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Because He's My King! --
A sermon preached on Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday
of the Church year, just before Advent and Christmas.
For audio version, click here.
Bible Lessons: Ezekiel 34:11-17; Psalm 95:1-7;
I Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46
Today is the Feast of Christ the King, the last day of the Church year - leading to Advent and the Coming of the King. We Americans are not comfortable with this notion of kingship.
Many, many years go, I saw a grade "B" movie about Richard the Lion-Hearted who was returning from the Crusades, only to find that his evil brother, John, had stolen the kingdom from him, and that he, Richard, would have to fight yet another battle to get his kingdom back.
I remember only one scene from that movie. One of Richard's knights was recovering from a wound. He, with his lady love, was watching down from a castle tower as Richard and his knights below were riding out to battle. The knight was grieving that he was not able to go with them. His lady love replied, in all too modern fashion, "Just like you men. You are always wanting to fight! Why do you want to go out with Richard?" To which he replied, "Because he's my king, that's why."
It struck a chord in my heart. The heart of a man looks for a king to follow.
With that as a backdrop, I want to say some things about kingship in America, then secondly, about people who are rediscovering or reasserting the Kingship of Jesus.
We pride ourselves on not having a king. We are a democratic republic. Or, we used to be. The problem is that you cannot be a democratic republic in the American sense, as given to us by our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, unless you are under God. The "under God" part is indispensable.
Civil government, through the police and military, has almost a monopoly on coercive power. Our founding fathers understood that, and had had experience with governments which use that overwhelming power to control people unjustly. So they constructed a form of government which could be kept under the control of the people.
But they understood that that is not possible unless the people themselves, and thus the government also, are under God. The Declaration expresses it thusly: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights... That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men...."
That means that governments are, or should be, instituted to secure those rights (and obligations) already and originally given by God. Those rights and obligations are the foundation of all political law. No law has validity which is inconsistent with the law of God. That was a legal principle then honored and understood in both England and America.
That is the same as saying that there is one, and only one, government in the whole cosmos, the government of God over His cosmos. There is no other legitimate government. All governments are owned by, and answerable to, God.
So, you see, we do have a King. The Presbyterian preachers during the Revolutionary War were the firebrands, preaching powerful sermons about the sovereignty of God over all things, including over King George III. Their battle cry was, "No King but Jesus!" They were called the "black regiment" by the British because of their black robes.
This principle has echoed around the world. About 20 or so years ago when the Chinese rulers were crushing the protests for freedom in the Tienanmen Square in Beijing, killing hundreds of students and others, some of the students were waving in the air -- our own Declaration of Independence -- putting at risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
It was not, for many at least, just a secular protest for a secular view of freedom. Listen to this astonishing paragraph:
"One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the preeminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. ..... But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about that." [Quoted in two books by David Aikman, The Delusion of Disbelief, p. 167-8, and Jesus in Beijing. Also in The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark, p. 235.]
That was not a statement by a right-wing conservative, it was by a scholar from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, one of China's most prestigious academic institutes in the fields of philosophy and social sciences.
People who are serious about the nature of political freedom all over the world are discovering what we here in America have forgotten. We need, and we have, a King.
The connection between politics and religion is undeniable. Politics is above all else a spiritual issue -- who is the Boss? Who decides the difference between right and wrong? Who is King? That is a spiritual and moral issue. We have two choices: Either Jesus will be Lord, or civil government will be lord. Take your pick. And VOTE that way. Talk that way. Witness that way. Live that way.
We Christians have allowed our minds to be perverted by the clearly false separation of God from government. The only people who benefit by that are the control-minded, those who would destroy those "unalienable" rights and freedoms and twist them for their own ends. The control-minded know that they cannot survive in an honestly Judeo-Christian society, so they must subvert it.
There is a difference between "power" and "authority", though we often use the terms interchangeably. "Power", in my usage, means the ability to get something done. You can coerce it. "Authority" means the right to get it done -- the right to command. Both come from God, but the whole purpose of civil government is to ensure that human exercise of power and coercion is brought under the authority and command of the law and grace of God. Therein alone lies our rightful freedoms. All power must be submitted to the will of God.
There is also another connection between politics and religion -- only a society of saved persons, persons who have put their personal lives under the law and the grace of God, will be able to hold civil government on a tether, limiting government to its Constitutional restrictions. An unGodly people will always either be overcome by the force of a centralized government, or be seduced into accepting slavery as the better choice. Only the children of God can successfully be freely their own rulers. We are fast losing that capacity in America, although there are signs of an awakening. Hopefully that awakening will include Christians again understanding our God-given form of civil government.
Only the children of God will be able to restore a fallen nation to the Kingship of Jesus Christ.
So what kind of person does it take to convert a people?
a nation? a society? to willingly, joyfully submit themselves to that Lordship
of Jesus? No guns pointed, no swords raised.
She was only 19 [years old] when her crumpled body was roughly thrown into a [Chinese communist] dungeon cell. There was no light. All she knew was that she was somewhere underground. The floor was wet. The smell told her it was human excrement. Rats and vermin were everywhere. There was no bed or toilet, so if she were to get any rest, it would be while sitting in her own waste and that of others before her. As she sat on the floor she felt something warm run down her arm. She grabbed for it and for the first time realized she was still bleeding from the beating.
