Jesus Lord of All – A Call to Integrity and Purity

June 19, 201
 
Revelation 2:12-29  From possibly different angles, the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira were  facing temptations and false teachings we face today, and Jesus issues a call to integrity and  purity.

A Word of Perspective – We gain perspective in the person and power of Jesus who has the ability to see all that goes on and the ability to purge and discipline. We find perspective in Jesus’ knowledge of our external and internal pressures to compromise our faith in Him and His moral standards. We find perspective in Jesus’ commendation of faithfulness and service.

A Word of Re-Alignment and Purification – One issue is religious syncretism as we face the pressure to deny the unique place and nature of Jesus and His claims to be the only way of salvation. Another issue is Christian participation in practices connected to false gods or characterized by immorality. Whether to avoid persecution, keep family relationships, get ahead in business, or enjoy worldly pleasure, we face the temptation to participate in un-Godliness and are called to purity. A third issue is sexual morality, and some teach Christians are to be no different than the world,         a view Jesus flatly condemns.

A Word of Promise – Jesus promises those who buy into the error of participating in false worship and immorality He will speak against with His powerful Word, and He promises suffering and punishment on those who teach in the church that false worship and immorality are acceptable for Christians. Jesus also promises rulership and fellowship and new identity in Christ to the faithful.

The character of Jesus and the values of the Kingdom are fundamentally different from the world. Jesus makes it clear He calls for loyalty and purity of faith, life, and morality.

We face the temptation to compromise in several ways:

  • The Christian in the workplace challenged to compromise to get ahead or fit in
  • The Christian with family members who claim to be in Christ are living in sin and who want us to approve
  • The Christian who influences children, grandchildren, others and wants to be accepted and is tempted to take them places or buy things for them that violate God’s Word, heart, and call
  • The Christian with friends, neighbors, acquaintances of other faiths pressured to believe all faiths are equal

Getting off-track in one or more of these areas looks like:

  • Faith compromise in our thinking
  • Allowing moral compromise into our living or thinking
  • Holding to the wrong standards
  • Being un-Christian to get along
  • Twisting God’s standards
  • Buying into un-Godliness
  • Placing faith in something or someone other than Jesus
  • Leading others to sin or approving sin in others

The Christian call is to:

  • Not compromise loyalty to Jesus through participating in things that violate faith in Him
  • Stay true to the message
  • Maintain moral uprightness
  • Influence others for Godliness

 



Jesus Lord of All – A Call to Courageous Endurance

June 12, 2018

Revelation 2:8-11  If Jesus were to evaluate a church, what would He affirm, and what would He correct? The church at Smyrna was going through and heading toward very hard times, and Jesus called them and calls us to courageous endurance.

 

A Word of Perspective – Jesus offers us encouragement by helping us see things His way. He gives us perspective in His victory over suffering and death, calling us to face suffering with the same assurance of sharing in His victory. This is a matter of following His example and finding strength in who Jesus is – as the First and Last and the One who died and rose again. It is perspective found in the fact that Jesus knows and care about what we go through and perspective in the Kingdom values that help us resist the world’s opposition.

 

A Word of Perseverance – Christians in Smyrna may have been tempted to sell out and worship Caesar, confessing that he was lord instead of remaining true to Jesus. They faced fear and slander, and they even faced horrible deaths. Similarly, we may be tempted to deny Christ, and we may face slander and the fear of loss, inconvenience, and        opposition for Christ, as well as possibly death for Christ someday.

 

A Word of Promise – To those who overcome and remain true to Jesus, He promises they will not experience damnation, and they will receive the crown He gives. This has been associated with life, joy, victory, God’s presence, glory, and simply the reward for excellence and faithfulness.

 

Remember that neither the world nor people in it can do anything   eternal to us, but our eternal destiny is. The Bible calls us to stay faithful and true to Jesus, confessing and worshipping God in Christ alone to the exclusion of all others even if it means suffering.

