“The Nations Your Inheritance”         Psalm 2                                    April 17, 2011

 

SCRIPTURE INTRO: 

Psalm 2 was a favorite of the earliest Christians.  They quoted it and prayed it. 

   It’s a Psalm believers have often turned to in the darkest days.

 

INTRO:  I am struck at times at how much of Christian bubble we live in here in

   Cullman.  By a Christian bubble, I mean that we live in a place where Christianity

   is generally accepted and respected. 

Christian teachers and coaches are respected in Cullman.

   Ministers are respected.  The church is respected.

Biblical morality is respected. 

   Even if people don’t follow it, they don’t speak out against it.

   Most people know and even respect the general doctrines of the faith.

 

But just look around the world and you will quickly see that in a great many places

   there is opposition to Christianity on many levels.

   In just the past year, these are some things that have happened in America.

 

In Knoxville, Tennessee a federal judge upheld a public school’s decision

   to prohibit its students from studying or discussing the Bible during recess.

It started with a 5th grader who brought his Bible to school.  Then some other

   kids brought their Bibles and read together during recess.  A parent complained.

   And the school put an end to it.

 

In San Diego, a high school student, Kenneth Dominguez, was suspended for two

   days for bringing a Bible to school and sharing his faith to his fellow students.

Even though no students complained, and even though he was not talking in class,

   he was warned by administrator he was violating separation of church and state.

His attorney from an organization called the Pacific Justice Institute said:

   “We see a lot of hostility and bigotry against Christian students,

   sometimes under the cloak of tolerance.” 

 

A few months ago Chick-Fil-A was attacked by gay rights groups.

   The company had given money to a marriage and family ministry that led

   retreats for Chick-Fil-A employees.  This ministry was considered anti-gay.

But if you read any of the news stories, there was also a great deal of mockery

   directed at Truett Cathy, the founder because of his Christian faith and principles.

Their critics succeeded in banning the sale of Chick-Fil-A from several universities.

On a more humorous note, I saw a story this week about an elementary school

   in Seattle that does not allow the use of the term “Easter eggs.”  Too religious.

   Too Christian.  They must be called “spring spheres.”

There are places outside US where opposition to Christianity is more serious.

 

Two years ago a Canadian pastor, Stephen Boission wrote a letter to the editor

   of a local paper expressing a biblical argument against gay marriage.

He was charged with a hate crime, fined $5,000, and ordered to write a letter

   of apology for offending people with his hateful views.

 

Just a few months ago, a British couple, Eunice and Owen Johns, were denied

   their request to become foster parents.  Even though the Johns had kept 15

   foster children over the years, even though they had impeccable reputations,

   this was where they went wrong.

A social worker assumed that because they were Christians, they would have

   negative views of homosexuality, and that would make them unacceptable.

   They fought it, but the court agreed with the social worker.

This statement was made after the court decision:

   “Christian ethical beliefs are potentially harmful to children and Christian parents with

   mainstream Christian views are not suitable to be considered as potential foster parents.”

 

And of course, there are many places where opposition to Christianity is violent.

There is an organization called International Christian Concern, ICC,

   that has a website:  persecution.org

It tracks stories of persecution against Christians. 

These are just a few headlines from their stories this month, April 2011.

   *Hanoi steps up persecution of Christians in central highlands

   *Christian missionaries in Turkey target of militant nationalists

   *Pakistan:  Christian girls forced to convert to Islam, Rapes, Coercion, Abuse

   *Saudi Arabia:  Eritrean Christian facing death penalty sharing faith with Muslim

   *Police stop church service in China, detain Christians

   *Indian Christians face new wave of violent attacks

   *Three churches attacked, Egyptian military sides with radical Muslims

Christianity Today estimates that 170,000 Christians were martyred last year.

 

Do you see what I mean by our Christian bubble in Cullman?  Praise God for it. 

I’m glad that there is a general Christian influence here and that we don’t face

   repression of Christian students and teachers in the public schools,

   and that Christians aren’t mocked and reviled for upholding biblical sex ethics.

And I’m certainly grateful that our church building hasn’t been burned and

   we haven’t been harassed, arrested and killed.  That would be awful.

But it’s a reality for millions of Christians.

   And, more to the point of this message—You will not be able to understand

   Psalm 2 unless you at least try to put yourself into their shoes. 

 

So I’m going to ask you this morning to take a step back from the personal

   problems and struggles you might be having, and look at the big picture.

Psalm 2 is about the world’s opposition to God,

   and how all that opposition and anger is bound to fail, in fact it is failing

   before our very eyes, because Jesus Christ is King.

And if you are trusting Jesus Christ, and if you have given your life to him,

   then you are on the winning side.

