Click here for part one and two of this series about the our allegiance to the Creator King.
Lest we forget, claiming Jesus as our Lord and King goes
beyond giving him priority over our country, religion, and holy book. There is
a very real, albeit unseen, transfer of allegiance that happens when we bow our
knees to the Risen King and call upon him to rescue us (e.g. Romans 10:9-13,
Colossians 1:12-13). At that precise moment in time we are “delivered from
Satan’s kingdom and catapulted into the kingdom of God.” No longer are we bound by the chains of sin, addictions, pain,
sorrow, death, and evil. We are now children of the Living God, joint heirs
with Jesus the Messiah (e.g. Romans 8:17, Galatians 4:4-7).
unseen, and sometimes even unfelt, this spiritual exchange of sovereignties is
at the core of the good news of Jesus. Throughout the Scriptures there is a
paradox where the Creator God is described as both the current King and the
coming King of the world. This paradox is set against the backdrop of a battle
being raged across the visible and invisible dimensions of creation between the
forces of evil and the Lord Almighty. Though the origin of this war is shrouded
in mystery with the Scriptures being silent on the details that we so
desperately crave, the biblical authors understood that fighting against “such things
as injustice, oppression, greed, and apathy toward the needy was to participate
directly or indirectly in a cosmic war that had engulfed the earth.”
the choice to follow Jesus is also a choice not
to follow the ways of the evil one. Hence
the early followers of Jesus understood that the “one who professed in response
to the gospel, ‘I believe,’ was the one who said simultaneously: ‘I renounce
you Satan, your pomp, your service, your works’ (Chrysostom); ‘I renounce the
devil and his work, this age and its pleasure’ (Ambrose).” Theologian and pastor Don Williams elaborates on this
exchange of sovereignties in declaring that:
To say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ means to renounce all other lords. No ideology, political philosophy, drug or person can have a higher claim on our lives. All our idols must be pulled down, repented of and crushed at Jesus’ feet. The idols of pride, power, control, self-medication, family, friends, illicit sex, internet pornography, legalism, self-righteousness, mind-altering meditation, witchcraft, magic, cults, gambling, work, self-advancement, children, health, and security in old age must go. Anything that takes the place of Jesus in our hearts, in our passions and in our devotion is an idol. As Elijah the prophet said to the nation of Israel, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him’ (1 Kings 18:21). God has called us and revealed Jesus as Lord to us. Follow Him!
 Don Williams, Start Here: Kingdom Essentials for
Christians (Ventura, California: Regal, 2006), 7.
 Gregory A. Boyd, God At War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict
(Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 14.
 Paul R. Hinlicky, Beloved Community: Critical Dogmatics after Christendom (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing
Company, 2015), 221.
The four historical narratives of Jesus’ life and ministry
(i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) all agree that Jesus’ primary message was
that the active, dynamic rule and reign of God (i.e. the kingdom of God) had
broken into the world. No longer were the people of God waiting for the promised
day of the Lord when all would be made right. That day had come in and through
Jesus, though he also told them that the kingdom was yet to come in its
fullness. It was a paradox in which the age to come had come, is coming, and
would one day fully break into the present evil age.
Writing a few decades after Jesus, the Apostle
Paul would summarize the message of Jesus in terms of “incarnation and
enthronement.” Jesus was the promised one about whom the prophets had
foretold. Furthermore, he was also the incarnated Creator King of heaven and
earth who entered into the world through “David’s seed in terms of flesh”
(Romans 1:3, TKNT). While this statement itself is powerful, Paul goes to say
that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and enthroned as “the King, our Lord”
(Romans 1:4, TKNT).
The enthronement of Jesus as the King of
heaven and earth can be seen most clearly in the first chapter of Acts. After
giving his followers some last-minute instructions, Jesus is lifted up into the
skies and hidden from sight by a cloud (Acts 1:9). This action harkens back to
Daniel 7:13-14 (NIV) in which “one like a son of man” approaches the Ancient of
Days with “clouds of heaven” and is enthroned with “all nations and peoples of
every language” worshiping him. Jesus,
the Son of Man as he commonly called himself (e.g. Matthew 9:6, Mark 8:38, John
8:28), is now the “true world ruler, with all the warring pagan nations made
subject to him.”
Though we don’t think much about such
language, for Paul to say that Jesus is the “blessed and only Sovereign, the
King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15, ESV) is to effectively commit
treason against the Roman Empire and its divine ruler. Starting in the days of
Caesar Augustus (63 BCE – 14 CE), the emperors of the land were seen as divine
gods with temples dedicated to their worship being built across the empire from
Spain to Judea. Accordingly, for Paul to claim that Jesus of Nazareth was
the Creator God and the true King of the earth was to effectively deny the
exclusive rule of the Caesars (e.g. Acts 7:6-8). Later followers of Jesus would
face death at the hands of Roman authorities for upholding these claims as they
refused to renounce their loyalty to Jesus and offer sacrifices to the human
emperor of the land.
Pledging our undivided allegiance to Jesus
doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t be proud of our nation, religion, or holy
book. Paul, for example, was a Roman citizen who obeyed the laws of the land
even though he disagreed with common worship practices of the day (e.g. Acts
16:37-38, 22:25-29, Romans 13:1-7). He also was proud of his Jewish heritage
and Scriptures of his youth even if he now reinterpreted them through the lens
of Jesus the Messiah (e.g. Acts 22:3-21, Philippians 3:2-11). As Paul’s life
shows us, following Jesus means that our first allegiance is to Jesus our King
and Lord. We are first and foremost disciples of Jesus before we are citizens
of a nation, followers of a religion, and/or readers of a holy book. If ever
there is a disagreement or test of loyalty between these things, may we echo
words of Simon Peter and the apostles as they stood before the same Assembly
who tortured and killed Jesus a few weeks previously: “We must obey God, not
human beings!” (Acts 5:29, TKNT)
 Joshua S. Hopping, The Here and Not Yet: What is Kingdom
Theology and Why Does It Matter? (Ladysmith, South Africa: Vineyard
International Publishing, 2017), 23-38
 Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking
Faith, Works and the Gospel of Jesus the King (Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Baker Academic, 2017), 30-34.