 



Jesus Lord of All – The Call to Love

  June 05, 2018

  Revelation 2:1-8  If Jesus evaluated a church, what would He look for? What would He affirm, and what would He correct? In this passage, Jesus speaks…

 

  • A Word of Recognition – Jesus sees and knows all that is going on in a church. We also are called to recognize our call and Jesus’ rightful place. Could Jesus say of us the positive things He said about this church? Notice His commendation of hard work, strenuous effort, patient endurance, doctrinal purity, and hating evil practices. However, being busy, right, and good is not enough.
  • A Word of Rebuke – Jesus rebukes the church (and I believe the Christian) who has forsaken their first love. That first love is passion for Jesus but also may include love for each other. Lovelessness can develop because of time and routine, worldly distractions, self-righteousness, being hurt or disappointed by others, or feeling God has let us down because we have not seen Him work as we would like.
  • A Word of Re-Direction – Jesus calls us to remember what it was like when we first came to Jesus. I believe it also is helpful to remember we are saved because of His grace and not our goodness, and it helps to recall the commands to love God and others. Jesus calls us to repent of the sin of lack of love for Him and for others. Jesus issues the call to do what we did at first. This is not a call to church work – Ephesus was already doing this. Is this a call to   humility and gratitude, a call to seek Jesus, and a call to rely on the Word and the Holy Spirit?
  • A Word of Responsibility and Reward – Jesus makes us responsible to hear and obey His call to love, and Jesus promises reward to those who overcome in Christ.

 

We are called to respond to the Lord’s great love for us through love for Him that produces serving, being faithful to the truth, and living Godly lives without losing love.

 



A Bit Deeper Into our Lives and Church From Revelation 1

May 29, 2018

 

Instead of a separate devotional article, I want to take some more material from Revelation 1 observations and encourage us to reflect on it in practical ways.

Jesus is and must be…

  • The center of each church’s life and each church’s reason for being
  • The focus of each church’s worship (God in general and Jesus specifically)
  • The subject of each church’s message
  • The worker of God’s purpose in each Christian life and every church
  • The provider for, corrector of, and encourager and hope for each Christian person and every church
  • Jesus is worthy of reverence, love, obedience, faithfulness, allegiance, trust, and surrender

Some Questions to Consider

  • If He is God, how should we think of Him and respond to Him?
  • If He is among His churches, what does that call for and offer?
  • If His eyes see, His feet purge, and His Word is active and sharp, what does that mean for us?
  • If Jesus accomplishes God’s purpose in people’s lives, in His churches, and in the world, what does that call for from us?
  • If Jesus’ work of redemption gives Him power over death and ability to give us life, what does that mean for us, and how should we respond?
  • Is Jesus, in our lives and church, those things I have listed above, and do we relate to Him as worthy as I have noted above? What would that look like?

 



Jesus, Lord of All – In the Midst of His Churches

May 29, 2018

Revelation 1:9-20  The way we receive something said to us depends on how we see the one speaking. So, when you think of Jesus, how do you picture Him? Let’s take a look at Jesus as John saw Him.

Let’s Think About This Picture of Jesus – As we look at what John saw and experienced, we find multiple ties to the Old Testament, confirming that what God had promised was fulfilled in Jesus and pointing to Jesus being God. As we walk through the imagery, we find the trumpet and rushing waters voice indicating Jesus is God, the white hair pointing to His timelessness and purity, the eyes of flame and the glowing feet possibly pointing to His ability to see what is really going on and to purge out evil, the garments indicating His royalty and priesthood, elements of the picture indicating Jesus is the Messiah and is a messenger for and from God to John. In the sword we find the Word of God, and in the stars in His hand and His presence amid the lamp stands we find His interest in and proximity to the churches. In Jesus’ claims we discover His divinity, His overcoming death, and His authority over death and Hades. Finally, I believe in the correspondence of the pieces of the picture and the letters to the churches, we find that Jesus has what each church needs to be what God wants it to be.

How Might we Respond to the Person and Lordship of Jesus? – From the “fear not” spoken to John to the encouragement to some and warning to others, to the coming condemnation of the evil, we discover that what a person or church might expect of Jesus depends on the response to Him and His Lordship. Who do you see Jesus to be and how do you respond?

