Sunday Is a “Super Blood Wolf Moon” – Ugh!

As a moderately dispensational premillennialist, I groan a little every time there is some kind of celestial wonder such as is supposed to come our way Sunday night – a Super Blood Wolf Moon. Two things happen that irritate me – and as someone who six weeks out from surgery, is not healing well, still has a lot of pain, and feels tired and grumpy all the time, I don’t need this kind of irritation.

  1. Eschatology wingnuts come out of the woodwork telling us about the powerful portent of this sign, and of the next, and of the next, and of the goings on in Israel and in the Middle East and Russia and China and Red Heifers and Harbingers and Shemitahs and all sorts of other things. They sell books and whip up frenzies and then move on to the next “sign of the times” that awaits, filled with awesome omen of the sure and soon coming of Christ.
  2. Those who disdain the position I hold take great pleasure in the rantings of said wingnuts to heap ridicule on the dispensational position. It seems many Christians have no greater pleasure than demeaning the brethren who still hold to the dispensational hermeneutical system.

Now, all of you get off my lawn.

I would like to speak a few words to those few eschatological dinosaurs who still hold to the same position I do, who have not become amillennial or historic premil. I’m told that contrary to all biblical, historical, and logical evidence, there are even some postmillennialists hanging around these days. (See how inconsistent I am – I complain about ridicule and then there’s that postmil zinger!). But I would like to address my tribe today. I am not trying to convince anyone of our position – the Rapture will do that, right? I am just trying to appeal to my pretrib brethren and sistern to exercise a modicum of sanity during the Super Blood Wolf Moon and into the future. I would make the following points.

One appeal to those who hold other positions – there is and has been a more serious and scholarly version of dispensationalism than the populist version you see on TV and in books. It focuses on things like the eternal fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel and the distinction of Israel and the Church, on Romans 11, and on other hermeneutical issues, not on Blood Moons and Red Heifers. If all you do is deal with Hagee, Van Impe, and LaHaye, you’ve not really dealt with dispensationalism.

But, to my fellow dispensationalists, whether classical, progressive, or like me, tepid, here are some things to remember.

1. We are not looking for signs, but listening for the Son. 

I have heard that all of my life – nice cliche, huh? One of the fundamental assertions of our view is that the return of Christ for his church (sometimes called the Rapture) is imminent – it could happen at any moment. There are no signs that need to take place before the trumpet sounds. Those signs in the heavens that are spoken of in Matthew and Revelation take place after that, not before. There are no signs that need occur in the sky or on earth before the trumpet sounds.

Anyone who stirs us up with stories of Blood Moons and all that other nonsense is missing the point.

2. We do not know the time. 

Honestly, how much more clear could Christ have been that he would come as a thief in the night and that we would not know the day or the hour. There are not going to be a bunch of signs – thieves don’t leave hints! We are supposed to be ready every day not wait for Super Blood Wolf Moons to warn us.

3. God will restore Israel in the future.

It is true that we believe that God’s promises to physical Israel will be physically fulfilled in the future kingdom. Every passage that speaks of the end times focuses on Israel and Jerusalem – a core part of our doctrine. I would point out that God restores Israel in his time. The Bible never puts the burden of the restoration of the nation of Israel on the church.

4. HOWEVER…Right now we are in the ‘Times of the Gentiles” 

Romans 11 is a core passage for us. The nations have been grafted in for a time until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. What is the point? One day, God will restore Israel to its rightful place but right now our duty is to reach people from EVERY tribe and language. That means that God cares about Muslim nations today EVERY BIT as much as he does Israel. If we “support Israel” in such a way that we act as if the Muslim nations do not matter we are not honoring God, but disobeying him.

5. It is our duty to take the Gospel to the Nations, not primarily to save Israel. 

Please understand, I love Israel. I’ve been there and want to go back – it was an experience I cannot describe. Politically, I think America should support Israel for many reasons. But the church should preach the Gospel everywhere and not make Israel a priority over Muslim nations.

It was shameful when a resolution in support of Palestinian Christians was opposed at the SBC because it might be seen as “Anti-Israel.” We do not get to pick which Christians we treat as brothers and sisters.

