Character of Royalty: Extravagant Generousity

I went back and edited the title of my previous post from “Living as Royalty” to “Character of Royalty” to better represent this second phase of our study. Having now established our identity as royalty in the Kingdom of God because we are God’s Children, Jesus’ Bride, were created to rule and have been given a Title we will now begin to discuss what it means to be royalty.

It isn’t riches, political acclaim or a huge army that makes one royal – it is how one acts. There are plenty of people of humble birth who have an extraordinary and royal character (a particular carpenter from the backwaters of Israel comes to mind). Similarly, there are plenty of people who have been born to wealth, power and prestige who are little more than simpering idiots. There may carry a title, sure, but they do not deserve it. It is only when inner character and outer recognition come together that one is truly royal. Seeing as how we have a divine birthright to the Kingdom of God, is behooves us to learn Kingly character from our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we established in our first post on character, humility is the key to Kingly character. It is the foundation virtue, the litmus test of the Kingdom of God. “Children look like their parents” is as true in the physical as it is in the emotional and spiritual. If we bear no resemblance to our Father in terms of humble character then people have right to challenge our legitimacy as sons.

The second character trait that comes to mind when discussing biblical royalty is extravagant generosity.

Kings are those who richly reward and freely give. Knowing their power, authority and ability to rule does not come from having the largest bank account allows the king to be generous with his people. He further endears himself to his people by providing for their needs, bettering their lives and making sure that their children will always have enough. Nothing erodes the goodwill of the people towards their sovereign faster than seeing their kids want and their king waste.

The underlying value of this virtue is Living Simply. Living Simply allows kings to be even more generous than they already are. In no way does this mean that the king and his family are in want, but they are not lavish or wasteful more than necessary. But I digress…

Extravagant Generosity comes from a place of security, from knowing that there will always be enough. This allows the king to not only be generous with material wealth, but also immaterial. This is especially true with “immaterial” things. Allow me to explain.

If I give someone $20, then they have the $20 and I do not. I have been “diminished” by $20, so to speak. That is an example of a material transfer. However, if I compliment someone, or share with them an idea, or pray for them and find them healed – have I been diminished? Of course not! Rather, I have been built up. Now I have given confidence to another, brainstormed and sparked creative potential that will better me as a result, or used the power invested in me as a son of God to advance my Father’s Kingdom. Though I have expended energy, the net result is a positive (not neutral) balance. I don’t lose out by sharing compliments, ideas or prayer – I am rather enhanced by them. This is why generosity with immaterial things is so beneficial.

You may or may not be blessed with material wealth. If you have been, it will only benefit you to be generous in giving it away, “investing it in the Kingdom” if you will. However, all of us have vast, immeasurable immaterial wealth that we can freely give away. Prayer, giving compliments, paving the way socially for others by speaking well of them… all of these things are immaterial resources we have that we can use to benefit others. And, since we are a Body, as we strengthen others we find ourselves strengthened as well.

See you next week!

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Character of Royalty: Kingly Humility

Humility is the hallmark of kingliness. No virtue is more befitting a king than humility. Why do I say this? Because Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, was the humblest man to ever walk the face of the earth. There is only one place in the Gospels where Jesus chooses to reveal His character – who He is on the inside. That place is Matthew 11:29: “I am meek and humble in heart.”

Jesus knew exactly who He was. Indeed, the very knowledge that He was the most powerful Person in existence allowed Him to show His True character: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist,” John 13:3-4. Jesus didn’t come to be served and take, He came to serve and to give (Mark 10:45).

Our royal status, power and authority does not make us spoiled brats. We are not to become demanding, self-centered and egotistical – imagining that the world owes us something because of who we are and expecting everything to bend to our wills. That is not the model of royalty handed down to us by our Lord Jesus.

