Inside the Throne Room of Christ (Revelation 4-5)

If one is rushing through the book of Revelation to get to the “good stuff,” one might miss the amazing thing that happens in Revelation 4. The Apostle John, imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos for spreading the word of God, has been invited into Heaven. Not only has he been invited into Heaven, but He has been invited into the nerve-center of Heaven, the throne room of Christ.

As John is conveying to us everything he saw as he entered into the throne room of Christ, it can be easy for us to get lost in all the precious stones, gems, and spectacular sights of that place. For example, how does one interpret verse 3, which says, “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald?”

What’s interesting is that the things John sees are not only brilliant and spectacular, but are symbolic as well. As John looks upon the One sitting upon the throne, he sees a being that looks like jasper and sardine stone. While this speaks to the glory of Christ, there is also a deeper meaning. Jasper and sardine stone are both red. Isaiah 1:18 tells us that the color of sin is red. The color of the blood of Christ is red. When you look through a red lense, that is, these precious stones and the blood of Christ, the redness of sin is cancelled out.

Thus, as the Bible says in Isaiah 1:18, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Surrounding the throne is a rainbow, which you might remember is the symbol of the covenant God made with Noah to never destroy the world with a flood again. Right there in front of Christ is a reminder of His grace and mercy.

In the secular world, in the business world, we tend to decorate our offices (our throne rooms, if you will,) with the things that we are most proud of… the things which are the most important to us.

When you look into the throne room of Christ, you see symbol after symbol of our redemption and salvation. What does that tell you about the Lord’s passion for you?

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Life is More (Revelation 3)

As we continue our study in Revelation on The Point, it is important to remember that the book is really a letter being addressed to seven individual churches in Asia minor. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos, where John was incarcerated for his ministry in Ephesus, to give him the word to deliver to those seven churches.

The Lord’s purpose in appearing to John and giving us the Book of Revelation was three-fold. (1) He appeared to remind us that He is returning. (2) He appeared to give us hope by reminding us of His return. (3) He appeared to warn us to correct the sin in our lives in preparation for His return.

It’s important to keep this context in mind, as many theologians make the mistake of treating Revelation like some artifact found by Indiana Jones. Instead of considering it as direct communication between Jesus and seven individual churches, they look for mysterious codes hidden within the text that will unlock some deep truth that will give them a special insight into the future of the human race. This is how cults get started.

With the understanding that Revelation is merely a letter dictated by the Lord (or His messengers) to seven individual churches, we can reject the notion that the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 somehow symbolize seven ages, or seven different classifications of churches. Instead, we can simply look at what the Lord has to say to those seven churches, and learn from it.

So, in Chapter 3, we see three letters written. One was written to Sardis, one to Philadelphia, and one to Laodicea.

Sardis had all the appearances of a church that thrived. They were reaching many. The church was growing. In modern times, their programs would have been working. Jesus told Sardis that they had a reputation that they lived, but were dead (Rev. 3:1). He added that their works were not perfect before Him (Rev. 3:2), which could mean that they did things with impure hearts, or that they had wandered from truth. Either way, they were warned to “strengthen the things which remain (Rev. 3:2)” and “Hold fast and repent (Rev. 3:3)” so that they would be prepared for the Lord’s return.

This teaches us that life is more than our reputations. It doesn’t matter what people think of us as much as it matters what God thinks of us. Therefore, we are to do all things according to His truth, and obey His calling on our lives, regardless of what others think.

Philadelphia was a good, faithful church. Notice that the Lord offers no correction to Philadelphia, as none is needed. Instead, He praises their faithfulness and promises that their suffering will not be in vain. He then encourages them to stay the course.

This teaches us that life is more than the pain we feel right now, and that the Lord sees our suffering, and will reward our faithfulness. Continue in your faith. You will not be disappointed.

The final church mentioned in Revelation 3 is the church at Laodicea. Many preachers have preached that the church of Laodicea is symbolic of the modern church age, where we have become so prosperous and lazy that we are no longer making an impact for the Lord. While some may point to the modern, American contemporary church as the fulfillment of this text, the Christian in Southeast Asia who is being tortured for his faith is nowhere close to being an example of a Laodicean Christian.

Those who say that the modern church is a fulfillment of the Laodicean church age have an American-centric view of Christianity, and have disregarded the plight of the majority of Christians around the world, who have been sentenced to poverty, imprisonment, slavery, and torture as a result of their faith.

That being said, the words Christ spoke to the Laodiceans should be observed by the American church, and any church that has grown lackadaisical. The Lord wants to be an active part of our lives, and He wants us to stand for something.

