Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Isaiah is speaking of a Savior, a wonderful Prince of Peace coming to rule over a kingdom. This kingdom would be made up of a people wholly submitted to the Prince’s supreme authority. And the Prince himself would provide loving counsel to those he ruled over, guiding and directing their lives.
When I was a teenager, I spent my summers helping out on a ranch in east Texas. The ranch manager, Jimmie, was a big, strapping guy who had limited eyesight but knew how to do all kinds of things. Jimmie taught me how to mow and haul hay, for instance, and how to insert pills in cows’ parts. (Yes, Jimmie knew a lot about a lot of things.)
The New Testament tells us that in the last days scoffers are going to appear. Jesus says these mockers will ridicule all doctrine that says Christ is returning to establish a new kingdom. If you try to explain this doctrine – that when Jesus comes again he’ll set up a kingdom of eternal righteousness – you’ll be called insane.
Acts 1-6 describes one of the most glorious works of God in history. It’s an amazing sequence of action-filled events: powerful preaching, mass conversions, miraculous healings and wonders. All were the fulfillment of a divine promise foretold by Jesus.
Before his resurrection, Christ instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem to receive the “promise of the Father.” That promise began its fulfillment on Pentecost, Israel’s feast of “first fruits.” The world was about to see the first fruits of Christ’s labor on the cross for us.
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward” (Hebrews 10:35). If you are a Christian, you are in a fierce war. In fact, you’re in a life and death battle for your faith. Satan is determined to shipwreck and destroy the faith of all of God’s elect. And the stronger your faith, the greater will be his attack against it.
I’ve written before about my reputation for always preaching on grace. I’ve actually toyed with publishing a book titled Confessions of an Extreme Gracist. Not an appropriate title, maybe, but it’s a tag I wear proudly anyway.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul opened up his heart and soul to the church. Throughout Chapter 1 the apostle’s spirit overflows with joy and peace. He speaks of abundant rejoicing and urges his readers to bring their requests to God with joy, “in nothing terrified by your adversaries” (Philippians 1:28). Meanwhile, Paul himself rejoiced in “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (4:7). And he wrote to the church to do likewise: “My brethren, rejoice in the Lord” (3:1).
I have a default system at work in me. It’s a reflex that springs into motion whenever I fall short in my walk with the Lord. I’m talking about my tendency to turn to works rather than to God’s incredible grace to reestablish my standing with him.
I believe most of us have this default system at work in us. It’s why Paul emphasizes God’s grace again and again throughout the New Testament. In letter after letter, he hammers home the sufficiency of grace for our right relationship with the Lord.
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house” (Hebrews 3:1-2).
The author of Hebrews offers a strong word to all who are “partakers of the heavenly calling.” What is this heavenly calling? It is that you hear heaven calling you.
To some readers, the statement I’m about to make will sound bold. To others it will sound obvious. Either way, it’s a commentary on the church I’d rather not have to make. That is, most Christians are powerless.
Consider what “normal” Christianity looks like today in the typical believer. This person is a bit self-seeking, a little materialistic, somewhat consumerist. Most of his daily choices are about improving his life. That includes his spiritual pursuits, from his church groups to the podcasts he downloads to the seminars he attends.