Standing in the Midst of Converging Forces – 3.24.2013 (Zechariah 9:9-17 Luke 19:28-48)

Posted by: on Mar 24, 2013 in Sermon Notes | No Comments

 

Luke 19:28-48

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you.

And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.

 

A number of years ago there was a movie titled The Perfect Storm—I remember coming across it on TV once at the point where it was depicting a fishing boat being assaulted by this horrible storm. The movie was based on a book about an actual storm in the North Atlantic in which a fishing boat, the Andrea Gail, had been caught and destroyed.

The actual storm was the result of a remarkable convergence of weather patterns. A cold front was moving along the U.S. Canadian border. At the same time a large high pressure system was building over southeastern Canada’s Maritime Provinces. As these two systems came together the incoming low pressure system was greatly intensified, producing a memorable storm that the local people call the Halloween Nor’easter’. To make matters worse a hurricane from the Atlantic met these bringing a huge amount of tropical energy.

These three forces, from the west, the north, and the south converged on the Andrea Gail about 500 miles off the coast and reduced the boat to splinters.

 

Jesus also faced a “perfect storm” on Palm Sunday and through the Passion week. In the words of the New Testament historian, N. T. Wright:

First, there was the rising superpower coming in from the West. Rome had been steadily increasing in power and prominence over the previous centuries. Until thirty years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Rome had been a republic. But with Julius Caesar all that changed. His ambition, and then his assassination, threw Rome into a long, bloody civil war, from which Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian, emerged as the winner. He took the title ‘Augustus’, which meant ‘majestic’ or ‘worthy of honour’. He declared that his adopted father, Julius, had become divine; this meant that he, Augustus Octavian Caesar, was now officially ‘son of god’, ‘son of the divine Julius’. The word went round the world which Rome was quickly conquering: Good news! We have an emperor! The Son of God has become King of the world!

 

This message was sent around the Roman Empire as an “evangel”, that is, as a gospel, an official Imperial proclamation. Shortly before Jesus had been born Paulus Fabius Maximus, Proconsul of the Province of Asia had sent out another evangel or gospel about Augustus Caesar in which he decreed that the calendar was to be calculated according to the year of Augustus’ birth—in other words that history should be marked as either before Augustus Caesar or from the birth of Caesar. This gospel made some other remarkable declarations:

  • The birth of Augustus is the birth of God, and that birth begins (initiates, inaugurates) a new era—the new age of good news!
  • He has renewed the universe, saving it from destruction.
  • He is the perfect consummation of human life.
  • He is filled with virtue for the benefit of mankind.
  • He is a savior—for the present and the following generations.
  • He is making wars to cease.
  • He is creating order everywhere.

Like Julius Caesar, Augustus was divinized also after his death; therefore, Tiberius, the emperor at the time of Jesus ministry was also known officially as “the son of god” and “son of the divine Augustus.”

Therefore, when, on Monday after what we call Palm Sunday, when Jesus asked for “a coin for the tax” (Matthew 22:15-22), they gave him a denarius on which the likeness of Tiberius Caesar had been inscribed. These coins are still plentiful. On the one side is Tiberius’ likeness along with the words, “Tiberius Ceasar, son of the divine Augustus.” On the back is a likeness of Tiberius mother, Liva, with the words “high priest,” referring to him, not to her.

As it is today, the Middle East was very important to the peace of the Roman world. Caesar was highly invested in keeping the Roman Pax—peace and order–in that part of the world.

 

The second element in the “storm” in Jesus’s day centered in the expectations of the people of Israel at the time. They had God’s covenant promises, confirmed by generations of prophets, that they would be freed from their oppressors and would come into their God-given destiny, to be the people of God, not the tail, but the head of all the nations.

This expectation was never more clear than in the history of their deliverance from Pharaoh, their “exodus” from Egypt so that they could return to the land promised them. This story would be recounted in great detail in the upcoming celebration of the Passover, not only as a remembrance of the past, but as a prayer for the fulfillment of God’s promise to deliver them again and bring them into their own.

The thoughts of many of them would be centered, especially in the Passover season, on the wicked oppressor Tiberius Caesar who blasphemously called himself “the son of god” and on their hopes for the deliverer described by Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

Then the Lord will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord God will sound the trumpet and will march forth in the whirlwinds of the south.

The Lord of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour, and tread down the sling stones, and they shall drink and roar as if drunk with wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar.

