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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

Corrupting Worship

April 12, 2010

Satan, Bound (15)

anchorMankind was made for worship as the plants
were made for growth. His very being pants
for something far beyond himself, above
him and around him, something he can love
and dedicate himself unto with all
his strength and soul, a trusted friend to call
upon in prayer.1 He needs a deity
to lavish thanks and praise upon, one he
can trust, and turn to in his times of fear,
uncertainty, and doubt; one who will hear
his prayers and show him kindness, steadfast love,
and constant goodness, lifting him above
his trials and fears to heights of joy and peace
where blessedness and boundless hope increase
and he experiences a glimpse of heaven.2
To every human being it is given
to seek such a transcendent anchor for
the soul, a light of truth, a trusted source
of faithfulness and never-failing grace
and peace.

Hence my dilemma: who would place
his hope and trust in me for all of this?
How could I get them to believe the bliss
they seek in life is lodged with me more than
the Deity Himself? I’d need a plan
much more sophisticated, subtle, and
discreet to get the Lord’s redeemed to stand
with me instead of Him. So I began
experimenting, trying out my plan
by stages, until I was certain I
had hit upon the perfect lethal lie
which, custom-fit to every person, could
ensure that they would turn their backs for good
on God, and follow me instead.

The key,
of course, would be to keep sincerity
in place while fostering disobedience in
small increments. No one will count it sin
if he sincerely thinks that he can do
whatever he believes will help him to
exalt the Lord in worship; and if he
can justify his actions by some plea
to reason, changing times, the need to be
more like the folks in his community,
or other explanation, others, though
they may object at first, will simply go
along with him, unable to refute
his reasons, and unwilling to dispute
with him about the worship of the Lord.

Thus I would woo and wean them from the Word
of God, and, having severed that connection,
I would suggest for them a new direction,
that “meets my needs” or “has more meaning for
me”; that “appeals to younger people” or
is simply “new” or “sensitive.” By just
such schemes I would dislodge their feeble trust
in God and in His Word, and set them free
to worship self – which is to worship me!

I blundered early, though I got a laugh
out of that thing about the golden calf.3
For I was just too bold, too in-their-face;
they would be wary about giving place
to idols after that. Prudence required
that I proceed more cautiously. Inspired
by the establishment of priests to bring
to God the people’s daily offerings,
I managed to enthrall the minds of two
of them with something clever they could do,
as they would come to see it, to advance
God’s worship (and which, if it helped enhance
their status in the people’s hearts and eyes,
so much the better).4 I let them devise
some “new” approach to burning incense to
the Lord, which He had told them they should do,
but in a certain manner only. Yes,
but would not this “new style” help them to bless
the Lord as well? Well, no, as it turned out:
Two dead, a grieving father left to pout
in silence, and a flustered leader not
quite certain what to do or how he ought
to fix this mess. And put yourself inside
the mind of every other priest beside
those two: would you not be a little wary
of crossing some forbidden line, chary
of leading people in the worship of
a God who, though He protests of His love
for them, would cavalierly (some no doubt
would see it thus) snuff you right out
if you don’t absolutely toe the line
in worship? And would you not set your mind
to make sure that you rigidly enforce
the jots and tittles written in the Source
concerning worship, making worship oh
so formal, oh so fraught with fear, and so
completely lacking in the very thing
God wants His people most of all to bring
to Him in worship: heartfelt thanks and trust?5

Thus from the start I made true worship just
a little bit more difficult for all
those dimwits, dolts, and dunces who would call
upon the name of God instead of me:
I set in place a plea for purity
in worship, a determination on
the part of some to make sure all is done
“according to the Book,” a preference for
just the right elements and forms, no more,
no less – and let such things as joy and heart-
felt thanks be secondary to the art
of liturgy, tradition, and “the way
we’ve always done it!” Do I have to say
it outright? Such perverse rigidity
will not please God;6 but, oh, it pleases me
to see so many worship leaders vaunt
their legal loyalty to God’s covenant,
exalting thus their faithfulness and wills,
and leading worship that so often kills
communion with the Deity. Let such
their worship be, and it will never touch
the heart of God, nor ever train them in
His love, but only mire them deep in sin.

 

1 Psalm 42.1, 2

2 Psalm 28

3 Exodus 32

4 Leviticus 10

5 Cf. Psalm 50.1-15

6 Cf. Isaiah 1.10-17

Self-Worship

April 26, 2010

Satan, Bound (16)

As some could be persuaded to insist
that worship of the Deity consist
in strict conformity to every form
and element, still others hoped a norm
for worship to define by turning to
consider what the pagan peoples do
in worship.1 Now I know this seems extreme,
but once you fully understand my scheme,
the genius of it will be plain.

I sowed
the thought in some that, since the Lord bestowed
on them the obligation to shine forth
the knowledge of His name in all the earth,
that it was reasonable, in reaching out
to other peoples, that they learn about
the kinds of things such people tend to do
in worship, then conform their worship to
what pagan peoples can embrace with ease.
Such a gesture would be sure to please
their neighbors, though it may seem strange to some
to have their worship filled with emblems from
surrounding cultures. “What about the clear
Word of the Lord, that says we must adhere
to His instructions in our worship, and
not dare embrace the practice of the land
and peoples all around?” they would protest.
“But does not God, who has so richly blessed
us, want us to reach out in blessing to
the pagans?” the reply would come. “How do
you plan to do this without coming down
to where they live?” Such reasoning would drown
out every protest and divide the host –
an unexpected boon, if I may boast
a bit. And so, in time, their worship would
include whatever pagan practice could
be justified as helping to proclaim
among the nations the eternal name
of God. And fighting factions would appear,
each claiming that it faithfully adhered
to God’s priorities, and casting doubt
on those who in their worship went about
it in some other manner.2

