In the End: We See Our Lord Face-to-Face!

The Lordship of Jesus Christ is essential to our Christian life, as we have seen on our meander through Roman 14:7-9 over the past few months. 

We are, as believers, in the process of being sanctified (set apart from sin to serve Christ). This process is never finished in this life, even in the most outwardly holy believer. How does Christ’s presence in our lives as Lord and Savior affect us if it doesn’t render us sinless in this life? Maybe an analogy from WWII might assist us.

I think of a story I read about Gen. Douglas MacArthur, in his biography, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 – 1964, by William Manchester, pp. 442-445.

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The photograph above is of MacArthur, without side arm, as he steps from his Douglas C-54 Skymaster Bataan II in Tokyo. He later earned praise for his role in rebuilding Japan as its postwar civil administrator. (AKG-Images).

MacArthur as New Ruler—but not a god—over Japan

In 1945 after the two A-Bombs had fallen on Japan, the Japanese signaled to General MacArthur that they wanted to sign an unconditional surrender. He immediately decided to fly to Tokyo with a few aides to take up residence in a hotel as Supreme Allied Commander.

His advisors protested that Japan was still armed and he would likely be killed. They advised him to wait for occupation troops to take up residence and disarm the 300,000 battle ready army near the airport where he planned to land. MacArthur said, “No, they surrendered and they meant it. I’m going.”

He flew with his aides to Tokyo. As they prepared to deplane, his aides strapped their side arms on. MacArthur said to take them off because against 300,000 they would be useless anyway. A Marine by the door, reached for his rifle as was custom. MacArthur quipped, “Son, you’re in the wrong army,” as he chuckled. “Sorry, Sir,” the soldier replied as he replaced the rifle.

The hotel was 15 miles away from the airport. Thirty thousand armed Japanese soldiers lined the motor route with their backs turned to him. This was a sign of deep respect usually afforded only to the Emperor.

MacArthur receiving the Emperor

The symbolism of this parade from the airport to the central hotel where MacArthur would now enforce allied rule over the Empire was not lost on the Japanese people. From this place of central authority MacArthur would begin to enforce the implications of their surrender. MacArthur eventually forced the Emperor to visit him at his hotel. Before this photograph was printed most Japanese had never seen the Emperor’s face.

“Many Japanese were extremely offended by this picture because of how casual MacArthur is looking and standing while next to the Emperor, who was supposed to be a god.” https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/hirohito-macarthur-1945/

However, they did not mistake the implication that MacArthur was their new ruler and he was not a god nor was Hirohito any longer.

An Analogy to Christ’s Rule over Us

crowns jesus
On a Biblical level, Jesus does the same when each person receives him as Savior and Lord! He enters that person’s life and takes up residence in the citadel of his being—their heart. He begins to extend his rule over him/her throughout this earthly life and only perfects her/him in eternity when each sees him face-to-face.

I John 3:1-2 states this so clearly—

1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Prayer

Lord over life and death,
I embrace You as my Lord!
I want you to speak to me through Your Word and by Your Spirit.
I want You to transform my mind and life by subduing me to Yourself and Your ways.
I know this will not be complete in this life, but
I look forward to being in Your presence,
seeing You face-to-face, where it will then be complete.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Blessed are the Dead in the Lord!

Jesus now rules both realms—that of the dead and the living.

We who are alive can depend upon him to watch over us since he is Lord of the living. When we come to the time for death, we are changing realms but not Lords! He rules the realm of the dead.

In Christ Alone!

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One of my favorite modern hymns is Stuart Townend’s “In Christ Alone.” At my ordination to the diaconate in the Anglican Church in North America, the choir sang it. I was “setting the table” for the Bishop to celebrate communion. The pipe organ boomed out that hymn suddenly, and I was frozen there in worship of Christ at the table. I was roused into action shortly because there was work to be done. However, I’ve never grown tired of those words. The fourth verse is powerful.