 N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was,
What He Did, And Why He Matters (New York: HaperOne, 2011), 196.
 N.T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God: Book 1 (Minneapolis:
Fortress Press, 2013), 311-343.
Every morning at 8:30 am during the school year my son
lines up with his classmates to recite three pledges before starting the day.
They start by reciting the Pledge to the American Flag before moving on to the Pledge to the Christian Flag and the Pledge to the Bible. Though these young students may not realize the full
impact of their words, they are declaring their loyalty to the nation they live
in (i.e. United States of America), their religion (i.e. Christianity), and
their holy book (i.e. the Bible).
would wager a guess that there are millions of people around the world reciting
similar pledges. They may even recite
these pledges in the same order – giving allegiance first to their nation (e.g.
USA, India, China, Israel, Russia, Canada, etc.), then to their religion (e.g.
Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Wicca, Atheism, etc.), and finally to
their holy writings (e.g. Bible, Koran, Tripitaka, Vedas, etc.). I would
further guess that most of these people, Jesus followers include, don’t even
think twice about the pledges they are reciting. After all, it is normal to
love the nation you live in, the religion you follow, and the holy writings you
if I may vocalize a nagging question in the back of my head, should a follower
of Jesus pledge their loyalty and allegiance to a nation, religion, or holy
book? And if so, should we be concerned about the order in which we pledge our
allegiance? Say, instead of pledging our loyalty to our nation first, maybe we
should pledge our allegiance to our religion, our holy writings, and then to
our nation…. or should we just stop saying the pledges all together?
followers throughout history have come to different conclusions concerning
those questions. They are not easy questions to answer as they have wide
ranging implications for how we live our lives and how we interact with the
world around us. For my part, I go back and forth between saying all three
pledges, saying some of them, and not saying them at all. My country, religion,
and holy writings have all impacted my life to a degree that words cannot fully
express. Yet despite of my love for all three, there’s a war deep inside of me
for I know how my love for my nation, religion, and holy writings can, and
does, compete for my love for Jesus. And
that concerns me.
I was first introduced to Jesus by my parents who met him
from their parents who likewise met the King through the influence of their
parents. I remember early morning livestock feedings on the farm with my father
talking about Creator or times under the hood of a vehicle talking about doing
all things unto the King. There were also times of talking with my mother about
the strange and odd verses in the Scriptures that didn’t seem to make
sense. Though some might think that this
genealogy would lead to a lackluster religion more concerned about keeping
tradition than knowing the person of Jesus, that wasn’t the case for me.
Somehow my parents had managed to escape the religiosity and skepticism of the
day, even while feeling the pain and disappointment that often leaks out from
the rotting corpses housed in whitewashed tombs. And in doing so they taught me
to love Jesus and watch for his presence in all areas of life.
These early lessons of seeing past the
trappings of life to find Jesus helped me navigate the “witch’s brew of
politics, cultural conflict, moralism, and religious meanness that seems so
closely connected with those who count themselves the special friends of
Jesus.” Sadly, throughout history there have always been people
who have used Jesus to support their own political and religious agendas. This
is especially true for those in power in the United States of America, to the
point that to “millions of people around the world, Jesus Christ is synonymous
with Western society and America.”
During the 1st century when Jesus walked the
earth, there were multiple views of the kingdom of God and how that kingdom was
manifested in real life. Jesus could have embraced the strict religious rules of
the Pharisees who sought to perfectly follow the Mosaic Law for one day as to usher in the rule and reign of the Heavenly Father.
Or Jesus could have retreated into the desert to study the Scriptures and
worship the Lord like the Essenes. The Sadducees also offered Jesus a way
forward, a way of wealth and riches through their partnership with the Roman
The Romans themselves would have loved it if
Jesus would have endorsed their way of life. After all, they were the greatest
nation in the world at the time with an empire that stretched across three
continents. Or if Jesus didn’t like the pagan worshiping Romans being in the
land of promise, he could have joined the Zealots and fought to take back the
land for God. There were plenty of
people at the time who would have loved to make Jesus king of Israel. All he
needed to do is say the word and the revolution would have begun.
Jesus, however, did not and does not “endorse
any other way, any other moral code except his own. Jesus was [and is]
exclusively the Way.” He is “the way and the truth and the life” as the
Apostle John wrote quoting our Lord (John 14:6, NIV).
Knowing God is a “matter of personal contact” with Jesus rather than doctrine, religious duties, money,
ethics, lifestyle, or any of the other boundaries people have created over the
 Pledge to the American
Flag – “I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one
Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
 Pledge to the Christian
Flag – “I pledge allegiance to the
Christian Flag and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands. One Savior,
crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty to all who believe.”
 Pledge to the Bible – “I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s
Holy Word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and will
hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.”
 Ken Wilson, Jesus Brand Spirituality: He Wants His
Religion Back (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 1.
 Carl Medearis, Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism
(Colorado Spring, Colorado: David C. Cook, 2011), 61.
 Additional information on
the different political and religious views of the kingdom of God challenged by
Jesus can be found in chapter seven and nine of my previous book, The Here and Not Yet (Vineyard
International Publishing, 2017).