Assuming the Center and Proclaiming the Crown Rights of King Jesus!
The early church interpreted the events surrounding the healing of the cripple in Acts 4, not as a testimony to God’s miraculous healing power, but as the battle for the nations as prophesied by David in Psalm Two.
After this miraculous healing and the preaching of Peter, the Jewish leaders “called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.’ Then Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’ So when they had further threatened them, they let them go…'”
Assembling with the community of faith and hearing the testimony from Peter and John as well as the threats from the leaders, “they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘WHY DID THE NATIONS RAGE, AND THE PEOPLE PLOT VAIN THINGS? THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’ For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
The content of their corporate praise and prayer to God was not a “thank you for sparing us from punishment” type prayer, but the assertion of the crown rights of King Jesus. They saw King Jesus, not Satan as the present owner and ruler over the earth. As someone said, “They were convinced that God’s Anointed had been appointed and he would not be disappointed!”
Psalm Two, which formed the basis of their praise and prayer, talks about nations raging, people’s plotting, kings standing, and rulers assembling against the Lord’s Anointed. The battle in Psalm 2 is characterized as a battle over the ownership of the nations and over the laws that Christ’s kingdom people are to restrain the rebellious with. God wants the kings of the earth (political orders) and the judges (law-interpreters) to yield to Christ, lest he destroy them. This is spiritual warfare with political implications over the establishment of law.
In Acts 4:27, they affirm that this healing is consistent with Christ’s own battle with the world system:
Christ vs. Herod and Pontius Pilate (political rulers); Christ vs. the Gentiles (national and international systems); Christ vs. the people of Israel (religious systems)
So when the gospel of the kingdom is preached in power it doesn’t just address souls or personal morals, but it challenges and claims authority over the entirety of the world system’s laws, and social and religious structures. It demands the release of the captives as the reward for the sufferings of the Lamb of God.
The battle over the nations is spiritual. All of the issues of today are religious in nature. All nations are religious, even nations who declare atheism as their worldview. The power behind all pagan and false religions is demonic. Deuteronomy 32:17, “They sacrificed to demons, which are not God. Ps 106:37-38, “They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons…” Paul wrote in 1 Cor 10:19-20, “Do I mean that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.”
Pastor, author, educator, and theologian, Doug Wilson, tells of a visit to St. Andrews in Scotland. He said some fifty yards are so from the market area of St. Andrews they visited the ruins of a castle, in front of which was a marker in the road where the Protestant martyr, George Whishart, was executed. Wishart was a powerful preacher whose life and ministry captured the heart of the young John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian church in Scotland. After seeing this they walked into the market area where a gray-haired man was doing some open air preaching in the presence of the many people there. But for all they cared, he could have been a parking meter. He was being treated as someone who was completely irrelevant, and thoroughly ignored, even though he was preaching the ancient truth of the gospel.
Pastor Wilson realized that he was only a stone’s throw from where Whishart was executed for preaching the same gospel. He began to wonder what difference fifty yards makes. Or four centuries. Or perhaps neither.
His conclusion was that the difference was that the early Protestant preachers assumed the center in there preaching and they were consequently a genuine threat to the establishment. Modern Christians and preachers, whether on the street, or safely ensconced in their worship centers, do no such thing. Even when modern believers oppose the wickedness at the center, they still don’t question their right to the center. We modern Christians tend to agree with the wicked about one thing at least – the fact that the wicked belong at the center, and that those who oppose them should always harangue them from the periphery.
After the death of Wishart, as John Knox threw himself into the work of the Reformation, he never considered starting a new ministry in a little chapel on the outskirts of town where his little church could gather in safety and pray for soon evacuation by the main army of Heaven, lead by King Jesus himself.
Instead, Knox aligned himself with King Jesus and assumed the center. He settled in his mind that he was going to preach in St. Andrews. The bishop there said if he tried he would be greeted with a twelve-gun salute, the most part of which would light upon his nose. But Knox came to St. Andrews anyway, and preached there, from the center.
For at least one hundred and fifty years the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the most part, has assumed the tail and not the head, the peripheral and not the central. We have been off-center for so long that the only hope we see for the future is for the church to get off the planet.
For the best part of the 20th century the church was a victim of the “Great Reign Robbery!” We have been taught that that Jesus tried to set himself up at the center as King of the Jews, but they rejected him, so he had postpone His original plan and go back into Heaven where he sits on a throne reigning in Heaven and in the hearts of His people, but not over the world because Satan reigns over it. This postponement necessitated putting another plan into force. This view posits the New Testament Church as a parenthesis, a peripheral, an off-centered part of God’s plan, implemented when the main plan, the supposed offer of the kingdom by Jesus was rejected by the Jews of His day. This off-centered outlook causes an unbelievable spiritual inferiority complex. It causes its victims, i.e. most Christians, to expect to lose in history. It convinces them that they are the reserve army, kept here to hold the fort until the main army from heaven, led by King Jesus, comes and rescues them from the hordes of hell that have surrounded them and cut them off from the center, and contained them in stained glass forts called worship centers, where they meet, eat and retreat. While they’re meeting they are taught by the prophecy experts that the sooner the church as a whole becomes apostate and lets the world get even more corrupt, the sooner God will bring the original plan back on line. At the heart of this plan is the belief that a handful of Jewish evangelists (144,000 in number), without the aid of the Holy Spirit’s gifts and empowering presence, will accomplish in 3 1/2 years of the “great tribulation” period, what the New Testament Church couldn’t accomplish in 2,000 years.
In light of the above premise, we begin to see how the belief that the Church is going to end up in an apathetic, apostate, peripheral condition, with only a few faithful ones to be snatched away when Jesus returns, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If one believes that we are living in the “Laodicean” period of church history, and that it is predestined to end in apostasy and abject failure as a whole, then we begin to receive according to that level of our faith and achieve on the same paltry and pathetic level.
Far too many of today’s Christians see the Church as the tail and not the head. They see Her as a fragmented, rag-tag band of losers, so pale, anemic and demoralized that She has to be evacuated before the battle is finished. They see the Church as having no glory and might, no triumph or splendor attached to the Her, because those attributes are all reserved to be lavished later upon national Israel.
In contrast, the New Testament believers saw the Church as central and not peripheral. They saw themselves as Jesus taught — mustard seed that would grow into a tree, leaven that would secretly have and influence far beyond its size, salt that would preserve and add flavor to life, and a light that was set on a hill that couldn’t be hidden. They saw themselves as part of a powerful, love-filled, life-abounding, militant, triumphant army marching from victory unto victory, by the power of the sword of the Word of God made effectual by the Spirit of God.
A vision of the future that doesn’t see Christ the Lord reigning now and the Church co-reigning with him; a vision of the future that doesn’t see the Redeemed People of Faith, the Church, as the center of God’s plan will produce a people who spend more time looking for the Anti-Christ to be manifested than praying for the power of Christ to be manifested.
The issue before us is not incidental or peripheral. How we perceive the future affects the way we raise our children, the education we get, the type buildings we build, the way we invest our monies, how we do evangelism, i.e. rescuing a few from off a sinking ship or discipling men to become generational instead of terminal in their thinking.
The CHURCH must assume the CENTER by asserting that King Jesus is now the Reigning Lord with authority being His in Heaven and on earth! She must recover kingdom thinking, praying, living, and working, declaring: “Kingdom of God, come more fully so that the as-above-in-heaven, becomes the way it is on earth, and not just in the hearts of believers!”
Assuming the center for King Jesus and His people is to be done with truth and grace, with life and love, with praise, prayer, and spiritual power, and sacrificial service for the fame of the NAME!