April 22, 2018 – Book of John

First sermon in the book of John series by Francie Thompson.

 

Here Comes The Groom!

Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!

For the wedding of the Lamb has come,

and his bride has made herself ready.”

(Rev 19:6 & 7)

I love weddings. I love the vows, the promises made between two individuals, who from that day forward intend to live in unity, to belong to one another, to be a team. It is quite astonishing then that Jesus Christ, the Son of God to whom all authority in heaven and earth belong, should choose for his eternal partner a people like us!

Already in Revelation we have read that we are the great desire of his heart. He purchased us with his own blood, laying down his life for us just as Paul said every husband should do for his wife (Eph 4:25). Now let’s think for a moment about our love for our bridegroom. A good marriage is one where each partner lives to bless the other. What Jesus brings to this relationship is wonderful, and we accept it with humble gratitude, but what do we bring to this marriage for him?

In the beginning God said of Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for (corresponding to) him.” (Gen 2:18). He then put the man into a ‘deep sleep’, opened his side, took out a piece of the man and formed for him his life partner. We can reasonably assume that God breathed into her nostrils the same God-breath of life that the man had received.

Father God has been looking for a suitable life partner for his Son. When one couldn’t be found he put his Son into the deepest of deep sleeps, death. His side was opened, and out of Jesus himself a bride was formed, and is being formed by the hand of God. She breathes the same Spirit-breath that Jesus breathes. She isn’t a dumb bimbo to hang on his arm, but as it says again and again in Revelation, she will reign with him.

Many thousands of dollars, and many hours of planning and work go into preparing a bride for her wedding day: The dress, the hair, the nails, the bridesmaids, the flowers, the catering…. It is interesting that although we, Christ’s betrothed are clearly given all we need to belong to Jesus, we also wear the ‘fine linen, bright and clean’ that is our own ‘righteous acts’. Yes, grace saves us, but a suitable partner for the Lamb has to be able to act like the Lamb too. If only the thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours spent on many modern wedding days were also reflected in the time and effort spent to prepare for a life of marriage. And this is no ordinary marriage.

When Kate Middleton said ‘Yes’ to Prince William she had to prepare not just for her wedding day, but also to be the future Queen of Great Britain. She had to make herself ready to reign with him, to learn to cope with life under the spotlight. Her marriage is one of intimate love for her husband, and we must keep coming back to that first love. Yet at the same time her marriage is (or will be) a partnership with the king. How much time and effort do we put in to making ourselves ready to reign along side the King of kings?

One of the key themes of Revelation, one that Jesus speaks to each of seven churches, is that of overcoming victory: his promises are for “The one who is victorious,” or “The one who conquers” (see Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 & 3:5, 12 & 21). The last of these verses to the churches says:

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

This was a reminder to the churches, and therefore to us, that the trials and pressures they were facing in that moment weren’t the end, there was a greater hope, a joy set before them, a “Hallelujah!” day of rejoicing as those who stood firm in the tough times, who kept on keeping on when it would have been easier to cave in, when those who had made themselves ready would stand side by side with the King of kings and enter a whole new phase of life, reigning in the renewed earth in perfect partnership with Jesus Christ the Lord.

Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!

For the wedding of the Lamb has come,

and his bride has made herself ready.”

(Rev 19:6 & 7)

NOW AND THEN – A Healthy Approach to Revelation

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come. (Rev 1:4)

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)

Wouldn’t it have been more logical to have said, “who was, and who is, and who is to come.”? Past, present, future. By putting “who is” at the front of the list God is placing the emphasis on the present. The God of history is the God of our today. The God of hope (future) is the God of our present. God is always now. He even introduced himself to his people as “I am”. He is literally the ever present one.

The book of Revelation is jam packed with references from the ancient stories and prophecies of scripture. Theologians say there are more than 200 Old Testament references (some say more than 500 ) in just over 400 verses. But this is no trip down Memory Lane longing for the good old days.

However, for many people Revelation is only read as a book about the future. The future is certainly to be found in its pages, albeit in the form of metaphor. But the primary purpose of the book is not one of future predicting any more than it is a history book because it contains so much from the Old Testament.

Revelation was a letter written for churches caught up in a very real, very demanding now, and the God who is still speaks through it into the reality of our today.

Whether you like it or not the person you are today has been shaped by your past: your successes and your failures, your experiences and the words you’ve heard along the way have all contributed to the way you see yourself and the world around you today. This is true no matter how much you say, “It’s all in the past.” Most of us also make decisions today based on our imagined future: studying towards a career, saving up for a house or holiday. In the same way both the past and the future we come across in Revelation is there to help us live as the ‘kingdom of priests’ (Rev 1:6 & 5:10) who serve God right here, right now, today.