....she began to thank the Lord that she was worthy to suffer for Him. All she would have to do was denounce her Savior; she refused, and here she was -- alone, beaten, and weeping tears of joy as her cell became her house of peace....
As the days passed, she became accustomed to the darkness. The bleeding stopped and the swelling went down. As she sat quietly singing a hymn, the Lord gave her a message: "This is to be your ministry."
"But," she objected, "I am all alone. To whom can I preach?" .... Suddenly an idea came to her. She stood up and called for the guards.
"Sir, can I do some hard labor for you?" The guard looked at her with contempt.... "Look!" she exclaimed. "This prison is so dirty. There is human waste everywhere. Let me go into the cells and clean up this filthy place. All you will have to do is give me some water and a brush."
....She soon found herself on her hands and knees cleaning -- and preaching -- from cell to cell. She was looking into the faces of people barely recognizable as human beings. Through continuous torture, they had lost all hope of ever seeing another human being who did not come to beat them.
'Oh," she told us, "when they realized that they could have eternal life, they would get so excited. They would fall down on their dirty floor and repent of their sins, and do you know that very soon all the prisoners believed in Jesus Christ?"
When the Communist officials found out what had happened, they were furious. They had lost control over their prisoners. When they were yelled at or beaten, the would only say, "We forgive you in the name of Jesus."
Then it was her turn. She was taken from her cell and beaten, then told to write a confession. The warden sent a pile of paper and a pencil and told her to start confessing her sins against the State.
"Lord," she said, "I have done nothing wrong. what shall I write?"
Slowly the words came. Then she wrote faster and faster. She finally finished and with aching fingers, handed the confession to the guards to be delivered to the warden.
Soon the warden called her to his office. He was trembling with rage. How dare she write such anti-revolutionary things! He then read her confession to a large group of people. It was the Lord's plan of salvation for all mankind. As he read, he began to read more slowly and with meaning. Some were greatly moved by this written plan of God's salvation. [From The Coming Influence of China, Carl Lawrence & David Wong, p. 19-21. Available from https://www2.vombooks.com/ ]
Why do 19 year old young women do such things? Why?
Because Heís my king! Thatís why!
Who but Jesus could do this? Where in all of human history have such testimonies come, except with Jesus? Only a society of saved persons, only a community of saints, only a community of those who trust and obey the King can bring down a tyranny and turn it into an outpost of the Church of the living God. That is happening right today in China -- which is predicted to become a Christian nation by the year 2050. Just 40 years away.
What is their secret? "Because He's my King, that's why." They cannot stop talking about the King. They will not shut up about Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords.
Is it not because their lives have been so deeply
embedded in His law and grace, embedded in a law and grace coming from depths
which no tyranny can touch? They are standing on a Ground which cannot be pulled
out from under them, and listening to a Voice which cannot be stopped from
talking to them. Their persecutors are helpless before the very persons they
torture and beat and try to brainwash. That is the power of the cross.
A Christus Rex, Latin for Christ the King, is the
figure of Jesus crowned in glory, reigning from the cross. The world is
helpless to stop Him. And the world is helpless before us -- as we pick up
our crosses daily and follow Him. Because Heís our King! Thatís why!
Ezekiel says (34:11 ff.): "For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep." The King of kings? Yes, even in a Communist pit of beatings, filth, and darkness.
But Lord, how about here in America, lost in consumerism, lost in self-centeredness, lost in "relative truth". We, Your people, no longer have a public testimony because our government has replaced You and made itself King over us. What are we to do, Lord? Lord, there seems to be so much light. Is it really darkness? Can You reach us in this dark pit? Will we ever stand on Your ground again? Will we ever hear Your Voice again? Will we ever again have a clear, graceful, and powerful word for our rulers and our people in America?
We will -- when we can say, out loud, "Because Heís my King!
Paul says (I Cor. 15:24 ff.): "Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.... The last enemy to be destroyed is death."
The fear of death has ruled over our lives since the Fall. But the fear of death does not rule over those who have followed Jesus -- through the death to self, who have already died as much as the world can affect them -- Because Heís their King! Thatís why!
And Jesus says at the Last Judgement (Mt. 25:31 ff.): "When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats..."
Those who do not want the Kingdom of God, who defy and
mock the way of the cross, will be eternally separated from those who follow
Jesus. Because Heís their King! Thatís why!
And what of us, here today? How many of us, after a beating, could hear the Lord saying, "Here is your ministry... Go and clean the waste from your neighborís cell... So you can tell them about Me...." And would weep tears of joy?
Christians in America are facing growing and open conflict against the Kingship of Jesus, and heading right into legal persecution. St. Luke's REC is facing some hard decisions in our life together and in the wider Church.
Instead of living in cowardly fear and conflicting with one another, can you imagine what it might look like if we Christians would hear and obey the command to clean the waste from my neighborís cell, so I could tell them about Jesus, if we would become that kind of community, that we would do it, even if it would get us another beating -- because it would honor the King, who alone can set myself and my neighbor free from the fear of beatings and of death itself?
There is something in every one of us that does not want to go there. Neither did Jesus. But He went, and is calling us to follow Him who leads for us the way.
Letís get on with it.
We move now toward the Holy Communion --- because Heís our King, thatís why!!!
For audio version, click here.
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