Timing IS Everything

Please read 2 Peter 3:8-10 in your Bible.  I’ve used the NIV to prepare these remarks.

In a message entitled “Timing is Everything” Rev. Bruce Goettsche wrote, “You have probably heard the phrase many times, ‘timing is everything’. There is a great deal of truth in that statement.

“The difference between a good joke and a bad one is a person’s sense of timing.  An appropriate pause makes a joke . . . an inappropriate pause can kill the same joke.

“Timing is essential when dealing with people. You don’t ask for a raise when business is not going well or when things are tense around the office. You don’t try to correct someone who feels threatened by you. You don’t ask for a favor when someone is under a lot of stress or angry.

“Timing is important in cooking.  The juicy hamburger on the grill is raw meat if cooked for too little time and a clump of charcoal if it is cooked too long.

“Timing is important in your spiritual life as well.  Jesus was very conscious of timing. He lived His life with an acute awareness of God’s timing for His life. The gospel of John records these words of Jesus,

  1. John 2:4 ‘My time has not yet come’
  2. John 7:6 ‘The right time for me has not yet come’
  3. John 7:30; 8:20 ‘His time had not yet come’

“Peter tells us that the second coming of the Christ is a matter of timing. God has not sent Christ back to earth yet because ‘he wants everyone to come to repentance’.  God is waiting until everyone who will come to Christ, does.”

REVIEW

  1. We are called to be Saints among Scoffers (3:1-7).

NEW

  1. God’s timing is not your timing (3:8-10).

God is eternal; we are stuck in the present (8).  This is one of Peter’s rebuttals of the SCOFFERS – a theological one – God relates to time differently than we do.  All discussions of timing – including the arrival of the Second Coming of Jesus – need to account for this.  Peter is referenced Psalms 90:4, which says, FOR A THOUSAND YEARS ARE LIKE A DAY THAT HAS GONE BY, OR LIKE A WATCH IN T NIGHT.

The word “eternal” does not mean an unlimited amount of time; it is not exactly a synonym for the word “forever.”  Instead, “eternal” means timeless.  God is eternal in that He transcends time; He is not affected by the passage of time nor limited to any one time.

In a sense, God is always in the present moment; He exists in all times simultaneously.  We say that God is present in all places simultaneously (“omnipresence”) and we can also say God is present at all times simultaneously (“omnitemporal…?”).

Back to verse eight.  Peter is saying, “These SCOFFERS who accuse God of being late don’t know God.  He is never late because he is always present.”  That’s why Peter urged his readers DO NOT FORGET this important truth.  Because God is who He is, no one can accuse Him of lateness.  So the gap between the promise of the Second Coming and its fulfillment cannot be explained as some failing in God or something lacking in our faith.  Peter offers the true explanation in verse nine.

God is patient; we want it done yesterday (9).  God is neither late nor slow; instead He is PATIENT.  God is neither unwilling nor unable; instead He is giving people opportunity to repent so the Second Coming will be a day of life, not death.  The fact that the Second Coming has not yet happened is not to be misinterpreted as the SCOFFERS have done (AS SOME UNDERSTAND SLOWNESS).  Instead, it is a demonstration of God’s patience. There is a lot of biblical evidence for the patience of God; see Exodus 34:6; Numbers 13:18; Psalm 86:15; Jeremiah 15:15; Romans 2:4; 9:22 as examples.

The reason God shows patience is bound up in His desire to see all people repent and be saved.  The will of God is made clear in this verse; God’s will is for all people to be saved.

However, God is not going to save anyone against their own will.  He has delegated authority to us in the form of free will.  We decide for ourselves whether or not we accept His gracious gift of salvation.  I explain it this way: Salvation is 99% God’s action and 1% our reaction.  However, our 1% is the deciding factor.  With our one percent we either accept God’s salvation in Jesus Christ and have eternal life or we reject it and suffer eternal death.

This means that God cannot be accused of sending anyone to hell; people send themselves by the choice they make.  If God had His way all of us would be saved.  But then that free will thing is toast.

The Lord is coming; the world is ending (10).  Peter issued two warnings to the SCOFFERS.  One, Jesus’ second appearing will be something they won’t see coming while in their present frame of mind: it will surprise them LIKE A THIEF in the night.  Two, it will have a deadly outcome where they are concerned; they will be destroyed with FIRE.

While the Second Coming is something we are to anticipate every day, when it happens it will be without any obvious warning.

We install locks and security systems to guard against thieves, but they don’t call ahead to schedule their appearance at our homes.  Similarly, the SCOFFERS will be surprised at Jesus’ sudden reappearance.  Their decision not to have faith will mean that they did not see this coming.  The expression AS A THIEF is one Peter borrowed from Jesus’ own teaching on this subject (see Luke 12:30, 41).

The phrase DAY OF THE LORD tells us that the Second Coming is a single event that unfolds a series of consequences.  For example, the DAY OF THE LORD is the same event as Judgment Day, as judgment being one of the reasons Jesus will reappear in this way.  Judgment Day is implied in the phrase EVERYTHING DONE IN IT WILL BE LAID BARE.

The other part of this that is hard for the SCOFFERS to wrap their heads around is that reality as we have known it will come to an end.  What is bound by time will be replaced with what is eternal.

THE HEAVENS WILL DISAPPEAR WITH A ROAR is another way of describing the suddenness with which the Second Coming will occur.  Both heaven and earth will come to an end on that day; Peter makes it clear everything will be destroyed by FIRE: THE ELEMENTS WILL BE DESTROYED BY FIRE.  THE ELEMENTS are what we call “atoms” and “molecules,” the basic building blocks of reality.

– In the Bible, FIRE is a symbol of three things.

One, it is a symbol of purification.  Like gold, which is purified by fire, our faith and moral nature are purified by trials and tests (see 1 Peter 1:7).

Two, as the Apostle Paul used it in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, FIRE is a symbol of judgment.  What is not of God does not survive the fire, revealing its true nature.  On Judgment Day, each person’s life will be LAID BARE, the truth of our decision exposed in the way we have lived our lives.  All that survives the fire will survive in the new, eternal heaven and earth.  What is burned up is destroyed.

Three, fire is a biblical symbol of destruction (see verse eleven).

In a message entitled, “Don’t Blame The Judge,” Tim Smith wrote, “God has done everything He possibly can to keep you out of Hell and still leave you as a person with free will. Some Christians argue otherwise that it is in fact God who sends people to hell. But when a criminal is sent to jail, we don’t blame the judge, do we? We blame the criminal. The judge isn’t responsible because he’s just following the law. It was the criminal who broke the law and that’s why they were sent to jail. Likewise, God is bound by who he is, a holy, loving, righteous and just God and by His decision to give us free will and then not violate it by keeping us from making bad decisions. So it’s not God who sends us to hell but our decisions and the repercussions that we must live with.”

<Retrieved from https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-tim-smith-stories-hell-83766?ref=TextIllustrationSerps on 7/14/17.>

God’s timing is not ours.  Unless we step into Scripture and see things from God’s perspective, we see everything through this very limiting lens of time.  We must understand that things are NOT going to continue forever the way they have been.  Understanding this motivates us to appreciate the urgency of preparing today for an event that will happen tomorrow.  Preparation begins with deciding to accept God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

“A Fool and His Money”

(Please read Luke 12:13-21 in your preferred version of the Bible.  I used the NIV to prepare these remarks.)

