In part 1 we submitted that a major ‘inconvenient truth’ facing today’s world and Church is the widespread failure to grasp the identity of Jesus as ‘Lord:’ i.e. of our life, God’s people and the whole universe!
[I recall standing at the foot of the Christ statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro and longing that its and the world’s citizens would bow before him as Saviour and Lord in their hearts]
(3) Having examined the gradual revelation of Jesus’ identity to Simon Peter, we now come to the full revelation as recorded by the historian-evangelist Luke in his Acts of the Apostles. Peter boldly proclaims to the Pentecost crowds gathered from all nations in Jerusalem: ‘Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified!’ (Acts 2:14-36) The result was an outpouring of the Spirit on the penitent crowd that added thousands to the kingdom of God in a matter of days.
(4) We next refer to a mature Peter, encouraging the persecuted assemblies of Asia Minor to bow before Jesus, even amid their sufferings and anxieties. Both Rome and the Judaizers were constantly hounding them. However, Peter encourages them: ‘But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you… do it with gentleness and reverence’ (1 Pet. 3:14-16). British Bible scholar Alan Stibbs comments,‘In such circumstances (i.e. suffering for righteousness’ sake) they should maintain their heart-reverence for Christ as Lord and be ready openly to confess their Christian hope… It is note worthy that the sanctuary in which Christ is to be acknowledged as holy and worshiped is the heart. Such phraseology may have in mind circumstances due to persecution in which joining in corporate worship in the common meeting-place might be impossible. Christians are thus exhorted, whatever their circumstances, to enjoy living communion with Christ by realizing His indwelling Presence and by maintaining inner heart reverence towards Him. Such an exhortation also emphasizes the inner and spiritual character of all true Christian worship. It is ultimately independent of place. For Christ has promised to manifest His Presence, not in particular buildings, nor in connection with visible material objects, but with His people, in their hearts and in their midst (cf. Mt. 18:20; 28:20)… The Christian is then to engage, not in an aggressive attack on the other person’s will or prejudice, but in a logical account (the word translated ‘reason’ is ‘logos’), or reasoned explanation of the hope that is distinctive of the Christian community (cf. Heb. 10:24/RV). He ought, also, to do it with meekness and fear, i.e. without arrogance or self-assertion, with due respect and deference towards men, and with proper awe and reverence before God.’ Now it’s hard to submit to Christ’s lordship when suffering and anxious, wouldn’t you agree? At the same time it’s absolutely necessary that we do so at all times, for it’s a reminder that ultimately God, in his sovereign love, is in control of all that comes our way, individually and as assemblies. Such an attitude also makes us far better people and ‘apologists’ for the hope that is in us…
Thanks to a fellow-blogger, I recently took note (via YouTube) of South African/Canadian genius Elon Musk, of space exploration and Tesla Motor Co. fame, being interviewed on a Christian TV show, babylonbee. The interview was about his views on Jesus. The presenters tried to probe his stance regarding Jesus: graciously, humorously and brilliantly he evaded a clear and direct answer. Yes, he did approve of Jesus’ teachings (turn the other cheek, etc), but basically indicated that Jesus was welcome to get on with his mission while he focused on his. As a voracious reader, I hope Musk has read some of equally brilliant CS Lewis’ writings, which make such a view untenable. Either Jesus is what he claimed to be or he’s a madman! (1)
On the same point South African Dr. Michael Cassidy relates the dialogue between missionary statesman E. Stanley Jones and the renowned Mahatma Ghandi, whom he’d got to know very well during his many years of ministry in India. Ghandi (1869-1948), a Hindu, was talking about his admiration of Jesus’ principles in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Mt. 5-7), to which Jones replied, ‘But oh, Mahatma, Mahatma, you have missed the Person!’ At the end of the day it’s not about our religions, philosophies, the golden rule, our morals or ethics – it’s about the PERSON who lived and preached the sermon! My dear friends, are you and I (and our faith communities) crystal-clear regarding Jesus’ identity, even if ‘an inconvenient truth’ to us?
In summary, the kingdom is for the obedient: Jesus in the same Sermon on the Mount said, ‘Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life – to God! – is vigorous and requires total attention… What is required is serious obedience – doing what the Father wills. I can see it now – at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say to you? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here!’ (Mt. 7:13-14, 21-23/MSG) (2)
A final story… Elizabeth Prentiss (1818-1878), lost her father Edward Payson at age 8, after he had suffered much and long from TB. For years she struggled with anger, toward God and others. Determined to beat this anger, she married a minister, George Prentiss. They were deeply in love. Two children were born to them, then they lost young Eddie to meningitis. Three months later little Bessie was born, the picture of health – suddenly she fell ill at about one month, dying the next day. Through her many struggles with suffering she came to see the ‘bigger picture’ of God’s sovereignty and love revealed in Christ. Out of this pain and triumph she wrote the moving hymn ‘More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee…’ Re this hymn, I’ve read somewhere that a group of North Korean Christians sang it when facing an on-coming steam-roller. I’d love to congratulate them in heaven one day. (3)
(1) Musk professes to follow Benedict de Spinoza, the 17th century Dutch/Jewish philosopher and rationalist who promoted a kind of pantheism, leading to what has become known as the ‘Enlightenment,’ still so influential today (how ‘enlightening’ you can decide for yourself).
(2) It was Welshman Edwin Orr who said ‘revival’ is like judgment day (another ‘inconvenient truth’). Cf. the Scottish Cambuslang Revival under George Whitefield – we’re told the hillside looked like a battle-field of the fallen!
(3) Do yourself a favour and listen to Dr. Henry Blackaby speak on ‘Corporate Revival’ (2002). Personal repentance and obedience to Christ as Lord was ‘key’ in the famous 1907 Korean revival, as it is to this day…