Christ the King and Our Heavenly Citizenship

Text: Philippians 3:17-4:1

This Sunday is sometimes called “Christ the King Sunday.” It commemorates especially the kingdom of God and the kingship of Christ. Originally it was meant to emphasize the unique nature of Christ’s kingdom. That kingdom is not of this world, and thus it transcends racial, ethnic, and national boundaries. All Christians have a shared citizenship, the citizenship which is in heaven. But this can be and has been misunderstood over the years. What does it mean for Christ to be our king? Does it mean that we cannot have any other earthly kings? What does it mean for our citizenship to be in heaven? We will turn our attention to this question with our text this morning, and we will see that the apostle Paul connects our heavenly citizenship with the future resurrection of the body and glorification of all things.

Our Citizenship is in Heaven

The Apostle Paul says that the Christian has an alternative citizenship to that of this world. This alternative citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven. “For our citizenship is in heaven” (3:20). Earlier in Philippians he had also said, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27). The English expression “let your conduct be” is a translation of a Greek variation of the term πολιτευμα which means citizenship. He is thus telling us to live like a citizen of the gospel, like a citizen of heaven. Continue reading

What further testimony do we need?

One of the chief ways Biblical Christianity is unlike other philosophies and world religions is that it does not merely teach us how to be free of “the bad guy.” It tells us that we are the bad guy. This isn’t simply because of our limited natures, our lack of knowledge, or our being at the mercy of some other bigger bad guy. No, this is because we have chosen to like ourselves more than God. The Apostle Paul writes, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful” (Rom. 1:21). And this is especially true of Good Friday. The religious leaders of Israel were not simply upset with Jesus for who he claimed to be. It was not as if they simply didn’t believe him. No, they actually recognized who Jesus was. They knew, deep within themselves, that he was the messiah. And they hated him for it.

As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying,  “If You are the Christ, tell us.”

But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you,you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”

Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?”

So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.”

And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

(Luke 22:66-71)

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Why I Loved Les Mis

The 2012 movie version of Les Miserables reminds me of the reception of Mumford & Sons’ latest album.  Throngs of adoring fans, having awaited the releases for some time, made both huge commercial successes, both were then widely panned by critics for being too earnest (and thus unbelievable), and both were sorta Christian.  The differences are important too. Whereas Babel generated a surprisingly hostile review from a significant number of critics, Les Miserables is holding out at a respectable 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been nominated for 8 Academy Awards.  Another key difference, from my point of view at least, is that I mostly didn’t like Mumford’s new album (really liked the first one, but am now a little worn out by the monotony), but I absolutely loved Les Miserables.  I came very close to feeling those dreaded emotions after watching it, and you can ask around, that’s not a common occurrence for me.

Now, I’ve read a lot of criticisms of Les Miserables.  The New Yorker, somewhat predictably, turned their collective noses up at it.  Anthony Lane did his usual cynical routine, and David Denby, usually the good cop, was even worse, saying that, “It’s terrible; it’s dreadful. Overbearing, pretentious, madly repetitive.”  Oh well.  At least Adam Gopnik liked it.  I’m not too bothered by The New Yorker.  It’s a publication for people who think of themselves as intellectuals, which is a distinct group, actually, from mere intellectuals.

More relevant to my circles, and more directly challenging towards my own sentiments, are those critiques coming from Christian viewers.  I’ve seen the basic concern that Victor Hugo was himself not a Christian, along with other criticisms about the too-heavy emotions of the movie, the perils of Romanticism, and the overshadowing of any true message of grace by a sort of Enlightenment humanism.  Here I was thinking that I’d seen a profound presentation of the impossibility of lawbut perhaps I’d been mistaken.  What are we to think of these observations? Continue reading

Death is Swallowed Up in Victory

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.  Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Continue reading

12 Days of Christmas Carols- God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

Over the next two weeks I’d like to highlight some of my favorite Christmas carols.  Since the 12 Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and last until Twelfth Night, I’m actually a day early, but I don’t plan on doing any sort of work, not even blogging, tomorrow, so I figured I’d start early.  The first one will be “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman.”  

Mr. Fezziwig's Ball

I like “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” because of the minor mode (I like pretty much anything in a minor key), but also because of the rich and unique words.  As with most hymns and carols, the number of stanzas differs from place to place, and you might even find, to much chagrin, that a few words get changed here and there.  Most versions of this carol have five stanzas, but some have less.  A few even have as many as eight!  I’ll just stick with the first stanza and the refrain, since they are the most famous.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.

The first thing to note is the grammar of the opening line.  It is not actually “God rest ye, merry gentlemen,” as most people assume.  It is instead, “God rest ye merry, gentlemen.”  The “gentlemen” are being addressed, and the song is wishing that God will “rest” them “merry.”  The verb “rest” simply means “to be” or “make,” much like we might tell someone to “Rest assured.”  And so what’s being sung is a request for God to make us merry.  Why?  Well, that’s what the rest of the song is about.

I also appreciate this carol’s inclusion of Satan.  The big man downstairs is too often left out of the Christmas season, but that just can’t be.  In a certain sense, Satan is the reason behind the “reason for the season.”  He was the one who held all mankind under his sway, causing the people to dwell in darkness and needing to be set free.  It was Satan who Christ came to defeat, and that meant that Christ had to come.  So I say, “Keep the Satan in Christmas.”  You really can’t tell the story any other way.

Never forget, the gospel is good news in the face of bad news.  It is salvation from sin and death.  Jesus is God’s answer to sorrow, suffering, alienation, and despair.  Christmas has to have room in its story for the darkness, or else it becomes just one more romance among the many sentimental stories we tell this time of year.  But of course, Christmas is also the story of how Light came into the darkness and filled it from within.

And that’s precisely what gives us hope, what gives us comfort and joy.  We remember that Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day.  That’s good news.  Christ is born!  Glorify Him!

Merry Christmas, y’all.