What is the least-quoted Bible promise? And why does it have anything to do with our study in Revelation? As we spend some time in Revelation 2.8-11, you’ll learn why this promise is so often avoided. You can watch the message below, or the whole worship gathering below that.
A number of years ago, there was a tragic school shooting in Columbine, Colorado. The world was shocked by the event, and rightly so. One of the stories to come out of it was chronicled in a memoir entitled She Said Yes. It was about a student named Cassie Bernall, written by her mother, about how Cassie became one of the students to be shot on that horrific day.
The perpetrators, fellow high school students, had asked Cassie if she was a Christian. Being a follower of Jesus, she responded that she was. And that was what caused the deranged student to pull the trigger and kill Cassie.
What would you say had you been in that situation? When the adrenaline is coursing through you, and you’re faced with a question about your faith that could cost you your life, would you say ‘yes’?
Some might lie and say ‘no’, even though it was not true, in order to preserve their lives and thereby be able to engage in Christian living for years to come. But let’s say you were under coercion to recant your faith on the threat of death. Would you?
This is mostly theory to us, but to the believers in the early church, this described daily living. In the first three centuries of the existence of the church, Christian faith was not tolerated by the Roman empire. Christ-followers were often killed because they refused to say “Caesar is Lord”, and worship their ruler. Instead, they lived by the statement of faith that declared, “Jesus is Lord.”
It cost many disciples of Jesus their lives.
I certainly hope and pray that it never comes to that in our time, though in some parts of the world, it still happens that followers of Jesus are killed for their beliefs. As biblical Christianity becomes less and less popular, it is becoming less and less tolerated in society.
Would you say ‘yes’ if confronted with the question about identifying with your Christian faith? What price would you be willing to pay?
I pray that you never are faced with the need to choose between your profession of faith and your life. But I also pray that the courage of your convictions will cause you to stand firm no matter what sort of suffering or persecution you might face.
“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5.10, NLT).
It’s amazing what the human memory can retain and what it can’t.
Some days, I can barely remember why I got up to go to the kitchen. But I can remember the strangest minutiae that don’t matter in the least.
I remember when I was in kindergarten – kindergarten, almost 50 years ago! – I decided there was a girl in my class that I liked…a lot.
At our school, the kindergarteners had their own designated, smaller yard set aside for recess. And at recess one day, I decided I would express to my classmate how I felt about her. So I started chasing her around the yard, with the express intent of kissing her.
It seems she wanted no part in this, and it also seems she could run faster than I could, because I don’t recall that my lips ever reached her cheek (which was all I would have aimed for at such an age)!
I guess you could say that was my first love, requited though it was.
In Revelation 2.4, John records the ascended Lord Jesus’ words to the Ephesian church when he accuses them: “You have forsaken the love you had at first” (NIV).
Jesus wasn’t talking about a love like my kindergarten attempt at romance. He was talking about love for him, as well as love for their brothers and sisters in the faith.
In our culture, which applauds busyness, we can get so tied up in an activity for which we have passion that we forget the whole reason we do it in the first place.
We get so busy studying doctrine or defending our faith that we fail to love others well.
We get so busy advocating for some issue – poverty, climate change, social justice – that we fail to spend time with the Lord who gave us that passion in the first place.
We forsake our first love.
Let’s remember, whether we are studying God’s Word or supporting a cause, to love the Lord and his people first and foremost.
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22.37-40, NLT).
These are crazy days, aren’t they? There are statements made and retracted by provincial and federal governments, vaccine taxes being assessed in Quebec, numbers being reported in limited ways, and just a whole lot of confusion around the pandemic.
In one sense, it’s understandable, since none of us has ever gone through anything like this before. (Remember “Two weeks to flatten the curve”? That’s ancient history now!) We are all tired and frustrated, and we want life to go back to normal – or at least to proceed toward the new normal, post-pandemic. And we just wish that we’d get some definitive answers. But in such an unpredictable season, those answers are not forthcoming.
Amid all the uncertainty, there are some things we can know for certain. One of them is the sovereignty of God: the belief that God is in charge.
It might seem like a goofy concept, thinking that God is in charge with the mayhem swirling around us. But it’s true.
We don’t know why a sovereign God sees this going on and seemingly stands there. (I would argue that if God were just ‘standing there’, matters would be a great deal worse!) Our role is not to know why; it is to trust in the One who does know why.
As John the apostle begins the recording of his vision from the Lord in Revelation, he offers this greeting to the seven churches to which the book was originally written: “Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come” (Revelation 1.4b, NLT).
The Lord is, he was, and he is still to come. God has seen all of history. He sees the future. And he sees what we’re dealing with today. And he remains Lord of all, even though, at times, it might not seem that way.
On those days when you feel especially frustrated, at your wits’ end, or hanging on to the end of your rope, just remember that verse and proclaim – even if just to yourself – that no matter what, you trust the One who is, who always was, and who is still to come.
We will get through this. God has promised that he will preserve his church, despite all odds. It might not look like it always has, but it will still be the gathered faithful, praising the Eternal Father of the universe, rejoicing in the saving grace of the Lord Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
By the way, this Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, we are beginning a new series on the book of Revelation! If you’d like to learn a bit of background about the book, you can watch this introductory video here. And you are welcome to attend in person or tune in online to any of our services.
Grace and peace!