 



Jesus, Lord of All – A Timely Word

May 20, 2018
 
Revelation 1:1-8  As I think about the early Christians to whom the Revelation was given and consider modern-day Christians, I see the need for correction, the encouragement, and hope in these pages of Scripture. As we walk through this book, we are not looking to argue dates, times, and interpretations of symbols but to discern principles for honoring the Lord in our times as we look forward to His return. The Revelation is…

A Word of Preparation (vv. 1-3): This preparation of God’s people for the challenges of life and persecution, as well as for Christ’s return, is found in knowing the broad strokes of God’s plan and experiencing His blessing as we feed on and live out His Word.

A Word of Provision (vv. 4-5a): We experience peace as we live in God’s saving grace, but Scripture also refers to the grace for daily life and the peace of walking in God’s strength. Here it is found in the provision of the Father, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the person of Jesus.

A Word of Perspective (vv. 5b-6, 8): There is a strength for life found in seeing Jesus and our identity in Him accurately. When we see the exalted place and magnanimous work of Jesus for us and our place of freedom from sin and life in the Kingdom for God’s purposes, we find the encouragement of a higher calling.

A Word of Promise (v. 7): The promise of the Revelation is that Jesus will return in power and victory, vindicating His claims and the faith of His people in an unmistakable demonstration of His Lordship.

What preparation, provision, perspective, and encouragement of promise do you need in your life, home, and church so you may walk faithfully with the Lord Jesus between now and His return?

 



Finding Strength When we Need It

May 13, 2018

What do you think of when you hear the world “strength”? Often, we think of physical ability, but there are other types of strength as well, and sometimes, things get to be more than we seem able to handle, become harder than we can handle, or drag out longer than we can seem to bear. To honor God, we need His strength, so let’s see what the Bible says about finding it.

 

Where do we Find Strength? – Scripture points to three broad themes to answer this.

  • God strengthens and encourages us out of His abundance. (See 1 Chronicles 16:27, Psalm 10:17, Psalm 28:7, Psalm 46:1, Psalm 61:3,  Psalm 73:26, Zechariah 10:12, Isaiah 40:29.)
  • We pursue strength. – It is God’s strength, but we are called to seek it and seek Him. (See Psalm 105:4, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Ephesians 6:10, James 5:8, Hebrews 12:12-13, Jude 20-21.)
  • Believers are to strengthen each other. – The family of Christ is intended to be a source of strength for Godliness. (See Isaiah 35:3,         Romans 1:11-12, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14, Hebrews 3:13.)

 

What is God’s Strength For? – The strength of God is for our strengthening in the teachings of our faith, living by faith, faithfulness to the Lord, obedience and resisting temptation, serving the Lord, accomplishing God’s Kingdom purposes, being filled with God’s presence, and more.

 

How do we Find Strength? – Scripture points to several means of seeking the Lord’s strength. These include worship, prayer, being in God’s Word, humbling ourselves before the Lord, remembering His works in the past, and maintaining a right relationship with Him. Going a bit further on this line of a right relationship with the Lord, take a look at Jeremiah 17:5, Psalm 84:5, Isaiah 40:31, and Isaiah 30:15.

 

May the Lord strengthen you and guide your pursuit of His strength.

 



Re-Visiting the Kingdom – Part 2

 May 08, 2018

 

Jesus spoke a lot about the Kingdom of God, and last week we noted several characteristics of the Kingdom. So, what gets a person into the Kingdom or keeps one out?

 

Getting Into the Kingdom (John 3:1-21)

  • You Must be Born Again. This means being made new spiritually and is something God does.
  • Faith in Jesus is how one gets born again. The cross is the means of God’s provision and the expression of God’s love, and Jesus is the only way of being born again.
  • People becoming born again is God’s purpose, but people have a choice to make about receiving the truth of Jesus and being born again.

 

Making Sure we Don’t Miss out on the Kingdom

  • The Issue of Self-Righteousness and Humility (Luke 18:9-14): The self-righteous person is convinced of his or her own worthiness before God and looks down on others for not being as good, while the humble and self-abasing realize their need for God’s mercy.
  • The Necessity of Simple Faith (Luke 18:15-17): The child-like faith is humble, teachable, and unpretentious, and God can bless that.
  • The Problem of Clinging to the Wrong Things (Luke 18:18-27): Wealth may take many forms, not just money, land, or possessions. Wealth of whatever form can be what we serve and rely on, and coming into the Kingdom requires we worship God alone.