On that day the Lord their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land.

For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty! Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the young women. (Zechariah 9:9-17)

 

At that specific time of the year, expectations were especially high toward God while resentment and anger were strong toward Ceasar and toward his minions who were representing Rome right there in Jerusalem and Palestine. The western wind of Rome was meeting the high pressure system of the expectations of the Jewish people.

 

However, there was a third element at work in this “storm.” That was the hurricane of God’s sovereign purpose.

Yes, God had promised to return his people to power and glory; he had promised to establish is kingdom on earth as in heaven. However, his purpose for Israel was never solely for Israel. The Offspring of Abraham was to be a blessing to all nations. The savior (deliverer) of Israel was to be the savior of all those with the faith of Abraham. The true capital of the world was never to be the earthly Jerusalem, what Paul would call Hagar, the Mount Sinai of Galatians 4.

The Offspring of Abraham came to save the true offspring of Abraham, all those with the faith of Abraham where they were of his physical lineage or not. He came to make of the two, Jew and Gentile, one new mankind, as they were joined in one body in him (Ephesian 2:11-22), joined in to one household to be the one temple in which God himself would dwell. The true capital of the world was to be the free woman, Sarah, who is the Jerusalem from above, the church (Galatians 4:21-31; Hebrews 12:18-24; Revelation 21:1-10).

Jesus came, not to fulfill the expectations of the Jewish people, but to bring forth the purpose of God. He came to bring God’s people into power and glory, but it was power and glory of a completely different kind. It was the power of the Holy Spirit, not military might. It was the glory of offering himself to death in order to be resurrected, thereby bringing “many sons to glory” with him.

 

The day of Israel’s visitation had come. Jesus had come to them embodying the rescuing, redeeming love of God. As Wright put it,

This is the moment, and you were looking the other way. Your dreams of national liberation, leading you into head-on confrontation with Rome, were not God’s dreams. God called Israel so that through Israel he might redeem the world; but Israel itself needs redeeming as well. Hence God comes to Israel riding on a donkey, in fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming peaceful kingdom, announcing judgment on the system and the city that have turned their vocation in upon themselves, and going off to take the weight of the world’s evil and hostility onto himself, so that by dying under it he might exhaust its power.

 

This week as we remember again our Lord’s last encounters and the actions that led up to his arrest, trial, crucifixion, death and resurrection, let us be aware of the moment that he was in. In order for the hurricane of God’s purpose to be fulfilled, Jesus faced the cruelty of the pagan empire and the self-centered aspirations of those who claimed to be the people of God and the center of his kingship. Jesus surrendered himself in order to fulfill the will of the Father in the face of the converging forces.

Later the apostles and the other disciples would also offer themselves as living sacrifices; for they did not “loved not their lives even unto death.” In the face of deadly opposition from both Jews and the Romans, that first generation of Jesus’ followers proclaimed the evangel, the good news, about the kingdom of God.

  • They claimed to have THE evangel, the true gospel, direct from the throne of heaven and earth.
  • They claimed that the age of restoration and renewal had begun, not with Caesar’s birth, but with the birth of King Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.
  • They attributed the first announcement of the euangelion to a heavenly evangelist:

 

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news [evangel] of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:9-14)

  • They claimed that Jesus, the eternal Logos, is the Creator of the world.
  • They claimed that Jesus has divine authority over disease, over deformity, over nature and over death.
  • They claimed that Jesus teaches with divine authority.
  • They claimed that Jesus overcame all the principalities and powers through his death on the cross—that he triumphed over them and displayed them as captives in a triumphal victory parade.
  • They claimed that Jesus is proven to be God by His resurrection from the dead.
  • They claimed that Jesus has already taken his seat on the throne of the universe—that He is now the rightful Lord over all kings, and nations and peoples.
  • They claimed that King Jesus is calling all men to repent and to submit to His authority.
  • They claimed that Jesus is the Savior of all who confess that He is the Messiah (Christ), the King, the Lord of heaven and of earth.
  • They claimed that Jesus’ government and the order and peace it produces will increase without end.
  • They claimed that Jesus’ reign will consummate in the resurrection of all men to judgment and in the liberation and re-creation of created matter.

Where are we today on this Palm Sunday? Are we facing another “perfect storm”? Will we be faithful to live and proclaim the good news about the King and his kingdom in our generations, not matter what we may face?

Today we appear to be on collision course in one area after another.