Today we’ll start with a simple quiz: Who said the following?  “I TELL YOU, USE WORLDLY WEALTH TO GAIN FRIENDS FOR YOURSELVES, SO THAT WHEN IT IS GONE, YOU WILL BE WELCOMED INTO ETERNAL DWELLINGS.”

It may surprise you to know that these are the words of Jesus.  Look it up: he said this in Luke 16:9.  As is the case with many of the things Jesus taught, this is contrary to worldly wisdom.  I’m sure you’d have a hard time finding a financial advisor who will recommend using money to GAIN FRIENDS.  Note that Jesus did not suggest “buying” friends.  Instead, He’s suggesting that generosity is a way of showing grace and making friends.

That part shows an understanding of human nature.  Nothing very surprising here.  It’s the concluding statement that is particularly radical as Jesus connects generosity with eternal life.  Of course Jesus is NOT saying that we can spend our way into heaven.  What He is affirming is that people who are saved, who will be WELCOMED INTO ETERNAL DWELLINGS, are marked by a generous nature.

Some folks want to draw a dark line between money and faith, but that is not biblical teaching.  The Bible teaches that all of the resources God entrusts to us are to be used in obedience to God.  This is called “stewardship” and is an important part of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

MESSAGE: It is foolish to put your trust in any worldly thing.

  1. Jesus the Unwilling Judge (vs. 13-15).

The man in the crowd asked Jesus to act as a rabbi, but he had an ulterior motive: GREED (13).  He called Jesus “TEACHER.”  In that culture, rabbis were often asked to settle disputes like this.  The rabbi’s authority would be ethical, not legal.

The man was not at all subtle.  He practically orders Jesus to take his side in the dispute about an estate; “TELL MY BROTHER TO DIVIDE THE INHERITANCE WITH ME.”

Jesus was unwilling to judge between them (14).  Jesus did not disagree with the man about His being a teacher, but protests that no one has agree to Him acting as a JUDGE OR ARBITER between this man and his brother.  No agreement of arbitration has been struck.  The man’s request is entirely one-sided.  He’s asking Jesus to use his authority to come down on his side.

Instead, Jesus turned the moment into a teaching as He turned from the man to address the CROWD (15).  He warned the man; “WATCH OUT!  BE ON YOUR GUARD AGAINST ALL KINDS OF GREED.”  In so doing, Jesus exposed the man’s true motive.  This is an emphatic, emotional appeal on Jesus’ part: “WATCH OUT!  BE ON YOUR GUARD.”  He kept it universal: “ALL KINDS OF GREED.”  GREED is a sin.

– It is defined in the Bible as an insatiable desire for any earthly thing.

– Its flaw is that earthly things take t place of God in our life.

– In Colossians 3:5, GREED is listed among other sins that come from a person’s EARTHLY NATURE and is condemned as IDOLATRY.

GREED can quickly ruin relationships.  Indeed, the experience is so common that I would not be surprised if everyone in this room has observed it personally.   It often happens in situations just like this one; disputes over inheritance drive grieving family members apart.

I believe that is what Jesus implied in the condemnation of the rich man in v. 20; “WHO WILL GET WHAT YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR YOURSELF?”  Jesus didn’t just lay down the law; He instructed the man in the moral reason why he should guard against greed.  He said, “A MAN’S LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS POSSESSIONS.”

  1. Jesus the Story-teller (vs. 16-21).

A parable is a story told to make a point.  The details are only important as they contribute to that one main point.  The main point of the parable is that it is foolish to put your trust in anything from this world.  Let’s take a look at how the parable develops that theme.

Externally, the rich man did nothing wrong.  From a moral standpoint, he did not steal to become wealthy. V. 16: THE GROUND…PRODUCED A GOOD CROP.  From a business standpoint, the rich man’s decisions make a certain amount of sense.  Vs. 17-18: I WILL TEAR DOWN MY BARNS AND BUILD BIGGER ONES.  From a worldly standpoint, you can’t blame him for his confidence about the future.  V. 19: “TAKE LIFE EASY; EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY” sounds an awful lot like the goal of retirement planning.  In fact, I expect that by this point in the story, people in the audience are smiling, nodding in agreement, may be saying “AMEN!”

But internally, God knows our hearts and He knew that the rich man was not merely a good businessman; he was a practical – if not actual – atheist.  The rich man makes no mention of God in vs. 17-19.  He neither expresses gratitude to God, nor does he make plans to share his wealth with God or with people in need.  The rich man in this parable acts in line with his sin nature; he is only concerned about himself.  There is no accountability to God or even tradition, much less others.

This character is condemned in v. 20.  God called him a FOOL.  In the Old Testament, a fool is a person who rejects God and does self-destructive things (for example, Psalm 14:1).  It is a very strong condemnation with the word only used twice in the New Testament.

God warned him that his wealth could not save him from imminent death.  The word for LIFE here is psyche i/t Gk and is often translated as “soul.”  Jesus has set up a contrast between the inner life of the man and the outward life.  He’s saying, “Your attention is all focused on your external life, but your internal life will soon be taken away and you will die!”

God condemned his selfishness, asking him who would end up possessing the wealth he thought was his.  This man thought he had created his own future, but God appeared to remind him who was really in charge.

Jesus made His point plain in v. 21: anyone who shares the rich man’s attitude will also share his outcome.  The problem is not wealth.  The Bible does not commend or condemn having material things.  Instead, the rich man condemned in the parable was judged guilty of having sought wealth over God.

In MTW 6:19-21, Jesus made it clear where our priorities should lie: “DO NOT STORE UP FOR YOURSELVES TREASURES ON EARTH, WHERE MOTH AND RUST DESTROY, AND WHERE THIEVES BREAK IN AND STEAL.  BUT STORE UP FOR YOURSELVES TREASURES IN HEAVEN, WHERE MOTH AND RUST DO NOT DESTROY AND WHERE THIEVES DO NOT BREAK IN AND STEAL.  FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE YOUR HEART WILL BE ALSO.”

This Bible passage was written for everyone who ever thought, “If I just had more money.”  It’s for people who look for security in a bank account or compounding their possessions.

And we’re not just talking about the obvious ones, the hoarders, the greedy, the thieves and cheats.  We’re talking about the folks who may have legitimate-sounding goals like providing for their retirement or their family.  Whether obvious or not, the point is that you can’t trust worldly things to provide security or happiness or peace.  The man’s prudence is not condemned, only his godlessness.

Trust in God only.

Let me tell you what money is.  It is a tool.  Like a hammer, money is a tool.  It has a specific purpose but it has absolutely no ethical nature.  It is a thing that can be used to build or to destroy.  The only ethical part of it is how it is used.

If you want to drive a nail, then a hammer is the right choice of tools.  If you want to paint a wall, then I doubt it’s going to work very well for you.

