alleviate such pain.
  2. Bowing to other kings besides King Jesus.  When we are distressed, we might rely on alternative authorities to address our hard circumstances.  We might expect other people to give us only what Jesus can.  Instead of repentance and faith in Christ, we may run to the politicians or pastors we have set up in his place to cope with whatever is going on in our lives.
  3. Lacking awareness of the power we possess as subjects of King Jesus.  Christians possess authority in Jesus Christ.  As believers in Jesus, we reign with him and can exercise authority over every dominion that exists, especially the dominion of darkness.

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesian believers provides God’s design for the church.  It is a plan for believers in Jesus to know their spiritual blessings and exercise the power they have as Christians united to Christ. God wants us to understand this power and authority, and to actively use it.  We will know King Jesus better by availing ourselves of his authority given to us as believers. (Ephesians 1:15-23)

We have a clear understanding from Ephesians of how to pray: To know Jesus better.  There is probably no higher prayer.  Paul prayed that believers in Jesus would know the hope to which we have been called and the incomparably great power accessible to us.

The word for “power” in the New Testament (Greek dunamis, pronounced “doon-a-miss”) is where we get our English word “dynamite.”  When I was a kid, we had a neighbor who had a fondness for playing with dynamite, especially when he drank too much.  Even though he lived a mile down the road, when he blew up a tree stump or anything else on his property, it would shake our house and feel like the windows were going to break.  One stick of dynamite is nothing compared to God’s power, an incredible might without equal.

This divine power is for us who believe in Jesus the King.  It is the same power used to raise Jesus from the dead and which exalted Christ as Lord of the universe.  The rule and reign of Jesus is far above any other existing authority – including powers and authorities of the dark domain.

When it comes to dealing with the powers of darkness, we have the authority of Jesus Christ.  We have a vital and inseparable union with Jesus Christ, because of his resurrection and exaltation.  Jesus redeemed us and we belong to him.  We are adopted children of God.  Since all earthly and spiritual powers are subject to Christ, they are also subject to us.  The imagery of Jesus as Head, and believers in Jesus as the Body of Christ means we have an inseparable union together.  Since we are united with Christ, we share his authority over all spiritual powers.

It is one thing to know this information; it is quite another thing to use it.  God wants us to experience Christ’s power through exercising our authority as believers.  We are to pray in a way which links faith and knowledge together in a confident use of spiritual authority.  We have unimaginable rights as blood-bought children of God.

The 118 feet high Christ the King statue in Świebodzin, Poland

Tackling the forces of darkness needs to be a communal activity; going it alone is dangerous. So, let us pray the following prayer together, united in Christ and with one another in spiritual bond a million times stronger than superglue. This is a prayer that boldly exercises authority in Jesus Christ. So, let us come confidently before the throne of God’s grace.

God Almighty, we bow in worship and praise before You.  We thank you that the Lord Jesus Christ is King over all creation, and that he is the rightful Sovereign of the universe.  We thank you that because of this truth, we have power together with Jesus.  Since Jesus is King, we surrender ourselves completely in every area of our lives to You.  Since Christ’s authority extends over every dominion, including the dominion of darkness, we now take a stand against all the work of Satan that would hinder us now in prayer.  We address ourselves only to the True and Living God and refuse any involvement of Satan in our prayers.

Therefore, Satan, we command you, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave our presence with all your demons.  We bring the blood of Jesus Christ between us.

Sovereign God, we recognize You are worthy to receive all glory, honor, and praise.  We renew our allegiance to You and ask that the Holy Spirit will enable us to pray.  We are thankful, Lord God, that You have loved us from eternity past and that You sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to die as our substitute.  We are thankful that Christ has completely forgiven us; You have adopted us into Your family; You have given us eternal life; You have offered Yourself to us to be our daily help and strength.

Glorious God open our eyes so that we will see how great You are and how complete Your provision is for today.  We are thankful the victory Jesus Christ won for us on the cross and in His resurrection has been given to us and that we are seated with the Lord Jesus in heaven.  We take our place with Him and recognize by faith that all wicked spirits and Satan himself are under our feet.  We declare that Satan and his demons are subject to us in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are thankful for the spiritual armor You have provided.  We put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of peace and the helmet of salvation.  We lift the shield of faith against all the fiery arrows of the enemy; and we take in our hands the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  We choose to use Your Word against all the forces of evil in our lives.  We live and pray in complete dependence upon You, Holy Spirit.

We are grateful the Lord Jesus Christ disarmed all power and authorities, triumphing over them by the cross.  We claim all victory for our lives today.  We reject all the insinuations, accusations, and temptations of Satan.  We affirm that the Word of God is true, and we choose to live today in the light of God’s Word.  Almighty God, we choose to live in obedience to You and in fellowship with You.  Open our eyes and show us the areas of our lives that do not please You.  Cleanse us from anything that would give Satan a foothold against us.  We stand into all that it means to be Your adopted children and we welcome all the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives today.

