Sunday – November 15, 2015 Revelation 6:1-8 “The Horse Riders”

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Revelation 6:1-2
Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”

If you’ve talked with people about the gospel, you’ve heard the question, “Is God fair to judge those who have never heard about Jesus Christ?” Will they go to hell because they did not believe in Jesus when they never heard of Him? Another variation of the question is, “Won’t those who have done the best that they could do get into heaven?”

Paul settles the matter of God’s judgment in Romans 2:11, “For there is no partiality with God.” God will judge everyone with perfect justice. Paul is anticipating a Jewish objection, “But surely God will treat us more favorably than the pagan Gentiles. We know God’s ways as revealed in His Law, but they don’t!” Or, perhaps a Gentile would object, “It’s not fair for God to judge me for disobeying a standard that I knew nothing about! I’ve done the best that I could with what I knew. God won’t judge me, will He?”

Jesus made the astounding claim in John 5:22-23, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” There couldn’t be a clearer claim to deity than that! For Christ to sit in judgment of all men, He must have infinite knowledge, which only God can have. Also, this means that if you have a picture in your mind of Jesus as being all-loving and never judgmental, then you do not have the biblical picture of Jesus. He described Himself as the judge of all. In Revelation 19:11-15, He returns on a white horse to judge and wage war. His eyes are a flame of fire. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood. From His mouth comes a sharp sword to strike down the nations. “He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (19:15). So if that isn’t your image of Jesus, you need to change your thinking!

If we do not preach the coming judgment and wrath of God, we do not preach the gospel at all. We would be like a surgeon who didn’t want to tell his patient that he is ill. He hopes to heal him without his knowing that he was sick. So he flatters him that he is well and the man refuses the cure. Such a doctor would be a murderer. And so are we, if we do not warn people about God’s impartial, certain judgment of our every secret, and then point them to the good news that Christ offers forgiveness to repentant sinners as their only hope.

Sunday – November 8, 2015 Revelation 5:8-14 “In Praise of the Lamb”

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Revelation 5:13-14
And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.”

Some time ago I heard Pat Boone share his early childhood definition of heaven. It suddenly occurred to him while he was sitting (or was it squirming?) in church, agonizing through one of the pastor’s typically long and boring sermons. Heaven, Pat reasoned, was going to be just like church – one thousand years – ten thousand years – forever. It was almost too much to handle. Such a state of affairs seemed more like purgatory than perfection in his childhood mind.

Most Christians are assured that this childhood conception of eternity with God falls considerably short of the biblical description of heaven. In the words of the contemporary song, “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace …” If it is such a wonderful place, do you wonder why we do not spend more time talking about it? Simply put, Jesus talked more of hell than heaven, probably because hell and divine judgment are easier to identify with. All about us we see the ugly consequences of sin. We see suffering and anguish because of the evil in the hearts of men. There is enough “hell” on earth at present, so that we need only think of eternal torment in terms of greater degrees.

Heaven, on the other hand, seems almost inconceivable. As a young child I can remember attempting to comprehend time without end … infinity. Now I realize that heaven is even beyond that which I failed to fathom as a child, for heaven is the end of time; in heaven there is no time at all. The human authors of the Bible who have attempted to describe the beauties of heaven give evidence of their frustration at striving to depict an existence in a dimension beyond the grasp of mere mortals: “but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Let us seek to be heavenly minded, to pursue the kingdom of God and to pray for its coming. Let us also seek to be faithful in the present, serving in society as salt and light, and striving to lead others to Him Who is Life and Peace and Blessing. And let us persevere in our trials, knowing that our faithfulness will be rewarded when we see Him face to face.

Sunday – November 1, 2015 Revelation 5:1-7 “Worthy to Open the Book”

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Revelation 5:4-5
Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”

John sees a strong angel — an angelic messenger of God — one of the unfallen angels all of whom are personally interested in man’s redemption and in this book. We also see that he speaks with a loud voice, undoubtedly to emphasize the importance of this question and to penetrate all of the universe with the question posed: “Who is worthy to open the book and break its seals?” It is the greatest question of all time — who is worthy? This scene dramatically calls our attention to the problem. There was no one qualified in any place in the universe to open it, or even look into it.

