Christ the King

A person’s title gives him power. This can be easily be seen in the inauguration of a person to the Presidency of the United States. On Inauguration Day, the president-elect descends to the podium where he is inaugurated. He approaches the podium as just another citizen of the United States, but he departs as the most powerful person in the world, the President of the United States. He was given a title and is now to be addressed as Mr. President. We do not have to agree with his ideas, but we do have to respect him as our President. His title gives him power.

In a less formal example, two men regularly play golf together. One afternoon they go out to the course. However, this time there is a difference. One of them is the professor of a particular course; the other has just enrolled in his class. Now the student has to accept his friend as his superior who is charged with passing judgement on his mastery of the class material. The professor’s title gives him power over his friend.

When I was in the seventh grade, my friend took a rubber band and shot some lead at me. This happened during class time when we were supposed to be learning. When the lead hit my forehead, I lost my temper, and threw him to the floor. The teacher, Miss Callahan, was a tiny lady of 55 or 60 years of age. She tried to separate us, but couldn’t. In the midst of that skirmish, my elbow hit her body, and she went down on the floor.

Finally, order was restored to the classroom. Miss Callahan said to me, “Get out of this room and don’t come back again!” She was the teacher and had the power to throw me out of school.

As I was leaving the school building, I ran into the principal, Mr. Philbrook. He looked at my swollen eye and asked, “Where are you going?”

“I am going home. Miss Callahan threw me out of her class.”

Instead, Mr. Philbrook took me back to his office where I spent the remaining two days of the school year with him. As the principal, he had power over the teacher in the classroom. Titles give you power to make decisions.

It is along this line that we are thinking today. Jesus called Himself a king. He told the people that one day He would be the Lord over heaven and earth. This bothered the people in political power, so they decided to take Him to the High Priest, who felt Jesus needed to be killed. Not having the power to condemn anyone to death, the High Priest sent Jesus to Pilate.

When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, Pilate didn’t want to do anything with Him. “This is a purely religious nature; you handle it yourself.” But that was not to be, for the people wanted Him dead but lacked the authority to condemn Him to die. So Pilate was called upon to pass sentence on Jesus.

Pilate, therefore, questioned Jesus. But when Jesus said He was the King of the Jews, Pilate did not like that too well, because it could affect his whole lifestyle. If Jesus was to be a political king, what would happen to Pilate?

When Pilate had heard enough of Jesus declaring Himself the King of the Jews, he decided Jesus must be killed. (Prior to that time, Jesus had been a joke. People clothed Him like a King, laughed and taunted Him.)

Like Pilate, millions of people today also take Jesus seriously as long as He does not interfere with their lifestyle. We try to make His teachings less offensive to a non Christian world in order not to offend anyone’s personal beliefs. However, if a Christian is to remain true to the Word of God, he cannot change that Word.

For instance, a person is considering what will happen to him after he dies. He says to his pastor, “We’re all going to be saved, aren’t we?” The pastor reads to him from John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” Then the man says to his pastor, “I cannot accept that part of Christianity. Jesus Christ is love, therefore, if there is a life after death, I believe we will all be there.”

Jesus was interfering with this man’s thought pattern. He wanted to have peace with everyone, regardless of it’s cost. So he’s willing to believe there is no difference between Jesus and any other religious leaders. They all have one purpose Ð to get us to the heavenly home in our own way. However, nothing can be further from the truth.

The minute we say Jesus is the only way to Heaven, we are criticized severely. While we do have religious freedom in our country, I can never, however, as a Christian, say all religions are equal. For if we take from or add to the Scriptures, we soon have a powerless religion.

Another man has a very good friend who suddenly dies. After the funeral, a few of the man’s friends were visiting, when one of them says, “Peter is in a better place. He suffered so much.” Then each of the men says a bit about Peter. Finally, it is the evangelical Christian’s turn. He says, “Well, gentleman you will not like what I am going to tell you. I loved our friend, but he was not a believer in Jesus Christ. You assure yourself in the fact that there are all kinds of religions out there, and they are all trying to get to the same place. But Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

The Christian must remain steadfast in the teaching that there is no other way to heaven except through Him. Jesus Christ proclaimed Himself a King and the only way to heaven. We cannot chip off little parts that are offensive to our society. We need to stand up to our groups and say, “My Savior is Christ Jesus; He is my King!”

If you are one of those who is willing to accept Jesus up to a point and then no more, I hurry on to say to you, you are not yet a Christian. As a humanist, you may love Jesus, but are reluctant to call Him the King. But you must receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and your Lord Ð your only Savior in order to receive salvation.

Evangelical Christians today need to continue to be bathed in Christ Jesus. We must be willing to proclaim Him as our only King and the Lord Almighty in our life. I ask you today, friends, This Lord Jesus, who called Himself a King, is He your King? Do you love Him? Do you want Him?

Your Most Powerful Muscle

What is the most powerful muscle in your body?

In the New Testament book of James, which talks a lot about practical living out of your faith, we find in chapter 3 an answer to that question. James, who is a teacher in the church, writes to those who are eager to become leaders in the church. In it he talks a lot about the practical living out of your faith. James tells us that the most powerful muscle in our body is the tongue. It is as powerful as a rudder that controls a great ship, a bit that controls a horse, or a spark that can sets a forest ablaze. The author of the book of Proverbs points out that death and life are in the power of the tongue (18:20). It is a powerful, powerful muscle.

James tells us that how we use our tongue matters to God, especially as he addresses those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ. Speech can be a mixed blessing, for with it we can bless the Father, and with it we can curse those who are made in the likeness of Him. We can use it to praise God and tell others how wonderful He is. We can talk to God, and we can build someone up with positive encouragement. We can comfort someone by saying, “I love you, and I am here for you.” Or we can help someone by sharing the truth of Jesus Christ with them. The book of Proverbs also says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver,” and “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb. Sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

While it is true that we can do some wonderful things with our tongue, James goes to great lengths to point out to us how destructive that tongue can be as well. He describes it as a lit match in a dry forest, which can quickly turn into an out-of-control deadly fire.

We’ve all seen the deadly force of the tongue when berating others or using put-downs. Saying things like, “You are so stupid,” “You’ll never amount to anything,” or, “You can’t ever do anything right, can you?” are hurtful to others. The tongue can ruin a reputation by using character assassinations and gossiping.

A long time ago I heard the story about a man who shared an untruth about his neighbor. The word spread around his village. However, when the truth finally came out, the man was remorseful for what he had done. Not knowing what to do, he went to the village priest who gave him some strange instructions. The priest told him to place a feather on the doorstep of each person who heard the untrue story. Then he was to go back a day later, pick up the feathers, and take them to the priest.

The man did as the priest said, but when he went back the next day to pick up the feathers, nearly all them had blown away. So he went to the priest and said, “I did what you asked, but when I went back to pick up the feathers, they were all gone!”

The priest replied, “So it is with your careless words, my son. Once they are spoken, they cannot be taken back. You may ask forgiveness for what you said, but you can’t always take your words back, for the damage has already been done.”

Our tongues have a way of treating others disrespectfully as well. Some people have picked up the bad habit of profanity, a degrading form of communication. It is as if we don’t think the person we are talking with is worth the effort of being careful with our words. Profanity can be a real put down.

Finally, the tongue can also be used to lead someone astray with inaccuracies. James is telling us that half-truths in the church can ruin lives.

So we see the destructive nature of the tongue in these examples. James goes on to say that the tongue can be tough to tame. In fact, no man can tame the tongue. “For out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.” Then he stops and says, “THIS SHOULD NOT BE!” And he points out the contradiction in one’s life if this is going on. “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” Lies and inaccuracies, profanity, gossip and berating words are an absolute contradiction with our nature in in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Earlier in his letter, James writes, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (1:26). As followers of Jesus Christ, our tongue needs a bridle. If James were writing today, he’d probably be talking also about texting and emailing. How easy it is, with this communication tool that is available to us today, to be mean with our words.

I just read a story about a girl, who is now a senior in high school. As an eighth grader, she was the subject of an online rumor that she had been promiscuous. Others wanted to believe it, and she had no way to refute it. She hurt so, she wanted to kill herself. It is a tough thing to tame this tongue of ours, which can be used to praise God and build someone up, but also to do some rather deadly things in another person’s life.

So the question becomes, how can we control our communication in order to be a blessing instead a curse? Another verse in James is helpful for us as we consider this question. It is James 1:19: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Someone once said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a good reason.” It is important that we learn to be good listeners. Ask good questions, be willing to sit silently and listen to what the other person is saying. Listening can be difficult for us to do, especially when we are threatened by what the other individual might be saying, or when they have a view that is different from our own. Sometimes our defenses and our emotions get moving so fast that our ears cease to function. Suddenly those words are out of our mouths before we can even catch them, and the harm has been done.

Once we have listened, it is important to be slow to anger. Anger can be a precarious passion that is in all of us. Sometimes our anger can be caused by ego and pride when we feel threatened or put down.

Dr. Bill Hulme, a Lutheran pastor and a pastoral care professor, wrote years ago that anger is a secondary passion. It could be a reaction to fear, guilt, or hurt. Sometimes, when we feel our anger setting in, we need to just call a time-out and retire to a safe place. Then we can let out our feelings on a piece of furniture or a pillow. Even better yet, we can take it to God in prayer. Its important that we are slow to anger. Notice he doesn’t say never get angry. He says be slow to anger.