  • Islam against Israel. Islam against the once “Christian” West. Muslim against Muslim.
  • An inflated, materialistic lifestyle that most have come to see as their right, not as their privilege, in the face of economic forces that are forcing reality upon us.
  • The god of secularistic freedom—the right to do whatever I want—opposed to the God who created and saves men to be free to do what is right.
  • The god of tolerance—the right of every one to believe and do whatever he or she wants without consequence and without criticism—versus the God who says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

 

Then there are our own aspirations and expectations. Are we more committed to our own visions and desires for life than we are surrendered to the will of God who, as he did Peter of old, often leads us where we don’t want to go.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go. (John 21:18)

In one way or another, we all have faced, or will face, that time when our hopes and dreams crash against the purpose and the ways of God. We will face times when, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we say, “We had hoped… but now it’s all gone wrong.”

Who knows what might happen in our day if one of us – if ten of us – if fifty of us – were to go through this week of the Passion praying humbly for the powerful fresh wind of God to blow into the present combination of cultural pressure and personal aspiration, so that we may share in the sufferings of the Messiah and come through into the new life he longs to give us?

 

Who knows what God’s power and God’s glory will look like when they are seen in this day and this time.

If the Son of God is now King of the world, what will his kingdom look like in this next generation?

He is indeed now King of the world! Therefore, how will we posture ourselves before him for this time in history and for our generations?

 

It’s Election Time Again

Posted by: on Sep 24, 2012 in Sermon Notes | No Comments
It’s Election Time Again

September 23, 2012

Introduction

Here we are in another season of election ads. Election ads in general frustrate (and even anger) me most of the time. Most of these ads seek to create a desired image of the candidate, hoping to appeal to the greatest number of people while destroying the image of the the opponent even it means using deception and misrepresentation. Very rarely, it seems, does an ad actually present a substantive statement of a candidate’s actual position.

The ads produced by the political parties and the PACs are often even worse. All too often they seek to feed peoples’ fear rather than to present any kind of statement that would help a person understand a position so that he or she can come to a reasonable conclusion.

You may have noticed that that this past Monday was the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U. S. Constitution on September 17, 1787.

An examination of the direction in which our nation has moved over the past decades, at least since Franklin Roosevelt was elected, shows that we have consistently drifted from the plain statements and intent of the Constitution and from the framework of belief which most of the founders held in common. That drift has been almost totally in a consistent direction—in weakening and rejecting the intellectual and moral foundation that guided those founders when they were producing the Constitution. A few quotations that I shared in a message on July 3, 2011 will suffice to indicate some of that drift.

A few comments from the United States’ founding fathers on freedom and liberty

“(T)he foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; …the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be
expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained…”
George Washington, First Inaugural, April 30 1789

“Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
John Adams

“Political interest [can] never be separated in the long run from moral right”
“Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a
conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are a gift from God?”
Thomas Jefferson

“The citizens of the U.S. are responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a
political society.” …”We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for
self-government.”
James Madison

American presidents on the Bible

“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible”
George Washington

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization not on the power of government … not in the Constitution… (but) upon the capacity of each and every
one of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.”
James Madison

“That book, sir, is the rock on which our republic rests.”

“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book. But for it we could
not know right from wrong” …”It is the duty of nations as well as men to recognize the truth announced in Holy Scripture and proven by all of history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

Abraham Lincoln

“The government of a country never gets ahead of the religion of a country. There is no way by which we can substitute the authority of the law for the virtues
of men” …”The foundation of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these
teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.” Calvin Coolidge

It is clear to any honest student of history and observer of our society, in terms of our moral
foundation, our laws, our economic policy, our educational philosophy and content, that the
people and the government of the United States are deliberately rejecting God’s revelation in
Scripture. As a nation we have the general movement of mankind and nations in relation to the
kingdom (government, ruling) of God as given in Psalm 2, a clear and succinct Biblical summary
of mankind’s rebellious history.

ESV

Why do the nations rage1
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King

Andrew Jackson

Acts 4:25, 26

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2

on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.2
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron3
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.4
Kiss the Son,5
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The Message

Why the big noise, nations?
Why the mean plots, peoples?
Earth-leaders push for position,
Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks,
The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers:
“Let’s get free of God!
Cast loose from Messiah!”
Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing.
At first he’s amused at their presumption;
Then he gets good and angry.
Furiously, he shuts them up:
“Don’t you know there’s a King in Zion? A coronation banquet
Is spread for him on the holy summit.”

