The Hope of Glory

Romans 5.1-11

By believing in Jesus, we are justified…declared righteous…before God. Our debt has been paid in full. God’s wrath completely satisfied, so that we now have peace with God having been reconciled to Him. Our hope is secure. Our boasting then, is not in ourselves, but in God. We even boast in the things that bring us closer to Him like our tribulations.

Peter says this in 1 Peter 4, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4.12-13).

Suffering for the faith, part of the category Paul calls tribulations, is a predictable outcome when you choose to follow Jesus. I love that Peter says, “Don’t be surprised.” Why might he say that? Because I think that often we are surprised when tribulation comes. That somehow it catches us off guard. We forget that we are swimming against the current…living in hostile territory…behind enemy lines. That this world is not our home. And we find ourselves reacting…and often negatively…to our circumstances. Instead of seeing tribulation as a tool that God is using to strengthen and purify my faith…to make me more like Jesus and bring me closer to Him, I mostly see it, at best, as an annoyance and, at worst, some kind of proof that God is against me.

But what if we looked at our tribulations as reasons for exulting…for boasting? What if we saw them as opportunities to grow closer to God? To learn perseverance and deepen our character? What if we saw this time of quarantine as a reason to rejoice? What if we began to look at what God is doing in the midst of it? How He’s purifying and strengthening our faith? How He’s deepening our character? How He’s making us more like Jesus?

Tribulations can fortify the hope that we have if we will let them. If in the midst of them we run to God instead of away from Him. It’s then that we experience more and more His love overflowing in our hearts. If we will run to Him. If we will trust that He desires our good. Look at all He did to be reconciled to us when we were His enemies. How much more will He do now that we are His heirs…His sons and daughters?

pro rege

This post is based on a sermon from our Romans series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Reclaiming the Kingdom Part 2

Daniel 7.19-28

Why does God give Daniel this revelation? Although he lives through the first beast (Babylon) and into the time of the second beast (Medo-Persia), he would not be around to see the fulfillment of the majority of the prophecy. How would an ancient Israelite have received it? Remember that Daniel is writing during a time when Israel is under the rule of foreign powers. Folks have started to return to Jerusalem. The walls and the temple will soon be rebuilt, but they will still be under the rule of the nations. They would not know the world that their fathers had known. They would not see Israel fulfilling her Abrahamic destiny of being the blesser of the nations. Instead they would only know life under foreign occupation and rule. And Daniel writes somehow to encourage them…to encourage them not to give up or to give in because God wins.

But how would this be an encouragement to folks who had no hope of life returning to “normal”? Daniel gives us two perspectives of reality in this chapter: one earthly and one heavenly. From the earthly perspective, there is apparent chaos as the sea (picture of the nations) is stirred up and one kingdom after another arises only to be conquered by the next successive kingdom. And each kingdom will be opposed to God, so if you are one of the saints, it will look like you are on the losing side, especially during the time of the fourth beast. In Genesis 3.15 God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed…”

From the heavenly perspective, God is in complete control. The Ancient of Days is seated on His fiery throne. His sovereignty is unquestioned. The beasts may roam the earth, but they are subject to God. Their dominion is a delegated dominion. And there’s coming a time when heaven and earth will once again be reunited, the kingdoms of this world will be judged and an eternal kingdom will be set up. In the end, the saints’ victory will be manifest. History is moving toward a climax in which good triumphs over evil. And the book ends with the hope of the resurrection (12.13).

The hope of the ancient Israelite was resurrection (12.2-3). It wasn’t a comfortable family-life. It wasn’t a good job. It wasn’t even a return to Jerusalem. It was the resurrection where they would receive their share in the eternal kingdom, where they would walk its streets and serve its King. Daniel’s encouragement was to live life today as citizens of the eternal kingdom. If they focused on their present circumstances, it sure wouldn’t have looked like they were on the winning side. But if they looked beyond their circumstances, Daniel gave them glimpses of God winning – seeing Him praised and His sovereignty acknowledged by the most powerful men in the world (Nebuchadnezzar and Darius); and the boys’ willingness to face death in the fiery furnace and the lions’ den rather then compromise their faith.

Today we find ourselves under the dominion of the fourth beast. We are living in a world that devours and tramples, that overpowers and wears down the saints. We are living in a world that is venomously hostile not only toward God, but also toward His followers. A world in which violence is king…just look at the top rated video games, the top grossing movies, the sporting events we pay extra to see. Not unlike Ancient Rome. In Genesis 6, it was because of the violence of man that had greatly increased on the earth that God finally said, “Enough is enough” and sent the flood. Each successive kingdom has been more violent than the one before, and so we should expect to experience the trampling down and the devouring. We should expect to be attacked and persecuted.

Daniel’s encouragement to us is not to place our hope in the things of this world, the present earthly kingdom in which we find ourselves. Our hope is not in a better job with better benefits, or reconciled relationships, or the right education for my kids. It’s not the American Dream. Our hope is in the resurrection…where we will walk the streets of the eternal kingdom, where we will serve our King. Daniel’s encouragement to us is the same as was his encouragement to the ancient Israelites: live your life as a citizen of the eternal kingdom. Influence others by our uncompromising faith in God. To often we want to claim dual citizenship…living in both the earthly and heavenly kingdoms, hoping to enjoy the benefits of both. But we can only live in one of them…only one can claim our allegiance. Jesus said something about that… “No man can serve two masters for he will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” James writes, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance…” Be prepared to suffer. Persevere until the end. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. God wins.

I love the scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where our heroes, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli come to the aid of King Theoden to defend Helm’s Deep. They’ve received word that a large army of Urai-hai, a beastly army created by the wicked wizard Saruman, is on the march. With a small band of defenders, the only hope of winning, maybe better, surviving, is the mighty fortifications of the fortress itself. Then the elves show up, and it seems that our heroes might have a fighting chance. But then the enemy pours into the valley and covers it like blanket. The battle begins and our heroes seem to be holding their own until the wall is breached by an unnatural explosion. The bad guys pour in. The good guys are overwhelmed. The hope they had placed in the wall and the elves was misplaced.

Theoden, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are in the last fortified chamber with the Urai-hai crashing the door. Theoden, tempted to give up, remarks, “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” I love Aragorn’s answer, “Ride out with me. Ride out with me and meet them.” Theoden, “For death and glory…” Then Gimli says, “The sun is rising…” “Foul deeds awake. Now for wrath. Now for ruin. Now for the red dawn.” The band rides out through the sea of Urai-hai just in time to see Gandolph and the riders of Rohan coming up over the ridge. They overwhelm the bad guys below and the day is saved.

Living life in the fourth kingdom many times feels like we are on the losing side, especially as Jesus followers. It feels like the enemy is crashing the door down looking to devour us. We are often tempted to give up or give in. But remember the earthly kingdoms are temporary. They are given dominion for a short period of time. The Son of man is coming to set up an eternal kingdom that will never fail or fade. The enemy has already been defeated, though we don’t see it fully yet. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Jesus wins.

If you are not a part of His eternal kingdom today, please don’t wait. Each kingdom fell in a moment of time. This one will too. And when that moment comes, it will be too late. You can become a citizen of the eternal kingdom by trusting in its King. By believing that Jesus came and lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death and was raised again to life conquering both sin and death, the Bible says that you can become a citizen of the eternal kingdom. A son or daughter of the King. That you too would not have to give up or give in because Jesus wins!

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster