I’m very sorry I haven’t been posting lately, and I’m aiming to fix that. School is about to start up again, and combined with some other things I’ve started doing recently, I’ll mainly have to return to posting on the weekends again, or when I have time to.
Monthly Archives: August 2013
Today God has given me something in Revelation 3, verses 17 through 19, which say:
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:17-19)
A couple days ago, we talked about how you could be the poorest person in the World, but still be rich if you had Christ. Well, thing about that is, it works the other way ’round, too. If you don’t have Jesus in your life, it doesn’t matter how rich you are, you’re Spiritually poor. This is why God counsels them to “buy from me gold refined by fire,” because His “gold” is Spiritual. His gold represents a life lived closer with Himself, and with a greater amount of fellowship with Christ-something which is far more valuable than any Earthly gold. He also counsels them to ‘buy’ from Him “white garments,” so that their “nakedness”-i.e., their sin-may not be seen. He also tells them to buy from Him ‘salve’ for their eyes, so that they’ll be able to discern right from wrong, given that sin often times blinds us to the wrongness of our actions.
Hopefully this is nothing new, though. Most Christians know that their relationship with Christ should come before money, family, friends, etc., and that we need Christ to cover over our sins, and that apart from Jesus helping us to see, we would be Spiritually blind. The really interesting bit about this passage, however, is that He tells the Church in Laodicea to buy from Him the gold, garment, and salve. We all know that God is no peddler, why should He be when He made everything (including money) in the Universe? Moreover, Spiritual things are not easily purchased… You’ll be hard pressed to find cream in your local drug store that can allow you to see your sin clearly for what it is, or a robe that can cover your sin entirely.
So then, how do we buy something from someone who already owns everything we could give Him? We don’t. We couldn’t if we tried, because we humans are physical beings (up to the point when we die). It’s just as impossible for us to purchase something Spiritual with something physical as it would be for fire to purchase water; the two just don’t mix. That is why it took Christ, being both fully God (Spiritually) and man (physically), to purchase what we could not. It seems that God is telling the Church to “buy” the various items, in order to get them to realize that, in spite of their Earthly riches, they could not buy this with money. He’s showing them here the pointlessness of wealth that isn’t coupled with a love for Christ.
No currency in the World could have bought what Jesus bought for us with His death and Resurrection. It’s only by His paying the greatest price that we could be given a relationship with God; it’s only by His blood that our sin could be entirely covered, as by with a robe; it’s only by Him being made blind in death that we should be able to see clearly. So then, let’s give Christ the glory, and stop focusing so much on the money we do or do not have. In the end, it really won’t matter how much money we died with, but it will matter if died without having a relationship and love for Christ.
Today God has given me something in Revelation 3, verses 14 through 16, which say:
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16)
Being lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-is never a Spiritually good thing. If you’re on ‘fire’ for Christ, and are really feeling zealous for God, then wonderful! If you’re really struggling with sin, and having a truly hard time, then you have only to repent and God will forgive you. The problem comes with being lukewarm; when you’re “lukewarm,” you aren’t doing anything to further God’s kingdom, but you aren’t exactly struggling with sin either. It’s the kind of thing where it’s a problem, not because it’s impacting your life, but because you’re setting an example of mediocrity for others; an example of being in the World and almost not of it.
One sinful person who refuses to repent can infect a body of believers. Likewise, one person with true zeal for God in his heart can have a positive impact on a Church. A lukewarm believer, however, impacts the Church without being readily obvious in doing so. By that I mean, a lukewarm believer slows everyone down, by the simple fact that they aren’t doing anything. Someone whose sinning can repent and use their experience with that sin issue to help others with their sin issues, but a lukewarm believer can only cool the fire of a zealous person, or halfheartedly try to help someone whose stuck in sin. They don’t help others learn from their mistakes, nor do they help spread the Gospel, but rather simply hinder the Church by sapping the life out of it.
Thus, we see God saying that He’s going to “spit them out of his mouth.” Jesus didn’t die and rise again so that we could go to Church, sit there dully for an hour or two, then head home. He died so that we could be given a new life, not so that we could give Him half our worship. Giving Him half our devotion is in fact more counter-productive then blatantly living in sin, because the one whose blatantly living in sin knows that they are sinning, and can thus repent. However, with someone who only gives half his worship to God, it is possible for them to not immediately realize that they’re also giving half their worship to the World; after all, they go to Church, perhaps they even read their Bible from time to time. Surely the fact that they get drunk from time to time, or that they smoke, or gamble on occasion, surely that’s perfectly fine. I can tell you now, the two do not counter balance each-other. You can’t really live a half-life; you can try, but in reality you’re giving your life to Satan and deluding yourself about it.