 

I assure you that if you walk through this Psalm,

   and get your mind out of the Cullman bubble,

   and see the Kingship of Jesus Christ in all it’s glory—

That when you come back to Cullman, and your own problems,

   that you will be encouraged.

 

This Psalm has four stanzas, those will be the four points of the sermon.

   Four big realities that you must understand and believe.

1.  The world’s rebellion

2.  The Father’s laughter

3.  The Son’s inheritance

4.  The Spirit’s appeal

 


 

MP#1  The world’s rebellion, verses 1-3

There is in the world a spirit of hatred and resistance toward God’s rule and law.

   That hatred is expressed toward Jesus Christ and the church.

There are times and places where this hatred is suppressed—like Cullman.

   And there are times and places where this hatred breaks out.

   But the spirit of rebellion against God and Jesus Christ is always present.

 

In Acts 4 we read that David wrote this Psalm.

We don’t know what the occasion was, because he just jumps in.

   But there was a conspiracy and plot of rebellion against David by nations

   that were under his rule and dominion.

Remember, David extended Israel’s influence up into Syria and Lebanon,

   and he ruled over the nations to the south and east.

To be under David’s rule was a blessing, since it was through Israel that God

   was working out his salvation plan for the world.  But these nations plotted

   rebellion.  They hated David’s rule.  They hated Israel and Israel’s God.

 

What’s so fascinating is that in Acts 4, the Jerusalem Christians took Psalm 2

   and applied it to themselves and to Jesus Christ.  They were being persecuted.

And in their prayer they said that Jesus is the Anointed One of Psalm 2.

   His crucifixion by the Romans and the Jews was rebellion against God.

It was the plot of the nations to throw off the rule of God.

   And now, that hatred of God and Christ is being turned against the church

   which is the new Israel. 

The Jewish Sanhedrin, the ruling counsel was plotting how to silence

   and eliminate the followers of Christ.

This has been repeated time and time again in the past 2,000 years.

 

As I said a moment ago, there are many times and places where by God’s grace

   and the general influence of the Gospel, this plotting and hatred is suppressed.

   But there are times and places where it breaks out. 

After the Jewish persecution came the Roman persecutions—

   when Christians were thrown to the lions in the Roman coliseum.

One of the worst persecutors was Emperor Diocletian. 

He erected a monument to himself proclaiming: 

   Diocletian Caesar Augustus, for having extinguished the name of Christians who brought the

   Republic to ruin, for having everywhere abolished the superstition of Christ, for having

   extended the worship of the gods. 

 

The Romans accused the Christians of hating people. 

   And they accused them of undermining and destroying society. 

   Isn’t it interesting that the very same accusations are made today?

Christians like Rev. Boission in Canada charged with hate speech for expressing

    biblical views of morality.  It doesn’t matter how much he talked about grace and

   forgiveness and freedom from the bondage of sexual immorality.  It’s hate.

 

And Christians like Eunice and Owen Johns in Great Britain accused of holding

   views undermine and destroy a tolerant society. 

You can’t keep foster children because your views are poisonous to society.

 

We could trace through history the times and places where hatred of Christ has

   broken out against Christians and the church.  Certainly in our times the worst in

   terms of actual violence has been Communism and radical Islam. 

But even in places where God’s common grace holds back the worst,

   there is a spirit of rebellion.  Verse 3 summarizes it.  The nations speak:

   “Let us break their chains and throw off their fetters.”

 

We don’t want to be bound by the law of God. 

   We don’t want our lives and choices to be judged. 

   We want to live our own lives and be our own gods.

But the presence and witness of Christians and the church is an uncomfortable

   reminder that there is a God in heaven, and that Jesus Christ is King and Judge,

   and that all people will be held accountable for their actions—

   and people don’t like that. 

 

Many times it doesn’t matter how gracious and kind a Christian tries to be,

   you might be accused of being intolerant and self-righteous and judgmental. 

   What did the men of Sodom say to Lot?  How dare you judge us!

 

Don’t be surprised and don’t be fearful.  Look at the next stanza.

   After the world’s rebellion comes . . .


 

MP#2  The Father’s laughter, verses 4-6

David looked at the nations in rebellion and their plots against him and Israel.

   He heard about armies being raised and schemes being hatched.

The Jerusalem Christians heard about the plans of the Sanhedrin to arrest

   the Apostles and put an end to the followers of Christ.

Christians in Egypt today see mobs burning their churches.

   Moms and dads in Pakistan see their young Christian daughters snatched away

   to be abused and forced into marriage to unbelievers.

And all around are plots and evil schemes to eliminate them.

 

In secular Western countries and in the USA Christians face more and more

   legal attempts to force them out of the public square.  To force them to keep

   their beliefs to themselves if they want to participate in certain things. 

 

So believers look up to heaven.

And there is God the Father, sitting on the his throne—

   and what’s his response to these evil plots and schemes?

