Member Profile - Espich's

1.)    What is your vocation? Casey is a 7th grade history teacher at A.R. Rucker Middle School in Lancaster, along with working at Park as the Director of Youth & College. Casey working at Park has been a huge blessing to our family. Anna has worked for 5 years in Charlotte as a Payment Operations Specialist at an agriculture company, AGDATA. Together, we raise our boys, take care of our family & our home.

2.)    Tell us about your family: Casey is from KY; Anna is SC born and raised. We got married in June of 2010. We have 3 good dogs who make us a little (Casey - a lot) crazy. The day after Christmas of 2015, we welcomed our first wild baby boy, Abram Charles. This past May, we welcomed his little brother, Hudson Locke. They have changed our lives in the best ways & melt their mom's heart daily.

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ? Anna: I attribute much of my spiritual growth to strong people of God in my family. All of my grandparents have lived lives that deliberately reflect the gospel. This was carried on in my parents, who have showed me dedication to the local church & faith, in even my earliest memories. Casey: I accepted Christ after getting involved in Young Life during high school. My young life leader, Dan, played a major role in teaching me the gospel & leading me from darkness to light. Since then, my friends Devon & Pastor Dave have continued to teach me to be a godly man, never stop growing, & lead my family.

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse? Anna loves Galatians 5:1 & 2 Corinthians 4:8-11. Casey loves John 1:5 & 2 Timothy 4:2-4

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months? Anna: I think God has been teaching me that when life gets hectic, to maintain perspective on the things He values. I am also learning to trust God to lead me when my life changes, and ministry and routines look different than they have before. Casey: God has been teaching me to surrender my schedule to Him. He has also been teaching me how to best love & serve my family in this current season of life.

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you? Anna played basketball competitively from age 7 through high school & has a degree in Sport Management. Casey is an avid reader, built his own computer, & loves Premier League soccer.

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests? Pray for rest & balance for our family. Pray that we seek & trust God's guidance & provision as our life continues to change. Pray for a job for Anna that is closer to home. Continue to pray for Casey as he leads the OP group and the college co-ed Bible study.

 

The Piercing Word (Revelation 2:12-17)

Ellen and I began our teaching career in New York City. New York is truly the city that never sleeps. There seems to never be a moment without noise. Although Ellen and I both went to school in bigger cities, Philadelphia and Atlanta, respectively, New York is even more jarring on one’s senses. One evening Ellen went into a restaurant for dinner and someone thought it would be funny to light a string of black cat fireworks. When the fireworks went off, “pop, pop pop,” everyone from New York in the restaurant hit the ground thinking it was gunshots. My wife, on the other hand, lifted her head and moved toward the sound. My wife soon realized that in New York City there are certain sounds that one must react with speed and precision. Certain sounds demand a reaction.

The scream of one of your children. The security alarm in your home. The train whistle over the railroad tracks. The middle of the night phone call. There are certain sounds that penetrate our ears like no others. Our world is full of beeps, buzzes, and bangs. When you live in a city, police and fire sirens become background noises, but their certain sounds that pierce through the cacophony and stop us in our tracks. They pierce through the noise and demand a reaction.

The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. God’s Word must pierce through the cacophony of worldly clamor to open our eyes to the One whom we must give an account. My prayer for you is that you will allow the penetrating power of the Word of God to pierce your heart, to break your love of the world, and encourage you to hold fast to Christ.

The Piercing Word Brings Judgment

In each of Jesus’ letters to the seven churches of Asia, he begins with a particular description of the vision of chapter one (Revelation 1:9-20). The vision of Jesus is, therefore, applied to the churches in a specific situation. Although Jesus addresses each of these churches individually, we know that he intends for the message to be applied to all churches throughout history. Jesus beings his letter to Pergamum, “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: “The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.” Pergamum was the center of the Roman government and the Roman pagan religion in Asia Minor. The city boasted of being the “throne warden” to the worship of Caesar. It only defended the worship of Caesar, but the freedom to worship all sorts of deities. It was a polytheistic city.

Jesus confronts this “many ways” city by proclaiming that he is the one who holds the sharp two-edged sword. The sword was meant to invoke the image of judgment. Jesus was going to judge the pagan city with the sword. Paul writes in Romans 13 that the state was given the sword to execute judgment against lawlessness. Christians were not called to repay evil with evil but to overcome evil with good leaving judgment in the hands of the State and thus, ultimately, in the hands of God. Here, Jesus is reminding the church that he is the one who wields the sword of judgment. He will judge the kingdom of Satan. He will judge the apostate or the one who abandons the faith handed down from the apostles. Jesus is sovereign over all for he has the sharp two-edged sword that will cut through any worldly philosophy and pagan religion.

The sword imagery is meant to comfort and convicts the saints in Pergamum. The letter is dominated by Jesus’ rebuke of the churches permissive spirit of false teaching and false teachers. Jesus spends much of the letter rebuking the church from drifting from the truth and calling for their repentance to return to the church. Jesus also wants to encourage the faithful in the church. Even in the most dysfunctional churches, there is a remnant. There are always true believers in the true church. Jesus says to this mixture of true and drifting saints, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.” There are many possible options of what Jesus means by “Satan’s throne” but the most probable option is that he is referring to Pergamum’s prominence in emperor worship.  The main reason for Christian persecution in John’s day was Christians unwillingness to bow to Caesar.

How comforting would it have been for Christians to hear Jesus say, “I know where you dwell, I know how challenging it to stand for me in the midst of intense, violent and aggressive emperor worship. I know the depth of the sin of the city.” There is a great comfort to rest in the fact that God knows what we are dealing with. Regardless of your trial today, God knows what you are going through. He knows your battle. Take comfort in God’s knowledge.

The Piercing Word Brings Joy

God does not only have knowledge of the saints of Pergamum, but he also has joy because many have remained steadfast in the truth even amid trial. Revelation 2:13b,

Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

The church continued to trust in the name of Jesus Christ. They were tempted to deny Christ when one of their numbers was killed for his faith. There is no scholarly agreement who Antipas was, but only that he was given the name ‘faithful witness’ the same name given to Jesus in Revelation 1:5. Jesus was pleased that the church held fast to his name amid intense persecution. There have been many faithful witnesses to the Lord Jesus throughout history. As we move closer to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we are reminded of all the faithful witnesses that held fast to the name of Christ.

Jan Hus was a preacher in the early 15th century. After reading the writings of John Wycliffe, Hus became impassioned for the authority of Scripture. He lived during rampant immorality among the clergy of the Catholic Church. As he started preaching against them, he was labeled a heretic and sentenced to death. As he was chained to a stake like a dog, he said,

My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this one for my sake, so why should I be ashamed of this rusty chain?...What I taught with my lips I will now seal with my blood.[1]

Hus held fast to the name of Christ even unto death. Hus’ faithfulness continued to fuel the true church’s passion for the Word of God. Hus knew that the two-edged sword would continue to pierce the hearts of Europe. When Hus, which means Goose in Czech, was sentenced to death he said, “You may roast the goose, but a hundred years from now a swan will arise whose singing you will not be able to silence.” About 100 years later, Martin Luther became that swan igniting the Protest Reformation which has yet to be silenced. Hus had confidence in the God of the Word and Word of his God. His joy in the Word fueled his willingness to defend with his blood.

Do you have joy in the word of God? Is reading God’s word a delight or a burden? Jesus is pleased when we delight in his Word.

The Piercing Word Brings Division

The Word of God brings division. Jesus came to bring division. He came to divide the world based on how they respond to Him. The Word of God continues to bring division. There are churches who are beginning to waver on the Word. Let us learn from the error of Pergamum so that we would not drift from the Word but hold fast to it. Revelation 2:14-15,

But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam,

who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat

food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the

teaching of the Nicolaitans.

Balaam was a prophet in Israel. He was asked by the king of Moab, Balak, to pronounce curses on Israel, but instead only pronounced blessings. In Number 25:1-3, it relates how the people of Israel fall into sexual immorality among the pagans in Moab and sacrificed to their kings. Jewish tradition relates the cause of this apostasy on the account of Balaam’s advice referenced in Numbers 31:16.

The Nicolaitans were like Balaam in that they encouraged the church to eat food sacrificed to idols and to practice sexual immorality. If the church ate the food sacrificed to idols they would have participated in the imperial cult worship of Caesar. The church still believed in Jesus Christ, but were encouraged that it was fine to participate in the cult worship of Caesar. It may have been encouraged for their own safety or to help them have influence in the culture, either way, it contradicted the letter from the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:28-29,

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

The Nicolaitans were not only encouraging participation in the imperial cult but were also loosening the sexual boundaries of marital monogamy.

The problem in the church was a permissive spirit in accepting the culture of the world. We are not to be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewal of our minds. We are not to live in the world, but not be of the world. The Nicolaitans were encouraging the church to become like the world. We do not know their motives for this advice, but we can see similar advice in our day. The spirit of the Nicolaitans is alive in the American church. Churches are loosening their requirements on what is appropriate sexual ethics. It goes beyond the acceptance of homosexuality as a viable Christian lifestyle to the wide acceptance of cohabitation as normative for the church. They divide right doctrine with right living. Heterodoxy with heteropraxy.

The rebuke was not that everyone in the church held to the teachings of the Nicolaitans, but that the church was permissive that some did. Paul similarly rebuked the Corinthians because of their unwillingness to deal with sin in the church. He warned that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Jesus also warned his disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees that can affect the whole body. The problem in the American church is not that there is widespread homosexuality or sexual immorality in its members, but a permissive compromising spirit with those who engage in such things.

The Word gives us instructions on how we are called to live and how we are called to conduct our churches. We do not want to be a church of right doctrine without right practice. We want to believe the right things and live the right way. This pleases God. What areas of sin are you most permissive? Where are you most tempted to worldly compromise? Are their areas as a church where we are tempted to drifted into compromise? The desire to be accepting and welcoming is a God-given desire, but we can never go beyond what is described in the Word of God.

The Piercing Word Brings Direction

Jesus again redirects us with his Word. He calls the church to repent. Repentance is to turn from trusting in anything other than Jesus Christ and his Word. We must turn from our own ways and trust in God’s ways. There are times we may not understand the what and the why of the Christian life, but when we become Christians we no longer have the right to disobey Jesus. He is our commanding officer. He is the one with the sharp two-edged sword that by it will judge all governments and all people.

If you are not a Christian, listen to the gravity of Jesus’ words and what he commands of all people, Revelation 2:16,

Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth

The call of Jesus is very simple. It is a call of repentance. Why do we need to repent? It is fair to question one that is utterly challenged in our day. The Bible states that God is the creator of the world and all human beings. And as the creator, we are called to obey his word. He created the world good, but man disobeyed God. Man rejected the good word of a good Creator and chose to follow their own desire to be like god. They attempted to usurp God’s authority. Instead of following God’s law, they desired to follow their own law. The world has been corrupted by this selfish pride ever since and now the human heart is corrupted and bent towards self.

The Christian worldview says that every human being has sinned and has a sinful heart. Of course, Christian acknowledge that even the worst of humanity has elements of good in them, but their core is opposed to God. The punishment for sin is eternal death. When an eternal God is offended, then that eternal wrong must be punished as an eternal crime. Now it may appear harsh that God would exercise that degree of punishment, but in only understanding the severity of that punishment can we appreciate the kindness of Jesus’ word: repent. We are sinners deserving of eternal hell and God says there is another way. Jesus came to seek and to save sinners. He lived a perfect life. He never sinned. He always perfectly trusted God. He trusted God to death. He gave himself for our sins. He paid for all the wrongs we have done in his death. But God raised him from the dead. His resurrection opened the door to salvation. We now can be saved, not because of anything good in us, but because of the goodness and mercy of God.

Friends, Jesus is a kind, merciful Savior. He willingly took hell on the cross so we could repent. The one who calls us to repent is the one who bled and died for us. And this same one who gave himself for us is the one who says that if you do not repent then he will bring war against you with the sword of his mouth. Jesus desires your peace, but that peace came at a price. He offers you peace, but if and only if, you repent. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Let God’s Word pierce your heart. I urge you to turn to Christ and live.

The Piercing Word Brings Deliverance

The surgeon’s scalpel hurts but brings healing. The call of the gospel may bring worldly pain in this life as you stand for truth, but it will bring deliverance. Revelation 2:17,

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

There are various interpretations on what exactly the “hidden manna” is referring to, but it is most likely connected to the manna God provided for Israel in the wilderness. God gave bread from heaven to strengthen and sustain his people as they travailed through the wilderness. The Israelites feasted on the manna as we feast on the bread of life. Jesus said,

I am the bread that came down from heaven…I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. (John 6:44;48-51)

Beloved, we feed on Christ by faith. He is the food our souls need to live.

Jewish tradition believed that white stones fell along with the manna in the wilderness. The manna itself was referred to as a heavenly stone (Exodus 16:31; Numbers 11:7). The white stone was also known as stone given to the innocent at their acquittal. Beloved, those of us who feed on Christ, the bread of life, will receive a white stone of acquittal. We will be fully and finally declared not guilty because the Jesus gave his body to be broken for us. The only way we get the white stone of acquittal is through the broken bread of life. And it is only when we continue in faith with Christ do we receive the new name of Christ.

The new name has several implications. It is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 62:2, “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.  The end-time people of God fulfill this reality when we are named after God. As one scholar notes,

Believers’ reception of this name represents their final reward of consummate identification and unity with the intimate, end-time presence and power of Christ in his kingdom and under his sovereign authority. Identification with this name actually begins when Christ reveals himself to people and they confess his name by faith.[2]

Beloved, Christ has given us his name now and one day he will fully identify us with that new name and will enjoy our new status in the intimate presence of Almighty God. Revelation 22:4 says that we, “will see his face and his name will be on our foreheads.” What a gift to be bear the name of Christ.

