“The Jesus Era has Begun”

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CNN’s homepage announced in big, bold letters on the morning of January 20th, 2017: “The Trump Era Begins.”  This Inauguration Day announcement declared to its viewers the commencement of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America.

In Mark 1:15 Jesus is seen declaring an even bigger and more shocking announcement: “The kingdom of God is at hand!”  With this statement, Jesus was proclaiming the good news that God’s absolute rule has been established and is expanding across a world that for far too long has been dominated by Satan, sin, and death.

Now, the key component of every kingdom is its king.  This figure is the head and focal point of his domain.  And God’s kingdom is no different.  At the center of the Kingdom of God is Jesus Christ and the Bible clearly identifies him as its King.  This reality is seen in 1 Timothy 6:15 where Jesus is described as “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Jesus is the King of God’s kingdom!  This good news is a central feature of the Gospel.  As this message is proclaimed and people begin to embrace Jesus’ royal identity, evil will begin to lose its foothold in this world.  Ultimately, however, Jesus gained victory over Satan, sin, and death at the cross and through his resurrection.  Hebrews 2:14b-15 declares “(Jesus) himself likewise partook of the same things, that though death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Christians are called to be Jesus’ ambassadors (See 2 Cor. 5:20).  In fulfilling this role, they too need to announce the arrival of God’s kingdom and the victory that has been gained through their King’s death and resurrection.  As they tell others this good news, they will experience and witness firsthand the emergence of a new power in their world – The Kingdom of God!

 

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Enlisted & Deployed

we-want-youIn 1941, It’s a Wonderful Life actor, Jimmy Stewart, enlisted into the Air Corp.  A couple of years later, he was deployed to England.  In 1950, the founder of Wendy’s Restaurant, Dave Thomas, was enlisted into the U.S. Army.  A short time later, he was deployed oversees, where he served as a mess sergeant.  In March of 1958, “the King of Rock and Roll,” Elvis Presley, was enlisted into the U.S. Army.  And after training, he was deployed to Germany, where he was allegedly treated like every other soldier.

In Mark 1:9-13 a brief report is given concerning the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  This description summarizes Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River and his temptation by Satan in the wilderness.  And through these two accounts, Jesus is seen being enlisted and deployed into ministry.

In vv. 9-11, Mark summarizes Jesus’ baptism.  In being baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus publicly committed himself to the mission that he was sent by God to complete.  And through this symbolic act, Jesus associated himself with sinful mankind, as well as, gave indication to his upcoming redeeming death and resurrection.

Jesus’ baptism can be viewed as his formal enlistment into ministry.  And just like Jesus, the moment an individual believes in and commits their life to Christ, they too enlist themselves into Christian ministry.  Generally speaking, every believer has been commissioned by Jesus to be his representative and disciple maker (See Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8).  These are two closely related missions that the Church and every Christian has been assigned to complete.

Mark continues to summarize the beginning of Jesus’ ministry by reporting in v. 11 that upon the heels of his baptism, “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.”  Here we see that Jesus was, without a moment’s notice, deployed into ministry.  And in this hostile environment, he was confronted by Satan.  This is the tenor of the remainder of Mark’s gospel.  Jesus is seen verse after verse, chapter after chapter, fully engaged and striving towards completing his God-given mission.

Every Christian needs to realize that not only have they been enlisted, but they too have been deployed into ministry.  The Bible makes it clear that ever since Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden, a cosmic war has been waging on.  Satan and his evil cohorts are endlessly attempting to thwart God’s plan of salvation and prevent believers from completing their God-given mission.  Satan’s attacks, however, are fruitless, because the Bible makes it clear that he is doomed.  Jesus proved himself to be victorious over Satan when he conquered sin and death through his resurrection.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:54b-56, “‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christians have been enlisted and deployed into this spiritual war armed with the all-powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And as believers seek to declare and demonstrate this message in the world, victory is guaranteed!

 

 

 


The Gospel’s Opening Act

Over the years, there have been some pretty amazing opening acts.  In 1987, many Elvis Presleyconcertgoers were privileged to see Guns N’ Roses open for Aerosmith.  In 1968, the British rock band, Led Zeppelin, opened for Vanilla Fudge.  In the following year, in 1967, guitar legend, Jimi Hendrix, opened for The Monkees.  And around 27 A.D., John the Baptist opened for Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

All four biblical accounts of the Gospel – the Good News about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – open with a report about the appearance of John the Baptist in the Judean wilderness.  In all of these records, the Gospel writers declare that John’s emergence fulfilled several Old Testament prophecies.  One of those passages was Isaiah 40:3:

“A voice cries: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

In ancient times, whenever kings or rulers would travel, it was common practice for delegates to be sent out ahead of the royal envoy to ensure that the route and destination was suitable for the monarch’s arrival.  This passage from Isaiah states that God too would send a delegate to prepare God’s people for the arrival of the Messiah.  And in all four Gospels, this verse is cited in identifying John the Baptist as that unique figure.  These writers recognized that God commissioned John to prepare the Jews for the coming Messiah.