It would take
their kings to bridge these factions and to make
the people dwell in peace. Their role would be
to make religion public policy,
that is, to make sure every sacrifice
and feast was dutifully observed – all nice
and proper – but to court surrounding kings
by tolerating pagan offerings
and practices within their courts,3 and to
make sure that there were priests and prophets who
would pipe the tunes for which king would pay
them handsomely. Meanwhile, he would allay
concerns about such pragmatism by
some show of favor to whichever side
was feeling slighted or concerned, all in
the name of public weal. Such blatant sin
was overlooked in time, as people learned
to get in step and let their hearts be turned
more by contemporary practice and
political expediency than
the revelation of the Lord. Thus I
confused and compromised their worship by
such subtle means, and helped them give the nod
to me in worship, rather than to God.

Corrupting worship came to me with ease.
I led these foolish people to displease
the Lord in many ways, and all the time
let them believe that everything was fine
in their relationship with Him. They thought
that they were doing just what He had taught
them to, when, all the while, it was their own
self-interest and convenience which alone
defined the norms for worship. Oh, of course
there were a few who managed all the worst
abuses to avoid, but their prophetic
harangues had slight effect on those pathetic
and silly people, who, except for brief
revival seasons, gave no end of grief
to God with their vain worship. Idols perched
on every mantle; Sabbath days besmirched
with commerce were the norm; few tithed; the feast
days were but spottily observed; the least
and greatest of them every corner cut
in worship, thinking all the while that what
they offered God was good enough; and though
He spurned them, oh, their worship pleased me so.

And that was quite enough for me, and here
is why: Assuming God was very clear
on how He would be worshiped, that His Word
reveals the way to come before the Lord
in worship, then to augment, modify,
or circumvent this is to buy the lie
that worship, after all, is really not
about the Lord at all! And so I taught
them: worship is for you, you stupid fools,
so go ahead and substitute your rules
and guidelines, practices and norms, your own
ideas for those sent to you from the throne
of heav’n. As long as you can justify
your actions they won’t seem to you a lie
at all, and you can go your merry way
and all your foolish, fleshly lusts obey,
exaggerating, mitigating, and
exchanging God’s revealed designs for man’s –
and in this way, by now I think you’ll see,
leave off adoring God, and worship me!

And so my stature rose among the legions
of my adoring hosts, here in the regions
above, and every act of man on earth
proclaimed the might and greatness of my worth!

1 Deuteronomy 13.1-11

2 1 Corinthians 1.10-17

3 1 Kings 11.1-8

The Lie

May 03, 2010

Satan, Bound (17)

There is a certain irony in my
reporting all these victories that I
achieved against the interests of my Foe.
I am the Father of All Lies,1 you know,
and thus you might expect it hard for me
to narrate so much truth so candidly
as what you to this point have heard. Need I
remind you that to publicize the lie
and spread its glory, one must sometimes use
the truth, at least as much as will one’s ruse
accommodate?2 One must endeavor to
make every lie seem just the thing to do,
and to this end, it must be shrouded in
some truth, or will be recognized as sin
too easily. Thus, even you, as you
my truthful, tragic narrative review,
may in your heart begin to feel a chord
of sympathetic resonance toward
my plight begin to vibrate – a delight
in my grandiloquence; perhaps a slight
regret for my benightedness; a sadness
at my recalcitrance; a hope my badness
will, in the end, be cured? And is this not
just like you – just like every man – who ought
to hate all forms of evil,3 to instead
find room within your foolish heart and head
to say, “Well, after all, it’s not so bad”?

I relish such a thought; it makes me glad
to know that avenues exist within
men’s souls by which temptation may bring sin
to full fruition.4 If all humans were
so easily entrapped, if I could blur
distinctions between lies and truth and lead
all men to turn away from God and heed
their fleshly lusts, by couching lies in truth,
then this would surely be compelling proof
that I sufficient strength possess to rise
up and assault the King of earth and skies
once more, and seize at last His throne for me.

But there are always some who prove to be
an obstacle to my ambitions. I
shall treat of one who stood against my lie,
for truth requires it, and I have no fear,
from what I’ve seen, that many, though they hear
the truth, will take it much to heart. So let
the truth be told! I’m certain lies shall yet
prevail!

This in due course; but first, to show
my prowess at employing truth to sow
the seeds of wickedness, a few examples
of my deceptive skills, so you may sample
the poisoned cuisine of pride, self, lust, and power.

God chose the meekest man, that he should tower
above all others, and a shepherd be
for them across the wilderness.5 For he
would speak with God, and lead the people by
his meekness to their promised home. But I
had other plans for him. Let pressures build,
and let God’s people show just how strong-willed
they could be, and his pride would get the best
of him.6 Could they not see how God had blessed
them through his leadership? Did they not know
that he was God’s anointed one, to show
their way into the promised land? Must he
bear with these grumblers for eternity!?
And so, the meekest man in all the earth
succumbed to pride and forfeited his worth
to lead God’s people home, by taking to
himself the glory that to God is due
alone, and striking what he should have merely
commanded to give water. Thus he dearly
paid, and let truth be a conduit for sin.