Let me tell you what God said next.
He said, “You’re my son,
And today is your birthday.
What do you want? Name it:
Nations as a present? continents as a prize?

2

Romans 1:4; Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5
Revelation 2:27, 12:5, 19:15,
4 Hebrews 12:28; See also Philippians 2:12, 4:4
5 John 5:23

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You can command them all to dance for you,
Or throw them out with tomorrow’s trash.”

So, rebel-kings, use your heads;
Upstart-judges, learn your lesson:
Worship God in adoring embrace,
Celebrate in trembling awe. Kiss Messiah!
Your very lives are in danger, you know;
His anger is about to explode,
But if you make a run for God—you won’t regret it!
We need to understand that our nation CANNOT endure as the free country it has been if we
continue “rebuilding” our lives, our social (dis)order and political system on secularism and
pluralism.

The central message of biblical Christianity is the possibility of men and
women approaching God through the work of Christ. But the message also has
secondary results, among them the unusual and wide freedoms which biblical
Christianity gave to countries where it supplied the consensus. When these
freedoms are separated from the Christian base, however, they become a force
of destruction leading to chaos. When this happens, as it has today, then, to
quote Eric Hoffer (1902–), “When freedom destroys order, the yearning for order
will destroy freedom.”

At that point the words left or right will make no difference. They are
only two roads to the same end. There is no difference between an
authoritarian government from the right or the left: the results are the
same. An elite, an authoritarianism as such, will gradually force form on society
so that it will not go on to chaos. And most people will accept it—from the desire
for personal peace and affluence, from apathy, and from the yearning for order to
assure the functioning of some political system, business, and the affairs of daily
life. That is just what Rome did with Caesar Augustus. (Francis Schaeffer, How
Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought And
Culture, Crossway, 1976, p 245.)

Without the responsibility and restraint of self-government under God—that is, people whose
character is developed according to the Bible’s instruction
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be
complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
—a nation cannot continue allowing the freedoms that our forefathers sought to establish and
protect.

All we have to do is consider what happens when civil government, whether local, state, or
federal, is forced to cut spending and balance the budget. The majority of us say that we are
for less government spending and will support balancing the budget UNTIL the cuts threaten a

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benefit we have come to depend on. Cut everything… but don’t cut that!

Where am I going with this? Well, I’m certainly not going to tell you how to vote. I do believe it is
important that we vote!

We may well find ourselves asking, if neither the Republican right or the Democratic left (and
certainly not the moderates in the middle) are going to significantly change things for the
better, and if no one else has a real chance to win, then why vote at all? I think we need to
vote simply because God has placed us in a nation in which the citizens have the constitutional
responsibility to vote.

Our constitution begins, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect
Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote
the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do
ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
God has placed us in a nation in which, as President Abraham Lincoln put it, the government is
to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”6

If we the people don’t vote, then we have no reasonable right to critique the government that is
to represent.

We also need to vote because we are first of all citizens of the kingdom of God. We are
the “ecclesia”, an assembly of citizens called out to represent God’s government here on
earth. Our votes, like our prayers and proclamations, should not represent our own ideas and
preferences, but, to the best of our ability and understanding, should represent and promote
doing God’s will here on earth as it is done in heaven.

God — THE SOVEREIGN KING over all the nations and people groups

Ultimately, the Bible is clear: it is God who decides who will govern.

For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another. (Psalm 75:6-7 ESV)

Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding…
(Daniel 2:20-21 ESV)

6

Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.

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This truth was revealed clearly to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who gradually came to a
great understanding about who God is and who he was. He said,

The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and
Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this
mystery.” (Daniel 2:47 ESV)

Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants,
who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their
bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I
make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the
God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their
houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”
(Daniel 3:28-29 ESV)

King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the
earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs
and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.
How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and his dominion endures from generation to generation.
(Daniel 4:1-3 ESV)

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to
me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and
splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my
kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol
and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who
walk in pride he is able to humble. (Daniel 4:34-37 ESV)

Years ago I heard Brother Charles Simpson say, “God blesses or afflicts us with leaders
according to our need.”

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Why is it that the worse earthly governments tend to bring out the best in God’s people?
Consider the courage of the disciples and the spread of the faith under pagan Roman during
the first few centuries of church history. Consider the courage of disciples and the spread of the
faith under the Communist government of China.