Instead, we are to use the knowledge that we are powerful, that we have sway in the Kingdom of God, to serve. We are called to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but to treat others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). This does not mean that we diminish who we are in order to make others appear important, that would be lying, a denial of who we really are. Instead, we are called to elevate others, to treat them with greater amounts of dignity, honor and respect. Humility is knowing and being exactly who you are, nothing more (which is arrogance) and nothing less (which is false humility). And it is from that place of humility, knowing and being exactly who you are, that we can honor others.

It is humility to assume that others know more than you, love God more and hear His Voice better than you. This isn’t to say you don’t know anything, you don’t love God or you don’t hear His Voice, it’s just that you assume others are more zealous and devout than you are which puts you in a position to learn, receive and be gracious. This is otherwise known as wisdom.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Our attitude as royal sons and daughters should be the same as Christ Jesus. Jesus was equal to God, but didn’t try to compete with the Father’s authority. Instead, He humbled Himself, treating the Father’s will as more important than His own, and came in the form of a servant. That is our model and example. Humility is the ultimate test of true royalty.

Living As Royalty: You have been given a Title

I needed a new image, I hope you don’t mind. I thought I would let Stephen and the Holy Hand Grenade rest for a day.

Today is perhaps my favorite day of Living As Royalty. While I love being God’s son (legitimately and adopted) and I find infinite value in the revelation that we are the Bride of Christ and He is our Bridegroom, I have always had a special place in my heart for knights and kings. I grew up reading the myths of King Arthur and the Knights of Camelot, so I suppose that explains my fascination with being endued with power and authority by a king.

Even today we are familiar with sovereigns bestowing lands, privileges and power to loyal subjects, elevating them to noble status. What we are examining today is the fact that we were created to rule, that we were given power and authority to rule over creation and that things wont be right until we take our rightful place as co-heirs and co-laborors with Christ.

Enter Genesis One.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule..”

We talk about many reasons why God created humanity – that He created us for love, for relationship and various other things. Sure, those things are true, but they were not God’s expressed purpose in creating us. You see, God had created the entire world with all of its diverse plants and animals and environments and He wanted somebody to watch over, control and guide it. None of the animals currently in existence fit the bill. No, God needed something bigger and better, He needed something that bore His image and was just like Him. So He created humanity.

God created us to rule – that is our purpose. Fish swim, birds fly and humans rule. It isn’t any more complicated than that. At least, it shouldn’t have been. However, we all know the story of how Adam and Eve were deceived and in an act of rebellion disobeyed God and handed their power and authority over to Satan. Let me be absolutely clear – God did not strip Adam and Eve of their authority because of their disobedience! Adam and Eve handed over their rule over Creation to the Enemy. It is for that reason that Satan says to Jesus in the wilderness, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to,” Luke 4:6. Jesus doesn’t refute this claim.

In fact, the devil is called “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and “the prince of this world” (John 14:30). He has legitimate power and authority because humanity gave it to him and he didn’t give it back. However, Jesus took it back at the cross! “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross,” Colossians 2:15. Jesus disarmed, literally “stripped power away from”, the powers, principalities and authorities of this world! The cross was Jesus’ ultimate victory over the kingdom of the enemy!

Jesus took back what rightfully belonged to us in the first place! For this reason and for the fact that God our  Father entrusted Him with the powers of the Age To Come, Jesus can say “all power and authority has been given to me,” Matthew 28:18. And Jesus entrusts that power to us in the Great Commission and at Pentecost – the gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of the fullness of God’s Kingdom.

And we have not even mentioned the book of Revelation where the Bible declares that we are kings and priests (Revelation 1:6) and that we will rule on the earth (Revelation 5:10). (Unless you have the NIV – then Rev 1:6 says “made us to be a kingdom” which is an emasculated translation of the Greek.)

God’s word says that we are kings and priests, that we will rule under Christ’s authority in the Age to Come. We are “subject lords” kings under the rule of a King. Do you realize that is why God is called “The King of kings and Lord of lords”? You are a king and a lord, as is the rest of the Church. If God is our King… then King of kings really makes sense as a title for God.