We must always strive, then, to not only be giving God half our worship. Jesus sent us His Holy Spirit after ascending to be with the Father, it would be abusing His gift to only half love God, or to only half obey when He asks us to do something. God wants those who are on fire for Him, not those who put up a facade of Christianity to make them-self feel justified when their sin later.
Today God has given me something in Revelation 3, verses 7 through 8, which say:
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:7-8)
That we do good ‘works’ is not something which is required for a Christian to be saved. Good works have no part in salvation, other than to make it clear that we are indeed saved; if you don’t try stop that robber, or you walk away from a mugging, you need to seriously examine your faith. However, God does still judges our deeds… Not to determine if we’re worthy of His grace, but to see who would benefit most from having a door opened in some area of ministry for them. As He says here, “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”
They didn’t deny His name, and they did good in His sight, thus He rewards them with a more influential ministry. He hasn’t stopped doing that just because some time has passed, either. However, God opening a door for us doesn’t entirely hinge upon us doing good works. God loves to open doors for people to do good works, give them a little shove towards it, then reward them when they actually do those good works. However, what is important for us, is to ‘walk through the door’ when it is opened. We shouldn’t hesitate because we aren’t sure it’s in our best interests, or because we think it will take away from our free times; anything God wants us to do is always in our ‘best interests’.
Knowing if it’s God’s will for us to doing something, though, is a tad harder. That requires discernment. However, a general rule of thumb is this: if it would further God’s kingdom, it’s probably from God.
Today God gave me something in Revelation 3, verses 1 through 4, which say:
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:1-4)
It’s possible to act like a Christian, and to talk like a Christian, but not be a Christian. This I believe is what the Church in Sardis was; pretending to be “alive” while they were living in sin. God is telling them here to wake up to their sin, and repent while there were still some in their congregation that weren’t yet trapped by sin… The same can be said of many Churches today; there are more than a few claiming to be alive in Christ, but not actually having faith in Christ as their savior.
I do not believe it is possible to lose your salvation, but it is possible to have never been saved. An empty confession of faith, which lacks actual conviction or meaning, means nothing. If we’re living in habitual sin, we need to really examine our-selves and see if our confession in Christ really is genuine. No Christian will ever completely fall to sin, though it is possible to stumble for a time. Thus, if we find our-selves in bondage to something, we need to ask God to save us from that which is enslaving us–it’s just common logic.
Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 20 through 23, which say:
But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:20-23)
Talking about “God” is something Christians often enjoy. What they often times do not enjoy, is talking about God’s hate. God’s hate and wrath is somewhat taboo among Christians, because many think that for God to hate anything or anyone would be for Him to be a hypocrite. After all, He Himself commanded that no one should murder, and then through His son Jesus said that hate is murder. However, God’s anger is not like human anger. For example, here we see that God is angry at Jezebel, not just because she had sinned against Him, but because she was tempting the Church to sin. Basically, God’s anger is always righteous. He never acts rashly like we humans sometimes do, rather He gives the person time to repent. If they do not repent, and they still persist in hurting the Church, that is when He delivers punishment.
We humans get annoyed easily; some more so than others, some less, but it’s none-the-less true that we all get annoyed more quickly than we might like. God isn’t like that. God never got angry at us when we rejected His son prior to being saved, and Jesus didn’t even get angry when He was being wrongly crucified for sins He didn’t even commit. This is because God never gets angry when it is He Himself being mocked by some foolish human (though that particular foolish human can expect some form of, un-angry, divine retribution), but He does get quite angry when it’s His people being attacked.
In the Old Testament, God ordered the Israelites to attack neighboring empires and wipe them out, or make them slaves. He did this because those people and the empires to which they belonged had angered Him by attacking or mocking His people. What He did not do, is punish them in a vindictive rage, intending to “make those people pay,” for something they’d done against Him.