I hope the USA will be responsibly supportive of Israel (not blindly so), but I hope that we will never think that being pro-Israel is an excuse to ignore evangelizing Muslim countries. That is anti-Gospel.

6. The sensationalism really needs to stop.

Do I need to defend this statement? The Scripture says “by their fruit you shall know them.” These sensationalistic, conspiratorialist movements have never accomplished great things in the kingdom. They have brought ridicule, shame, and disrepute. They’ve made the perpetrators rich and famous but they’ve not brought glory to Jesus Christ.

7. Every End-Times Scripture gives us an admonition to soldier on, not go nuts.

Look at some passages that we dispys have thought to be key to our doctrine through the years.

1 Thessalonians 4, which speaks of being caught up into the clouds with Christ, does not end with an admonition to speculate about the identity of the antichrist or to watch the skies for blood moons, but to be encouraged to walk in Christ.

Therefore encourage one another with these words.  1 Thessalonians 4:18

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul touches on issues of the resurrection and of that moment when in a “twinkling of an eye” we shall all be changed. What does he tell us to do? Quit our jobs and wait for Red Heifers? Make sure the capital of Israel is in Jerusalem? No, he has a much simpler command.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

We are to just keep serving Christ faithfully as long as Jesus tarries, until that day and hour which no one knows where he comes as a thief in the night. After warning of the fact that deception would arise in the days to come in 2 Thessalonians 2, leading right up to the end, another key passage for our doctrine, he gives another warning.

 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, whether by what we said or what we wrote. 2 Thessalonians 2:15

We ought not to be alarmists but to be faithful.

Conclusion

I am making no effort to convince those who hold to other positions in this post. I do not delve into these matters 0ften for two reasons. While I am a dispensationalist, I believe there is enough mystery in the end-times teachings of the Scripture to give Christians room for respectful disagreement. There is an intriguing simplicity in the Amillennialist position and Historic Premillennialism is not without biblical logic. I can’t see how anyone can biblically argue Postmillennialism, but I can understand why people would want to believe that the church reaches the world in the end – noble, if misguided, optimism. Preterism is troubling. After long hours of study, I hold my position, but it is not a “thus saith the Lord” position but a “this explains the evidence to me better than the other positions.”

I really have no desire to argue eschatology with anyone.

My purpose here today is to speak to my tribe and to beg people to avoid the excesses “our side” has so often been guilty of committing.

  • Let us remember that we are not supposed to be reading tea leaves but listening for the trumpet that will signal the coming of the Son as a “thief in the night.”
  • Let us stop getting caught up in sensationalist commercialism.
  • Let us obey Christ and live faithfully until he comes.
  • Let us carry the gospel to EVERY nation. God loves Muslims EVERY BIT as much as Jews. The mandate of the church is to evangelize Jordan and Syria and Lebanon and Egypt every bit as much as it is to evangelize Israel and Jews.
  • Enjoy the Blood Moon, if the sky is clear, but realize that there is ABSOLUTELY NO eschatological significance to it.

On the other hand, if my friend, the KC Wolf, can somehow turn this into a reason for the Chiefs to beat the NE Communists, I will be much less grumpy. I mean, It’s the Chiefs and the whole Blood Wolf Moon thing has Native American roots. How appropo!

Go KC!

Ten Key Questions for the SBC in 2019

Predicting the future is a dangerous thing. I have a copy of Sports Illustrated that predicts that the Atlanta Falcons will defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the upcoming Super Bowl. Atlanta was to have defeated the Vikings in the NFC title game. These football experts get fewer predictions right than a broken clock. I track it.

I lack clairvoyance and am no great expert at the SBC’s inner workings. I have often not foreseen the issues that would arise. Who knew that 2018 would see the downfall of icons and heroes, presidential campaign tactics scraping the barrel in ways we have never seen, the transition of entity leadership at an unprecedented pace, and the explosion of the #metoo movement? I did not foresee the major events of 2018 so I am not prepared to try to predict the major events of 2019.

But I do think there are certain questions that we will have to answer, trends we will need to face. I would like to address 10 such questions, with brief commentary.