This teaches us that life is more than our material wealth. Life is about what we do for Christ. What are you doing for Christ?

The overall lesson from Revelation 3 is that we need to prepare for the return of the Lord by recommitting ourselves to Christ and to let our faith in Him propel us through our day to day lives. As we move forward into the book of Revelation, “things get real.” Are you prepared to meet Christ?

 

The 7 Churches (Revelation 2)

The church is dead.

The church is judgmental.

The church is full of hypocrites.

Those common complaints against modern American churches are nothing new. For years, people have complained that the church experience can be cold, uncaring, and full of betrayal at the hands of those who pretend to be Christian, but are not.

Often, those complaints against the church are used as justification for rejecting church membership altogether, electing rather to worship God alone. After all, if Christ knew just how awful the church really is, wouldn’t He support a mass exodus from the church?

It might surprise you to know that the issues with the modern American church are nothing new. In fact, these issues permeated the first century churches. Thus, in Revelation 2, Christ begins the process of addressing each church individually, assessing the condition of each church and instructing them to repent of their sins and shortcomings.

Revelation was written to the seven churches of Asia (now known as Asia minor, or Turkey) to prepare them to meet the Lord. Speaking through the Apostle John, Jesus foretold the events that would precede His return, the events that would mark His judgment, and the promises to every believer.

The book of Revelation was written specifically to those seven churches to prepare them to meet the Lord, but the truth that is taught in this book will prepare us, also, to meet the Lord. Those churches of Asia met the Lord when they passed away. We will meet the Lord when we pass away, or when He returns, whichever comes first. Therefore, we should take the lessons of the book of Revelation and prepare for that day.

One of the most common errors in studying Revelation 2 is that many theologians believe that the letters to the seven churches are actually metaphors for seven different time periods during the church age. This approach to Revelation 2-3 is problematic for many reasons.

First, if Christ had dictated the letters to the seven churches as an allegory for the seven periods of the church age, then the message would have made absolutely no sense to those churches to whom the letters were written.

Secondly, as you read the letters to the seven churches, you will notice that Christ addresses specific issues, and specific individuals within the churches. While many try to parallel those specific individuals and issues with historic events during the church age, the fact of the matter is that there were specific issues and individuals addressed by Christ in those churches.

In other words, when these letters were read to the seven churches of Asia, no one had to ask, “I wonder what the Lord meant by that?” They knew exactly what Christ was talking about, whom He was talking about, and what He was commanding. There was no mystery to those first-century churches.

So, if these letters were addressed to the first century churches, and addressed specific issues within seven specific churches in Asia, then what’s the point of studying them today? Simple.

In the often forgotten Pauly Shore comedy, In The Army Now, Pauly Shore told the drill instructor that “welcomed” him to boot camp that she didn’t have to yell. The drill instructor replied, “IN THE U.S. ARMY, WE DO NOT YELL. WE MERELY SPEAK LOUDLY SO THAT ALL CAN LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES!”

While it may seem sacrilege to reference a Pauly Shore movie during a Bible study, the fact is that we can learn from the mistakes of the seven churches of Asia, and we can take the lessons the Lord teaches them and apply them to our own lives.

In the letters to the churches in Revelation 2, we learn that Christ sees everything. He sees our love and works, or the lack thereof. He sees the motivation for our works. He sees our struggles and problems. He sees our errors. Then, He calls us to repent.

The above posted episode of The Point expounds those truths. If you listen, I predict you will be blessed by it.

Encountering the Resurrected, Glorified Christ (Revelation 1)

If Jesus were to appear to you today, what would He look like? What would He be like? How would He speak to you, and would you be intimidated to be in His presence?

Such was the case as the Apostle John worshiped on the Lord’s day in Revelation 1. John, who was imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos for preaching the Gospel, was in the Spirit when Christ appeared to Him. He wrote about this experience on Revelation 1:10-17:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.

Bloch-SermonOnTheMountThis glorious appearance of Jesus Christ is a far-cry from the happy-hippy image of Jesus made popular by Renaissance paintings.  Instead of a gentle looking man with long, brown hair and a most excellent beard, John saw Christ as bright as the sun, with white hair, eyes of fire, and brazen feet. The fact that He had a two-edged sword as a tongue is even more intimidating.

Upon seeing Christ, the Apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was the closest of all the disciples to Christ, who walked and talked with Christ three and a half years, fell at His feet as dead.