No guilt in life, no fear in death.
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

Committal at the Grave

I often used the 1928 Prayer Book in my ministerial practice as a Presbyterian clergyman. One blind lady commented at a funeral, “I think I heard echoes of the Prayer Book in your committal service.” She was right. There really is no guide for practical services—funerals, praying for the sick, counseling people in need. I fell back on the book I had owned since I was a teenager—The 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

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The words of committal are traditional and Biblical. I recall vividly the first time I used those words at a funeral. I began,

“For as much as it has pleased Almighty God to call out of the world the soul of our beloved brother ___, we commit his body to the ground… .”

I didn’t get to add the rest right away because his daughter shrieked in horror at the thought of leaving her father’s body in the ground. I went on to add, “in sure and certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life… .” I don’t think she heard the rest after “commit his body to the ground.”

I have slightly altered the words since that first time. I now say, “We commit his/her body to the Lord in sure and certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life… .” No further shrieks have since occurred.

People today do not have the knowledge tradition gives. After you have heard the words of committal several hundred times at funerals, you know what is coming afterward. You sit and bask in the security of your loved one awaiting the resurrection, and not feeling you are abandoning him or her to the cold desolate soil of the grave.

Shakespeare’s Grave at Stratford on Avon (left); an unmarked field stone (right)

It doesn’t matter with the Lord whether we are famous or common. He will keep us safe in death as he did in life.

The Dead are Safe in Jesus’s Presence

Jesus commands the realm of the dead, so nothing happens to our loved ones he does not decide. He is the holder of the keys and Hades (in its local sense). The grave is also in his safe keeping. None of the sheep given him is lost ever.

Revelation 14:13 sums up our loved one’s state now—

Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. They rest from their labors, and their works follow them.

Prayer

Lord of the Dead,
You hold our loved ones in Your safe keeping.
They are never lost or never again in harm’s way.
You watch over them and will raise their bodies on the Last Day.
Until that day we can rest in the assurance
You control our destiny and theirs.
Keep me in peace when I am anxious about anyone who has died in You.
About those who didn’t seem to have a strong faith in You,
Help me to trust in You to always do what is right.
I do not know the transactions of a person’s soul at the end of their lives.
In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Our Lord’s Support System of Us

I again refer to a personal experience in this post about Jesus’s Lordship as essential to our Christian life. 

The second faith formative event that occurred to me just before graduation from seminary was my father’s death. We all have favorite verses of Scripture. I have several different passages that have become my favorites through various experiences I have had in life.

One day in January 1987, part of my mental, physical support system in this world collapsed when I received a phone call from my mother. It included just two words—”He’s gone!” But what an impact those two words had on me. She was telling me that my father had just died.

Mom and Dad engagement picture

Mom and Dad’s Engagement Picture (1951)

I was in my senior year of seminary anticipating my Dad being at my graduation in four months’ time. My Dad had never been an emotionally-oriented, touchy-feely sort of person. I do not remember his telling me that he loved me. (I’m sure he did. I just do not recall it.) However, one of the closest expressions of his love for me was his last words to me before we left Greenville, SC for Seminary in Jackson, MS. We were getting into the U-Haul which held our few worldly possessions. “Son,” Dad said, “Remember that you always have a home here.”

With his death that safety-net vanished. He would not be able to provide a home for me and my family if a pastoral call was not forthcoming after graduation. In fact, I would likely have to provide one for my mother if the need should arise. So much for earthly props!

I flew home for the funeral and found a rare 18 inches of snow covering the ground in Greenville. I had to be retrieved from the airport by church members with a jeep. My world inside my head was as cold as the earth around me.

After a tearful meeting with my Mother and my two siblings, and a quick meal, we all retreated to different rooms in the tri-level family home. I withdrew to the den and sat in Dad’s chair. Beside it I found his Bible. I had no outward security in my future earthly prospects. They were nonexistent. Could I find any security in God’s Word? I took up his Bible and prayed to God that he would give me a passage that would hold me in the days to come.

I found my way to Romans 14:7-9. God quickened the 9th verse and applied it to my chaotic mind at the time.

9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

That was the comfort I needed! Jesus rules the sphere of the dead and the sphere of the living! My Dad was safe in the keeping of Jesus in the world of the dead. He is where Christ is! And, Christ is Lord where I am in the world of the living. “I would be all right,” God said to me through that passage.

