and Following Christ
There is a series of books being written;
the series is called "Left Behind." They are fictional books, which deal
with the rapture and the years of tribulation, which many believe will
occur before the day of final judgment. These books have stirred a lot
of excitement in the hearts of those who believe the signs of our age are
pointing to the imminent looming return of Christ.
The "Left Behind" series seeks to reveal what
the thousand years of tribulation, which is to follow the rapture will
be like. The doctrinal theory of the rapture is one that really amazes
me, since the word rapture is not found in the Bible. It speaks of the
difficulties and trials of those not taken to heaven when the rapture occurs.
But there is something more astonishing to me than that. It is this, how
can a fictional story about the theory of the rapture and the tribulation
excite so many, when the real reign of Christ in his church today seems
so unexciting to the average church-goer?
Christ’s Sovereign Reign
I think that it is extremely exciting
to think about how Christ is reigning sovereign over his church kingdom
today. The sovereignty of Christ’s reign leaves no illusion as
to who is in charge of the Christian’s destiny.
When Jesus came to the region
of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son
of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John
the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the
"But what about you?" he asked.
"Who do you say I am?"
Simon Peter answered, "You are
the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus replied, "Blessed are
you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by
my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock
I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I
will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth
will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed
in heaven." (NIV)
Jesus tells us that the gates of hell
will storm the kingdom of God, but the assuring thing is that Satan will
not prevail. Some are looking for a period of tribulation that
will try human souls. Today Satan has declared an all out assault on the
kingdom of God. Just recall the headlines from the past few week’s newspapers
and news reports. One man is sentenced to a seven-year prison sentence
for writing out his thoughts on child pornography. A lesbian lover is seeking
benefits for cohabiting with her lesbian lover. Officials in high places
engaged in immorality. A man is sentenced to prison for enslavement of
farm workers. According to our news sources immorality has become the norm
for living. Mass media is making a mockery of Christian beliefs. Every
headline challenges us to the very heart of our souls.
There is a real battle going on between the
forces of evil and good. The battle may not seem as inspiring and exciting
as the fictional stories of the Left Behind series, but it is more real.
Jesus said, "From the days of John the
Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing,
and forceful men lay hold of it." (Matthew 11:12-13 NIV) Of course,
Jesus was speaking about the advancement of the kingdom of God as John
began preaching. God had not lost sight of the faithful Jews of David’s
kingdom. He was simply sending them a new king to be their Messiah.
Our Messiah reigns over his kingdom
from a position of authority and power. The real battles being
fought today are being fought by those of us who are members of Christ’s
kingdom on earth.
When Jesus walked the earth casting out the
demons, the demons knew who he was. They recognized his power and authority
before his death.
That evening after sunset the
people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town
gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He
also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because
they knew who he was. (NIV)
When Jesus got out of the boat,
a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived
in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain.
For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart
and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut
himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance,
he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of
his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
Swear to God that you won't torture me!" 8 For Jesus had said to him, "Come
out of this man, you evil spirit!" (NIV)
The excitement of the first century over Christ
was because of the authority he exercised over the forces of hell. The
reality of Christ’s power led Peter to make his confession. It led him
to give his life to Christ.
Christ’s reign over the powers of heaven,
hell and the earth is just as solid today as it was when he walked the
earth. This must be the solid rock confession we make to the world. Peter
not only confessed Christ as the Son of the living God in answer to Christ’s
question, but he boldly proclaimed what he believed on the day of Pentecost.
We may only look at the facts
to be confessed and say, "I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God." We
may think that it ends there, but Peter’s confession led him to confess
before thousands on Pentecost. Christ was reigning in the apostle’s lives
when they stood up and preached Christ on Pentecost.
Powerful things happen when we spend our lives
confessing Christ to those we come in contact with.
It is extremely encouraging to realize that
the same God who led the Israelites out of sinful Egyptian bondage is the
same God who promises Christians and those unbelievers who choose to believe
in Christ victory today.
We are like Elijah, sometimes we must
be reminded who is reigning. Elijah became discouraged and declared
himself as the only faithful man of God in Israel. God stepped in and reminded
him that He was still in control and there were thousands who had not bowed
their knee to Baal.
Daniel’s belief in God did not deter
his determination to declare the sovereignty of his God to a heathen world.
Daniel confessed his belief in God to the succession of three kings. The
confession he made by the life he lived left no doubt in those kings mind
as to who was in charge of the world’s affairs.
Initially the world declared that these men
were at a great disadvantage. Through hindsight we understand that they
had the only advantage. As their enemies sought their lives they confessed
to a dying world that God’s reign was real. God delivered each one of them.
Today Christians Really Have The Advantage.
We have a great savior who is able to
completely save us.
Therefore he is able to
save completely those who come to God through him, because he always
lives to intercede for them. (NIV)
Therefore, since we have
a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son
of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. (NIV)
We have the liberating Word of God,
which guarantees God’s power and his presence in our daily lives.
Then Jesus came to them and
said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore
go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the
very end of the age." (NIV)
We have the Holy Spirit to guide us
to liberation in every circumstance, as he guides us in what we say and
do. Christ promised the apostles the power of the Holy Spirit to
carry the gospel into the world. That same Spirit seeks to guide us today.
He said to them: "It is not
for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will
be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the
ends of the earth." (NIV)
These blessings afford us a great opportunity
to preach the gospel to a lost world. God has opened doors of opportunity
that no one can shut. The doors of opportunity are just as open today as
they were in the difficult times of Moses, Elijah and Daniel.
I know your deeds. See, I
have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you
have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my
name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim
to be Jews though they are not, but are liars-I will make them come and
fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you
have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the
hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those
who live on the earth. (NIV)
If we believe the doors are not open, we can
open them by deciding to keep God’s command and do what he is asking us
to do. I am amazed at how God has opened the doors of opportunity through
the means of technology. I can’t understand how you can send a message
around the world through a telephone line at such minimal cost.
We Need New Testament Christianity
Today we need born-again members of
Christ kingdom. For Christ truly reigns in the hearts of those
who have truly been born again into the kingdom of God.
"In reply Jesus declared, ‘I
tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born
"’How can a man be born when
he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into
his mother's womb to be born!’
"Jesus answered, ‘I tell you
the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water
and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth
to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born
again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you
cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone
born of the Spirit" (NIV)
The power of the new birth for those
in the first century staggered the world. They conquered the world
for Christ as they confessed his name. They were just ignorant and unlearned
men, but oh, how their love for Christ motivated them to turn their relationships
upside down for Christ. On Pentecost an ignorant fishermen stood up and
confessed the reigning power of the risen Christ.
Those who confessed Christ on Pentecost
faced every kind of opposition. Their suffering was enormous from
without and within. The opposition to these born again followers of Christ
was relentless, but they knew that Christ reigned. They knew Satan could
not prevail against the kingdom established in their hearts. But they knew
that their opposition allowed the world to see the rebirth of the hidden
person of the heart. The world could see their sincerity because of their
willingness to suffer for the Christ they confessed.
The world takes note when they see Christ
reborn in our hearts. The world is busy telling us to dress and
act like them. Many in the church are more concerned about how people are
dressed than they are winning them to Christ or seeing them grow in Christ.
Many in the church want us to impress the world with how we dress, but
God encourages us to adorn the hidden person of the heart so that the world
might see the reign of Christ in our lives.
1 Peter 3:1-6
Wives, in the same way be submissive
to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they
may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they
see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come
from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry
and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the
unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in
God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their
hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive
to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her
master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way
to fear. (NIV)
I think the religious world is more
concerned with building churches than building people. Much of
our preaching is directed toward defining the church. The church is about
each of us confessing Christ daily in what we say and do. The confession
Peter made, "You are the Christ the Son of the living God," wasn’t just
a statement of fact, it was a principle which literally molded his life.
His life confessed the presence of Christ.
We need born again believers who are
willing to be faithful stewards in boldly proclaiming and confessing Christ
to the lost daily. When we are seeking to confess Christ to our
friends, we may lose heart and become resentful. We must not allow the
devil to lead us into the trap of resentfulness.
2 Timothy 2:24-26
And the Lord's servant must
not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will
grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that
they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who
has taken them captive to do his will. (NIV)
Confessing Christ to our lost friends
requires a willingness to put Christ first; it requires courage.
"So do not be afraid of them.
There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will
not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight;
what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid
of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid
of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows
sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from
the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
"Whoever acknowledges me before
men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever
disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
"Do not suppose that I have
come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a
sword. For I have come to turn
"'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her
a man's enemies will be the
members of his own household.'
"Anyone who loves his father
or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or
daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take
his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will
lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (NIV)
Confession is more than a factual statement
about the living Christ. These passages reveal that true confession
takes us beyond baptism. It moves us to give up our lives to the one who
can make a difference in our lives.
Peter’s confession of Christ led him to be
what God was calling him to be.
Peter’s confession of Christ led him to do
what God wanted him to do.
Peter’s confession of Christ led him to go
where God wanted him to go.
We need open-minded born-again Christians
who are open to the call of God.
We need open-minded born-again Christians
who are open to faithfully ministering to the lost.
1 Peter 4:10-11
Each one should use whatever
gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace
in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking
the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength
God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)