This experience reminds us of the glory of Christ. No longer is He the suffering Savior nailed to the cross. No longer is He meek and lowly, submitting Himself to self-sacrifice for mankind. His sacrifice has been completed, and our salvation is paid. Now, the resurrected Christ sits in His glorified form at the right hand of the throne of God.

It would do us well to remember that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not merely a “buddy” or companion. He is our creator, God in flesh, Who loved us and gave Himself for us. We should revere Him as such.

Yet, as intimidating as this encounter was for John, the mission of Christ is redemption and restoration, not judgment and wrath. Therefore, when John fell on his face as dead, Christ told Him to fear not, and lifted Him up.

Indeed, the risen Christ is a comfort, not a condemnation to those of us who believe.

In the above posted episode of “The Point,” we study Revelation 1, exploring the things Christ did for us, the power of His resurrected form, and we explore how Christ sees us. It’s well worth the listen.

Revealing Christ

the-transfigurationOn Sunday, Life Point Baptist Church began a study into the book of Revelation.

This book is known by many names. Some call it “Revelations,” and others call it “The Revelation of St. John the Divine.” However, neither of these titles are accurate.

The title of the book is given in the opening line of Chapter 1, verse 1, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”

That title more aptly describes the book of Revelation, as the book describes the revelation, or the unveiling, of Jesus Christ to the entire world at the end time. The book is not a series of revelations, rather, it records a series of events that reveal Christ Himself.

Furthermore, the book is not “the Revelation of St. John the Divine,” as St. John was neither divine, nor is he the one being revealed. While the revelation was revealed to John, John was not the object of the revelation. Christ was.

This is an important detail as we embark on a multi-week journey through the book of Revelation. We will study how the book reveals the character of the risen, glorified Christ, and how one day He will return to Earth to establish His Kingdom and judge the living and the dead.

We will continue this study during worship service Sunday Morning at 11 a.m. at the Early Chamber of Commerce Small Business Incubator facility at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early. Come see us.

Passions

Have you ever lost your cool?

Or in a moment of weakness, have you ever made a decision you regretted?

If we’re to be honest, life is full of regrets. We regret the sins of our past, our bad decisions, the things that bring us shame and even the things no one knows about.

I think to a large degree this is one reason why many people skip church. Life can become one big guilt trip, and hearing a sermon about sin and impure motivations in the heart can compound that guilt.

Guilt is universal. The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee once said that he has never been the preacher, husband or father he thought he should be. A man who spent his life teaching millions of people through the Bible felt like he didn’t measure up.

And then there’s the Apostle Paul, who said in Acts 14:15, “ We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God.”

The like passions Paul experienced are the same ones Dr. McGee experienced, which are the same passions you and I experience. It’s the sin nature. It’s temptation. And all too often, we fall before it.

Yet Christianity goes beyond defining the problem of sin and temptation. Christianity teaches us about God’s grace, forgiveness and redemption from that sin and temptation.

Notice how Paul, in Acts 14:15 exhorted the people to turn from their sin to God. Obviously to please God, we must believe in Him and trust Jesus Christ as Savior. That involves the confession that sin is evil and the decision that we no longer want a part in it.

Yet, our passions pull us back in. At this point we truly see how awesome the grace of God is, because even though we continue to struggle and fall, God continually forgives us. He loves us in spite of our weaknesses and failures.

When I read Dr. McGee’s statement that he falls short, and when I read Paul’s statements about his shortcomings, and when James mentions Elijah’s passions in James 5, I am reminded that I am not alone. You are not alone. We all struggle with sin, and come short of the glory of God.

But God be praised, He loves us anyway.

Don’t let sin and shame keep you out of the Lord’s presence. He already knows all about it. Come on in, and let Him love you through it.

Life Point to host Community Sunrise Service on Easter Sunday

Coleman Plaza

The 6th Annual Community Easter Sunrise Service will be held at 7 a.m. Sunday, April 1, at the Margaret and Stuart Coleman Plaza at the Depot Center, which is located next to the Adams Street Community Center in Downtown Brownwood.

Life Point Baptist Church (formerly Grace Pointe Missionary Baptist Church) has hosted the Easter Sunrise Service since 2011.

“The Community Easter Sunrise Service began when our church saw the need for a central place for Christians to come together and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday,” said Pastor Leland Acker. “There is just something special about being outdoors as the sun rises on the day that we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. It gives you the feeling of a new day, a new hope, and blesses you with a unique experience that can’t really be described.”

Acker said the resurrection is the foundational doctrine of Christianity.

