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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Spiritual Divorce – Abandoning Our First Love

Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 2 through 5, which say:

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:2-5)

If God has something against you, it tends to be wise to listen to what He says and change accordingly. This passage, however, could be confusing. ‘Abandoning your first love,’ could mean a variety of things. It could mean that many people in the Church were getting divorced, or even that some people were literally abandoning their spouse (i.e., leaving without being divorced). However, we should keep in mind what we talked about in the first couple of verses of Revelation: the book of Revelation is not a revelation about us, but a revelation of Christ. Therefore, it seems unlikely that this passage would be talking about physical divorce, as that in no way reveals Christ. Quite the opposite, actually, as whenever a couple divorces, we see a reminder of humanity’s fallen nature.

Spiritual divorce, however, is something this passage could be talking about. The reason for this being, that when you’re born again, you’re “first love” is always Christ. Before being born again, and being given a new nature, you could well have loved another human, and when you become a Christian that isn’t taken away. However, that fellow human is no longer your first love, Jesus is. Thus, when God talks here about how the Church had ‘abandoned the love they had at first,’ He seems to be saying that they abandoned their love for Christ.

Can you remember when you first became a Christian? You were likely feeling zealous for God, praying frequently, and possibly in the Word rather more than you are now… To put it one way,if you still maintain the same zeal, love, and passion for Christ as when you were saved, I’m afraid you must have already died and gone to Heaven. It is simply not possible while we still live in flesh and bone bodies to always be passionate for Christ. Along with everything else in the World after the fall, our love for God gradually decays if we aren’t constantly in the Word and around other believers. The Church in Ephesus, sadly, had let its love for Christ ‘decay’ so much that their worship was likely in a fairly poor state. Thus, God is warning them that if they continue to put Jesus off to the side in their services, He will have to take away their light. That isn’t to say He would take away their salvation, only that He would take away their effectiveness in the World as lights for God.

There is some pretty clear application for us here. We have to be careful that we don’t allow ourselves to become complacent in our love for Christ. He should always be the center of our worship, whether that worship is private or public (such as in a Church). Setting up a daily reading schedule for your family can help in this a lot, as can making time every day to be alone and pray.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Seven Lampstands

Today God has given me something in Revelation, chapter 1, verses 10 through 13, which say:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. (Revelation 1:10-13)

Remember those “symbolic sentences“? This passage is has quite a few of them. However, one thing that somewhat sticks out, is the seven lampstands. There are seven churches which God tells John to send this book to, seven lampstands, and in the middle of the seven lampstands stands Jesus.

The specific number of lampstands (i.e., seven) seem to indicate a correlation with the seven Churches. An interpretation which makes sense, considering that the purpose of a Church is to uphold the light. Also, when we understand that it must be Jesus in the middle of the lampstands (given that only Jesus would have the voice of God and yet be in the form of a man), we see the Churches are centered around Christ. So then, what we see is seven Churches, upholding the light, and centered around Jesus.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Interpretation

 

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The Witness, Firstborn Among the Dead, and King of All

Today God has given me something in Revelation 1, verses 4 through 6, which say:

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:4-6)

One thing we’re going to be seeing a lot of in Revelation, is symbolic sentences. By that, I mean that we’ll be seeing a lot of sentences that are meant to convey much more than they immediately do at first glance. One such sentence is actually to be found here, where John says, “and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.”

To address the first bit of the sentence, we know that Jesus is a faithful witness because He is constantly witnessing before the Father for us. Not witnessing of our own ‘good’ works, but of His own death on our behalf…. The only work by which we can actually be saved.

A slightly more tricky phrase is when He is called the, “firstborn of the dead.” This can be interpreted in light of Jesus’ Resurrection-that would make Him, in a manner of speaking, to be the firstborn from the grave into a new, eternal life. However, we know that Jesus can’t only be the firstborn of the physical dead, as He was not the first person to be raised to life form the dead. For example, Ezekiel (in Ezekiel 37:1-14) raises an entire valley of the dead to life. So then, we can determine that Jesus is not the firstborn of the physical dead, but rather of the Spiritual dead. Jesus died physically, but then He went through the second death too – complete separation from the Father, and being sent to Hell. Thus, He can be called ‘the firstborn of the [Spiritually] dead’.

This can be interpreted in a different way though, if you consider the Jewish culture of the day. The Jews held the firstborn in very high esteem; the firstborn was considered to be superior to all his siblings. Thus, if you think of it that way, you could say that Jesus holds preeminence over everyone, as eventually everyone dies. You could also just leave out the last bit and say that Jesus holds preeminence over the dead, if you wanted to keep from straying too far from the text.

The final interesting bit of the sentence calls Jesus the, “ruler of kings on earth.” Now, contrary to what I said earlier about sentences having deeper meaning than they may first appear, this particular part of the sentence is somewhat clear. Jesus is preeminent over every king (you’ll note that this also fits in with the second interpretation of the “firstborn of the dead” bit). The reason he is superior to every king, is that He is the greatest and most powerful kind of king–a king who is not only a king, but also a prophet and a priest.