This is why, while Jezebel’s punishment may seem harsh, just as the punishment God doled out to certain nations in the Old Testament may seem “harsh,” it’s not actually as harsh as we might think. What we frequently misunderstand is just how horrendous God sees a woman such as Jezebel, or a nation that mocks Him and His people. We look at people like her and are ashamed on behalf of the parents who raised her, or we consider calling the cops on her in a more modern World. God looks at her, and He sees that her heart only wanted to turn aside Christians, and that her mind was taken over by Satan. He sees the demon behind the mask, if you will. That is why God’s punishment is never as harsh as we think it is–He sees far more than we ever can, and thus understands far better than we ever can what should be done.
Today the pastor was a gust speaker, who worked as representative of Shepherd’s College. As a result of his job, his sermon did seem to be a bit of a advertisement for Shepherd’s College (a college helping those with intellectual disabilities). That aside however, the actual passage he chose to preach on was 2nd Samuel 9:1-8.
Given that we had communion on this particular Sunday, and that they were trying to fit in a promotional video for Shepherd’s College (as well as a few stories about the people who had been changed by it), the sermon only had one point: We should love others, regardless of any disabilities they may have, just like David cared for Mephibosheth in spite of the fact that he was crippled.– To phrase it differently: In the same way that God showed His love for human kind by giving His son for us, in spite of our sinful nature (which must have looked to God much the way that a mental or physical disability in a fellow human looks to us), we should show love to others regardless of how they appear to us at the moment.
Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 12 through 14, which say:
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:12-14)
One interesting thing to note about this passage, is that God isn’t criticizing them when He says that they dwell where Satan’s throne is. To the contrary, it’s only after He mentions it that He says what it is He has against them. What the church in Pergamum was doing, was setting up a camp right next to Hell, if you will. Most Christians today aren’t even willing to go near the “bad side” of town, much less live in a city that hated Christians; they deserved some form of recognition. However, living so near to sin lead to some of them to return to it.
There is always danger when we are near to sin. Paul put it rather well in his epistle to the Galatians, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (see: Galatians 6:1) Though we might not fall for the teaching of Balaam, we may be tempted by other things. Everyone has something that, if they were not clinging to Christ, they would turn to–some type of modern-day idol. Which is why it is so important that we do evangelize and help others who have fallen to sin, but we do so while keeping our-self pure from the sin which they are caught in. And, as only Christ is pure in this World full of impurity, that means making sure that our focus is on Him. Of course, our focus should always be on Him, but even more so when we’re trying to help a fallen brother or sister.
Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 8 through 11, which say:
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’ (Revelation 2:8-11)
God knew that the Church at Smyrna was in a time of tribulation and poverty. He knew that legalists (i.e., those who call themselves Jews because they, for the most part, try to obey the legal requirements of the law, yet don’t believe in salvation through Jesus’ death and Resurrection) were slandering them, and He knew that they were going to have to endure even more suffering in the future. Some even believe the ‘ten days of tribulation’ refer not to ten actual days in which the Church would be persecuted, but rather to ten Roman emperors under which Christianity would suffer.
In spite of knowing all this, though, God tells them not to fear. He even goes further than that, saying that not only are they not poor, they’re rich. And they were, too, just not physically. The reality is, you could be the poorest person in the World, and still be rich. You could not only be poor, but be suffering persecution for your faith, and be looking forward to nothing more than a life time still to come of suffering, and still have nothing to fear. These poor people were living in a very difficult time for Christianity, in a place that particularly disliked Christians. Yet, they could rest just as easy as many Christians today living in the United States, because they had Christ.
Jesus makes all the difference. You are never poor if you have Jesus, because your spirit will always be rich. You could be living as the Church in Smyrna was: with no foreseeable Earthly hope on the horizon, and yet you could still be happy and bold, because Jesus makes us look past the mortal on to the immortal. Everything on this Earth will pass at some point, but Heaven and God are eternal.
The last section of the passage makes this point nicely when it says, “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.'” The ‘second death’ (which is complete separation from God in Hell) won’t touch Christians, because as Paul puts it, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (see: Romans 8:37). What cause have conquerors to fear? What cause have the rich to believe themselves to be poor? We simply have to look to Christ whenever we’re feeling like poverty is closing in, or when we’re being tempted by Satan. Whenever we look to Christ, we see that, in everything, He makes us more than conquerors.