Friends, let us never forget the name of Jesus. Let the name of Jesus be the piercing word that brings us back from wandering. Let the name of Jesus be the piercing word that causes our hearts to stir. Let the name of Jesus be the piercing word that ignites the passion in our soul to hold fast to his name. Jesus, Jesus there is something about that name.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

There’s just something about that name

Master, Savior, Jesus

Like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

Let all Heaven and earth proclaim

Kings and kingdoms will all pass away

But there’s something about that name.

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-goosefather accessed 10.8.2017

[2] Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 254–255). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

Member Profile - Ben Oliver

 

1.)    What is your vocation?

 

My vocation is to be a foreign missionary. I am finishing my undergraduate degree at Winthrop in Physical Education and would love to use playing sports or coaching as a means to share myself and the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those who are lost. 

2.)    Tell us about your family:

I grew up in Rock Hill with an older sister, Carly, my mother, Rebecca, and my father, Scott. My father taught me all of the sports that I know and love today and we would always play them together. My sister and I have grown to have a strong relationship and I value her now much more than I did when I was younger. My mother is the most generous woman I have ever met and is always looking for ways to serve the ones that she loves. I am truly blessed to have the family that I was born into.

3. 3.)    Who was the main human influence that led you to a relationship with Christ?

 The main human influence that I have had on my life that led me to a relationship with Christ is Casey Espich. I met Casey when I was in high school and he discipled me to know and fear the Lord and still pushes me to know our Lord all the more today.

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse? 

My favorite Bible verse is John 20:30-31. "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

5.) What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?

Over the past 6 months, the Lord has been teaching me to be still and know that He is God. I continue to try to make plans instead of asking what God's will is for me and He continues to show me what His will is after I think that my plans are set. He continues to show me that He is sovereign.

6.)    What is something most people don't know about you?

Most people do not know that I am very competitive in all things, especially silly things like card and board games.

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?
 That the Lord would use me on Winthrop's campus to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost so that they may find life in His name.

PLEASE CONTACT JOHN WHITEAKER IF YOU ARE WILLING TO FILL OUT A MEMBER PROFILE

Be faithful Unto Death (Revelation 2:8-11)

The most famous disciple of the Apostle John was a godly man named Polycarp. Polycarp became the Bishop the Smyrna. Smyrna was a densely populated Jewish city with strong ties to Roman loyalty. Polycarp would have been in his mid-twenties when he first heard brief John’s Revelation and the letter from Jesus Christ to the church at Smyrna. As a young man he had to make a choice to follow Jesus Christ. In choosing to follow Jesus, he was choosing a life of persecution, of earthly poverty and constant opposition. Polycarp made the choice to follow Jesus. According to Church history, Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John. John was probably 60 years older than Polycarp, but John’s influence over this young man strengthened the church at Smyrna during his day and long after the Lord called him home.

      John served as a missionary to the future by giving his life to the next generation. The message John gave in life was a message embraced by those in face of death: to be faithful to Jesus Christ. I pray that whatever stage of life you find yourself this morning, a young man or woman in the beginning of your life or a senior saint nearing the end, I pray that you would be faithful to Jesus Christ. He is worth it.

Be Faithful to the Living One

            Jesus begins every one of his letters to his churches with an aspect of the vision of Revelation 1:9-20. Jesus begins his letter to the church at Smyrna with a reminder that He is God and in control of all things. Revelation 1:8,

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

Jesus is alone sovereign over all history. He is eternal. He is the beginning and the end; the first and the last. The prophet Isaiah uses this phrase three times in his chapters of hope (40-48). Every time he uses the phrase, he is referring to God. Jesus is God. He is the second person of the Trinity. He is equal to God the Father and although his is equal to God the Father he as a very different role in our salvation. Jesus is our mediator who purchased our salvation by offering himself in our place.

            It is hard to faithful to God in a fallen world. Faithfulness is unswerving allegiance and steadfast trust in God. There is a multiplicity of temptations for believers. There is wealth, comfort, and pleasure that appears more attractive than the life of poverty, tumult, and denial. How can we remain faithful? We remain faithful by looking to Him who calls us to be faithful. The One who calls us to be faithful was the one who was faithful on our behalf. Jesus died for our sins. He committed no wrong. He knew no sin. He was innocent of all transgression. He was faithful to every word and in every way to God the Father. And although he was perfect, he remained faithful unto death. He was obedient to death even death on the cross. The One does not only demand your faithfulness, he provides you an example.

Jesus was faithful unto death, but he also came back to life. There is a great promise in faithfulness. The resurrection is our reward. Romans 6:5, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” Psalm 16:6, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Following Jesus is worth it. He is glorious Savior and promises a glorious inheritance. When we are tempted to drift from Jesus, we must remember what he has done for us and what he has promised to us.

Polycarp was arrested for his faith. There was a warrant out for his arrest and he was traveling from house to house to avoid capture. During one period of prayer, it was revealed to him by the Lord that he was to be burned for his faith. Polycarp was brought into the stadium surrounded by a crowd that wanted him dead.

“Are you Polycarp?” the Roman proconsul asked. “Yes.” “Swear to Rome, and I will set you free. Curse Christ!” “For eighty-six years,” replied Polycarp, “I have been his servant, and he has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my king who saved me?”

In the hour of Polycarp’s greatest test, he remembered the kindness and mercy of the Savior. Jesus had done him no wrong, but saved him. In the hour of your temptation, whether it be at a computer screen, in your office, or at the dinner table with your family over the holidays, remember the Jesus is the first and the last, who died for you and came to life again. He will do you no harm.

Be Faithful in the Loss of Wealth

            There are threats to our faithfulness. One of the greatest threats is a loss of wealth. Jesus begins the letter to the church, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich).” Jesus knows the cost paid by his disciples. Smyrna was a largely Jewish city with strong ties to the Roman imperial cult. The imperial cult permeated virtually every aspect of the city and often even village life in Asia Minor, so that individuals could aspire to economic prosperity and greater social standing only by participating to some degree in the Roman cult.[1] As Christians refuse to participate in the Roman cult, they were ostracized from society and became poor. They would not have moved up the social ladder, but would most likely not been hired in the first place and/or the community would have avoided their businesses. To follow Christ in the 1st century often meant choosing a life of poverty. And yet, Christians chose to be poor rather than denying the Lord Jesus Christ.

            Will you be faithful in the loss of wealth? Will you choose to be poor rather than deny Jesus Christ? There are members of our church that have made that decision. Members who were part of businesses with dishonest practices that chose to walk away from those businesses rather than dishonor Christ. Beloved, we have members now who are daily pressured to deny Christ in their workplaces. Are you praying for their strength to be faithful? As the moral revolution continues to unfold, more and more Christians will lose their jobs simply by holding to a Christian sexual ethic. Holding to a biblical view of marriage will cause you to lose your job. When you are facing the temptation of the loss of wealth, will you be faithful?

One of the marks of the early church was a familial sharing of resources. They all gave to each other as any had need. Faithfulness in the loss of wealth is a community project. We must be willing to bear each other burdens including financial burdens when our brothers and sisters stand for Christ in the public sector. Let us choose to be poor with Christ than rich without him. Jesus reminded the church that even though we are poor in earthly means, we are rich in the spiritual realm. Even here Jesus is reminding us to follow him, 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Jesus became poor so we would be rich.

Beloved, do you view your wealth as a tool to make others spiritually rich? As we move into a season of increased persecution for the church, it will take the resources of the entire body to encourage faithfulness. Let us commit to living as a spiritual family and give freely to all who have need.

Be Faithful in the Loss of Reputation

            The Christians at Smyrna also faced persecution in their reputation. Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” The reputation of Christians was under attack at Smyrna because certain “Jews” were more interested in protecting their own freedoms. Jews had certain rights under the Roman law. They did not have to worship Caesar as Lord. They were afforded certain rights for the peace of the Roman empire. Christians were initially viewed as a Jewish sect and were afforded similar rights under the Jewish umbrella.

As Christianity grew, Jews began to slander Christians and further separate themselves from believers. Jesus offers some strong words to encourage the church, “I know…the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Paul writes in Romans that a true Jew is not one outwardly, but inwardly and circumcision is a matter of the heart done by the Spirit. These Jews in Smyrna were not true Jews at all but were following Satan. Satan is the Accuser of the brethren. He is the one who spits false accusations against God’s people. These were false Jews and followers of the Slanderer.

Do you realize that every time you slander another person (speaking untruth to harm their reputation) you are following the ways of Satan? The tongue is hard to control. James says it is a restless evil. We must recognize sins of the tongue and repent of how we may have fallen into temptation. We also must be resolute in trusting Jesus with our reputation. It is natural to want to defend ourselves to others. When my reputation has been slandered, there is a part that wells up in me that wants to defend myself against those false accusations. Slander hurts for more than one’s pride but can hurt the reputation of the gospel and witness of Christ. And yet, God is first and the last. He is still in control of it.

Here again, we must look to Christ, 1 Peter 2:23, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” We want to treat others with gentleness and respect so that when we are slandered those who revile our good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:16). If we are insulted for the name of Christ, we are blessed. (1 Peter 4:14) We must continue to entrust ourselves to our faithful Creator while doing good to others. (1 Peter 4:19). Give your reputation to Lord.

Be Faithful in the Loss of Breath

            The church at Smyrna was facing the very real possibility of death. Jesus exhorts them not to fear because he is the living one. We always face death as Christians remembering that our God has promised us a resurrection. Revelation 2:10,

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The devil is going to work through human agents to persecute the church. He always has and he always will use earthly agents to tear down the church. And God is going to use the wickedness of persecution to purify his church. The church will be tested. 1 Peter 1:6-7,

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

God will use our trials to strengthen and confirm our faith. And our trials, don’t miss this, will result in praise and glory and honor of Jesus Christ.

            The ten days of tribulation are probably not referring to a literal ten-day period of persecution, but a symbolic period of testing where they can prove themselves faithful. The ten-day test is most likely alluding to Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego ten-day fast in Babylon where they chose not to defile themselves with the king’s food. Daniel and friends have always been models for faithfulness in the face of death. God spared Daniel from the lion’s den. God spared Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace. Therefore, God will spare the church at Smyrna by giving them the crown of life. As God will spare us if we are faithful to the end. 

            Polycarp would have heard these words as a young man. As he grew into the bishop of Smyrna, there were probably many times when he recited these words to the people. Be faithful unto death and Jesus will give you the crown of life. And by God’s grace, he lived by those words. Polycarp was brought into the Roman stadium and was put on trial. They asked him to recant by shouting and waving his hands towards the Christians saying, “Away with the atheists,” as Christians were referred to that day. Instead, Polycarp was commanded to look behind him to the Christians but instead looked toward the crowd in front of him and waving his hands bellowed, “Away with the atheists.” The Proconsul continued to threaten Polycarp,

“I have wild beasts,” said the proconsul. “I shall throw you to them if you don’t change your attitude.”

“Call them,” replied the saint. “We cannot change our attitude if it means a change from better to worse.”

“If you make light of the beasts,” retorted the governor, “I’ll have you destroyed by fire, unless you change your attitude.”

Polycarp answered: “The fire you threaten burns for a time and is soon extinguished. There is a fire you know nothing about—the fire of the judgment to come and of eternal punishment, the fire reserved for the ungodly. But why do you hesitate? Do what you want.”

The proconsul was amazed, and sent the crier to stand in the middle of the arena and announce three times: “Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian.” The crowd roared in unison that Polycarp must be burned alive.

Polycarp was trusting in the words of Savior and King, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Polycarp has stood in a long line of faithful Christians who stood faithful unto death. They trusted Jesus for the crown of life.

Be Faithful for the Life to Come

            There are two deaths in this world. There is the first death when our bodies perish from this life and there is the second death where our bodies and soul perish forever in hell. Revelation 20:14, “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” This is what Polycarp meant when he said, “There is a fire you know nothing about—the fire of the judgment to come and of eternal punishment, the fire reserved for the ungodly.” The ungodly are those whose names are not written in the book of life.

Jesus desires your name to be written in the book of life. Jesus came to give life and live more abundantly. Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” Jesus calls out to all who will hear his voice. The one who conquers in faith will not be hurt by the second death. They will perish in this life only then will experience the blessed inheritance of the saints.

The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. How do we conquer? The way we conquer is to be conquered. We are only conquerors if we try to save ourselves. We cannot save ourselves. We are ungodly and unrighteous. We deserve the second death, but God sent through the Living One. Jesus Christ came to die and rise again. Jesus conquered the second death through his resurrection. We conquer by allowing Jesus to be our conqueror. We surrender to his Lordship. We bow to him as King. It is only by being conquered by Christ that we will conquer with Christ in the life to come.

We all must make a choice. Will we bow our knee to Christ or to our own will? Polycarp was a young man when he made the choice to follow Christ. He said, “For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my king who saved me?” When the time came and the wood was placed his feet, Polycarp prayed,

O Father of thy beloved and blessed Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to know thee, the God of angels and powers and all creation, and of the whole family of the righteous who live in thy presence; I bless thee for counting me worthy of this day and hour, that in the number of the martyrs I may partake of Christ’s cup, to the resurrection of eternal life of both soul and body in the imperishability that is the gift of the Holy Spirit.[2]

Polycarp took the cup of Christ of death and the hope of his resurrection. He believed in the promise, “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” Friends, I pray who heed the words of Christ as Polycarp did. Be faithful, be steadfast, be immovable in the hope of the gospel, be loyal unto Christ, be faithful to death. Be conquered by Christ so that you will conquer the second death with Christ. He has promised the conqueror’s crown; will you receive it?