Here’s the thing: If someone told you they absolutely loved hammers, that they collected hammers and wanted as many hammers as they could get, that they researched hammers on Google and Ebay, that they felt most secure in their showroom of hammers, then I don’t think you’d wait too long to wonder if they were nuts.  If they told you that the person with the most hammers will live eternally, you’d stop wondering and conclude they were nuts!

Darrell L. Bock wrote, “The fundamental test for the use of resources is whether they become tools of service that benefit others and enable them to be in a position to serve God better.”  (Bock, the NIV Application Commentary on Luke, Zondervan Publishing House, 1996, pp. 345-346.)

So why take that same approach to another tool, money?  Why covet it, collect it, try to be consoled by having lots of it, why waste your life worrying about it?  It’s just a tool, one of many God has placed in your tool box.

Get over it.

Here’s the attitude God wants us to have toward money and all material things:

#1 = Agree with God that everything is HIS.  The notion that we’ve earned it or otherwise deserve it is an illusion.

#2 = Trust God that He will provide what you need when you need it.  Find your security – true security – in Him.

#3 = Give to God first, not the leftovers.

– Start with a cheerful and worshipful attitude.

– Give proportionately.  Set a percentage; that is your TITHE.

– Give generously.  In addition to your TITHE, make GIFTS or OFFERINGS that provide for organizational & individual need.

– Give sacrificially.  Anyone can give leftovers or out of their excess, but only sacrificial giving – giving when it is not convenient or even hurts a bit – that is the only kind of giving that shows our love is real.

#4 = Be careful.  Jesus spoke more often about money than any other subject because he knew it is a window into the soul of a person.  Their attitude about money quickly reveals what’s truly most important to us.

A Heavenly View (Part Three)

(Please read Revelation 21 & 22 in your favorite version of the Bible.  I prepared this message using the NIV.)

Perhaps you’ve read about the tizzy people are in about the “Nones,” the growing statistic of Americans who self-identify as having no religious affiliation.  Depending on who is commenting on the trend, it is either the death-knell of denominational Christianity or a call to reformation of the Church.  I recently read a Bible study by Rick Ezell that addressed this subject.

“William Hendrix’s book Exit Interviews is about why today’s generation is leaving the church. He summarizes the views of many worship dropouts: ‘Perhaps the most common complaint was that worship services were boring. It was not just that these gatherings were not interesting; they were not worshipful. They did little to help people meet God.’ (p. 260)

“Sally Morgenthaler writing in Worship Evangelism says ‘[When] Worship services that are not worshipful, people not meeting God, people not being allowed to participate in a worship relationship with God – it is as if the very essence of worship has been quietly removed. . . . The most significant benefit of a worship service is connecting with God. It does not matter how chatty and interesting the celebrity interviews, how captivating the drama, how stunning the soloist, or how relevant the message. When personal interaction with God is absent, church loses much of its appeal.’ (p. 23)

“George Barna surveyed thousands of churchgoing Christians. The question was asked: ‘Have you ever experienced God in a worship service?’ Only one-third said that they regularly experience God in church.”

(Retrieved from http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-presence-of-worship-exodus-33 on 10/30/15.)

Of all the things that we’ve learned about our eternal home these last three weeks the most wonderful thing is that we will enjoy the presence of God.  Simply put, God’s presence is what makes heaven “heavenly.”

MESSAGE: If we live today with a view toward heaven, today will be a better day as we will be better people.

  1. God is at the center of the Holy City.

First and foremost, it is the presence of God that makes heaven heavenly.  Ezekiel’s vision of the Holy City bears a lot of similarity to the account of John’s vision which we’ve studied.  He wrote that the SANCTUARY stood at the center of the city he envisioned (48:8, 10 21).  This is another way of saying what John said; God is present at the center of the city. Ezekiel’s vision ends with the name of the city: “AND THE NAME OF THE CITY FROM THAT TIME ON WILL BE: THE LORD IS THERE.” (Ezekiel 48:35)

This is the most obvious and most important fact about our eternal home and it is mentioned often in these chapters.  The presence of God is developed in four different ways:

DWELLING: In 21:3 the angel announces, “NOW THE DWELLING OF GOD IS WITH MEN, AND HE WILL LIVE WITH THEM.  THEY WILL BE HIS PEOPLE AND GOD HIMSELF WILL BE WITH THEM AND BE THEIR GOD.”  DWELLING is used only by John in the New Testament.  It literally means “tabernacle” and refers to the “Tent of Meeting” that was the place for worship of God before the temple was built.  This is one of many places in Revelation that employs Old Testament images to communicate John’s vision.  The tabernacle, as the original meeting-place with God, was dear to the heart of John’s Jewish readers.  However, unlike the tabernacle – which was a temporary structure – God will permanently dwell with His people.  This is the future fulfillment of the promise made in Ezekiel 37:27: “MY DWELLING PLACE WILL BE WITH THEM; I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY WILL BE MY PEOPLE.  The word PEOPLE is actually plural in the Greek; a fact which demonstrates the multinationality of the Church on earth and in our eternal home.

THE ABSENCE OF A TEMPLE: In 21:22 we read I DID NOT SEE A TEMPLE IN THE CITY, BECAUSE THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY AND THE LAMB ARE ITS TEMPLE.  The city itself is the temple!  The entire structure is the place of God’s dwelling so no separate structure is needed.

– As we’ve observed, every detail in the construction of the New Jerusalem points to God, just as a temple would. In his vision, Ezekiel saw a perfected temple.  Here, John sees a better vision: God and His people dwell together in the same building.

THE GLORY OF THE LORD is manifest visually as a bright light.  God is present in brilliant light (21:23-24; 22:5).  1 John 1:5 describes God’s nature as being light: THIS IS THE MESSAGE WE HAVE HEARD FROM HIM AND DECLARE TO YOU: GOD IS LIGHT; IN HIM THERE IS NO DARKNESS AT ALL.  In the Bible, LIGHT is the symbol of knowledge and holiness. Light is also comforting; it dispels the threatening darkness.  Imagine the LIGHT of God’s presence being so strong that it makes the sun redundant!  The SUN and the MOON, the two most luminescent bodies in our sky, will not be missed.  22:5 essentially reiterates 21:23, but adds that even artificial light – a LAMP – will be unnecessary in the unfading illumination provided by God Himself.

This promise was first made to the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 60:19; THE SUN WILL NO MORE BE YOUR LIGHT BY DAY, NOR WILL THE RIGHTNESS OF THE MOON SHINE ON YOU, FOR THE LORD WILL BE YOUR EVERLASTING LIGHT, AND YOUR GOD WILL BE YOUR GLORY.  The reference to KINGS in 21:24 is a symbol of trivial glory of the worldly kingdoms coming to an end in the new age.  It too was anticipated by Isaiah; NATIONS WILL COME TO YOUR LIGHT, AND KINGS TO THE BRIGHTNESS OF YOUR DAWN. (ISH 60:3)

THE THRONE OF GOD (22:1+3 and 7:17) is  in the HOLY CITY. The presence of God will be immediate; there will be no intermediates like priests or a temple.  God will be – for all eternity – right before His people.