Sadly I must cut this post short, but it is my hope that you see how you have been entrusted with a title and play a kingly role in the Kingdom of God. See you next time.

Living As Royalty: You Are Married to the King

Welcome back to Living As Royalty. Today we are examining our identity as “The Bride of Christ.”

The Church is the Bride of Christ, though you wont find that exact statement anywhere in the Bible. Much like the doctrine of Trinity, this is a belief that draws upon the Truths expressed in the Scripture and words them slightly differently. However, look with me at Revelation 19:7-8,

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

The bride has made herself ready, who is this woman? Clearly it is the Church Universal, personified here as a bride getting ready to marry her betrothed. Obviously Jesus is not coming back solely for an individual woman, but for a Church that has made herself ready.

Now the critical thinkers among you will already have some objections forming in your minds. This passage from Revelation is dealing with a future event, the wedding hasn’t happened yet and Jesus still has to return. Good, good, good.

Let’s examine biblical marriage for a moment, for it will illuminate this text most helpfully.

In biblical times, many marriages were arranged by the parents. These marriages involved a contract, and exchange of gifts and a promise – that when the time was right the two would get married. So even though these two people weren’t officially married, they were engaged and unavailable to other suitors. This is all well and good and is mostly similar to life today. However, there is one significant difference and we see this in Matthew 1:18,19,

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

The highlighted portions offer us valuable insight into biblical marriage. First, Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph. This pledge was more than a promise, it was an inevitable reality. Even so, the main difference between engagement and marriage is the consummation of the marriage vows. Mary and Joseph hadn’t been together, they weren’t married. However, Joseph is still called her husband and he would have had to go through a legal proceeding (called divorce) if he wanted to be separated from her.

This is fascinating – Joseph and Mary were engaged, yet Joseph is a husband and they would need to get a divorce if they didn’t want to be together. Even though they haven’t consummated their marriage, Mary still has rights – she is Joseph’s wife. You see, biblically speaking, Joseph and Mary were “married” at their engagement, they were legally bound together. Now there was certainly going to be a greater depth of relationship and intimacy once they were officially married and were able to consummate that marriage, but their engagement was more legally binding that our form is today.

With this is mind, it is completely legitimate to call ourselves the Bride of Christ in the present tense, even though we anticipate a future wedding. And the cool thing about wedding royalty is that is doesn’t matter what station the bride was before her marriage, because as soon as she is married she rises to equal status with her husband. If the husband is a king then she becomes queen, if a prince then she becomes princess.

The application of this Truth to our lives is that we are, right now, married to Christ the King. We have risen to His status and are equally yoked partners with Him in the administration of His Kingdom. On the basis of biblical marriage, I see no reason why we should postpone the realization of our wedding and relegate it to a future Age. We talk about the Age to Come (the Kingdom of God) being present in this Present Evil Age, so why would we not also realize that our wedding, which is part and parcel of the Age to Come, is also present and effectual in this Age?

Living As Royalty: You Have Been Adopted

Here we are for our second installment of Living As Royalty. The purpose of this segment is to firmly establish our royal identity using biblical texts responsibly. By no means do we ever want to distort a biblical passage to serve our preconceived notions. Rather, we must let the bible be our teacher and conform our thoughts and opinions to the Truth of God’s Word.

As I was thinking about our royal identity, God highlighted four ways that someone could become royalty in the natural sense. They were: being born as royalty, being adopted by royalty, marrying into royalty and being granted a title. This post covers the second way of becoming royal – being adopted. We will discuss the last two ways in our next two installments.

In the last post we explored the Truth that we are, in fact, God’s children – legitimately born to Him through water and spirit. That  is enough to secure our royal position, but we have been so conditioned to live with a pauper mentality when it comes to God that we must examine these other ways that we take our place as royalty. If even one of these four ways of becoming royalty were true of us in a natural sense, we would be earthly sovereigns, invested with power and authority. How much truer is our royal identity in God’s Kingdom when all four ways of becoming royalty are true of us!?

