It goes without saying that a king has a kingdom. Palm Sunday is a celebration of Jesus the King. King Jesus has a kingdom, too. I would like to offer a few brief biblical observations about the kingdom of King Jesus.
First, in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven (Matt 13:31-33), Jesus taught that His kingdom starts small and seemingly insignificant (a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth and a small rag-tag group of guys) but grows to universal invasion and impact (the global christian mission). His is a kingdom on the move.
Second, Jesus spoke of His kingdom as being both present now (“…the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Luke 17:21) and still to come (“Your kingdom come, your will be done…” Matt. 6:10). His is a kingdom we experience in the Spirit (Rom 14:17) and expect with hope (1 Cor 15:20-28).
Third, Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world and therefore does not exercise its authority the same way as earthly kingdoms do (John 18:36). Jesus’ kingdom was not established by politics or the sword. He established His kingdom through His word and the sacrificial love of the cross. His is a kingdom of grace and truth manifested through the Church by Word and ordinances (baptism and Lord’s supper).
Finally, Jesus taught that the citizens of His kingdom would be hated, insulted, persecuted, and/or even killed by the opposing kingdom of this world (John 15:18-21). His kingdom will be in conflict with the world’s kingdom. But, we are not to fear, for King Jesus has secured the final victory by His death and resurrection! Nothing shall ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:35-39). His is an unshakeable kingdom! (Heb 12:28)
Guilt can be a tricky thing. Have you ever been driving at night, minding your own business, and following the speed limit and discover that the bright, flashing blue and red lights are for you? “What could I possibly have done? I wasn’t speeding. I know I stopped at that sign. Not Guilty!” Then the officer asks, “Did you know you had a headlight out?” Even if the answer is “no,” you are still guilty, for the law forbids driving at night without both headlights on. It was your responsibility to know. Even though you may not have felt an ounce of guilt (subjective guilt), in actual fact, you were guilty (objective guilt).
In a small way, this illustrates our standing before God the Law Giver and Judge. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) Whether we feel guilty or not does not change the fact that we are guilty. We have broken God’s law and rebelled against His rule. We may feel free. We may feel good. But, we are guilty.
Guilt can be a tricky thing. Have you ever had a circumstance wherein something went wrong and you knew it was your fault? You felt horrible about it. You were ashamed of your irresponsibility and did not want to look the others in the eye. You were feeling down right guilty. So, you muster up enough courage to admit your wrong, only to discover that no one else was blaming you, because, as it turns out, it wasn’t your fault. You had misunderstood. You felt guilty (subjective guilt), but in actual fact, you weren’t guilty (objective guilt).
The glory of the gospel is that in Christ Jesus, God has provided the answer to the fact of our guilt and our felt guilt, or, if you like, our objective and subjective guilt. In an act of incomprehensible love, God sent forth His Son to bear the guilt of sinners in His sacrifice upon the cross. Any and all who repent of their sins and believe upon the risen Lord Jesus are justified. Our Law Giver and Judge declares, “Forgiven! Not Guilty!” That verdict from Heaven’s Court cannot be overturned or reversed. It is forever true of those in Christ.
But as time goes by, the enemy of our souls begins to accuse us and remind us of our sins and unworthiness. We begin to feel guilty all over again. In that moment we must look afresh to Christ crucified and remember that He took away our guilt. In Christ we are not guilty no matter how we feel. As we feed our faith with what God says is true of us, our souls are nourished and our hearts gain peace.
Let us continually look to Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. (Rom 4:25)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
In the last post I briefly wrote how Martin Luther, commenting on Gal 1:4, shows how to preach the gospel to yourself. Turns out, he was just doing what the Apostle Paul had instructed the church at Rome to do nearly a millennia and a half before.
Romans 6 begins with the Apostle Paul answering a false view of grace, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (v 1) His answer? “By no means!” (v 2) Then he spends the next 12 verses expounding the gospel of the believer’s union with Christ’s death and resurrection. Listen to 2 of these 12 verses, “For the death [Christ] died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So, you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (vv 10-11; bold type mine)
In Romans 6 the answer to a false view of grace, to overcoming sin’s power, and to battling the discouragement and unbelief that comes from seeing the sin that still remains is a continual considering or reckoning of the gospel!
What the believers in Rome needed in the first century and in Germany in the 16th century is what we need in the 21st century, namely, to continually preach the gospel to ourselves.
Yesterday, after preaching from Galatians 1:1-5, I sat down and read Martin Luther’s comments on verse 4, “who gave himself for our sins.” They are too good to keep to myself, so I want to share some of them with you:
“The genius of Christianity takes the words of Paul ‘who gave himself’ for our sins as true and efficacious. We are not to look upon our sins as insignificant trifles. On the other hand, we are not to regard them as so terrible that we must despair. Learn to believe that Christ was given, not for picayune (petty) and imaginary transgressions, but for mountainous sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for sins that can be discarded, but for sins that are stubbornly ingrained.
“Practice this knowledge and fortify yourself against despair…when the memory of past sins assails the conscience. Say with confidence: ‘Christ, the Son of God, was given not for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not need Christ….
“‘Because my transgressions are multiplied and my own efforts at self-justification rather a hindrance than a furtherance, therefore Christ the son of God gave Himself into death for my sins.’ To believe this is to have eternal life.”
What Luther is teaching is what in our day is called “preaching the gospel to ourselves.” If we are going to grow in joy, peace, and holiness then we must learn to preach the gospel to ourselves on a regular basis.
Some ways for us to do this consistently are to memorize and meditate upon gospel rich phrases and passages; pray them and personalize them; and learn songs that exult in the glory of the gospel. At all costs fight for your faith in the gospel! Believe it’s promises for they are true!
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.