What kind of leaders and what kind of government do we need to “encourage” us to become
courageous and dedicated disciples who live and who spread true Biblical faith and practice in
our culture?

How shall we respond in light of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility?

Here are some final Scriptural realities for us to consider.

1. We are first citizens of an eternal kingdom, and the United States as well as other nations
has a beginning and will have an end.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and
earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands,
as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and
breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind
to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the
boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel
their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like
gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people
everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the
world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has
given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-31 ESV)

2. Cities and nations as well as individuals will be judged by King Jesus.

And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there
until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let
your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And
if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from
your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more
bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for
that town. (Matthew 10:11-15 ESV)

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“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 people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from
the goats. (Matthew 25:31-32 ESV)

Hasten and come,
all you surrounding nations,
and gather yourselves there.
Bring down your warriors, O LORD.
Let the nations stir themselves up
and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
for there I will sit to judge
all the surrounding nations. (Joel 3:11-12 ESV)

(See also Psalm 2:8-12; 96:13; 98:9; 110:6; Isa 2:4; 3:13; Micah 4:3)

3. It is not to the United States or to any other earthly government that we should looking for
government and for help.

For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver;
the LORD is our king; he will save us. (Isaiah 33:22 ESV)

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
and rely on horses,
who trust in chariots because they are many
and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel
or consult the LORD!
And yet he is wise and brings disaster;
he does not call back his words,
but will arise against the house of the evildoers
and against the helpers of those who work iniquity.
The Egyptians are man, and not God,
and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.
When the LORD stretches out his hand,
the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall,
and they will all perish together. (Isaiah 31:1-3 ESV)

The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,
and he will be the stability of your times,
abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure. (Isaiah 33:5-6 ESV)

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4. Since we live in a nation where there are now many people of differing ethnic backgrounds
and religious faith, should we expect our nation to acknowledge the God of the Bible and Jesus
our Lord? Don’t we need to tolerate all? We can’t expect everyone to acknowledge our God and
Lord, can we?

“Tolerate” in the sense of allowing people to make their own choices and thus deal with their
own consequences… yes.

“Tolerate” in the politically correct sense of pretending that there is no true God and no Truth
and that no one is right or wrong in what them believe or do…no way.

And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned
with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for
the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I
proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined
Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the
leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the
rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of
Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find
them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities,
shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here
also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees
of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city
authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. (Acts 17:2-8 ESV)

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people
everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the
world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has
given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31 ESV)

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Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted! (Psalm 47:6-9 ESV)

For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:3 ESV)

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5. Our nation needs God’s law because the nation and it’s people will face judgment under the
law.

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:2-4 ESV)

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law. (Isaiah 42:1-4 ESV)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has
been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the
end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

• Aren’t we the means through whom Jesus is bringing his word of justice and his ways of

righteousness to the nations? Aren’t we the means through whom God is working to make the
nations Jesus’ footstool? (Psalm 110:1; Acts 2:34-35; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:22;

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Hebrews 2:8f; 1 Peter 3:22 Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42,43)

6. Wouldn’t we be discriminating if we expected our nation’s laws to be based on God’s law?

Yes… and we should be using the law to discriminate.

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this,
that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for
the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their
fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice
homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound
doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with
which I have been entrusted. (1 Timothy 1:8-11 ESV)

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been
for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to
covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity
through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart
from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the
commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that
promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through
the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and
the commandment is holy and righteous and good. (Romans 7:7-12 ESV)

But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in
Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the
coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian [‘paidagogos‘
—tutor] until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
(Galatians 3:22-24 ESV)

• If the law is God’s gift to reveal rebellion in the rebels so that they will see their need of

Jesus the Lord and Savior, then how dare we not seek to see every nation where God
gives us influence base its on God’s law?

Commitment

Posted by: on Jan 20, 2012 in Sermon Notes | No Comments

Our Commitment to God’s Call:
The Covenant Ideal of Winchester Covenant Church

The goals behind the presentation of this document:
• to clarify the agreements which bind us together as a people of God so that we can be more deliberate in our living and more productive in our mission;
• to enable us to more effectively impart our values and our call both to our children and also to others whom God adds to us;
• to provide a tool which can serve us when we need to evaluate and prioritize opportunities and when we need to assess our progress.

