A Different View of Christmas 2011
7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord; lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
While not an overlooked passage over the centuries; the Church has generally focused on the lessons of Stephen’s martyrdom as opposed to the actual exhibition which was taking place! Fundamentally; a shift in power and authority! Depicted in these passages is Christ: not as a babe in the manger, not as a crucified visage, but alive as the ascended, glorified One with rightful authority over every area of life! This lesson was not lost on the Jerusalem elders, scribes, and the high priest. For Stephen declared and exhibited a new authority which eclipsed their old paradigm of relgio/political power. Read the entirety of Acts chapter 7 and you will notice that no charge, no accusation of Stephen arouses the leaders until they are shown to be obsolete! What is the corporate crowd reaction to Stephen’s actions? Kill the testimony! Remove that which demonstrates Christ’s authority here! Preserve their old earthly political base and obliterate that which exposes their inherent weaknesses. This pattern is repeated over again throughout history, whether in political contexts, Church life, or personal applications, the Lordship of Christ is ignored, spiritualized, or cast off into a future manifestation. Again; in the perspective of our theme verses; all is essentially tolerated until Stephen declares Christ at the Right hand of God (the epicenter of plenipotentiary rule) basically forcing the hackneyed politicos to cast him out of their plane of authority (Jerusalem) and kill him lest he continue to expose their lack of credibility and authority by virtue of the power of the ascended Lord of Glory! Generally; men will conditionally accept the notion of the incarnation, a babe in a manger; they will even accept a crucified Christ on death’s tree. Both visions are at least tolerated as long as they remain static and that the present tense authority of Jesus Christ remains hidden.
THE CHURCH WORLD
For the Church; the issue of Christ as glorified, Christ’s work as finished, and Christ at the right hand of God in a present tense; has been nearly as controversial as the response of earthly governmental realms. Granted the Church’s reaction has not had the antithetical hostility as depicted in Acts chapter 7; yet through subtlety, subterfuge, and theological denial has nevertheless been just as injurious as outside persecutions to the people of God. While there are whole listings of theological speed-bumps that could be explored; for this article and the sake of brevity I’ll generalize these negative trends to one general area.
1) Systemized Unbelief and Denial – Essentially “theological” constructs and cultural traditions that tend to segregate Christ’s rule to yesterday or tomorrow but never accept the same for today. Inherent in these foolish time-wrestling exhibitions are strident displays of “dualism” which confine Christ’s domain to the spiritual or unseen; yet deny the same in the material, demonstrable, measurable world. Whole denominations, seminaries, and cultures are steeped in this deity-denying practical atheism. Any; like Stephen that see the reality of Christ’s present-tense claim are essentially “cast” out of the confines of the comfort religion!
THE GOVERNMENT WORLD
As 2012 is a “Presidential Election” year in America; there will be heated debates between Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, Constitutionalists and Progressives over a myriad of domestic, economic, and foreign policy issues. Yet; most office-holders and those who seek elected office will have their minds focused on their own public-retirement-accounts and personal ego rumblings rooted in the current political context of “power-base”. Any transcendent foundational issues that point the way to the authority of the ascended Christ will be systematically extirpated in favor of what is known. Unfortunately, there will be all too many within the Church World that will ally with, appease, and give succor to these political rationalists.
1) Hence; the earthly political world is at all times about the business of throwing the Stephens out of the seat of power lest they are eclipsed and found wanting. We see this in the Christmas story with Herod’s holocaust against the children in an attempt to maintain power; this anthem is repeated by Pilate and the crucifixion of Christ, and again with the killing of Stephen. That the practical atheists within the Church world are in league with such machinations should come as no surprise for they too are being eclipsed!
THE NEW REALITY!
As this is the season wherein the Incarnation is celebrated; we must remember that Incarnation, Resurrection and Ascension/Glorification are linked and related events. It is a tragedy that the Herod-Pontius Pilate-Obama paradigm understands the consequences of Christmas more than the average priest/pastor. Still; others ignorance is no excuse for the rest of us to live disconnected from Christ at the Right hand of God! The question remains DO YOU SEE CHRIST WHERE HE IS?? His position demands comportment of your actions to the reality of his RIGHTFUL and PRESENT tense rule! If you’re waiting for something else you’re in league with those who killed Stephen!