King Jesus – Why His Sovereignty Is Important

At Paris Bible Church, we’ve been learning about the kingly office of our Lord Jesus Christ since the first of 2014.  There are many sincere Christians who believe that Jesus will be king someday, in the Millenium.  They believe that Satan is now king over the earth, that the rule of the earth was handed over to him when Adam and Eve fell.  One of the great problems with this view of Christ and Satan is that it is not endorsed by scripture.  No where in the Bible do we read that Adam handed over lordship of the earth to the devil.

Those who believe this appeal primarily to the passage in Matthew 4: 8-10 where Satan tempts Jesus by showing Him all the nations of the earth. Satan says, “All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me.”  Those who believe that Satan now rules the earth say that, if Satan did not have the power to turn the nations over to Jesus, this would not have been a real temptation.

I don’t know if that even matters.  It sounds like a very weak argument to me.  I do know that our Lord tells the Pharisees that “[Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8: 44

After this temptation, the Lord Jesus Christ tells Satan–and this is a command from the God who wrote the passage He, Himself, is quoting–”You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”  Again, this is a direct command to the devil.  Jesus is not simply stating a general principle about worship.  He is commanding His servant, a created being, a fallen and outcast angel who, in the only conversation we have between God and Satan in scripture, in Job 1 & 2, simply does as he is commanded.

Of course, there are many passages where the present sovereignty of Christ over His creation are clearly taught in scripture.  Psalm 45 is messianic and tells of the absolute power of King Jesus, and we know that it is Him of whom the psalmist speaks because Hebrews 1 directly quotes Psalm 45: 6-7 in vss. 9-10 and tells us that the reference is to Jesus.  There are many passages in the psalms, the prophets and the New Testament, that speak of Jesus Christ in his present kingly office, but Revelation 1: 5-6, where John’s greeting to the seven churches of Asia includes: “from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.”  This greeting was given around 95 A.D. to the churches of the same age.

We could give a long list of passages on the absolute sovereignty of Jesus, but that should be unnecessary for any student of scripture.  Simply searching a concordance for the word “King” should yield many of these references or, even better, searching using an online Bible database like Bible Gateway.

Instead of piling up references, I think it’s better to talk about the importance of this doctrine and the spiritual damage that can result from getting it wrong.  Of course, the first tragic result of believing that Jesus is not presently, in this present age, King of kings is that it yields wrong doctrine concerning the Son of God.

In fact, some as a result of error concerning Jesus, also believe an error concerning Satan–that he has power that only belongs to Jesus.  The lack of understanding of the Matthew 4 passage I mentioned above results from this error.  This is the worst effect, because it leaves Christians, and there  are many who have a wrong understanding of this truth, believing that Jesus is less than He is, less than the God and Lord that the Bible teaches us that He is.  How very tragic for those who have believed in Jesus for salvation to believe Him less than He is, less than the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth.

There are other implications for the Christian as well.  If we believe that Jesus will someday (in the Millenium) be King over the earth, but that Satan is a “usurper”–I’ve actually seen that word applied to him–who rules in this present age, then the individual Christian and the church in the world are defenseless against an implacable enemy.  I often hear believers talk about how God is in control, how He will “never give us more than we can bear.”  But this doesn’t make any sense if Satan is in charge of this world and Jesus is not.

This is why doctrine is important to the everyday life of the Christian.  If we believe the biblical truth about the kingship of Jesus, then we don’t to constantly deal with the dichotomy between fearing that Satan is in charge of everything around us and irrationally also attempting to comfort ourselves with the hope that Jesus is in charge of everything around us.

 

What a comfort, then, to believe the words of this great hymn:

 

   Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

   Does his successive journeys run;

   His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,

   Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

 

   Behold the islands with their kings,

   And nations their best tribute bring;

   From north to south the princes meet,

   To pay their homage at His feet.

 

   People and realms of every tongue

   Dwell on His love with sweetest song;

   And infant voices shall proclaim

   Their early blessings on His Name.

 

   Blessings abound wherever He reigns;

   The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;

   The weary find eternal rest,

   And all the sons of want are blessed.

 

   Let every creature rise and bring

   Peculiar honors to our King;

   Angels descend with songs again,

   And earth repeat the loud amen!

