The Meek and the Earth

A couple of weeks ago, I shared that we were working through the Beatitudes (found in Matt 5:1-12) this summer at Cornerstone. You can listen to or download the messages from our podcast site or from iTunes.

This Sunday, we moved into looking at vs5 – Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

I love teaching from this beatitude. It contains one of the most significant challenges for our lives (Blessed are the meek…) and one of the most significant promises for our lives (…for they shall inherit the earth).

Most people do not realise that God has promised the earth as a gift to His people, the meek. Actually, it has never registered for some that God has always promised land to His people.

In the beginning, before sin and death had entered our world, God gave the gift of Eden to Adam and Eve:

26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:26-28)

Our first parents were given the land of the Garden, to work it and take care of it (Gen 2:15). God was the great owner, but they were called to be stewards of it, while also being fruitful, multiplying and filling the earth. A fantastic gift and opportunity to participate in this bit of land, this bit of heaven on earth.

But moving along.

After sin and death entered the world, we pick up the story of Abraham (though I could have made some stoppers along the way). It’s only a few chapters down the road, but quite a long distance with regards to time. Interestingly enough, God calls a man, a man to be a blessing to all peoples of the earth (Gen 12:3). And, lo and behold, He again promises a land to Abraham and his descendants (see Gen 15:18-21; 17:8).

Now, I am of the view that God set out certain pointers, foreshadowings, in the old covenant that signify greater things to come in Christ and the new covenant. So, for example, in the old covenant, God’s people were marked by circumcision of the foreskin. But it ultimately pointed to a greater circumcision of the heart by the Spirit (Rom 2:28-29). In the old covenant, there were only a few that were called to enter into the priesthood of the old covenant. But, in Christ, the whole body becomes part of the royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9-10). And so on and so forth we could continue.

I believe the same is true with regards to the gift of land. While the land of Canaan was promised to the descendants of Abraham, I believe that, in Christ, the promise to all God’s people, whom are actually Abraham’s descendants (Rom 4), expands to the whole earth. A renewed earth one day.

And so, this is brought out by the fact that Christ’s words in Matt 5:5 are a restating of Ps 37:11, but within the greater new covenant context. What were those original words of the psalmist?

But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace. (Ps 37:11)

And actually, we read at least 5 times in that psalm alone that God’s people will inherit the land.

What land? Well, in the old covenant context, it was the land of Canaan (or, today, we might say Palestine). But, within the new covenant that Christ initiates, we see God’s plan is to gift the whole earth to His people, which really harkens back to the original gift of Eden in Genesis. Not only that, but Paul refocuses the original promise to Abraham in these words:

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. (Rom 4:13)

And, so, I believe a kingdom worldview sees these 5 points as essential to God’s purpose in Christ and the new covenant:

1) The earth belongs to God (i.e. Ps 24:1)

As a side note, when Paul calls Satan the ‘god of this world’ (2 Cor 4:4), it does not mean that he is ruler of the earth. It means that he is only ruler over those ‘of the world’, or those who live in accordance with the ways of the world. The Scripture tells us the earth belongs to God.

2) The earth will be filled with God’s glory (i.e. Hab 2:14 and Is 11:9)

This is God’s design and the final outcome of where we are headed. If the earth is His, then He will ultimately disperse His glory into every corner. And, He is interested in utilising us in doing so even now. But I’ll come to that in just a moment.

3) All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Christ (i.e. Matt 28:18-20)

No, not every knee has bowed. Not every tongue has confessed. But the lordship of Jesus is a  reality. It is not scheduled for a later date. It is for now. It’s just that, at a later date, it will be confirmed for those who are not God’s. It is already confirmed to us. Therefore, we can ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’

4) God’s plan is for the meek to inherit the earth (i.e. Matt 5:5)

This is awesome news. Part of the good news, the gospel of the kingdom. That the earth, this earth which God will renew, is our ultimate home. God’s design is not a palatial city in the sky. His plan has always been to see what is in heaven, His rule and reign, come on earth. That is why Jesus asked us to pray such (Matt 6:10)

5) In this age, we proclaim the God news that God is reconciling people to the Himself and making all things new (i.e. 2 Cor 5:16-21; Rev 21:1-5)

Though there is an absolute beauty in seeing human beings reconciled with the Father, their sins forgiven and becoming partakers of the divine (2 Pet 1:3-4), it does not stop there. The good news is that God will redeem and renew creation. And just like our lives of discipleship and holiness point to the age to come, when heaven has fully invaded earth, so does our stewardship of planet earth point to the age to come when all things are completely made new. We taste of it now as new creations. But there is a day yet to come (Rom 8:18-25). And this is part of seeing the glory of the Lord extend into the earth even now (i.e. Hab 2:14). Amazing He asks us to participate in this.