It is called THE THRONE OF GOD AND THE LAMB because God the Father has placed everything under the authority of Jesus.  It is as Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:22-23 = AND GOD HAS PLACED ALL THINGS UNDER [Christ’s] FEET & APPOINTED HIM TO BE HEAD OVER EVERYTHING FOR THE CHURCH, WHICH IS HIS BODY, THE FULLNESS OF HIM WHO FILLS EVERYTHING IN EVERY WAY.  After His Ascension, the Bible tells us that Jesus was at the right hand of God the Father.  That was a place of honor, but now in Revelation we see the greater honor of God the Son sharing the throne with God the Father.

A second indicator of God’s presence is the promise that God will remove the grief-causing things of this age.  21:4 develops this thought…HE WILL WIPE EVERY TEAR FROM THEIR EYES and remove the things that cause us to shed tears: THE OLD ORDER OF THINGS HAS PASSED AWAY.  Here are found four causes of grief.

– DEATH. According to 1 Corinthians 15:26, THE LAST ENEMY TO BE DEFEATED IS DEATH.  In Revelation 20:14 we read, DEATH AND HADES WERE THROWN INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE for their destruction.  GOOD NEWS!  We will never again be separated from our loved ones, but joined with them for eternity.

– MOURNING can be translated as “wailing.” It is a degree of grief that is so extreme it cannot be contained or controlled, it must be released.

– CRYING covers everything in this life that causes us to despair.

– PAIN covers suffering & weariness in body and/or spirit. There will be nothing to regret.

Using words echoed in both John and Paul’s writings, this promise occurred first in Isaiah 25:8; HE WILL SWALLOW UP DEATH FOREVER.  THE SOVEREIGN LORD WILL WIPE AWAY THE TEARS FROM ALL FACES; HE WILL REMOVE THE DISGRACE OF HIS PEOPLE FROM ALL THE EARTH.  THE LORD HAS SPOKEN.

Revelation 22:12 reads, “BEHOLD, I AM COMING SOON!  MY REWARD IS WITH ME AND I WILL GIVE TO EVERYONE ACCORDING TO WHAT HE HAS DONE.” For the inhabitants of the Holy City, Jesus not only takes away everything that hurts, but He bestows honors on those who chose to obey His commands in this life.  This is good news compounded!  We can learn the meaning of this verse from Elliot’s commentary on this passage: “The warning has been given that men by continuing in sin (Revelation 22:11) are inviting against themselves the law by which act ripens to habit, and habit makes character, and character forms destiny.” (Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/commentaries/revelation/22-13.htm on 10/29/15.)

Thirdly, our hope is founded on who Jesus is.  Jesus is the very definition of creation; the brackets of human history: THE ALPHA AND OMEGA, THE FIRST AND LAST, THE BEGINNING AND END (21:6; 22:13).  The importance of this fact underscored by the fact that it is repeated in each chapter, the only difference being the words FIRST AND LAST added in 22:13.  (Jesus referred to Himself as the ALPHA AND OMEGA in 1:11.)  Salvation is entirely the work of Jesus Christ.

By now it will not surprise you to learn that the prophet Isaiah testified to this truth centuries before John: “THIS IS WHAT THE LORD SAYS – ISRAEL’S KING AND REDEEMER, THE LORD ALMIGHTY: I AM THE FIRST AND I AM THE LAST; APART FROM ME THERE IS NO GOD.” (Isaiah 44:6).  Because He has all authority (see Matthew 28:18), we can rely upon and utterly trust the promises of Jesus.

Jesus is depicted as the LAMB in 21:9, 22-23, 27; 22:1, 3 and in Revelation 5:6; 19:7. This symbol is appropriate because His sacrifice for our sins has made heaven available to us. The first mention of the LAMB in revelation is a strange and pathetic but pivotal figure in 7:6, THEN I SAW A LAMB, LOOKING AS IF IT HAD BEEN SLAIN, STANDING IN THE CENTER OF THE THRONE, ENCIRCLED BY THE FOUR LIVING CREATURES AND THE ELDERS.  HE HAD SEVEN HORNS AND SEVEN EYES, WHICH ARE THE SEVEN SPIRITS OF GOD SENT OUT INTO ALL THE EARTH.

– I say “pathetic” because the lamb looked as if it had been SLAIN. This is a reference to Jesus’ death on the cross.

– I say “strange” because of its seven horns and eyes. The number seven symbolizes perfection.  Horns symbolize power and eyes are a symbol of knowledge.  This refers to the perfect power and knowledge of God the Son.

– I say “pivotal” because the LAMB is the only being who could open the seven seals on the scroll and thereby begin the series of events leading up to the end of this creation and the New Heaven, New Earth, and New Jerusalem.

In the Greek, there are three words translated as “lamb” and they offer three slightly different views.

Amnos looks to the sacrificial use of the animal.

Aren refers to the harmless nature of a lamb.

Arnion is the word used in Revelation, where it is entirely symbolic of the paradoxical nature of Christ, who is both Sacrifice and Savior, God and Human, Judge and Mediator.

Revelation 22:16 confers two more titles on Jesus.  Taken together, these titles focus on Jesus as the fulfillment of OT prophecy.

– THE ROOT AND OFFSPRING OF DAVID. God promised King David that his descendants would rule forever.  As a descendant of David, Jesus fulfills this promise.  In their Gospels both Matthew and Luke give genealogies for Jesus that establish this as fact.  In Isaiah 4, the BRANCH OF THE LORD is promised, and in Isaiah 11, a SHOOT OF JESSE (David’s father) is foretold.  Jeremiah 23 also uses this title, as does Zechariah 3 and 6. These promises were part of what the Jews of Jesus’ day expected as they looked forward to the Messiah.  In Revelation 5:5 He is referred to as THE ROOT OF DAVID.

– THE BRIGHT MORNING STAR. This is the most noticeable light in the sky near the horizon just prior to dawn. As such, it is a symbol of hope.  As the dark night of this present age will soon end, the light of Jesus shines as a preview of the glorious light that will soon follow and shine brightly, as we’ve already noted.  Way back in Numbers 24:17, Moses predicted the rising of a STAR OUT OF JACOB.  In Revelaion 2:28, THE MORNING STAR is promised to the overcomer.

Lastly, we will see God in all His glory; face to face (22:4).  In Exodus 33:20, God told Moses, “YOU CANNOT SEE MY FACE AND LIVE.”  With only a few exceptions, this has been the rule ever since.  The reason behind this rule was to reinforce the holiness of God as indicated by His separation from this sinful world.  However, in the next world – where is sin no more and grace has eliminated guilt, this reason will cease to exist.

In the New Creation, as 22:4 promises, all God’s people WILL SEE HIS FACE.  These words offer a word picture of the new closeness between God and His people.  It’s heart-warming to think of being face to face with our Creator, the One who loves us so much.  Jesus made a similarly heart-warming statement in Matthew 18:10: He said, “SEE THAT YOU DO NOT LOOK DOWN ON ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES.  FOR I TELL YOU THAT THEIR ANGELS IN HEAVEN ALWAYS SEE THE FACE OF MY FATHER IN HEAVEN.”  In the “Love Chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul expressed this hope in the wonderfully poetic language of that chapter; NOW WE SEE BUT A POOR REFLECTION AS IN A MIRROR; THEN WE SHALL SEE FACE TO FACE.  NOW I KNOW IN PART; THEN I SHALL KNOW FULLY, EVEN AS I AM FULLY KNOWN. (1CT 13:12)  In the OT, Job (JOB 19:26) and Isaiah (ISH 52:8) expressed this hope; that they should see God.

