Friday, February 23, 2018

Confusion Between Kingdoms, But By Grace We Nevertheless Stand and Are Blessed!

We find ourselves in a cultural, religious, and political morass. Herbert Schlossberg in his book Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture (Crossway Books, 1990) had already diagnosed our situation back then. If anything his foresight has been confirmed. "...American religion is full of the contradictions and paradoxes that come from the attempt to merge a true gospel with the faltering creeds of the surrounding society (9)." Furthermore, Reinhold Niebuhr aptly observed way back in the 1950's that the predominant national religiosity was a "perversion of the Christian gospel (Schlossberg, 9)," and this -- Schlossberg points out -- has only aggravated the nation's problems. The trend continues and this confusion of religion has brought confusion to politics as so many have sought to merge the two kingdoms! I know this sounds pessimistic, but I don't take any of this to mean that we should therefore live down in the dumps. Not at all. Rather, I thank God for His clarity leading us to understand the state of affairs and more importantly, how He continues to graciously work through it for the sake of His Church. The Holy Scriptures are perspicuous on these matters. To cut to the chase we have biblical insight for distinction between Left Hand Kingdom (power and government) and Right Hand Kingdom (grace and church). But if we choose to merge these and mix these, then we lose the duality and mistakenly make them one. And this merging is what causes things to get really bad. The good news, however, is that no one understands our tendency to do this better than God. The LORD knows and what is more important than how we stray is the LORD's grace. He is by nature merciful. Thank Him! In that mercy He chooses to work through our confusion and He has established precedent in His Word that He works through the current conditions no matter how challenged they might be! Here, I would like to offer the example of King Cyrus the Great and here by the way we also come into an example of the Holy Bible's intersection with external history which by the way strengthens the veracity, reliability, and trustworthiness of Sacred Scripture (in this case in the Old Testament). The Persian King (559-530 BC) conquered the Median kingdom, but when he did he came into conflict with Babylon. He went on to conquer Babylon. It just so happened -- just an amazing coincidence (I'm being facetious) -- that the people of God were captives in exile in Babylon at the time. When Cyrus came into power, he freed the people of God and permitted them to return to their homeland! That is, God used the circumstances to find a way to bless His people! Cyrus did not know the LORD. He was not of Israel. It didn't matter, God worked through Him anyway. The politics were forced to serve God's people. Isaiah 45:1: "Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed." God made Cyrus His "anointed" in order to serve God's purposes for the sake of His people! And Jesus stood before Pilate almost 600 years later. "So Pilate said to him, 'You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?' Jesus answered him, 'You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above (John 19:10-11).'" Jesus was saying, "Pilate, I have given you your authority, now send me to be crucified." And from a human standpoint, the spectacle of Christ on the cross amounted to complete and utter failure on the part of Jesus, the would-be Messiah. Jesus lost. God was dead. And then came the rest of the story. What do we learn from this? God is still here. God is still working. God is still in control. God will bless His people. Let us therefore rejoice. No, we will not live down in the dumps. We will love God and love people around us -- regardless of their politics, worldviews, ethnicities or religions -- we will show them Jesus and even now bring healing to our nation even if through just one person at a time. Please help me spread the word about my upcoming book Faith That Sees Through The Culture being released on June 13th by Concordia Publishing House. In it, we have more to say about the duality of the two kingdoms and our popular approach to church and state. Soli Deo Gloria!

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