In truth our covenant is the New Covenant established through the blood of Jesus and held in common with all who are in Christ. We have prepared this document in the spirit of the examples of covenant revivals recorded in the Bible*. In like manner we affirm our response to the Holy Spirit who has enlightened us and has called us to commit ourselves to living the life of the New Covenant.

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Both as individuals and as families, God has called us and has joined us together into the people known as Winchester Covenant Church** in order that we may learn to know and to love God more fully according to the New Covenant in Christ Jesus. We are seeking to learn God’s way of life and to reorder our lives according to his pattern. It is both our calling and our desire to expand God’s kingdom through the testimony of our lives of service and our words of truth.

Our ability to fulfill God’s call rests in the power of God, not in ourselves. We, by grace through faith, have confessed Jesus as Lord, and have believed that God has raised him from the dead. We have been reborn; we are new creatures in Christ. God the Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, has made us alive in Christ. The Holy Spirit is transforming our lives; he is producing God’s character in us; and he is empowering us to obey God.

Above all, as God has commanded, we covenant to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. In like manner we commit ourselves to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

We confess that the love to which we have been called requires action and is related first to our behavior and attitudes, and only secondarily to our feelings. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16)

Introductory Perspective: God calls us to live in covenant; therefore, we live in covenant in response to God’s initiative, not our own.

1. God calls us into a covenant relationship with himself and he enables us to share in the “covenant life” of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
2. As we live in union with God we are joined to him, indwelt by him, and empowered by him so that he graciously fulfills the covenant through us as we continually offer ourselves to him.
3. We are called to covenant life with a tangible community of people, a local manifestation of Christ’s body, the church. Covenant is more than an individual relationship with God.
4. Our ability to keep covenant is only as strong as our individual responses to the living God. We can and should call one another up to fulfill our covenant commitments, but, when all is said and done, it is only by staying in a vital union with God that we will endure to the end and keep on growing in “covenant life.”
5. The life of covenant is an ideal toward which we are to strive in the power of the Holy Spirit. The covenant was fully lived and fulfilled only by Jesus of Nazareth. The rest of us are at various stages in the process of being transformed into the glory of His image. We continue to encourage and admonish one another to keep growing, understanding that none of us is completely transformed.

Exodus 19:4-6
1 Peter 2:9-10
Galatians 3:13-29
Ephesians 2:11-18
Hebrews 8:6
1 Corinthians 1:30-31
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Philippians 2:12-13
Hebrews 13:20-22

We covenant to express our love for God and for our neighbor and for one another in the following attitudes and actions:

We covenant to be a worshipping people.

• We will worship God our King by obeying him, by praising him, by thanking him, and by adoring him.

John 4:23-24
Exodus 23:24-25
Psalms 95-100
Psalms 145-150
Matthew 4:10 (Deuteronomy 6:12-13)
Romans 12:1-2
Philippians 3:3
Hebrews 12:28
Revelation 14:6-7

We covenant to be a humble people.

• We will humble ourselves by denying ourselves, as Jesus requires, putting the interests of God and others before our own. We will seek to live as those who have been crucified with Christ. Though we have become the bearers of glorious treasure, we recognize that we are earthen vessels made for the pleasure and service of God.

Isaiah 57:15
Matthew 5:3
Mark 8:34-35
Luke 14:26-33
Philippians 2:5-9
1 Peter 5:5-7 (Proverbs 3:34)
Galatians 2:20
Colossians 3:1-17
Romans 6
2 Corinthians 4:1-12
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Revelation 4:11

We covenant to be a serving people.

• Like all human beings, we were created servants to do the will of God. It is our privilege, as those who have been reborn in Christ, to become fully human by becoming servants in all that we do and say. It is our goal to serve using all the gifts and resources which God has entrusted to us.

• We recognize that in order to be true to our call, every person must contribute what he or she has to the common life and mission we share. In God’s community there are no little people. We accept our call to be a priesthood—to represent God to one another and to our neighbors by our lives and with our words, and to represent one another and our neighbors to God in petitions and intercessory prayers.

Philippians 2:1-8
Revelation 4:11
Matthew 20:25-28
Galatians 6:6-10
1 Peter 4:8-11
Romans 12
1 Corinthians 12, 14
Ephesians 4:11-16
1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-11
1 Timothy 2:1-3

We covenant to be servant-rulers.