“Christianity is built on the idea of redemption, new life, and eternal life,” Acker said. “The Bible teaches that we have all gone astray, we have all lost our way, and we have all sinned against God. Sin leads to destruction and eternal condemnation, but Jesus Christ loved us so much that He gave His life on the cross, taking the divine consequences of our sin upon Himself.

“The Bible teaches that He was buried, but that He rose again the third day, where He conquered death, thus opening the gates of Heaven so that all that repent and believe in Him will be given eternal life.”

Acker went on to say that because Christ rose from the grave, He lives, is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, and advocates for His believers daily.

Acker will bring a special message at the Community Easter Sunrise Service at 7 a.m. Sunday, April 1. Bro. Waymon Childress will lead the group in Gospel singing as the sun rises.

Life Point Baptist Church was founded in 2008 in Brownwood, Texas. The church currently meets for Sunday School at 10 am every Sunday, and morning worship at 11 am every Sunday, at the Early Small Business Incubator Facility (also known as the Early Chamber of Commerce) at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early. Life Point’s worship center is being built on Sunrise Drive in Early, with completion expected this summer. 

The Opposition

The people who had moved into the land were tolerant of the Israelites who returned to rebuild Jerusalem, but once construction began on the Temple, conflict broke out.

In this message, we evaluate why the people of the land opposed the construction of the Temple, and how that correlates to Satan’s opposition to our daily lives today. This chapter illustrates how Satan actively opposes you and tries to sabotage you as you try to live out God’s purpose for your life.

…because you never know…

golden-bible

And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

-Acts 10:28

Thomas Ryman was no good.

The owner of several saloons and riverboats, he made a living off of others’ sin. He built a financial empire selling liquor, gambling and sin. However, 1885 saw a Spiritual revival break out across the South, and the mass conversion of Southern sinners to Christianity put a dent into Ryman’s business.

So when the man spearheading the revival, Evangelist Samuel Porter Jones, came to Nashville to preach, Ryman decided to attend the revival. Ryman’s plan was simple. Preserve saloon business by disrupting the revival, stopping Jones from preaching.

Ryman’s plan of disrupt, interrupt and corrupt beautifully backfired. Instead of stopping the revival, Ryman wound up converting to Christianity.

So moved by the preaching of Jones, Ryman decided to build a church, a tabernacle, so that all of Nashville could hear Jones preach. The structure, located on 5th Avenue North, would be called the Union Gospel Tabernacle.

Jones went on to hold several revivals in that building, and church services were held every Sunday. Of all the memorable sermons preached at the Union Gospel Tabernacle, none were so pivotal as the one Jones preached on December 23, 1904, as he eulogized Ryman, a man saved under his preaching who invested the equivalent of $2.7 million in today’s currency to build the place where so many would hear the Gospel.

At that funeral, Jones recommended that the Union Gospel Tabernacle be renamed to honor his most benevolent convert, thus the tabernacle was renamed the “Ryman Auditorium.” Yes, that Ryman Auditorium, known across the South as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” home of the Grand Ole Opry, a thrice-weekly country music radio performance broadcast live on WSM 650 AM which ends every performance with a Gospel song.

The Ryman Auditorium, the “Mother Church of Country Music,” was actually a church at one time, hence the stained-glass windows and the wooden pews. The church closed in 1935, but not before thousands heard the Gospel and thousands were saved, all because God allowed one sinner to amass a fortune, before reaching him with the Gospel so that he would use that fortune to reach thousands more for Christ.

Those who knew Ryman before his conversion would probably say, “he ain’t no good,” and understandably so. Prior to his conversion, Ryman was so committed to profiting off of sin that he endeavored to stop the preaching of the Gospel to stay in business.

The preachers of Nashville probably thought he was a lost cause. The righteous of Nashville probably thought he was the worst man to have ever lived. However, God knew the plans that He had for Ryman, and “when the fullness of time had come,” God sent Jones to Nashville to hold a revival, leading to Ryman’s conversion, and the subsequent conversion of multitudes.

You never know what God has planned for others, therefore the Bible tells us not to judge.

In Acts 10, Peter was praying on the rooftop patio of Simon the Tanner when he received a vision of a sheet being lowered from heaven containing every animal that the Jews considered unclean to eat (pigs, catfish, crawdads, lobster, etc). An angel then told Peter, “Rise, kill and eat,” to which Peter said, “Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”

The angel then responded, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”

Later, Peter tells Cornelius that God taught him never to call any man common or unclean. The lesson Peter learned is that while the man before us may live a sinful life, it may very well be that God will soon reach him with the Gospel. And if God knows the man will receive Christ as his Savior, he’s as good as saved already.

