Monday, January 30, 2006

Appoliogies for the links....

Somehow I lost all the links from my template. I think I deleted them by accident when removing the Amazon Associate links, so sorry to those whose pages were linked to here. I'm slowly putting the list of links back.

Sunday's Sermon: We value Spiritual Surrender.

As you read Luke’s gospel, you find yourself noticing that the problem with building a Jesus movement is … Jesus. I find myself wondering, did this ever frustrate the disciples?

You see Jesus could gather the crowds. In Luke chapter 8 we read that “ a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him…”

Anyone with a mind for the growth of the Jesus cause would thaink that now would be a good moment to give this crowd something pithy and useful that will encourage them.

Jesus, however, tells them the parable of the sower. Rather than entertaining the hearers, it only perplexed them and they had to ask Jesus what it meant. (v9) And when they did, Jesus said that he spoke in parables so that people wouldn’t understand.

Through the rest of chapter 8 Jesus does amazing things and still the crowds gather. Then in chapter 9 he feeds five thousand people with a miracle of multiplication, and the disciples are beginning to grasp something. “Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God." (Luke 9:20)

Things are going so well, and then Jesus has to go and make it so difficult!

(Luk 9:23) And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

(Luk 9:24) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

(Luk 9:25) For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

That’s one of the passages I want to come back to a little later.

And then later on in Chapter 14 still the crowds are gathering. “Now great crowds accompanied him…”(Luk 14:25) and it seems like Jesus has a real opportunity. He begins to speak, and this is what he says:

(Luk 14:26) "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

(Luk 14:27) Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

(Luk 14:28) For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

(Luk 14:29) Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,

(Luk 14:30) saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'

(Luk 14:31) Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?

(Luk 14:32) And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

(Luk 14:33) So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

And Jesus refuses to be the popular unchallenging, figure of cut price spirituality. He refuses the easy gains of faithless pragmatism and in his love lays down a challenging call to “follow me.”

One of the questions often levelled at faith queries whether it is not a crutch for the weak and feeble. With Jesus, however, the question changes somewhat and becomes something more like “are you up to the challenge?”

When I think about what I mean by spiritual surrender then I suppose the two texts that come to mind are the ones we have read this morning. And especially the repeated call to “take up your cross and follow me.”

I want to look at these two passages this morning and understand a little of what Jesus meant, before I go on to ask the question: Why would I want to heed the call of Jesus to take up my cross?

What Jesus meant 1: Luke 9:23-25

The first question I want us to ask of this passage this morning is; to whom was Jesus speaking? It seems to be fairly clear that on this occasion he is with a fairly select group of disciples. Look at v18 with me.

(Luk 9:18) Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?"

Here it is very clear that Jesus is in private with his disciples. If you read through with me, it seems clear that “The he said to them all” is referring to the disciples. In other words Jesus says these words to those who are already following him.

These men had already paid something of a price for following Jesus, but Jesus knows what will happen to him. Notice what he tells these disciples in v 22. Jerusalem, and what will happen there is already in mind.

So it’s to his disciples that he says Luke 9:23.

What did he mean by “take up your cross.” You sometimes hear people talk about “having a cross to bear.” And so often such talk minimises the scale of the meaning.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem where in accordance with God’s foreordained plan he would carry his cross through the streets of Jerusalem before being crucified on it. Jesus would put God’s plan before his own life. Jesus would show us quite literally what it means to die to self and live for God.

This is the idea that Paul expresses in Gal 2:20 “ I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

This is the idea behind the words of hymns we have sung and songs we now sing:

Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine

Take my heart it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne.

It’s what we mean when we sing “I’m giving you my heart” “I surrender all” “I will offer up my life”

It’s what Jim Elliot meant when he wrote in his journal “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot loose” just a couple years before he lost his life seeking to share the gospel with the Auca Indians in obedience to God’s call on his life.

I notice that Christians can spend a great deal of emotional energy asking the question “What does God have for me?” Sometimes we need to hear more clearly what Jesus has already called us to. Here Jesus says if you want to come after me this is what you must do. Take up your cross and follow me.

Just before we move on, I notice here in this verse the little word “daily” This spiritual surrender to God and his will is something that belongs to the routine of life. Daily we should pray “Lord let my will be surrender to yours today.”

