Sunday – May 29, 2016 New Series ”The Book of Genesis”

Sunday – May 29, 2016 – Read the Word on Worship

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Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

A surveyor must always begin from a point of reference. So, too, history must start at some definite place of beginnings. The Bible is, through and through, a historical revelation. It is the account of God’s activity in history. As such, it must have a beginning. The book of Genesis gives us our historical point of reference, from which all subsequent revelation proceeds. In this book we find the “roots” of the inhabited world and the universe, of man and nations, of sin and redemption. Also, we find the foundation of our theology. I would consider Genesis as the starting point of all theology.

Genesis is particularly crucial in the light of the doctrine of progressive revelation. This doctrine attempts to define the phenomena that occur in the process of divine revelation. Essentially initial revelation is general while subsequent revelation tends to be more particular and specific.

Let me try to illustrate progressive revelation by an examination of the doctrine of redemption. The first promise of redemption is definite but largely undefined in Genesis 3:15: “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Later in Genesis we learn that the world will be blessed through Abraham (12:3). The line through which Messiah would come was through Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau. Finally in Genesis we see that Israel’s coming ruler will be of the tribe of Judah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10). Later on we learn that Messiah will be the offspring of David (II Samuel 7:14-16), to be born in the city of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Literally hundreds of prophecies tell in greater detail, the coming of the Messiah.

I would like to suggest that we approach the book of Genesis as the book presents itself to us. I believe the first verse makes clear the way we must approach the entire work .This account either explains it all or it does not explain it at all. Some books begin, “Once upon a time … ” and when we find such an introduction we immediately understand that we are reading a fairy tale. Genesis 1:1 is totally different. The mood is authoritative and declarative.

The claim implied by this verse is much like that of our Lord when He presented Himself to men. No one can logically tip their hat to Jesus Christ as a “good man,” “a wonderful example,” or a “great teacher,” He was either Who He claimed to be (the Messiah, the Son of God), or He was a fake and a fraud. There is no middle ground, no riding the fence with Jesus. Jesus does not deserve mere courtesy. He demands a crown or a cross.

Sunday – March 13, 2016 Rev. 19:1-21 “Getting a Handle on Hallelujah”

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Revelation 19:11-15
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.”

The last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, is in many respects the capstone on the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. This truth is introduced in the first chapter with the pronouncement in Revelation 1:7 “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen”. Most of the book of Revelation consists in exhortations and predictions in view of the Lord’s return and unfolds in more detail than any other portion of Scripture about the great tribulation which will precede the second advent.

The great tribulation is climaxed by the vision which John records in our text of Revelation 19. In this, Christ is pictured as coming from heaven on a white horse accompanied by the armies of heaven to claim His right as King of kings and Lord of lords to judge the wicked earth. The resulting description provides the graphic detail of the destruction of the armies which had been previously gathered in a final gigantic world war. All of these armies oppose Christ at His second coming. Not only the armies, but the world ruler and the false prophet are destroyed, and ultimately resulting in the beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire.

This glorious event is the prelude to the establishment of the millennial kingdom of Christ. The early verses of chapter 20 of Revelation indicate that Satan will be bound and cast into the bottomless pit to remain inactive for the entire thousand years of Christ’s reign on earth. The vision which John sees is given specific interpretation, namely, that Satan is so bound that he will not deceive the nations. He will remain bound for a thousand years and after this will be loosed. This interpretation makes impossible the spiritualization of this passage as many have done in an attempt to eliminate the millennial reign of Christ. In the verses which follow, the millennial kingdom is established.

Psalm 146:10 reminds us, “The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” Wicked people may think that God does not reign, but the Lord scoffs at them (Ps. 2:1-4). This God who reigns is our God and we are His people. Therefore, our praise should begin here on earth, as long as we have life and breath, and will continue forever and ever.

Sunday – December 27, 2015 Revelation 10:1-11 “The Bittersweet Book”

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Revelation 10:9-11
“So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”  I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.”

