This sermon was preached on Sunday, December 19, 2010. Although this sermon is not technically part of the Ephesians series, Pastor Grabill finds a way to relate it to his previous sermons, so I have chosen to include it.
[Right before the sermon, Pastor Grabill showed a video called, “If Mary and Joseph Had Facebook.” The one he used is no longer available, at least I could not find it, but you can check Igniter Media or Excentric for something similar.] And all the Facebookers said, “Amen,” right? Isn’t that great?
Turn with me to the book of Isaiah. One of the worst temptations is to take these stories and make them so, uh [he pauses as he searches for the right word] otherworldly that we can’t relate to them. And what you just saw is a way to relate to that story 2000 years ago using the technology of our time. The titles of our messages last week, this week and the following week—because we’ve taken a pause in our series in Ephesians, we’re talking about this Peace Child, Jesus—are contemporary titles. Next week the title is going to be “Safe Town? [he says, to clarify the punctuation] Question Mark”. I know some of you are going to be away but it’s going to be a very important message, and God has given me a word about the little town of Bethlehem, that maybe you’ve never heard it preached this way before. But last week, we were looking at mother, this week the Child, next week the town that Jesus was born in, prophesied in the Old Testament.
So today, we come to Isaiah 9, where it talks about, again the birth of Jesus, focusing on Him. Isaiah 9, verses 6 and 7, would you stand with me please as we look together to God’s Word? For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His Kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
[Prayer] Jesus, we’re so glad that You came. Lord, help us to understand today what it means that the increase of Your government will never end. Lord, we do want, as John said, for You to increase and us to decrease [John 3:30]. The world needs You so desperately today, more than ever. I pray in this time that You will speak to us in this house, in this place, what we need to hear from You. Holy Spirit, I pray You will take this message and make it customized to every individual. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, speak to my heart, change my life, in Jesus’ name. Amen, amen. You may be seated.
I’m going to blend last week’s message and this week’s message. Last week we were kind of following what the Spirit was doing and there were some things about Mary and then Baby Jesus that blend together so we’re going to kind of start there this Sunday. Last Sunday we looked at Isaiah, Isaiah 7. It said the Lord will give you a sign. The virgin will be with child and give birth to a Son. In the Old Testament it could be translated “young woman” but very clearly in Matthew and Luke, very clearly, the word that is used in the Greek there is biological, scientific “virgin”. So the New Testament is clear. You back to the Old Testament and “young woman”, it’s assumed that young women were virgins in that culture, just assumed, so. . .[he leaves the sentence unfinished]. And besides, a young married woman conceiving and giving birth wouldn’t be much of a sign. It happens all the time. It’d be like saying a young man will run down a road or something. I mean, it just happens every day of the week. So it would have to be something very, very special. So it really is a virgin.
Some say, “Well, that’s legend,” and there are cultures that worshiped virgin goddesses and that’s how the whole idea of the virgin birth came from those legends. They also say the same thing about Jesus, that Jesus came from these legends and I kind of wish the college students, all of ‘em, were still with us. Maybe we can pick this up, Tom [to Pastor Tom Reigel, our campus pastor], in the spring when I’m with you guys, and we do our, each semester, the Q and A, pick up on this. C.S. Lewis said that Jesus was either a liar—you know, He said He was divine but He knew He wasn’t—or a lunatic—He thought He was divine but He wasn’t—or He’s Lord. [This famous quote and explanation is found in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, copyright 1952.] And that’s a strong argument. You couldn’t take that argument a long way down the road. But others have said, “No, there’s another possibility, and that’s legend.” A couple of years ago, some of the young adults in our congregation were being sent a video that made the argument that Jesus is just simply a compilation, the whole Jesus story—birth, crucifixion, everything—is a compilation of other legends.