What Jesus meant 2: Luke 14:26-33

If Luke 9:23 was spoken to those who were already following Jesus, the disciples, then to whom was Jesus speaking when he said very similar words in Luke 14:26-33?

Well here it’s very clear that Jesus is speaking to the large crowd that have gathered (v26). Whereas Jesus before said “if anyone would come after me” now he says “If anyone comes to me.”

Really he says three things.

(Luk 14:26) "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Now we need to insist here that Jesus is not denying the fifth commandment. Rather he is saying “no other relationship can be first for anyone who is my disciple.”

(Luk 14:27) Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

You have to be a cross carrier. Do you notice what Jesus says. You cannot be my disciple if you are not prepared to walk as I walked. If you will not own a Jesus who carries his cross you cannot be his disciple.

(Luk 14:28) For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

(Luk 14:29) Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,

(Luk 14:30) saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'

Jesus says to those who would be his disciples, count the cost first. Are you prepared to pay it? Don’t start if you can’t keep going. Can you sense Judas getting nervous? I mean he’s the treasurer. Imagine it “Shouldn’t we send the pledge forms round first Lord?”

Now you might think: “What kind of religious leader would say something like that?” You have to be pretty confident that what you offer is worth everything if you are going to make those kind of statements.

(Luk 14:31) Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?

(Luk 14:32) And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

Here the image changes a little. I find myself wondering if it might mean a little more than count the cost, and be saying when you look at it rationally, surrender is a good idea. I mean it’s not like you are going to win.

(Luk 14:33) So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Here is the heart of spiritual surrender. To say Jesus is Lord is to let go of everything else.

Why would I want to heed the call of Jesus to take up my cross?

I will try to put this as simply as I know how. “You have nothing to loose and everything to gain.”

Look back at Luke 9:23-25 and see with me what Jesus says

(Luk 9:23) And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

(Luk 9:24) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

(Luk 9:25) For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

You see Jesus himself answers this question for the disciples. Those who think that what they have now is worth holding on to will loose it anyway, so they might as well spend it now.

If I say to my children. “We are going into town this morning and you can have £5 pocket money, but you have to spend it this morning, and if you bring it home I will take it away from you.” Will they spend it?

What you have without Jesus is worth nothing in eternity and what you have with Jesus is worth everything now and in eternity.

If you had everything that the world had to offer, the price would still be worth paying.

It’s not a bad deal. Don’t come away from this sermon with the idea that the cost is so high but it’s not worth having. The cost is high but does even begin to reflect the value of what is on offer.

I have been re-reading C.S.Lewis’ Narnia series recently. In the book “Prince Caspian” Lucy, one of the four children who find themselves in the land of Narnia, meets with Aslan, the Lion who is the Christ figure. Aslan asks Lucy to “tell the others to follow. If they will not, then you at least must follow me alone.”

Lucy says to her sister and brothers: “I do hope you will all come with me… because I’ll have to go with him whether anyone else does or not.”

It’s Lucy who has the surrendered heart, and who knows that following Aslan is simply the best thing to do and the right thing to do, even if others disapprove, declare you to be foolish or resist.

I want this morning to give the last words again to Jesus. I want us to stop and listen and hear again his call to spiritual surrender:

Luke 9:23-25

Luke 14:26-33

Monday, January 23, 2006

We value personal purity (Sunday morning's sermon.)

2 Peter 1:3-15

Introduction

This morning we are going to look at the statement “We value personal purity. Now before I begin I want to just make three observations about this whole area so here is the first.

I suspect that it is the case that there are many Christians alive today who have looked at the lifestyles of those around them who don’t believe and have found themselves envying their lifestyles. I believe there are many Christians who try really hard to be good, but struggle to understand why they should be good, let alone know how they can find the power to be good. This is a problem with our motivation for purity. Now that is something that I will come to later.

Secondly I suspect that there is a danger that we face in the church today of understanding the gospel primarily in terms of forgiveness rather than in terms of forgiveness and transformation. The gospel is about forgiveness, but it is not only about forgiveness, it is about forgiveness and transformation. When we emphasize only the forgiveness component we create a gospel of sin management, where ongoing sin and shame result in repeated requests for the forgiveness of God. This is a problem with our foundation for purity.

Third, I suspect that we prefer to describe discipleship in terms of what we are not, rather than in terms of what we are. We find it easier to say “A disciple doesn’t ….” than to talk with words like purity, holiness and godliness which are all together more challenging. This is a problem with our definition of purity.