John is mesmerized by God the Father and the scroll in His right hand. And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it” (5:2-3). This unnamed, strong angel asks the question of the ages: “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” One with sufficient authority and worthiness was necessary to open the scroll and by breaking its seals to unleash the judgments on the world that it contained. Any prophet could have revealed this information but it took someone with adequate power to execute the events foretold, as well as to reveal and bring them to pass. This strong angel goes on a universal search and discovers that no angel, no created being, no human being, no creature, no spirit, and no one can open the scroll.

This futile search almost crushed John’s heart. He dissolved emotionally. The future of the world seemed too bleak to face. John’s continual weeping reflected his sorrow that God’s future kingdom and final judgment appear to be indefinitely postponed because no one had sufficient authority to open the scroll. Did this mean that the wrongs of earth would not be dealt with? Does this mean that the righteous will never be vindicated and that the wicked will go unpunished? John understood that if God’s purposes fail, then all of life is meaningless. If no one can open the scroll, none of God’s purposes will come to pass.

The sad truth is: without Christ there will be only weeping. The good news is that Jesus Christ will open the scroll. He has already achieved victory over all God’s enemies and therefore had the authority to open the scroll and to release its contents. The “Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” and the “Root of David” are Old Testament titles of the Messiah who would fulfill the promises of salvation and would rule. As God’s ultimate Anointed One, Jesus alone possessed the authority necessary for this task. He overcame Satan, sin, and death so He could implement God’s purposes for the future that this scroll revealed. Only Christ can carry out God’s final purposes on earth.

Sunday – October 25, 2015 Revelation 4:1-11 “The Throne of God Almighty”

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Rev 4:9-11
“And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

Those who gathered together had profound insight into God’s Word when they wrote the first question and answer to the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” If we could just get that fixed in our minds and live each day in line with it, God would use us to accomplish His purpose and we would be greatly blessed. It is a statement that should govern my thought life and all my behavior: Does this glorify God? In simple terms, to glorify God is to make Him look good, as He truly is. It is to display, as much as we are able, His perfect attributes, His moral excellence, and His infinite greatness and worth.

Think how much happier our marriages would be if we only stopped to think, “Will my words, attitudes, and actions toward my mate, glorify God?” If not, I shouldn’t do it, even though I might feel like doing it. The same applies to our relationships with our children and with all people. If I’m not demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit, then I’m not glorifying God and I shouldn’t act that way. If I’m disobeying God’s Word, then I’m sinning and not glorifying Him. It’s an overarching principle to govern all of life: Live so as to glorify God (1st Cor 10:31).

In Isaiah 46:9-10, God declares, “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” This does not mean God does whatever He pleases because He is capricious or unpredictable. Rather, it means that He is able to accomplish whatever He purposes to do and He does it because it pleases Him to do it. While He is not the author of evil and evil greatly displeases Him, in another sense He is not frustrated by it and He uses evil to accomplish His sovereign purpose of glorifying Himself.

I find it ironic that some who are the most ardent proponents of biblical prophecy at the same time write books that deny God’s sovereignty over all things. The Book of Revelation clearly teaches that we can take comfort in the fact that God is in charge of history. He will use even the evil of the antichrist to accomplish His sovereign purpose. He has ordained the specific number of martyrs (Rev. 6:10-11). God didn’t just peer down through history and let us in on how, luckily, it all will turn out in His favor. Rather, He ordained the events of history to display His glory. He alone is to be glorified.


Sunday – October 18, 2015 Revelation 2 & 3 “He Who Has an Ear, Let Him Hear”

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Revelation 1:19-20
Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

Perhaps you’ve seen the television commercial in which a doctor instructs his patient how to perform surgery on himself – all over the phone. The “patient” asks the doctor, “Shouldn’t you be doing this?” One would expect something as serious as surgery to be performed by a surgeon – not by the patient. The same is true for the church. If the church is important, and its mission critical, then one would think that God would have significant involvement. He would not leave it for us to do ourselves, as best we can figure it out. Yet, many Christians seem to think that God has pretty much left the church on its own to figure out for itself just how it should function best.