Or see this one who led the people in
their conquest of the land: Truth was, as he
no doubt assessed it, that their victory
at Jericho, so easily attained,
was meant to show how others would be gained
as well. So, off to Ai, without prayer
or seeking God, he sent a force to their
embarrassment and ruin. (The Lord, it seems,
prefers His plans to any stupid schemes
His people might concoct apart from Him.)7

And shall I narrate for you here the grim
details of how the people, when no king
ruled o’er them, did whatever stupid thing
they thought was right and true, and all the while
heaped wickedness and sin up, pile on pile,
and to my great delight?8 Or shall I tell
of him who brought upon his people hell
on earth, just so that he might know how great
a king he was?9 And I will not relate
how righteousness at length gave way to pride
in him whom God adored, when I had plied
my trade upon his soul (I squeal as I
recall how he his fist shook at the sky,
demanding God explain to him his plight!).10

All these and more I led from day to night,
from righteousness to sin, by lacing truth
with lies, resulting in rebuke, reproof,
remonstrance, or rejection at the hand
of God. What man before my wiles can stand?

1 John 8.44

2 2 Corinthians 11.14

3 Psalm 97.10

4 1 Corinthians 10.12

5 Exodus 3.1-12; Numbers 12.3

6 Numbers 20.1-12

7 Joshua 7.1-9

8 Judges 21.25

9 2 Samuel 24.1-9

10 Job 1, 2; 31.35-37

Portent

June 01, 2010

Well, there was one – well, many, actually –
but I found one of them especially
astute at fending off my lies.[1] I thought
him an anomaly, no more; I ought
to have seen in him instead a portent of
One who would soon enchain me from above.
Behold the workings of my genius mind:
I prowl the earth,[2] endeavoring to find
some unsuspecting and unguarded fool,
someone whom by deception I can rule
and ruin – someone like you. And if I can
entice, ensnare, and capture, by some plan
or lure or bit of poisoned truth, one who
is highly visible, then I would do
so much more damage to His cause, whose name
I will have brought to very public shame.
Which stratagem led me to take dead aim
at one charged to God’s holy Word proclaim,
and in His worship lead the people.[3] I
knew well that he a loving shepherd’s eye
kept on the flock of God. How well he knew
them, understood what they were going through,
and all their foolish thoughts and ways. It must
have pained him greatly to observe their trust
in God erode, as I strewed all along
their daily path temptations far too strong
for them to stand against. He watched as they
increasingly began to disobey
the Lord, preferring rather worldly ways
and self-indulgence to the love and praise
of God. Themselves they lavished with as much
of worldliness as they could see or touch
and make their own.[4] They fairly licked the earth,[5]
and boasted of their fast-increasing worth
and prominence; all their substantial wealth
I bundled up with ease and with good health –
to reinforce their self-assurance that
God’s blessings were upon what they were at.
They boasted of their leisure, scorned the weak,
oppressed the poor, and raised their tongues to speak
against the very God of heav’n: “He does
not know or care what we may do, because
it’s clear His blessings are upon us!”

Can
you see the interlacing in my plan
to bring them under my control? I set
their hearts and minds and consciences to let
them lust for fleshly things; I taught them to
God’s blessings see in what they sought to do,
so to accommodate His Word to all
their vanities; and thus I made them fall
down on their knees and worship all the vain
desires their sinful hearts could hope to gain,
and all they while I fed them the belief
such practices would not result in grief
or pain, for God, so far away, could see
them not. [6] Thus blinded, they succumbed to me.
Oh how that faithful priest and prophet burned
to see them mired in things and pride, and turned
away from God. And then, at what I took
to be the perfect time, I set my hook
before his own self-pitying soul: “Why should,”
I deftly whispered as he mused, “such good
things be denied to you?[7] Why must you day
by day submit to disciplines, obey
God’s Law, and keep yourself unstained before
Him, and before these people, who have more
of this world’s ease than you have ever known?
Should you not seek a little of your own
enjoyment, ease, and wealth? Should you not be
entitled to enjoy prosperity
and comfort right along with all the rest
of those whom God has evidently blessed?”
I watched as he approached the bait and thought
about my proposition, how he ought
to make response to what he felt within
his heart of hearts. Would lust give birth to sin,[8]
I wondered? Would he, like the others, set
his faith aside, give way to pride, and let
his passions overrule sound judgment? By
this means so many times before had I
led others to embrace the lie and yield
to me, that I saw nothing that could shield
him from my onslaught. But as I my ear
turned in anticipation of the cheer
that would arise from my demonic host
at one more victory for me to boast
about, this wretched priest turned from my bait
and, shaking from my clutches, turned to wait
upon the Lord in prayer![9] As he began
to speak I knew that I had lost this man,
and helplessly stood by as he appealed
to every gate of grace and truth, and sealed
himself against my pow’rs.[10] I gnash my teeth,
my spirit howls, and deep within I seethe
with anger every time one such as this
robs me of my anticipated bliss
by firm resistance to my wiles! Shall I
relate each step he followed to deny
me my entitlement? If only to
refresh my memory of what to do
in situations just like this, I shall:
I failed to sink the hook; my gambit all
began unraveling when he realized
that yielding to me meant he would despise
his brethren.[11] Just as those whose flaunted sin
had nearly dragged him down, trapped him within
my snares, so he was contemplating just
the same – a violation of the trust
of all those looking to him as a priest
of God. He came to see himself a beast
more than an image-bearer,[12] as he thought
of letting passion rule where reason ought
to – and a fair deduction, that, I must
admit. Himself he looked at with disgust
to reckon, when God is so very good
to all His people, that he ever could
discover any lasting benefit
in anything at all that made him quit
obedience to the Lord. I could not make
him love himself more than the rest, or break
the hold upon his soul of knowing he
was made in God’s own image. He could see
that following passion, self-indulgence, lust,
mere titillation, gain, and pride were just
the opposite of how the children of
the Lord should live.[13] Then, swept up in God’s love
for him, and of the utter goodness of
approaching Him and dwelling in His love,
he sought the counsel of God’s Word and poured
his heart out in submission to the Lord.[14]
Submission soon to praise gave way as he
his true perspective gained. Then he could see
that nothing better for God’s people is
than that they should keep focusing on His
agenda, His perspective, His revealed
and holy truth.[15] All those whom God has sealed
unto Himself within the promises
of His eternal covenant will bless
Him when temptation comes, and will be blessed
in turn. Thus did this priest endure my test.