I want to read 2 Peter 1:3-15 to you and then we will look at it to see if it helps us with any of these problems.

(Read Passage)

The motivation and foundation of purity vs 3-4

So where does this purity come from, and why should we be pure anyway? The answer is the gospel! Look at this tremendous promise statement with me.

(2Pe 1:3) His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, (ESV)

Do you see what I mean about the gospel being more than forgiveness? The gospel contains not only a call to transformation but provides the power of transformation. The divine power of Christ will give everything necessary for life and Godliness? No! The divine power of Christ has given everything necessary for life and Godliness. Isn’t this a tremendous promise? How do we get that power?

You know one of the things that bothers me is when something that rightly belongs on the edge of Christian faith is raised up in peoples thoughts to the point where it becomes to them essential and central. The tragedy is that this does two things. First it undermines our confidence in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ., and secondly it diminishes the glory of Jesus.

So some people suggest that what you need is Jesus and something else. You need Christ and inner healing, you need Christ and ministry, you need Christ and the latest experience. Don’t we need to have confidence in the sufficiency of Christ? Do you see how we get this power for life and godliness? Through the knowledge of Jesus who called us by his glory and excellence.

Here is the hint that we need to notice concerning how we discover power for purity. He called us by (NIV) his glory and excellence. When Christians get stuck in impurity, it is because the pleasures of the impurity seem more attractive to them then the glory and excellence of Christ. We sin because we love it. We walk in purity because we love Jesus more. If you want to know that power for godliness do everything you can to magnify your appreciation of the glory and excellence and majesty of the God we know in Jesus.

We looked at Psalm 63 last Sunday night which has something of the same idea in it.

(Psa 63:3) Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. (ESV)

Does that strike you as incredible? Your love is better than life itself! Isn’t that something to believe? Do you know something? It’s true!

(Psa 63:5) My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (ESV)

And there again what an awesome thing to believe! Could you believe that? Again it is true that the satisfaction of knowing God is greater than any passing pleasure afforded by sin.

Now, so far, I have only talked about our “here and now” motivation for godliness. Look at verse 4 with me.

(2Pe 1:4) by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (ESV)

You see there is more! God’s promises to us. Not that we become part of God but that through his grace and mercy God invites and equips us to share in his glory. 1Peter 5:1 has a similar idea when it talks about being “a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed.”

We are people with a promise! So keep going. Keep enlarging your vision of Jesus so that you escape the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

So how do we define purity?

Look at verses 5-8 with me.

(2Pe 1:5) For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, (goodness NIV) and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)

Aren’t these great qualities? Virtue or goodness. Knowledge of God and his will. Self control, steadfastness or perseverance, godliness, brotherly affection and love. Work at them! We are to make every effort. How do you do that? Work hard at holding on to a knowledge of the glory and excellence of Jesus. Pray for help. Read his word. Be with people whose love for Jesus is infectious. Praise him. Persevere when you get it wrong. Seek help in accountability. Make every effort!

James 1:27 says that the kind of religion that God accepts involves keeping oneself “unspotted” or “unstained” by the world.

Jesus calls you to purity and godliness in every area of life. Now for some of you right now Jesus calls you “be unspotted” in the area of your sexuality. God gave sex to us as a good gift to be used as he intended it by a man and woman within a loving marriage relationship. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. He calls you to virtue in this area

For others the “spot” is in you lack of self control. It could be in the whole area of speech, or maybe it’s to do with anger or may be it concerns alcohol or food.

For some the “spot” is in your minds. Thoughts flourish and grow and develop. And the call of God is to godliness in your mind.

For some the spot is in the area of your attitude to wealth and money, and the call of God is to self control and love in the way in which you handle your money.

Here is good news: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.

What is the call of Christ for you this morning?

Tragically there are those who perhaps because they only think about the gospel in terms of forgiveness who fail to begin to show purity in their Christian life. Peter calls this myopic faith.

(2Pe 1:9) For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

That’s just blundering around in a fog of blindness. Don’t be like that! Rather have eager, diligent faith. That could be what some of us need to hear this morning.

(2Pe 1:10) Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent (Eager NIV) to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (ESV)

Not that you will never sin, but that you will not fall away from faith and your reward, heaven, is assured.