It is generally accepted that the Gospel of Matthew has a Jewish focus. Noteworthy here is that Matthew is the only Gospel where the term “church” is found. In Matthew 16, we find Peter’s “great confession” and our Lord’s first reference to the church: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”  The coming of Israel’s Messiah was so that He could build His church. I am not saying this was His only reason for coming. What I am saying is that Matthew, a Jew writing to a Jewish audience, is saying this immediately after our Lord’s identity as Messiah is proclaimed by Peter. And this new confederation, His church, is so endowed with power that the gates of Hades cannot successfully resist or oppose it. The church is the means by which our Lord will overcome Satan’s domain.

I’m not quite sure how to say it any better than this. The church is very special to God. The imagery of our Lord’s relationship to the church depicts the love and intimacy between Christ and His church. He is the Shepherd; we are His flock. He is the groom; we are the bride. Christ loved the church and gave His life for it. That is exactly what Paul told the Ephesian elders: “Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son (Acts 20:28).”

Christ nourishes and cherishes the church (Ephesians 5:29), and He keeps a watchful eye on the church, both in its victories and in its defeats. Our study in the first three books of Revelation demonstrates that our Lord knows exactly what is going on in each of the seven churches of Asia. He identifies their strengths and their failures far better than they knew- or we know about our body. Even today, the Lord Jesus gives us words of exhortation and words of warning. Our Lord cares about His church, and it shows.

Sunday – October 4, 2015 Revelation 3:14-22 “Laodicea: Church of the Closed Door” Part 2

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Revelation 3:19
‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”

I do not want to be a doormat, but I have lived like one. I’ve stayed put in situations where I know I should leave. I have stood silently when people have spoken out of hatred and discrimination. I have let people slander, falsely accuse, and violate me; their words like slung mud on my back. I have acquiesced to going places and doing things in I had absolutely no interest. I know the Scriptures tell me that I should bless those who curse me (Romans 12:14), or turn the other cheek (Luke 6:27-29), or that the meek are blessed and shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). I agree wholeheartedly. But that is not what I am talking about.

What I am talking about is motivation. I’m ashamed to say that too many times, my motivation for turning the veritable cheek is not Christ-likeness. Rather, my motivation is acceptance, or fear, or apathy. That’s doormat behavior ­– limp, passive, going nowhere, and getting trampled. Our calling is to be more like Jesus, and Jesus was no doormat. Jesus cleaned feet, yes, but that’s where the similarities end. Jesus willingly, intentionally donned clothes of a servant, knelt at people’s feet, poured fresh water on the dirty and muddy places and made them clean. I hate to ask myself this, but must, continually: what is my motivation in turning the other cheek, in remaining silent, in pausing before I respond? Is it to be mired in dirt, or to emulate the One who is making me clean?

When my motivation is spiritual growth, focus on Jesus, and pursuing righteousness, I enthusiastically work to wash the feet of my friends and foes alike by bearing with those who require extra grace, compromising on issues or excursions, or by calling out faulty thinking in order to edify (not embarrass). It takes work to cover people with grace when their deeds might merit negative exposure. It takes self-control and character to be truly meek.

Doormat living thrives on dirt, the soil of passive-aggression to avoid conflict. The soot of absorbing the maltreatment of others because you believe it’s your lot in life. The motivation of doormat living is self-pity and pride. Self-loathing is a crazy hubris; it is believing that even if God says I’m made in His image, He’s wrong … but only about me. It’s attempting to live like we’re just dust even after receiving God’s breath. We have this treasure, this water, so to speak, in our earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7-12). The treasure is the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). This water is the God-given ability to forgive and be forgiven, so we can continually walk in peace with God. No one but God knows the motivation behind our actions; and we can live the façade of holiness while all the while having a heart of a white-washed sepulcher, encasing dead men’s bones instead of living water.


Sunday – September 27, 2015 Revelation 3:14-22 “Laodicea: Church of the Closed Door” Part 1

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Revelation 3:14-15
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.”