[1] Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 240). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

[2] Boa, K., & Kruidenier, W. (2000). Vol. 6: Romans. Holman New Testament Commentary (403–404). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Remember Your First Love (Revelation 2:1-7)

            Do you remember your first car? My first car was a 1972 red Buick Skylark convertible. I loved driving that car. I suddenly became excited to run errands for my parents. I was thrilled to run out for a gallon of milk. I always offered to be the one behind the wheel. I have been driving now for over twenty years and do not have the same joy in running errands for the family. The initial excitement of a sixteen-year old driving his first car is like the excitement of a new Christian living out their faith. A new Christian can’t wait to talk about their faith. They can’t wait to read their Bibles and gather with God’s people. They tell anyone who will listen what has happened to them. And yet, over time the early excitement of new faith begins to fade. The initial joy slows fades away. Although it fades, it can be recovered. I can close my eyes and be transported driving down Hicks road in Palatine, IL for the first time by myself with the top down 20 years ago. As I can close my eyes and be transported on a rock in Lake Champion, NY looking up at the stars awestruck that the one who created the world loved me a sinner. We all have the moment of first loves. The love of the freedom of our first car. The love of the feeling of our first kiss with our spouse. The love of the Savior of our first hearing of the gospel.

            As we approach our text this morning, I pray we would be reminded of our first love or the love we had at first. It is in the love of Christ, we approach his word today. Let us approach our text today by asking several questions. First,

 

Who is the Angel of the Church?

 

            In John’s vision in Revelation 1:9-20, John sees the Lord Jesus holding seven stars in his right hand. Jesus interprets the vision in saying, “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.” The stars are the angels of the seven churches addressed in this letter. The first letter written to Ephesus begins, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The words of him who holds the seven stars in this right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.” Who are the angels in chapter 1 and who is the angel representing each church?

            There is no uniform agreement among scholars who the angels represent. There are two camps of interpretations and then variations within each of those camps. Either one views the angels as a heavenly being or a human being. Those who believe that the angel is an actual person, either believe it is the teaching pastor of the church or the representative from the church who visited John to receive this letter. Although the word angel can be translated messenger as it is in other places in the New Testament, John only uses the Greek word for angel in Revelation to communicate a heavenly being. The strongest argument for an angel being a human representative of the church is that the letter requires real actions which would be hard to carry out if the main audience was a heavenly being.

            The second camp views the angels as heavenly beings. Some believe that God has assigned an angel to each church to guide and protect the congregation. Others believe that the angel is a symbol of the prevailing spirit within the congregation. I believe the best interpretation would fall somewhere in this camp where the angel is connected to the heavenly places. The two main reasons I believe the angel is connected to a heavenly being is because John only uses the Greek word in Revelation to communicate something other worldly. The second reason is the purpose of John’s writing. He is trying to encourage the persecuted church by reminding them that they do not have merely an earthly existence, but a heavenly one. The Bible consistently emphasizes a future glorious heavenly hope to overcome present earthly challenges.

            As we begin our study in revelation, it is important to note there will be certain concepts that we will not be able to be definitive in our interpretation. We are reminded to have humility in our interpretations and charity towards others in theirs. Although we do not exactly know who the angle is, we do not who is speaking. The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand who walks among the lampstands. The Lord Jesus Christ is speaking. The one who has all power and authority is in our midst. Jesus is present with us and Jesus is powerful for us. Those twin truths should anchor us in the raging sea of earthly trials.

 

What are the Works of the Church?

 

            After the introduction, Jesus always begins with two simple words: I know. The Lord Jesus is omniscient; he knows everything. As we gather today, we can be confident that the Lord knows all. Revelation 2:2-3,

I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.

Jesus begins his letter to the church of Ephesus commending them for their works. The church’s works can be seen with three headings.

They have Patient Endurance

            Jesus understands the trials that we face. He is one who sticks closer than a brother. Jesus patiently endured evil as he worked on the earth and now he sees his church walking in the same manner. He is encouraged that the church has held fast to sound doctrine and continued in the faith regardless of their circumstances. They are pressing on to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. There is something to be said for patient endurance.

            William Wilberforce fought vigorously to stop the slave trade in the late 18th century. He faced opposition from within and outside his own party. There are points he was left utterly exhausted and almost ready to give up. One of the encouragements that kept Wilberforce fighting against the slave trade was a letter he received from John Wesley. Six days before his death, on February 24th, 1791, Wesley wrote to Wilberforce,

Dear Sir…Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as “Athanasius against the world,” I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? O be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

Wilberforce endured because a letter reminded him of the presence and power of God. The church at Ephesus endured because a letter reminded them of the presence and power of God. I pray our church would endure as we are reminded of the presence and the power of God.

            God is pleased when we, as the Ephesians, bear patiently with him. They did not grow weary in their fight and I pray we will follow their example.

 

           

They Hate Evil

            The church also hated evil. They did not tolerate sin in their midst. In Paul’s last words to the Ephesian elders, he prophesied that there were going to come false teachers from within the church. Acts 20:28-32,

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Paul’s word proved true. There were false teachers that came to Ephesus and the church resisted them. There were two main ways they recognized and resisted these false teachers. First, they rejected their way of life. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets…you will recognize them by their fruits.” In the Didache, a 1st century document for the church said that one can test a true prophet by if, “he have the behavior of the Lord.[1]

            Beloved, must continue in the spirit of the Ephesians saints and fight for purity in the body of Christ. We must pursue godliness and hate evil. One of the tactics of the devil is to lessen our hatred of evil. If we laugh at sin, we are more likely to commit it. Be on guard against the subtle acceptance of sin. Train your mind to see sin in its most horrific light.

            The Ephesians also rejected false teachers by their message.

They believe in True Teaching

            They discovered these apostles to be false because their teaching did not accord with godliness (1 Timothy 6:3). Ephesus was a place that loved sound doctrine. They loved the truth. They would have been the church to host conferences on expository preaching and systematic theology. They loved the truth. And because they knew and loved the church, they rejected the false teachers. Including the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which we will revisit in more depth in a few weeks.

            Jesus is pleased how the Ephesians loved sound doctrine. I hope Jesus is pleased with us in our zeal for sound doctrine. We are growing more and more in our love for the truth. People often ask me what I am most encouraged by in the life of our church and for last several months, it has been our zeal for the truth. It is so encouraging to see so many people desire to know the riches of God’s Word. We are a word-saturated church. Praise God for his kindness in what he has done and what He is doing in our midst. It is such a blessing to see a people built around the word of God.

            And as it so often is, one of our greatest strengths can become one of our greatest weaknesses.

 

What is the Danger of the Church?           

 

            Jesus was so pleased with how the church loved sound doctrine and purity, but he was discouraged with their love. Revelation 1:4, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” It is never a positive thing to hear the Lord Jesus say, “I have this against you.” For all the positives in the life of the church, they had abandoned love they had at the beginning of their walk with Christ. What is this love that the church had lost? John does not separate the love of God and the love of the body. Our love for God is manifested in our love for others. Or our love for others is fueled by our love for God. There are intimately connected. G. K. Beale notes that the love John is referring to is the love of the lost. The church has lost its zeal to witness to the world. Jesus presents himself as one who holds the golden lampstands and the one who has the power to remove its lampstand from its place.

            This is a great danger. It isn’t though they had forgotten about God for they were zealously pursuing the truth. The danger was that they were pursuing the truth apart from a heart saturated with the love of God. You can be a word-saturated church without love-saturated hearts. Are you loving the body? Has any bitterness grown in your heart towards others? Do you have unresolved anger towards someone in the church? How is our love?

            Also, how is our witness? Are we loving those outside our walls? Are we zealous to witness to the world? This past weekend, we had a campout in the backyard. I told the boys that it was their job to keep the fire going. They had to make sure there was enough wood. And if there wasn’t wood, then they had to go find it. It was their job to fan the flame to keep the fire burning. They had to tend it because it is natural for fire to go out. It needs fuel to burn. It is natural for love to grow cold. If we do not fan the flame of our love for God, his church, and the world, it will cease to burn. Has our love grown cold for the world? Have we forgotten that Christ shines through us to the world? We are the lampstand.

            In the temple, there was one lampstand representing Israel. Israel was called to be a light to the Gentiles. Isaiah prophesied that Israel would not just be a light to the tribes of Jacob, but to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6,

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Notice in Revelation there is not one lampstand, but seven. The seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches. The church is called to be a light to the ends of the earth bringing the glorious salvation of Christ to all people.

            We probably all can remember those early days of our salvation. We so loved the Lord that we could not wait to share him. We wanted to tell our parents, our friends, our neighbors, and coworkers, of what God did in our lives. He saved from hell and adopted as sons. He paid for my sins and gave me new life. One of the gifts God has given our church is new life through our young people. The zeal our students have for the lost has changed our congregation and protected us from abandoned our love for the lost. And yet, we do not fan the flame of our love for God it will grow cold. How do we continue in a white-hot love for God, his church and the lost?

 

What is the Response of the Church?

 

            Jesus gives commands to his church to recover their love. Let us heed his words as they were not given only to Ephesian believers, but all Christians.

Remember

            Revelation 2:5a, “Remember therefore where you have fallen.” The first task is to remember. We must remember our history. We must remember how Israel, our forefathers, had their lampstand removed because of their unwillingness to shine to the nations. They did not witness to the nations but became like the nations. God sent them to exile and disciplined them. Let us learn the history of the people of God so we do not repeat it. And not only are we to remember Israel’s history but our own. Do you remember how lost you were without Christ? Do you remember your sin and trials? Do you remember when someone first shared the good news with you? That although your sin has put you under divine judgment, God has sent forth his Son to take your punishment. You deserve hell, but Jesus has taken hell for you on the cross. How glorious is it to remember all that God had against you was swallowed up in the cross of the Lord Jesus?

            Non-Christian, do you know how far you have fallen? Do you know that God created you for his glory? He created you to love him and serve and to glorify him, but you, like the rest of us, went astray. You walked away from God’s love and lived for yourself. The Bible says that every lie, every selfish act, every lustful thought, every self-righteous decision has to be punished. The wages of sin is death. We all deserve death for our sin, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. Jesus came to die for sinners. He paid the penalty for everyone who would repent and believe in him. Friend, search your heart. If you are honest, you will realize your imperfection and your need for a Savior. Come to Jesus. He is a loving and kind Lord.

Repent

            After we do the mental work of remembering, we must then follow through in repentance. To repent is to turn. It is to change your mind about the place of Jesus Christ in your life and then act upon that change. It is an “about-face” when we make a 180-degree turn. We change the direction our lives. Repentance is not merely mental but requires works. A tree will be judged by its fruit. Jesus says,

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. (Rev. 2:5b)

We show our repentance in our works. Faith without works is dead. True repentance always has actions. Our growth in the Christian life is often slow, but its aim is sure. We aim to live a life of repentance unto the Lord. Right doctrine without right living is a false religion. See the consequences if we don’t repent; the Lord will remove our lampstand.

            There is probably both a present and future aspect of judgment. John does not always differentiate from present chastisement and future punishment. The Lord desires his church to be a light; a witness of his grace to the world. We must take his warning seriously. We do not want to have our light snuffed out, but to continue to shine.

Hear

            To drive home his point, Jesus reminds the church of the importance of hearing and heeding his words, as he did while he was on the earth. Revelation 2:7, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Notice that Jesus does not say hear what the Spirit says to the church, but to the churches. Jesus is speaking to Ephesians as he is speaking to us. The Spirit of God has given us the Scriptures. The Bible is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16). The words were written by men carried along by the Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). The challenge in John’s day is the challenge in our day, “Will we hear the Word of God?”

            One of the reasons we make the preaching of the Word of God central to our services is we want to obey this command. God speaks. We hear. This is how the church has lived for over 2,000 years. The Word of God is declared and the people of God hear and obey. We do not need new methods, but better ears.

           

Conquer

Jesus closes with one last picture of hope given to this church. Jesus brings them back to the Garden of Eden and then points them forward to the new and more glorious Eden,

To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

After Adam and Eve sinned against God, they made coverings for themselves, but there can be no covering without the shedding of blood so God took an animal and clothed Adam and Eve with its skin. Then Genesis 3:22-24 says,

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

There was no way to the tree life. Man had been expelled from the Garden, but in Revelation, Jesus promised that if one conquers they will be granted the ability to eat of the tree of life in paradise with God.

            To conquer in the biblical sense is to overcome the world by believing in Jesus Christ. To conquer is to keep the faith in the gospel. Jesus Christ is the only one who grants access to the tree of life. The only way we can receive the tree of life in paradise is through believing in the tree of life; the cross. Jesus brought life through a cursed tree so that you and I would be granted the privilege of eating from the tree of life. The “tree” of Christ in the only way to the tree of life. 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

To conquer is to persevere. To conquer is to patiently endure with Jesus. To conquer is to believe in Jesus who began a good work in us and will carry it to completion. To conquer is love Jesus and the tree where he bored our sins to bring us life. Salvation is gift. It is granted to all who have the Son. He who has the Son has life. Beloved, let us always remember that he who is in us is stronger than he who is in the world. Let us conquer in holding fast to Christ and the tree which brings life. We let never forget to love the tree of life.

 

[1] Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (p. 69). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

The Vision of the Son (Revelation 1:9-20)

Max Phillips is one of my favorite people. I have never met anyone like him. He joined Park Baptist Church in 1936 when he was 14 years old. He has been a member of Park Baptist Church for 81 years. Max never pays for food at Red’s Grill (Rock Hill’s longest continuous restaurant) because the owner saw Max’s love and tender care for his wife, Molly and decided his money was no good there. Max goes out to eat regularly with his Dentist. He visits the Bank simply to talk to all the young ladies who work the counters. Max is never slow with encouragement, but he is also never slow with his opinion. Max is 95 years old and does his best to get to church as much as he is able given his ailing back. Max has seen this church through many different seasons and different pastors. Park Baptist Church celebrates its 110 year anniversary today and Max has experienced almost 75% of the church’s total ministry.