The Jews forbid any king to be a priest, any priest to be a king, and any prophet to be a priest (etc.), in part because having two or more roles was seen to give one person too much power. It acted as a fairly effective system of checks and balances (unless the king decided to disobey a priest or prophet; just read 1st or 2nd Kings to see how well that went.). However, Jesus became all three when He died for us and rose again: On the cross, Jesus made everyone all believers His subjects, offered a sacrifice for sins, and predicted that three days later He would rise again (of course, this last bit is a bit of a stretch, as He actually predicted both His death and Resurrection prior to the cross, you get the picture though.).

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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A Revelation of Christ

In order to avoid too much repetition, given that the Psalms do tend to somewhat repeat themselves (leading to me repeating myself in some of my posts), I’ve decided to move for a bit to the book of Revelation. We will return to where we left off in the Psalms once we’ve finished Revelation. With that said, the passage we’ll start off looking at is in Revelation 1, verses 1 through 2:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Revelation 1:1-2)

The interesting thing about John’s choice (which is reality is God’s choice) to start off the book in this way, is that it somewhat sets the scene for the rest of the book. “The revelation of Jesus Christ,” tells us that this is a revelation of Jesus Christ. I hate to restate the obvious, but it’s important to know that the book is intended to be read as a revelation of Christ. Not as a book about revelations about life, or for that matter of any other subject; though we can certainly learn lessons from it that we can and should apply in our own lives. So then, essentially, we can know that everything we read is meant to reveal some characteristic of Christ to us.

 
 

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Calling Upon God

Today God has given me something in Psalm 86, verses 4 through 7, which say:

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. (Psalms 86:4-7)

God is good. Not only is He good, He’s forgiving, and abounding in love, to all who call upon Him. He is the one person who we can confide and trust entirely in, because He already knows everything bad we’ve ever done, and in spite of it has still forgiven us. God alone understands every temptation we’ve ever gone through, because only He (through His son Jesus) has experienced the exact temptations we’ve experienced.

We can pray to God when we’re in trouble, because we know He’ll answer us. For Him not to answer us when we’re in trouble or being tempted, would be the same as for Him to ignore Jesus (as Hebrews 7:25 points out, Jesus is forever interceding on our behalf before the Father.). Thus, we can send our plea for grace to Him, knowing that He will indeed answer us. Of course, whether that answer will be “yes” depends upon whether the prayer is according to His will or not; If we truly are pleading for Him to give us grace, however, we can be assured that He will always give it to us in abundance.

 
 

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Sacrifices

Today God has given me something in Psalm 76, verses 6 through 12, which says:

At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned. But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Selah. Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt. Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth. (Psalms 76:6-12)

God is a just God. He can’t look on sin, and not “utter judgment” upon it; it’s simply not in His nature to turn a blind eye. Back then, they believed that by bringing God gifts (i.e. gifts of food and livestock, also known as sacrifices) they somehow merited favor with Him. Of course, we know today that no sacrifice that they could offer would earn them any kind of forgiveness before God. Hebrews 10 makes that clear:

8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”He sets aside the first to establish the second. (Hebrews 10:8-9)

The sacrifices that they once offered where only a foreshadow of something that was to come. They were never meant to save anyone, and thus had no power to atone for sins. However, when God saw an innocent creature being killed in order to, in the minds of the people in question, atone for the sins of the people, He would look forward to a different sacrifice which could (and did) atone for sins. The author of Hebrews states it best just a couple of verses farther from the last section we quoted:

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices,which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14)

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, our sins have been entirely and completely atoned for. We no longer have to give gifts to God (though we should want now to offer our time and energy to Him), because He gave the greatest gift to us. We no longer have to live in fear that God will punish us, because there is no more punishment left for us (though God will still discipline His children when need-be; it would be cruel of Him not to)!

 
 

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Is Christianity “Worth It”

Today God has given me something in Psalm 73, verses 13 through 17, which say:

All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. (Psalms 73:13-17)

Sometimes it can seem almost as if it’s not really “worth it” to be a Christian. By that, I mean it can at times seem like you’re going through a lot of effort keeping yourself “holy,” and really aren’t getting much in return. Of course, this comes from a wrongful perception of what is really worthwhile, as well a misunderstanding about what Jesus has done for us, but even so it is possible to be misled into thinking that way. Regardless, we know that the Psalmist is questioning why he ever signed up for this deal, when it seems as though God won’t even protect him from being beaten and rebuked.

Sin can appear very appetizing. Solomon put it best in Proverbs 23 (if you take drunkenness to be a stand-in for all types of sin):

Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup,
    when it goes down smoothly!
 In the end it bites like a snake
    and poisons like a viper. (Proverbs 23:31-32)

Sin is never good. It certainly seems good in the moment, at times it can even seem as though there’s nothing wrong with it. However, no sin is ever good, nor “worth it,” nor correct under any circumstances (a point which has been debated, but is none-the-less true). Something which the Psalmist realizes at the end of this passage (i.e., in this section: “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.“). More than that though, you have to lose sight of Christ in order to commit any sin. What more effective way is there to show disdain for Christ giving His very life for us, to chose sin (even if only for a time) over Him?

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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