“They are secretly taking over!”
“I think there is a hidden plan to outlaw Christianity…”
“The communists are leading the media to brainwash our populace!”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some behind-the-scenes group of wealthy leaders directing these wars in the Middle East… and they are all cashing in.”
If your environment is anything like mine, I would guess you’ve heard alarming statements like these more times than you can count. Conspiracy theories of all kinds seem to increasingly abound. Alarmist news reporters and columnists rapidly grow their readership through stories that invoke tremors of fear and outrage.
This short, fast-flash film summarizes the top 10 “disturbing conspiring theories” in the USA:
Statisticians claim a whopping 60% of the American population believes President JFK’s assassination was the work of some kind of conspiracy. Some people argue that the U.S. government secretly ordered the planes to fly into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, perhaps to have an excuse for waging war against Iraq. While I happen to be incredulous to such hypotheses, some human conspiracies seem real and seem to work out… the ISIS group in Iraq obviously conspired to kill or drive out all the Christians in the city of Mosul and they largely succeeded. The self-identified anti-god, anti-Christian lobbying groups in the USA seem to be making a lot of headway in recent years in their attempt to choke out the Christian voice in our nation.
But to be honest, it’s very easy for American Christians to get caught up in fear for tomorrow and who might be conspiring against us. Remember the Y2K days? The church in which I grew up held special Sunday night meetings for months prior to that fateful New Year so that we could learn how to be prepared for the earth-shattering crash that was to come. The operative word was always “preparation” but as a teenager I knew the overall motivation in the room was fear. I knew people who bought multiple wood burning stoves, years of food supplies, piles of guns, the list goes on… I even heard of some families who sold everything and literally headed for the mountains to escape the impending chaos.
The Ultimate Conspiracy
Now I’m not saying it’s wrong to prepare for the unexpected, but our fear drives us to a deeper, ultimate question: In who or what are we hoping? Really.
In who or what are you hoping? America? The constitution? Your job? Your guns? Or…
Jesus and His followers faced the ultimate human conspiracy of all time: Kill Jesus Christ. And in the face of this conspiracy what did God want the followers of Jesus to know… and hope in? As the page turns toward the Cross and the ultimate human conspiracy, where does the Gospel of John takes us to hope?
Here’s a scene-by-scene flashback of where the apostle John leads us up to the half-way point in His gospel account:
Jesus. Man. God. The God-Man.
Word. The Word became flesh and moved-in to live among us.
Life. Light. In Him was Life and the Life was the Light of men.
John the Baptist took the witness stand and testified to the identity of Jesus. Lamb. Lamb of God. The One who would take away the sin of the world. And the story begins to unfold…
Jesus inaugurates his public ministry at a Wedding Celebration and turns water into the best wine. (Ch. 2)
Jesus walked the super-religious Nicodemus out of the darkness of spiritual ignorance and into the light of God’s Good News. (Ch. 3)
Jesus turned the sex-addict from Samaria into a Gospel-telling worshiper of God. (Ch. 4)
Jesus healed a Royal Official’s son, saving him from death’s door. (Ch. 4)
Jesus restored a man by the Pool of Bethesda, who had been disabled for 38 years. (Ch. 5)
Jesus fed 5,000+ people near the Sea of Galilee with a supply of just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. (Ch. 6)
Jesus walked on top of the water on the Sea of Galilee, showing His disciples His power over the elements of creation. (Ch. 6)
Through all of this, Jesus taught with authority and wisdom that amazed everyone – including the Pharisees and Chief Priests! (Ch. 6-8)
Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth. (Ch. 9)
Jesus raised his close friend Lazarus from the dead, after he had been in the tomb 4 days! (Ch. 11)
But after all of this, the religious leaders threw up their arms and shouted, “What are we doing?” Jesus was doing many amazing miracles. But what were they doing? Sitting on their hands? No more! So with the cunning deceit of the high priest, Caiaphas, they devised a plan – a conspiracy was formulated. Why? Because they feared the loss of their position of power and temporary national peace.
The leaders shouted out: “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:48)
Fear raced through the minds of the chief priests and Pharisees as they looked at the chessboard of their game with the Romans. If a gathering of zealots used Jesus’ popularity to create a civil insurrection, then the Roman authorities would no longer trust their leadership. They would lose everything that was theirs. So they conspired to take swift and final action. With a brash and arrogant tone, Caiaphas pronounced:
“You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” (John 11:50)
Yet with all their cunning conspiracy tactics, God’s sovereignty overruled the leaders’ plans for self-protection with His plan for redemption. God is the master of literary twist and beautifully choreographs the storyline of history to display His sovereignty.