And I, in quitting my assault against
him, realized that I have no defense
against those who the Word of God will cling
to when I sidle up and try to bring
them to my point of view – and to my chains.
Yet this my consolation still remains:
most humans are mere fools, who though they know
they must resist my wiles and quickly show
the door to me whenever I confront
them, can be led to break God’s covenant
and cast their lot with me; the law of sin
is easily excited deep within
their souls,[16] and they are willing to conspire
with it against sound judgment and all higher
obedience. They prefer not to rebuff
me; they would rather wear my clinking cuff.

Thus I consoled myself each time one of
these foolish mortals held fast to the love
of God, denying self. And in this case,
as in all others like it, my disgrace
at their recalcitrance just made me all
the more resolved to rectify my fall
and gain the throne of heav’n. I failed to see
that such defeats portended worse for me.

[1] Psalm 73
[2] 1 Peter 5.8
[3] 1 Chronicles 25.1, 2
[4] Psalm 73.4-8
[5] Psalm 73.9
[6] Psalm 73.11
[7] Psalm 73.13, 14
[8] James 1.13-15
[9] Psalm 73.15-17
[10] Psalm 73.18 ff
[11] Psalm 73.15
[12] Psalm 73.21, 22
[13] Psalm 73.16-18
[14] Psalm 73.23, 24
[15] Psalm 73.25-28
[16] Romans 7.21-23

Invaded

July 13, 2010

Invaded

I saw Him come from heaven on that dark
night of my soul, descending to embark
upon my ruin. But I would not sit by
and let this Messenger from God all my
achievements bring to naught. He must be taught
the even He can be deceived and bought
off with the right enticement, when I’ve wrought
my wiles against Him. So, at least, I thought.

All in due course, all in due course, my curious
inquirer. Before His advent, sin a furious
and far-flung empire had become among
the peoples of the earth. The old, the young,
men, women, nations – every tribe and tongue –
including nearly everyone who clung
fast to the covenant of God – were bound
and owned by me. My lovely lies were found
in every culture, in a multitude
of guises, some sublime, while others crude,
but all effective to divert the minds
of men from seeing clearly all the signs
of God’s existence, leading them instead
to make up gods and systems in their heads,[1]
by which they justified their fleshly ways,
all true and saving thoughts of God debased,
and gave their worship and devotion to
the one who taught them such fine things to do –
that would be I. And while for some this great
achievement might have been enough, the hate
I bore within my soul for Him who all
the while ruled every detail, great and small,
of my vast empire, left me discontent
with all that I had thus far gained, and bent
with firm resolve to drag Him from that throne
and make all final sovereignty my own!

So, when He dared my earthly compound to
invade, I saw at once what I must do
my kingdom to defend and all my gains
preserve.

And yet, I also saw those chains,[2]
borne in His hand, and wondered what could be
their use to such a lowly babe as He.

Though I made efforts early on to thwart
His mission – I proposed a change of heart
to him who to His mother was engaged,[3]
and, somewhat later, stirred up an enraged
but inept ruler in a bloody scheme
to do Him in, and came within a dream
each time of full success[4] – I came to see
that if my victory complete would be,
I had to choose my timing carefully.
Let Him be grown and strong, and let Him be
presented to the world, endorsed by some
divine announcement of why He had come
here in the first place. The embarrassment
that I could bring upon His covenant
would be more luscious and convincing when
I humbled Him Who in the eyes of men
was set for my destruction by divine
approval. I would therefore bide my time
and, at the proper moment, strike the blow
that would my awesome, fearsome prowess show,
by making Him who came to vanquish me
my prize and slave for all eternity.
And then, His Son my captive once for all,
I would effect the Lord Almighty’s fall.

But there was much to do till then. I drilled
my demon hosts relentlessly. It thrilled
me to observe  their full obedience to
my every word, as to and fro, to do
my bidding, they fulfilled the bivouac
I exercised them in for the attack
I planned to launch against the gates of heav’n.
Mine were the orders daily to them giv’n;
I orchestrated all their movements; for
my pleasure they deceived, tormented, or,
if I preferred, destroyed both men and nations.
I stimulated vain imaginations
to yet more foolish schemes; I prodded kings
and emperors to feats of vanquishing
and bloodshed never seen before. I blotted
the glory of the Lord from minds besotted
with sensuality and lust. I stirred
up strife, spread fear and famine in the herd
of men, and sowed confusion everywhere. I strewed
the world with warfare, plagues, and storms. I skewed
sound reason when it sought to penetrate
the veil of lies and darkness to create
a space for truth. I reveled, I delighted,
I fairly gushed to watch as men, benighted
by their insatiable lust, distorted truth
to suit their selfish interests or to soothe
their guilty consciences, and gave to me,
in many guises, what should only be
to God ascribed – complete devotion! All
the world before my feet would one day crawl,
and then would be the time to mount the skies
and lay hold on my glorious heavenly prize!

Thus every day, from that bright morning when
He first appeared among the ranks of men,
I shored up all my gains, intensified
my presence among men, spread far and wide
my demon hosts, and made an atmosphere
on earth uncordial to His being here,
so that, when our great confrontation came
to pass, He would regret in deepest shame
that He had ever left His distant throne
to challenge and confront me in my own
domain. Yes, there would be a binding and
subduing then – but not quite as I’d planned.



[1] Romans 1.18ff.