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Over the next few months, I meditated on the surrounding context of that verse, developed a sermon which I preached, and received more comfort from God in my uncertainty.

Prayer

Lord of the Living and the Dead,
I often feel as if I have nothing to lean on.
The economy rises and falls and
Often my income remains the same.
I have learned to lean on You.
Little with You is a lot!
My deceased loved-ones are safe in Your keeping.
While I await joining them,
I’m just fine in Your loving care, too.
I claim Your grace for today’s needs,
And I know it will be enough.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Jesus is a Caring Lord!

Romans 14:8c—Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

If you will allow me to refer to personal experiences, one in this post and another in the next, I believe they will help illustrate how God treats us as his cherished possessions.

God is responsible for those who belong to him. I have expreienced God’s personal care of me and my family over many years of ministry! I did not always discern God’s plan, or the steps laid out in that plan, for my life, at the time. I did have to keep on walking, though.

walkinginthedark-Georgie-Pauwels

I have to admit many times I had been making my way in the dark, so to speak. I often asked God, “Why did that experience come into my life at that moment?” “Why didn’t I get that other church?” “Why did that officer have to die at that crucial moment in the church’s life and leave the flock open to attack by that cabal of Satan’s tools?”

Rev. G. Campbell Morgan, the great English preacher, used to tell younger people, “Dis-appointment; His-appointment.” He had learned this valuable lesson after a lifetime of walking with God in difficult circumstances. Christ knows best even if we do not understand why as yet. (see “G. Campbell Morgan” below).

One faith formative experience occurred for me when our second son was on the way. We had had both sons without insurance in the late 1970s. The doctor’s fee was $800; the hospital bill was $800; total money owed = $1600. In between their births, Joseph (age 18 months) contracted meningitis. He had a 10 day stay in the hospital that ate up the money we had saved to pay for his brother’s birth.

Let me go back a bit. When Joseph had been born, I had the painful experience of going to the business office and appearing before the hospital bursar. He was a curmudgeon of a little man who tried to squeeze money out of me. He tried to get me to borrow money from the bank, from my family, and my friends. 

Stave_One_Marley's_Ghost.jpgThose I knew had little money, as did I. I was in full time ministry which paid room and board plus $150 a month. 

I never will forget that little man’s first words to me when JoEllen was admitted to the hospital. He said, “Well, I see you didn’t take care of your wife.” Then he let me sweat a while before adding, “We’re not going to turn her away. We’ll take care of her.” I then signed a document that I would pay in $100 a month installments until the bill was fully discharged. I left feeling quite smaller than that little man appeared to me. (This conjured up in my mind images of Ebenezer Scrooge and those who owed him money, pictured to the left above.) 

Nevertheless, God provided for us so that we paid the bill in installments of $100 per month until it was paid off.

Joseph’s meningitis stay, 19 months later, had been $1600. This was the exact amount we had saved for John’s birth.  Since we had no money left in savings after paying Joseph’s bill, I had to appear before that same “little man” again when JoEllen was admitted to the hospital to give birth to John. He looked into a manilla folder, looked up at me, and sneered, “Well, I see you didn’t take care of your wife, again.” Then I sweat awhile before he added, “We’re not going to turn her away this time, either. We’ll take care of her even though you didn’t.” I then signed the paper and agreed to pay in monthly installments of $100 until it was paid off.

God provided again so I could pay out of my monthly wages in installments. I learned through both of these painful experiences that God always provides for his people’s needs! Two passages of God’s Word came alive.

Psalm 34:15—The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.

Psalm 34:17—The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.

God let me know through these incidents that he is ultimately responsible for me and all that concerns me. No mean “Scrooge” in a business office controls my life. I learned more about God through this than I had through the whole of my theology books, I think. God hears a desperate cry from His child! 

When I say “God provided,” I am not saying money fell from the sky. I did not beg on the streets. I didn’t write letters to friends and churches asking for money. I can say we didn’t go on vacation. Christmas money from relatives went to pay off the bill. Sometimes, dear friends sent money, and for that we were grateful. But, we didn’t ask for money. Mostly God stretched the little we had into enough to meet our needs and obligations. 

