Five Hundred Years
It’s not very often that we can be a part of the 500th anniversary of something. That’s more than twice the age of the United States of America! We know we are living at a time in history quite different from “back then.” Just like the past, there are still issues of doctrine in the churches today. The big change here is that, in general, the churches have very little influence on the world and what happens.
There is no question that the young monk and priest, Martin Luther, would be shocked to hear all that has happened as a result of his simple action that one day, October 31, 1517. There have been wars. There have been divisions in the churches. There have been revisions and there have been hardened hearts. The Church is the people and where there are people there are lots of opinions, some informed, some selfish.
As we approach the 500th anniversary of this history changing event, it is good to step back and ponder the magnitude of this event. It is good to evaluate our role and see if we have stepped up to do our share of the work. Are we, individually and as a congregation, living out the work God has given us? Are we a good influence in spreading the Gospel or are we an impediment?
One thing we can be sure of, God will still be in charge 500 years from now! His Kingdom has been established forever. As His Children we look forward to the day when we will see the Kingdom of glory together. In the mean time, there are a lot of people that we get to invite to the party.
My thanks to Pastor Merrell for his work on giving us background on the Reformation. Another installment:
Oct. 31, 1517 Key Reformation Theme: GOD’S KINGDOM Oct. 31, 2017
Actually, God has three Kingdoms. They are the kingdoms of Power, Grace and Glory. The Kingdom of Glory is yet to come; we will experience that in Heaven. As Christians in this world we are citizens of the other two – God’s Kingdoms of Power and of Grace.
The Kingdom of Power is God’s rule over the entire universe, including the Earth and all people on it. God rules this Kingdom according to His plan and by His power. Sometimes His actions seem harsh and violent, or even as though He is absent such as in natural disasters. In all human societies God delegates His authority to rulers who are to maintain peace, good order, and safety. Government officials are to act on God’s behalf and they ultimately answer to Him. Not all of them know they are His servants, but God has them rule in His Name for people’s welfare.
There are also times when God uses ruthless leaders to His glory and for the good of His people in ways that seems the opposite of desirable. He used Assyria to wipe out the Northern Kingdom of Israel after a long series of rebellions against Him and after they had rejected all the prophets He sent. He also used the king of Babylon to take the Southern Kingdom of Judah captive for seventy years after they too rejected Him and His prophets. In His mercy and His grace He returned them to the Promised Land. That is part of the Kingdom of Grace.
When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus about His Kingdom, Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:33-37) The Church is His Kingdom of Grace, established by His Holy Spirit in the hearts of all who believe in Jesus Christ. He rules His Church by His Word and transforming grace. He teaches, leads, enlightens, and inspires us, turning our hearts from evil to be like Him. By our words and actions we show that He is our Lord and the world’s Savior.
As God’s people we live in both Kingdoms. We are subject to God and also to our human rulers. Human rulers are not perfect, and some clearly ignore their duty to God and His will. Yet, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God established.” (Romans 13:1) So, out of respect for God, we obey the established laws of the land. Jesus made this same point to the religious rulers this way, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” With our example, testimony and votes we try to influence our society, its laws and its officials to follow God’s ways.
Our efforts are not always successful. Do not be discouraged! Sometimes those who make laws, the judges who interpret those laws, and enforcers of the law act against God’s will. Yet we obey what God has established, even if obedience isn’t convenient, fair or in our best interests. There is only one exception – when God’s Word clearly demands that we obey God above all. (Acts 4:18-20; I Peter 2:12-17)
Jesus often warned His disciples, and us, that we will meet opposition, injustice, persecution and even martyrdom as His faithful followers. (Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”) That’s what Jesus meant by “bearing our cross” just as He carried His cross for our blessing and salvation. We trust God to protect us, to preserve us in dangers and sufferings, and to bring us safely into His presence in the coming Kingdom of Glory. God rules over all events, so nothing that He allows will harm or defeat us, not even death for the only way we can be harmed is if we are not part of the Kingdom of Glory.