[2] Revelation 20.1

[3] Matthew 1.19

[4] Matthew 2.13-18

Cha-Chingiss

August 16, 2010

Somebody needs to get a life.

Upholding the World

March 14, 2010

Understanding the life of faith as “practicing the Kingdom of Jesus” begs a larger, overarching question, one that is essential to provide proper orientation and definition of our understanding.

Our King is an active sovereign, Whose reign and rule we practice on earth, that we may advance His Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit unto the reconciling of all things to God.

The Gift of the SpiritThe Business of the King (4)

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16.7

We are beginning to see that, as He rules from His throne of power at the right hand of God, our King Jesus is continuously and critically busy. He upholds the creation and everything in it, giving to all creatures and things life and continued existence according to His steadfast love and faithfulness. And He intercedes for His people to ensure that they may be strong in their faith and pleasing to their heavenly Father.

But Jesus continues to pursue His business in other ways as well, and, in so doing, He is not alone. With the Father, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to His faithful children and directs His work as He prepares the saints, from glory to glory, for their appointed callings and tasks. With the Spirit, moreover, our King marshals His angels, day by day, to protect, guide, and assist the saints in the great work of making disciples to which He has appointed them (Heb. 1.5-7; Rev. 14.6, 7).

The Spirit of God, with multitudes of angels to assist Him, serves in the interests and for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, both in equipping His people and building His Church (Jn. 14.26; 1 Cor. 12.4-7; Eph. 2.19-22). This should not be taken to imply some subordinate role for the Spirit; rather, His work fulfills the work of Jesus, Who could not accomplish His agenda without the aid of that heavenly Comforter.

But what does Jesus send the Spirit to do in the lives of His people? Four tasks in particular have been entrusted to this most holy and powerful member of the Triune God.

The Spirit gathers the saints
The first work of the Holy Spirit is that of gathering the elect of God and bringing them into the fold of King Jesus. The Spirit accompanies the preaching of the Word of God to regenerate and indwell those whom God has chosen from before the foundations of the world (Jn. 6.63; Gal. 4.6; Jn. 3.6-8; Eph. 1.4). Those whose names have been written in the Book of Life await the word of witness from faithful evangelists, so that, with the hearing of the Gospel, they might be saved (Rom. 10.10-17). When it pleases God, on such occasions, the Spirit convicts lost sinners of their sin, opens their eyes to the Truth of God, captures their hearts, and engages their tongues to confess God as Father and Jesus Christ as Savior and King.

"...none of us would ever come to a salvation and life in Jesus Christ."

Were it not for the fact that the Spirit, the “eyes of the Lord” (Zech. 3.9-4.10), roams the earth in search of the lost sheep of God, none of us would ever come to a salvation and life in Jesus Christ. We were dead in our trespasses and sins and enemies of God; we would never have sought Him on our own, though that is His longing (Eph. 2.1; Rom. 5.10; Acts 17.26, 27). But our King Who loves us with an everlasting love sends His Spirit out, the White Horse of Revelation 6.2, day by day, to patrol the earth and gather those whose appointed time has finally and graciously come.

The Spirit sanctifies the saints
The second work of the Spirit is to sanctify the saints of God, working within them with mighty power to transform them into the image of Jesus Christ and make them willing and able to do the will of God (2 Cor. 3.12-18; Phil. 2.12, 13).

This He does, again, by the ministry of the Word of God (Jn. 17.17), causing the read, studied, preached, and taught Word to dwell within the believer where it begins to bear fruit in a transformed heart, mind, conscience, and life. The Spirit uses the Law of Christ, as foundational to all the rest of God’s Word, in this great undertaking (Ezek. 36.26, 27), teaching and admonishing, by comparing Scripture with Scripture (1 Cor. 2.12, 13), in order to shape and fashion the believer increasingly into the image of Jesus Christ, Who is the end of the Law for all who believe (Rom. 10.4).

This work of sanctification is accomplished from within the soul, where, as the Spirit convicts, teaches, and fills, the believer comes to understand and desire the things of the Lord, leading to obedience in the whole of life. All this work of the Spirit is directed by our King Jesus, since His words are the means for our sanctification (Jn. 6.63; 14.26) and His image is the end to which we are being conformed (2 Cor. 3.12-18).

This work of sanctification divides into two aspects, holiness and equipping for ministry (2 Cor. 7.1; Eph. 4.11, 12). As we are being sanctified, the Spirit enables us to bear virtuous fruit and employ supernatural abilities in glorifying God and serving others (Gal. 5.22, 23; 1 Cor. 12.7-11).

The Spirit empowers the saints
This leads seamlessly into the fourth great work for which Jesus sends His Spirit to His saints: that they might be empowered to do the will of God in serving others and being witnesses for Jesus Christ (Jn. 13.1-15; Acts 1.8).

"The gift of the Spirit is not an end in itself..."

The gift of the Spirit is not an end in itself, but a means to the end of glorifying God through our Lord Jesus Christ by good works of love (Eph. 2.10) and good words of truth (Eph. 4.15). As the Spirit sanctifies the believer, he gains not only an understanding of divine mysteries, but a growing hunger and zeal for them, that he might carry them out in obedience. That, in turn, establishes the will of God as the primary value of the conscience, leading to acts of obedience in service and witness to others.

The Spirit keeps the saints
Finally, the Spirit of God, sent by Jesus and the Father, keeps the saints of God against anything that might pluck them from the Father’s hand (1 Pet. 1.5). The Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the sons and daughters of God (Rom. 8.16). Thus assured, we rest in His presence and care, fixing our minds on the things that are above, where Christ is seated in glory, and not on the things below (Col. 3.1-3; 2 Cor. 4.6).