Fruit of the Fall

A few months back, a deranged shooter shot his way into an elementary school in Connecticut and killed children and teachers. This incident has spawned a tremendous national discussion about gun control, mental health, violence in general and the security of schools. Various groups have tried to blame inadequate mental health care, violent video games, the availability of “assault rifles,” even “gun-free zones” in schools and other public places that don’t allow people to carry guns that might be used to deter such an attack.
When a tragedy like this occurs, especially when young children are killed en masse, almost everyone has an opinion and certainly anyone who is paying attention and has a heart is asking, “How could anyone do such a thing?”
So what is the answer? Biblically, the answer is one that almost no one wants to hear. In fact, many will reject the real answer out of hand, and many of those who reject it profess to be biblical Christians. But truth can never be the slave of opinion, and Bible truths will often be rejected simply because they are absolute truth, that is, truth that transcends and opposes human opinion.
To understand, we have to go back to the beginning. The biblical account begins with the creation of the world and with the two people God created to populate it, Adam and Eve. But though they were created innocent, they disobeyed their Creator and fell into sin. Since that time every human has been born the heir of Adam’s sin. Within a few years of that fall, Cain, the first-born son of Adam and Eve, killed his brother, Abel. Some commentators believe the word used for this particular “murder” in I John 3: 12 means “to kill by slitting the throat.” Jewish tradition says Cain slammed a rock into his brother’s head.
So understand, the very first child born into Adam’s sin killed his own brother. Why? According to the I John passage, “because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” So begins human existence. If we continue the story, we find that one Cain’s descendants killed a young man for revenge and then proudly claimed that “If Cain shall be avenged seven-fold, then Lamech seventy-seven fold.” In other words, Lamech believed that, if he didn’t get away with this killing, his relatives should perpetrate a mass slaughter.
A couple of chapters later in Genesis, God gives Noah his reason for visiting the world-wide flood on humanity, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” Genesis 6: 12 So humanity had continued on the path of slaughter set for them by Cain.
But surely humanity has gotten better since then, right? Remember what Pharoah did in Egypt, killing Hebrew infants? Remember Herod’s response to the news of Christ’s birth? He killed all of the male children in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.
But we’ve become so much more civilized since then, right? Attila the Hun, Idi Amin, Hitler, Pol Pot? We know the names of these mass murderers, some of them responsible for the deaths of millions. But how did they kill all of those people? They had many thousands of willing accomplices, Nazi soldiers, Cambodian death squads. In Africa even today thousands of children are being recruited to commit murder in the Sudan. Indeed, the “earth is filled with violence through them.”
Martin Luther wrote that violent human behavior is restrained by civil law, by the power of ruling authorities, by the teaching of parents and the expectations of society and by the influence of the Holy Spirit in the world. But there are some people who care nothing for law, we call them criminals. Some of them are violent, hence our prisons are full and overflowing. And why is it that those violent video games are best sellers? Is it not because some people, many of them young, long for a way to exercise a tendency to violence without running afoul of the law? Of course, the vast majority of gamers are satisfied by the violence within the game and don’t seek to harm anyone outside of the game.
When, however, some few people, often young men, become disconnected from the these limiters of violence in society, law and religion, there is nothing to keep them from indulging those fantasies, whether they come from a game or other source. Dylan Quick, who recently slashed several people at a Houston community college, said he had fantasized about stabbing people since he was 8 years old. The Sandy Hook killer had created a “score board” seven feet by four feet with tiny print that he used to calculate how many children he would have to kill to gain a “top score” among mass murderers. And, of course, when religion, as in the case of radical Islam, promotes violence as a point of doctrine, we get mass murderers like the Tsarnaev brothers who lurk in the shadows and blend into society until they find the opportunity to slaughter innocent people.
But make no mistake, these killers, who seem insane to the many who live under and honor these limiters of the natural violence of humanity, are simply behaving as all of society would–and did in that period before the flood–when not restrained. I was speaking recently to someone who grew up in India, and he was talking about the constant, almost daily incidents of mass murder that take place in that country. This populous nation has a history, especially in the last 100 years, of phenomenal violence between religious groups, ethnic cleansing, continual reprisal, but these events seldom make the news in the U.S.
In nations founded upon the principles of reformed Christianity, there was a limiting of this kind of violence for at least a period of time. Especially in places like England and America, where the Christian Reformation influenced government and society at the most basic levels, religion and law largely became one. Of course there were events, like the British using force to quell resistance in its many colonies and most grievously, the Civil War, where Americans killed each other until 600,000 died in one of the most remarkable displays of violence perpetrated by government upon its people. Even these are clear evidence of the compelling violence in the nature of man.
So what is the solution? The Bible tells us that there will be a time, after great bloodshed, perhaps the greatest the world has known, when Christ will establish 1000 years of peace (Revelation 20) and that then there will be one last rebellion against God which He will crush and then introduce a “new heaven and a new earth” where there will never again be “death, sorrow or crying” where the “nations of the saved shall walk in its light and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.” (Revelation 21)
Until that final bringing of peace, the only true peace to be had in this world is the peace that Christ brings to those who come to Him in repentance and faith. Romans 8: 6, 10: 15, 12: 18, 15: 13. We can never bring peace to other people without bringing them to Christ, and this world will never know peace until He finally brings it by His sovereign rule.