God always writes the end of the story…
The first twist: The Sanhedrin sought to protect their “place” and their “nation” by killing Jesus. But soon after His crucifixion their system quickly unraveled and climaxed in the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. The family of Annas, the patriarch of the chief priests, lost all their wealth, prestige, and power. Gone.
The second twist: Everyone heard Caiaphas proclaim that it would be better for one man to die on behalf of the people so that the whole nation would not be destroyed. But Jesus would die not only on behalf of the people in Israel but also for the whole world, thus bringing the scattered together into the one family of God. One. (cf. John 11:51-52)
Jesus Himself would conquer death and rise as the Victor from the grave. Mouths could not be stopped. The mission would charge forward. The people of God would be purchased through the redemption payment at the Cross.
God always writes the final chapter to the story. Man’s plans fail. God’s plans always win. He always wins. And just as God’s sovereignty overruled man’s conspiracy in the first-century, so God will overrule human conspiracy every time… even today.
God’s sovereignty overrules human conspiracy…every time.
Mankind has tried to stop God’s mission from moving forward time and time again, but every scheme will always fail. Because God’s sovereign plan of redemption will always overrule any human conspiracy. How can I make such a bold claim? Take a glance at recent history…
China tried to stamp out Christianity through communism, but the Church only blossomed under persecution. The USSR tried to stamp out Christianity through atheism, but God’s work never ceased across Russia and Eastern Europe. Many South American countries tried to enforce Marxism, but Christianity is continuing to exponentially grow. India has tried to clamp down on national Christians evangelizing and foreign missionaries working among the people, but the Church is spreading at breakneck speed. And even here in the USA, religious liberalism has tried for more than a century to pacify and neuter the Christian faith but instead the mainline liberal denominations are emptying and many Gospel-preaching, Bible-believing churches are growing and spreading across the country. Why? Because God’s sovereignty always overrules any human conspiracy.
Does this mean our era will climax in some sort of utopian Christendom? Certainly not. Persecution will rise. Rejection will increase. Violence and immorality will spread. Remember… this world is fallen and faulty and broken. At the end of the age Satan and his cohorts may even think they’ve won, just like the religious rulers thought they’d won the day when Jesus was nailed to an old wooden cross on the outskirts of town. But God’s plan will not be thwarted, undermined, or brought to demise – because He is writing the story. And every page will turn to display the praise of His glory.
So even though conspiracy theories are on the rise and evil seems to be triumphing, we can hope in God’s sovereign plan as each new chapter unfolds – even today.
Hope in God’s Sovereign Plan as each new chapter unfolds…even today.
Most every night, I tell our little guy, Hudson, homemade stories about Herman the Hermit, Rusty the Trusty Dog, Flapjack Frying-Pan…all characters my dad developed in his story time with my brother and I when we were kiddos. Hudson soaks up every detail and every turn in each vignette. His eyes brighten with wonder as his mind paints the plot across his imagination. But as is often the case, a tension is left unresolved (especially if I’m tired and want to end it for the night). So I declare with a gusto, “Until next time… we’ll find out what happens with…” Hudson will groan but then quickly bubble over with anticipation and ideas about how he thinks the story will end. His little mind races with anticipation… but I know how the story will end because I’m the author. So I just smile, give him a hug, and enjoy his delight in my story.
Sometimes we can be filled with fear about what conspiracy might be brewing to attack the Church, outlaw our faith, or seemingly stop God’s mission from going forward. But we can trust that God’s sovereign plan will win. He will be victorious. His plan of redemption could not be stopped and will not be stopped. Conspiracy? No conspiracy will ever thwart God’s sovereignty.
The Author knows how the story will begin and end. And our Triune God will win. His plan of redemption will not be thwarted. Hope today in the sovereign Lord because He owns the end of the story…
Listen to the full audio message entitled “Man’s Conspiracy vs. God’s Sovereignty” (John 11:47-57) by simply clicking on the play button below or by subscribing to our iTunes podcast. This message was originally delivered at North Park Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI, on Sunday morning, August 17th, 2014.