Now, I set a background with all of this to move towards a significant point I want to make in this post.

If Jesus is Lord already, how do we proclaim that today? In the biblical, New Testament times, to say Jesus is Lord (or Jesus is kyrios), this would have been quite significant in a world where Caesar was Lord and Master. It was quite offensive and definitely challenging to Caesar’s authority to say such back then. But, today, that word is kind of taboo. Or it doesn’t mean too much. Lords were of the olden days or masters over slaves.

Yes, our songs sure enough proclaim Jesus is Lord, and we probably say it with our lips. But I’m not sure it means much practically. What does this mean to a world that does not have much grounding in the importance of the lordship of Jesus Christ?

To proclaim the lordship of Jesus could be done in various ways. But, this is where I believe God made the connection for me – To proclaim that Jesus is making all things new is a proclamation of the lordship of Jesus.

He said He is making all things new (Rev 21:5). He already has begun in the new creation life of His people (2 Cor 5:16-17). And I believe His desire is to see His people engaged in living out lives that point to the reality that Jesus is and will make all things new one day.

And, so, to proclaim that Jesus is making all things new, I believe this is part of the good news message that Jesus is kyrios, Jesus is Lord. Well, I suppose if He wasn’t Lord, He wouldn’t have much of a right to make all things new. And, if He wasn’t making all things new, well, I suppose we could question whether He is who He says He is.

But Jesus is Lord and a major pointer to that reality is that He is the One who is making all things new. That is where the connection really came to me about the practicality of Jesus’ lordship.

And, the call is that those who want to inherit the earth as God’s gracious gift, well this is extreme challenge – Blessed are the meek

The way of the kingdom is so counter to the ways of the world, the ways of our own flesh. One does not receive from God by arrogance, throwing one’s weight around, controlling or being authoritarian. One receives through becoming meek, becoming poor in spirit, dying to self, taking up their cross. You know, emulating the Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus.

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

You can listen to the sermon by clicking on the icon below, or, as I mentioned above, you can download it from our podcast site or iTunes.

The Challenge of the Great Builder

In my last post, I mentioned the short yet powerful statement found on the lips of Jesus in Matthew 16:18:

I will build my church.

Jesus truly is the great builder of God’s ekklesia, the church. Paul explains it this way in his letter to the Ephesians:

In him [Christ] you [the church] also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (2:22)

We should expect Christ to be the one who builds His church since He is the Head of His body. It would only make sense for Him to fulfill such a role.

Colossians goes on to declare this about Christ as the Head of the church:

And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (1:18; see also Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 2:10, 18-19)

When the Scripture teaches that Christ is head, it is communicating that He is:

  • Lord
  • Master
  • In control
  • In charge

These are not words we generally like to hear in the western world, are they? These kind of cut away at our individualistic tendencies.

But if Scripture communicates such things about Christ as Head of the church, then this is to be our response: we are to be completely surrendered to Him. To see our lives submitted to Him is not an option. As I mentioned in the previous post, we cannot live our Christian life the Burger King way – Have it your way. Nor can we approach our walk with Christ as we approach a Subway sandwich line – I’ll have a little lettuce, some tomato, but no peppers or black olives.

When we entered into relationship with Christ, He simply bid us come and die. And we cannot get around this one. Just after Jesus said, ‘I will build my church,’ He went on to say:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

Many people speak of their cross to bear as an annoying neighbour or difficult boss at work or barely making the monthly budget. While I do not want to negate the realities of such difficulties in our lives, the image of bearing our cross has more to do with death than some of the smaller trials of our lives.

Why do I conclude such? Because I look at what the cross meant for Christ – the sacrifice of death. The epitome of death, at least for the Christian, is the cross. The Son of God, who knew His life was headed towards the cross, also challenged His followers to embrace the cross. Again, this is not an option we can choose to consider if we so desire. It is part of the call to follow Christ.

No doubt most of us will not actually be put to death for our faith in Christ. But, more than anything, we are called to live as those who deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. It hurts but we know it to be so true and right.

And I can bank on it that the Head of the church will be quite pleased to use such people to build His church as ‘a dwelling place for God by His Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22). When Christ looks upon a people who are servant-hearted, willing to lay down their lives for the sake of the gospel and for others, I can only imagine a smile begins to surface upon His face.