Question 1: Who will lead our entities?

This is the key question in many minds. We finally found a leader for our flagship entity, the International Mission Board, but LifeWay, the Executive Committee, and Southwestern remain in transition, with the planned retirement of Dr. Kelly at New Orleans set for this summer.

As far as I know, none of these entities is close to making a hire, though sometimes they surprise you.

Question 2: Will the SBC ever integrate its leadership ranks?

Many of us have been hoping that with 5 entity leadership positions open, there might be serious consideration given to minority candidates and even a minority hiring.

The response to this has been discouraging. I have been called a racist for even suggesting we consider hiring minorities! And the subtle response has often been that considering hiring minorities as entity presidents is “affirmative action” – hiring the less qualified (minority) candidate over the more qualified (white) candidate. “Shouldn’t we just hire the best man for the job?” is the mantra, with the tacit assumption that this refutes minority hiring.

The fact is that there are highly qualified and capable minority candidates for each of our entity leadership positions. We would not have to “settle” to have a president who is not white.

I only hear bits of information, but I have asked people “in the know” and as best I can tell, no minority candidate has been given serious consideration by our search committees yet. There seems to be agreement among those I talk to that we are not going to make any minority hires any time soon.

May we be proven wrong.

Question 3: Will the coming political season tear us apart as the last one did?

The 2016 political campaign was the most divisive thing I have seen in the SBC since the Conservative Resurgence. We share the blame. Those of us who are not enamored with the current president reacted with extreme rhetoric when his star began to rise in the GOP, questioning how Christians could support a man so lacking in moral character. The tide has shifted and now, the biblical fidelity of anyone who doesn’t support Donald Trump is called into question by some.

I am not interested in arguing politics today. My question is not about the merits of the Trump administration, or about immigration or refugees or any of the issues that have divided us. My question is whether we can find a way to love one another and honor one another even while we disagree with politically. We failed miserably in 2016 and it was an ugly time. Will we do better in the coming season?

Can we differ politically without anathematizing one another?

Question 4: Will a “regular guy” run for Pastors’ Conference president again this year?

I have appreciated the last two PC presidents’ focus on biblical preaching. This year’s theme is the Beatitudes.

But I am hearing a rising tide of talk supporting the idea of having a “regular guy” run for PC president again, someone who is not part of or blessed by the Mega-metro group.

To be clear, I have no part in this movement nor do any of the team from the 2017 PC. That wore us out. Not one of our guys has any desire to do that again, not in the foreseeable future.

But I am hearing “chatter” that makes me think this might happen this year.

Question 5: Will the SBC continue to be in the thrall of Mega-Metro Pastors?

The SBC is made up of small and medium size churches but it led by a coterie of megachurch pastors. The numbers are staggering. I believe it is in the neighborhood of about 96% of our 47,000 churches that run less than 400 on a Sunday morning and there are around 200 megachurches. Mega-metro is a fellowship group that meets to discuss ministry, evangelism, and other issues that come up. These megachurch pastors are good men who do great work.

I do not think there should be enmity between large churches and small in the SBC – we should be partners. But our presidents and key leaders are disproportionately drawn from the 200 megas. The SBC is a train whose conductors and engineers are tend to be from the mega-metro churches while the rest of us are passengers. (I am speaking of leadership here.)

This can only be so if we, the majority, acquiesce to it. Will we continue to do so? Or will we take part in leadership, to take our place as engineers and conductors and not just as passengers?

Question 6: Will the CR reignite?

The recent brouhaha at SBU raised the specter that the Conservative Resurgence may be anything but a dead issue in the SBC. It would be foolish to think that theological drift ended 20 years ago, but who knows where this will go?

Perhaps the SBU issue will be a tempest in a teapot or perhaps it will reveal that theological issues still exist in theological institutions and that greater oversight is needed.

I do not have an answer here but I certainly have questions.

Question 7: Whither Complementarianism?

I consider myself a strong, biblical complementarian, but to listen to certain pockets of the SBC, I am egalitarian, because I do not ascribe to all their narrow applications of complementarian dogma.