On the Other Side

Before my surgery, I wrote a blog entry that I intended to be encouraging to my friends, family and even to many I’ve never met face to face who follow me on Twitter. I hope it was encouraging.

Well, the surgery was successful, I’m recovering my strength at home, and the danger is over. Now comes a change in my diet, my activity and many other areas of life. My sweet wife of 40 years, Gloria, is trying to learn to make dishes that have very little cholesterol and still taste good. Many good cooks will know that this is something like magic as most of the things in our diet, especially in Texas, taste good by virtue of things that make us sick.

The recovery and the changes require a different kind of grace than did the surgery. There, of course, I was trusting God for my life—for the opportunity to stay a little longer in this world with those I love, those to whom I minister, my students, my dear family—now I’m trusting God to give me wisdom and discipline to make everyday changes that I don’t like much, but that are essential if I’m to live among those I love in good health, without being a burden to them.

I am confident, though, that these things have come into my life for purpose planned before the foundation of the world, as everything in the life of every believer: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

I’ve learned some things in the last couple of weeks:

I’ve learned compassion for those who are sick in a new way.

I’ve learned that there are many in the world and the church who are much kinder than I and that I need to be more like them—another change needed in me.

I’ve learned that one of God’s greatest means of comfort is through those who love us and who give their time and effort to minister to our needs.

I’ve learned from the many medical folks, doctors and nurses and others, that kindness is a work of our hands as well as of our hearts, for they did not know me and yet were unfailingly kind to do the worst kind of jobs and to meet my needs with never a complaint.

I’ve learned that one meal where I eat what tastes good that is also bad for me can kill me [when multipled by thousands over many years].

I’ve learned that, though like Paul, I long to be with the Lord, that there are yet people, dear ones to whom I can minister and those who, for difficult to explain reasons, love me, for whom I need to yet be in this world.

May our Father give me the grace to learn these lessons with all my heart and make the changes of habit and attitude that I need to be a better servant to Him and to all of those who belong to Him.

D.P.

God of All Comfort

If you’re reading this, you probably know that I’m scheduled to have cardiac bypass surgery on Monday, February 4.  So many dear friends have contacted me by calls, email and through Twitter that I felt it might be a good idea to share with you the comfort I’m finding in my Father’s love.

In the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul shares the comfort he has experienced: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 1: 3-4  He continues to say that he had been under such intense persecution that he had “despaired even of life.”

As I look forward to this surgery, I’m well aware of the risk.  I’m also aware that millions of people have had the same surgery and enjoyed a much improved life afterward.  I want to assure you that though I’m not enthusiastic about the actual experience and the pain and weakness that will result in the short term, I’m not afraid for my life.

For many years I’ve believed in and preached the sovereignty of God in all things.  I’ve also preached the intimate care our heavenly Father gives to His elect children, those He has called to Himself and drawn by the loving grace of the Holy Spirit.  I feel that care and comfort now.

As to the risk, I know that in my Father’s love, I’m as safe on the surgery table in the operating room as I am in my own soft bed at home.  I’m certainly no more at risk than when I drive through any intersection in Paris, Texas!  If it is God’s plan to take me to Himself and welcome me to the place He’s prepared for me, then that is in His hands no matter where I am and no matter what the circumstances I experience.  It is so with all of His children who have come to Him through repentance and faith.

So I encourage you, my dear friends, to pray for me and for all of those who are in any trouble, but do not worry, for God has commanded us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4: 16

Thank you for your concern, your prayers and your love.

