In a day when we are surrounded by the persona of presidential saviors, the nanny state of big government and multi-culturalism which puts all religions on an equal playing field with the federal government refereeing how the game is played, the church of Jesus Christ must remember that her citizenship belongs to a city not built with hands, and that her King will return shortly to usher in his kingdom so that it will be “on earth as it is in heaven.” Our message to the world, the gospel, needs to be spot on—not warped, watered down or accommodating to the pressures of modern Caesars. Dr. Michael Horton, in The Gospel Commission, has written these powerful words:
Salvation is not just ‘fire insurance’ or ‘sin management.’ The gospel promises far more than going to heaven when you die. It is an all-encompassing pledge from God for the total renewal of creation. It involves the resurrection of our bodies and the liberation of the whole creation from its bondage to sin and death. What insurance plan, global market, or government agency can claim that kind of authority over life and death? When he returns, Jesus will judge every person and nation and consummate his kingdom in everlasting righteousness and peace. We cannot limit salvation to our private world of the soul; the whole cosmos was created by the Father, in the Son, through the Spirit, and it is upheld and finally redeemed in the same way.
The privatized view of Jesus merely as ‘personal Lord and Savior’ does not really provoke controversy today. After all, our non-Christian neighbors shrug, ‘Whatever works for you.’ However, these aspirations of praise to Jesus Christ were subversive on the lips of early Christians in the Roman Empire. After all, they were titles that Caesar had ascribed to himself. People could believe whatever they wanted to in private. Whatever they found morally useful, therapeutically valuable, or spiritually and intellectually enlightening was fine. In fact, when it came to gods, the more the merrier! The Roman Empire was a melting pot of cultures and religions. However, whatever the varied religions and spiritualities it tolerated, Rome insisted that they contribute to the civil religion that included the cult of the emperor. God could have his heaven, or the inner soul, but Caesar was ‘lord of the earth.’
The early Christians were not fed to wild beasts or dipped in wax and set ablaze as lamps in Nero’s garden because they thought Jesus was a helpful life coach or role model but because they witnessed to him as the only Lord and Savior of the world. Jesus Christ doesn’t just live in the private hearts of individuals as the source of an inner peace. He is the Creator, Ruler, Redeemer and Judge of all the earth. And now he commands everyone everywhere to repent. All idols are shams. All power and authority not only in heaven but on earth is Christ’s. He has cast Satan out of the heavenly sanctuary, where he prosecuted the saints day and night (Rev. 12). And now, having bound the strong man, he is looting his house on earth, taking back what rightfully belongs to him (Matt. 12:29).