I believe God made men and women to complement each other; that men are given leadership at home and in the church, but the devil is in the details. Can a woman lead singing in a church? Can a woman lead in prayer? What does, “let the women keep silent…” mean? Is there any cultural aspect to any of this? I have labored long and hard to understand the biblical passages on men and women and I have strong convictions, but they are not the same convictions as some others. As complementarianism becomes less socially popular and as some with more extreme views dig in their heels, how will we respond?

The SBC is going to struggle with this. Witness the discussion about whether a woman could serve as president of the SBC (something no woman I have talked to or read about has expressed an interest in doing). Our BF&M defines us as complementarian but it doesn’t define exactly what that means.

What kind of complementarians will we be?

Question 8: What will happen to Traditionalism?

I am not a Traditionalist and have opposed the behavior and deportment of the often dysfunctional Traditionalist movement in the SBC. I was shocked and saddened to see the surliness, the derogation, the violation of biblical commands to honor one another than became the stock in trade of many of the leaders of that movement. It was rising to a head last spring then, poof, the movement just imploded.

As one who was a critic of the movement, I would be expected to gloat, or at least to be relieved. To the surprise of many, I find it unfortunate. Men like David Allen promote a scholarly alternative to Calvinism and we are a better denomination when soteriological options are articulated well. The problem was not THAT Traditionalism was articulated but HOW it was done.

A theologically robust non-Calvinism expressed within the boundaries of Christian dialogue, free of the rancor, pettiness, and hostility that was all too common, would be good for the SBC.

Will we see it? I hope so.

Question 9: Will any more dominoes fall?

I hope not, but who would have thought we would see some of the moral failures and personal kingdom collapses that we saw in 2018? Lord, help us, but sometimes people fail, even heroes.

Will another show his feet of clay? Will I shed more tears when I hear that a friend whom I deeply respect has fallen? Will more #metoo scandals show our failures?

We would like to think this is all in the past, but the flesh never is.

Question 10: Will the slide end?

The SBC Annual meeting has been a yearly time of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth over our statistical decline. Will it ever end? Are we on a neverending slip-and-slide trip to denominational oblivion or can we pull out of this dive and turn things around?

Again, I don’t have an answer to that but I do think it is an important question.

Do you have a question to add?
Do you have an answer to one of my questions?
Talk amongst yourselves.

Everlasting Father

There is nothing in God’s creation that more fully reflects the glory of God more than mankind’s intelligence and creativity, something far beyond any other creature’s. We have been able to make advances in technology that boggle our minds, engineer skyscrapers and airplanes and spaceships, fight disease, map DNA, and solve many of this world’s mysteries. We look with wonder at the next 20 years, or 50 years, and imagine what might be possible. But no matter what breakthroughs there are in medicine, in technology, or in any other field of human endeavor, one thing we know, the human mind will never be able to fully grasp the glory of God’s existence and character.  He has revealed himself to us in his word, and we can believe what he has made plain, but the essence of his existence, the Trinity, will always be beyond our understanding. We are meant to put our faith in a God we can never fully grasp intellectually.

Our one God exists eternally as three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – each a distinct person who is fully God. Yet we have only one God, not three. Every human explanation of that ever devised is a heresy – generally some form of what is called modalism. It is a truth that defies human logic. Three cannot be one, but God’s word says they are. We must believe it though we cannot understand it or explain it.

When we come to Isaiah 9:6 and read the four names given to the child, one of those names has caused some consternation to Trinitarians through the years. He is called the Wonderful Counselor and that makes sense – he was sent to earth to be God with us. He is the Mighty God who conquers all who stand against him and fights for his people, those of us who believe in him. We will see in the next message that Jesus is the Prince of peace – the one who brings peace by taking full authority on earth. But one name is odd, an anomaly among all the names of Jesus in the Bible. Jesus is called “Everlasting Father.” We know Jesus as the Son of God the Father and hearing him called a father registers odd to our ears. Today we will examine that word and see what it means.

Progression and Contrast

This verse is filled with a series of contrasts and reveals an interesting progression in the names. At the beginning, a child is born and a son is given. But the child was the Mighty Warrior God who defeats the foes of righteousness and establishes his eternal reign on earth. The son who was given to us is also our everlasting father. God’s solution to this world’s problems was a baby, but no ordinary baby. The baby in that manger who we worship this week is awesome, glorious, powerful, fierce, loving, and wonderful. Never forget that. When God sends a baby he is like no other baby.