We are kept from falling away by the staying power of the Holy Spirit, not by our good works. He keeps and guards us unto the day of redemption; we joyfully concur in His inward witness and strive to demonstrate our gratitude and sense of calling through sanctification and service.

So our King Jesus is busy through His Spirit on our behalf, working within us to will and do of the Father’s good pleasure, so that we might know true righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit in the Kingdom of God’s own dear Son (Rom. 14.17, 18; Col. 1.13, 14).

His Enemies At His Feet

The King’s Business (11)

The LORD says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Psalm 110.1

The King and His business
Exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus Christ has been anointed as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is busily about the work of bringing His Kingdom to fruition on earth, as it is in heaven, and we have been examining the ways He does this.

We have seen that He upholds the creation as the great staging-ground for unfolding the divine economy. At the same time, and with the Spirit of God, King Jesus intercedes for His saints that they might be free of the burden of guilt and shame to serve Him with joy in His Kingdom. And we have seen that, with the Father, Jesus sends His Spirit to indwell, instruct, and empower His saints, building the Body of Christ in unity and maturity as He equips individual believers to do the work of ministry (Eph. 4.11-16).

These are truly great works, works befitting a King of such exalted majesty and might as our Lord Jesus has attained. It should not be difficult for the followers of this great King to identify their role both as objects of His Kingdom progress and instruments of the same. King Jesus is working to increase righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit in each of those who call upon His Name in sincerity and truth; and, through them, He is working to establish His reign more firmly and visibly within the affairs of men and nations, until the knowledge of the glory of God fills the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2.14).

What an unfathomable privilege and awesome experience to belong to this Kingdom and to be involved in its ineluctable power and progress in human history! The more we understand the King’s business in this time before His imminent return, the better we will be able to use our time, talents, and treasures on earth, making the most of every opportunity to advance the rule and glory of our King and God (Eph. 5.15-17).

We turn, then, to consider yet another facet of the King’s business in which, as with all the rest, we have an active interest and concern.

The enemies of the Lord
As Jesus reigns over all creation, every nation, and all peoples, the Father Himself is at work with and through the Lord and the Spirit to put the enemies of Christ under His feet. Who are these enemies of King Jesus?

In one sense, all those who have yet to acknowledge the Kingship of Jesus are His enemies. Indeed, even all those who sincerely believe in and love Jesus Christ were at one time His enemies (Rom. 5.10). It’s not that we sought to stamp out His Name, suppress the faith, or assail His people. Rather, our ignorance and indifference alone qualified us to be enemies of the Lord. As He Himself said, those who are not for Him, actively and entirely, are against Him, and are His enemies (Matt. 12.30).

Other enemies are more overt and aggressive in their opposition. Those who deny the claims of Christ and seek to realize life’s hope and their own purpose apart from the Lord certainly qualify as His enemies. These, having heard the revelation of God in created things, nevertheless refuse to acknowledge His greatness and goodness and to thank Him for His steadfast love and faithfulness. Instead, they make idols of their own devising, and then chart a course for their lives, apart from God, that seems right to them (Rom. 1.18-32). Needless to say, all such chosen ways of life end in the grave, apart from God and without hope (Prov. 14.12; Eph. 2.12).

More aggressive still are those enemies of Christ who work to suppress the faith of King Jesus. This they do through propagandizing the Lie in various forms and by persecuting the saints of God. Such enemies of the Lord show themselves to be most intimately in league with the powers of darkness, although they may neither recognize nor admit this to be so (cf. Matt. 4.1-11).

The ultimate enemies of the Lord, at work within all His human foes, are those spiritual forces of wickedness in high places, together with the corruption and death they wreak upon humankind. And like all the enemies of King Jesus, these shall all be placed under His feet, until the very last enemy, death itself, is destroyed at His coming (1 Cor. 15.25-28).

How then does the Father, with the Lord and His Spirit, overcome these enemies of our King?

A four-pronged assault
Our heavenly Father and His King, Jesus Christ, are diligently in pursuit of the destruction of His enemies along four simultaneous fronts.

First, the Lord works by His Spirit and His Church to shame and convert His enemies, thus making them no longer enemies but friends (Ps. 83.16). Through the preaching of the Gospel and the demonstration of good works, many who at one time never knew the Lord, or even denied or opposed Him, are being brought to salvation as the Gospel and the Law expose their sins, demonstrate their need, and point to the only Savior Who can redeem them.

A second way that Jesus works to subdue His enemies is by surrounding and constraining them through the good works and increase of the saints of God (Ps. 81.15). As the ranks of believers increase and the Church grows in unity and maturity, the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy advances in a given location, and even those who do not love the Lord are constrained to live within the parameters that Kingdom establishes. Many may even confess faith in the Lord – although this is but a pretense – if they sense it will be in their best material and social interest to do so. Thus their rebellion is contained and their enmity nullified by the powerful presence of the Spirit and Word in the Church.

The third front of the Lord’s assault against His foes is that of removing His grace and Spirit so that their rebellion increases, leading to dissolution, despair, and death (Rom. 1.18-32). Even the enemies of God, those most adverse to His claims and spiteful of His grace, receive the benefit of His steadfast love and faithfulness as He upholds the world and all things – and everyone – in it (Ps. 52.1). Yet the more they harden their hearts against Him, plunging ever more deeply into the abyss of sin, the more He will give them up to their folly, until their foolish chosen way destroys them and others (Prov. 14.12).

Finally, in certain cases, the Lord and His Father subdue those who stand arrogantly against them by simply removing them from the stage of history and consigning them to eternal death (Acts 12.20-23). The Lord raises up kings and He puts them down; those who stand most notoriously against Him should fear that they may fall within His crosshairs. We, the Lord’s ambassadors, must be diligent to warn the wicked and call them to repent.