John the Baptist was the opening act.  He took the stage in order to warm up the crowd for the headliner – Jesus Christ.  And just like John, Jesus instructed his first disciples to fill that same role.  In fact, Jesus’ final instruction to them spoke of the divine responsibility that he was placing on their lives.

“…And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b)

But it was not just the early believers who were called to carry out this divine task, God has commissioned every Christian to be a witness for Jesus Christ.  It is the responsibility of every believer to direct and guide others towards Jesus.  And through their words and actions, God is using Christians to prepare others for a powerful encounter with His son.

John the Baptist was an amazing opening act for Jesus Christ.  But the show is not over.  God still calls Christians to prepare and warm up the crowd for The Headliner.  And as Christians are faithful to being Jesus’ witnesses, the show is guaranteed to be a life-changing and transforming experience.


News Headlines & The Gospel

We are only a few days into the new year and already the news headlines are bad.  CNN is mourning the victims of a nightclub terrorist attack in Turkey. Fox News is reporting how the Democrat and Republicans are once again at each other’s throats.  And ABC News is contemplating Chicago’s 762 homicides in 2016.  Apparently, good news is hard to come by nowadays.

MARK 1:1 | “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

In the introduction to his composition, the New Testament writer Mark announces that he has some good news.  He delivers this proclamation in Mark 1:1 by utilizing the term “gospel.”  Simply put, this word means “good news” or “glad tidings.”  Prior to the writing of the New Testament, this term was used in ancient times to announce the good news of military victories, as well as, the glad tidings of a young ruler’s birth.  And in the opening line to his composition, Mark employs this same term – Gospel – to inform his readers that what they are about to read is truly good news.

Good news is often accompanied by joy, celebration and progress.  When a couple announces the good news of their pregnancy, an eruption of cheer and hugs ensues.  When a hardworking individual is rewarded with a promotion, greater financial stability is gained and larger office is given.  And when a lucky individual hits the lottery, his used sedan is upgraded to a brand new sports car or a loaded SUV.

As Mark commences his gospel, he states that his good news is all about “Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).  And as Mark’s readers have exposed themselves to his gospel, they have discovered true happiness and transforming joy in the person and work of Jesus.  In fact, they would be the first ones to tell you that this gospel is The Gospel.  And with today’s headlines being filled with violence and hatred, I would venture to say that Mark’s  readers would also tell you that “the gospel of Jesus” is the Good News that our world desperate needs to hear.


Marriage & The Gospel

I strongly believe that families are a key building block of society.  As families exist and function according to God’s Word, they will benefit the culture that they are a part of.

In Colossians 3:18-4:1, the Apostle Paul instructs the Christian families living in the ancient town of Colossae just how they are to exist and function.  He begins this portion of Scripture in 3:18-19 by first instructing and informing married couples that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to permeate the marriage relationship.

In v. 18, Paul very succinctly instructs Christian wives to submit to their Christian husbands.  Now the Bible teaches that all Christians are to submit and place themselves under the authority and rule of God (Heb. 12:9), church leaders (Heb. 13:17), other believers (Eph. 5:21), and even government leaders (Rom. 13:1).  And in this verse, Paul continues this mindset by declaring that within a Christian marriage, wives must recognize their husband’s God-given authority by submitting to them.

Paul’s command for wives to submit to their husbands is rooted in the person and work of Jesus, who too lived a life of submission to God the Father.  Paul described Jesus’ submissive attitude in Philippians 2:8 when he states, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  So in instructing Christian wives to submit, Paul is actually encouraging them to imitate Jesus and live out the Gospel within their marriage.

In v. 19, Paul turns his attention to Christian husbands when he commands them to love their wives.  The type of love that Paul is referring to in this verse is active and costly.  It is the same that is referred to in John 3:16 that describes God the Father’s love for the world, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Within the context of Christian marriages, husbands are to love their wives selflessly and sacrficially.

Once again, Paul’s instruction for Christian husbands mirrors Jesus’ love for his bride, the Church.  “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).  So when a husband lovingly leads and selflessly serves his wife, in essence, he too is following Jesus and manifesting the Gospel before his wife and children.

God designed the Christian marriage not to be focused solely on the husband or the wife.  God designed marriage to be ultimately all about Jesus Christ!  And when a Christian husband and wife realize this vital Truth, live out their own Jesus-modeled roles, their marriage will experience great joy.  And at this point, their marriage will also be used by God to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the community that they are a part of.