Well, it gets a little trickier. For instance, let me say to you, most people think that King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a myth. It’s a legend. Okay, it didn’t really happen. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been kings in history, there haven’t been knights, and that there’s no such thing as round tables. You with me? It may be a myth, but the elements of that myth are real, are real. And someone points out the god Osiris, in Egypt, that the legend is that he was tricked and then killed while he was eating a meal, he was cut into fourteen pieces, and we won’t go any further down that road, but some say, that’s like Jesus’s Last Supper; [it] is borrowed from Osiris.
Well, I wonder how many people who were ever killed were killed within 24 hours of eating a meal? [He chuckles and says] Like, all of them, pretty much. Or that when the women wept for Jesus, that that was like weeping for Tammuz, the god of Babylon many, many, many years—centuries—before Jesus. Well, you know, how many times, when a person has been killed, especially unjustly, that someone wept for them? Like, all the time. So, you know, let me illustrate this. Let’s say if I told you a story of a man, he grew up in the middle part of the 20th century, grew up in America in an Assemblies of God church, born and raised in that. His mom went more faithfully than his dad, and he got closer to his mom because of that spiritual connection. And as he grew, it was a very dysfunctional home and he, in his senior year, was socially awkward but he really got interested in music and took great comfort in his music, got into Gospel music, and unlike a lot of his friends, really got into black Gospel music. I’d be telling the story of who? [Various answers from the congregation] You are so smart. Some of you say “Me” [pointing to himself], some of you say “Elvis”. How many of you say “All of the Above”? Yeah, so I mean if someone—I don’t want to be so presumptuous—but if someone ever wrote the story of me, someone could say, “Oh, you’re just trying to make him like Elvis.” Well sure, [clearly joking now] I’m a little bit Elvis, a little bit Brad Pitt [congregation howls with laughter]. By the way, Brad Pitt’s family is Assemblies of God. Maybe you didn’t know that. [The he adds, joking again] A little bit Bart Simpson, I don’t know.
So you with me? It gets a little trickier when you make that argument. Almost everybody acknowledges, almost everybody—atheists included—that there was a Jesus of Nazareth who lived and died. And then when we get into the supernatural—rose again—that’s where the division comes. So, He’s more than a legend. He’s more than a legend, and these things happened. Well, a lot of, especially Jewish, skeptics, will say–and they question the Trinity, because they emphasize the oneness of God–say, “How can Jesus be God and be the Son of God at the same time?” Well, you can say, “Look at your own prophet, Isaiah.” You with me? Look at verse 6, which emphasizes His divinity. Now, we’re going to talk, mostly, today about His dynasty, His reign, His kingdom, but verse 6: to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given. Skipping over the government, He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father. He’ll be called Mighty God. How can He be a son and be God? Well, that’s what Isaiah prophesied. He’s talking about Jesus. In fact, the Trinity is so one that He is called Everlasting Father. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of the Trinity is a great mystery, it really is. And we say God in three persons when we sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” [traditional church hymn by Heber and Dykes, 1861]. The word ‘persons” is not really a Biblical description but it’s a word that we use sometimes to express the distinction between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit but they are so one that Jesus would be called the Everlasting, or Eternal, Father as well. So verse 6 very, very clearly prophesies His divinity.
Now let me come back to Mary, and then we’ll come back to this text. I’m jumping back and forth a little bit. Back to Mary. So, some people say, “Well, okay, Mary was a legend, one of the goddess legends of which there were in many cultures. And this is where we were, kind of, in our series in Ephesus. We’re touching on this. In Ephesus, they worshipped the goddess Artemis, and many of the goddesses of the ancient world were perpetual virgins, perpetual virgins. Well, here we have the story of Jesus as it is developing—I shouldn’t say developing—as it’s being told in the 1st century, the first few centuries, but we have this goddess worship of Artemis, and it’s still out here, of Isis and other goddesses as well. And some of them are perpetual virgins. And my argument is, about 400 AD the Church caved in and said, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” So Mary became Artemis in the Ephesian Council and she replaced Artemis and the Church then declared that she was a perpetual virgin. Well, she wasn’t. The Bible clearly says that Jesus had brothers and sisters. They weren’t cousins. [Emphatically] They weren’t cousins, they were brothers and sisters. She was not a perpetual virgin. Joseph and Mary had a real marriage, a real marriage, and Jesus had siblings. They were half brothers and sisters because He was of divine origin but they make Mary into a perpetual virgin, into a goddess figure that people pray to, and then they give her the title “Queen of Heaven”. Well Jeremiah 44 [specifically verses 15-26] is very clear, the Queen of Heaven is a demonic figure. I love Mary too much to call her the name of a demon. You with me? If you love Mary, you are not going to call her a demonic name. You’re not going to call her Beelzebub or something, you’re not going to call her the Queen of Heaven.