Jesus is my Lord, I am his bond slave, and therefore, he takes responsibility for me when he sends me anywhere on his mission. He will do that same for you, too!

I like the poem that King George VI quoted the year England faced invasion by the Nazis, Christmas Day 1939. “The Gate of the Year”— 

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

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I can say from past expreience, as merely a sinner saved by grace and not by any means a “super-Christian,” my hand in God’s hand has been better than the brightest light and much safer than any familiar way!

The same will be true for everyone who by faith puts his hand in the hand of that same God. He is faithful to keep covenant with His children! 

Prayer

Father,
I can’t see a way ahead for me just now. 
My life is dark and seems meaningless.
I’m on a treadmill that never stops.
My bills mount up and I can barely get by each month. 
Take my hand and lead me from this place. 
I trust You to take me in the right direction, although it is dark before me.
My needs are still great but I trust You to meet them all as I walk with You. 
Keep me close to You as I go further into the unknown.
I know Your light is at the end of that way. 

In Jesus name name, Amen. 

Notes

G. CAMPBELL MORGAN—”A Preacher Come from God,” Part 2 accessed 16 July 2018 from https://sharperiron.org/article/g-campbell-morgan%E2%80%94-preacher-come-from-god%E2%80%9D-part-2 N.B. Jill Morgan, daughter-in-law and biographer of the great preacher, attributes this adage to her mother-in-law, Mrs. Morgan. 

Gate of the Year. (1908). Accessed 16 July 2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ The_Gate_of_the_Year

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

It’s Better not to Look Back! At least, in that Way.

We began in the last post to look at the second reason why the Lordship of Christ is essential to the Christian life—

Submission to Jesus as Lord provides us with an adequate motive for living.  

We saw in the last post that we are not to live a self-centered life intent on pleasing ourselves only. Let’s look at another principle of Christian ethics.

Romans 14:7-8

7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.
8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.

The Christian Life is more than living by a past era’s ethical rules.

Verse 8 says “We live to the Lord”—that is with Him and His will always in view. “What is always present to Paul’s mind, as the rule of his conduct, is the will and the interest of his Lord” (see “Nicoll,” below).

In this post, we will see that we cannot look to the past as an infallible guide to how we should live now. 

We need to see how our forebears behaved, certainly. They did things right. They also erred in areas. We can learn from their mistakes. 

C. S. Lewis clarifies how to look to the past.

…it is not the remembered but the forgotten past that enslaves us. To study the past does indeed liberate us from the present, from the idols of our own market-place. But I think it liberates us from the past, too. I think no class of men are less enslaved to the past than historians. The unhistorical are usually, without knowing it, enslaved to a fairly recent past. (see “Lewis,” below and the N. B. that follows that entry).

Camelot Dore

Too many people look for a golden age in the past. This is Gustave Doré’s 1868 etching of Camelot. Arthurian legend has long caused people to look back to the past and strive to recreate it in the present. 

The Roman Church and the OT Lifestyle

Old-Testament-oriented Jewish Christians looked to Daniel and his three Hebrew youths for an example of how not to succumb to an Imperial pagan lifestyle. Daniel 1 states the crux of the matter from an Old Testament perspective. Daniel had withstood a pagan empire by refusing its delicacies—1:8—

8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank…

So, 1st Century Jewish Christians in Rome thought they should abstain, as well. This makes good sense of Jewish Christians “not drinking wine” in Romans 14. Jews were never ascetics before the inroads of Gnosticism much later. You will remember Rome had at this stage already gotten the crypto-name “Babylon” (cf. I Peter 5:13). (see “Shogren,” below, pp. 243, 248)

It is always safer for the immature in the faith to revert to the ethical standards of the past generations rather than apply the Scriptures directly to present problems. They perhaps think, “My Grandfather didn’t play cards because people might think he was a gambler. I’m going to follow his example and not play Bridge.” We could multiply examples of things our forefathers didn’t do. Maybe it’s time to consult God’s Word directly about our behavior today. We live in a day where playing cards does not cause people to assume we are reckless gamblers just because we are playing “Canasta.”

