05.5 Revelation – Fraying at the Edges

Fraying at the Edges

Job stands out in the bible because his temptation came in a single tsunami event.  He lost thing after thing after thing of importance in a single day.

But, for most of us, temptation works differently.  Instead of ripping everything away at one time, temptation consists more of a snipping of threads.  A little lie over here.  A putting off of time with God today because I’m too tired.  A harsh word because I’m angry.  A complaint, a drink, a gossiping statement.  A little greed.  A little envy.  A bit of conceit.  Nothing big.  Nothing “everyone else isn’t doing.”  Just little snips of very fine thread.  But before long, the garment of our faith is unraveling.

This was probably the case with the church in Sardis.  The fabric of their faith was of good quality.  They had a reputation (past history) for being alive.  But, they were dead.  The clothing of their faith was soiled, frayed, falling apart at the seams.

I love the way this is addressed in Romans 13:12-14, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”

But, here is the critical fact.  We do not have the strength to stay awake on our own. We do not have the ability with our own willpower to resist every temptation and every sin.  Just as the apostles, Peter, James and John (yes, this very same John), had found it impossible to stay awake on the night that Jesus prayed in the garden, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

But Jesus gives us the solution to that weakness in His introduction to this letter to the church.  “These are the words of Him who holds the seven spirits (that is the seven-fold spirit) of God and the seven stars.”  We cannot succeed relying on the flesh.  But we can succeed by relying on the strength of the Spirit.  We cannot succeed by our own will power, but we will succeed by the will and the power of Jesus.

When we cloth ourselves not in darkness but in light;  When we put on the armor of light;  When Jesus Christ is not only an acquaintance, but the very uniform by which we identify who we are and to whom we belong;  Then, the snipping thread of day-to-day temptation will have little impact.  When we repent our sins, He mends our faith with stronger, holy thread spun from the righteous acts done in His name by God’s holy people.

Adam and Eve were given clothes of the sacrifice of animals to cover their sin.  Through Jesus, those garments of death have been replaced by robes of light and righteousness and holiness.

The night is nearly over, the day is almost here.  What will you be wearing?

My Answers:

11.
a.
their deeds, that they had a reputation for being alive but were dead – Wake up! Strengthen what remains, Remember what you have received and heard, hold fast, repent

b.
It makes me question where I have fallen asleep in my faith.  Where have I slid and become complacent, starving the spirit in me?

12.
clothes were placed on adam and eve as a covering from their sin, requiring sacrifice.  The white clothes of purity, bright and clean, are the clothing of Christ and the righteous acts done in His name by God’s holy people.

 

05.4 Revelation – Holdfast

Holdfast

In a similar way that land-based plants have roots, many aquatic plants have a holdfast.  The purpose is to hold on to the solid substrate.

In verse 25, Jesus commands the church at Thyatira to holdfast to what they already have.  What they have is the foundation of their faith.  It is the Word of God.  The good news of the gospel.  It is the connection directly to the rock (Jesus).

As the waves of the times pull us this way or that, the hope is in the holdfast because it is what connects us to Jesus.

The way to keep the holdfast strong is to keep the plant strong and alive.  The best way of doing that is through daily feeding, care and exercise.  These are the things the church was commended for doing.  Love.  Faith.  Service.  Perseverance.  Doing/Deeds. Obedience.  Witnessing.  Spreading the gospel.

I saw a kids teaching game along these lines.  It is called the “deeds vs words” game.  The kids are supposed to “Do what I say not what I do” (kind of like simon says, but with a twist).  For example, sometimes I would do and say the same thing (say to touch your knees and I would touch my knees), but other times my words and actions wouldn’t match (I would say touch your head, but I would instead touch my shoulder).  When about ½ the kids get out, points are rewarded to the rest and start over another round.

The point is that our actions not only keep our own “holdfast” healthy, but they, even more than our words, are our witness and what strengthens those around us.  In the same way that the tallest and biggest trees grow only together in the forest (e.g., redwood forest), the stronger the holdfast of those around us the stronger is our own.  In a community of plants, they overlap, grow together and weave into something even stronger than one plant could do on its own.  In a community of believers, they keep us in faith and love, we serve together persevere together and witness together (to each other and to others).