So it’s very clear that Queen of Heaven is goddess worship. You know, Christopher Alam [very passionate missionary to Africa and the world, has spoken several times at State College Assembly of God; learn more about his ministry at http://pentecostalfire.com] when he was with us not too long ago, said, “I don’t care about people who pray to Mary because she’s not listening anyhow,” and that’s funny. [Congregation laughs and he says again] That’s funny. But you know, Christopher gets to come and go. I get to be the pastor. The Bible tells us not to talk to dead people–you say, “Well, they’re alive, they’re in Heaven,”—not to talk to preresurrected people. We can talk to Jesus. In fact, we’re told to talk to the Father in the Name of Jesus. And praying to Mary, particularly when you get into “salve regina”, [Latin for] save us, oh queen, that is goddess worship. That is paganism, and we need to make a distinction between the two.
So we have these legend issues that we need to separate from the true story of Jesus. The true story, verse 6, He is divine. In fact–that He can be the Son and be divine–Jesus raised this very issue in Matthew 22 [verses 41-46] when He said to the Pharisees, “How would David say, [Matthew 22:44] ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ‘ How could David call his son My Lord? And the Pharisees were stumped, because they knew Jesus was the Son of David. He was called that by many people in His time. He was the Son of David, and yet He is Lord God Almighty. He is divine, amen? [emphatically] He is God.
Now, let’s talk about His dynasty, verse 7. Verse 6 says: and the government will be on His shoulders. Verse 7: Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His Kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. His dynasty. What kind of dynasty are we talking about? Well, this verse in often quoted by some people in the renewal camp who say, “There are seven mountains to society we need to take over. Those seven mountains–by the way, there are seven mountains around the city of Babylon, in the book of Revelation, so again, it’s kind of like Queen of Heaven. Why are we dealing with that terminology anyhow? But I have no problem that we are witnesses in seven spheres of society. I believe God can call you into almost any place in society. Not everywhere. I mean, there’s some things Christians cannot do and be a Christian, some occupations that you should not have, and those should be obvious. But I believe that we should be in every realm—in education, in science, in the arts, in government, et cetera, et cetera, every element of society, we are witnesses. But taking it over is another issue, and it goes back to Acts 1, where the disciples asked a very logical question, in verse 6. They said to Jesus, “Are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel? Look, Isaiah prophesied the government will be on His shoulders, of the increase of His government there will be no end. So okay, we got through this ‘You had to die, You rose again,’ okay. Is now the time?” And He basically said, “Don’t worry about it. I’m outta here. I’m coming back. I’ve got some preparations to make, and I’ll be back. In the meantime, be My witnesses.” Well, we’re still in “the meantime”, we’re still in “the meantime”, and sometimes the times do get mean, don’t they?
The increase of His government, there will be no end. I heard this week that–and this is not confidential–an Assemblies of God minister in Pennsylvania, who’s lived in our state for less than ten years, feels that God is calling him to leave active ministry to run for Governor in 2014, run for the office of Governor, as a pro-life Democrat, and I’m thinking, “Boy, you must know something I don’t know.” That’s quite a hill to climb. That’s going to be something, you know, if God pulls that off. But we think, many times, if we just get Christians in these places, that we will fulfill scripture. We will implement the government of Jesus.