Finally, James tells us to be slow to speak. When I am in conversation with people, I sometimes have to ask myself some questions. Questions like: Is what I’m saying really true? Is what I’m preaching true to Scripture? Is it is necessary or beneficial information for the other person to hear? Is it going to help them? Do I have permission to share it, or am I breaking a confidence? And finally, Is my motivation pure in sharing this infor-mation? I think these are great questions to ask and keep us “slow to speak” (react).

I would recommend examining your own heart. Jesus one time said, “. . . what comes out of (man’s) mouth, that is what makes him Ôunclean'” (Matthew 15:11). The mouth speaks of what’s in the heart, so we need to ask ourselves, How is my heart these days? It is important for us to watch over our hearts and guard it with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.

What are you putting in your heart these days? What are you putting into your mind? What kind of language, what kind of thoughts are being put into your heart?

Finally, the most important tool to control our tongue is prayer. Pray that the Lord will stand guard over your mouth and keep watch over the door of your lips. Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to be at work in you. For we who have been following Jesus Christ, who have entrusted our lives to His care, have also been breathed into by the Holy Spirit. God desires to give us the fruit of the Spirit Ð love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control Ð for it can help turning us into people whose speech is loving, kind, and a blessing to others.

In Christ, you have been blessed to be a blessing, both with your actions and with your words. May the Lord take care of you and help you as you work to control your tongue.

Into My Heart

The life of a person who trusts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is in a state of constant change. Those who have lived with Christ for many years and do not experience many changes can have problems understanding this statement. However, our text from Luke 19 can help us.

A man of noble birth in our text had given money (ten minnas) to his servants and then went away. One of those servants invested his money and made a good return on that investment. When his master returned and asked what he had done with the minna intrusted to him, he replied, “Your minna has earned ten more.”

“Well done, my good servant!” the master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.”

The second servant showed his master how he had earned five minnas with his money. So his master blessed him with five cities.

But then came another servant who had not done anything with the money. In fact, he hid it away in a piece of cloth because he was afraid of his master, knowing he was a difficult man Ð one who expects something from nothing. So the master, angered that he did not even get interest on his investment, took the servant’s ten minna and gave it to the one who has ten. Then the master said to those who objected, “To everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them Ð bring them here and kill them in front of me.”

These are difficult words coming from our Lord Jesus Christ. However, they teach us that those who confess Jesus as their Savior will either grow in their faith, or it will be taken from them.

Some of our churches have a confirmation program where we can intellectually learn about Jesus. However, in nearly every confirmation class, some do not continue walking with Jesus in His Word. They are changing, but not according to the will of God.

Others, however, continue to grow in the Word. They come to Bible classes and worship services. They spent their leisure time with Christian friends, and their conversations are around Jesus Christ and what He has done for them. They become stronger believers. They are those who receive Jesus Christ into their heart as well as their intellect. They feed on His Word and grow in the faith. When this is your lifestyle, people notice the change by the way you live your life. You are anxious for others to hear the Word of God. Bad habits are gone Ð lying, stealing, cheating, doing anything contrary to the will of God. The heart is changed by the Savior who is living in it and their life is constant change.

It is important to remember that our salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Christ alone Ð through his suffering, death, and resurrection Ð gives us salvation. While living out life according to God’s will does not save us, if Jesus Christ is our Savior and lives in our heart, we have a longing to serve Him.

I remember hearing once about how a person had become such a great Sunday school superintendent. In the quietness of another setting, someone told me how this man had lived a reckless life as a younger man. But when he met Christ, he turned his life around and is now a delightful brother in Christ Jesus. It almost seemed as if he was working to win favor with God.

This applies also to our churches. It is good for them to raise money for poor people in their community. However, that should not be the reason churches minister for social justice, which is something service clubs can do. The mission of the Church of Jesus Christ, first and foremost, is to tell people about Jesus Christ. The true Christian, who walks with Him every day and is constantly changing, experiences the Holy Spirit nudging him to help the needy. It is important to feed on God’s Word every day in order to know what it is to live with Christ and serve Him.

We see many churches today that don’t seem to change. They have no great projects to serve Christ and make Him known. The church doors are open on Sunday morning, but little activity occurs during the week. They have few Bible studies, few discussion groups, and few places for people to go to learn more about the Christian faith.

When the church is full of people who know Christ from the heart, it will change drastically, because Christ is leading, empowering, and guiding his Church to be his spokespersons on this earth. Jesus Christ Ð the Savior of this world Ð has chosen to invade the hearts of people. Those who will keep Him there and let His Word feed their souls, will become His servants. Those servants go out and get other servants. Soon they have a church full of people who know Christ and what their true mission really is. It is not long, then, before those churches become a community in which there is no question who is their motivator. We have a marvelous opportunity in this day and age, where people think we are the ones who are feeding the hungry, but it is Jesus. Pray the leadership of our church will that the strength of God-fearing living is in the hands of Jesus.