• We were created to serve God by exercising dominion, that is by serving as his stewards on the earth. Through Jesus Christ we have received grace and the gift of righteousness so that we may reign in life. By means of this grace we will work to master sin, to rule over our own individual lives and families, and to extend the rule of God in the spheres to which each has been assigned. Together through our corporate praise, worship, and intercession we will extend God’s rule even over principalities and powers. As sons of the King, we accept our call to accept the process and the discipline by which our Father is bringing us to maturity, in order that he may entrust us with authority and power as co-rulers in Christ over his kingdom.

Philippians 2:7
Genesis 1:26-28
Psalm 8:4-8
Matthew 28:18-20
Romans 5:17
Genesis 18:19
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Ephesians 5:22-6.4
Colossians 3:18-21
2 Corinthians 10:13-15
Psalm 149:6-8
Ephesians 6:10-20
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
Acts 26:17-18
1 Peter 2:9
1 Timothy 2:1-3

We covenant to be a faithful people.

• “… without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)

• We will seek to obey and to trust God in every thing. In the strength given by the Holy Spirit we will persevere in obedience and endure hardship with courage and joy. We promise to be loyal to our God and King and to one another. We commit to be accountable to one another, to receive and to give instruction, correction, exhortation, encouragement and admonishment in order that we may be disciples who, in every way, become like Jesus our Master.

Luke 16:10-13
Proverbs 28:20
Ephesians 1:1
Colossians 1:2
Revelation 2:10
Revelation 14:12-13
Revelation 17:14
Matthew 24:25-27
Matthew 25:14.30
Luke 19:12-27
Ephesians 5:21
Ephesians 4:25-32
Colossians 3:12.17
2 Timothy 2:1-4
2 Timothy 3:16-4.2
2 Corinthians 3:18

We covenant to be a people of peace.

• As far as it is in our power to do so, we will live peaceably with our neighbors as well as with one another. We will seek to be just and righteous in all relationships. We will honor the authorities whom God has established in each sphere of life and submit to them as representatives of the Lord.

Matthew 5:9
Hebrews 12:14
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
1 Timothy 2:1-3
Romans 13:1-7
1 Peter 2:11-3.12
Hebrews 13:7, 17
I Thessalonians 5:12-15
Ephesians 5:22-6.9
Colossians 3:18-4.1

We covenant to be a people who live in community.

• God, (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is “community” within himself, and he is our model for life and ministry. We have been called into personal and intimate fellowship with God and with one another. We will fully participate in the activities, the celebrations and the gatherings of this community of faith because we share a common life. We will care for one another through prayer and fellowship, but also through practical service and sharing our material goods.

John 10:30
John 14:23.26
John 16:13-15
John 17:20-26
John 15:1-13
2 Corinthians 13:11-14
1 John 1:1-7
Acts 2:42-47
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
2 Corinthians 8:1-15

We covenant to be a people who share the good news of God’s Kingdom.

• We have been given the word and the ministry of reconciliation. We will love, serve, pray, and share the good news of Christ’s kingdom with our unchurched family members, friends, and neighbors. We will do all that is in our power to invite them, and to call them, into a relationship with God through Christ Jesus and through his body, the church.

Matthew 28:18-20
Mark 16:15
Luke 24:44-49
John 20:19-23
Acts 1:8
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
Philippians 2:14-16a
Romans 1:16-17

We covenant to be a mission-oriented people.

• We have been called to participate in the eternal purpose and in the present mission of God our Father and our King. We will live as change-agents for God. We will seek to make disciples of the King and, working together in a mutual relation of love, we will seek to further God’s purposes in every sphere of life and in every locality where God gives us influence and responsibility.

Genesis 12:1-3
Genesis 22:15-18
Galatians 3:26-29
Psalm 2:7-8
Matthew 28:18-20
Acts 1:8
Isaiah 2:2-4
Romans 1:5
Romans 16:25-27
Ephesians 2:10
Philippians 3:12

We are not our own. We belong to God and to one another. By God’s grace and by the power of his Holy Spirit, we have entered the New Covenant in Christ, and by his grace and the power of his Holy Spirit we will honor and keep it.

*See 2 Kings 11:12, 17 (2 Chronicles 23), 2 Kings 23:1-3 (2 Chronicles 34), 2 Chronicles 15:12, 2 Chronicles 29 (see v. 10), Ezra 10:1-5, and Nehemiah 10.

**Winchester Covenant Church is a member of a network of churches and ministries, Kingdom Ministries International (KMI). The KMI website is http://www.kmintl.org/