Well, bigger government? Increasing government? Number one, it says the increase of His government there will be no end. That sounds like big government to me, doesn’t it? Let me tell you this, if you think that we can Christianize America or the world through governmental means, you are going to need a very big government to do it, because we are so far from God, people’s heart are so far from God. Remember Prohibition? Think about all the issues that we might have heartburn with in society. If you are going to force those, you’re not going to have smaller government, you’re going to have bigger government. You are going to have bigger taxes. If you are going to Christianize the world through the government or military, we’re going to need a whole lot more than 700 bases that we have around the world to do so. It’s virtually impossible.
So what’s Jesus talking about here? He’s talking about government of the heart. The throne He wants to sit on—He said, “My Kingdom is not of this world”—the throne He wants to sit on is the throne of hearts. And the more hearts’ thrones that He sits on, the more government He has on this planet. You with me? And that is increasing; it’s increasing around the world! It’s increasing in India! It’s increasing in China! It’s increasing in the Muslim world! It’s increasing in Africa! It’s increasing in Latin America! It is increasing! It has been increasing for 2000 years, and today, you know, more people have been saved in the last 25 years than the 2000 years before. [I could not find where he got the stats to back up this statement, but you can be assured that he used something credible.] Did you know that? It is increasing! His government is increasing.
If hearts don’t change first, then all we have is legalism. You with me? You are imposing Old Testament, old covenant, legalism on hearts that aren’t right. You’re trying to force righteousness and works by control. But what Christ wants to do is, by the Spirit, rejuvenate hearts, and He becomes Lord of our hearts. He sits on the throne of the government of our hearts, and the more people who serve Him, the better. And guess what? The more people who serve Him, the smaller government can be. You’ll need less judges, you’ll need less police, you’ll need less courts, you’ll need less investigators, you’ll need less of a lot of what we have. Taxes would be lower if people would get right with God! [Several people shout, “Amen!”] It’s true.
So, “Is He on the throne of our hearts?” is the question. Now, imagine, here Jesus says in Acts 1, [paraphrasing verses 6-8] that it’s only for the Father to know when that’s gonna happen, and it will happen. The Millenium will come and Jesus will rule and reign on the Earth. But He said, “It’s not for you to know. You be My witnesses.” So here they are, 120 people on the planet. I don’t know what the population of the planet was at the time. It certainly wasn’t in the billions but tens or hundreds of millions. 120 people are saying, “Jesus is Lord.” Just think of how audacious a statement that was. Lord was a term you used for Caesar. The word used for God in the Old Testament was also the word used for Caesar. 120 people are announcing to the world, “Jesus is Lord!”
Now if, automatically, because of the cross and the Resurrection, Jesus became Lord of the planet, what happened in Babylon? What happened in Ethiopia? What happened in the barbarian areas of Germany, what we presently call Germany, and the Huns, and over in Mongolia, and everywhere people were on the planet? Did they notice any change? Did they wake up the next day after the Resurrection and say, “Oh, something changed. I think Jesus is Lord.” No. That’s why the Gospel had to be preached. That’s what Romans says, how will they know unless the Gospel be preached to them? [I think he is referring to Romans 10:14: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?] You have 120 people that Peter preached to on the day of Pentecost! “Jesus is Lord! Come join our little band”–of what some people would say crazy people—“who say, ‘Jesus rules and reigns in 120 hearts.’” And that makes Him ruler over the Earth?
Well, guess what? 3000 were moved by the Holy Spirit that day and it went from 120 to 3120, [see Acts 2:1-41 for the whole account] and there’s been ups and downs throughout the 2000 years but today there are, minimum, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions who are passionate followers of Jesus Christ around the world, and possibly, between one to two billion. His government is increasing, but is His government increasing in you?
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. [And then he says] the government will be on His shoulders. That means running, governing, your life and my life is on His shoulders. It’s His responsibility to guide us, by His Holy Spirit, and it’s His responsibility to sit on the throne of our lives, so let me ask you: Is Jesus on the throne of your life, or are you on that throne? There’s only room for one person. Is it Him, or is it you?