            God has been incredibly kind to Max. At 95 years old, his mind is as sharp as ever. My relationship with Max has helped me understand John’s relationship to the seven churches in Asia. Max is the elder statesman of our congregation. He knows the history of this congregation better than almost anyone. He has lived through tremendous change in our country, but has remained faithful to Jesus Christ. The greatest thing about Max Phillips is his love for and his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Max knows his time on earth is near an end, but he does not fear death. He knows Jesus Christ. His faith in the Lord Jesus, like many others throughout the last 110 years in this church, is the reason this church has kept her faithful witness. We come to celebrate today what God has done in our church over the last 110 years. We come to give Jesus Christ praise, honor and glory for he loves this church and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom and priests to his God and Father.

            The church in John’s day was beginning to face growing persecution so God sent a vision through his 90 plus year old servant to remain steadfast to the faith in Jesus once and for all delivered to the saints. God has sustained this church for 110 years and as persecution and hostility grow toward the church in America, I pray that you will hear this word and remain steadfast in the hope of our great and glorious Savior.

The Setting of the Vision

            John was a well-respected leader in the church. He was the last living apostle who walked with Jesus. He writes, Revelation 1:9-11,

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.”

John identifies with the churches as a brother and a partner. Of course, being a brother is connecting him to the Christian faith in general. He is a brother in the faith, but it is far more than a mere connection to the larger big “C” Church. John is intimately connected to these churches as a member of their family.

            One of the most consistent and clearest pictures of the Christian life in the New Testament is being part of a family. When one comes to Christ, they become part of a new family, the family of God, and are called to live out their faith in Jesus in that family. There may be some of you here who have not officially stepped out in obedience to Jesus and joined the family by becoming a member of the church. Can I challenge you to consider identifying yourself as Christians have identified themselves for 2,000 years as brothers and sisters of the family of God? Do not be a spiritual orphan, but in obedience God and his Word tether yourself to his church.

            It was the obedience to God’s Word that led John to his exile on the island of Patmos. Patmos was a small island off what is modern day Greece in the Aegean Sea. John was sent there instead of being killed probably because of the respect he had among Christians and his death may have caused outrage among the people. John’s exile was on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. John was in exile because of the gospel of Christ. Therefore, he could not only identify himself as a brother but a partner in tribulation, the kingdom and the patient endurance that is in Jesus.

            John was experiencing the same kind of persecution of the churches. There is something that binds people together who share common trials. When Ken Tedder was battling his cancer, he often shared how much comfort he received by talking to others who were facing his same battle. Shared common experience helps to deepen friendship and trust. I say often to those walking through trial in our congregation, I may not know what you are dealing but I do know there are people in our body who have walked that same road. Share your burdens with the body.

            John also is a partner in the kingdom of God. He desires the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ is fill the earth. He wants people to come to King Jesus and serve him as Lord. Brothers and sisters, we have been made a kingdom of priests by the Lord Jesus. Let us faithfully exercise the keys of the kingdom by testifying to the gospel and inviting people to receive Jesus as Lord. Praise be to God in how our congregation is growing in evangelistic zeal. I am grateful that God has brought us Grant Hinson and his family. They model a consistent and faithful kingdom witness in the neighborhood and our city. If you want to grow in your own evangelism, may I encourage you to spend time with Hinsons.

            One of the exhortations that fills the pages of this prophecy is to patiently endure with Jesus Christ. If you desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, you will face persecution. You will face weariness in obedience. You will have opposition to the gospel. You will be afflicted in every way, but not crushed. You will be perplexed, but not driven to despair. You will be persecuted, but not forsaken. You will be struck down but not destroyed. Jesus Christ will hold you fast. When the tempter would prevail, He will hold you fast. When your love is often cold, Christ will hold you fast. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is to encourage you to patiently endure with Jesus. If your interpretation of this book does not lead you to persevere with Jesus, then you may have missed its main point.

            John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day most likely referring to Sunday, the first day of the week, which Christian set aside to worship God. Long before Christians received Sunday off for worship, Christians would rise early in the morning to gather before they had to work remember the resurrection of Christ. Christians set aside Sunday as the Lord’s Day; to gather with the saints, to hear the Word of God and to sing the praise of the Savior. God has given us the Lord’s Day to help us patiently endure a fallen world in the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We may have a lot of frustrated discouraged drifting Christians in the West, because of their neglect of the Lord’s Day.

            As John was in worship, he was commanded to write down what he saw and share it with the churches in Asia. These seven churches were probably seven cities on a postal route making distribution of the “book” easy, but these seven churches are also representative of all churches throughout the ages. The number seven is used strategically in Revelation to communicate wholeness and completeness. This vision was to be given to and for the whole church.

The Son of the Vision

            After understanding more of the setting, let us turn our attention to the actual vision. It is important to note that although John saw the vision, we are simply hearing it. We do not live in the age of the eye, but the age of the ear. We are commanded to hear and obey. Blessed is the one who hears the words of this prophecy and who keeps what is written in it. Revelation 1:12-16,

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 white wool, like 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.

 

It is hard for us to fully appreciate and understand this vision as it is full of Old Testament imagery. The first century church would have heard this vision in light of the prophecy of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah. It is not meant to be taken literally as if Jesus physically appears like this now, but rather it is meant to communicate who Jesus is in his character and his role in our redemption and judgment.

            First, Jesus is in the church’s midst. The voice of the one speaking was in the midst of the lampstand. Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us. Jesus promised that he will be with us always even to the end of the age. Jesus has not abandoned his church, but he is in our midst. How comforting would it be for the early persecuted, marginalized church to know that Jesus is in the midst? How about you? Are you comforted to know that Jesus is in your midst? He has not left you. He has not left his church. We will prevail.

            Second, he is in our midst as our Messiah. Jesus is one like a son of man. John is clearly drawing on the Daniel’s well-known prophecy that the Messiah would be one like a son of man. He is not communicating that Jesus is merely like us as a human, but is the long-awaited Messiah who would become like us to free us from our sin with his blood. This would not have been lost on the first-century audience.

            Third, this Messianic, Son of Man, was clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The long robe and sash is properly communicating two specific ideas. First, that Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth. We see the kingship of Jesus established early in Revelation 1. The vision is to show that Jesus is ruler above all earthly powers. Caesar is not God. There is only One God.  Second, Jesus is our high priest. The high priest was identified in Exodus as wearing a sash around his chest (Exodus 39:39). Jesus is both our king and our high priest. (He is in the order of Melchizedek; Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 7-9). Hebrews 2:17-18,

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus is in our midst as our high priest. He suffered and died to pay for the sins of the church, to all who would repent and believe in Him. There cannot be a more encouraging picture. The Elder John and our elder Max do not fear death because One has paid for their sins. We do not have to fear because our debt is paid because our high priest is in our midst interceding for us. And because of his intercession we can patiently endure the tribulation of this world. Pope Francis recently stated, “The Lord does not leave us orphans: we have a Mother, the same one as Jesus. Mary takes care of us and always defends us.” The Bible does not show Mary as the one who cares for us and defends us, but the faithful witness Jesus Christ. Jesus is our Advocate who ever lives to intercede for us.

            Fourth, Jesus is pure. His hair being white like wool, like snow should draw our minds back to Daniel 7:9 and Isaiah 1:18. Jesus is pure. His purity should encourage us in two ways. His purity should cause us to rejoice because his sacrifice pure meaning that we can be freed from our sins. The righteous, pure One paid the penalty for the unrighteous and impure ones; Jesus for us. His purity should also resolve us to fight sin. We now belong to the pure one so we should fight for purity.

            Fifth, his eyes were like a flame of fire. His gaze is penetrating. He sees and knows all; nothing is hidden from his sight. Jesus is the only Sovereign who sees and knows all. He knows all history and he knows all your history. There is a Latin term, coram deo, which means before the face of God. We always live before the face of God. He sees what is done in secret. He sees who you pray tireless of others. He sees how you labor in your Word to know Him. He knows your burden for the lost in your family. He also sees your lust and greed, impatience and bitterness, your indifference and discontent. When we stand before the face of God at the end of history, his judgment will be perfect. Let us live, coram deo, now; before his face as we know that one day we will stand face to face and the secrets of men will be exposed by Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16).

            Sixth, his feet were burnished bronze, refined in a furnace. This is to communicate strength and power. In the ancient world, one’s feet were a sign of strength especially in regard to battle. Good footwear was essential for success in battle due to long marches over vast terrain. The army with the best shoes was often victorious. The enemies that stand against God and His people will face his strength and power.

            Seventh, his voice was like the roar of many waters showing the power of his Word. We see his word being a like a trumpet and hear like the roar of many waters. When God speaks, He commands attention. His Word will pierce and disclose all like a sharp, two-edged sword. Hebrews 4:12-13,

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

This same image is used again in Revelation 19 when his Word will strike down the nations. We remember 2 Thessalonians where it says the breath of the Lord will destroy the Anti-Christ. There is power in his Word.

            Eighth, he holds seven stars in his right hand. He will look at the stars more next week, but merely see that he is the one who is in control. The right hand of God is to communicate power and control. He is the only Sovereign.

            Lastly, his face was like the sun shining in full strength. He was brilliant and majestic and powerful. This should bring back the transfiguration when the inner three saw Jesus dazzling white. It is impossible to stare at the sun in full strength, we must look away.

            The vision would have been easily understood by its first-century audience and it was meant to show the power and majesty of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, above and over all earthly powers. There would have been an emotive effect when they heard this vision. Sometimes in our efforts to understand the prophecy of Revelation, we miss the emotion and the purpose to our hearts. Jesus is in our midst. Our King and High Priest is in our midst with purity, power and piercing perception. Who can stand before him?

 

The Sentiment of the Vision

            There is no casualness in John’s approach to Jesus here. He sees God and falls down before him as though dead. Like Isaiah, Joshua, and Ezekiel before him, when John is face to face with the awesomeness of God, he falls as though dead. I believe it is instructive for us in how saints approached God. There is a casualty in our day that obscures the reality of the holy and awesome nature of God almighty. God is in our midst, but he is also God and should be honored as such. And yet, this awesome God is a kind and gracious God. Revelation 1:17-20,

 

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.

Jesus laid his right hand on John in a loving, tender touch saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last.” This is a direct quote from Isaiah 41:4, “I, the Lord, the first and with the last; I am he.” Isaiah continues with great verse which is the favorite of many here, Isaiah 41:10;13-14,

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…For I, the Lord you God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’ Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel, I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

He with us and we are in his right hand. The God of the Universe, then only one who can condemn says, “Fear not.” You no longer have to fear death, because Jesus is the Living One. He died and Behold he is alive forevermore and holds the keys to Death and Hades.”

 

            Christian, does it give you hope that our Jesus died you and rose for you? He is alive forevermore and as he is so you shall be. Oh beloved, let the gospel of Jesus give your heart courage to patiently endure with him. Yes, life can be challenging. We will face many trials and tribulations to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:23). And yet, we have a faithful high priest who died for us to pay our debt. We have a Sovereign King that commands us to, “Fear Not.” Jesus lives. He lives forevermore. We can face tomorrow because we know he lives today.

            Non-Christian, please know that the tender touch of God and his kind words of acceptance that are spoken here are only for those who trust in Christ. They are offered to you freely and without charge. Jesus died for whosoever would believe, but only for those who would believe. If the Bible is true, one day you will stand before this awesome God and fall on your face as though dead and one of two things will happen: He will either reach out his hand and say, “Fear not. Welcome home,” or he will say, “As you have denied me, so I deny you. Depart from me.” Friend, this vision was given to you as a warning. When you stand before the face of God, where will you place your hope? Turn to Jesus Christ. He is the Living One. There is no other God. He is our only hope. He is a kind Savior and a fierce Judge. I pray that you embrace him as Savior so you will not experience him as Judge.

             Park Baptist Church has held out the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for 110 years. This church has helped many find Jesus Christ. Max Phillips heard the gospel and believed and has been patiently enduring with Jesus for over 76 years (joining at 14 but truly repenting and believing at 18). There have been scores and scores of people who have heard and believed in the gospel through the ministry of this church. As our church, like the first century church, continues to face growing hostility to the gospel, I pray that we would partner together in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus for we belong to the first and the last, the living one. We have an awesome and glorious Savior who is in our midst. Beloved, fear not our Savior has prepared a place for you and he is coming with clouds to bring us home. One day the trump will resound and the Lord will descend, even so, it is well with our souls.

My Hope and Joy

“For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)

Beloved,

There are many days that I sit and pray and long to be in the presence of the Lord Jesus. I meditate about seeing our glorious Savior in all his glory. I long for his loving embrace and words of welcome into his eternal kingdom. It is humbling to know that my hope, my joy and my crown of boasting before the Lord Jesus Christ on that day is you. It is an incredible gift to shepherd and serve you as your pastor. I feel an incredible joy and thankfulness that God has given me the pleasure of pastoring the Park Baptist Church. The love that my family and I consistently feel from this congregation is truly overwhelming. I believe that I am the best loved pastor in all of Rock Hill.

I am not only overwhelmed because of your love for me, but your love for the Lord Jesus Christ, your passion for the Word of God, your desire to serve each other as brothers and sisters of the same family, and your passion for the glory of God to be manifested across the earth. Your hope, your joy and your faith is my hope and joy and crown of boasting before Christ. I am so incredibly proud to be your pastor. You have been taught by God to love one another and I exhort you to do so more and more. Your love for Christ and his church will draw many others to receive the kingdom of God through receiving Jesus as Lord as we manifest God wisdom in living as a radical transformed redeemed family of God. I am so glad that I am part of this family of God.