Where does Jesus live in your life? Do you have an intellectual faith where not too much is happening, or do you have a faith that is in the heart, where Christ talks to you every day? That is our question. Don’t be the person who put the minna in a cloth and hid it in a drawer. Take your minna out and let it tell people about the Savior.

Counter Culture

Some of Jesus’ teachings can be difficult to understand. Today’s text is one of them, for if we lived by Jesus’ words, general society would question our sanity. For example, Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Do we really believe we should love our enemies? We might avoid them so we do not get into any confrontation. But Jesus tells us to love our enemies in a personal way. Do we have to love our neighbor who has irritated us from day one and made life difficult? Do we have to love him?

Jesus also tells us to do good to those who hate us and bless those who curse us. Just imagine if you had a friend who suddenly turned and cursed you, even hated you. Would you continue to treat him the same way as you always have, or would you go after him too?

If someone should strike you on the cheek, would you turn the other cheek? Imagine a young boy who comes home all bruised after a fight with a neighbor. What is the logical instruction from the father? “When that boy goes after you, give him what he has given to you!” I imagine many fathers have given that instruction when they didn’t know what to do. And it soon was over. Is the way we react when it comes to the matter of Jesus saying, “Love your neighbor . . . love your enemy . . . love those who hate you and mistreat you.” It could be considered counter culture Ð contrary to what society is teaching us to do and think. While a few may say to rise above it, most often the advice is to retaliate!

When I was growing up, two men in our town Ð Tom and Harry Ð were good friends. They both worked in a large paper mill, which one day went out on strike. Harry decided to join the strike for better wages and working conditions. Tom took the opposite position, and so it was necessary for him to cross the picket line. When Harry saw Tom cross that line, he was so angry that he said, “This is the end of our friendship!” Those two men went to the same church and were faithful in their attendance. I’m sure they often knelt at the same communion table where all things should be confessed. However, they did not take Jesus words to heart to love your enemies.

The years went by and they refused to reconcile, until one day when Tom became very ill and was dying. My mother cared for him, and one night as she was sitting by her brother’s bed, there was a knock at the door. When she answered it, she found Harry asking if he could come in. My mother answered, “By all means.” Harry immediately went to Tom’s bedside, got down on his knees, and said to Tom, “I have come here, Tom, to tell you, I am sorry. I have sinned. I have lived contrary to God’s Word, and I have confessed my sin to God. Think of all the good years we have robbed ourselves. Good years we could have enjoyed with one another. Think of all the picnics we could have had at these beautiful lakes in our state. But we lost them all because we lost love for one another.”

When Tom, who did not even have enough strength to feed himself, heard Harry’s confession, he lifted his hands, put them around Harry’s neck, and said, “I’m sorry, Harry. Will you forgive me?” Their friendship was mended. Jesus had forgiven them and they had forgiven one another. Now they, in the name of Jesus, could forgive themselves.

Do you see the value of Jesus’ words to love those who hate you? Living any other way robs oneself of good fellowship, and then that sin will be brought before the throne of grace.

One day, during Christmas week, I was visiting the home of a lady. In our course of conversation, I said to her, “Are you going to have a big Christmas at your home?”

“Yes,” she said, “I have to prepare a big Christmas Eve dinner for two of our five kids. Then, on Christmas Day, our other three kids will come.” It almost seemed like she had done this for such a long time, it didn’t have much effect on her. Everything was all right. But she continued, “The reason we have to have two dinners, is because there was an argument many years ago over the sale of some land. One of our children thought they were cheated, so he and his brother would not come with our other three boys,” even at Christmas Ð even though it caused their mother extra work. That is how deep hatred can sometimes go.

Jesus tells us in a very practical way that this is not the way to live. It is not good for brothers and sisters, church members to carry hatred in their hearts as they kneel at the communion table. Christians often are so angry with one another that they will not listen to any counsel to come back together. They waste years while on this earth and, unless they repent of it, will carry it with them when they face God in all eternity.

Now I ask you: Are you mixed up with that kind of thinking in your family or your circle of friends? Are there people with whom you will not work with simply because you hate them? Are you trying to cover it over by saying, “Well, I don’t hate them, I just don’t like their ways.”

Face the facts the way they are. If so, God is speaking to you this day asking you to let the Holy Spirit take this text and speak to your intellect and to your heart. Take this passage of scripture Ð which is counter culture, contrary to what society teaches, let it work in your heart. Then you will know what Jesus really means when he says love is powerful and can blot out all evil iniquities. Hear his Word.