Theologian A.W. Tozer wrote a short but influential book called The Pursuit of God. In it, he wrote a couple of things that should sharpen our appetite for an experience of God’s presence.

– “The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God, and the church is famishing for want of HIS PRESENCE.” (P. 38) – “Let us say it again: The universal Presence is a fact. God is here. The whole universe is alive with His life. And He is no strange or foreign God, but the familiar Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose love has for these thousands of years enfolded the sinful race of men. And always He is trying to get our attention, to reveal Himself to us, to communicate with us. We have within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His overtures. (And this we call pursuing God!) We will know Him in increasing degree as our receptivity becomes more perfect by faith and love and practice.” (P. 71)

So it comes down to this.  All we’ve noted about our life to come, all we can hope for in this life, it all hangs on wanting to experience God’s presence.  The things of this world that try to captivate our attention or cause us to worry, all of that needs to fade and vanish.

How do we do that?  Let me give you some simple advice.  Experiencing God happens only in the context of a real relationship with Jesus Christ.  That must come first.

Second, it won’t happen while your attention is trained on this world or yourself.  We must make time to be quiet.  Prayer is the key that opens the door to let God in.  No amount of Bible knowledge, no number of attendance pins, no variety of church service will do for us what prayer will accomplish.

A Heavenly View (Part Two)

(Please read Revelation 21 & 22 in your favorite version of the Bible.  I use the NIV.)

MESSAGE: If we live today with a view toward heaven, today will be a better day as we will be better people.

(Part One was covered in last week’s post. Part Three will be covered in next week’s post.)

  1. The inhabitants of the HOLY CITY.

In 21:7 the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem are called the CHILDREN OF GOD. Adoption into God’s family helps us to overcome all of the challenges of life, including persecution by the world, and the shame of the enemy.  That’s why the CHILDREN OF GOD are also called OVERCOMERS.  (Several promises are made to the OVERCOMERS in chapters 2+3.)

This wonderful promise was first made in Jeremiah 24:7; I WILL GIVE THEM A HEART TO KNOW ME, THAT I AM THE LORD. THEY WILL BE MY PEOPLE, AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, FOR THEY WILL RETURN TO ME WITH ALL THEIR HEART.

In 21:9 and 22:17 the residents of the Holy City are called the BRIDE and THE WIFE OF THE LAMB.  These are both names for the Church.  This marital language is used because this is the union of God and His people in the fullest and most personal sense.  Ideally, the union of husband and wife is an example, an insight, or sample by personal experience, of the profound relationship between Jesus and His Church.

As you might expect, this symbol is not unique to John’s Revelation: Isaiah 62:5 says, “As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”  Throughout the Bible, the joining of husband and wife is a symbol of great celebration; it is an emblem of joy.  In fact, a wedding feast is referred to in 19:6-9 as a means of describing the celebration of the victory of the Lamb.

In Revelation there is a great contrast between the Bride of Christ and Babylon, the seducer of nations, in chapter 17.  She is a picture of the glossy side of evil, the lure of temptation.  She is destroyed and her downfall is part of the final defeat of evil.  The BRIDE OF CHRIST is here polar opposite.

Both chapters refer to the NATIONS gathered within the walls of the New Jerusalem: this points to the multinational make-up of the Church.  In 21:24 we read, THE NATIONS WILL WALK IN ITS LIGHT.  This is a spiritual truth: salvation will be by faith, not ethnicity.  God has made it available to all.  This is not a political truth.  As 21:4 clearly states, THE OLD ORDER OF THINGS HAS PASSED AWAY.  The OLD ORDER of politics and power has had its day and will be no more.  All of the redeemed will be rulers (and PRIESTS) according to Revelation 20:6, a further indication that the old creation ways of power and politics are no more.

The triumph of God over the worldly systems that arrayed themselves against Him and His people was anticipated in the Old Testament as well.  Psalms 72:11 describes a very similar scene to what we read in these chapters: ALL KINGS WILL BOW DOWN TO HIM AND ALL NATIONS WILL SERVE HIM.

What is the real GLORY OF THE NATIONS John saw paraded into the Holy city in 21:26?  In John’s time this would be a military parade, the conquering army bringing back its spoil and captives and parading down the main street for the home crowd to see.  In a spiritual sense, this is exactly what’s intended.  The forces of evil have been destroyed and the vanquished enemies of God and His people are being put on display in a victory parade.  This imagery may have been in Paul’s mind when he wrote, AND HAVING DISARMED THE POWERS AND AUTHORITIES, HE MADE A PUBLIC SPECTACLE OF THEM, TRIUMPHING OVER THEM BY THE CROSS in Colossians 2:15.  Of course there will be no military parade down the GREAT STREET of the New Jerusalem, for the enemies of God have been destroyed.  Further, of what use would be treasures in a city made of pure gold and precious stones?

NO, in this case, it’s the people!  It’s not a procession of vanquished foes and captives, but a procession of God’s people who have come out of the NATIONS.  It is a parade of victory, but only the victors are present, none of the vanquished.  Indeed, they have completely faded from memory by this time.  This is a description of the innumerable multitudes mentioned in chapter 7 coming into the NEW JERUSALEM to bring glory to God.  It also made me think of Revelation 4:10, where 24 ELDERS worship God and offer their CROWNS – their tokens of victory – to Him.

In 22:2, the LEAVES of the TREE OF LIFE provide healing for the NATIONS.  This is another way of saying – as we read in 21:4 – that God will WIPE EVERY TEAR from our eyes.  All the hurts of the old order will be healed and will vanish from memory!

Nothing UNCLEAN or ACCURSED – including people – will be admitted to the New Jerusalem.  21:8 gives us a list of specific examples.  We need to remember that biblical lists are meant to be examples, not exhaustive list.  It would be silly say, for example, that because “gossip” does not appear on the list, the sin of gossip will not keep someone from heaven.  Let’s don’t be legalistic here.  It would be more appropriate, following through with this example, to say LIARS represents all sins of the tongue.

Even though the Gates of the NEW JERUSALEM will never be closed, no evil will enter through them.  The reason is simple; no evil thing will exist!  21:27 substantiates this truth in with a more general statement then 21:8. Here IMPURE things are excluded from the Holy City, as well as all persons characterized by their SHAMEFUL or DECEITFUL lives.

More exciting is the description of those admitted: ONLY THOSE WHOSE NAMES ARE WRITTEN IN THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE.  This is a subject fit for a message all its own.  It is sufficient for our purposes to note that it is an image found in Old and New Testaments and to observe that God knows His people by name and not by reputation alone.  God knows us and loves us anyway, calling us by name out of the world and into His eternal presence!  Wow!!