My Answers:

9.
Hold on to love faith service perseverance doing/deeds (truth/gospel).  Do not hold to false teaching, Satan’s “so-called deep secrets”.

Hold only on to what you have until I come (love, faith, service, perseverence, doing/deeds)

10.
obedience, faith, perseverance, service, love, to be witnesses and spread the gospel

 

05.3 Revelation – I Want to Do What I Want to Do

I Want to Do What I Want to Do

The letter to the Church in Thyatira starts out great.   I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” If only it could have stopped there.  But, there was something else living in their ranks.

Nevertheless, “You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet“.

Jezebel is likely a reference to the philosophy of the wife of King Ahab at the time of Elijah.  That Jezebel personified the self-centered attitude of “I want to do what I want to do.”  It was a philosophy of life without boundaries.  It was a belief that power and authority were to be used as weapons to take what I want from whom I want.  It was a life focused on self-indulgence seeing others beliefs and boundaries as tools that could be used against them for my own personal wants and gains.  It was an attitude of “live for the moment,” where lies flourished, image was everything, and eternity was mocked (may they be damned, and may I be cursed if…).  It was an attitude of living for now regardless of consequences.

Sound familiar?

There have been Jezebels of every age.  They have been people in power and authority.  They have been neighbors.  They have found their way into our places of work, our neighborhoods, our schools and even in to our churches.  Some of us may have been a Jezebel earlier in life.

Jezebelism is not to be tolerated.  I am not simply talking about the person.  The cardinal matter here is not the person but the attitude and philosophy of which the the person is a prophetess.

The instruction to the church is to “hold on”.  Jesus knows the corrosive nature of this attitude and philosophy.  He has been at work, in the spirit, on the hearts and minds of those who hold to what they contrive to be “the secret”, but is in fact nothing but lies.  He has called them to repent, but they have refused.

The instruction to the church is that He is coming and He will take care of this.  The proper authorities are on their way – just hold on.

The instruction is the same to us.  There are boundaries.  I am not the center of existence.  Power and authority are gifts given to serve.  It is not about me, it is all about God. Hold on.

But holding on doesn’t just mean not jumping in to the temptation with our entire being.  It also means not yielding to the temptation to see how far we can stretch the boundaries.  It means not seeing how close we can put our own self interest to the center of our world before we’ve pushed God aside.  It means not yielding to greed, lust, sexual immorality, theft, murder, idolatry, lying, cheating, self-centered behavior – not even a little beyond what is honoring and holy before the Lord.

There are boundaries.  Not as oppressive limits, but as healthy and helpful constraints.  Sweet treats are good, but a diet of only sweet treats is deadly.  We understand that, but we want to listen to Satan’s so-called deep secrets, including the idea that more is always better.  It’s not – that is one of the lies – and living a life without boundaries is missing the mark.  It is called sin.

Just hold on.  Keep doing good deeds.  Keep loving.  Keep on being faithful.  Keep your focus on service and perseverance.  Keep doing more than you did at first.

 

My Answers:

6.
deeds, love and faith, service and perseverance, doing more now than you did at first.

7.
a.
sexual immorality.  eating of food sacrificed to idols.  Allowing and holding to the teaching of false teachers

b.
She was a murderer, idol woshipper, blasphemer.  She was amoral leading her husband the king and the people he led against God and into sin

c.
suffering (cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely) – strike her children dead, be repaid according to deeds

8.
He is all knowing.  His eyes (like blazing fire) penetrate hearts and minds and know.  He will justly repay according to the deeds performed

05.2 Revelation – Individuality and Community

Individuality and Community

In the US we have a very strong sense of individuality and individual responsibility in justice.  This is also true in other parts of the modern world, but it is very pronounced in the west.  For the most part, we tend to believe that individuals have the freedom to make choices and when they make the right choices, they should enjoy the rewards of those choices.  Likewise, when they make the wrong choices, they should face the consequences of those choices.  I should not have to pay for the goods you stole.  I should not have to suffer because of your malpractice.