One man said his parents wouldn’t let them drink soda from cans for fear people might think they were drinking beer. I would say to him, it’s time to lay that past “ethical safeguard” to rest. Some folks are going to assume the worst no matter what. It’s up to us to do what we do in obedience to God’s Word. We can leave the rest to God who judges righteously in all things.

fence around the bible edited


The Talmud (Oral Law and its Commentaries) aimed to build a fence around the Torah (Law), so people would not even get close to breaking the law. Rabbi Akiva said “Tradition is a fence to Torah.”


Don’t we Christians fence people out often when we add our man-made traditions and ethical rules to the Christian life?


Modern day legalism

We have 21st Century counterparts to those who are weak in the faith in the church. We have those who advocate extra-Biblical rules added to prevent us from ever even getting close to breaking God’s commandments.

My mother was a member of a church that had a dress code for those who attended worship. New people were admitted as they were dressed the first time they attended. After that first visit, they would be given “the dress code” and were told to observe it in the future when they came to church. Needless to say, she said there were few second visits.

Business people working

Rules without relationship leads often to abuse or disillusionment.

In my childhood community one of the churches at one time considered it a sin to own a radio. However, when television came onto the scene in the 1950s, it was all right to own a radio but now a sin to own a TV. Many in that church did not wear jewelry—even wedding rings. When people began to wear ear rings, it became all right to wear a wedding ring, but a sin to wear ear rings. I could go on.

Our man-made rules ought not to be more important than the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and fence people out of the kingdom of God!

Extra-Biblical rules have no basis in the Scriptures. They change with the times, but remain a step behind society. They make people feel safe in the church, so extra-Biblical rules flourish today in certain circles. It is better to follow God’s Word and obey his commandments as clarified by Jesus in the Gospels and by the Apostles in the New Testament Letters to Churches. We have dead heroes from the past who established ethical rules for their day, but we are to be living models of Christ in the present.

Application

quote-legalism-insists-on-conformity-to-manmade-religious-rules-and-requirements-which-are-jerry-bridges-79-74-47

I see application in two areas for our not living by past traditions and ethical rules.

First, people are still establishing extra-biblical rules in our day. The churches they establish should ask: “What has Christ in his word taught concerning ethics for our day?”

Second, many have been alienated from the church because of abuse from extra-biblical rules and regulations of people’s behavior.

Cyprian of Carthage famously said, “You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the church for your Mother.” (see Cortez below.) There is no one mother-church. The one you can find that nurtures and enfolds you into its membership is a mother to you! It’s out there. Don’t give up on finding a church where you fit.

Prayer for those who tend toward extra-biblical rules.

O Lord Jesus Christ, I tend toward multiplying manmade rules for others.
I have not helped the hurting but I have actually
heaped on more hurt through my harsh judgment and criticism.
Your Word is the sufficient guide to our belief and practice.
Help me to stop creating harsh rules of behavior for myself and others.
Help me to follow your Word and apply its precepts to myself first.
In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

Prayer for those who were abused by extra-biblical rules.

Lord Jesus, I wanted to see You in that church.
Instead I was hurt by the people there.

The rules about behavior and belief were harsh and unfeeling.
I did not gain a relationship with You in that group, but 
I got a set of rules and treatment
that still haunts my dreams and waking thoughts.
I was hurt and am disillusioned by that group.
I can’t change them, but I still want You as my Lord and Savior.
Lead me to a church that will help me through this pain
to a soul-satisfying walk with You and encouraging fellowship with them.
I know Your Word will correct as a well as encourage.
I want both. But Your yoke of requirements is easy and
Your burden of obligations is light, according to Your Word.
Help me to follow your Word and apply its precepts to myself.

In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

Notes

Cortez, Marc. (22 Nov. 2010).  “Calvin on the Church as the ‘Mother’ of Believers.” [Blog post] Accessed 16 June 2018 from http://marccortez.com/2010/11/22/calvin-on-the-church-as-the-mother-of-believers-ets-paper/

Lewis, C. S. (1954). De Descriptione Temporum. [On the Delination of Time]. Inaugural Lecture from The Chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. Accessed 18 July 2018 from https://archive.org/stream/DeDescriptioneTemporum/DeDescriptioneTemporumByC.S.Lewis_djvu.txt
N. B. Lewis referred to historians trained in the humanities approach to history. In my view, he would ahve been apalled by the social socience approach to history in the academy today! Such historians learn about past customs and culture, but do not learn any lessons to guide behavior today. 