Let us examine what the Scripture says about our everlasting father.

The Son is Our Father

The third name of the baby in Isaiah 9:6 has troubled some who believe in the Trinity and has been used by some who deny the Trinity. If Jesus is identified with the Father here, there must be no real distinction between the persons of the Godhead. Scripture, however, must be interpreted within its proper context. As we read Old Testament texts with New Testament eyes, we can often see truths that even authors did not see. But we must show due respect to the understanding of the author. Here, the author was using a common idiom and was not intending to speak to the nature of the Godhead or describe the persons of the Trinity. He is simply saying that Jesus behaves toward his people as a good father does toward his children.

The Old Testament shows hints of the diversity of person in the Godhead, but no developed doctrine of the Trinity. Many prophecies lay a foundation for the New Testament revelation for the existence of the Trinity and for the dual nature of Christ, but it is only with a New Testament understanding that we see them clearly. Describing Jesus as our “everlasting father” is meant as an idiom, not as statement about the nature of God. It refers to the work of the Messiah among his people, his relationship to time, not to the interrelationships among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Referring to God as Father is not as common in the Hebrew Old Testament as it is in New Testament times. There are a few references to God as Israel’s father but it is rare. A father is meant to be a faithful protector and provider, a wise guardian, one who gives himself for the good of his children. This verse describes Jesus as our father in that he provides for us, guides us, protects us, and gave himself for our good. He did for us what a good father does for his children.

Jesus is one in essence with the heavenly father. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” and said that if you had seen him you had seen the Father. He came to reveal the Father to the world. Jesus came to earth to reveal to us who the eternal Father was and to provide everything the Father wishes to give us. I am often called a “chip off the old block” by people who know my dad.” I have even seen pictures of myself recently and thought, “Wow, I’m starting to look a little like the old guy.” I am a reflection of my father in some ways. But Jesus is a full and perfect reflection of Heavenly Father here on earth.

It is an amazing truth. In this world, powerful and important people often use those under them for their own purposes. They chew them up and spit them out to accomplish their purposes and achieve their ends. But our everlasting father, Jesus, came to earth to demonstrate the love of the Heavenly Father and seek and save what was lost. He doesn’t chew us up and spit us out, but he redeems us, renews us, and rebuilds us. He uses his sovereign power as the Mighty God to protect and provide for us. On earth, the people exist for the good of the powerful, but our king loves us, saves us, and blesses us. Yes, we exist for his glory, but when we glorify him, his glory also elevates us and shines through us. He doesn’t use us cruelly, but he blesses us bountifully. That is what a father does.

Let us look more specifically at what a good father does.

What Does a Father Do?

A good father has several key roles in the life of his children. First of all, the Father provides a home for his children. Jesus is our father who has prepared a place for us. We often think of Jesus as going to heaven with a tool belt around his waist to build a mansion for each of us to live in eternally. But remember, when Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us, he was headed to the Cross, not to heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God, having completed work on your place in heaven the moment he said, “It is finished” and breathed his last. Jesus was your everlasting father in that he provided a place for you to spend eternity other than hell.

A good father protects his children from their enemies. He may allow them to go through hard times to build their character and to strengthen them, but a good father will stand and protect his children when someone tries to destroy them. Jesus did everything necessary to free us from the power of sin, from the hold of death over us, and from the deception of Satan. Jesus is our everlasting Father who stands strong, protecting us against our enemies.

A good father provides for his children. No, this is not where I tell you that God always wants you healthy and wealthy – that is the lie of the televangelists. But the Bible does say he will give us everything we need for life and godliness. Jesus is our everlasting father who has promised to provide all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

A good father is present in the lives of his children. Nothing you give to your kids replaces the thing they need the most – your presence in their lives. Jesus is not off in heaven disinterested or just observing your life. When he ascended to heaven he gave his Holy Spirit to those who believe. The Spirit is God’s presence in our lives. Jesus is with us day by day through the Other Counselor, an ever-present reality in our lives. Jesus is our everlasting father because he is there, day by day, year by year, forevermore.