22:15 is essentially a reiteration of 21:8.  There is only one thing on this list of conspicuous sinners that had not already been mentioned: DOGS.  As dogs were more scavengers at that time (think “hyena” or “dingo” or “wolf” instead) – less pets – I assume this is John’s way of describing people who prey on the vulnerable members of society.  This word was used in the culture of John’s time to refer to people who had fully degraded themselves in sin.  We’d call them “gangsters.”

In 22:18-19 John issues two warnings regarding the prophecy; do not add to it or take away from it.  This is serious; do not make it say what it clearly does not say.  Adding to the WORDS will result in God ironically adding to their life the PLAGUES DESCRIBED IN THIS BOOK (described in the seven trumpets and bowls in chapters 8-18).  People add their own rules, traditions, and false notions.  Taking away from the WORDS will result in God ironically taking away their SHARE IN THE TREE OF LIFE AND IN THE HOLY CITY.  People take away from God’s Word when they want to excuse sin and make easier to sin.

Because the Revelation is written with so much symbolism, it is a bit easier to twist the meaning.  Because the subject matter is so important – it exerts an influence on our imaginations and our faith and thereby has power to influence others – it is tempting to misuse it.  However, those who attempt to manipulate the Revelation to suit their own agenda are warned with the most severe penalties.  Resist the temptation.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can understand Revelation.  This will happen as we allow the words to speak for themselves, not as we impose our meanings on them.  Those who ADD TO or TAKE AWAY from God’s Word reveal themselves to be unbelievers.  This warning sounds a lot like the one Moses gave His people after giving God’s Law to them; “DO NOT ADD TO WHAT I COMMAND YOU AND DO NOT SUBTRACT FROM IT, BUT KEEP THE COMMANDS OF THE LORD YOUR GOD THAT I GIVE YOU.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)

The primary activity of the citizens of the Holy City will be worshipping God (22:3+5).

Worship of God appears throughout Revelation. Every scene of heaven is a scene where God is honored and glorified.  He is the hero of every Bible passage and as the highest possible good; it is to our blessing to worship Him.

There are a couple of verses that show what we might call “secondary” activities for the citizens of the Holy City.

– In 22:3, it says that HIS SERVANTS WILL SERVE HIM. From this brief remark we see that we will serve God in eternity as we have served Him in our brief time here on earth.  We do not have enough information to know what kinds of activity will be included with this service.  But the word translated as SERVE is used to describe religious activity.  While you may find work to be a “four letter word,” I believe we are promised that there will be work in heaven.  However, unlike earthly work, our eternal jobs will be meaningful and satisfying!

– In 22:5 we are promised we WILL REIGN FOR EVER AND EVER. Who or what will we rule over?  Is this more of a status than an activity?  There simply is not enough information to be specific.  What’s important is that the disciples of the One whom the world rejected will be, like Him, raised to rule.

Finally, the eternal residents of the Holy City fully committed themselves to God during their life in this world.  One way in which this commitment is symbolized is in 22:4: HIS NAME WILL BE ON THEIR foreheads.   (See also Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 13:16; 14:1+9; 17:5; 20:4 for the ways in which a mark on the forehead separates God’s people from the devil’s people.  This is clearly important.)  In Exodus 28:36, God commanded that the headdress worn by the high priest be decorated with a thin gold plate inscribed with the words, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. The connection here is that Revelation 1:6; 5:10; and 20:6 all promise that all the citizens of the New Jerusalem will be priests, wearing the NAME OF THE LORD on their foreheads.

Why the forehead?  When God commanded the Israelites to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Moses said, “THIS OBSERVANCE WILL BE FOR YOU LIKE A SIGN ON YOUR HAND AND A REMINDER ON YOUR FOREHEAD THAT THE LAW OF THE LORD IS TO BE ON YOUR LIPS.  FOR THE LORD BROUGHT YOU OUT OF EGYPT WITH HIS MIGHTY HAND.” (Exodus 13:9)  The answer to the question is simply “Because God said so.”  We can sentimentalize about head and hand representing thought and action, but there’s no textual evidence to support that extent of detail.  It is intended as a symbol of allegiance, a demonstration and reminder of whose we are.

The second way the citizens of the city demonstrated their loyalty was by keeping this prophecy, receiving the blessing mentioned in 22:7.  We can be confident about this promise of blessing because, as 22:6 points out, “THESE WORDS ARE TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE.” The words of this prophecy bless us when we…

… rely on them as a guide to moral living.

… receive hope for salvation.

… learn to love & show grace as God has been gracious to us.

… are drawn into communion with God.

A Heavenly View (Part One)

(Please read Revelation 21 & 22 in your preferred version of the Bible.  I use the NIV.)

The old mountaineer had lived a full but not exactly saintly life and now was on his deathbed. He summoned his weeping wife. “Sara,” he said, “go to the fireplace and take out the third stone from the top.” She did as instructed. “Reach in there,” said her husband, “and bring out what you find.”

Her fingers touched a large Mason jar, and with some effort she pulled it up. The jar was full of cash.

“Sara,” said the old man, “when I go, I’m going to take all that money with me. I want you to put that jar up in the attic by the window. I’ll get it as I go by on my way to heaven.”

His wife followed his instructions. That night the old mountaineer died. After the funeral his wife remembered the Mason jar and went to the attic. There was the jar still full of money and by the window.

“Oh,” the widow sighed. “I knew I should have put it in the basement.”

https://bible.org/node/10329

A Christian publisher will stop selling The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven now that the young subject paralyzed in a car crash says the story of going to heaven is not true. Tyndale House withdrew the best-selling 2010 book by Alex Malarkey and his father, Kevin Malarkey.

The publisher made the decision after Alex wrote an “open letter” to the retailer LifeWay which said, “I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.” It was posted on the Pulpit and Pen website.

The Malarkey book is one of a spate of best sellers about and by those who say they have gone to heaven and returned. The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven peaked at No. 46 on USA TODAY’s list.

According to the publisher’s description of the book, “in 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his 6-year-old son, Alex, suffered a horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex – and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. ‘I think Alex has gone to be with Jesus,’ a friend told the stricken dad. But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. ”

But in his open letter, Alex wrote: “I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2015/01/16/the-boy-who-came-back-from-heaven-untrue-alex-malarkey/21855709/

MESSAGE: If we live today with a view toward heaven, today will be a better day because we will be more godly people.

  1. The HOLY CITY.

Location: on the New Earth (see 21:2+10), where the New Jerusalem comes DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN FROM GOD.  As we will see repeatedly, John did not create these details, but used language and imagery familiar to himself and his readers in an effort to describe the indescribable.  For example, there are two references to NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH in the writings of the prophet Isaiah.

– 65:17 = BEHOLD, I WILL CREATE NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH. THE FORMER THINGS WILL NOT BE REMEMBERED, NOR WILL THEY COME TO MIND.

– 66:22 = “AS THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH THAT I MAKE WILL ENDURE BEFORE ME,” DECLARES THE LORD, “SO WILL YOUR NAME & DESCENDANTS ENDURE.”

God’s Purpose: primarily, to display his glory.  Remember, as the highest good, God can do no greater favor than to direct attention to Himself.  In any of us, this would be rightly condemned as egotism. But in God, it is the greatest kindness.  His secondary purpose is to provide an eternal home for his people.  Because of our self-centered nature, we typically get those two mixed up.