And Is he worried?  Is he fretting?  Is he fearful?  Wringing his hands?

   No.  He’s laughing.  He’s laughing in derision.  He’s laughing in scorn.

Who do these puny people think they are who are opposing me? 

   Look at their silly plots and schemes to oppress my people and throw off my rule.

 

That picture of God laughing may seem odd, but this isn’t the only place.

   Other Psalms say:

   “O Lord, you laugh at them, you scoff at the nations.”

   “The Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.”

What effect should this have on you, to know that the Lord is just laughs

   at all of the attempts of rulers and nations to overthrow his rule by

   plotting against his people?  It should fill you with confidence.

 

When you read news stories about rebellion against God and the devastating effects

   on Christian brothers and sisters around the world, you ought to grieve and pray.  Pray for God’s mercy on them, to deliver them.  

   Pray that he would continue to have mercy on us and protect us from those things. 

But you ought to also be able to look at the most vicious mockery and persecution

   of the church, and at the most violent enemies of Christianity

   and hear the faint sound of God’s laughter.

That laughter is for us a gracious assurance that he is in control of his world.

 

My dad had a little wooden sailboat when I was a boy. 

   He would take it out on Wilson Lake on the Tennessee River. 

I remember that when the wind was strong the boat would lean so much that

   the gunwale would be just inches above the water.  I was certain that we were

   going to be pushed all the way over and capsize and drown.

And then my dad would laugh and let out a whoop—and I would relax a little.

   Because I would know, with a little boy’s confidence, that he had it under control.

 

Now, that’s not a perfect example.  My dad’s laugh in the sailboat was a fun laugh.

   The laugh David describes here is the laugh of mockery.

Maybe a better story would be your playground hero, or your big brother

   showing up and laughing in the face of the bully that has been terrorizing you. 

 

But the laugh of your Father in heaven should reassure you. 

He is saying:  This is nothing.  They think they are in control.

   How wrong they are.  How vain. 

Don’t be afraid, little flock.  This is nothing for me.

   I’ll give them their time to test my people with fire. 

   But when I’m ready to put an end to their schemes, I’ll do it in a moment.

 

Many figures throughout history who have announced the end of Christianity. 

   I mentioned Diocletian.  Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao.  Where are they now?

And in a few decades, where will the current despisers of Christ be?

   They’ll be gone.

 

Take heart in the laughter of your heavenly Father.

He’s in complete control not your enemies.

   And he’s working out his purposes. 

   What are God’s purposes?  What’s he doing in the world?

He says that he has installed a King on Zion his holy hill.

 

That brings us to the third stanza . . .


 

MP#3  The Son’s inheritance, verses 7-9

In these verses the Lord’s Anointed One speaks. 

   Anointed One is the Hebrew word Messiah, the Greek word Christ.

Christ speaks, and he tells us that God the Father has given him an inheritance.

   That inheritance is nothing less than all the nations of the earth.

All these nations that are in rebellion against God and his rule,

   are given by God to his Messiah Jesus Christ as his inheritance.

Jesus is going to take possession of them and rule over them.

 

There are two phases to Christ’s inheritance of the nations.

We are living in the first phase.  During this phase, Jesus Christ is laying claim to

   his inheritance.  He’s doing that by saving men and women, boys and girls

   from ever nation on the earth. 

As the Gospel goes around the world through missionaries,

   and the ministry of the church, as people are saved, as churches are planted,

   and people are baptized and discipled in the faith, Christ lays claim to the nation.

It’s like Columbus planting the flag on the beach and saying:

   I claim this land for the King of Spain.  When people of all the different tribes

   and nations bow to Jesus as their Lord and Savior, he claims that nation.

 

But then there is the second phase, that’s when he receives his full inheritance.

   And that is described as an iron scepter smashing pottery.

That image of the iron scepter is repeated in Revelation 19 where it is connected

   to Christ’s Second Coming and the day of Judgment. 

When he puts away all those who have resisted his rule and ushers in his eternal

   kingdom of peace where every tear is wiped away and all things are new.

 

But how do we know this is really going to happen? 

What assurance do we have that Christ will reign over all the nations?

   The answer is that he is doing it now.  He’s laying claim to his inheritance.

I’ve told you the bad stories, the way the enemies of God are pushing back.

   But that’s only half the story.  The other half, the good half,

   is that Jesus Christ is King and is inheriting the nations. 

 

We are witnessing one of the greatest events in church history—

   the growth of the church in China.  This is going to change the world in the

   next 100 years, if Jesus doesn’t return first.  I’ve mentioned this before.

Christianity came to China through Western missionaries in the 1800s.

   They had limited success, maybe a half a million Christians in a hundred years.

Then in 1949 Mao Zedong and the Communists took over China. 

   For the next 30 years they attempted to destroy Christianity.