The word “amen” is a most remarkable word. No matter what country or culture you are from, the word “Amen” is recognized nearly all of them. The word Amen was actually transliterated, spoken from one language into another. It came originally from the Hebrew and was transliterated into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best-known word in human speech.

The word is directly – in fact, almost – to the Hebrew word for “believe” (aman), or “faithful.” So it is no surprise to find the gospel writers used in a way that came to mean “sure” or “truly,” an expression of absolute trust and confidence. When one believes God, he indicates his faith by an “amen.” When God makes a promise, the believer’s response is “amen” – “so it will be.” In the New Testament, it is often translated “verily” or “truly.” When we pray according to His Word and His will, we know God will answer, so we close with an “amen,” and so also do we conclude a great hymn or anthem of praise and faith.

The word is even a title of Christ Himself. As we can see, in the last of His letters to the seven churches begins with a remarkable salutation by the glorified Lord calling Himself the Amen. We can be preeminently certain that His Word is always faithful and true, because He is none other than the Creator of all things, and thus He is our eternal “Amen.” As the Scriptures reminds us, every promise of God in Christ is “yes and amen,” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Amen is the strongest affirmation of truth as can be expressed in the Greek language and it is applied to the promises of God in Jesus Christ.

It is, therefore, profoundly meaningful that the entire Bible and almost every epistle in the New Testament closes with an “amen.” Even the end of the Scriptures in the Book of Revelation uses this word of authority: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Revelation 22:21), assuring everyone who reads these words that the whole Book is absolutely true and trustworthy. And all God’s people said Amen!

Sunday – September 20, 2015 Revelation 3:7-13 “Philadelphia: Church of the Open Door”

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Revelation 3:8
‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”

The apostles were instructed to wait until the Spirit came upon them, empowering them to carry out the Great Commission. When the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2), the result was Peter’s powerful sermon which God used to save many. In the Spirit’s power, the apostles performed miracles, which provided yet more opportunities to proclaim the gospel (Acts 3). But as the apostles continued to heal and to preach in the name of Jesus, the Sadducees and other Jewish religious leaders became increasingly concerned, so that they began to persecute the apostles (Acts 4 & 5).

The gospel was advancing in a way that partially fulfilled the Great Commission, but this was far less than what our Lord had commanded. For one thing, the gospel was spread only as far as “all Judea and Samaria.” For another, the apostles had not yet come to terms with the fact that the gospel was the good news of salvation for Jews and Gentiles, without distinction. Up to this point in time, it was assumed that in order to be a Christian, one must either be Jewish, either by birth or by becoming a Jewish proselyte. The failure of the apostles to aggressively fulfill the Great Commission seems to have been fueled, to some degree, by their belief that the gospel should not go to the Gentiles.

There were certain excuses for the apostles’ inaction which could have been used. For example, because they believed the Gentiles should not be evangelized as Gentiles because they were considered unclean. In the Book of Acts, God has already dealt with Peter on this matter and now through Peter, God will open the door to worldwide evangelism. Peter was the one to whom the “keys to the kingdom” were given by our Lord (Matthew 16:19). God opened the door to those who would hear his message. It wasn’t Peter who persuaded Cornelius and friends to believe; God did. Peter was an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer, but the Lord Jesus, who has the Key of David, opened the doors that had previously been shut.

We live at a time when people are obsessed with methods. They wish to know the methods of those who are successful. This is not altogether a bad thing but we should take note that the Ethiopian eunuch, Saul, and Cornelius were not saved because of some slick evangelistic approach. They were saved because God prepared their hearts and drew them to Himself by faith. More important than having the right method is preserving and proclaiming the right message. We are not to modify the message of the gospel to make it more palatable. Our task is to proclaim the gospel that God has given us in His Word. If salvation is “of the Lord” – and it surely is – then let us spend more time in His Word and in prayer, asking God to prepare the hearts of lost people and open the door to their hearts with the message of the gospel we take to them.

