As you know if you are regular here, I am a lawyer. On occasion, I volunteer for the local bar association’s program to provide legal advice to those who cannot afford it. As part of the program, I field calls from people asking questions touching on various areas of the law.
This is a change for me because I am a trial lawyer, specializing in trying employment law cases. What amazes me each time I volunteer is the sheer number of callers seeking legal advice regarding obtaining divorces. It is literally every other call. I always pass the call on to another lawyer because it is not my field of law and because I don’t want to participate in putting asunder what God has joined together.
It would be easy enough to scoff at the world and the fact that those who reject God and talk so romantically about visualizing world peace, and imaging a world without religion can’t even get along with those they vowed to love forever, but Christians fare only a little better.
“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” “You can achieve anything you want if you believe in yourself.” “You can be whatever you want to if you put your mind to it.” We’ve all heard these sayings, and they make people feel good. Unfortunately, none of them are true.
There is, however, a truth hidden amongst these facile, feel-good statements. While it is not true that what you believe can make everything achievable, it can certainly make anything unachievable. For example, if you think something is not possible, you might not even try, or if you try, you might give up prematurely because you think further effort is futile. What you think is possible matters.
In his letter to the Roman Christians, the Apostle Paul said:
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:11-13. Paul is reminding the Roman Christians that because the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead resides in them, even though they are living in bodies marred by the effects of the Fall of Man, they can put to death sin in their life. This is not a statement proffered by a motivational speaker but one guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus.
Palm Sunday is the celebration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. See Matthew 21:4-13. Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the dead, and the word of His miraculous powers had spread. People were convinced Jesus was the king the Scriptures had promised would liberate them from the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel.
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the people waved their palm branches and worshipped Jesus, calling Him the King of Israel in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. See Zechariah 9:9. The religious leaders asked Jesus to correct those worshipping Him, but Jesus refused because the people were correct: He was their King, He had come to establish His kingdom, and He was worthy of their worship.
I’ve stood on that path leading up to Jerusalem, just under the walls of the city, and as I stood there I realized just how bold Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was. There would have been Roman soldiers stationed on the walls as Jesus rode into the city being hailed by the people as their new king. It was gutsy. It was bold. But it was entirely appropriate. Jesus was the King of kings, even over the Romans.
For the people watching these events unfold on Palm Sunday, it must have been very exciting. They must have thought Jesus was going to topple Herod and then take on the Romans. A man who could raise another man from the dead was certainly capable of all of that. They must have tingled with anticipation of how Jesus would use His power to assert His kingly authority.
I read a lot of biographies. I’ve been particularly interested in the lives of Kingdom heroes who have changed to world, and as I’ve studied those lives, I have noticed that many of them have suffered a similar traumatic event before ultimately fulfilling God’s call on their lives, and that event is exile.
Moses was effectively exiled to Midian for forty years before the Lord spoke to him from the burning bush and sent him back to Egypt to be the leader and deliverer God called him to be.
David was exiled from Israel and the court of Saul into the desert where he spent years running from Saul until he returned to be king.
After his conversion on the road to Damascus, the Apostle Paul spent 14 years in the desert before returning to become the greatest church planter the world has ever known.
St. Patrick was exiled from England when slave traders kidnapped him and took him to Ireland , where he found God and his calling to be God’s missionary to Ireland.
John Wycliffe was exiled from Oxford, leading him to pastor the small church in Lutterworth, England for the last ten years of his life, where he would finally have time to translate the Bible from Latin into English.
Martin Luther was exiled by Frederich III to Wartburg Castle for about two years where he translated the Bible from Latin into German.
John Calvin had to flee his home in Paris for Switzerland during the Reformation to keep from being arrested, during which time he wrote the first edition of his Institutes of Christian Religion.
John Knox was captured by the French Catholics and held captive in a French Galley for 18 months as a slave and then ultimately fled to Geneva, where he was mentored by John Calvin before returning to become the great reformer of Scotland.
After Jesus was resurrected and had gathered His disciples together, the disciples asked, “Lord is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”
Jesus said in response, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8.
Jesus’ disciples were young. They were excited about Jesus’ resurrection, which for them confirmed he was indeed the King of kings. They were ready for Jesus to take over. They wanted to talk politics, but Jesus wanted to talk power.
The conversation is instructive. I am old enough to have lived through two evangelical experiments with American politics. The first was one of disengagement. This was the default in the late 1960s and through the 1970s.
That all changed with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, and other evangelical leaders encouraged evangelicals to get involved in politics. The catalyst policy was a pro life agenda, but it grew from that and evangelicals eventually found a home with the conservative Right. That started the second experiment that has continued until this day.