Jesus is the King

Luke 23:35-43
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at [Jesus]. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus is the King

It can be difficult and disheartening to navigate through a political campaign and election. Have you ever gotten the feeling that some of the people involved are self-serving? That they care more about themselves than those they hope to represent? They aim to win at all costs. They will promise anything. They tear down their opponent with half-truths and lies. During an election does it ever feel like some of the candidates, the media and even the general public are simply being self-serving?

Jesus is the King. However, Jesus steered clear of politics. He wasn’t interested in overthrowing the government, winning a popular vote or saying things just to get big headlines or people’s approval.

An interesting thing Jesus, the King, said: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This wasn’t a campaign speech to score popularity points. This was Jesus’ holy, sincere and loving mission. Jesus came to live, suffer, die and rise for sinners like you and me.

As the King, Jesus was suffering and dying, while people watched, mocked and taunted him. They said: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

They had missed the point. Jesus, the King of the Jews (and of all people), hadn’t come to escape pain, win votes and rule an earthly kingdom. Jesus came to live, suffer, die and rise for sinners like you and me.

Many of the people and the rulers just did not get it. But a criminal crucified right next to Jesus did. Before he died, the criminal turned to Jesus and made a request: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus, his King, responded: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus, your King, came to serve and give up his life for you. He rose and now rules for you. Do you know this? Do you trust your King? Those who do will be with their King forever in paradise.

Justice in Due Time

How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. – Habakkuk 1:2-3

Was God’s prophet preaching this 2,500 years ago or just last week?

When Habakkuk looked out his front window, he saw violence and injustice. The bad guys just did whatever they wanted to. All of Habakkuk’s neighbors seemed OK with injustice and violence. They took advantage of evil to advance their own cause without any concern for the people getting hurt. Habakkuk could not understand how God allowed all this wrong to happen. Wasn’t he a just God? Wasn’t he a loving God? Habakkuk prayed and prayed the Lord would set things right, but nothing happened.

Sound familiar? Today people abuse their authority to take advantage of others. People disrespect authority to hurt others. People jump to conclusions and ignore facts just to prove their point. No one seems concerned about the people getting hurt. Most people just want to win the argument and advance their personal agenda. Why doesn’t God punish the evil doers? Why does God tolerate all the destruction and violence we see in this world? Why doesn’t he bring an end to conflict and peace to strife-torn hearts?

God answered Habakkuk’s prayer by explaining he would bring justice in his own time and way. God told Habakkuk to be patient and trust that God would do the right thing at the right time–which God did.

Do we really want God to bring justice in our time? Think about it. Have I lost my temper? Have I cut people down with my words? How concerned am I really about people getting hurt by others? What am I doing to help relieve the pain of the suffering? If God pays back people what they deserve, will he be paying me a visit? Do I really want to beg God to bring justice to the world?

Our God already has. On a cross outside of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, God brought justice to this world. He blasted Jesus with all the punishment deserved by all the violence and evil and wrong committed by the human race. God’s Son unjustly suffered in our place. Jesus took that burden because he did not want us condemned. He wanted us forgiven.

On the cross, God’s justice collided with God’s love. On the cross, God punished all wrong-doers by punishing Jesus. On the cross, God forgave all wrong-doers by punishing Jesus. Relying on Jesus as our Savior, we can look forward to meeting God without any fear. Because of Jesus, God will welcome us into heaven.

God will also take care of justice here on earth–in his own time and his own way. Sometimes we will have to wait patiently for God to act. Most importantly for us, we know God has already acted to forgive our sin. We never have to fear that he will punish us. Jesus took our place!

 

Crime

Are you worried about a rise in crime in your area? Have you been a victim?

Crime is a serious matter in the eyes of God. He wants us all to be under the rule of law, so that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). God invites us to respect and to pray for our government and for our judicial system (1 Timothy 2:1). He expects us to obey the law ourselves (Romans 13). He expects the government to punish those who don’t obey the law (Romans 13:3-5).

Jesus understands what it is like to be a victim of crime. He was wounded and beaten and mocked and spit on. He was accused of things he didn’t do. He has sympathy for those who are suffering in a similar way today (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

But Jesus’ reaction to criminals is a little surprising. When he was being punished for crimes he did not commit, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Two criminals were hanging on crosses next to Jesus when he was crucified. When he saw that one of them trusted him, he said to that criminal, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

How could Jesus say such things about bad people and to bad people?

Jesus could say those things because as he hung on the cross, he was willingly taking the punishment for the sins of all of the criminals who ever lived. In fact, he took the punishment for people who aren’t even criminals. On the cross Jesus suffered the eternal punishment that all people deserve (Matthew 27:46) so that he could tell everyone in the world that their sin is forgiven (2 Corinthians 5:19,20).

Because of what Jesus did, God can say to sinners, “I forgive you.” God forgives them, even criminals.

Why can’t people forget after I apologize?

The friend I hurt with my sinful actions seems to have forgiven me. But he can’t forget. What’s wrong?

Nothing’s wrong. I need to remember that human beings are not machines. When we hurt each other, it cuts deeply, and deep cuts leave scars. I can’t expect my friend who has forgiven my wrong to delete all memory of that wrong from his mind automatically. People just don’t work that way.

But there are some things I can expect. I can expect that, if he has truly forgiven me, my friend will not keep bringing up my offense. That would not be in keeping with God’s advice in the Bible: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). I can expect that my friend forgives me, even if he cannot forget right away.

I also can expectand here’s the best partthat God has completely forgiven my sin. There is no offense of mine that Jesus left unpaid. He took my guilt upon himself and removed it forever.

Even though the sin is gone, the consequences may remain. It’s going to take a while for my friend to rebuild his trust in me after the way I hurt him. I need to give him time. But I also need to try my best to help him trust me again. That means showing the love God has for me by helping my friend, building him up, and forgiving him as I have been forgiven.

I’m tired of all the bad news

Can God help me see a solution to all the problems?

Have you noticed lately the newspaper headlines and the lead stories on the evening news?  They don’t really change much over the years.  Plenty of ink is spilled about the financial crisis, wars, murders, rapes, or other forms of violent crime—seeking the most wanted.  Our eyes watch tornados, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes unfold before us on the airwaves.  Life can often look pretty bleak in many parts of the world.

But the problems aren’t just in other parts of the world.  Sometimes the hurt, the pain, and the tragedies we often read or hear about actually invade our own personal lives.  Being on the receiving end can lead us to blurt out in frustration:

  • “Why are my neighbors so unfriendly? It’s almost as if they take a grumpy pill each morning.”
  • “My marriage has been in a rut for months, and the possibility of it changing seems hopeless.  Some days I wished I’d never walked down the aisle.”
  • “Why did my mom have to develop cancer? She has been a health nut her whole life. It doesn’t seem fair.”
  • “The kids are driving me nuts! It feels as though I have completely lost control.”
  • “I’m so lonely that some days I honestly feel that I am the only one left in the world.”
  • “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”
  • “Why is it that MY job was cut? I’m such a better worker than so and so.”

Life has its problems.  Each of us has our problems.  Death, sickness, broken promises, and severed relationships – do you ever get tired of all the bad news?  It can lead us to wonder, “Is there a solution?”

Yes, there is!  It starts first with God helping us understand that all of life’s problems are really a symptom of the big problem of sin.

The awesome news is that God freely gives us the complete solution to that problem of sin. After living and dying for us, Jesus rose again on Easter Sunday.  He is the solution!  God tells us that he has given us “a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

Tired of the bad news?  Come and learn about the good news of God’s solution to life’s problems.  This news will never become old.

Can a Christian Fight in a War?

The well-known song poses the question, “War! (huh-yeah) What is it good for?”  It also provides the singer’s opinion as to the answer: “Absolutely nothing!”

Whether we agree with the singer’s conclusion or not, war is an ongoing occurrence in our world today, and will continue to be until Jesus returns (Mark 13:7). Such a reality may lead us to question whether or not it is acceptable in God’s eyes for a Christian to fight in a war.

In Scripture, we do not find a nice, simple list that God gives of acceptable reasons for fighting in a war; neither do we find a list of unacceptable reasons.  So we are left to apply some biblical examples and principals to help us arrive at an answer to the question at hand.

As God guided his people throughout Old Testament history, there were many occasions on which he commanded his people to wage war against enemies.  Often times this was an effort to keep the sinful practices of neighboring nations (e.g., idolatry or sexual immorality) from influencing Israel.  Not only did God specifically tell his people to go to war in some cases, but he also gave his blessing by granting them victory.  It would seem to be a contradiction then for God to command the Old Testament believers to go to war if fighting in a war was unacceptable to him.

In the New Testament John the Baptist preached a sermon once.  Afterward, some soldiers approached him and asked how they could show that they were sorry for their sins.  John didn’t tell them to stop sinning by serving as soldiers or that they couldn’t go to war, but said, “Don’t exhort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay” (Luke 3:14).  Certainly we would expect some sort of admonition if it was wrong or sinful to serve as a soldier.  Moreover, we would hardly expect to hear the apostle Paul use the term “soldier” in a complementary manner in his letters if serving as a soldier was contrary to God’s will (Philippians 2:25; 2 Timothy 2:3,4).

Finally, war is a responsibility given to governments by God. “[The government] is God’s servant to do you good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing.  He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4).  God has given governments the responsibility of upholding justice.  Governments then carry out that responsibility by enlisting people to serve in various agencies, like police forces or the military.  Therefore, when a person serves in that capacity, the person is serving as a representative of the government.  The Christian then can in good conscience serve in such a role knowing that he is both serving God’s representatives in the government (in keeping with the 4th Commandment), and serving and protecting his fellowman (in keeping with the 5th Commandment).

Enemies

Do you have enemies? Join the club! If you think it’s possible to live life without enemies, you are only fooling yourself.

Jesus lived a perfect life, but he still had enemies. People were constantly plotting to discredit and kill him. Matthew 10:36 says that in some cases “a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”

It is still good to avoid making enemies.Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

But the real question is what to do with enemies once you’ve got them. The Bible is clear on that too. Jesus teaches his followers, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44); “do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

How is that possible? Don’t human beings naturally fight back when they are attacked?

The only time you will have the strength to love your enemies is when you are still secure despite being attacked. The only way to have perfect security is to get it from Jesus himself.

Jesus had many human enemies, but because he loved them, he defeated the most menacing enemies that all humans face: sin, death and the devil. Jesus defeated sin for us by refusing to sin in the face of temptation (Hebrews 4:15). He defeated death for us by rising from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). By his perfect life and his rising from the dead, he defeated the devil for us as well (Hebrews 2:14, 15).

What Jesus did in our place gives us security. It gives us peace. The love he showed us is the only love strong enough to give us the desire and the ability to love our enemies.

Do you have enemies? We all do! Now you have the opportunity to reflect the love of Jesus in your life, also and especially to your enemies.