Lest I digress beyond repair, let’s examine our adoption. The Apostle Paul clearly lays out the theme of adoption in Romans:

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,” Romans 8:15-17.

We did not receive a spirit that makes us slaves, we received The Spirit which makes us sons! The presence of the Holy Spirit within us is testimony that we are God’s children. It is by the Spirit that we cry “Daddy! Father!” And again, if we are children, then we are also heirs of God’s Kingdom with Christ. This is not presumption, it is predestination. This is not something we are forcing ourselves into, it is something that is freely offered and given to us by God’s grace.

“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will,” Ephesians 1:5.

God predestined us to be adopted. It is HIS will that we be sons and heirs of the Kingdom with Jesus. Do you realize what that means? It means that if you resist your royal identity and refuse to live up to your royal duties and obligations you are being disobedient to God and resisting His will! Woah!

So the Truth is this: I must submit myself to God’s will – and it is His will  that I be a ruler with Christ. To refuse to walk in this calling is not humility – it is arrogance of the highest degree. Why? Because it means we think e know what we are capable of better than God does. We think our inability is more powerful His ability. We think our unworthiness is greater than His grace.

It is submission to His will, and taking our rightful place, that is the humble and obedient thing to do. Are we capable in and of ourselves? Of course not. But HE is capable and HE can and will use the weak and the foolish to shame the powerful and wise. Amen.

 

Living As Royalty: You Are God’s Child

Good morning and welcome to our new series, Living As Royalty!

When I was praying about 2012 in late December of last year, God spoke to me about this year being a year of growing in two things: worship and identity. In fulfillment of that promise, God has been speaking to me very directly about my identity – specifically about being His child.

Now, I don’t want this to come across as too silly, because it really is a profound truth – we call God “Father” because that is exactly who and what He is to us.

This is no better illustrated than when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9. He taught them to say “Our Father” (emphasis mine). Our father, the father of us all – of you and me and Jesus. I think we have a tendency to over-spiritualize this Truth. After all, people can “father” us in all sorts of ways through mentoring, Big Brothers, coaching and other types of relationships. In an age where absentee fatherhood is so common, children find all sorts of people to fill in the gap their dads were supposed to fill. However, Jesus is not saying that God is just our spiritual Father. Jesus is saying that God is our actual, physical, tangible Father. Take Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3.

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again… I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but spirit gives birth to spirit,” John 3:3,5-6. God is spirit (John 4:24), thus we have been born of God.  Then there is also this verse “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,” 1 John 5:1.

We have been born again, born into the family of God and God is our Father in the truest and most literal sense. We have crossed over from death into life, we died to our former selves through the waters of baptism and were raised to new life through the Holy Spirit.

It is only a short step, then, to realize that if were are sons, then were are also heirs. Heirs of what? Heirs of the Kingdom! Our Father is the King, what does that make us? It doesn’t make us slaves, or servants or peasants – it makes us royalty, princes and princesses, kings and queens of the Kingdom of God. We so shy away from this language in the Church today because we think that by acknowledging who we truly are, we diminish Christ’s glory. In fact, this is quite the opposite. We aren’t kings by our own doing, we are kings because of who our Father is (He is the King of kings remember).

Lastly, if it is true that were are God’s children and that His Holy Spirit lives inside of us, then we can pray with confidence the same prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17:1, “Father… Glorify your son, that your son may glorify you.” Glorified sons glorify their Father. Furthermore, if I am in God and He is in me, then any glory I receive glorifies Him (John 13:31-32). Glory is a topic we will return to at a later date, for now I want to focus on the Reality that we are, right now, the children of God. And if we are children of the King, then we are heirs of the Kingdom – those who will grow up, mature and be trained to rule. Amen, let it indeed be so.

Living As Royalty

Starting on Monday, we will be starting a new series called “Living As Royalty.”