            Although God has given me the joy of serving as an under-shepherd of this church for 5 years, Jesus Christ has served as the Chief Shepherd of Park Baptist Church for 110 years. The good work that God has begun in Park Baptist Church, he will carry to completion on the Day of Christ Jesus. Let us pause and thank God for this faithfulness to this Park Baptist Church. Praise God for the warm heartedness of our congregation. Praise God for the spiritual fervor. Praise God for his ever-present faithfulness. Praise God for his steadfast love. Let us not merely remember what God has done in and through Park on Homecoming, but let us share all month long of God’s kindness to us in Christ.

            May the God of hope fill us with all hope and joy as we continue to trust in Him so that we may overflow with hope in the power of the Holy Spirit. God has been kind to Park Baptist Church for 110 years. God has been kind to me these past 5 years by making you my hope, my joy and my crown of boasting at the coming of Christ. May God give us many more anniversaries and Homecomings together.

Member Profile - Paige Kisker

1.)    What is your vocation?

I believe the Lord has called me to do international missions. I am working on a Biblical Counseling degree from Southeastern, and I have a passion for loving and counseling women, especially teenagers that struggle with self-confidence and self-worth issues.

2.)    Tell us about your family:

 

My mom, dad, and little sister, Hannah, mean the world to me. My parents have always loved and encouraged me to the best of their ability. Like every family, we have our differences, but I have never doubted my family's love for me. 

3.)    Who was the main human influence that led you to a relationship with Christ?

Mary Courtney was my Younglife leader in high school. I believe she definitely planted the seed, but I did not grow and mature in my faith until I came to Winthrop. She taught me how we were designed to be in a relationship with Jesus. I believe my friends I made freshmen watered the seeds if you may. My community truly exemplifies what brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ looks like, and they are continuing to grow and challenge me in my walk with the Lord.   

 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse?

2nd Corinthians 5:17 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?

The Lord has been teaching me how to more genuinely and consistently rely on Him in my current season of transition. He is humbling me, showing me how I do not handle change as well I thought I did. During this new and challenging time in my life, I am learning that He is my true rock to lean on, not my worldly circumstances or even my close friends and family. This world is only temporary, but God, His promises, and His redeeming love are everlasting. 

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you?

I find it oddly satisfying to cross things off my "to-do" list. Embarrassingly enough, I sometimes will make a silly, unnecessary list just so I can scratch things off throughout the day. :) 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?

Please pray that I am able to glorify the Lord through my new teaching job at Providence Classical School. Sometimes, I feel very anxious and a sense of inadequacy. I just pray that He works through my insecurities, and I am able to love and grow those children I have been entrusted with. 

The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1-8)

    In June of 2017, three friends Nick, Ian and Arman, were hired to paint the home of a prominent Muslim citizen in Marawi Philippines. This routine job turned into a nightmare when ISIS went on a door to door “cleansing” of the city. Christians and Muslims have long lived side by side in peace in Marawi, but the spread of Islamic extremists had finally arrived in their city. On May 23, a group of militants declared their intent to make an Islamic caliphate in the Philippines. As the persecution and violence intensified against Christians, these three believers were forced to cower and hide in the basement for weeks. Imagine the thoughts of these three young men sitting in that Philippine basement wondering what would be their future? Would the constant barrage of gunfire fall upon their heads? Would they survive to see their families again?

            After weeks of worrying and praying for their survival, they decided to escape. They ran throughout the city hiding in thick shrubs before making to the river. As they approached the water, they heard bullets fired by nearby snipers whizzing over their heads. They dove into the rushing water and eventually climbed out on the other side safe from harm. They recalled their thoughts to a NY Times reporter saying,

We said we’d try to get rescue for them if we made it out. We also told ourselves that our fate was with the Lord. We told each other, whatever happens, happens. If we get hit and die, that’s our fate. But we had to escape. Or at least die trying.[1]

            For years these men lived at peace with Muslims friends and coworkers, but persecution had come. Their fate was with the Lord. Now imagine if I this didn’t happen in the Philippines, but in Columbia, SC. How would it change your perspective of hearing the story? Our ears usually perk up if we believe that what is being said is relevant to our life and our situation. Many of our brothers and sisters face intense persecution for their faith. This story happened only a few months over this summer in 2017. Persecution and violence against Christians may be closer than we think. What would the Lord say to encourage and strengthen the resolve of persecuted believers who were in constant fear of their future? We do not have to wonder because God has already spoken. The book of Revelation was written to strengthen and encourage the hearts of believers facing intense persecution in the first century.

            Revelation can be an enigma for Christians. There are some who are fascinated by the prophecy and symbolism in Revelation and spend most of their Bible study trying to discover the hidden meaning of the book. There are others that ignore the book altogether because it of mystery that lies in its message and how confusing and challenging the message appears. Most pastors are terrified to preach through it because there are so many different interpretations and incredibly strong convictions of the book. And yet, God wants us to read and study and meditate on this book because it is part of his holy, precious, perfect Word. As we approach this book, let us understand that this book was written to encourage and strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. I pray as we study through Revelation that you will understand more of the prophecy and that your heart would be resolved to follow hard after Christ.

The Definite Future Reality

            One of the main purposes of the book of Revelation is to show that there is only One who is in control of the future. Our fate is in the hands of the Lord. Revelation 1:1-2,

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, who bore witness to the Word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

The book begins with its title “revelation” from the Greek word “apocalypse.” The use of the word is to communicate the unveiling of things that have been previously hidden. Many approach Revelation as mysterious, but the intent of the book to “reveal” the things that must soon take place.

            The source of the prophecy is Jesus Christ himself. God the Father gave this word to Jesus who then gave it to his servants through his angel. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, received this word and bore witness of this word to the church. (John’s other writings will be important to help us interpret this book.) The revelation is from Jesus and about Jesus. We know that all Scripture is ultimately about the person and work of Jesus Christ. On the road to Emmaus Jesus said, “that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44) Revelation is both from Jesus and about Jesus. The full of title of Jesus Christ is found three times in the prologue and does not appear in the rest of book, but simply the name Jesus.

            John writes that this revelation was to show us, “the things that must soon take place.” Soon could be interpreted in the sense of suddenly or without delay. It could also be interpreted from of standpoint of certainty of the events in the book. Many scholars view the idea of soon from the perspective of the Lord. 2 Peter 3:8, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Others believe that the events that must soon take place were the coming persecution of the church which indeed happened quickly from the completion of this book. The most compelling perspective is to place the concept of time in a prophetic outlook. In prophecy, the end is always imminent. This is a common theme through the New Testament. Jesus said that he would give justice speedily in Luke 18:8 and Paul writes that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. If we approach the idea that the end is imminent we will be ready for that day. Jesus wants us to be ready for his return. Are you ready? Are you obeying Jesus today as you look forward to that day?

The Blessed Obedience

            There are seven blessings in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, 22:14). The number seven is an important number in the Bible and especially this book as it communicates wholeness and completeness. The seven blessings of the book point to the complete and comprehensive blessing of God for his people. We would do well to pay attention to these blessings, Revelation 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.

This blessing is very familiar with word Jesus in the gospels about the blessed of both hearing and obeying the Word of God. The concept of the blessing of obedience should show us that the book is not merely meant to teach prophecy, but to provide moral instruction and practical implications for our daily life. Revelation is not meant to only be read as we look into the future, but it is relevant to our lives today.

            Are you obeying Jesus today? Do you desire to hear the Word of God and obey? What areas of your life are in contrast to the word of God? Blessed can be translated happy. Do you want to be happy? Obey Jesus. Your struggle with happiness and joy today may be a result of living in a fallen world, but it also may result from a lack of obedience to Jesus. The concept of hearing and obeying the word of God is a theme that is prevalent throughout Revelation. The letters to the churches end with the repeated admonition, “Let the one who has an ear hear what the Spirit says.” Keeping and/or observing God’s commands are found ten times in the book (Rev. 1:3, 2:26, 3:3, 3:8, 3:10, 12:17, 14:12, 16:15, 22:7, 22:9). As one scholar notes the purpose of the book, “is not merely to outline the future intervention of God or to portray the people of God symbolically in the light of divine reality but to call the saints to accountability on that basis. This is a prophetic book of warning as well as comfort to the church.”

            Allow this book to affect your heart. Are you comforted with the truth that you will be blessed as you are obeying the Lord Jesus? Or are you convicted with your lack of obedience? Beloved, the time is near. Be ready. We are only blessed when we hear the Word AND when we obey the Word.

The Trinitarian Promise

            Revelation is written to the seven churches that are in Asia. The seven churches are listed in chapters 2 and 3. These aren’t the only churches in Asia but represent groups of churches. John strategically again uses the number 7 to communicate that this book is not only written to these seven churches but to all the church of Jesus Christ. John begins the body of his letter with a Trinitarian Promise. The word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible, but the concept is found woven throughout the Scripture. Revelation 1:4-5,

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him whom is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before the throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings of the earth.

The blessing of this salutation is that the triune God offers grace and peace. Grace and peace only come from God. Grace is always first because it is only through grace that we are brought peace.

John begins by establishing the absolute sovereignty over time of God the Father. God is and was and is to come. A church that is struggling with persecution and violence is encouraged when they are reminded that God is in control of all history. “An uncertain future calls for One who by virtue of his eternal existence exercises sovereign control over the course of history.” John is giving the people courage as they face uncertainty by reminding them that God is one without a beginning or an end. He is in control, he always was in control and he always will be in control. John modifies does not say, “who will be,” but rather draws out the central theme of the book by saying, “who is to come.” Our minds are drawn consistently and repeatedly to the One who is to come and give his church final victory over evil.

The seven spirits who are before the throne is a reference to the Holy Spirit. There are some scholars who are unsure if this points to the Holy Spirit, but I believe it does for several reasons. First, grace and peace only come from God because God is the only one who can give grace and peace. The seven spirits are giving grace and peace, therefore, must be God. And we know the Holy Spirit is God through John’s Gospel. Second, John uses the number seven to communicate wholeness as we have already seen in this book. John is showing the wholeness and perfection of the Holy Spirit in using a specific, symbolic name for Him. Third, Isaiah 11:2 references the Spirit of the Lord using seven descriptions, “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Lastly, Zechariah 4 mentions a prophecy of seven lamps and seven lips and the angel in clarifying the meaning says, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” The perfect victory over evil described in Revelation is done by the Spirit of the Lord. The use of seven spirits is found also in Revelation 3:1, 4:5, and 5:6 that we will look at in the coming weeks.

John ends the Trinitarian promise of grace and peace with Jesus Christ. The normal trinitarian blessing is the Father, then the Son, and then the Holy Spirit. The order is changed here most likely because of the doxology that flows from the description of Jesus Christ. Jesus is defined as the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. First, Jesus is the faithful witness. Witness is taken from the Greek word (martys) where we get our English word martyr. Jesus was the faithful one who was willing to die. John uses the word throughout the book to show the penalty of death that results from a firm and constant witness (2:13, 11:3, 17:6). As the church in Asia was facing intense pressure of violence, they needed to be reminded that their plight was no different than that of their master. Jesus was the faithful witness unto death, but he was also the faithful witness of the testimony of God. Jesus said before Pilate, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) Let us be the ones who hear Christ’s voice and bear witness to it in our lives. For to us, to live is Christ and die is gain.

Jesus is also the firstborn from the dead. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Jesus was not the first one who was resurrected, but his resurrection gave him priority and sovereignty as the messianic king. Psalm 89:27 states, “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” The position of the firstborn was the place of authority and inheritance. Jesus was placed in the highest place and given the name that is above every name.

Therefore, Jesus is not only the firstborn from the dead but the ruler of the kings of the earth. John foreshadows of the unfolding of the prophecy when we will see Jesus declared the Lord of lords and King of kings in Revelation 17:14 and 19:6. Jesus will give ultimate victory for his church should that not encourage you to remain faithful to him. Do not chase after lesser things. Do not run after the idols of our day. Hold fast to Christ. Only he is the supreme King of kings.

            The description of Jesus is an unfolding of the gospel. Jesus was the faithful witness unto death on the cross. Jesus was declared to be the preeminent firstborn from the dead in his resurrection. Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God given all authority in heaven and earth. The most important aspects of Jesus ministry were his death, his resurrection, and his ascension. And when we think of the gospel, we should exalt in praise. This is exactly what John does as moves to a hymn of worship of Jesus.

The Blood-Bought Kingdom

            Jesus deserves to be worshiped by his people for how he has loved us and how he has rescued from sin. Revelation 1:5b-6,

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Notice the verb tenses. Jesus loves us. This is not past tense, although Jesus has loved us. This is not future tense, although Jesus will love us. No, this is present tense, Jesus loves us. Know this beloved, Jesus loves you. He has set his love upon you. Do not let anything rob of the joy of knowing the love of Jesus, the sweet, sweet love of Jesus. But also notice the past tense of the second phrase, Jesus, “has freed us from our sin by his blood.” We are forgiven. We are cleansed. Our ransom has been paid. His blood has brought us peace. Believer, know of Christ love and the redemption in his blood.

            Non-believer, can challenge you to consider the reasons why Christians give glory, honor, and praise to God? Christians are not perfect, but rather recognize how imperfect we are. We are often more aware of our sins and conscious of our faults. What separates a Christian and non-Christian, is that Christians recognize there is nothing we can do to change our sin. We realize that we cannot overcome our sin with good works and good words, but we need a Savior. We need someone to pay for our mistakes. We realize we need Jesus and his cleansing, freeing blood. I hope that you would consider your need yourself. How will you overcome your sins without Jesus?

            Another reason to glorify Jesus is that he made us a kingdom and priest to the Father. God has given the church responsibilities on earth. We have been given the keys of the kingdom of God. We invite people to bow their knee to King Jesus through the proclamation of the gospel. We are reigning with Christ through the preached Word. We have already been made a kingdom. We are also priests who offer our lives a spiritual sacrifice unto the Lord. We have given a responsibility to mediate Christ’s royal and priestly authority to the world. We have been restored in the new Adam to exercise dominion through his reconciling gospel now and will one day soon exercise that dominion with him forever and ever.