I Peter 3:15, that’s why it says, sanctify—or some translations, set apart or revere—Christ as Lord in your hearts. [KJV, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.] You get to decide who is on the throne of your heart. Now some people say, “Okay, Jesus is on that throne for an hour or two a week. You know, I’m in church, and I’m kind of willing to go along, as long as I kind of like the music and kind of like the way people treat me. I’ll let Jesus be on the throne for a couple of hours, and then, Jesus, You have the rest of the week off. I’m back on the throne.”
Or, we have this, kind of—what’s that game that we played as kids, where you circle around the chairs and the music stops. [Several people shout out the answer and he says] Musical chairs, yes. [Then he pans]That’s so tough. . .music. . .chairs. [He shakes his head.] I was so sure it was Chairical Music. Musical Chairs. You know, something happens in our life and we scramble for the throne and Jesus is off. Something throws us for a loop, something happens, we’ve got to take control. The government has got to be on our shoulders, and we’re upset, we’re angry, we’re disillusioned, and we think Jesus is not doing a good job. And, as it were, we grab for the wheel. We grab for the throne. We say, “Jesus, just take a break. Let me run my life here for a little while because You don’t seem to be doing that great of a job.”
You know, quite frankly, most of us don’t want Jesus to run our life. We want Jesus to run everybody’s life around us. Think about it. When people say and do wrong things that hurt us, who do we blame? Quite often, we blame God. Well, those people may not have Jesus sitting on the throne of their heart, so they’re doing what people do. They cause difficulty in people’s lives around them, maybe even well meaning. So what throne do you want Him to sit on, your throne or everybody else’s throne? And a lot of us think, “You know, if He would sit on everybody else’s throne of their hearts, then I could sit on the throne of my heart and I’d have a peaceful life, because everybody else would be like Jesus, and it would just be wonderful for me.”
Well, guess what? Revival starts with you, and the phrase that I like to say so often, “It’s not in trying harder, it’s in surrendering more.” If you’re having issues, nine times out of ten, there’s something that has not been surrendered to His government in your life, or else you would have peace. But we get mad at God. We say God’s not good. That really hurts God. If you’re ever tempted to think God’s not good and He’s not controlling everybody else around you as much as you would like Him to, think about this. Do you believe that there’s a Heaven? How many of you think there’s a Heaven? [Many hands raise.] Okay, I do. I’m counting on it. It’s my retirement plan. [He chuckles.] There’s a Heaven. How could you believe that there’s a Heaven and not believe that God is good? Think about that. If God’s not good, there ain’t no Heaven. God would prepare a place for you to be with Him for eternity and not be good?
You say, “Well, He’s not good enough [emphasizes each word] right now. He’s kind of going to be good then, but He’s not good now. Okay, so you’re not sure you want Him to control everything in your life, but you want everybody else to not have that privilege, to make that decision. You want God to make everybody else a robot, and you to have freedom to either accept or reject Him. And that’s what the Gospel is all about. The good news is that when you let Jesus sit on the throne of your heart, twenty-four/seven, your life will be better than if you sit on the throne at any time, even for five minutes. You sit on the throne for five minutes, a whole lot of people have messed up their life in five minutes. Do you know anybody who’s done that? You can mess up your life in five minutes, when you push Him off the throne and get back on. It’s not in trying harder; it’s not in works, lest any man should boast [Ephesians 2:9, KJV]. It’s not in trying harder; it’s in surrendering more.
Increasing government? Where we need increasing government of Jesus in America is in 300,000,000 hearts, and it starts with us. Is He ruling and reigning in your heart? Is it obvious to other people who runs your life? You know, some people, when some people start to date or they’re getting serious, or maybe they get married, and people say, “She runs him,” or “He runs her. I liked her before. He’s taken over her life.” Or, “She’s taken over his life.” Have you ever heard that? Is it obvious to people that Jesus has taken over your life, that He runs you, that He is in charge of the government of your life? That’s the government that increases, and when that government increases, there’s peace in hearts, in homes, in nations in the world.