Sunday – September 13, 2015 Revelation 3:1-6 “Sardis: A Mostly Dead Church”

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 Revelation 3:1
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”

From time to time I hear of the bands of my childhood come to town to play a concert. Some of the bands that are still touring today that were touring in the 1980s and I am shocked to see it. I will think to myself, “Wow, those guys are still touring?” The reason it is strange to me is because these bands are not putting out any new songs or any new music. They are simply playing the hits that were so great 20-30 years ago. They are living on the reputation that they made for themselves decades ago. But they are not creating any new, fresh music.

In Christ’s letter to the church in Sardis, He gets immediately to the heart of the problem. Christ describes Himself as the one who is in charge, holding the seven stars and has the seven spirits of God. Christ knows the works of the church at Sardis and they are dead. This is a dead church. In the other letters to the seven churches so far, Christ knows their works have been good for the church. Christ sees what the Christians are doing in their love, faith, and service. Christ also knows the works of the church in Sardis and those works are not good.

Even more interesting is the fact that they did not know they were a dead church. The church in Sardis had a reputation of being alive, but it was not living up to its reputation. The problem that Christ exposes is superficial Christianity. Members claim to be of Christ but they do not live like they are of Christ. They seem to be Christians, but the Spirit has left the body. They are not putting what they have received from the Scriptures into practice. Christ calls them and us to remember not just what they received and heard but HOW they received.

A dead church is a church that is living on its past. It has a great resume, but the work of Christ has run out of gas and the church will not finish well. How can we avoid such a fate, to start well but finish so poorly? Ask yourself, how has this week been different because of what you have heard from last week’s message? What act of ministry have you participated in? Or is that the pastor’s job because you pay him to do it for you? Are you mentally and physically participating in worship? Our Lord’s words to these churches are not to make us feel comfortable with where we are, but to cause ourselves to examine ourselves to see if our faith is changing us to be more like Jesus or are we becoming that touring band living on past glory?


Sunday – September 6, 2015 Revelation 2:18-29 “Thyatira: Tolerating Tolerance”

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Revelation 2:20-21
‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. ‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.”

“That’s a long story.” How many times have you heard this statement? Often it is the first response from a Christian who is asked how they came to faith in Jesus Christ. After studying this text, I’ve concluded that the statement, “That’s a long story,” also applies to divine judgment. In 1 Kings 21, Ahab and Jezebel committed a terrible sin. This king and queen appear to have had a second palace in Jezreel, and adjoining the royal property was a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth. The king decided that he would like this property as well. He offered to trade with Naboth for a better piece of property or to pay him a premium price in cash (silver). It wasn’t a bad idea, and it was a generous offer, except for the fact that the Law of Moses forbade an Israelite from selling his family inheritance.

His wife, Jezebel, was not about to take “no” for an answer. She took matters into her own hands, instructing the leaders of the city to obtain false accusations against Naboth, and then to carry out his execution for “blaspheming God and the king,” as well as Naboth‘s sons. Ahab might have found a measure of solace in the fact that he didn’t really know how Jezebel was going to acquire this property for him but he knew her well enough to know it would be neither legal nor moral. He was the king, and he allowed her to act in his behalf – and with his authority.

It is not until 2 King 9 that we see the wheels of justice catch up with Jezebel. It is here that Jehu races toward Jezreel in his chariot, accompanied by soldiers loyal to him, ready to storm the city of Jezreel. See the approaching army, Jezebel retired to her tower to apply makeup and continue in her way of manipulation and intimidation. It has served her well with her husband Ahab and in the past protected her position. If this woman was as mean an employer as she was wicked as a queen, no one would have shed any tears at her death. Jehu commanded his supporters, standing by the queen, to throw her out the window, and they did. She fell to the ground to her death where she was trampled by the wheels of Jehu’s chariot.

God does know how to deliver the righteous from judgment and how to reserve the unrighteous for judgment. Our text is ample proof of that. My question to you, my friend, is this: Are you going to be among the righteous, who are spared from divine judgment, or are you among the wicked, whom God is reserving for punishment? Sinners often gloat over the fact that God seems to be doing nothing about their sins, and so they feel that they are free to continue to live in sin, without fear of divine judgment. God has made it clear that there is a day of accountability and we are to be ready.