Jesus is not just like a father to us, but he is an everlasting father.

The Son Is an Eternal Father

Though eternity was another concept not fully developed in Old Testament days, we can look at this passage with New Testament eyes and see that calling Jesus our Everlasting Father is another clear indication of his divinity. According to Revelation 1:18, Jesus is alive and reigns forever and that is a quality that was ascribed to no other king, no other ruler, no other man in the Hebrew Old Testament. David’s throne was described as eternal, not because David would live forever but because his line would never be wiped out. But here, the Messiah is described as eternal, everlasting.

Jesus is our father who provides for us, who protects us, who made a home in heaven for us, and who is ever-present in our lives, and this is a never-ending, permanent, eternal relationship. He never gives up on us, even when we fail. He never quits. We may fail the Son of God but he remains our everlasting father! There is much we do not know about what is going to happen in the year to come, but whatever happens in this world, we are safe and secure because Jesus is our everlasting father and what he has done for us he will do. He will satisfy our souls now and for all eternity.

The bond between a father and son is permanent and cannot be broken by anything. Our relationship with Jesus Christ, based on our new birth in Christ, is eternal and cannot be broken. Though we sin and fail, Jesus is our everlasting father who never gives up.

A Closing Thought

In a fallen world, fathers often fail their children. On TV, dads are presented as morons and idiots, beer-swilling, porn-loving jerks who are incapable of raising children or providing leadership to a home. For many people, the word father is a source of pain, not of blessing, because fathers have failed – they have abused and neglected and demeaned their children instead of being what a real father, a good father should be.

I read an interesting couple of articles this week about mass shooters in the US. There are many factors that drive a young man to do such an awful thing, but there is one thing that almost every one of them has in common – no dad. All our lives are filled with sadness and pain, that cannot be avoided in a sinful and fallen world. But if you have a father, a protector, and guide, a provider, one who loves you unconditionally, it makes all the difference in the world.

We have just such a heavenly father, who is the model for earthly fathers. No matter what your earthly father was or is, your heavenly father is amazing, and he sent his son to reveal his love to us, to be our everlasting father on earth. He did everything necessary to provide a home for you for all eternity, he protects you from your enemies, provides all your needs, and is an ever-present help in times of trouble.

Jesus came to this earth to redeem a people for himself, to make the enemies of God into friends, to gather a people from among the rebellious and bring them into the company of the redeemed. He is our everlasting father who came at Christmas to this world broken by revealing all the goodness and love of God and guide us into the experience of all of God’s grace. His role as our everlasting father lasts forever!

 

Mighty God

The Christmas we see in our cards, in our songs, and in our nativity sets, is a sanitized, sentimentalized, safe version of what really happened in Bethlehem. It was beautiful and glorious and powerful – Mary and Joseph yielding to God’s plan, angels announcing the Messiah’s birth, a humble setting as God takes on human form, a manger as his crib, and Magi following a star from the East to worship him. But there is a side to this that the Christmas cards do not show, one that we must understand.

The story of Jesus is tragic, from his birth to his death. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and that started from the very beginning. He knew loneliness, rejection, and pain. His birth was humble; he was ignored by the people of Bethlehem who had no idea the Messiah had been born among them. Israel did not celebrate what they had so long awaited.

After the Magi’s visit, the story took an ugly turn. Herod, scared for his position as the poseur-in-chief in Jerusalem sought to kill the “one born king of the Jews” and sent his soldiers to commit one of history’s unspeakable atrocities. Jesus, now a little boy, only escaped because God warned Joseph in a dream and he fled with his family to Egypt. They later returned to Nazareth where Jesus grew in obscurity, likely suffering social consequences from the circumstances of his birth.

Three decades later, Jesus presented himself to John, the Spirit descended on him, and he was led into the desert to be tempted, and the battle began in earnest. Satan battered him and beat him, but could not defeat him. Jesus rebuked Satan and remained the sinless Son of God, then went to Galilee in the fullness of the Spirit proclaiming the kingdom of God and calling people to repent.

