“Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Joshua 5:13
Lord’s Day 1 Heidelberg Catechism
1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Window in Chartres Cathedral
There is a common thread that runs through these three texts, that is, we are here to serve God, not the other way round. In western culture there has been a strong tendency for Christians to treat God as a personal trainer, a guru or spiritual aspirin. In other words God is there to serve us, make us comfortable and look after our needs. We are then massively disappointed and angry when this doesn’t occur. We have turned our Saviour into a servant and Lord into a lacky. We see it in so many sermons which have become “feel good” ear ticklers filled with trite psychology. Prosperity theology and the gold dust idiocy of recent years are just some of the more extreme examples of our tendency to twist Scripture to serve our purposes.
How has that happened? In part it is because we have failed to look at the more comprehensive picture of Jesus. Yes, he is a Saviour and he did come to save us, but he is also a king who has come to reclaim his kingdom. If we forget the second half of this picture it is easy to see how we fall into a self focussed faith.
As Joshua found out as he prowled around Jericho, and David when he was anointed King, and as Paul declares every-time one of his letters heralds “therefore” and as the Apostle John was enlightened on the island of Patmos, Jesus has a rightful claim on our lives, our service and our obedience, not the other way round. As his adopted brothers and sisters we have been co-opted into the Father’s business which is Kingdom building – rightfully declaring, claiming and striving for Christ’s rule over all things.
Looking at faith from this perspective removes our human tendency to self absorption and spiritual pride. Christianity would have died in the first century if the early church had our modern self centredness. Following Jesus was the cause of their problems not the solution, yet they rejoiced in the calling they had to serve the king.
Between Palm Sunday and Easter is a most appropriate time to reflect that the one who was crucified, rose from the dead as a triumphal King and liberator. We are privileged to be called citizens in this eternal kingdom!