 

The difference in a country and a kingdom can make the Kingdom hard to understand. The difference in the Kingdom’s values and ways and the world’s can make it hard to desire and pursue. The cost of the Kingdom (repentance and surrender to Jesus) can make it hard to choose. However, the Kingdom is still of immeasurable worth and the best way to live.

 



Re-Visiting the Kingdom – Part 1

May 01, 2018

Typically, a Kingdom is a geographical place with certain government, laws, customs, and expectations dictated by the pleasure and purpose of the king. Jesus spoke a lot about the Kingdom of God, so let’s think about what He meant.

 

Highlighting Some Verses

  • 1 Cor. 4:20 – The Kingdom of God is not simply a matter of what we say but is supposed is about God’s power at work.
  • John 18:36-37 – The Kingdom is of a different nature. It is not a geopolitical Kingdom but is a spiritual kingdom.
  • Luke 17:20-21 – The Kingdom is about God’s reign in and among people, not external to them like a regular kingdom.
  • Matthew 6:33 – The reign of God and the righteousness that comes from God reigning in us is supposed to be our top priority.

 

Seven Pictures of the Kingdom

  • Mark 4:26-29 – The reign of God involves planting, growth, and a multiplied harvest in ways that are a mystery to us.
  • Luke 13:18-21 – The Kingdom may start small but produces big changes and has a pervasive effect.
  • Matthew 13:44-46 – The Kingdom is of great cost and immeasurable worth.
  • Matthew 13:24-30 & 47-50 – There will be an ingathering of all types of people with reward for those of the Kingdom and punishment for those not of the Kingdom.

 

Bringing it Together

  • Although different from the world, the Kingdom has a way of life, a culture, and expectations.
  • The King, Jesus, demands and deserves absolute surrender, loyalty, and obedience.
  • Everything in the Kingdom exists for and under the authority of and accountable to Jesus.
  • The King’s purpose is to establish His reign and work His purpose people and the world.
  • It is about God’s power for God’s purpose and God’s glory in the life of people and among God’s people rather than an external reality and a geopolitical entity.
  • Since it is influence, we there may be more or less reign of God in a life, home, church, etc.
  • The Kingdom or reign of God is an internal reality with external results, so to pray for or seek the Kingdom is to pray for or seek that Jesus would reign more fully and completely, having His way more fully in our life, home, church, and world.

 



Living in Resurrection Power – Part 2

April 24, 2018

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ  from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you”  (Romans 8:11 NIV ‘84)

What might God want to do in our lives day-by-day? The Bible does not say we will always be happy, healthy, or materially prosperous; life will always be pleasant; we will always have favor with others; or we will automatically be Christ-like once we get saved. It does say we are called to be different; that we will have persecution and suffering; that we are called to bear fruit; that we are called to grow in Christ; and that is a process we must be involved in. So, how might we live in resurrection power? Last time, we said living in resurrection power involves getting our thinking right when it comes to that power working and what it is intended to do. We also said living in God’s power involves getting our inner being right. But, there is more…

Get our Doing Right – I want to suggest God’s power helps us do these things and that  doing these things allows God’s power to work in our lives, homes, and church more fully.

  • Devoted and Continual Pursuit of God – This is not simply pursuing God’s blessing but pursuing His presence and moving in us. We do this through worship, through seeking Him in the Word, through various types of prayer, and through other spiritual disciplines.
 
  • Alertness, Resistance, Guardedness – We need to be alert to what is going on in us and around us in terms of temptations, attitudes, motives, etc. We need to resist the devil as he seeks to get us to be self-destructive or to dishonor God and work against God’s purposes in some way. We have to deal with our own flesh as well, and we need to guard the influences we allow into our lives.
 
  • Clearing the Clutter, Walking by the Spirit, and Obedience – Clearing the clutter means minimizing the distractions that keep us from focusing on the Lord. We also are called to walk in and by the Holy Spirit’s power and work. And, we are called to obey God’s Word in our lives, homes, and church.