The Kingdom of God
Saturday, December 1, 2007- With Thanksgiving over and the calendar now turning to December, it is time to prepare for Christmas and celebrate the birth of the King of kings. Let me readily confess that I proudly and deservedly wear a couple of Grinch ties that my wife gave me a few years ago. In the past several years Christmas and I have had a mutual misunderstanding. Perhaps it comes from the kids growing up, working 65-70 hr weeks for 15 long years and working my shift most Christmases. All the cultural busyness of the season just wore me down over the years. I need to not dislike Christmas, and the only way I can think to begin coming out of that is to focus on the real meaning of the season while avoiding getting caught up in the cultural busyness of it all. Christmas is fundamentally all about the coming of the King, the inauguration of the Kingdom of God here on earth. This needs to be my focus.
In Isaiah 9:6-7 we read, 6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon  his shoulder,
and his name shall be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
In this prophecy we see that the child to be born will sit on David’s throne and there will be no end to his reign which, unlike the worldly reigns of man, will be based upon justice and righteousness.
In Matt.2 we find the story of the magi from the east who are seeking “…he who has been born king of the Jews”. They offer the baby Jesus gifts of royalty, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Upon the crucifixion of Jesus Pilate too announced that Jesus was king of the Jews with the sign he had affixed to the cross. Jesus’ preaching included numerous references to the coming of the Kingdom such as in Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled and the kngdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the gospel.” After his bodily resurrection he taught his disciples for a few weeks then he ascended into heaven. And Luke 24:50-52 records, “50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.” And we are also told in Hebrews 10:12-13 “12 But when Christ  had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.” Christ is in heaven now, sitting in the place of authority and honor, at the right hand of God reigning over all.
From before his birth, at his birth, to his death and ascension, to the here and now, Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, he is reigning over his kingdom. But where is his Kingdom?
Everywhere, the entire world, the whole universe. When man sinned in the garden, and before that when lucifer rebelled in heaven, a challenge to the reign of God was issued. The creation entered into open rebellion against the Creator. Death and sin have reigned and the devil has had his way in this world for a long time. But when Christ defeated death and rose from the grave all the demons including the devil quaked in their boots (hooves?). When Jesus proclaimed “It is finished!” on the cross, that was in no way a despairing cry of defeat; it was instead a bold proclamation of victory, redemption accomplished, sin atoned for, forgiveness and new life delivered. The Kingdom established once more.
Let me careful to clarify something though. There was never a time, not one nanosecond, when God was not Sovereign, when God was not reigning over all. Even in lucifer’s rebellion and Man’s fall God was in total absolute control, never once being caught off guard, surprised or out maneuvered. But with Christ the Kingdom was made visible and effective. Salvation was no longer in the future, it was here now.
So too is the Kingdom of God in the here and now. But what does that mean practically speaking for me? Back in Mark 1:15 we see that Jesus announces the Kingdom as the gospel or good news. The use of the word gospel was tied to a herald who proclaimed the news of the king, the royal news, such as a pronouncement of an imminent arrival of royalty, a great victory won, an official proclamation of some kind. It was Good News. Jesus is telling us then that the coming of the Kingdom is a good thing.
Consider what the coming Kingdom of God replaces. The devil (usurper), sin and death had been reigning, but they are being replaced. Man’s rule is always fraught with injustices and stupidity. God’s reign is just and righteous, full of love and mercy. Here is where the mirage of peace and prosperity in our day and culture lead us astray. It is very easy to look at the temporal blessings of contemporary America and assume this is all there is, this is the ultimate state of man, and to be content with the riches of this present age.
Jesus’ announcement of the Kingdom includes some action steps for those who want to enter the Kingdom- repent and believe. The announcement of the good news of the Kingdom of God demands our complete surrender, a reversal of our way of thinking and living, followed by a committed trust that results in a changed life of following the King.
To sum it all up, if I want to get back into a right understanding and spirit of Christmas, I must welcome with joy the Kingdom of God. I do that by repenting of my wanderings into the allurements of this world and committing myself to trusting and following the King of kings, even when he leads me through dark and difficult times.
“The Golden Compass”
I have seen on Fox news 3 stories in the past month describing “The Golden Compass” as a controversial movie that many think will lead children into atheism. Many ministers and ministries are calling for a boycott of the movie and there may even be protests, letter writing campaigns to sponsors, etc. This is all pretty much self-defeating and sophomoric. Let me ask you this question: what do you expect out of Hollywood? The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe was an exception. The Lord of the Rings is a rarity. But “The Golden Compass” is directed at children? And Saturday morning cartoons are not?
Last year when Dan Brown’s movie “The Da Vinci Code”, starring Tom Hanks, came out, I received a LOT of questions about the book and movie because the story presents a particular view of the Bible, the Church, Jesus, and History that is contrary to the norm. I was not the least interested in reading the book or seeing the movie, but due to the large cultural impact of the story I decided I better read it. I read the book in 3 days, could not put it down, it was a fun read. But I did see the problem with the book on the title page, Dan Brown makes a claim for the story being historical.
There were numerous books and video curriculum put out by a variety of ministries and Christian publishers that would discuss, analyze and otherwise dissect the book and movie. I read 3 of the books and my youth minister at the time, Billy Marsh, took the youth through a video curriculum and held discussions. When we were prepared we all went to the movie, had a good time, then had more discussion afterwards. All in all we were able to use this huge cultural wave to learn more about the Bible, history, hermeneutics and the gospel.
So back to the Golden Compass- if we protest and call for the movie to be banned or picketed (remember “The Last Temptation of Christ”?- what a fiasco) we only stir up a greater audience for it. I think this is a case where the Christian community ought to fearlessly do one of two things: 1) ignore it totally without causing a ruckus, or, 2) boldly go to the movie with your kids and then lead them in a discussion pointing out its good points and weaknesses. Parents ought to read the books and then biblically refute the atheism found therein.
So much of the time the Church lives in a defensive perimeter, we ghettoize ourselves, make the world think we are simpletons. When Jesus said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church he was speaking offensively, aggressively. Gates are means of defense. In order for the gates of hell to fail, we must attack, attack, attack. But do this in a loving way. Speak the truth in love. We need to engage the enemy and defeat the arguments put out by the world- then ask them out for coffee and share the gospel.
Many folk would say, “I don’t have to stick my head in a garbage can to know what garbage is.” That is true, but historians, archeologists, and CSI Forensics types learn a lot from poking around in garbage. If you want to remain “pure” and not see movies like this, that’s great. But are you watching or reading other things that are just as atheistic? Do you engage in mindless entertainment where you just allow the world’s message to penetrate into your mind without any serious questions being asked?
Clearly there are some things we should not delve into, participate in, listen to, watch or read as Christians. But I think we do the world, the gospel and ourselves a disservice if we fail to study our culture in order to find the lies, expose the evil, and point to the truth. We need a biblically sound theology of leisure and entertainment .
Here is a link to a great column by Paul Edwards at Townhall.com about The Golden Compass:
Instead of cursing the darkness let us light a torch and boldly go forward into the night for the Dawn is coming.