In fact, it may be, as in the case of Peter, that God is calling us to reach that man.

So with this in mind, let’s remember a few things. (1) Do not disdain the lost around you. Love them and share the Lord with them. You may see them be converted and go on to do great things for God. (2) Following the example of Thomas Ryman, let’s glorify God by doing what we can to make sure that others hear the preaching of the Gospel. (3) Don’t give up on that wayward loved one who so far has refused to repent. If God can reach a man like Ryman, He can reach anyone.

Praise God for redeeming us and those around us to a lively hope. May God bless you today.

The Art of Redemption

Crucifixion Sunset

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

-Colossians 1:12-14

Redemption.

For some, it means validation. For others, it means to be set free. For others, it is the chance to go back and correct a wrong, or to try again after a failure and achieve success.

Redemption.

While these elements can accompany the Biblical meaning of redemption, true redemption goes much further. When the Bible tells us that God redeemed us through Jesus Christ, it tells us that he did more than validate us, set us free, or give us a second chance.

Biblical redemption carries with it the meaning of restoration.

In Old Testament times, slavery was a practice used to settle debt. If a man was in debt without any hope of being able to repay it, he could be sold into slavery. In order to make this dark practice more humane, and in order to teach us about salvation, God wrote into His law several provisions that would free slaves, one of which was redemption.

If a man were sold into slavery for, say, $50,000, and his brother learned that he had been sold into slavery, his brother could go to his master and buy his brother back. The slave master was obligated to sell the slave back to his family at the price he paid, without collecting a profit.

That process was known as “redemption.” The man would return home, a free man, no longer a slave. He would be reunited with his family and be able to farm his land and work his vocation. He was redeemed. He was restored.

Notice that the redeemed man did not become a slave to his brother who had purchased his freedom. Notice also that the man no longer owed the debt. He was completely free, and his life was restored. What an amazing feeling that must have been.

Scripture teaches us that, just like Old Testament slaves were redeemed by their families, God has redeemed us.

Just as that man in the Old Testament was sold into slavery, owing a debt he could not repay, we begin life as slaves to sin, owing a debt we cannot repay. Just as the brother of that man in the Old Testament purchased his brother out of slavery, Christ purchased us from sin, paying our sin-debt by giving His life on the cross.

And just as that man in the Old Testament was reunited with his family and set free, Christ has restored our lives and set us free. Restoration. Without it, there is no true redemption. Freedom. Without that, there is no redemption, for if you have not been freed, you have not been redeemed. You’ve merely been sold.

Therefore, when Christ redeems us, He has made us free indeed! Then, He begins the process of restoring our lives by transforming us into the persons He intended on being.

This concept is illustrated in countless ways in scripture. The redemption Christ offers us teaches us a few things.

First, we should accept the redemption. A man in the Old Testament who was set free could choose to remain a slave. Or, he could take his freedom and return to his family. Have you accepted the redemption offered by Jesus Christ? Have you turned from your sins and trusted Him for salvation? Or do you cling to your sins and trust your servitude?

Secondly, the Biblical concept of redemption rules out the notion that any works are necessary to achieve salvation. The Old Testament slave who was redeemed by his brother owed his brother nothing for his redemption. Nothing. Obviously, he should have been grateful and expressed his gratitude, but as a matter of obligation, owed his brother nothing.

When Christ redeems us, we owe Him nothing for our redemption. Obviously, we should be grateful and express that gratitude in obedience and service, but we have no contractual obligation to Christ in exchange for our redemption. This means that any religion that teaches that one has to live holy, be baptized, speak in tongues, be a faithful church member or give tithes in order to enter Heaven has no understanding of true redemption.

Any religion that teaches that salvation can be lost does not understand redemption.

When Christ redeems you, He sets you free, and you have eternal peace and security from Him that cannot be revoked. Learn to rest in that assurance, and serve the Lord with gladness and not fear.

And finally, this redemption teaches us about how much God loves us, and how priceless we are to Him. A man in the Old Testament would have to love his brother very much to make the financial sacrifice to redeem him from slavery. God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to redeem us from the slavery of sin.

The world may have rejected you. Others criticize and judge you. You may feel like society has marginalized you and cast you out of the gates of the city. However, God loves you, sees the things which make you unique, gave His Son to redeem you, and has a place for you at His table. Will you turn to Him?

God paid the price for your redemption. That redemption becomes effective when you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior.

May God bless you today.