Within reach of grace
At all times, however, as long as they live on this earth, the enemies of the Lord are not beyond the reach of His grace. We think of such men as Nebuchadnezzar and Paul and realize that God’s great power to save is able to subdue even the most aggressive of His foes. And this makes our work as ambassadors and preachers all that much more urgent and exciting.

Knowing that the Lord is subduing all His enemies as He advances His reign on earth, let us be diligent to warn the recalcitrant, inform the ignorant, and to call all men to repent and believe the Good News of our King and His Kingdom.

And, as we do, let us stay mindful of the fact that the Lord has bound our most furious enemy, and His, even the devil Himself.

ChainsThe King’s Business (12)

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?” Matthew 12.28, 29

The binding of Satan
On the east face of the Cross of Muiredach, a 9th-century carved cross at Monasterboice, in Ireland, Jesus stands as King over all creation. Under his foot is a chain, which descends into the abyss, where Satan is held at bay by a great angel, and bound by the power of Jesus Christ.

Whenever I mention that Christ has bound the devil so that we need not be defeated by his power, someone objects. “How can the devil be bound,” comes the query, “when Peter says he stalks about like a roaring lion?” True enough, the devil does stalk about like a roaring lion, but like a roaring lion on a chain held firmly in the power of our victorious Savior and King. Concerning this, Augustine wrote, “we should not be so fond as to think that these unclean spirits are either to be feared for any hurt, or honoured for any profit they can bring upon man’s fortunes. For they are in power, but even as wicked men on earth are, so that they cannot do what they please, but are mere ministers to His ordinance, whose judgments no man can either comprehend fully or reprehend justly.”

Satan is bound, held in check by our Lord Jesus Christ, and as long as we know the “length of his chain,” we need not fear his stalking-about or roaring. We can resist Him as Jesus did, with the power of God’s Word. For it was during the temptation in the wilderness, when Satan threw his best punches at the weak and fasting Savior, that Jesus blocked them all and delivered mortal blows to the devil by silencing and subduing him with the Word of God. From that point to this, Satan has been bound, and Jesus has been plundering his holdings.

At the right hand of the Majesty on high, Jesus continues the work of plundering the devil that He began while yet in His earthly sojourn. That great work has been going on for 2,000 years, and we are privileged in the Kingdom to God join in the plundering as Christ leads us triumphantly against the enemy of our souls.

In four ways in particular King Jesus pursues His work of plundering the devil.

The souls of men
First, Jesus is wresting the souls of His elect out of the devil’s hands. We all, when we were dead in our trespasses and sins, were enemies of Christ, captive to the devil and deceived by his wiles so that we neither sought the Lord nor walked in His ways.

But when it pleased our King to save us, and to call us to Himself, not even the greatest powers of hell could prevail against His will (Matt. 16.18). The preaching of the Word of God, accompanied by the inward work of the Holy Spirit, is stronger than the strongest grip of Satan and all his hosts. And just as the Lord plundered the devil in taking our souls for Himself, so He continues to do today, as His obedient witnesses make the Good News of the Kingdom known to those around them.

The time of our lives
The followers of Jesus Christ are called to redeem the time, for the days are evil (Eph. 5.15-17). Whatever time we fail to claim and use for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom will be lost to spiritual forces of wickedness in high places. Time, as Edwards explained, is a precious gift from God; but we must learn to make the best use of it. The devil and his minions will seek to gobble up as much of our time as they can, as though our time were their own. So we must lay hold on the moments of our lives diligently, with forethought and prayer, and for the Kingdom purposes of Christ.

For this we need the help of our King. Jesus can teach us to “number our days” in such a way as that we may plan our time in advance to be used for His wise purposes (Ps. 90.12). As we offer our plans up to Him, He is able to direct and counsel and guide us in working out our salvation so as to ensure that we will use our time for His glory and not for the works of the devil (Jms. 4.13-17; Phil. 2.12, 13). He will help us to “walk circumspectly” (Eph. 5.15) in the execution of our plans, so that we keep our time out of the devil’s hands and in the hands of the Lord.

All over the world spiritual forces of wickedness have hi-jacked God’s gift of time to people; in us, the citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, however, he has no power to keep us from using our time for the purposes of our King.
 
Our words and works
The same is true with our words and works. By His Word and Spirit, Jesus is enabling us to take captive even our thoughts and to make them obedient to Him (2 Cor. 10.3-5). As we bring our thoughts into submission to King Jesus, He will renew our minds (Rom. 12.1, 2) and teach us how to use His own mind to think His thoughts after Him (1 Cor. 2.16). Our King Himself will guide and counsel us concerning how we must speak and act in order to fulfill our callings as His ambassadors.

As we are thus renewed in our thoughts and minds, we may govern our words and works accordingly through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Eph. 3.14-19).

Whereas Satan has managed to sow the Lie into the thoughts and deeds of untold multitudes, Jesus is taking back from the devil the thoughts, words, and works of His people, and is using them to advance His Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14.17, 18).

The earth and everything in it
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Ps. 24.1). Nevertheless, it has pleased God to allow the devil to roam throughout the earth, going here and there to capture the minds of lost men and women and, with their minds, all their possessions as well. The result is that vast fortunes of wealth and material assets are squandered for sinful or, at best, merely secular ends.

But in the lives of those whom King Jesus has taken captive to His grace and truth, great changes are in evidence. No longer does Satan command the use of our talents and possessions; instead, we consecrate all that we are and have for the Kingdom purposes of Christ, and practice a stewardship of our possessions that seeks a return on investment to the glory of our King with all we are and have (Matt. 25.14-20).

