Jesus

Responding to Political Turmoil

1. Model humble repentance.
Christians should be humbly honest about our sin. There’s too much handwringing over the state of our nation and too little honest examination of how the church has drifted from submission to God’s Word as supreme. We scream across the fence about the rusty car in our neighbor’s backyard while the ceiling in our kitchen is caving in. We tend to feel more in common with non-Christians who share our politics than with fellow Christians who view this political moment differently than we do. While Christians decry identity politics, far too many of us identify by our politics. 

2. Anchor your identity in Christ, and don’t let go.
Identity is a struggle for all of us at some point, and identity is a combination of who we are and our framework for understanding who we are. A person who succeeds in almost every area of life yet has a failed marriage can feel like a failure—because his identity is anchored in his family. Alternatively someone who fails in almost every area of life—dad, husband, church member, friend—yet succeeds at work can feel fulfilled because he identifies with his work. A right orientation to life comes from being rightly oriented to God through Jesus Christ. We must identify ourselves primarily as children of God through Jesus Christ. The gospel becomes the primary orienting reality in our lives because we’re children of God loved by a Heavenly Father, declared righteous through the perfectly lived life and sacrificial death of Christ.  

3. Lean into the faithfulness of Christ, and pray.
Hebrews 4 tells us how to approach God: Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens … Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace. When we lean into the faithfulness of Christ, we can be bold, even fearless. We can grab ahold of the legs of our Heavenly Father and plead with him. And he will hear us, because Jesus has gone before us.

4. Commit to grace-fueled, white-hot spirituality.
The so-called casual Christian is increasingly just a non-Christian. In my parents’ and grandparents’ generation, people walked away from Jesus’ church but said they still knew Jesus. My generation doesn’t even pretend to hold onto Jesus. The cultural Christianity of our parents has given birth to non-Christians—what statisticians call the “nones.” I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:1–2). Pursue God with your whole heart and life. The greatest threat to our world isn’t a virus or a political party. It’s that millions of people are dying and entering an eternity in hell without Christ. And our most urgent mission is people filled with the good news of Jesus telling the people going to hell that they don’t have to. 

5. Remember the King of kings still reigns!
No matter who the president is, we know who our King is. And he is King of kings and Lord of lords.

  • Proverbs 21:1: Our God holds the king’s heart in his hand.
  • Isaiah 45:7: Our God forms light and creates darkness.
  • Job 42:2: Our God can do all things, and no purpose of his can be thwarted.
  • Lamentations 3:37: Our God speaks, and it comes to pass, and it can’t come to pass, unless he commands it. 
  • Colossians 1:17: Our God is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
  • Revelation 19:11–16: Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True … His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns … On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Our God is the eternal king. Our King reigns, and our King is coming back!

The Next Right Thing

Jesus did amazing miracles and ministry throughout the gospels, as he reached out to hurting people on the fringes of society, yet he did this in the course of his ordinary responsibilities. There’s something profoundly encouraging about this. In Mark 5, Jesus experienced terrible rejection from those whom he loved dearly and had known his entire life. How did he respond? He went about among the villages teaching. He got up and did the next right thing.

Sometimes the evidence of gospel growth in our lives is simply doing the next right thing. It’s getting up in the morning and getting kids out the door to school. It’s spending a few quiet moments with the Lord when no one’s looking. There’s no fanfare, and there are no bells or whistles. It’s showing up to work on time and working faithfully, when there’s no one passing out ribbons for doing a good job. When we trust Jesus, not only does God credit Jesus’ amazing sinlessness to us, he credits his ordinary sinlessness to us as well. So let Jesus’ perfect faithfulness empower and motivate you for ordinary faithfulness this week—faithfulness to do the next right thing, whether you feel like it or not.

What about the Other Babies?

In Matthew 2:16-18, we have one of the most troubling accounts connected to the birth of Christ. Herod the Great, a paranoid king, desperate not to allow this new “King of the Jews” to survive, sends his soldiers on an errand of terror—slaughter all the baby boys in the region of Bethlehem.

The execution of these children was probably a fairly quick day’s work for Herod’s soldiers. Terrible, no doubt, but quick, since Bethlehem is a mere five miles from Jerusalem. One of the troubling aspects of this passage, though, is that God predicted that this would happen. In preserving the life of Jesus, God permitted the murder of the other baby boys in Bethlehem.

This is troubling. God predicted the murder of these children and the weeping of their mothers. The complete fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15 means that these children were killed. Think of what this means—if you have a young son or know a young boy under the age of three, this would mean the death of that child. Imagine the name of your child being one of the boys slaughtered. We see the sovereign mercy of God in sparing Christ and rejoice. But what about the other children? Why did God not tell all the families to flee?

We can’t fully and finally settle this question for good in one blog post. But consider this: at the Fall, when Adam and Eve broke God’s law in the Garden, they introduced cosmic brokenness into the world. Only a cosmic solution can fix that brokenness. In the meantime, there are many small and great evidences that creation is broken. Whether it’s the reckless slaughter of babies in Bethlehem or the murder of unborn babies in a slaughterhouse posing as a medical clinic or the murder of people by terrorists in San Bernardino, CA, each of these stories is a reminder than we need something much greater than deliverance from individual tragedy. We need a Rescuer who can take a cosmic system of evil and set it ALL right. Jesus Christ is a king who can do that, but until he does, we deal with the evidence of living in a broken, fallen world.

So what is the purpose of all this pain and grief in the meantime? It’s at least two-fold. (1) First, pain and heartache pushes people to look for a redeemer. Brokenness moves us to repentance. Without sin and sadness, we wouldn’t need a Savior. (2) Secondly, it’s a reminder of the infinite value of Christ in comparison to every temporary pain. We ask, “Why would you let ____ happen?” We view things individually, rather than cosmically. But God’s plan has never been small, like our thoughts.

Later in Jeremiah 31, after the prophecy of weeping, the Lord promises a new covenant when the law of God will be written on the hearts of his people and he will remember their sins no more. God’s redemptive plan will set everything right to the point where Revelation 21:3-4 are fully and finally realized: 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

A God who can take the world we see around us and make it a new place with no grief at all is a God worth worshiping.

Jesus’ Identity and Mission

I love Jesus' two names in Matthew 1:21 and 1:23. Matthew tells us that Mary's son would be named “Jesus” and then almost immediately predicts that the baby would be named “Immanuel.”

So what's the baby's name? From our 21st-century perspective, this may seem like a simple answer, but a first reading of this passage can be a little bit confusing. Why call the child two names? A short answer is that God thought it was important to clearly articulate who the child was (His identity) and what the child came to do (His mission).

Identity – Jesus Christ is God in human flesh. (Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” [which means, God with us].)

Mission – Jesus Christ came to rescue His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”)

So, if you're looking for a way to articulate who Jesus is and what He came to do, there may be no better place to go.