Nicoll, W. R. (1956 reprint). The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Accessed 14 June 2018 from https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-14.html

Shogren, G. (2000). “Is the Kingdom of God about Eating and Drinking or Isn’t It?” (Romans 14:17). Novum Testamentum, 42(3), 238-256. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1561137

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Need for Balance in the Exercise of our Christian Liberty

We have looked at the first reason why accepting Jesus as Lord is integral to the Christian life—it connects us to him in a personal relationship.

Now I want to shift in the next few posts to a second reason—

Submission to Jesus as Lord provides us with an adequate motive for living.  

Romans 14:7-8

7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.
8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.

Life is more than living for one’s own self-satisfaction.  

It seems those at Rome who were strong in the faith had erred by making “the kingdom of God a matter of eating and drinking.” (Shogren, p. 240) They tended to eat and drink the dainties of Empire without regard for those who had scruples against doing so. This is contrary to Romans 14:17–

17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Roman feast

Roman scene above depicting a feast with beverages sweetened with “sugar of lead.” The ancient Romans used lead acetate—which they called sapa—to sweeten wine. The aristocratic segments of the population could consume as much as two liters a day (about three bottles’ worth, diluted 2:1 or 3:1 wine to  water ratio). The “sugar of lead” is thought by many to have slowly killed enough Roman elite to bring the Empire down. (See Rhodes below)

The brothers strong in their faith made their freedom to eat and drink all things their main ethical motivation. They were out for what they could get from Empire.

Certainly, Christian liberty is important!

The Westminster Confession of Faith [WCF] sums up Christian Liberty well in Chapter 20.2

God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. (WCF, 1646)

That is the magna carta of Christian liberty. But is this the whole picture. Paul says in I Corinthians 10:23—

23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel)

Creation of Adam by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Rome

Modern day exercise of Christian Liberty

I am sad to say most 21st century Christians use of alcohol is their main expression of Christian Liberty. Christian Liberty, in fact, is freedom from sin to serve Christ in all situations.

None of God’s creation is sinful in and of itself. Christians are not Platonists who conclude the material world is innately sinful. Alcohol in and of itself is not sinful. Its misuse in the form of drunkenness is sinful (Ephesians 5:18).

An Example from my Youth

My Great aunt was a “teetotaler.” God bless her heart! She did take Hadacol at one point in her life. She failed to realize it was 12% alcohol. That’s 24 proof. No wonder she felt good after taking a dose!

My Great uncle liked a drink at night “to steady his nerves,” so he kept a bottle of “Old Grand Dad” in the garage. (His nerves got a regular workout from my aunt.) He would always leave the car under a tree in the backyard until sundown. Then, he would say, “Well, I’d better put the car in the garage.” I often asked, “Do you want me to go with you?” He quickly added, “No. No! I’ve got it. You stay in here. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Only later did I realize, after finding his stash in the garage, what he was really up to on those nightly excursions. He kept the peace by hiding his use of alcohol. I like the fact that he didn’t permit my great aunt to dictate his use of things indifferent—alcohol. I also like the fact he didn’t flaunt his use in public. I never smelled alcohol on his breath.

Balance is key in the exercise of Christian Liberty! The point Paul is trying to get the stronger brothers to see is they have an obligation to live for Christ and not to live for their own self-satisfaction. Christian liberty is important. The area not legislated in Scripture is the area of our liberty! However, we are also evangelists and we will not be harmed by curbing our liberty in public to reach out to those who are lost and to edify our brothers in Christ who do not share our views of doubtful matters.

We live unto the Lord! In the Greek this indicates advantage. We do not live for our own advantage.