The religious leaders listened as Jesus preached, watched him perform miracles, and observed his life. They envied his power and authority and were offended that he refused to honor their manmade rules and yield to their authority and control. Jealous of the crowds that followed Jesus, they sought to undermine him, laid traps to expose him, and spread lies about him. Each time they left these encounters with their egos bruised and in tatters. Finally, they formed a conspiracy to silence him once and for all.

Satan was still at work, his immeasurable hatred of the Son of God pushed him to scheme and lie to bring Jesus down. When the time was right, things seemed to click. One of Jesus’ inner circle sold him for a few pieces of silver and he was arrested and put on trial. They broke their own rules to try him, paying people to lie against him while Jesus stood silent. This kangaroo court convicted him and sentenced him to death with all the sanctimonious self-righteousness they could muster. Unable to carry out such a sentence on their own, they took him to Pilate, the Roman governor, asking his permission to take Jesus’ life. Pilate attempted to prod Jesus into a debate, but he was silent once again. Pilate, a moral coward, found no fault in him but yielded to the bloodlust of the crowd and handed Jesus over to death.

Jesus’ supporters had chanted “Hosanna” as Jesus rode into the city but now, with the Evil One scheming and the religious leaders at work, a very different crowd gathered. Calling for the release of the murderer Barabbas, they chanted “Crucify Him” so the Nazarene’s blood would be spilled. The lined the road to Golgotha to jeer him and demean the sinless Son.

At Calvary, men laid hands on their Creator and stretched his hands and feet on the cross. They lifted the Cross into place and let it drop into the hole, as Jesus hung in place. The crowds continued to revel in his shame. Jesus hung in agony of body and much more of soul as he bore the full weight the sins of the world.

Finally, Jesus called out and gave up his spirit and died. They drove a spear into his side to make sure he was dead, then buried him in a tomb, setting a guard over the tomb to make sure there were no shenanigans. And they thought they’d dealt with him. They thought they’d taken care of him once and for all.

What a tragedy. Lies. Cruelty. Scheming. The Evil One moving in arrogant men to do unspeakable things. Men laying their hands on the One who spoke the world into existence and who had yielded heaven’s glories to come to earth. It is a tragic story. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He came unto his own and his own received him not. More rejected him than received him. They lied about him, abused him, tortured him, and finally killed him.

But, my friend, the last thing Jesus needs is your pity. If you are tempted to feel sorry for the Savior, two things are true. First, you need to read the rest of the story and then you need to remember who Jesus really is!

Jesus is the author of this story, not the victim. It was his choice, his design, to come in humility, give himself to humanity, to seek and to save the lost, to redeem a people for God. That great Christmas passage, Philippians 2, says that Jesus, fully equal with God, gave up all those rights and prerogatives to come to earth. He emptied himself of heaven’s glory to come to earth and suffer for the sake of the world. It did not happen to Jesus, it was done by Jesus. Our Lord is no victim.

And never forget this. Jesus is anything but a person to be pitied. Did they ignore him? Yes. Did they reject him and abuse him and torture him? Did people lie about him? Yes to all of that. But it is those who ignore Jesus that are to be pitied. Feel sorrow for those who embrace the lies. People laid hands on Jesus and brutalized him, but they did not defeat him – they could not. Jesus rose from the dead in mighty triumph, having defeated death and hell, having conquered Satan, and having destroyed every enemy who would ever stand against him. Jesus is Lord! He is seated at the right hand of God and one day he will descend from heaven with the armies of heaven beside him. The combined forces of mankind, united in rebellion against the Savior of the world, will be destroyed by a sword that proceeds out of his mouth and he will set foot on this earth and all will realize what many did not – he is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Don’t ever feel sorry for Jesus!

All of Satan’s evil will one day crumble around him. Satan, you can lie to us, you can tempt us, you can lead us astray, lashing around in your death throes, seeking whom you may devour. There is one thing, however, you can never do. You cannot defeat my Jesus. He has crushed your head when he said, “It is finished” at the Cross. This world lies to us and the tide of sin threatens to carry us along in a flood tide of sin and rebellion. But this world is passing away and one day a new heaven and a new earth, ruled by the Baby from the manger is coming. My own flesh seeks to pull me down into the miry pits of sin, plaguing me day to day, but it is doomed as the work of Christ in me will be completed and I will be conformed to his image. Jesus wins.