The Coming King

            John ends the introduction of this book by drawing our eyes to the past and to the future. He begins Behold. John uses this in all his writing to focus our attention,

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.

This first is full of Old Testament imagery. Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah promised in Daniel 7:13-14,

I saw in the night visions and behold, with clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he to the Ancient of Days and was present before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away.

Notice he does not come on the clouds, but with the clouds. It is a clear picture of his divine authority. The prophecy of Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah are important for us as we interpret Revelation.

            The second and third phrases, “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.” are alluding to Zechariah 12:10. John quotes Zechariah 12:10 in John 19:37, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” Zechariah speaks of the repentance that will come to Israel when they realize that the one whom they pierced was the Messiah. Israel will mourn over their sin and accept the humble piercing on their behalf. And yet here in Revelation, John does not reference Israel wailing, but all the tribes of the earth. John is reminding us of God’s great promises to Abraham that all the families of the earth will be blessed through his offspring. The people will not only include Israel but all tribes of the earth. God is bringing his salvation to all people. The victory of Jesus Christ will bring the nation, Israel, and the nations to repentance.

            Of course, this end-time victory will also produce wailing of another kind. Those who do not know Christ as Savior will experience his judgment. They will weep because the time has passed for them to be saved. Friends, these things must soon take place. The time is near. Are you ready? Do you fear his coming or long for it? One day we all will stand before the Lord Almighty. He is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is and was and is to come.

            He has fixed day for his return. He is coming but is demonstrating his patience because he desires that any should perish, but all should reach repentance. Friend, Jesus is a glorious, merciful, kind Savior, but he will soon come as a glorious, powerful, victorious Warrior. You can experience his love now and be cleansed of your sin and brought into his kingdom by repenting of your sins and calling him Lord.

            Beloved, we cannot predict the future. We do not know what persecutions lie ahead for the church, but we know who sits on the throne. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. He has bought us peace with his blood. Let us, therefore, live as priests to God our Father sacrificing our lives for the cause of the gospel of Christ. He is worthy of our lives. He is worthy of worship. He is worthy because He is and He was and He is to come.

           

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/17/world/asia/marawi-philippines-islamic-state-christians.html?mcubz=1 accessed on 9.10.17

           

 

Member Profile - Weston Beck

1.)    What is your vocation?

I am an Inside Sales & Service Representative at Continental Tire. I have been working for Continental since October 2016.

 

2.)    Tell us about your family:

I have 3 brothers and 7 nephews/nieces.... and counting.

 

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ?

The main human influence that lead me to a relationship with Christ was my oldest brother, Travis. I looked up to him a lot. He invited me to what I thought was a beach trip 7 years ago, but turned out to be a Youth Retreat at his church. I rededicated my life to Christ at that retreat. Since then, one of the most influential brothers in Christ I have had is John Whiteaker. He has helped and continually encourages me tremendously in scripture.

 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse?

My favorite Bible verse is John 16:33, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?

The Lord has been teaching me patience and to trust in His Will.

 

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you?

Most people don't know that I was a 3x state champion in wrestling in high school and planted a career record of 235-9. Seth and I, along with my other 2 brothers, were inducted into the Rock Hill High School Wrestling Circle of Champions this past year.

Member Profile - Ashley Porterfield

What is your vocation? My vocation at this time is a student

Tell us about your family: Sharon Jackson birthed me and my older brother with help from Albert Porterfield, they separate when I was younger. My mother lives in Blythewood and is a receptionist for the Radiologist department at Moncrief Army Clinic, formally a hospital. My father lives in Montgomery, Alabama with his wife Letitia Porterfieldand her two children, Zechariah and Destiny. My father works for a company who send medical history to different hospitals. My brother, from my mother and my father, isArmonte and is 9 months older than I am.

 

Who was the main influence that led you to a relationship with Christ? I believe my father was my main influence, when I was younger he would read my children’s stories about stories in the Bible. Back then I didn’t know what he was doing and mostly saw it as a chore, so I didn’t really enjoy it. After that a teacher in high school really showed me that Christians don’t have to be perfect. I remember vividly of him coming in late one day and explaining to us that his wife’s car broken down, so he had to take her to work and their baby to daycare. But he wasn’t anger or upset he was calm and knew that God would make a way like he always did. He would also read scriptures to us in class and teach us about really life things that helped me out in my future.

 

 

What is your favorite bible verse?

 Philippians 4:11-12 NIV “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whetherwell fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  

 

 

What has the Lord has been teaching you over the last 6 months? I believe that God is teaching to “Just Do It”. Join that Bible study, talk to that person, post all about how Jesus being the light in the dark world and that we can be the light too and not to being afraid to hanging out with that group of saints I don’t know that well. Be that positive person in that long Wal-mart lines that just happy I get to see other people. Along with the last example God had taught me that every single person is on the same level and we all deserve love.

  

 

Do you have any specific prayer requests? That I get a job, so I can have a real vocation. That my mother seeks him face and her heart is changed. That I can get through this Anatomy and Physiology class I am taking.

Member Profile - Elizabeth Litchford

1.)    What is your vocation?

 

I am a junior at Winthrop University studying Middle Level Education. I would like to teach either math or social studies once I graduate.

 

2.)    Tell us about your family:

 

My parents live in Blythewood, South Carolina, about an hour south of here. My dad is a home builder and my mom just started her first year as a women’s counselor. I have a younger sister, Anna Lee, who is going to be a junior at Blythewood High School this year. I also have an older brother, David, who is living in Charleston and going to culinary school.

 

3.)    Who was the main human influence that led you to a relationship with Christ?

 

I have definitely had too many important influences in my life to count, specifically the people that I have met here at Park, but the one that sticks out the most is my mom. She has always set a wonderful example of how to live a Christian life and how to make my decisions not based off of my own desires, but off of God’s will. Without her, I would never have had the confidence to be a Christian.

 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse?

 

Gosh, it’s a struggle for me to pick one verse, but I always seem to focus on James 1:2. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Simple, but such a good reminder of the joy we can find in Christ.

 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?

 

I feel like God is always teaching me things, and then when I fail or forget what I’ve learned, He teaches me the same thing over again. So recently, I have definitely been learning, and relearning, that my relationship with God must be consistent. I can’t just pick it up when I want to and stop whenever it becomes inconvenient for me.

 

6.)    What is something most people don't know about you?

 

I love hamburgers and fries, maybe a little too much. Most people actually probably already know that… but it’s true!

 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?

 

This school year is going to be a little harder than the past two years. Prayer for a good attitude and good work ethic. Also, the ability to prioritize all of the different aspects of my life in the best way possible.

Member Profile Sarah Survance

1.)    What is your vocation? Political science student at Winthrop University. 

2.)    Tell us about your family: I have two great parents, an older sister,  and two younger brothers. My dad is a small business owner and my mom homeschools my youngest brother. My older sister just graduated from Clemson. One of my brothers is a senior in high school and the other is an 8th grader. 

3.)    Who was the main human influence that led you to a relationship with Christ? My parents. They taught me the gospel and emphasized the importance of scripture, the church, and godly friends. 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse? Recently it has been Colossians 2:13-15 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months? How special it is to be a part of a loving, Christian community. He's been showing me how important relationships should be in the life of a  Christian. 

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you? Once I was a an extra for a movie filmed in the Utah desert. 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests? That I can prioritize the things in life that have eternal significance. And that God will use me to minister to younger girls. 

Member Profile - Gross Family

What is your vocation?

 

Chris -  Works for Chick-fil-A on Cherry Road as a cook and inventory supervisor

 

Jenn – Works for HMSHost at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and completing an associate degree this summer.

 

 

 

Tell us about your family:

 

We are a family of 3 with a furry large dog named Bailey.  We work hard (all 3 of us… David is a weekend / summer time turkey farmer) and as such we enjoy vacationing together in the mountains, at the beach, and even and adventure on a cruise ship.  We have been at Park for 4 years and have come to cherish our family here.

 

 

 

Who was the main influence that led you to a relationship with Christ?

 

Chris – I would have to say many members of my family tried to lead me to Christ, but my wife, Jenn, is the one who got me there.  As a family we wanted to raise David as a Christian and found Park and Pastor Dave.  It was pastor Dave that soften my heart one Sunday night and I have never looked back.

 

Jenn – My grandmother is and has always been the strong and steadfast anchor in my walk with Christ.  She has always led by example; I have watched her over the years struggle with the everyday ups and downs of life.  As a wife, mother to eight, grandmother to 16, great-grandmother to 15 (and counting), and friend to many, she has as seen and experienced God’s blessings and lessons never once wavering in her faith.

 

 

 

What is your favorite bible verse?

 

Chris – And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.  1st Thessalonians 4:11-12

 

Jenn – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path.  Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

 

What has the Lord has been teaching you over the last 6 months?

 

Chris – To reprioritize my life putting God and family first

 

Jenn – That with God I will, and do have the patience, strength, and determination to conquer my days.

 

 

 

What is something most people don’t know about you?

 

Chris – I am half Canadian.

 

Jenn- I have PCOS and David is our gift from God.

 

 

 

Do you have any specific prayer requests?

 

Chris – That we will better coordinate our work life and home life, making the time spent as a  family quality time  .

 

Jenn – Please keep me in prayers as I finish school and begin looking for a job / career.

 

David – Navigating life as a child in today’s world isn’t easy and fostering friendships for an only child of 2 working parents is hard.

Member Profile - Jamie and John Whiteaker

1.)    What is your vocation? I am about to graduate from Winthrop University with a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education. I will beginning teaching third grade in August at Hickory Grove Sharon Elementary School in York. Whit: I work at Resifence. Its a company that does residential fencing. I have been doing it off and on for 3 years.

2.)    Tell us about your family: Well, Whit and I have been married for almost a year this month, so that has been a very exciting and sanctifying journey for us both. I grew up an only child in Newberry, SC, which is were my dad and my grandparents live. My dad is getting ready to retire from SCDOT and is getting married next month. My grandfather is a LAN Administrator at Georgia Pacific and is also getting ready to retire. Both of my grandmothers stay at home and are excellent cooks. My mother passed away when I was in high school from a rare stomach disease called Gastroparesis. She was very dear to me. Whit: I am married to Jamie Whiteaker. Our 1 year anniversary will be at the end of the month. I have a mother, brother, and sister in law that lives in Rock Hill.

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ? My Young Life leader, Cindy Long, played a huge impact in my relationship with Christ when I was in high school. She walked me through scripture and consistently pointed me to Christ during some of the darkest moments of my life. Whit: The person that led me to Christ was Casey Espich. I was in high school. He had some guys read the bible. As I read the gospels I was saved.

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse? 2 Corinthians 4 Whit: That's a difficult question. I feel it changes. It was for awhile Jeremiah 20:9-11. I would have to say now its Habakkuk 3:16-19. 1 Peter chapter 1 is always good. Ok I'm going to stop now.

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months? The Lord has been reminding me and teaching me about His sovereignty when I look back and see all of the ways He has led me down paths that at the time did not make sense. However, now when I look back, I can see His hand moving throughout my life, especially in my college experience with bringing me to Winthrop and then to Park Baptist and the community that he has blessed me with here. Whit: The Lord has been encouraging me to work hard for my relationship with him. I feel the conviction more to spend time in prayer, and in the Word. While discipline some young believers God has been showing me ways to make things simple for others to understand it. I love things simple. Anyone can speak over someone's head, but to put them in terms for everyone, and lets your heart feed on it...well that's just great.

6.)    What is something most people don't know about you? I was a competitive clogger (dancer) throughout high school and was also Valedictorian of my graduating class in high school.  Whit: Something people may not know is I use to be wild. I'm a very weird and wild person. My friends like to bring up all of the weird things I use to do. So if you have any crazy stories, I would love to hear them. No judgement here.

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests? As I graduate and begin teaching in the public school system, I ask that you pray that the light of Christ will shine through me in the school and in my own classroom and that the Lord would use me in the way that He sees fit to reach the lost as an educator. Whit: I have a lot of prayer request. I love people praying for me. I feel weird sometimes asking for prayers because sometimes I think people think you are in trouble if you ask, but I could always use prayers because I'm always in need of God. So prayer for marriage, loving my wife. A good attitude at work. Patience, and energy for a busy summer. Prayers that the Lord would help more to find joy and a willingness to spend time in the Word and prayer. I do struggle with quiet times.

 

 

Standing in the Truth - 3 John

On April 18th, 1521 Martin Luther was brought before the Diet of Worms to be challenged on his view of Scripture. When asked if he wanted to retract any ideas in his writings, he replied,

Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.[1]

Luther Biographer, Roland H. Bainton, noted that in that moment, “the past and the future were met.” Luther defended his written attacks against the papacy and challenged their authority to determine right from wrong. Luther stood steadfast in his trust and interpretation in the Holy Scripture. Luther was bound by the Word of God. God’s Word constrained his conscience.

            Luther’s stand that salvation was revealed in Scripture alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone was the catalyst that burned the gospel into the hearts of Europe spreading the Reformation and recovery of the gospel across Europe. It took courage for Luther to stand against false doctrine. It could have ended his life. Luther stood for truth. His courage has inspired countless thousands over the last 500 years.

The courage it takes to stand for truth inspires hearts. The stand of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., William Tyndale, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, and William Wilberforce inspired courage of their contemporaries and the following generations. Each not knowing in the moment what would become of their lives. And yet, the stood for truth. When the moment comes, will you stand for truth? When your coworker asks about your faith, will you stand? When your family questions your decision to go overseas, will you stand? When you see a brother drifting towards sin, will you stand? When you are tempted by the evil one, will you stand? Your moment may not inspire millions, but it will be seen by your Father in heaven. And he who sees that is done in secret will reward you.