You’ve heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” Well, it’s actually true. When you eat a burger, your body metabolizes it. It assimilates and converts it to energy and the building material to create flesh and bone. That burger eventually becomes a part of your body, whether you like it or not. You bear it on your body. The same ought to be true with God’s Word. You should begin to act and look more like Jesus Christ. Every day and in every way, people ought to be able to say: “I’m becoming more like Christ.”

This angel tells John that this book “will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” This is a sweet and sour scroll. God’s Word can be bittersweet and hard to digest. Sometimes God’s Word can give us heartburn; other times it is sweet to the taste. We must understand that prophecy and Scripture, as a whole, is bittersweet. There are sweet promises in the Bible, but there are also bitter warnings. God’s Word can bring joy to our heart but at times it brings sorrow. It both blesses us and burdens us. People get excited about studying prophecy. Unquestionably, there are some exciting things about this book — a sweet taste. But it also burdens the believer about his unsaved family and friends and is a stern warning of judgment to come to the unbeliever.

This revelation was pleasant at first because it was a revelation from God. Please note that John tastes God’s revealed Word. It is not enough to see the book in someone’s hand or even to know what it contains. We must assimilate it and digest it. Too many Christians do not make the Word part of their inner being. Yet, our privilege as believers is not only to read the Bible but also to assimilate it into our lives. God won’t force-feed us with His Word; rather, He exhorts us to take it from His hand, eat it and assimilate it into our lives. The Word of God is the food of the Christian. It is compared to bread (Matt 4:4), milk (1 Pet 2:2), meat (1 Cor 3:1-2), and honey (Ps 119:103).

Still, as John meditated on it and comprehended the fearful judgments that it predicted, he became distressed. Have you ever experienced the sweet and bitter dimensions of God’s Word? We read of God’s love and mercy toward us, His eternal plan of salvation, His promise to give us a future and a hope, and the assurance of eternal life. That’s sweet. But then the Word also speaks directly to areas in our lives that may require change. Maybe your behavior or lifestyle dishonors God and is in direct violation of His Word. Maybe you have excused a bad attitude or a critical spirit in your life. At times, God’s Word can be a painful tool of correction. But it is always redemptive. It is always for our good. I would suggest to you that you haven’t really learned the Word until you live the Word. So how are you living? What difference has the book of Revelation made in your life?

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 – August 2, 2015 “Ephesus Love Lost” Part 1 Revalation 2 verses 1 to 8

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Revelation 2:4-5
“’But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place — unless you repent.”

As a disclaimer, both here and in the message, any discussion about the churches in the Book of Revelation requires the reader (as all Scripture should do) to examine themselves. Self examination is never a pleasant process, which is why so few people approach the Scripture with an attitude of humility, asking the Lord to search their hearts and their will, to allow the Spirit to show them deficiencies in their heart so they may walk with the Lord. This is even more necessary in Revelation 2 and 3. There is a spiritual pride that gives us the ability to see splinter in the eyes of these churches, but blinds us to the log in our lives and in our church.

You may have houseplants to decorate your house that you simply forget to water– not because you decided you did not like the plants anymore but rather you get busy doing other things. We all take such simple things for granted. Time goes by and our day continues to fill up with all the activities that must be completed. By default, watering the plants ends up being ignored. The same is true of love. I don’t think anyone sets out to stop loving, but out of neglect love grows cold.

The issue with the church of Ephesus is that they have left their first love. The question for the scholars and those of us who are more pragmatic is, what is first love? Is it a matter of first in priority or first in a sequence? Is it our love for God or is it our love for others? Some have suggested it is our love for the lost who need to know the gospel. I think all of these are true, but it still does not answer the question: what is our first love?

As I study this passage, let me tell you my definition. Our first love is the love we experienced and then expressed when we came to faith. What it means is all dimensions of love – not just our love for God and not just our love of others and not just our love to see people saved – but every facet of love. This is what I see lived out in the Book of Acts when the Church was started. With this as a working definition of first love, I want to challenge you to go to the Lord and ask Him to show you where you have left your first love. Is it in how you worship? How well do you love others, not just in words but in attitude and action? How concerned are you for the lost? I believe the Lord has many things to tell us if we are willing to listen and learn the lessons to the seven churches of Revelation.

