I love the game of chess. The challenge of this great game engages my mind in ways that very few games do. Chess is a game of constant calculation, not just for the sake of offensive victory, but for defense as well. Certainly, every single move is made to advance your offensive position, but, for the studied player, every move must also be evaluated from the condition of your defensive situation as well. If you lose sight of the protection of the king, you’ll quickly lose the battle. Poorly monitored defenses will break down, and you’ll be forced to sacrifice valuable chess pieces unnecessarily in the fight to regain a defensive foothold. Often, by that point, the game is already lost, and you’re simply in a state of retreat.
Throughout history, real kings have always arrived to battle surrounded by a multitude of well-trained and well-equipped soldiers that aid in the assurance of their personal protection. Their status as the sovereign of their land, by definition, dictates that they be protected at all costs, lest their kingdom fall. Any conquering army would place the protection of their own king well above the conquest of the enemies stronghold. It is important for them to protect and preserve the sovereign ruler for which they fight. They carry his standard, they live under the rule of his flag, and he is their identity. If they lose their king in the process of winning the battle, they have ultimately won nothing; they have lost everything.
Christ is our King. He is our Sovereign. He is our identity. He is our past, our present, and our future. It is for His sake that we live, and it is for Him that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. But does Jesus Christ need our protection?
Many people would laugh that question as off as being ludicrous. They would say that “surely, God, or Christ, doesn’t need the protection of man in any way!” They might, with ease, dismiss this notion that Jesus needs our protection, but they would be mistaken.
What I’m about to write hurts my heart, but it needs to be said. As disciples of Christ, we don’t always protect our King. I’m a great enough sinner to fully know and understand just how often I’ve personally thrown Jesus “under the bus” in my own life. In my 43 years on this earth, and my 27 years as a Christian, I have, at times, willingly and purposefully participated in the character assassination of others via gossip. Catalyzed by anger, frustration, and consuming pride, I have spoken of others with harsh criticism, often regarding issues that were far beyond my grasp of knowledge, and I have rendered these arrogant critiques as if I had the sole authority to do so. I have treated others poorly, and I’ve been unrepentantly prideful. I have hated. I have lusted, and I have lied. I’ve done many bad things throughout the course of my life. You see, I’m a sinner…a great big sinner.
If I’m anything, then I would have to say that I am a weak, pitiful, and sinful man who is prone to behave in a manner that is contrary to the instructions that God has left for me in Scripture…behavior that doesn’t reflect my knowledge of Christ’s tremendous sacrifice for me. I would say that I am possibly the worst example of Christlikeness imaginable, and I would caution you to always be better than me…for, in my life, I have done a miserable job of protecting my King, Jesus Christ.
Although I am absolutely everything mentioned previously, in a marvelous and merciful turn of events, I am also redeemed by the blood of an innocent Savior who found worth in me despite my glaring weaknesses. Jesus made a choice, after seeing the extent of my sin, to willingly drape Himself about a rugged cross and allow mankind to nail Him there on my behalf. He suffered the cost of my sin in a manner that is far beyond comprehension, while this cost, this punishment, was mine, and mine alone, to pay. And, even still, given my knowledge of His selfless sacrifice on my behalf, I frequently manage to live my life in a fashion that doesn’t protect my King.
Jesus Christ is my King, and He doesn’t need my physical protection; He can defend Himself. The protection that Christ needs from me is rooted in my words, thoughts, and actions as a manifestation and reflection of His power and Lordship within me. As His child, I am His. On this earth, I am His ambassador. Scripture confirms this…
“We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV)
This verse makes me cringe a little when I think of how my life, a life that should be a reflection of grace and mercy, is often a reflection of something much different…much uglier. Too often, my life is a reflection of myself, because, too often, I purposefully make myself lord. I know better, but I do it anyway. Frankly, I’m sure that we all make this mistake; however, we can’t allow the shared commonality of this trespass to diminish our recognition of the destructive nature of it’s practice in our life.