   Christians were arrested, sent to labor camps.  Every church closed.

When the Cultural Revolution ended in 1978 there was a tiny Christian community. 

   Since that time, over the last 30 years, Christianity has exploded.

 

There are 60 million registered Christians, worshiping in state sanctioned churches,

   easily 60 million more in unregistered house churches.  Every strata of society.

And this is not Christianity lite.  These are Christians who have been seasoned

   with persecution, who pray, and who preach repentance and faith in Christ.

And they are poised to have an impact on the world.

 

There is a belief among Chinese Christians that cuts across denomination lines

   called “The Back to Jerusalem Band.”

The belief is that Christianity started in Jerusalem. 

   After Pentecost the Apostles took it west to Europe. 

   Then from Europe, the Gospel crossed the Atlantic to the Americas.

And then it was Western missionaries who brought the Gospel across the Pacific

   to Asia, particularly China.  Now what remains for Christianity to circle globe?

It must make its way back to the place it started, Middle East, Holy Land—

   and Jerusalem before Jesus returns. 

 

The belief is that this final leg of the journey, this completion of the band

   of grace that will circle the globe from Jerusalem to Jerusalem is the

   responsibility and honor of the Chinese church.

What will it take to bring Christianity back to the Middle East? 

   It will take a church stronger than the American church. 

   We send our kids on mission trips and expect them to come back alive.

It will take a church that has been baptized by persecution and that is willing

   to send its sons and daughters to martyrdom. 

That is exactly the kind of church that has been growing in China.

   It gives you a thrill just thinking about it. 

   Will it happen that way?  Only the Lord knows. 

 

But here’s my point.  Be encouraged.  Jesus Christ is at work in the world,

   claiming his inheritance among the nations.  And though it is certainly true

   that there are places in the world where the church was once strong,

   and now it isn’t, God’s kingdom is growing overall.

We need to take heart and hold on to what we have and strengthen what remains.

That brings us perfectly to the last stanza of Psalm 2 . . .

 

MP#4  The Spirit’s appeal, verses 10-12

The Psalm ends with a gracious appeal by the Holy Spirit.

   He says:  There are only two choices, you can bow to Christ or be destroyed.

   So please, be wise, be warned.  Don’t be a fool.

Serve the Lord.  Fall on your knees before Jesus.

   Kiss him.  That means to declare your loyalty to him, come under his protection.

   Embrace Jesus and be blessed.

 

Or, what’s the option?  Be crushed with his iron scepter.

   Be suddenly destroyed in your way.  Die a rebel and face judgment.

   It can happen in a moment, the Psalm says.  Your life is so fragile.

You could die tonight.

   “You fool,” Jesus says in Luke 12, “this very night your soul is required of you.”

 

This is one of those great either/or passages in the Bible.

The Bible has this over and over at key points.  This or that. 

   There is no third choice. 

Human nature hates this kind of distinction.

   We like things blurred.  We like having gray areas.  We like to negotiate.

When I tell my children have to be home at 11:00, they say, what about midnight? 

 

But over and over the message of Scripture is—either this or that.

   You may eat from those trees, but you my not eat from this tree.

   Choose you this day whom you will serve—the Lord or the gods of the nations.

   He who is not with me against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.

And Jesus Christ is the ultimate dividing line.  His Kingship.

 

The good news is that this is an age of grace.

On Palm Sunday, over 2000 years ago, Jesus rode into Jerusalem as a King.

   But he rode in on a donkey, in humility.  Not on a white warhorse to crush.

And that’s how he still comes today.  He comes gently. 

   His Holy Spirit says:  Be wise.  Be warned.  Why perish when you can live.

 

Here it is:  Good news.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son.  And whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. 

What happens when fall down and kiss the feet of Jesus? 

   You see that those feet have been pierced.  Scarred by the nails of the cross.

What about you?  Have you kissed the Son?  Have you bowed your heart to Christ?

   I know most of you here have, but there are certainly some of you who haven’t.

There are unsaved people in every congregation. 

 

What a wonderful day to give your life to Jesus and join the winning side.

Don’t perish.  Don’t be destroyed in the way.

   Hell is real and eternal.  Jesus is coming again and on that day he will vindicate

   his people and send his enemies to the lake of fire. 

You can’t get away from him.  There is no refuge from him.

   But there is refuge in him.  Come to him, repent of your sins.  Ask him in.

 

And for all of you who know Jesus already—take heart.

   He’s your king and he’s on the throne.  He’s at work in the world and in your life.

The struggles you are facing might seem small compared to the big things we’ve

   mentioned—but they are important to Christ.  Your faithfulness in your family,

   and in your marriage and in your job.  Those things matter to him.

And they are your little part in the great big advance of his kingdom in the world.

   If you take refuge in him, you will be blessed.