Sunday – July 26, 2015 “Look Who’s Talking” Revelation 1 verses 4 to 20

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Revelation 1:7-8
“BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Do you really believe God wants no idols? Many people think of Martin Luther as a prophet. But he wrote, “My spirit cannot adapt itself to the book and a sufficient reason why I do not esteem it highly is that Christ is neither taught nor recognized in it.” Some this morning will not think for themselves, but wait for their Bible teacher to wrestle with it, because like Mr. Luther, their mind is made up already.

Personally, I cringe when I read Luther’s appraisal of the Book of Revelation. Having said this, I fear that Luther’s words may reflect an attitude toward Revelation that is far more common than we would like to believe. How much of Christ do we seek to see in the Book of Revelation, and in the rest of biblical prophecy? When we come to the Book of Revelation we may be so intent upon discovering the events of the future and the means by which they will be brought to pass that we fail to focus on the Person of our Lord, who is preeminent in prophecy, and who should be the focus of our attention.

The focal point of verses 1-8 is the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is His work. It is the fact that He has received the revelation and He has communicated it. It is the fact that He is the One who has come as the Witness, who is the Firstborn from the dead, who is going to be the Ruler of kings. He is the One who has loved and released us and made us a kingdom of priests. He is coming again with power and authority to subdue His enemies.

If men saw Jesus Christ as He really will be then they would see Him as John did. John could rest on the bosom in the Gospel of John, but he falls dead before His feet in Revelation. What I am saying is that we have a totality of the Person of Christ. The disciples kept saying, in effect, give us a glimpse, give us a look, let us behold Your glory. But there was a sense, in His first coming on earth, in which that glory was subdued. It was suppressed, veiled, for a purpose. But in Revelation the veil was removed and now we see Christ exalted, lifted up, all-powerful; all of that glory, that visible manifestation of His deity that had been veiled over Him at the first coming was removed. Now Jesus Christ is seen in His totality.

Sunday – March 8, 2015 Jude verses 11 to 13

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Jude 11
“Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”

I’m quite sure I know the reason why the Book of Numbers is so often ignored. People think it is boring. Let’s face it; there are some portions of the Old Testament that appear to be irrelevant, and that are commonly considered boring. Having admitted to this, I now wish to point out that one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible is found in the Book of Numbers. I am speaking of the story of Balaam, the “diviner,” who was hired to curse Israel.

Balaam was merely a well-known “diviner,” with a reputation for effectively cursing nations. I do not mean to say that he was a complete fraud, and that his “curses” had no effect on others. His reputation seems to indicate otherwise. I believe that his powers did not come “from above,” but “from below,” that he was “connected,” but not to the God of Israel.  It wasn’t that Balaam did not know the will of God; it was that he did not want to do it. When Balaam asks the men to spend the night so that he can inquire further of the Lord, it is clear that Balaam does not want to do what God has commanded. The money and fame which Balak offered Balaam was too much for Balaam to turn down. He was intent upon getting around God’s will.

Let there be no doubt that God is not pleased when men do the evil that He permits. God sometimes allows men to sin, even though He has condemned and forbidden it. This is a good example of what we might call “God’s permissive will.” God forbade Balaam to go with the delegation that had come, and also He forbade Balaam from cursing Israel, the people God had blessed. When He permitted Balaam to accompany these men to meet with Balak, it was His permissive will. God allows men to do those things which He has forbidden. Woe to those who persist in their path of sin, for it is surely the road to destruction. Just because God allows men to sin does not mean that He approves of sin.

It is fairly easy to see the folly of Balaam’s ways, and yet many Christians seek to use God, rather than to serve Him. We try to convince God that our happiness is more important than our holiness, that our pleasures are more important than pleasing Him. How often we know that what we are pursuing is in violation of His Word, and yet we persist at seeking to change His mind, or at least in seeking to convince ourselves that what we want is not really that bad. The pagan gods were not real, but the product of man’s fallen imaginations – “god” the way we would like him to be. We serve the God who made man, and who will not be manipulated. It is our duty and privilege to conform to Him, rather than for us to seek to conform Him to our wants and wishes.