The "Token" Rule of an Absent Lord (Part 2)
JC Ryle writes: "Boast not of Christ's work for you, unless you can show us the Spirit's work in you." (Emphasis mine, from Holiness by JC Ryle.) The pertinent question from the previous article is: Are we even interested in real freedom? Or are we satisfied with the mere appearance of living the Christian life? Are we interested in the real freedom that the worship of God brings? Or are we content with our servitude to anything except the real God? In the words of Ryle, are we quick to speak of Christ's work for us, but slow to demonstrate the Spirit's work in us?
When it comes to living in the light of the Gospel, many who have heard the Gospel and some who may even earnestly desire to follow Christ, fall short. Jesus said: Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
The way is hard and not many find it. There will be many who profess to follow Jesus as Lord who will not enter the kingdom. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
What sets true Christianity apart is the real reign of Jesus over his people. He is concerned that His people "do the will of the Father in heaven." The reality is that Jesus will not be satisfied with a "token" rule. He will not be satisfied with lip service by those who call him "Lord." He is only interested in wholehearted devotion and faith. He did not die for our sins so that we may have a theoretical Lord. He died so that we may be saved from the domain of darkness and come into His kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
Jesus' death accomplished far more than just becoming a personal (and for too many a private) Lord. In fact, through His death He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18-20). The Father has given Jesus real authority over all things. Jesus is in reality Lord over all the world!
The Father will not be satisfied with anyone relegating the rule of Christ to a mere theoretical lordship. For someone to treat the reign of Christ as a mere theory, or a "token" rule, incurs the wrath and anger of God. Like the anger that would consume the people of Israel. Exodus 32:10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
Let us take note that it is not only other people who are naturally inclined to resist true worship. Are you perhaps content with a Jesus who saves, but would not impose himself too strongly on your personal life? Don't fool yourself into thinking that you rest securely in the salvation of the Lord, while you resist the rule of Christ in every area of your life!
It is ironic that God calls the Israelites stiff-necked, while they are such willing worshipers of the golden calf. Exodus 32:9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. The problem with Israel and with humanity in general is that when it comes to true worship, man's natural inclination is to resist true worship. Do not let the religiosity of bowing to a golden image fool you into thinking that they must really love worship, they are really stiff-necked! Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
In stark contrast with man's unwillingness to worship and his hatred for God and Christ, is the love of the Mediator. We see a foreshadowing of Christ's mediatorial work as Moses intercedes for Israel. Exodus 32:11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Christ our mediator intercedes on our behalf, bringing God's own work of redemption as satisfaction to turn away His wrath and anger. It is only Christ that can turn away the anger from God against our sin and cause Him to relent from destroying us. He reminds God that we are His people, by his choice. We have been redeemed by His work (whom you have...).
Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Will you therefore, by grace, stand before God in Christ? Will you, by grace, have him as Lord and Saviour? Will you prove what Christ has accomplished for you, by living the Christian life that demonstrates the Holy Spirit's work in you?
You see, it is through the Work of the Holy Spirit that the reign of Christ is realized in the Christian life, here and now. This work of new and eternal life is wrought by the same power that brought Jesus back from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-21).
May the church of Christ continue to live under the reign of Christ, in the presence of God the Father, and through the empowering work of the Holy Spirit. Both now and forevermore!