While there are exceptions we make for loved ones, as well as for those we consider to be “in need” because of situations outside of their control, in general we take the stance: I’m responsible for me and my actions, but I’m not responsible for you and your actions.

But, the letter to the church of Pergammum indicates that Jesus sees us both individually and communally.  The letter is to the church, not the city, so there are some boundaries in that this is to a joint body of people who participate with each other in a community representing the body of believers of Jesus Christ.  But Jesus is clearly addressing responsibility for both individuals and the group as a whole within that body.

“You have remained true to my name.  You do not renounce your faith in me.” These are commendations for the individuals and acknowledgement of their individual performance.

“There are some among you who…  Likewise, you also have those who…” These are reprimands to the community.

In our communities, in our times, our response would likely be to argue for division of accountability.  “That is them not me.”  “It is not fair to hold me responsible for what they choose to do.”  But that is, clearly, not how Jesus sees things.

The church is referred to as the body of Christ.  Another way of looking at this is to consider these reprimands of Jesus as the physician pointing out infections or cancers within that body.  You don’t leave it to the cancer or the infection to treat itself.   You don’t try to separate the parts of your body from the whole and say, you can’t hold me responsible for the infection that is in my lung.

Jesus, the physician to the church of Pergammum, prescribes the appropriate treatment in verse 16: Repent.  He warns that if they do not repent, then He will come as a surgeon with a double edge sword that penetrates.

This is hard.  This goes against so much of how we like to define responsibility.  It is messy.  It takes time and effort.  It takes patience and perseverance.  It takes a commitment to stay true to His name and to not renounce faith in Him.

It is particularly hard because He doesn’t say to remove those individuals from the community.  But He also doesn’t say it is acceptable for the infection or cancer to continue.  The infection, though, is not the individual, it is what the individuals “hold to”.  It is the holding to false beliefs.  It is the holding to false teachings.

Repenting means that the body removes the infection, not the lung.  It means taking in collectively more of the right stuff and eliminating the junk food.  It means exercising faith daily together, consistently and accurately.  It means not turning a blind eye to needs in the community.  It means not being superior to others, but also not ignoring the wrong-doings of others.

We can be handicapped because we misunderstand the words, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  That does not mean we are to ignore the infection, it simply means that surgery should not be our first treatment.

If surgery were the first and only treatment, then there would be no body.  There is bacteria and infection on every part of our bodies.  If that were our method, every cell would be cut off from every other cell and we would no longer be a body.  Instead, the treatment Jesus prescribes is, with His power, with His Word, to get off the wrong path of living as a body and get back on the right path of living as a body.

Repent, therefore.

There are rewards in changing path.  It is called victory.  And for the victorious church: It will be accepted as God’s chosen people (the ones fed manna in the wilderness).  It will be saved from slavery to be with God (as the Jews were freed from Egypt) and in His presence every day (living in the shekhinah glory of the Lord – shekhinah mean “dwelling place”).  It will be acquitted of all wrong doing by He who is the Judge. (black stone =  guilty, white stone=innocent).  It will be given a new  heavenly name (now known by the name of the earthly city of its members, but they won’t be dwelling in that city any more so it (the church) will have a new name that only has meaning to those who know Jesus).

But we don’t reach victory alone, we reach it as a team – as a church – as the church.

My Answers:

3.
You remain true to my name, you do not renounce your faith in me (not even when witnesses are put to death)

4.
a.
Moabites enticed the Israelite men with their women who then encouraged the men to sacrifice and worship false gods

b.
The double edge sword.  The Word of God.  It is always true and cuts through the artificial covering I try to put on my sin to justify it or paint it as something that isn’t sinful.

5.
I will be accepted as one of God’s chosen people (the ones fed manna in the wilderness).  I will be saved from slavery to be with God in His presence every day.  I will be acquitted of all wrong doing by He who is the Judge.