Would you bow your head with me? [Prayer] Lord Jesus, forgive us for the times that we thought that if You just let us on the throne for a little while, we’ll kind of tidy up what we think You weren’t tending to, that either You forgot us or You’re missing something or You don’t understand. Jesus, we need You to be Lord of everything, all the time.
While heads are bowed, how many would say, “I may believe in Jesus, and some of what you said, Pastor, this morning, I knew you were preaching to the choir,”–and yeah, I do want the choir to sing, not just in church, I want to enable you to share the Good News with others—“but I believe in what you say about Jesus, but He’s not on the throne of my heart. I’m kind of running my own life. I’m never, I’m not surrendering to Him. I not asking Him what I should do, kind of doing my own thing, and I want to surrender to Him today, to make Him Lord of my life.” How many would raise a hand and say, “Yes, that’s me. I want to surrender to Him today.” Yes, thank you for that hand. Are there others? “I am willing to lay it down, to get off, slide off that seat, slide off that throne, and say, “Jesus, please sit here on the throne of my life. You be King, You be Master, You be Lord of my life.’” Are there others who would raise a hand, and say, “Yes, that’s me today.”
I have one other question. Yes, thank you for that hand. Are there others that would join these two? Yes, thank you, sir. These three. Are there others that would join these three and say, “Yes, I want Jesus to be Lord of my life.” Thank you, thank you, yes sir, thank you. Yes, sir. Young man, you can put your hand down, thank you. Yes sir, thank you, sir. Are there others that would join—yes, young lady, thank you—for these five? Are there others that would join these five and say yes? Thank you, these six. “Yes, I want Him to sit on the throne.” See, it matters not whether you think you’re doing a pretty good job yourself or whether you think you’ve made a mess of it. That’s not the issue. The issue is who should be sitting there, period. That’s the issue. Anybody else that would join these six? Thank you, thank you in the back. These seven, are there others that would join these seven. Thank you, yes, thank you, ma’am. Are there those who would join these eight? [He pauses, allowing an opportunity for all who would accept the invitation to do so.] Thank you, thank you so much.
Okay, I have a question for believers. How many would raise a hand before God today and say, “You know, I’m afraid I have this rotating relationship with Jesus where He sits there part of the time and I sit there part of the time, and I kind of make the decision of when that’s going to be. I give Him breaks, sometimes long breaks. And then I invite Him back, and then I give Him another break, and I’m back on the throne. And then I invite Him back. It’s just this rotating thing that I do that I’d like to get out of that cycle. I say, ‘Jesus, You sit on the throne and please stay there. Be in charge of my life.’” How many believers would say, “That’s me.” Yes, dozens, scores of you, yes, others before God.
Would you stand with me? We’re going to sing, “Jesus, Be the Lord of All.” [words and music by Lanny Wolfe, copyright 1975 by Lanny Wolfe Music] And I want, I’m going to ask these eight, the first eight that raised their hands, if you will come. We’re going to invite lots of people to come, if you will come to my right and your left. [To Pastor Buck Fetzer] Buck, you need to be ready, and have some people ready to minister to these eight. Someone will pray with you, give you some literature as to what this means, in practicality how do you put Jesus, how do you let Him be on that throne. What do you do? How do you live this life for the Master? Others who raised their hands this morning, I want you to come, take a step of faith, and say, “Lord, I’m serious today. I’m serious about You being on the throne and staying on the throne, and I’ll go do what You called me to do, whatever You tell me to do, I’ll go do it. You stay on the throne. I’ll run the errands. I’ll do what You bid me to do, starting today, and we’re not going to rotate anymore. You are going to be Lord and Master.” I invite you to come as well, and stand here and make that commitment at these altars today. Jesus, You be Lord of all. Let’s sing it together as you come.