“No one of us lives to himself,” does not mean, “every man’s conduct affects others for better or worse, whether he will or not”; it means, “no Christian is his own end in life; what is always present to his mind, as the rule of his conduct, is the will and the interest of his Lord.” (See Nicoll below)

As the picture caption above indicates, Roman elites lived a hedonistic lifestyle. They sweetened wine with lead acetate. They did not know they were drinking themselves to death. To quote Billy Graham, “Their lifestyle spread itself out in judgment before them.” (See Graham below). God wants us to use the things he has given us for our and others’ good and His glory!

Prayer

O Lord, I am Yours—body and soul.
You created me for Yourself and
“My soul is restless until it find its rest in You.”
You created this world for my use.
I choose to use its gifts for Your glory and my good.
I want to build people up around me and
Not tear them down as I use your creation.
I want to give our Your Gospel to those I meet along my path.
Give me wisdom to use Your gifts as Your child.
In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

References

Graham, Billy. (1984). Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Waco, TX: Word Books, Publishers.

Nicoll, W. R. (1956 reprint). The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Accessed 14 June 2018 from https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-14.html

Rhodes, Jesse (2012). “Sugar of Lead: A Deadly Sweetener.” [Magazine Article]  Accessed 13 May 2018 from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/sugar-of-lead-a-deadly-sweetener-89984487/

Shogren, G. (2000). “Is the Kingdom of God about Eating and Drinking or Isn’t It?” (Romans 14:17). Novum Testamentum, 42(3), 238-256. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1561137

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

 

We Are always Under Someone’s Authority in this World!

I want to deal, in this post and several others to follow, with the first reason why accepting Jesus as Lord is integral to the Christian life—

Submission to Jesus as Lord connects us to him in a personal relationship.

Romans 14:9 “that He might be Lord…of the living.”

How does a modern person interpret Jesus’s Lordship?  

We live in a democratic age that values human freedom so much that no one can tell us as individuals what to do and what not to do. How is that working out for us as a society? We call all the shots, but is this true freedom? Or, is this a modern “cult of freedom” that amounts to sinful autonomy? Dr. R. C. Sproul defines sinful autonomy and why it is sinful—

Ultimately man can be completely autonomous only if, indeed, there is no God. But if God does exist, then the quest for human autonomy is a fool’s quest. It simply cannot happen. (see “Muehlenberg”; also see “Sproul, 2018” below) 

We are always under someone’s authority in this fallen world.

Colossians 1:13 states there are two realms—

13 He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

We are either under Christ’s genuine rule or under Satan’s usurped dominion. These are the only two realms that exist in this world. There is no third—such as “I rule myself.”

First, there is the dominion of darkness under Satan who has usurped authority over mankind when Adam fell into sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12-21). The Greek word for “dominion” is exousia, “authority” = “the power of [one] whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed” (Thayer). Since Satan’s is a usurped authority, his is not a true kingdom. His is a forced rule where people are dominated and driven according to Satan’s self-centered and sinful whims.

Second, there is the Kingdom of Jesus, the Beloved Son of the Father, whose realm has been given to Him as God’s Messiah (Greek = Christos = “anointed one” or “king”). The Greek word for kingdom is basileia = “the territory subject to the rule of a king” (Thayer). The authority of a king is dependent upon the goodness of the king who rules. Our King, Jesus, is a good as he is great! His is a true kingdom given to him by his Father. It is a place of love and gracious favor bestowed upon all his subjects! 

LOTRs

Kurt Bruner, spokesman for the “Inklings of God,” produces podcasts about the Lord of the Rings (LOTRs) books and films. They have been a blessing to me. He analyzes the theology behind the book LOTRs, and he also contrasts LOTRs books to the Harry Potter books. (I’m not disparaging Harry Potter as entertainment, but I do not want the books as theology.) He makes a valid point about the difference between LOTRs book and the Harry Potter books. A person is always under the authority of another in Tolkien’s mythopoetic world, Middle Earth. In contrast, the Harry Potter books have no one under the authority of anyone else. Everyone in Rowling’s mythopoetic world of Hogwarts is an independent agent acting on his own. (See below “Lord of the Rings: Backstory.”)

We do well to consider that in this fallen cosmos, we are all born under the usurped authority of Satan. Jesus Christ is God’s anointed (Christ) sent by God to carry out the program of redemption of us from Satan’s dominion.

Pilgrims burden falls away

The picture above is from Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. It records the moment when Christian arrives at the cross. His sin-burden rolls away and falls into a grave behind him. “Salvation comes as a result of the atoning work of Christ and the exchange of our sin from our backs to His, as well as the cloak of His righteousness being transferred from His account to ours.”  (see “R. C. Sproul, 2006,” below on this scene from Pilgrim’s Progress.)

What kind of King is Jesus?

Jesus is king in two senses. (1) He is King in an essential sense as God the Son. However, he also is king in a secondary sense, too. (2) He is mediator of the new covenant. He has a mediatorial kingdom given to him by the Father.

Psalm 2 is so helpful here!

6 “…I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
7 “I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8 Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.'” (NKJV) 

Psalm 2 is more than a promise to David’s descendants. It speaks of King Jesus! He alone dashes his and our enemies in pieces at His feet! 

What benefits do we get from Jesus as our King?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC) defines Christ’s Mediatorial kingdom—

Question 26. How does Christ execute the office of a king?

Answer. Christ executes the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. (See below, “WSC”)

This is what we pray for when we pray, “Thy kingdom come!” Jesus Christ is intent upon the salvation of human beings and the propagation of his Church. Satan opposes Christ and his work of redemption. The two realms in this world are at war, but are not equal in power. “Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.” (I John 4:4 NKJV).

As Christians who’ve been born again (John 3), we have to realize “we’ve been born on a battlefield” (to quote Arthur Matthews). We have no choice but to fight to survive. Our King, Jesus, has triumphed over Satan, the usurper. 

Didn’t Jesus Defeat Satan at the Cross! Then, why are we still fighting? 

Jesus indeed defeated Satan at the cross! But, we live between two days, in a sense. The analogy comes from WWII. “D-Day” was the invasion of Europe by the Allies that led to the end of WWII. It made victory certain, yet the enemy fought on to the bitter end. “VE-day” was the day the victory was enforced and the enemy was vanquished from the battlefield. We await spiritually that great day which was made certain by Jesus’s crucifixion—Satan’s defeat! We live between two days in God’s redemptive program.

 

Pictured above are Christ’s two days: (1) The crucifixion = D-Day in our spiritual warfare; and (2) the casting of Satan into hell = VE-Day in that war.
(Engraving 1 is by Rembrandt; 2 is by Doré)

One former mentor used to say (I paraphrase), “We live in the mean-time. And if we do not assume our place as God’s warrior-children, it can be a mean time indeed.” It doesn’t have to be a mean time. We are born under Satan’s dominion, but we can be removed by becoming subjects of the Beloved King Jesus.

Prayer

O Jesus, my Savior and Lord,
I am pummeled by your enemy and mine—Satan.
I have tried at times to live as an independent agent, and it hasn’t worked.
I submit myself to your gracious rule and authority.
I reaffirm You are my Lord and Savior!
Forgive my sins and cleanse me from the pollution.

Subdue me to yourself; rule and defend me;
Restrain and conquer your and my enemies!
In Jesus name, Amen.


Notes

“Lord of the Rings: Backstory” podcast, accessed from https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/inklings-of-god

Muehlenberg, Bill. (2014). “The Grievous Sin of Autonomy” [blog post, 10 April 2014] accessed 9 June 2018 from https://billmuehlenberg.com/2014/04/10/the-grievous-sin-of-autonomy/

Sproul, R. C. (2006). “Christian Loses His Burden” from Tabletalk Magazine accessed 9 May 2018 from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/christian-loses-his-burden/

Sproul, R. C. (2018). If There’s a God, Why Are There Atheists? [new edition] accessed 9 June 2018 from https://www.ligonier.org/blog/new-edition-rc-sprouls-classic-book-if-theres-god-why-are-there-atheists/

Thayer. Accessed from https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/

WSC question 26. Accessed May 24, 2018 from http://www.reformed.org/documents/wsc/index.html?_top= http://www.reformed.org/documents/WSC.html

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved