Christians confess that Jesus is Lord. He is not trying to be Lord. He is not running for office. He came, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, worked wonders, healed the sick, walked on water, calmed storms, and finally freely gave up His life as a ransom payment for many sinners. He rose from the dead three days later, and forty days after that, ascended into heaven. He promised that He would send the Spirit as a down payment and proof of His authority and power over Heaven and Earth, and so He equipped His people to preach the gospel and disciple the nations.
And yet we are witnessing one of the most gut-wrenching collapses of civilization in the history of the world. What is happening all around us is what it looks like to watch a civilization totter in a drunken frenzy and fall. The wheels have all come off, and the train is careening into a canyon. The lies, the vitriol, the pride, the hubris, the violence, the treachery, the selfishness, the debauchery, the decadence is towering, oceanic, cancerous, and pervasive.
Where is Jesus? Where is Jesus while these insane parents “Drag their kids to Pride,” grooming their children for sexual exploitation and abuse? Where is Jesus while millions of tiny babies are still being chopped up in their mothers’ wombs? Where is Jesus while scheming elites and doddering politicians connive, conspire, and prey upon the weak, the elderly, the poor, the fatherless? Where is Jesus while Muslims blow up churches? Where is Jesus while Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses lead millions to Hell? Where is Jesus while communism grows in China and North Korea and American classrooms? Where is Jesus while millions slowly waste away under the spells of porn, drugs, and despair? Where is Jesus?
A Couple Catechism Questions
When my son was little, one of the catechism questions I asked him was: What’s Jesus doing in Heaven? And the answer was: Destroying all His enemies. Which is true enough. 1 Cor. 15:25 says that He must reign until all of His enemies have been put beneath His feet. But in moments like this, we are often tempted to ask the question again, but what is Jesus doing right now? This is what we mean by our question: Where is Jesus? We don’t mean geographically or cosmically; we mean what is He doing? Why is He allowing these things to happen? And the same answer is true (He is destroying all of His enemies), but I think maybe another catechism question is needed. My parents also taught me a catechism when I was very young. After a couple of preliminary questions about God making me and all things, the following question asks: Why did God make you and all things? And the answer is: For His own glory.
For His own glory. I don’t think we think about this enough. John Piper has tried to get us to think about it more. Many of the greatest theologians have spent years and many volumes on this topic, and we so frequently smile and nod and do not understand what they are saying. But think about it. God didn’t need to make anything. He didn’t need to make a world, and He certainly didn’t need to save the world. But He chose to do so for His own glory. But the glory of God is that He isn’t short any glory. He isn’t lacking any glory. Even though we have sinned against His glory and owe an infinite debt to His honor, His glory and honor have not been diminished in the slightest. The glory of the Trinity is endless, infinite, overflowing, and God made us in His image, to reflect that glory.
We know from Scripture that God has determined to save the world: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (Jn. 3:16-17). We know that the salvation of sinners, and the salvation of the world will ultimately bring glory to God. But God doesn’t need sinners to repent for Him to have a better day, a better year, or a better millennium. God is fullness of joy, fullness of peace, fullness of holiness, justice, mercy, goodness, and love. And God made us and the world, and by extension, the history of the world, for His own glory, to display His complete self-sufficiency. God didn’t make the world and its history to satisfy our desires, or at least, not directly. He created the universe and every detail of its story so that everything in the world would proclaim His glory. So that everything would proclaim His worth, His fullness, His perfection, His abundance, His sufficiency. As John Piper has famously put it: God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.
The Lord of Glory
This helps to explain why it pleases God greatly for one of His image bearers to stand up for the truth in Jesus’ name, when no one cares, when no one listens, when it doesn’t seem to do any earthly good at all. Our natural instinct is to think that if it doesn’t do anything, or change anything, or fix anything, it must have not worked. But that is to measure with an earthly, human scale. God says that He does what He does to bring glory to His name. Sure, there is glory in God answering prayers, glory in sinners repenting and being converted, and glory in changing the course of human history. But there is also great glory for God in faithful witnesses standing before enemies unashamed of the truth because the only reason a man would do that sort of thing is because He has been captured by the beauty of His Savior. And that is glorious.
What did Stephen get out of testifying to the Jewish Sanhedrin? Nothing. What did Stephen get for faithful message confronting the hard-hearted Jews. Nothing but rocks thrown at his head, and the glory of Christ his Master, his King, his Lord. And yes, God used Stephen’s death for great good, scattering the Christians so that the Word would spread even faster. But the point is that Stephen’s faithful testimony was successful simply because it pleased God, it glorified God and that is the greatest reward.
So of course the answer to all of our questions: Where is Jesus? Is simply and wonderfully, He is here. He is in Heaven and He is Immanuel: God with us. He is present by His Spirit. He is active. He is reigning. He is Lord. But He is the Lord of Glory, the King of Glory. And we are His subjects and the battle lines are being drawn, with many Philistines and Giants taunting us and our King. And I suspect that our King has determined to use this moment to display a particularly potent form of His glory, the glory of the few who are unashamed to speak the name of Jesus in the public square, the glory of a man, of a woman, face shining, smiling, unashamed of Christ and His Word. And the glory is not measured by immediate results. The glory is measured by the pleasure of God. No, we will not live by lies. We will not bow our knees to false pronouns, to race hustlers, to guilt manipulators, to perversion pimps, to statist sacraments, to pseudo-science witchcraft, or any other argument that sets itself up against the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The Treasure in the Field
The glory of God is His greatness and majesty and power and goodness that is utterly transcendent and immense and free. It is the treasure in the field that the man found, and having found it, sold everything he had to purchase the field. To begin to perceive the glory of God is to see that nothing compares to it. Everything fades before it: job, career, money, houses, fame, reputation, family, friends, marriage, children, and every comfort.
There’s a little-known verse of the hymn Come Thou Fount that our new Cantus Christi hymnal has re-inserted that is utterly jarring to modern ears:
“If thou ever didst discover
To my faith the promised land,
Bid me now the stream pass over,
On the heavenly border stand.
Now surmount whate’er opposes,
Into thine embrace I’d fly;
Speak the word thou spake to Moses;
Bid me, ‘Get thee up and die.’”
I’m not saying this needs to be your new favorite verse, but I would say there is something wonderful here and full of glory. The verse is saying that the glory of God is so great that if we ever got a true glimpse of it, we would want nothing but to be with the Lord immediately. We would be begging God to let us come into His embrace. To live is Christ and to die is better. But to live to Christ is to live with eyes fixed on Christ. This need not veer into some kind of pseudo-gnostic pietism, rejecting the good gifts of God’s creation: food, drink, sex, laughter, marriage, children, or work. But the point is that all of these good gifts, are the good gifts of the Lord of Glory, the King of Glory, the Fount of Every Blessing.
All of this means that when the world tells lies, we stand up for the truth because the truth is Christ our glory. When the world rages against Christ, against His created order, we stand with Christ our glory, come what may. And when we are hated, lied about, smeared, slandered, fired, fined, and rejected, we rejoice for being counted worthy to suffer for His name. Because His name is worthy. All glory to His name.
I suspect that this will be the turning point in this battle that we are currently in, and I do believe that it is coming — it will be at that moment when God raises up a number of men who are zealous for the name of Christ, who cannot be bought or distracted or manipulated by any threats or bribes or consequences because Christ is their treasure, their glory, and obedience is their crown. They may suffer greatly, and God will be their reward. But the glory will shine in that moment because it had nothing to do with immediate results. It will be the simple truth from the bottom of their hearts: Jesus is worthy and I will serve Him, come what may.
Jesus is Lord of the public square. He is Lord there, and He will certainly reign until every public square acknowledges that He is their Lord. The United States and Canada and England and France and Russia and China and Brazil must all kiss the Son, lest they perish in His wrath. There is no other name under Heaven by which any man may be saved, and therefore His name is above every name and it is to be honored by all men. But this means that we do not fundamentally need a bunch of Christians to get more political. No, we need a bunch of Christians to become more Christian. We need a bunch of Christians to become real Christians, and then we need a bunch of real Christians to be zealous for the glory of God, for the glory of Jesus. When this happens, it will be unmistakable.
As C.S. Lewis says somewhere if you aim at earth, you will miss it and lose it entirely, but if you aim at Heaven, you will get this world thrown in. If you aim merely at a Christian presence in the public square, you will miss it and lose it entirely, as we have seen over the course of the last number of decades. But if you aim at the supremacy of Christ, the glory of Christ, full and complete satisfaction in Jesus, God will throw everything in, including politics, and every knee will bow.