Sunday, January 8, 2012

King of Kings and Lord of Lords: A Message for Epiphany

Text: Revelation 19

This morning we celebrated Epiphany, the arrival of the three wise men to honor the Christ-child as King of the Jews.  Their presents, their presence, and their posture suggest they recognized Jesus as King of Kings.

Our image of Christ determines our conception of the gospel.  Who we believe Him to be sets the limits of what we understand Him to do and the nature of our desired relationship with Him. Our image of Him determines how we approach Him, what we give Him, and how we represent Him to the world.
Modern Evangelicalism has painted a portrait of a comfortable Jesus; He’s a “Palmolive” savior, gently removing the stains of sin while softening the wrinkling effects of our transgressions.  This Jesus is passive, too gentile to do battle and too "good" to even confront evil.  His power is derived from His goodness, that is, good will always win in the end. It is His goodness that has power, not his person.

This Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible. Yes, our Savior is gentle and kind. He invites all to come and dine at His table, to lie at His bosom. He is the lamb slain from the foundation of the World. But He is also King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Revelation 19 reveals Him to be the great warrior king, riding on a white horse, with eyes like flames of fire, a robe dipped in blood, and a sharp sword coming out of His mouth; He is leading an army and fully engaged in battle with His enemies.  He is powerful and good and His good conquers evil; it doesn’t just wait it out.
When Christ conquers evil it is a gruesome scene. Death dies violently. The gospel bears witness not just to the goodness of Christ, but to His sovereignty and His power. His reign over His creation comes at a great price.  With violence He defeats His enemies, for His enemies are violent.  The wages of sin are death and only through death can life be restored. This is the gospel, He suffered, died, was burried, and rose again having conquered death, hell and the grave. But the battle rages on until that great and final day of our deliverance.

There is an alternative, reactionary image of Jesus that has emerged within Evangelicalism in recent years, the smack-down Jesus. This image attempts to recapture the portrait of a warrior King. But this contemporary Jesus is molded around a faulty perception of masculinity. He is always looking for a fight, finding someone to slap around. Domination (not dominion) is His mode of operation. This Jesus is void of a love that woos persons into the presence of God. He desires followers who emulate this aggressiveness, especially male followers.  The central problem with this anthropomorphic Christ is that His goodness is a derivative of His power. He must force His reign on others.

We must understand that the violence of Christ is focused on sin and not on His creation. Creation is caught up in His judgment not because of its limitations (i.e., it is not good enough to please Him) but rather because it is the harbinger and shelter for sin. In short, Jesus is not a bully; He is righteous judge.

Christ is not good because He is powerful and He is not powerful because He is good. He is sovereign God who by very nature is good, righteous, and powerful. He is our deliverer; having purchased us out of sin, He is now the guarantor of our final victory. We shall share in His goodness, righteousness, and power. In deed, the Holy Spirit is in us the present reality of our final destiny.

The work of Christ was not finished at calvary; it was/is guaranteed by calvary. He continues to intercede and do battle on our half until all things are brought under subjection and are placed at the feet of the Father. Yes, we are forgiven but salvation is infinitely more than forgiveness. In Christ, we are a new order of creation. In this new creation, Christ, in his sovereign love, rules and reigns in righteousness.  His work continues until all things are made new.

This is the gospel, by grace we can die to sin and live in the reign of Christ. The alternative is to rebelliously hold on to our sins and reap eternal death. Popular Christianity errs when it suggests people can know Christ as Savior and not as Lord as if His Lordship was an option. He will not be our Savior without being our Lord.  We cannot know Him as Savior from sin without knowing Him as conqueror of sin. The greatness of His power to give eternal life is evidenced by the greatness of the power required to destroy sin. All of creation will one day acknowledge Him as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Those who know Him as Lord and Savior will in Him and with Him reign for all time. 

Let us never separate the joy, peace, and comfort of our salvation from the cost of being His disciple. We are called to take up our cross and follow Him. This is a call to live and to die as soilders of the cross. We wait for His return not to take us out of this world but to conquer His enemies and reclaim His creation.  

And so we pray, come quickly Lord Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, righteous in all your ways.  Rule over us now and forever more.

3 comments:

Paelaj said...

I really like this. I plan on sharing it for devotion in my online classes at Lee University.

Jackie Johns said...

Phil,
Thanks for the comment and if you think about it please drop me a line about student response.
Jackie

jessica said...

hello pastor jackie . i loved that i had to read this for my online classes . i really miss you guys at the church . hopefully ill get to visit soon .
love jessica ratliff