It may help to look at another passage of scripture to see how this works. Hebrews 11 opens by talking about faith being ‘confidence in what we hope for’, that’s future talk right? Then the whole of the rest of the chapter is spent in the past, the stories of God’s people. Chapter 12:1 brings these past faith heroes into our present as a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ to encourage us to run our race now. It then says (v2) we should fix our eyes on Jesus, the ‘pioneer’ (past) and ‘perfecter’ (future) of faith, who ‘for the joy set before him (future) endured the shame’ of his present. We look back at his example of endurance (v3) so that we will not grow weary and lose heart today. Both the stories from the past, and the hoped for joy before us are there to help us live a life of faith right now. It is the same with Revelation.

Our God cares about our today. He will remind us of his faithfulness shown to his people over thousands of years. He will use stories of his people’s successes and failures as lessons and warnings for us today. He also has a great future hope for us. This hope (along with some warnings) helps us endure hardships like those faced by the church in Smyrna (Rev 2:8-11), to stay true under pressure to compromise like the church in Philadelphia (Rev 3:7-13). Revelation will hopefully wake us up like the church in Sardis (Rev 3:1-6), and stir us to love Jesus and others afresh like the church in Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7), to make whatever changes are necessary to make today to become the bride who has ‘made herself ready’ (Rev 19:7) to reign for ever with Jesus.

THE BEGINNING AND END OF EVERYTHING

Every good story opens with a memorable beginning: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ (Charles Dickens – A Tale Of Two Cities), then the story grabs us, whether it be a story of war or of love, or both. We turn each page wondering how it will all end, hoping our heroes will come through their trials victorious. Hopefully the end will be as satisfying as the beginning, if not more so. The Bible is no different. However, what has created a lot of confusion in the church is a misunderstanding of just what the Bible says about the beginning and the end. So let’s have a look at what God Almighty and Jesus Christ actually say about this at the end of the story.

The book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible and has been misused over recent years to try to make all sorts of predictions about the end. Yet at the beginning and end of Revelations we read this:

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)

Then Jesus, in the same opening chapter says: “I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!” (Rev 1:17)

At the end of the book God Almighty says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev 21:6)

And Jesus at the end adds, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev 22:13)

Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the A and Z of the day. Both God Almighty and Jesus tell us that they are the first word on everything and the last word on everything, without them all our words are meaningless, and, therefore they are all the way through history the final words, the meaningful words on everything.

Notice that they say “I am the beginning,” and not “I began things”, and “I am the end,” not “I will end things.” Yes, God began it all, and yes, he will end it all too, but more importantly he is the beginning, he is the end.

The Bible opens with the words “In the beginning God”, and John says in his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God.”

Science and the Bible ask different questions about the beginning; these questions aren’t opposed to each other, they are simply not the same question. Science asks the questions ‘how?’ and ‘when?’. How did the world begin? When did the world begin? Maybe in asking these questions scientists hope to answer the question, ‘Why did it all begin?’ The Bible doesn’t attempt to answer the questions ‘how?’ and ‘when?’. The Bible asks the much more important question, ‘who?’ And of course it answers that question emphatically: ‘In the beginning God.’

The book of Revelation is no different. Although many have tried to turn this book into a science book, trying to squeeze out a ‘how?’ and a ‘when?’ in regards to the end. Revelation is emphatic in what question it is answering, not ‘when?’, not ‘how?’, but the much more important question, ‘who?’

I am the Beginning and the End.” “I am the Beginning and the End.”

If we think that knowing when will bring us security, just think back to the panic that foolish predictions created around the turn of the Millennium. Knowing how will not reassure us either. But knowing who the end is, now that will bring us deep security. The End is a loving Bridegroom coming to his beloved bride. The End is a loving Creator coming to dwell among and enjoy his creation. The End is a Lamb slain to purchase us for God. The End is good because he is good. The End is glorious because he is glorious. And the End is a whole new beginning, because even at the end he is still the Beginning, he is still Creator.

As we look to the future let our thoughts focus less on the unanswerable questions or ‘how?’ and ‘when?’, and instead let’s focus our time, our worship, our hopes on the wonderful ‘Who’. Our God and Saviour. No matter how well you know him today, no matter what you have tasted of him so far, the future is more, much more of him.

Out of Order – Genesis 3 & 4

In Genesis 1 & 2 – God has created order out of chaos. The Spirit hovered and God spoke, and spoke and spoke. Out of the chaos came a response to God’s voice: creation, order, life.

A mother hovers over the kitchen chaos of flour, sugar, butter, cocoa powder and milk. Out of the chaos, stage by stage, she begins to create. At first a bowl of runner brown mixture, which after a stage in the oven becomes a sponge. Then more hovering over icing sugar, water and food colouring. Further creation takes place. After many stages, many hours, she is able to step back and rest from her labours, uttering the words, “That’s really good.”

The next day she presents her creation to her 3 year old, the love of her life, and her group of pre-school friends. Within seconds chaos has been made out of order.
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