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Christ the King & Fatherhood

F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Audio Version

11/11/20    Christ the King – Sunday Next Before Advent
Jer. 3:14-18;    Ps. 39;    I Cor. 15:20-28;    Matt. 25:31-46

We end the Church year with the feast of Christ the King.  Next Sunday we begin the yearly cycle again with the first Sunday of Advent.  We have, of course, been celebrating that theme all through the Church year, but on this day we make a special point of showing how that impacts our lives.

The impact is enormous, but one which tends to be downplayed today because we have been taught to be “pluralistic”. And beside that, we Westerners, especially in America, tend to think that kings are out of date. But even in England where they still have a royalty, the wings of that royalty have been severely clipped. The government is run by Parliament and the prime minister.

So we have a lot of explaining to do about this “king” thing. The early 1800’s German philosopher, Friedrich Schleiermacher, wanted to rescue Christians from the attacks of the Enlightenment people on Christianity by withdrawing Christianity from the public arena and making our faith a purely private matter, a matter of one’s inner soul, not of public importance. It was then supposed that no one would be anymore interested in attacking Christian people or their faith.

But tyranny is not so polite. Once a tyrant controls the public arena, he will almost always go after the heart and mind as well. That is because he knows, if he is intelligent, that an uncontrolled mind can too easily become a truth-seeking mind. And that is the greatest threat to tyranny.

God did not warn the Hebrews about mind-control in the Old Testament, but He did warn them that a king would commandeer their wealth and even themselves to be his servants.

The secular people were glad to have us Christians cooperate with Schleiermacher’s program of removing Christian faith from the public arena. It was just a matter of time, then, before they got control of the levers of civil government, the levers of coercive force, because Christians surrendered the public arena. So, the secular and now pagan people have used those levers of control to devastating effect. And they have much more of the same in mind.

That control happened with the advent of “positivist” law, civil law generated, not out of the law of God, as the Bible and our Declaration of Independence demand, but out of simply the history of past human decisions to put together a workable law for governing a fractious people. We invent our own law as we go. But it has never proven workable.

Despite ourselves, God is not buying any of it. If we are to be faithful Christians, His faithful children, we are expected to have a clear and commanding testimony to the sovereignty of God over all things, and be able to explain that sovereignty reasonably and gracefully – in public. It can be done.

Hebrew spiritual leaders had no compunction about holding government leaders to account under the law of God for their behavior as leaders, and we should do the same. We Christians must reschool ourselves to take government seriously as a primary concern of God. Government is exactly what “Christ, the King”, means. “Jesus is Lord” is a political statement. And the most important political question to resolve is: “Who is God?” It will be either God or civil government.

The answer is that Jesus is the governor over all persons, at all times, in all circumstances. It does not mean that He will one day become the governor, He is already and has always been the governor. Christ, the King. We are today in a spiritual battle over that primary political issue of all: Who is God? Who will decide the difference between right and wrong? Who will decide who is and is not a person? Over 50 millions of American babies assassinated because our government said, as was said of black Americans, they are not persons.

Secular science and secular government are not “neutral”, as they claim. They are at war with Biblical science and with Biblical government.

   

The Gospel lesson is the parable of the Last Judgement. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.” That is a picture of sovereignty. Total and absolute. And what happens there is a manifestation of that sovereignty. All the people of the earth are judged. The good sheep are separated out from the bad goats, and each given their due sentence.

But we are given an astonishing picture of the nature of the Sovereign – how He administers and exercises His sovereignty.

Christ, the King, has invited all the peoples of the earth, both individually and corporately, into His kingdom. Every group, clan, society, and nation, while it lived, was, as St. Augustine said in The City of God, invited to participate in the Kingdom of God. If it did, it would flourish. If it did not, it would collapse, as Rome had.

And, every individual is invited into that same Kingdom – which is defined by the Two Great Commandments, the highest commandments of all. We are to love God and neighbor. The whole of our lives is then spent sorting out whether or not we want to be part of such a Kingdom. God will not force which choice we make, but He will force us to make a choice. We cannot not make a choice. Every action we take, every intention we have, will in some measure point us either toward the Kingdom or away from it.

The King tells those assembled that He counts our behavior toward each other as behavior toward Himself. That makes sense because we all, sinners and saints, are made in the Image of God. We are enough like Him so that our behavior toward each other can be taken as a measure of our behavior toward Him. It does not seem to matter whether the person we have ignored or helped was a criminal or a saint. The Image of God was there either way. The Samaritan, for example, who helped the man on the road could not have known, and did not seem to care, about the moral status of the man in need. He was in distress. That was what he needed to know. He might have been a criminal left there, beat up by hostile fellow criminals.

John 3:19 says, “The Light has come into the world, and men preferred darkness because their deeds were evil...” They were more interested in their evil deeds than in living in the Light of God. They had chosen to be goats. We choose to build heaven with God, or, in the end, we choose to build hell all by ourselves.

   

To understand sovereignty, we must begin with ourselves. God, the King, has given us a set of laws by which we are to conduct ourselves, and by which we are to judge whether we are in line with the intent of God for our lives. They are first of all the Decalogue and the Two Great Commandments. There are also other helpful ways of stating our moral obligations to God, such as the 7 Deadly Sins, or the Golden Rule, or the Beatitudes. We have no dearth of aids to understanding and pursuing the life to which God calls us. The whole of Scripture is a part of our resources – all based on understanding ourselves as His children, and He as our parent.

In an an emotionally and spiritually healthy family, the children will bond with their parents so that it becomes inconceivable to the children that they would deliberately and willfully disobey their parents. In the fallen world it happens all the time – because we all have our own issues with self-centeredness and desire to have our way.

In our era, we have so depersonalized God that we tend to think of Him as a convenience, a cosmic helper. And indeed He is, and wants to be. He loves us. But He is also sovereign, like father to the small child. And we should have that sense of respect for God that a child has for his father – where it is incomprehensible that anyone would deliberately disobey father. We Westerners will have to work hard at that kind of respect for God, always guarding against turning our obedience into a blind leap – as in Islam. God does not ask for blind faith, He invites, “Come, let us reason together.” God will educate our faith, give us good reasons for it.  For God, faith and reason are wedded, not at odds.

We all learn, hopefully, that our parents are not perfect, that they both sin and make mistakes. We can then use that discovery in either of two ways, we can use it to justify casting off obedience and loyalty to them or anyone else, and seeking our own way.  We can be in rebellion against any and all authority.  Or we can look beyond them to the Father in heaven, whom, by twelve (as with Jesus), we ought to be understanding to be our real father. The fact that our parents are not morally perfect does not mean, then, that the universe is morally adrift, that there is no moral center to the universe. God becomes our Parent and moral center.

So, if all goes well, we transfer our dependency on our parents to God Himself, now receiving our personal stability and our moral direction from Him, no longer from our human mothers and fathers. We become children of God Himself.

   

The Hebrew word for ‘father’ means ‘the deciding one’, the ‘one who decides’. But decides what? The Father who is in heaven makes that most important decision of all: What is life about? What is the goal of life? Where are we headed? What does life mean? That is the moral decision which defines all law. He passes that decision on to human fathers to administer here on earth. Human rulers are to administer the laws which God has already given us, not make up their own, both in home and in civil government.

When we are growing up, we get moral direction from our parents, father in particular. The child intuitively looks to father for information on what life is about. Once one knows the answer to that question, then life can begin to make sense. One can begin to plan how to get from where one is to that great goal.

The Swiss made a study of what effect parents’ going to church had on whether the children would continue on in church or drop out after they had left home. It was discovered that if the mother, but not the father, went to church with the children, less than 40% of the children would continue on in later life. If, on the other hand, the father went, but not the mother, that percentage of those continuing on in their faith jumped to over 75%, an astonishing better than 35% difference.