Construction: These details are meant to inspire and encourage our hope for heaven.

The jewels (PRECIOUS STONE) are symbols of grandeur and value.  In Isaiah 54:11-12, God promised to rebuild Jerusalem with TURQUOISE, SAPPHIRES, RUBIES, SPARKLING JEWELS and PRECIOUS STONES.  It can be argued that John’s organization of stones is according to color, but what really matters is the glory, grandeur, and value of these decorations as testimonies to God’s glory.

The HOLY CITY will be surrounded by A GREAT, HIGH WALL that will be 216’ thick! This is meant to give us a feeling of security that we want to associate with home.  In Isaiah 26:1-2 we read, IN THAT DAY THIS SONG WILL BE SUNG IN THE LAND OF JUDAH: WE HAVE A STRONG CITY; GOD MAKES SALVATION ITS WALLS AND RAMPARTS.  OPEN THE GATES THAT THE NATIONS MAY ENTER, THE NATION THAT KEEPS FAITH.  Ezekiel 48 details the measurements of a four-sided city and the allotments of land to the 12 tribes.

In that WALL there will be 12 GATES & 12 ANGELS.  The gates symbolize accessibility but the angelic guards imply that it is accessible only for those whom God has recognized as His own and has welcomed into His presence.  Ezekiel 48:30-35 also names the twelve gates with

the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.

In 21:25 it says ON NO DAY WILL ITS GATES EVER BE SHUT, FOR THERE WILL BE NO NIGHT THERE.  With sin, death, and Satan defeated, there will be no threats to bar the door against.  This aspect was also predicted by the prophet Isaiah in 60:11; “YOUR GATES WILL ALWAYS STAND OPEN, THEY WILL NEVER BE SHUT, DAY OR NIGHT, SO THAT MEN MAY BRING YOU THE WEALTH OF THE NATIONS – THE KINGS LED IN TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION.”

Elsewhere in the Bible, ANGELS guard the entrance to Eden and the empty tomb of Jesus.  God sets forth an angel honor guard at the most important places.  This aspect is also promised to us directly in Psalms 91:11 = FOR HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU IN ALL YOUR WAYS;

Each gate is a SINGLE PEARL.  Of all precious stones, the ancients held pearls as the most valuable. Jesus illustrated the Kingdom of Heaven with the parable of “The Pearl of Great Price” (see Matthew 13:45-46).

The Holy City is situated on 12 FOUNDATIONS which bear the names of the Apostles.  This is obviously a special recognition, like the names of the 12 tribes of Israel above the gates.  Thus, the “Big Twelve” of both testaments are honored.  Why name the foundational levels of the city with the names of the Apostles?  It is because they preached the Gospel, the foundation of faith.  In 1 Corinthians 3:11, the Apostle Paul identified Jesus as the FOUNDATION of the Church.  But, as Jesus and the Apostles are inseparable, there is no contradiction.  (Jesus is the Word – the logos – of God after all.  The subject of FOUNDATIONS is an important one in the Bible: the word is used 77 times.

Immense measurements are given in describing the size of the New Jerusalem.   They are staggering! A cube measuring 1500 miles on each side has an interior volume of 3,375,000,000 miles.  We are to understand from these difficult-to-imagine numbers that here is room for everyone!  In John 14:1-3, Jesus promised, “DO NOT LET YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED.  TRUST IN GOD, TRUST ALSO IN ME.  IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE ARE MANY ROOMS; IF IT WERE NOT SO, I WOULD HAVE TOLD YOU.  I AM GOING THERE TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU.  AND IF I GO AND PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU, I WILL COME BACK AND TAKE YOU TO BE WITH ME THAT YOU ALSO MAY BE WHERE I AM.”  Though the details are not the same, the measuring of t NEW JERUSALEM is very much like the vision God gave the prophet Ezekiel, in chapters 40-42 where an angel with a golden measuring rod measured the dimensions of a heavenly city and its temple.

In ancient cultures, a cube was considered the perfect shape.   In the Jewish faith, the Holy of Holies in the temple was a cube.  Some of the temple furnishing and the high priest’s ephod were described as cubic.  This may be John’s way of reinforcing the perfection of the New Jerusalem.

THE CITY [and] THE GREAT STREET was OF PURE GOLD, LIKE TRANSPARENT AS GLASS. This is a level of the purity of gold in terms that could be imagined in the natural world, but impossible to achieve.  Thus, it describes a supernatural quality of refinement that would only be possible with God.  It is a quality of gold that is so shiny it reflects light to the same degree as crystal (GLASS).  Revelation 21:23-24 says that the glory (the bright light of God’s presence) will be in that place.  Try to imagine that bright light reflected by every single surface inside and outside this city.  WOW!

THE WATER OF LIFE is a symbol that occurs in both chapters.  In 21:6, Jesus offers the WATER OF LIFE to all who are THIRSTY.  This is an image of desiring God in a similar way to thirsting for water.  Trust in God through faith is way to be saved, to receive LIFE.  (See Isaiah 55:1-2 for this imagery applied to the Messiah.)

22:1-2 describes the RIVER that carries the WATER OF LIFE through the New Jerusalem.  As we’ve just observed w/t GOLD, the WATER OF LIFE is also CRYSTAL clear.  This is a measure of its purity.  FLOWING FROM THE THRONE implies that it comes from God, which makes perfect sense as God is t Creator of all life.  The river flows THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET, a detail that implies that life is at the center of the entire city.

Jesus identified Himself as life-giving water to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:14.  Genesis 2:10 tells us that a river ran through the Garden of Eden; that it was the headwaters of all the great rivers of the ancient world.  This is another way of saying that LIFE flows from God; He is Creator and Preserver of creation.  The OT prophets Ezekiel, Joel, and Zechariah all had visions of a river of life that flowed from the presence of God.

THE TREE OF LIFE is another symbol that effectively makes the same point as the WATER OF LIFE; eternal life is a gift of God.  The RIVER satisfies our thirst for God, the TREE our hunger.

The TREE OF LIFE is also a symbol that is originally found in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9).  Ezekiel saw several trees on each bank of the river in his vision (47:7-12), but he and John agree on the pertinent detail, that eternal LIFE is imparted as we are healed from all the hurts of this life.

Jesus promised to be the source of all life.  His words recorded in John 6:37-40 are particularly appropriate here: “ALL THAT THE FATHER GIVES TO ME WILL COME TO ME, AND WHOEVER COMES TO ME I WILL NEVER DRIVE AWAY.  FOR I HAVE COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN NOT TO DO MY WILL BUT TO DO THE WILL OF HIM WHO SENT ME. AND THIS IS THE WILL OF HIM WHO SENT ME, THAT I SHALL LOSE NONE OF ALL THAT HE HAS GIVEN ME, BUT RAISE THEM UP AT THE LAST DAY.

The TREE will have TWELVE KINDS OF FRUIT, yielded twelve times a year.  It’s clear that God will meet all our needs. The LEAVES of the TREE are also useful; they will heal the NATIONS.  The kind of healing is spiritual – as verse 3 makes clear – there is no more CURSE.