In Jesus,

D.P.

Our Father in Heaven

What does it mean when the Bible tells us that God is a Father?  It’s important that when Jesus began His public ministry, with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, He began talking about the Fatherhood of God almost immediately: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”  And He continued,  “ Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Throughout His ministry, and many times in the Gospel of John, the Son of God pointed to His Father and revealed His character again and again.  I’ll deal more with the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God in later posts, but in this one, I want to talk about the human need each of us has for a Father Who is also our Creator and God.

In America in 2012, we live in a culture where fatherhood is a commodity much needed.  41% of children are born with no father in the home.  Nearly half of marriages end in divorce, so children are often left without a full-time father in the home.  And many fathers who stay with their families don’t understand the biblical principles that create a godly home with a husband and father as a godly spiritual leader.

Taken together, these statistics and facts mean that very few children come to adulthood understanding fatherhood in the way God planned it.  This makes it imperative that we, as believers in Jesus, learn about the New Testament teaching that God is a Father and that Christian fatherhood flows from Him.

So I invite you to watch this blog over the next few weeks as we explore the teaching of the Fatherhood of God.  Even if you grew up in a godly home with a good father who was a spiritual leader, you need to learn about the best of fathers, the one Who is perfect in love, in power, in faithfulness and in grace.  There is no father like Him.

The Father’s Delight

What makes God happy?  A more biblical question would be: What gives our heavenly Father pleasure?

Fortunately, there is a very clear answer in Ephesians 1: “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself .”

Understand that here the apostle says twice that it pleases the Father to both choose his children out of the world and then to give us the grace to understand this blessed choice and adoption.  Our Lord Jesus was also very clear on this.  In His High Priestlyf Prayer in John 17, Christ seven times calls believers the gift of the Father to the Son.

This is very important.  We evangelicals often focus on our personal unworthiness for salvation.  And we always want to lift up the holiness of God.  The great juxtaposition between our sin and God’s righteousness causes us to believe that there is simply no way that the Father could desire us and delight in us, but such is His love that He is able to take pleasure in drawing to Himself those who are, by nature, His enemies.  This is the very nature of grace.

Receive this truth.  If you belong to Jesus in true conversion, it is because it pleased the Father to choose you from before the foundation of the world.  He knew every sin, every failure, every rebellion that we would commit–and still Jesus says that we are the gift of the Father to the Son.

Get used to it.  God delights in us and He saved us not because of any grudging obligation, but because it pleased Him to do so.  Live in that truth.

On Sickness and Sovereignty

At PBC, we have found ourselves praying often lately for members and friends who are sick or having surgery. In fact, if you are the one who is sick or that one is a family member, you can become very weary, especially if the condition doesn’t get better quickly. If we are in pain, we want it to stop. If we feel bad, we want relief. If our loved one is hurting, we pray for God to bring good health, and we want it now!
If our sickness or pain lasts a long time, we get disappointed and impatient. We wonder why God doesn’t come through for us quicker. Sometimes we even murmur and complain against Him. This is actually nothing new. David talks about sickness. The prophets compare the spiritual condition of sinning Israel with a person who is sick. The Lord Jesus Christ validated His words by His actions–healing lepers, restoring the sight of the blind, even raising the dead. “though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” John 10: 38.
So if James is right, and “The prayer of faith will save the sick,” then why does healing not come as soon as we pray? Because we don’t have enough faith? Paul had faith, and God said “No” when Paul asked that He remove the thorn, a messenger of Satan, that God had given him. And sometimes He says no when we ask Him to make us well, and for the same reason as He did to Paul–so that we may learn to boast in our infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon us.
Are you willing to be sick for a time so that the power of Christ may rest on you? Would you endure pain so that you can learn that God’s grace is sufficient for you that His strength can be made perfect in your weakness? Are you willing to suffer for a time so that you can take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. to learn that when I am weak, then I am strong by our Father’s grace? Are you willing to endure the sufferings of this present time that are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us?
This is the spirit of the apostles, of Christ’s beloved ones through the ages. We do not invite suffering, but we receive it and by grace make use of it to grow toward greater grace. Our Father knows what we need–whether daily bread or temporary affliction. And if this sickness lead to death, then it ushers us into the presence of Jesus for eternity. Our Lord is sovereign over joy and sadness, over health and sickness, over delight and suffering. Jesus is Lord!