(2Pe 1:11) For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (ESV)

With this glorious and excellent Jesus Christ as king for ever

It could be the case that there are people here this morning who have never come to the point of responding to or receiving Christ. It could be this morning that what you have heard as I have spoken, and talked of the glory and excellence of Christ is the call of Christ to you.

It said in verse 3 that “He called us by his own glory and goodness.” He calls you to follow him to discover for yourself his surpassing goodness and excellence. He invites you to own your own need of forgiveness and transformation and to follow him as Lord. He invites you to ask for the filling and equipping and empowering of the Holy Spirit of God to transform you from within.

Maybe you need to respond this morning and you could do that by coming to some of the prayer team after the service and asking them to pray with you to receive Christ.

Finally, We have made much this morning of a passion. Now I have one last thing to say, and then we are done.

If you want to know that power for godliness pray! Whatever you do, do not be satisfied with a cerebral faith that has no heart felt love for God. If that’s you, then be disturbed. Belief without affection is not Biblical Christianity.

Let that disturbance set you seeking after God. Keep asking God for a passion for the glory and excellence of Jesus. If you heart is unmoved ask God to forgive you for your hardness of heart and ask him to move your heart. With love for Jesus.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Introducing Revelation

For those who missed it, here are my notes from Wednesday night. We are beginning new small group material on the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, so I did a sort of potted introduction to the book of Revelation:

Introduction

If you type “Who is the antichrist?” into Google, the first web page to suggest a candidate suggests…. George Bush! The second web page to suggest a candidate declares the “beast” to be David Hasselhof!

I wonder if sometimes we are put off reading the book of Revelation simply because we think it is too difficult! We are not sure we want to wrestle with questions like “When will the world end?” “Will it be in our day?” “How do recent events in the Middle East fit with what is described?”

I suspect that some of us are aware of those who have developed an obsession with end time prophecy and are rightly wary of getting sucked in to a similar way of thinking. Throughout history there have been those who are sure that they have cracked the code and rightly predicted end time events.

Sir Isaac Newton spent most of his life on this task and left a 500 page document outlining his now evidently wrong conclusions. Another commentator, William Miller, described as an honest church going farmer predicted “desolating earth quakes, sweeping fires, distressing poverty, political profligacy, private bankruptcy, widespread immorality which abound in these last days, which obviously indicate the Lord is returning immediately.” He was sure that the Lord would return with a year. Unfortunately he made this prediction in 1843 and subsequent events would seen to suggest that he was deceived! Tragically he disappointed thousands of Christians who believed his message.

More Recently in 1970 Hal Lindsey published the “Late Great Planet Earth” which predicted the return of Christ in 1988. Perhaps G.K. Chesterton was right when he declared that: “John saw no creature so strange as one of his own commentators.”

If we need to avoid the joint dangers of obsession and unwise prediction we need also to steer clear of the danger of avoidance. Some of us might find Revelation disturbing reading and would rather read that “the Lord is my Shepherd,” while others might find it impenetrable. Nevertheless we should read it for two reasons.

First, we should read the book of Revelation because it’s part of God’s word to us. A friend of mine jokes that one day we will meet the apostle John in heaven and he is going to ask “How did you like my book?” I’m not sure that is the best reason to read it! Perhaps a better reason is that we are convinced that it is part of God’s word to us, and so we must hear what it has to say.

Secondly, we should read the book because it contains a promise that those who so will receive a blessing.

(Rev 1:3) Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

Indeed the book is tremendously encouraging to God’s people containing as it does a vision of the sovereign glory of God and the certain fulfilment of his ultimate purposes in history.

What is the book of Revelation?

The book of revelation describes itself in three ways.

1) The book of Revelation describes itself as a “revelation”. 1:1

(Rev 1:1) 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,

The book first of all describes itself as a “revelation” or “apocalypse” The book does claim to be predictive of the future. Here again a note of warning. For those of us who are not satisfied to deal only with the big sweep of history and want to engage with the details.

There is a temptation to read this book, or especially chapters 6-21 as “reverse history.” In other words every event described by John corresponds to an event that has happened or will happen in world history. The problem with this is that readers get in to trouble when they jump too readily to identify apocalyptic descriptions with events in world history, and declare as they read the book “this is that.” Current events in world history may seem a good fit at times, but history has a habit of showing our conclusions to be erroneous.