Jesus’ time on earth was hard and he suffered greatly, but he is no helpless little cooing baby, but the most powerful, awesome, irresistible force in world history. He is no ordinary baby, but he is the Mighty God of Heaven.

Mighty God

For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 9:6 reveals four names of God. It was a common practice that kings would be assigned a name when they ascended the throne, one that would characterize their reign. Here, the prophet assigns four to the Baby who would be born. He would be a Wonderful Counselor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, and a Prince of Peace. In the last message, we examined the first name, Wonderful Counselor, and saw that Jesus is the one who, by his Holy Spirit, guides us through life’s challenges to victory. In this message, we examine the second name, Mighty God.

A Title of Divinity

The Old Testament only gives us hints about the nature of Jesus, the Messiah, but our key verse here is one clear statement of the divinity of the Baby the prophets foretold. We even see a hint of the dual nature of Christ in the first line. “A child is born” speaks of the humanity of Jesus Christ while “a Son is given” hints at his divine nature. These parallel phrases lay the groundwork for the NT teaching of Jesus’ dual nature as the God-man.

But this second of the four royal names, “Mighty God” tells us that this baby is no ordinary child. He is God. Some have tried to discount the reference to God as only referring to heroic, or godlike actions, but this kind of name is not given to any human being in the Hebrew Scriptures. Many have references to God in their names but none are assigned divine attributes. This baby, whom we know to be Christ, is the Mighty God of the universe.

The way this is constructed here points this statement back to Isaiah 7:14 and gives it a similar force. This child, this son, is Immanuel – God with us. He is God in a human body, come to do God’s work among us. This is one special child!

A Mighty One

Not only is he God, but he is mighty. What does mighty mean? This is a common word in Hebrew. The root and all its derivatives occur 328 times in the Old Testament and commonly refer to someone who engages in warfare successfully, with strength and vitality – a mighty warrior. It is often used to describe an attribute of God, who overcomes all his foes and fights for his glory and for his people.

In Genesis 10:9, Nimrod is described as a mighty hunter, one who successfully tracks down his prey. In 2 Samuel David’s men are described as valiant or mighty warriors. This description is common throughout the Hebrew Bible. The divine name is also common. It appears in Psalm 24:8.

Psalm 24:8 “Who is this King of glory?
            The Lord, strong and mighty,
            the Lord, mighty in battle.”

Deuteronomy 10:17 says, “the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God.” Jeremiah 32:18 adds that he is a “great and mighty God whose name is the Lord of Armies (Lord of Hosts).” This refers to God’s mighty power in battle. Nehemiah 9:32 describes our God as, “the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant.”

These passages all describe the greatness and power of God. He is mighty, overcoming all his foes. But they also describe the purpose of his power. God doesn’t just go around flexing his muscles and giving beatdowns to his enemies. He works to “keep his gracious covenant” with his people. He displays his power on behalf of his people.

God is working for us. He fights for us. The mighty God fights against the enemies of those who serve him.

You are not on your own in this world. Don’t feel sorry for Jesus, but neither should anyone who has been redeemed by Jesus and indwelled by his Spirit go around sad sack and defeated in life. “Oh, poor me.” Nonsense. Stop moaning and groaning about the evil in this world and realize that you are on the side of the Mighty God who fights for his people. He wins and if we are his, we win with him. No more powerful force exists on this earth than the people of God doing the work of God and it is time we stopped acting as if we are a bunch of hopeless spiritual losers. Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. The world that stands against us will melt with fervent heat, but we will stand victorious with our Savior. And my sinful flesh will one day no longer draw me down toward sin. It will be obliterated entirely, and I will be perfected in Christ, by Christ, and for Christ.

Oh, that will be glory for me.

In the meantime, the message of Christmas is that we face this world empowered by the Baby who was born, who lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death, rose from the dead in victory, is seated at the right hand of God, and will one day rule the world in truth and grace.