The growing child intuitively looks overwhelmingly to the father for just that moral and spiritual direction: What is life about? What is “important”? That becomes the more so the more the child gets into his teen years.

In the earliest years, what is “important” means “what mother and father decide for me”. What is “unimportant” is that which they let me decide on my own. Our parents really are in the role of God for us.

   

Several years ago, the Baptists made a study of the percentage of their children who were continuing on with their faith after leaving the family nest. They made the unhappy discovery that they were losing about 85% of their children to paganism or secularism, 85% of their children who might never enter the Kingdom of God. They made an only very partially successful attempt to persuade their people to get their children out of the government schools. Home schooled children apparently keep the faith of their parents at the rate of over 90%.

The inability of men in our culture to stand up and be leaders, and whose intellectual faculties have been seriously degraded by feminist-dominated government schools, must have a large part to play in that disaster. This failure of our families to send their children in into the Kingdom of God is child abuse. It will not change in any significant manner until both men and women in our culture begin to understand the role of men, and to foster rather than demean it.

The masculine role stands along side of the nurturing and supporting role of women. It must be understood that the “supportive” role of women is not an “also ran” role, it is not a subsidiary role. It is the supplying of our absolutely necessary ontological, personal stability, which must be in place for the child then to move on to father, discipline, and meaning of life. We are made in the Image of God, both male and female. Fathering is about leadership, direction, purpose – which will succeed only to the degree that mother has been able to give to the child its own sense of being, worth, and personal stability.

   

Someone will be king over your life. You cannot supply your own personal stability, nor your own moral direction. You will be both ontologically and morally dependent upon someone other than yourself. Whom would you choose other than Jesus? Why would anyone choose another than Jesus?

Well, it all seems to hang on how we look at those two Great Commandments, which define the personality and goals of the King. There are some, it seems, who do not want to be under those rules at any price. They will reject them no matter what incentive is offered to choose them. They are the goats of this world. They do not want to be submissive to Jesus. Period. They want to be God of their own lives, a fool’s errand because an impossible task.

  

Libertarians tend to see government as a necessary evil, government by God as irrelevant. Their dream would be to have no government at all, so that we could all do precisely as we wish.

But government is not a necessary evil, it is a positive good. It is a good thing to have a reason for existence, it is a good thing to know that life means something beyond my own personal choices. It is a good thing to know that we can participate in values beyond our own personal choosings. It is a good thing to know that there is an authority higher than any one of us humans who can righteously adjudicate between us in our disputes.

Without the King of kings, none of that could happen. We would be on our own, in exactly the manner of the pagan and secular worlds which could find a modicum of peace and quiet only under the firm fist of a tyrant, such as Rome.

The libertarian who values his personal liberty has no way of keeping that liberty safe from a tyrant other than a moral consensus under the law and the grace of God. As one Speaker of the House said in the 1850’s, “We will be ruled by the Bible or by the bayonet.” Historically, we have proven that over and over, and logically, only a Creator God can supply a moral order. There is no reasonable doubt that a godless world cannot be the free world desired by the libertarian.

So those who desire a limited government of, by, and for the people without God desire something they can have only at the cost of something they are not willing to grant, the sovereignty of God.

Christ, the King, is both our personal savior and our public savior. We have a powerful message of hope for a fracturing world.

So, let us repent and move beyond our own self-centeredness, our own willfulness, our own fear of public rebuke or disagreement. The Church must recover its prophetic voice for our time.

   

Our Father in heaven, as we end this liturgical year and begin a new Advent, let Your will be done on earth, here and now, beginning with us and with your other Christian people. Unite us into one Body and one powerful voice for You and your saving truth. Raise up especially Christian men to be true fathers, spiritual warriors for Your Kingdom, wielding the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of Truth, who will pass on our faith to our children and grandchildren. In the name of Christ, our King, and in the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Audio Version

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Date Posted - 11/20/2011    -   Date Last Edited - 07/07/2012