            We all face moments of truth every day and we must decide beforehand, “Will we stand in the truth?” The Apostle John, the elder of the ancient church, wrote to his dear friend Gaius and the beloved church to encourage them to stand in the truth. I pray that when your moment comes, you will stand in the truth.

 

Standing in the Truth in Prayer

John loves the truth. The Apostle John is responsible for 5 books of the New Testament: His gospel, 3 letters, and the book of Revelation. Truth is one of the major themes in all his writings. And as he begins his brief letter, we see his love for truth in the opening words, “The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.” Gaius was a common name in the 1st century. The name appears three other times in the New Testament. There is Gaius of Corinth (Rom 16:23), Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), and Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4).[2] It probably unlikely that John addresses any of these men, but he addresses a man that he loves dearly. John addresses Gaius as his beloved or dear friend 4 times throughout this letter.

            One of the first keys of standing in the truth is the importance of prayer. We do not have the ability to stand without the power of God. John writes, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” Body and soul together. The thrust of John’s prayer is not only in a healthy body, but a healthy soul. How quick are we to pray for our ailing bodies while we neglect our ailing souls? We are quick to offer a prayer for the sick in body but slow to offer a prayer for the sick in soul? Friends, we must call upon heaven to pray for those cannot faithfully sing, “It is well with my soul.”

            And yet, John prays for his friend’s body. Beloved, we should always focus on the primacy of one’s soul over the body, but we must never ignore how the body affects our soul. God made us to be embodied souls. It is unwise and unloving not to care for the needs of our physical bodies as it is unwise not to tend to the care of our souls. If a son fell into a pit and was in physical harm, which parent would not do all they could to help the body of their son? Sickness and pain affects us all. We must pray to God for his kindness in bringing good health. John cared, both in body and in soul, for his friend Gaius. We should do the same.

            Gaius’ ability to stand in the truth was sustained through the prayers of the saints. Paul writes of his confidence to stand in his moment in a Roman prison because of the saints. Philippians 1:19-21,

[F]or I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Paul’s courage came through the prayers of the saints. God commands us to prayer for one another. Beloved, how sweet have our prayers been on Wednesday night!! We come together and stand in and for the truth in prayer. Let us continue to pray for the saints so that like John for Gaius, the Philippians for Paul, that we would pray for each other so that we would be of full courage so that Christ would be honored in our bodies, by life or by death.

 

Standing in the Truth in Praise

John writes his letter as an old man. As he begins this letter, we see his his greatest joy and passion in his life. John rejoices not in the health of his own soul, but in the health of soul of others.

For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Gaius is walking with God and standing in the truth. He John’s words, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

            Janice has been challenged our young ladies to memorize Scripture every week for our Wednesday night class. This past week, my daughter memorized Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I have personally memorized a lot of Scripture, but hearing my daughter recite and write God’s precious Word on her heart brings far more joy rather any scripture I have memorized. My child is walking in the truth.

            Gaius is most likely not John’s biological child, but his child in the faith. John either led Gaius to the Lord or disciple him in the faith. There is wonderful joy when you see people grow in Christ whom you disciple. I have experienced so much joy looking at the men and women in this congregation that I have had the privilege to walk with over the last 5 years. Can I encourage you to pour life into others? I would love for you to experience a glimpse of what John is speaking about here. It is marvelous.

            John could stand in truth because he lived a life of praise to God. His glory was not his main concern, but the glory of Christ. He wanted Christ to be magnified in people’s lives. His outpouring of the glory of Christ fueled his own growth as well as Gaius. Our ability to stand transcends our own individuals walk with God. God places us in a body so we have other joints and ligaments working together so we may grow into maturity (Eph. 4:11-16). Is your greatest joy to hear that others in our church are walking in the truth?

 

Standing in the Truth in Support

After the greeting John continues to rejoice in how Gaius and the church are responding to traveling missionaries who have gone out for the name of Christ. 3 John 5-8,

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

There are two main ways Gaius is supporting these missionaries. The first Gaius has welcomed strangers into his home. These traveling Christians came to Gaius needing a place to stay and Gaius opened his home. In the first century, inns were not very safe or godly places to stay. When Christians traveled, they depended upon the hospitality of the saints. People opened their homes.

            Two years ago, I made an announcement that we needed families to open their homes for college students over the summer. As I made the announcement, my son whispered to my wife, “I’ll give up my bed.” Praise God for a youthful zeal to obey the Lord Jesus. My son has given up his bed countless times for brothers and sisters who needed a place to stay. There are many others in the church who have done the same. I pray that Christian hospitality continues to be a mark of our congregation. We expressed a home of that hospitality in opening our doors to the homeless over the winter. If you have not heard the testimonies of the men who served the shelter, can I encourage you to go online and watch what God did in and through them.

            Besides opening his home, Gaius sent the missionaries out with financial and material resources to continue the mission. John commends that it is right and good to send missionaries out in a manner worthy of God. Think about those words!! We should send out people from our church on mission to the nations as if we were sending out Jesus Christ himself. How we treat others reflects how we love God. The reason we should send them out is because they are bringing the most important message in the world. They have gone out for the sake of the name.

            Friend, if you are here with us today and are not a follow of Jesus, let me explain what it means that they had gone out for the sake of the name. The Bible says in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” We read that verse we should ask, “Why do we need salvation?” The Bible teaches, and your own heart bears witness, that we are sinners. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our sin brings us under condemnation with God. Our sin blocks us from heaven’s perfection. We cannot earn our own salvation. We will never be justified or made right with God by what we do. This is why Luther stood up against the pope. Roman Catholicism believes that we can earn salvation through our works and receiving the sacraments. Luther saw that the Bible says, Romans 3:20,“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” When we realize God’s standard of perfection, it is very clear that we fall short of his glory. We need salvation by God from God.

            The reason the missionaries went out in John’s day was because they and we believe that there is salvation in no other name under heaven than Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth as a man. He lived a perfect life. He committed no sin. He was innocent. He perfectly lived for God’s glory, but was punished as sinner. He died as a substitute for all who would turn and trust in him. After his death for sinners, God raised Jesus from the dead. In the resurrection of Jesus, God the Father publicly declared that salvation is available through Christ. If anyone would turn from their sin and call upon Jesus Christ as Lord, they will be saved.

            This message was so great that people have been leaving their homes for 2,000 years with nothing to tell others about the name. 3 John 7, “For they have gone out for the sake of the name accepting nothing from the Gentiles.” Friend, if Jesus Christ isn’t God, why would thousands upon thousands upon thousands leave their families and friends with nothing but a message that says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Consider the history of Christian mission, but more importantly, I pray you consider the name and the person Jesus Christ. He came to seek and to save that which is lost. He came not for the healthy, but for the sick. He came not to be served, but to serve to give his life as a ransom for many.

            Beloved, if God has given us the only way of salvation, we ought to support people who go out for the sake of the name. What a joy and a privilege that God would send out our brothers and sisters with the gospel of Christ. When our brothers and sisters go to the nations through our prayers and our resources, we are fellow workers in the truth. We stand in the truth when we support the work of gospel proclamation here in our church and across the world.

 

Standing in the Truth in Submission

Not every person believed in supporting and welcoming those who have gone out for the name of Jesus. There were some that did not want to submit to the apostles teaching. 3 John 9-10,

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.  So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 

Diotrephes was not acknowledging the authority of the apostles, refusing to welcome fellow believers into the fellowship, hindering the ministry of others, and putting people out of the church. He was stifling the gospel ministry in the church. There are many reasons one could be doing these things, but notice John’s reason, Diotrephes, “likes to put himself first.”

            When we put ourselves first, the body of Christ suffers. How do you put yourself first? Love does not insist on its own way and its own preferences, but lays down its preferences for the sake of the body. The one who puts himself first is not putting Christ first.

One of the most disturbing trends in evangelicalism is a disregard for authority. Of course, there are and have been many abuses of pastoral authority which people have a right to speak against. That being said, the faithful church member should not be like Diotrephes who rejected the authority of the apostles, but one who humbly submits and followers their leaders. A rejection of authority has become a culture norm. Personal autonomy and one’s sovereign right over every decision they make dominates the western lanscape. Have you fallen to the spirit of the age and been infected by personal autonomy?

Authority has been given and instituted by God. Children submit to their parents’ authority, citizens submit to their governments authority, and church members submit to their elders’ authority. It may seem self-serving for an elder, like myself, to encourage submission, but God’s word is clear. Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”

How are you responding to your leaders? Do you pray for them? Is your heart open to them (2 Cor 6:11-13)? Diotrephes hurt the church because he put himself first and did not submit to authority. I pray you will not follow his example, but stand in the truth.

 

Standing in the Truth in Imitation

John encourages his beloved friend to walk not in the way of Diotrephes, but to imitate good. He writes,

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.

Humans learn from imitation. Our children learn to talk and walk by following our examples. It is natural to become like who you follow. It is one of the reasons the Bible puts so much stock in the character of its leaders. Paul provides a pretty comprehensive list in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 on the character of elders and deacons. The reason is clear. The congregation is called to follow and imitate their leaders. It is daunting, yet natural. Imitation is a common theme in the word of God,

1 Corinthians 4:16 – “I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Ephesians 5:1 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Philippians 3:17 – “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us”. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 – “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” 2 Thessalonians 3:7 – “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,” 2 Thessalonians 3:9 – “It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.” Hebrews 6:12 – “so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 13:7 – “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

The biblical pattern is the church has godly (not perfect) leaders who love and follow Christ and reflect how to live and follow Him.

            Future elders and deacons, I pray you see the importance of living a godly life. Mothers and fathers, I pray you see the importance of living a godly life. Beloved, people will imitate our behavior so let our lives be full of Christ.

Ultimately, leader is simple one who follow the ultimate leader. Jesus Christ is our example. The goal of our lives is that we would be transformed into the image of the Son, mature in Him, lacking in nothing. We all know how to walk and live because Christ came and lived perfectly. And now, Christ lives in us by the power of his Spirit. Let us hold fast to what is good and right and reflect our great and glorious Savior. Let us stand as a reflection of him to our world.

 

Standing in the Truth in Intimacy

John closes his brief letter with showing his intimacy with Gaius and the rest of the church. He writes,

I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.

I love how John ends this letter. John desires to great friends each by name. Friendship is a powerful thing. John loved his dear friend Gaius. Gaius loved his dear friend John. I pray that we would have many dear friends in the life of the church. True friendship takes sacrifice. True friendship take time. True friendship is a gift from God.

One of the best ways to build and sustain friendship is around the table. Table fellowship is a wonderful picture of intimacy and closeness. Jesus said,

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13-15)

Jesus laid down his life for his friends. He bled and died and rose again so we would have friendship with him. He died so we would be intimately connected with him. And now he continues to invite us into that friendship through table fellowship. He invites to his table.

Every time we come to the Lord’s table, we stand in the intimacy of Christ. We remember that Jesus laid down his life for us. He died that we may live. This meal is a meal for the friends of Christ. It is an open invitation for all who believe that there is salvation in no one else, for there is other name under heaven which men can be saved. All baptized believers who are members in good standing of a church of like faith and order are welcome to the table. If you have not accepted the friendship of Jesus Christ and salvation in his name, allow the bread and the cup to pass and as they pass I pray you would consider how much God offers you in the name of Jesus Christ. We all must stand for something, I pray you would stand behind Christ, for Christ and not against Christ. As we prepare the table, allow us to prepare our own hearts for this intimate table of friendship.

 

[1] http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~lyman/english233/Luther-Diet_of_Worms.htm accessed 4.29.17

[2] Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38, p. 239). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Member Profile - Jasmyn Acree

1.)    What is your vocation?

 I'm a student (soon to be graduate) at Winthrop. 

2.)    Tell us about your family:

 My family lives in my hometown of Walhalla, SC. My mom is a teacher and my step-dad owns his own business. I have a younger brother who is 17 and an older step-brother who is 25.

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ?

 Honestly the biggest influence on my relationship with Christ has been the church and my community of friends. Coming to Park Baptist 2 years ago sparked the desire to grow in Christ and my friends constantly push me and sharpen me! 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse?

 Romans 8:38-39 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?

The last 6 months have been full of God showing me his faithfulness. I've been blown away by how the Lord has provided for me in these past few months and it's just been a great reminder of His power and love for us. 

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you?

I guess something people don't know about me is that I once killed a bear with nothing but a small fishing hook and a bouncy ball. Just kidding. But I did hear a mountain lion one time while camping. 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?

 I'm in need of prayers as I go over seas this summer to Bulgaria. I've never been that far away from home and the language is so hard to pick up! So lots of prayers for this summer.

Member Profile - Steven Brazzells

1.)    What is your vocation? Steven: Technically I lead Ally Financial's Enterprise Data Governance team, but I really like working with good people and helping people visualize information. Rachel:Homemaker and fellow-discipler of our children

2.)    Tell us about your family:  Steven and I are both from Louisiana.  We met and became friends our freshman year in college in a Christian ministry on LSU's campus.  We started dating in 2002 and got married in 2004.  We now have 1 silly Chocolate Lab and 5 children, who each are a blessing and bring something unique and special to our family (except for the dog).  We enjoy being together:  creating, exploring, discovering, reading, working, learning, and playing.  We also have chickens and rabbits but we haven't named them all because we may end up eating some. One of our hens is named Wilson (Elisa named her before she fully understood they were girls).

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ? Steven: My friend Andy in high school became a Christian and encouraged me to go to church with him.  I had nothing else to do on those Sunday and Wednesday nights any more because he was no longer available to play computer games over the modems (remember those things?)  I eventually heard the gospel enough and physically felt the pull of the Holy Spirit enough that I gave in, and because the walk. Rachel: My pawpaw was a major influence.  He embraced the Lord late in life after much searching, and he was very passionate about evangelism and deep study of the scriptures.  I spent a lot of time living life with and learning from him when I was younger.