As we seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness as our highest priority in life (Matt. 6.33) and do everything as unto the Lord and not men (Col. 3.23), our resources play a role in furthering the good purposes of the Lord. He keeps our resources from the enemy of His Kingdom by teaching us how to will, and enabling us to do of His good pleasure with every good and perfect gift with which God has endowed us from on high (Phil. 2.12, 13; Jms. 1.17).

Satan holds no threat for the souls, time, words, works, and possessions of those who daily and moment-by-moment yield themselves to the rule of King Jesus. From His throne at the right hand of God, by the power of His Word and Spirit, in and through His people, Jesus is taking back from the devil every good gift, that He might use all things for the sake of His Kingdom purposes (Eph. 1.15-23).

The devil is powerless to prevent our King from pursuing the business He has planned from before the foundation of the world and is even now carrying out in His good and perfect way and time.

castleThe King’s Business (6)

“And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
-John 14.3

The King’s Business
We have been considering the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and King, as He is seated at the right hand of God in the Majesty on High. We have seen that He is advancing His reign on earth, as it is in heaven. Having bound the devil, He is taking all the enemy’s usurped possessions unto Himself, reclaiming His elect and building His Church as He upholds the world and everything in it by His own powerful Word.

He is truly a working King! And it is our privilege to enter into His work by looking to His Word and resting in His Spirit. Thus the King’s business becomes our business as we orient our lives and prosecute our days according to the divine economy and the Kingdom civics that economy requires.

But this earthly sojourn of struggle, strife, and progress in redemption is not the end of our journey. For in His last work our heavenly King shows the great depth and eternal worth of the love He has for us. He is preparing a place for us to be with Him, in uninterrupted, unobstructed joy and bliss, forever and ever.

A City to Come
This is that City to Come for which the patriarchs and faithful in every age have longed (Heb. 11.13-16), the glorious Eternal City which, as Edwards’ explained, is the true destination and highest hope of every Christian pilgrim. John received a glimpse of that Eternal City in Revelation 21 and 22, a place of supreme beauty, unending wonder, and glory all around.

In one sense the City to Come is a true but timeless place, a new heavens and new earth, but without the corruption of sin or the constraints of time. In another sense that City to Come is the Bride of Christ in all her perfection and glory, as John saw in Revelation 21.9-14. King Jesus is preparing the City in its latter form by gathering and perfecting His saints; concerning its former, He is bringing the City to Come to a state of readiness by finishing out His plan for the Kingdom of God on earth. In eternity we will dwell in a specially-constructed material/spiritual cosmos where there is no need of the light of the sun and where neither death nor corruption shall be found. We will engage in all the activities of culture and society familiar to us here and now, but without the taint of sin, and without missing a beat in offering continuous praise and thanks to our Triune God.

But we will also dwell with all our brothers and sisters from every age, tongue, culture, and tribe, sharing in the gifts and graces each has received and dedicating all we are and have to celebrating and glorifying our Savior/King and His Father and Spirit.

Where righteousness dwells
The City to Come will be a place where righteousness dwells without blot or stain of sin (2 Pet. 3.13). We can scarcely imagine what that will be like! How truly joyous, enriching, and mutually edifying it will be to dwell and work among a people we can trust completely and who, like us, are devoted above all to enlarging the glory and honor of Christ.

Here there will be no harm, no fear, no worry or doubt, and no shame. Here we will live with people in whose every manner the person of our King and Savior is manifest with ever-increasing glory. Jesus is preparing this place even now by sanctifying a people for His glory, receiving them into His heavenly court when they depart this life, and readying them – and us – for the final victory over the enemy of our souls (Rev. 19).

All glory
Even now, in the courts of heaven, all the angelic hosts and departed saints sing ceaselessly of the glory of our great and holy God (Ps. 29.9). This is but the “warm-up” for an eternal chorus that will sing of glory in response to the manifestation of glory that will daily greet them in the presence of the Lord, of His glorified saints, and in the new heavens and new earth.

The weighty, comforting, reassuring, strengthening, beautiful, and amazing presence of the living God will be our constant companion as we take up our callings and work together to extend and enlarge the chorus of glory that will resound around us without interruption.

Joy and pleasure
There we will finally know that fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore which, here and now, we can only glimpse in fleeting glances and experiences (Ps. 16.11). But we could bear no more in this life, given our continuing sinfulness; thus, the Lord rations His glory to us, as He did to Moses, in servings meet for our weak and frail condition (2 Cor. 3.12-18).

But there, at the eternal banquet-table of the Lord, nothing will be held back. We will want for nothing, and all that we have ever hoped for and desired in the way of joy and holy pleasure will be ours in the presence of our God and King.

Journeying toward that City
So now we are like Abraham and all the patriarchs. We study to gain a clear and compelling vision of the City to Come, and we bring our lives, to the best of our ability, into conformity with what we know will be our citizenship then and there (2 Pet. 13, 14; 1 Jn. 3.2, 3). We are pilgrims journeying through the days of our lives, preparing for our eternal home and the glory that awaits us there. We carry no excess baggage; we encourage and sustain all who journey with us; we bear witness to our Eternal City and the King Who is preparing it for us; and we urge others to give up love of this transient world to seek the City which is to Come, which King Jesus is even now preparing for us.

As hard as He is working, in all the ways we have seen, so hard must we also work, hastening our growth in the Lord and furthering our journey to be with Him where He is (2 Pet. 1.5-11; 2 Cor. 7.1; Heb. 12.1, 2). This is the calling and privilege of all who acknowledge Jesus as Savior, Lord, and King; it is the duty of all who declare themselves to be citizens of that eternal realm of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14.17, 18).

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