Summary: Leadership, Connection, Priorities
FOLLOW THE LEADER – Caesar or God?
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (pg. 824) August 2, 2015
Let me tell you that King Herod was not a very nice man, and about as ungodly and ruthless leader as this world has ever known. He murdered his own family and many Rabbis. He was both ambitious and paranoid...as Governor of Galilee, a position granted him by his father Antipater, he ruthlessly crushed a revolt in Galilee but overall he treated Jewish religion with tolerance. He was a pragmatist who had learned that Jews could not be forced to worship idols...in fact Rome granted Jews an official status during his reign of being exempt from Roman State religion...but with that exemption came a punitive tax levied only upon the Jews called “fiscus Judaicus” that made them pay for this exemption....He used the proceeds from these taxes and others to build more monuments and projects than almost any other Roman leader and the most ambitious was the rebuilding of the temple...It took 10,000 men ten years just to build the retaining walls around the temple mount...the Wailing Wall that still stands, is part of this retaining wall. Why so big? Herod knew there were between 6-7 million Jews living in the Roman Empire (plus another 1 million in Persia), who would come to Jerusalem during the three holy festivals...It was huge for this reason...and each had to pay taxes for the privilege.
After its completion Herod did exert his Roman influence even upon this building...at the main entrance he placed a huge Roman Eagle, which pious Jews saw as blasphemy and promptly smashed it...Herod had them hunted down, dragged in chains to his residence in Jericho where they were burned alive.
The cauldron was beginning to boil and pretty soon it would exempt...much of this prompted the Pharisees to try and trap Jesus in a no win situation...letters to what happens in:
MATTHEW 22:15-22 (p. 692)
Why didn’t Jesus deal with the fact Caesar claimed to be god...butchered people, including his own family, allowed “female” babies to be exposed until dead because they could not become soldiers and morally slept with whoever he wanted? Because he’s afraid? I don’t think so...his critics have even said, “We know you teach the truth no matter who is confronted with it.”
Could it be that His priorities are about God’s kingdom and not Rome’s? could it be that His kingdom is not of this world and although He’s certainly not afraid to deal with individual sin, like murder and adultery...He’s wise enough to know that the human heart is the issue...listen to His teaching:
MATTHEW 5:21-22; 27-28 (p. 678)
The law of God can identify sin...but unless there is a “heart change” then there is no healing...If you don’t deal with the deeper issues of “lust” and “hate” then adultery and murder have already invaded your soul.
Jesus and the Apostle Paul knew “that work that changes us is produced by faith...that labor is prompted by love and a life in Christ that endures is inspired by hope.” (1 Thess. 1:3)
As we live in a culture that seems to ever increase the battle between Caesar’s Kingdom and God’s, what is the most important thing we can remember...as Christian men and women who would ask others to “Follow Our Leader?”
I. GOD LOVES YOU AND HAS CHOSEN YOU
Paul says, “Brothers...sisters...loved by our God and Father we know that He’s chosen you.”
[If you’ve ever been part of “the choosing” of teams when 2 captains...usually the best players begin to pick up sides you know how important this is! “I pick John!” “I pick Billy!” “I pick Jim!” “I pick Chuck!” You get anxious the farther down the list you fall...You never want to be last... “OK...I guess I’ll take Rick.”]
Playing well when you know that nobody really wanted you is tough.
[I grew up trying to play football and wiffle ball and basketball with my brother Sam’s friends...They were all 8-10 years older than me and a lot bigger...I’ll never forget the day Walter Gadd picked me first...that never happened...It was always... “OK Ricky you can be on our team.” On the day Walter picked me first He had God’s heart...And I would have broken every bone in my body to play well for Him on that day.]
Godly leaders understand this truth. We didn’t love God first...He loved us first. We didn’t pick God...He picked us. He called our names first. Over and over scripture teaches this essential truth...God loved the world. Jesus called us out of the world. He knows our voice...and we know His. This is the “gospel.” This is the good news. Caesar’s kingdom recognizes the strongest...the smartest...the best looking...God’s kingdom...and His choices are radically different...Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:25-31:
1 CORINTHIANS 1:25-31 (p. 793)