Sure, when I look around I see quite a few that do not seem to be interested in recognising Christ as Lord, submitted to Him as the Head and great builder of God’s ekklesia. But our response should not be one of frustration and continual complaint. That can be my default position – ‘Jesus, why don’t you do something about so and so over there.’ And just about every time I enter this mode, I am reminded of Matthew 16:18 – ‘I will build my church.’ Remember this: He is the Head, He is in control. And remember, He did promise that he would build His church.

Therefore, let us get on with our calling in Christ – to allow Him to be who He says He is, in our life and in the entire church. Let’s give Christ the room He deserves to reign as Head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22). Let us embrace Him as Lord and Master to whom we owe every bit of our lives. For as I’ve mentioned before, as we are committed to His Lordship, His Headship as builder of the church, we will move ever closer to walking out the high calling that we have received in Christ. This truly is glorious.

Click here to read on in the series – A Look At Matthew 16:13-20.

The Lordship of Jesus In The Church

Back a couple of posts ago, in the article entitled Entrance Into The Church, I briefly looked at the importance of Christ as Lord of the church. We recognised that many people will focus on Christ as Saviour, which He most certainly is, but many fail to realise that He is also Lord and Master of the church, God’s ekklesia. Or another way of stating it is that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:13-16). And that, my dear friends, is the focus of this article.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus proclaimed:

‘I will build my church…’ (16:18)

Here, Jesus is proclaiming His ownership of the church. It belongs to Him, for as we saw in Ephesians 5:25, Christ ‘loved the church and gave himself up for her’. Building the church, His people, is a priority for Christ since He is Head of the church (Ephesians 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 2:18-19). No one can claim the rights as Head and Lord of the church except the One who gave His life for it and declared He would build it.

And it is the people of God who confess Him as Lord:

…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

But, if we are honest, Christ’s Lordship is not the most favourite characteristic to consider about Jesus. Most are fine for Him to forgive them of their sins, be the one who is a friend and brother, and even identify Him as the one who came to conquer the great enemy. However, to surrender every single thing in our lives over to Him, that is not too appealing to the crowds.

Yet one cannot truly be a Christ-follower, part of His ekklesia, if one is not committed to His Lordship in their life. It is absolutely impossible. And even for those who love to emphasise other aspects of Christ, yet forgetting He is Lord, must also realise that it is because He is Forgiver, Conquering Victor, Friend, Brother, Prince of Peace, etc, that He is also Lord and Master. Only the Lord could be such to us.

Even more, we see how God planned to exalt Christ above everything, not just His own ekklesia:

20…that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:20-23)

This is also echoed here:

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

He has the name that is above every name and one day every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. But Christ’s church is to already recognise that in both word and action.

No doubt, the church in the western world, and especially in America, would love the Burger King option of Christianity – Have it your way. But the Lordship of Jesus Christ is not an option that we can choose to accept if we so desire. Jesus is not a smorgasbord of certain things we can pick and choose from as if we are at the hippest buffet restaurant in town. His Lordship is an absolute fact. And those who are truly part of Christ’s ekklesia are called to submit to that reality.

This is what it means to be a disciple of Christ. We know the Scripture:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Notice Jesus did not ask us to get people to make decisions by raising their hand and walking down an aisle. He wanted us to make disciples. One who is a disciple is one who looks to hold to the teachings of their Master. And this is to be even more true of Christ’s ekklesia. Not only that, but a disciple is willing to be disciplined in their desire to follower the Master.

As Edmund Clowney stated:

‘To be sure, if the church rather than Christ becomes the centre of our devotion, spiritual decay has begun. A doctrine of the church that does not centre on Christ is self-defeating and false.’ (The Church, p15)

Ouch! This stuff hurts if we thought Christianity was something like Burger King. Lordship, Master, disciple, discipline, surrender – all words that might make us cringe. Yet, at the same time, we can find confidence and assurance in the midst of such a calling on our lives knowing that our Lord Jesus is all-good, faithful and has our best in mind.

Christianity is to be Christocentric, that is Christ-centred, not self-centred. Therefore, let the church not be swayed from anything less than surrendering our entire lives to Christ. No, this does not mean we will be perfect in this age. We will always be learning as true disciples. But, as we are committed to His Lordship, we will move ever closer to walking out the high calling that we have received in Christ. This truly is glorious.

Click here to read some more thoughts on the Lordship of Jesus in the church.