For example I can remember the level of speculation when the European Economic Community became ten states, and many made links to the 10 kings in Rev 17:12. Unfortunately for those who said “this was that” then there are now 25 countries in the EU.

Perhaps a better way of reading Revelation is to stand back and get the big picture. As a mosaic rewards more from a distance and individual tiles reward little when studied in great detail, so perhaps the book of Revelation blesses more when we stand back and view the big pictures of God’s sovereign actions and assured ultimate victory.

2) The book of Revelation describes itself as a “prophecy.” 1:3

(Rev 1:3) Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

Revelation is fundamentally Jesus’ message to the church through the prophet John. It’s in understanding this that we find tremendous encouragement in reading the book. Jesus’ desire is to bless his church with his words and bless those who are obedient to his word.

Like so much prophecy, the book is rich with promises and is rooted in conviction about the return of Christ right from the outset. This is a book that will help every Christian to live with the end in mind.

(Rev 1:7) Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

3) The book of Revelation describes itself as a “letter” 1:4

(Rev 1:4) 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,

John writes down what he sees and sends Revelation as a letter to the seven churches in Asia Minor. It’s important when we read this book that we remember that like all letters, it has a context.

John is imprisoned on Patmos because of his faithfulness to the word. The churches to whom he writes have begun to experience persecution which will become far more serious before too long. Christians will be imprisoned for their faith and some will die horribly and brutally under the rage of the Emperor Domitian. With troubles in the world there are also troubles in the church and as ever false teaching and prophecy must be opposed.

We must submit our conclusions on the meaning of the book of Revelation to what I would call “the letter test.” In other words I believe that every sentence in this book had a meaning to it’s first hearers. If we are to be responsible interpreters then we must insist that our conclusions were within the grasp of the first hearers.

To suggest, as some have, that most of the book is taken up with predicting events that happened after the restoration of the nation of Israel in 1948, is to ignore the very significant events that happened much earlier in history, to settle on an interpretation that could only mystify its first hearers and to insist that the book has had little meaning to the millions of Christians who have read it throughout church history.

Where did this vision come from?

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 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." Rev 1:9-11

Apart from the opening verses of the book, the whole describes a series of visions seen by the Apostle John while he worships on the Lord’s day.

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. The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that 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. Rev 1:12-20


Perhaps one of the ways of thinking about the book of Revelation that can be helpful to us is to think about the way in which in his visions John sees beyond “what is real” to see “what is really real.”

The opening vision of the risen Christ sets this pattern. “What was real” for John was the fact that he was the imprisoned pastor of a group of small struggling, scattered and increasingly persecuted churches in Asia Minor.

In his vision however he sees the risen and exalted Christ in the midst of seven golden lamp stands. He sees seven stars in the right hand of this glorious Lord. This is what is “really real.” These churches are reminded that the risen Christ is in their midst, and in his hands are angels, one for each church. This is what is "really real," the heavenly reality which John glimpses.

It is this Christ who has looked on the seven churches and now through John writes to them with his evaluation and response. These are the seven letters, not from John, but from Jesus that we will look at this term.

So what do we need to look for and remember as we study these letters?

Firstly we need to remember that the emphasis of the book of Revelation is on endurance rather than escape. I need to say this because many Christians today get their sense of end times more from the “Left behind” series than they do from Scripture. The emphasis of those books and other teaching from a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial position is on escape. Not so the book of Revelation. Instead this book urges God people to hopefully endure.

(Rev 14:12) Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

(See also: 1:9, 2:2, 2:19, 3:10, 13:10 & 14:12)

Secondly, we need to remember that the church really matters. We will see that there are issues with some of the churches that are serious and Jesus invites repentance. We need to remember that that just because we call something “church”, that does not guarantee that God calls it “church.” Indeed the first letter to Ephesus would seem to suggest that better no lamp stand than a lamp stand without a light.

(Rev 2:5) 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.

Finally, we need to remember that we are going to be talking about our church as we undertake this study. The booklet suggests a “code of conduct” for discussing church life, and I’m going to suggest that if you want your discussions to be Christ honoring and useful that you agree to do that in your groups. We can all get negative at times, yes me too! But it‘s rarely useful or constructive.

There is a suggestion on p 49 which I’ve developed as follows:

  1. We will seek to be honest
  2. We will talk about “us” not “they.”
  3. We will seek to be constructive so that we can make a difference
  4. We will seek to honour Jesus in all our discussions