If we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors, then we are His representatives to others on this earth. We should speak for Him, and as Him, to a world lost in sin. We should carefully mind all aspects of our behavior, as it should be a reflection of the One we serve. Our words and deeds leave a mark on the life of others, and, to them, these words and deeds are often the sole point of impression about the worth of Christ, our Lord. We should keep our minds pure from things that insight a degradation of our witness, and we should guard our heart…
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” – Proverbs 4:23-27 (ESV)
When I act and speak, every word and action should be evaluated for the sole purpose of being Christ to my world…as if “God were making His appeal through me” (2 Corinthians 5:20). I should calculate my every word and action based upon the defense of my personal witness, which is the Lordship of Christ in me, and the defense of my King. Doing anything less is a display of arrogant and ignorant mismanagement, and reckless stewardship of the grace that has been so lovely bestowed upon the very much undeserving nature of my life. I should be the reflection of Jesus. Often, I’m just a reflection of “Keith.” When I’m reflecting “Keith,” I stumble, and in that process, I will most certainly cause others to stumble…breaking my witness in the process, damaging hearts, and inflicting great injury to the “building-up” of the kingdom of God on this earth.
If we are, as Scripture states, the ambassadors of our Savior, then the question should be posed: “How are we doing with that?” Is the life we lead, and the words that we speak, indicative of a people who have genuinely made Jesus Christ Lord? To the misfortune of many without the Lordship of Christ in their life, the answer to that question is probably “no.” It is perfectly fair and reasonable for others to make a determination about the relevance of God in their own life based on the words and actions of those who profess to love Him. Is it not?
If we are hateful, arrogant, judgmental, reactionary ambassadors of Christ, then it should not shock us that the world shows little compulsion to follow Jesus. If we participate in activity that is immoral and openly sinful, then others see the “diminished relevance of Jesus in us,” and they are left unchallenged by the legacy of our alleged “walk with Christ.” If we are unrepentant, greedy, selfish, not quick to forgive…all of these things degrade our witness, give others a skewed impression of Jesus, and they leave our King exposed and undefended.
The world does not look upon the academic theology of the individual Christian life in assessing the worthiness of Christ; instead, the world looks upon the practical implementation of how that theology is lived out by the professing Christian. It is not “what we know that is important,” but “what we say and do” that leaves a relevant mark. We can be experts in the knowledge of knowing what to do; consequently, doing it, and living it out, is another story completely.
The influence of character, trustworthiness, faithfulness, compassion, and love of our Lord is taught to others by the words and actions of our life. These words and actions should tell the great story of Jesus. Too often, they might only tell the sad and pitiful story of the arrogant, prideful, and self-serving nature of sinful man.
What story is your life telling, and how is that story told in the defense of your King?
The Jesus that the world sees manifested in you might be the only Jesus they ever see. The Jesus they see in church, and the Jesus they see beyond the walls of the church, should be the same Christ. We can’t teach and preach a Gospel message that is contrary to the reflection it manifests in our own life…lest we fall into the category of religious hypocrites who only tear down the kingdom of God and leave their King defenseless.
Christ defended my eternity as nails were hammered into His innocent and precious body. He was powerful enough to defeat the whole of Satan’s plans by submitting to the will of His Father. It could be accomplished no other way. That act of submission to the divine will of God led to a victory that will be felt for all eternity in the lives of those who have made Him King. And, if He is our King, we should be submissive to His will, and we should live our lives in a manner that brings defense to our claimed identity as “children of the King.” If the manner of our life doesn’t reflect Jesus, we are possibly only playing offense, seeking to advance our own game, while leaving our King undefended.
We defend our King with our life, just as He defended us with His. Are we defending Him, or leaving Him exposed, because we are really on caught up with defending ourselves?
Today, defend Jesus in your life with your thoughts, your words and your actions. There’s much more at stake than we can even imagine…living our life for the defense of our King.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!