Perhaps the title sounds strange to you. To be honest, it is still a little strange to me as well. But God is in the process of reshaping my paradigms of how I view myself and others. This “Royal Paradigm” that He is instilling in me, my wife and our various communities is nothing short of revolutionary. Overstated? Perhaps. But I think not.

The Apostle Paul tells us to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds,” Romans 12:2. What is the purpose of such transformation? So that we would no longer be conformed to the way the natural world operates and so that we can test and approve what God’s will actually is. You see, transformed people transform society. And when society doesn’t want to change then revolutions are thrown.

And all of this starts with God renewing our minds by the work of the Holy Spirit who reveals the Truth of God’s Word to us.

We are not about to embark on some esoteric journey, talking about our own divinity like a New Age cult or a bunch of Mormons. Instead, we are going to examine basic Truths of the Bible and follow them to their logical and biblically responsible conclusions.

What Truths you may ask? Well, without wanting to spoil the whole affair, here are a few: You are God’s child, you have been adopted into the family of God, you are the Bride of Christ, you were created to rule and your glory increases God’s glory. And that is just part one!

Due to the limits on my time, this will not be a daily series, but rather a two or three time a week deal. Please feel free to comment, question and challenge, that will make life a lot more interesting and help us all grow in our knowledge and understanding of Scripture.

Looking forward to seeing you on Monday!

4 “E”s for Sunday Morning

God is in the midst of shaking up our Sunday mornings here at Vineyard Community Church. I don’t know exactly what this means for us in its entirety, but God has shared a few insights with me. I am excited to share these with you because I think they will help us to all pray more specifically for our time together as a community. And so, without further ado, 4 “E”s for Sunday Morning.

Experience – God wants Sunday morning to be a time when we experience His Presence in an extraordinary way. God is always with us and we can experience His Presence on a daily basis, but there is something special that happens when a bunch of hungry people come together for the sole purpose of worshipping and glorifying God. For too long, Christianity has been relegated to the cerebral/intellectual realm. I understand doctrine is important, but so is experience. Indeed, “experience” is the truest definition of the word “knowledge” in the Bible. To know God is, therefore, to experience His Presence in daily life and the ability to speak about Him from first hand experience.

Empowering – God wants Sunday morning to be a time where we are filled to our uttermost with His Holy Spirit. God wants to fill in every nook and cranny in our being with His life-giving Presence. Not only should we have powerful encounters and experiences with the Holy Spirit on Sunday morning- we are to be carriers of the Holy Spirit throughout the week, bringing God’s Presence with us wherever we go. “The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power,” 1 Corinthians 4:20. We need to reinstitute “show and tell” into our Church experience. We need to show the kingdom as well as talk about it.

Equipping – God wants Sunday morning to be a time where His people are equipped to walk in the fullness of God’s blessing and authority. We have been given spiritual armor (Ephesians 6) that we must be taught how to wear and spiritual weapons (2 Corinthians 10) that we must be taught how to wield. The Bible is the foundation of our life in Christ. As Paul says, “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Encouraging – God wants Sunday morning to be a time where His people are encouraged. Literally, He wants to put courage inside of us. For, “if God is for us, who can be against us,” Romans 8:31. We we experience God’s Presence, are empowered by His Spirit, equipped to do battle and know that we aren’t in this alone we are encouraged to make our stand for the Kingdom of God. We are the Fellowship of the Unashamed, those who do not fear Death and over whom the Enemy has lost his power. We are those living for The Age to Come, the Unconquerable Souls held in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus and nothing, nothing, can separate us from the love that God has for us.

I know that God wants Sunday morning to be many more things (not to mention the rest of the week!), but these are what He is highlighting for us right now. I encourage you to press in to these things in your times with the Lord. Be praying for us and the Church Universal that God would restore to us the joy of our salvation, would pour out His Holy Spirit once again, and would impart True Identity to us through worship and the Word. Amen.