By faith and in complete dependence upon You we now put off the old sinful person and stand into all the victory of the crucifixion where the Lord Jesus Christ provided cleansing from the sinful nature.  We put on the new person and stand into all the victory of the resurrection and the provision Christ has made for us to live above sin.

Today we put off the old sinful nature with its selfishness and put on the new nature with its love.  We put off the old nature with its fear and put on the new nature with its courage.  We put off the old nature with its deceitful lusts and put on the new nature with its righteousness, purity, and honesty.

In every way we stand into the victory of Jesus Christ’s ascension and glorification, in which everything was made subject to Him.  We claim our place in Christ as victorious with Him over all the enemies of our souls.  Holy Spirit, we pray that you would fill us with the righteousness of Christ.  Break down every idol and cast out every enemy of our souls.

We are thankful, mighty God, that You have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  We are grateful You have given us new life into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  We are thankful You have made provision for us so that today we can live filled in the Holy Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.  We recognize and affirm that this is Your will for us and so we reject and resist all the attempts of Satan and his demons to rob us of God’s will.   

We are thankful, Blessed Holy Trinity, that our spiritual weapons have divine power to demolish demonic strongholds, arguments, and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  Therefore, we tear down the strongholds of Satan and smash the plans of Satan that have been formed against us.  We affirm You have not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.  We choose to make right decisions of faith. 

Powerful God, show us the ways Satan is hindering, tempting, lying, and distorting the truth in our lives.  Help us to be aggressive in prayer and faith.  Help us to think rightly, and actively practice Your Word.  Help us to give You Your rightful place in our lives.  We now cover ourselves with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and pray that You, Holy Spirit, would bring all the work of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and all Your work of Pentecost into our lives today.  We deliberately surrender ourselves to King Jesus.  We refuse to be discouraged because You are the God of all hope.  You have proven Your power by resurrecting Jesus from the dead, so we claim this victory over all satanic forces in our lives, our families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and our faith communities.  We pray in the Name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ with thanksgiving.  Amen.

Psalm 93 – The Lord Reigns

861ca-thelord

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.

The seas have lifted up, Lord,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the Lord on high is mighty.

Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days. (NIV)

The Lord is King. From a Christian perspective, this psalm finds its ultimate fulfillment in the ascension of Jesus Christ. When we talk about kings, there are a few things a king needs: a realm, or a kingdom; and, the ruled, or the subjects of the kingdom. In reflecting on Christ’s ascension, the three elements which make up a rule are: King Jesus as Ruler; God’s people as the ruled; and, the entire world as the realm of Christ’s kingship.

Now, as soon as I state that all the world is Christ’s realm, it is quite understandable to at least be curious about this, as well as perhaps be outright doubtful of it. After all, this old fallen world is filled with all kinds of catastrophes like pandemics and natural disasters; myriad human vices; and, potent spiritual foes. Sometimes it appears that, if Jesus were King, he is either sleeping on the job or just indifferent to our plight.

Allow me to re-frame this by putting it in military terms. The battle and the war has been won – there are, however, some clean up operations still taking place. Pockets of resistance to God’s rule and reign still very much exist. And they unfortunately lead to casualties.

On this Memorial Day weekend in the USA, Americans remember and pay homage to our fallen men and women in uniform. Many of those soldiers were lost from mopping up resistance after a battle achieved and a war won. For example, the Battle for Okinawa in the Pacific theatre toward the end of World War II resulted in an American victory. However, in securing the island after the Japanese defeat, small groups of Japanese soldiers still mounted resistance resulting in hundreds of American deaths. In a 1944 article from the Stars and Stripes, one patrol leader from the battle had this to say: “It is a tough, methodical grind, this mop-up operation. Here, the Japanese have gotten together, organized, and are carrying out a planned guerilla warfare, even though the battle is won…. I wish a mop-up was as easy as people think it is.”

We live between the two advents of Christ, his ascension to heaven and his coming again. That means we live in the already/not yet kingdom. Deliverance from sin, death, and hell has been achieved – yet will not be here in its complete fulfillment until Jesus comes again to judge the living and the dead. Meanwhile, we as Christians continue to pray that God’s kingdom spreads and is realized in the hearts of humanity – the true place where war begins and ends.

There is no power in heaven or on earth which can circumvent or overcome the plans and purposes of an almighty God. As much strength as ocean waves have, they are no match for the might of God. Though some human governments, systems, and institutions carry a lot weight and exude a great deal of influence, they cannot hold a candle to the overwhelming fire of God. The Most High God is firmly in control, even when it seems otherwise. The Christian tradition is consistent in proclaiming that the throne of Jesus Christ has been established forever. It shall not be moved. Love has won and will have the eternal day.

God, you reign over all! Robed in majesty and armed with strength, you hold our world and our lives securely. Your throne has been established. From everlasting to everlasting, you are God. Even when waves of grief, disease, and hardship rise-up—when surging seas threaten to overwhelm me, and a pounding storm crashes around me—I know that You are mightier and more powerful than any threat. Wash over me with your own cleansing flood. Grace me with your mighty presence. Refresh me with the water of life, for I know, Holy God, that your decrees are firm and secure; they shall last forever. Amen.