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse?  Steven: Col. 1:15-17 "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."  This is my favorite scripture for most clearly describing Christ as God, and dispelling any questions to the contrary. Rachel: All of Rom 8, but particularly verses 28 through 39.

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months? Steven: Patience towards my children and the people I work with.  Rachel: Studying 1 John is deepening my understanding of abiding in Christ, going through some of "Total Truth" with Steven has helped further trust in God and His sovereignty, and then the 1689 Baptist Confession with others in small group at the Flucks has been so encouraging and helpful to have a greater understanding of God's overall mission and our part in it.

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you? Steven: Cooking gives me immediate joy, as well as shooting firearms.  One day I'll have to do both simultaneously. Rachel: My mom was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, and she moved to Louisiana when she was 3.  My paternal grandfather worked on some of the Apollo missions, as an aerospace engineer.

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?  Steven: To show more grace and strength to my wife and kids.  Rachel: To find full satisfaction in Christ alone and to live out the plan and be the person God has created.

Walking in the Truth

“David, can we take a walk?” Those words caused my teenage heart to drop. My grandmother was staying with us for a few days as my parents were out of town and she only wanted to take a walk if something was wrong. And I knew exactly what she wanted to talk about. The day before I was home with some friends and a phone call came in for my dad. To make my friends and brother laugh, I pretended to be my father so I told this eager telemarketer to hold for one moment, before getting back on the phone in my deepest voice, “Doug Kiehn here.”

I did not know it was a telemarketer because I did not know what a telemarketer was or why she wanted to talk to my dad. She asked me to take a survey where I could win a set of Ginsu Knives. She asked me questions for 15 minutes, “Are you a Ford or a Chevy man?” “Chevy, I am like a rock?” The questions kept coming and I kept firing answers. My answers apparently won the knives, but it started getting serious when she wanted me to speak to her manager. I got nervous and made up an excuse for an abrupt departure. As I hung up the phone, I knew that I was going to regret that phone call.

            “David, can we take a walk?” My grandmother began, “I received a call today from a company that said one “Doug Kiehn had ordered some magazine subscriptions. And since your father was gone, I have a suspicion it was not your father who made the order. Apparently, your order was one of the biggest orders that they had ever received. You ordered $2,000 a month of magazines.” My heart sank even deeper into my chest. I knew I was it trouble. I was caught in the truth. My grandmother smiled and said, “I canceled the orders, but please do not pretend to be your father again.” My grandmother and I have laughed over that a few times. It was our walk in the truth.

            Walking in the truth is a great picture of the Christian life. A walk allows for conversation, contemplation and unhurried focus on the one you are with. My wife and I have always enjoying taking walks together. One of the reasons we love to walk is because it gave us time to talk and build our relationship together. We walk together. The Christian life is a walk in the truth with God. When we spend time with God in prayer, studying his word, or in obedience we build our relationship with him. When God calls us to follow him, he says, “Do you want to take a walk?” It is an invitation to a relationship with him. The Christian life is a walk. It is a lifelong journey to discover and live by the truth.

            The truth is the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the way to the Father. Our sin has blocked our way to the father. Each one of us has chosen to walk a different path. We all have walked in the way of the wicked. Our turning to our own way separated us from God and broke our fellowship with him. Have you ever had a friend break fellowship with you? Recently, someone told me how a close friend chose an organization over their friendship. In deciding whether to confront him, he said, “I don’t want friends in my life like that.” Translation, he did not want to walk through life as friends with someone who chose to allow an organization to become in the middle of their friendship.

We all have chosen to allow our own pride and selfishness to break our friendship with God. The Apostle James writes, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship of the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God?” (James 4:4) We all have chosen to walk with the world away from God. Which is the gospel is such good news! The Father reaches out to us through his only Son, Jesus, to invite us back in relationship with Him. Jesus came to walk for us. He walked with God. He lived a perfect life, but was punished as a sinner. He suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God. He became the way, the truth and the life. We now have a way to God. God invites us to walk with him.

We no longer have to walk alone. We no longer have to walk our own way. We now can walk with God through Jesus Christ because Jesus suffered, died, and was raised to new life. Jesus overcame the grave and ascended to the right hand of God and sends the Holy Spirit to all who walk with Him. God invites us to take a walk with him, but it is a walk in the truth. We must walk in the way in which Jesus walked. We must walk in the truth.

The Apostle John encourages believers to walk in the truth. He shares in his brief, “postcard” epistle 4 elements that will result when Christians walk in the truth.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Community

John is an old man and at the time of the writing of this epistle is probably the last living apostle. Everyone knew who he was so the simple title of, “the elder” was the only name needed to identify himself. He opens the letter, 2 John 1:1-3,

The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

John address the elect lady or the church, the bride of Christ, who live in truth and love. This letter weds those two essential elements of the faith together. One must walk in the truth. Truth being all the knowledge revealed to by the person and work of Jesus Christ. One also must love. It is not enough to merely know the truth, but one must walk by the truth in love. At the same time, one cannot merely love without the truth. We know how to love because of the truth.

            Walking in the truth creates community. John is writing to the elect lady and her children. He is writing to a community that has been formed by truth. The truth is not only for John but for all who know the truth because the truth abides in all true followers of Christ and the truth will abide and unite all followers forever. We are united not because we meet in the same geographical place every week, but because we have committed to walk in the truth and love together. God’s invitation to walk is never and invitation to walk alone, but to walk with community of the saints.

            The greatest thing that unites the church is the gospel of Christ. We all have experienced grace, mercy and peace. As Danny Akin notes,

Grace is God doing for us what we do not deserve, mercy is his not doing to us what we do deserve, and peace is God giving us what we need based upon his grace and mercy.[1]

The grace, mercy and peace of God brings us into God’s community. We are the gathering, the ekklesia, the called-out ones, the holy nation, the temple, the flock, the royal priesthood, and people of who walk in truth. The images of the church are always corporate because the truth will create community. Are you walking in the truth with others? Have you become a sheep in a flock; a brick in a building, a member of the body? If you have not joined a body, I invite you to walk with us. Walk with us as we walk with Christ.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Celebration

When people accept the invitation to walk with God, there is much celebration and joy. As John aged, we see his greatest joy was to see his children, the saints, walk in the truth. (3 John 1:4).

I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. (2 John 1:4-6)

John had received word that the saints were walking according to the truth. Notice again how John does not differentiate between obeying the truth and loving one another. Truth and love are always connected in the Bible. This is an essential element that must be recovered in our day.

            There is a false dichotomy that has developed with in the modern Western church. We have put truth against love and love against truth. There are churches who desire to be loving community by accepting people who live against the truth. And there are churches who desire to be about truth and are not very loving. The people of truth should always be loving. Love is obedience to God’s Word. It is unloving to allow people to remain in sin. And it is untruthful to allow people to be unloved. Truth and love should be connected. 1 John 4:10-11, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” We love because he first loved us. We love because God sent Jesus to die for us. For John, the gospel of the cross is the root and the fruit of love. Another way of saying it is, the gospel of truth springs from love and love is empowered by truth.

            We cannot allow the culture to dictate what is and is not loving. We must recapture a healthy balance of truth and love. One we can recover this balance is by rejoicing when we see people walking in truth. How? We affirm people’s obedience to Jesus. We shine a light when people walk according to the truth. Here are a few ways I have rejoiced in our body over the last week:

Kyle and Andy went to Ms. Helen’s house to cut down a tree for her. After they worked in her yard, they called and asked if they could put a sign up sheet in the back to offer their services to anyone who has work in their yard that they can’t complete themselves. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

Rich needed a ride to the doctor and called Stephen to drive him to Charlotte. They spent the morning together talking about the word and church. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

Robert and Heather organized and prepared a float in the Come See Me parade. Heather was intentional in inviting a cross-section of our church to reflect to the community. All who attended were greatly encouraged. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

During our women’s fellowship event on Friday night, many of our women brought their daughters with them to further connect with to the church and to intentional disciple them. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

Not to mention the Bible studies with our seniors on Tuesday morning and our college students on Tuesday night, our evangelism at Rock Hill High, our partnership with BCM, a friend asking for counsel, conversation with members on how to faithfully live for the Lord in the public schools, encouraging text message to press on in the ministry, visiting and praying for the homebound and so many other examples that I could share.

Beloved, rejoice when the saints walk in the truth. Celebrate how God is working in the lives of those around us.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Challenges

John rejoices when he sees the saints walking the truth because there is an adversary challenging truth. Truth is always under attack. It can be subtle deflection, “Did God actually say?” or it can be direct denial, “You will not surely die. For God knows…?” There are two imperatives in this letter and both deal with how the church should respond to false teachers. 2 John 7-11,

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

John defines the heresy as one who denies that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. There were some that were denying the “fleshiness” of the faith.

 Heresies fall in two general camps. They either question Jesus’ divinity or they question his humanity. John was addressing those who were denying the humanity of Christ. Jesus came in the flesh to redeem those of the flesh. One who denies the incarnation of Christ is a deceiver and follows the spirit of the antichrist. The command is in verse 8 when John writes, “Watch yourselves.” Notice he does not say watch others, but warns for one to watch out for themselves. There is a clear implication that we all have capacity to drift from the truth. The goal is not to walk with Christ for a time, but until the end. Well begun is not enough. We want to finish the race. We want to keep the faith. We want to walk with God forever.

      It appears that John is poking at the false teachers in verse 9 implying that those who go ahead or beyond the apostles teaching do not have God. The heresy of the Gnostic, which is probably in seed form when John wrote this letter, implies that salvation came through special knowledge separate from the written Word. We do not need a special secret knowledge, but we must abide in the teaching of the Father and the Son. We must remain in the gospel. We never move on from the gospel.

The first command is to watch out for false teaching and the second is to not participate with false teaching. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” John is not saying that you cannot have people into your home for discussion on the truth. It would be fine to invite a Mormon or a Jehovah’s witness into your home to discuss Christianity, but it would be against God’s word to support and affirm their teaching in any way. Christians were not to provide a place to stay or money to any false teachers in the area.

We must be very wise in who and how we partner with different organizations. There are many organizations and churches that desire to do good, but there is often an element in their teaching that denies Christ or how one is saved. We should read the fine print of what people believe. False teachers often dress in sheep’s clothing. They weaseled their way into people’s home and invited people to walk in the way of sinners.

One of the greatest ways to protect ourselves from heresy is to know the truth. Historically, churches and families practiced catechesis to protect the saints and their children from false teaching. Catechesis is a process of systematically walking through simple questions and answers to teach the faith. Question: “What is our only hope in life and death?” Answer: “That we are not our own, but belong both in body and soul, in life and death to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Last year, I asked a group of pastors what they needed most in their churches, they all said, “We need our people to understand the basics of the faith.” Catechism would solve that problem. There are great resources out there that can help add your fight against heresy. And as a friend told me yesterday in a text, “Our kids deserve to be confident with the Word of God because I have little doubt that the day of testing for them will come from inside the church.” The dual natures of Christ, the propitiation of sins, the sufficiency of Scripture, a defense of the resurrection, the right understanding of the ordinances, church discipline and polity should all be understood. We should not leave complex theology to only the elders. We all should be equipped with the truth. There are some great resources out there that can help protect us from the inevitability of false teachers.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Completion

John had much to say to the church, but his goal was not mere written communication. John wanted to see the saints face to face so that their joy would be complete. He writes, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” (2 John 2:12) Face to face fellowship in the truth brings a completion of joy. John’s goal was the same as the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to see us face to face so that our joy may be complete. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully know.” (1 Cor 13:12) Beloved, we are looking forward to the day when we shall behold the face of Christ. I love songs that end with that hope. A song we often sing here, I Will Glory in My Redeemer, ends this way:

I will glory in my Redeemer / Who waits for me at gates of gold / And when He calls me, it will be paradise / His face forever to behold / I will glory in my Redeemer / Who waits for me at gates of gold / And when He calls me, it will be paradise / His face forever to behold / His face forever to behold.

There is coming day when we shall see Christ. And until that day God invites us to walk with him. Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” God invites you to come and walk with him. What great love!! God invites sinners to come and take the water of life without price.

            God calls us walk in love, but also calls us to walk in truth. John warns us about those who try to add or take away from the Bible. He writes in Revelation 22:18-20,

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 

Friend, walk in the truth. Walk in love. God invites you to come and walk with him,

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, / The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; / The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, / Even so, it is well with my soul.

Take joy, beloved. One day our joy will be complete. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

 

[1] Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38, p. 222). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Member Spotlight - Joe Greene

1.)    What is your vocation?  I am retired from the Rock Hill School System after 39 years.   I taught US history for much of that time and ended my career for the last 15 years working with the Gifted and Talented Program.

2.)    Tell us about your family:  I am the youngest of five.  Only my sister and I are remaining but I have several nieces and nephews and many friends that I consider family.

3.)    Who was the main human influence that lead you to a relationship with Christ?  My mother.  I was brought to Park Church by my parents since I was an infant. 

4.)    What is your favorite Bible Verse? Matthew 25:35-36: " For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came and visited me."  I am proud to be part of a Christian community who heard these words and have acted upon them.   I feel strongly that this is our mission as Christians. 

5.)    What has the Lord been teaching you over the last 6 months?  With the death of my brother and other family members in the last few months I am learning that I am not alone and that there is comfort in His presence. 

6.)    What is something most people don’t know about you?  I spent one summer in China and one in Indonesia studying under a Fulbright Scholarship.   I focused on social rites and rituals attending weddings and burials and other issues of their society. 

7.)    Do you have any specific prayer requests?   That grace and mercy be poured down upon those who are hungry and who are homeless and who are abused.