One day after Albert Einstein had moved to his home at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, the telephone rang in the office of the dean of the Princeton Graduate  School and the voice at the other end asked: “May I speak with Dr. Einstein, please?”

\          Advised he was not in, the voice continued: “Perhaps then you will tell me where Dr. Einstein lives.”

The secretary replied that she could not do this, as Dr. Einstein wished to have is privacy respected.

The voice on the telephone dropped to a whisper: “Please don’t tell anyone, but I am Dr. Einstein. I am on my way home and forgotten where my house is.”

http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-stories-heaven-forgetfulness-60326.asp

God’s message to us this morning is, “Don’t forget where your home is.”  Having heaven as your eternal home changes the way you live today.  It changes what you see as important, how you act & what you say.

(Main Points #2 and 3 will appear in next week’s post.)

High Altitude Attitudes – The Beatitudes (3rd of 3)

(Read Matthew 5:1-12, NIV.)

REVIEW

  1. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Spiritual Poverty (3).
  2. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Mourning (4).
  3. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Meekness (5).
  4. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Righteous Ambition (6).
  5. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Mercy (7).
  6. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Purity (8).

NEW

  1. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Peace (9).

Our attitude is to struggle.  When is peace absent?  When we are in conflict – with God, others, and/or self.  What causes conflict?  When we struggle – for things, for understanding, for advantage.  Whether by our choice or others, struggles come and peace goes.

The Jesus beatitude is ­­peace. Peace comes with resolution of struggles, the solution of problems, the restoration of relationships.  This is the kind of rest that comes with God’s approval; the spirit, mind, and heart are at ease because all has been done that can be done has been done.

The adjustment is the hard work of resolution.  Generally speaking, we have one of three attitudes toward peace (this has been derived from Ken Sande’s book Peace Makers):

– A “Peace-breaker” desires to win the struggle at all costs.  There is NO PEACE with them.

– A “Peace-faker” = desires to end the struggle at all costs.  There is FALSE PEACE with them. This is the most common approach with lots of variations.

– A “Peace-maker” = desires to resolve the struggle in the most godly way and at the lowest cost to the relationships involved.  There is TRUE PEACE with them.

The reward is divine family identity.  The word here is SONS, as in “heirs.”  This is a more personal choice of words than “child,” which indicates a member of the family, but is less personal.  The reward is to be made a member of the family – to share in the family name and reputation – to have a personal stake in promises of God.

Part of being a SON in this sense is to share a family identity.  As Christians, our family identity is to be known as peace-makers. Paul explained this in 2 Corinthians 5:18 = ALL THIS IS FROM GOD, WHO RECONCILED US TO HIMSELF THROUGH CHRIST AND GAVE US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION: THAT GOD WAS RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF IN CHRIST, NOT COUNTING MEN’S SINS AGAINST THEM.  AND HE HAS COMMITTED TO US THE MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION.

Jesus’ promise is repeated in James 3:18 = PEACEMAKERS WHO SOW IN PEACE RAISE A HARVEST OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

  1. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Overcoming Persecution (10).

Our attitude is to escape trials.  It is human nature to want to avoid hurt, sorrow, or suffering.  (That is good if it keeps us from doing stupid things, but bad if it keeps us from doing the right thing.) Also, this can never be the focus of our lives.  Having faith means that we will have to trust God and occasionally take risks and suffer persecution.

The Jesus beatitude is perseverance­.  God allows trials in our lives in order to strengthen our faith by making it more pure.  1 Peter 1:6-7 provides us an explanation of this dynamic of faith:= IN THIS YOU GREATLY REJOICE, THOUGH NOW FOR A LITTLE WHILE HOU MAY HAVE HAD TO SUFFER GRIEF IN ALL KINDS OF TRIALS.  THESE HAVE COME SO THAT YOUR FAITH – OF GREATER WORTH THAN GOLD, WHICH PERISHES EVEN THOUGH REFINED BY FIRE – MAY BE PROVED GENUINE AND MAY RESULT IN PRAISE, GLORY AND HONOR WHEN JESUS CHRIST IS REVEALED.  Just as conflict avoidance is not to be mistaken for peace, so must the avoidance of suffering not be mistaken for overcoming.

The adjustment is the experience of overcoming.  The experience of suffering is the only way to really build our spiritual strength and commitment to the will of God, expressed here in the word RIGHTEOUSNESS, which we defined last week in developing v. 6: we are to HUNGER AND THIRST for RIGHTEOUSNESS, so it is worth it to us to suffer for this reason.  The overcomer is the person who seeks God’s will in spite of what they want or what others want.

The reward is the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever happens in this life, no matter what form persecution takes or the result it brings, the more important thing is realizing this promise of being part of the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.  As we have often seen with these promises, it is something we experience in this life and in the life to come.  Our citizenship in God’s kingdom affects how we live now and how where we’re headed after we die.

  1. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment–Overcoming Insults (11-12).

Our attitude is sinful speech.  It’s easy to divide, to stress differences, to be guilty of prejudice.  This is why it happens so often.  Whether this comes from the sinful nature or our human nature, it is an offense against God.  Sinful speech is the most common kind of sin, the most difficult to guard against, and very destructive of relationships.  This fact is vividly taught in James 3:6: THE TONGUE ALSO IS A FIRE, A WORLD OF EVIL AMONG THE PARTS OF THE BODY.  IT CORRUPTS THE WHOLE PERSON, SETS THE WHOLE COURSE OF HIS LIFE ON FIRE, AND IS ITSELF SET ON FIRE BY HELL.

The Jesus beatitude is ­to smile.  In instances where our faith makes us the target of sins of the tongue, Jesus urges us to smile; well, it literally reads, REJOICE AND BE GLAD.  (The adjustment described below is the reason for rejoicing.) This may sound over-simplistic or even frivolous, but there is no better way to disarm someone looking for a fight than to smile at them.  Hugh Martin wrote, “There are Christians who go about asking for trouble and get disliked not because of their Christianity but for their lack of it.” (The Beatitudes, Harper & Brothers, 1953, p. 79.)

The adjustment is seeing the big picture.  In the moment, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and lose our perspective.  We can be fooled into forgetting there’s more at work and more at stake in the situation.  Jesus’ advice in these situations is two-fold:

– Remember your reward is in heaven.  Don’t get hung up on the earthly bits.

– Remember your legacy of faith; IN THE SAME WAY THEY PERSECUTED THE PROPHETS WHO WERE BEFORE YOU.

As we observed with verse 9, faith makes us part of a family.  As part of a family, we have a family history.  Part of that history is the prophets; people who spoke for God and were persecuted for the messages they brought – sometimes horribly.  Of course, believers have been persecuted throughout all times and in all places; more than just the PROPHETS have suffered for their faith.  But they were ready examples.

The reward is great in heaven.  The objective of life is not the worldly stuff we accumulate, even intangible things like a “legacy.”  The objective of this life is the things of eternal significance that we do.  Those are the things that earn us a GREAT REWARD in HEAVEN!  (We don’t earn a place in heaven; that’s God’s grace.  But we do earn rewards in heaven.)