SermonsDiscover the Joy of Leaving Laodicea Behind
When we look at the Revelation, we should be shocked by the reaction of those who see Jesus face to face. First, John. And then the twenty-four elders. Look at the reaction of John:
After John hears the loud voice of the Lord, “as a trumpet”, and sees the seven lampstands and the seven stars and the “One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band” – John is so overwhelmed that he “fell at His feet as dead”. Dead. John had reached his ability to function and all his systems had shut down.
Have you ever responded like that when you encountered the Lord Jesus? Have you ever known anyone who has? And, if not, did you ever wonder why?
The Twenty-Four Elders
But when the twenty-four elders see Christ, their reaction puts us to shame. Consider the following:
Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:9-11).
And then their praise continues:
Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:8-10).
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever (Revelation 5:11-14).
What Are We Missing?
I think it’s kind of obvious, don’t you? What we see in the Revelation is a far cry from what we experience each Sunday in church. Which makes me wonder, why?
Has God changed?
Does He allow Himself to be worshipped one way by the twenty-four elders but expects less from us today?
Or is He now content and satisfied by our lukewarm adoration of His Son?
Is He, like us, more concerned about what we feel comfortable with than what His Son deserves?
Has the Father finally determined that “it’s all about us” and not about Him?
I think not.
There is so much more we need to know and understand about how to truly worship the Lord that is found in the pages of the Revelation. So let’s find out more together, shall we?
The expectation for our future, as a Nation and as the church, are grim indeed. We are going to face some very tough times, and have to navigate some very rough waters, especially for those of us who live in the United States.
During the Tribulation, the Bible teaches that Israel will stand alone. No longer will we be her protector. God will fill that role. In fact, the US is not even a minor player in the end times scenario. Look at Ezekiel 38 and 39 if you need convincing. The prophetic future of the US is almost non-existent. Something must happen to us to bring us down to the point we can no longer protect Israel. Can you see it coming?
Just look around.
We are facing unprecedented times in America:
Our trade war with China, and soon the rest of the world
The coming 2020 elections and all the chaos that will surely follow, regardless of who wins.
The overt attack on Christianity in the media.
The almost insane push of the homosexual agenda.
Judicial tyranny at every level.
The widespread corruption in our honored institutions and the government.
Natural disasters run amok, earthquakes, drought, hurricanes, flooding, etc.
Hatred among citizens.
The public talk of a Second Civil War.
Mass shootings and other acts of terror on almost a daily basis.
And it only gets worse.
Because of these, we will need to learn to lean more on the Lord than ever before. Sunday School faith will no longer cut it. Church, as we have known it in the West, will become more and more obsolete and irrelevant. Your personal faith and trust in the Lord will rapidly become the most important thing in your life. And it all hinges on one word:
Trust During the Coming Darkness
The classic Old Testament teaching on trust is found in Proverbs 3:5-6. There our Lord gives us a profound if/then promise, the very if/then promise we so desperately need as we see the darkness approaching. Consider His words:
(if) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, (if) and lean not on your own understanding; (if) in all your ways acknowledge Him,
(then) and He shall direct your paths.
As we look at this promise, we are compelled to ask ourselves a few questions about the joy of having the Lord directing our paths.
What would you give, especially when we see the coming darkness in our world growing stronger, to have the Lord of All direct your life?
What would it be worth to you to have the confidence to run to Him for shelter and refuge and to know you are welcome under His wings?
What confidence in dark days would that give you?
As we begin to see the darkness come over our land and persecution confront the church in ways unimaginable just a generation ago, it is well past time for each of us to understand and embrace the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit like never before. As Appollo Creed said to Rocky to shake him from his fear, “There is no tomorrow!”
And Appollo was right. There is no tomorrow. The time for spiritual preparation is today. Actually, it should have been yesterday, or last week. The time for fervency towards our Lord cannot be put off any longer. The well-worn excuses about family responsibilities, career advancement, and the general business of life seem trite at best, and will mean nothing when persecution comes. And it will come. Most assuredly it will come. The Scriptures promise persecution.
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution – 2 Timothy 3:12
That is, of course, unless you aren’t particularly interested in living godly in Christ. Then you may be pretty safe, right up until the time you take the mark on your hand or forehead. But that’s another issue for another time.
How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit
The key to living a life of assurance and confidence in Him is learning how to remain filled with the Holy Spirit. And before you can remain filled, you have to be filled in the first place. This is what this message talks about.
We talk about some steps you can take to prepare yourself for His filling. They are as follows:
First, you must desire to live a life that will please the Lord.
Second, be willing to surrender your life totally and irrevocably to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Third, confess every known sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and experience the cleansing and forgiveness that God promises in 1 John 1:9.
Fourth, ask Him, by faith, to fill you with the Holy Spirit. You can pray something like this:
Dear Father, I need You.
I hunger and thirst for a more vital relationship with You. I admit that I have been in control of my life. And, as a result, I have sinned against You. Thank You for forgiving my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now confess and turn from my sins and surrender the control of my life to the Lord Jesus. By faith, I invite You to fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled. You promised to fill me if I ask according to Your will. I pray this in the authority of the name of Jesus Christ.
To demonstrate my faith, I now thank You for filling me with Your Holy Spirit and for taking control of my life. Amen.
But that’s not the end of it.
There is so much more to learn.
You will need to understand the basis of God’s filling, and it has nothing to do with the amount of time you spend praying or the people who lay hands on you. The basis is on the command (Eph. 5:18) and promise (1 John 5:14-15) of God. And the filling of the Holy Spirit is given to you the same way you received salvation, by faith.
When we think of Jonathan Edward’s 70 Resolutions or a church mission statement, we know they are comprised of our bedrock values. So it is the same with each of us when we attempt to put on paper what we value most about God. For me, the choice was simple.
In addition to His grace and mercy, His abounding love and forgiveness, the one attribute that I cling to the most about our Lord is His sovereignty. Yes, the Almighty is sovereign! Lord over all!
He is the Supreme Ruler.
He is the Creator.
He is the Final Arbitrator.
He is All in All.
There is nowhere to go beyond God.
He is Sovereign!
He is Sovereign!
So how can I communicate the greatness of His sovereignty? Let’s start with just a few verses that speak of that. We’ll begin with my life verse:
But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” – Psalm 115:3. Why? Because He is sovereign.
“Remember this, and show yourselves men; recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure'” – Isaiah 46:8-10. How can this be true? Because He is sovereign.
For I know that the LORD is great, and our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places – Psalm 135:5-6. How is this possible? Because He is sovereign.
And everything belongs to our Sovereign God.
The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters – Psalm 24:1-2. How can everything belong to Him? Because He is sovereign.
What does that really mean?
He is Omnipotent (all powerful).
His power is unfathomable to us.
It is infinite and has no limit or end.
And God is not limited to what He has already done.
God can do infinitely more than He already has.
What Does that Mean For Me Today?
Understanding God’s sovereignty and His unconditional love for you should forever remove any worry, doubt, fear, apathy, or depression from your life. After all, the very one who slung the universe into existence has the hairs of your head numbered (Matthew 10:30). And it can’t get any better than that.
And how can He do that? Simple. He is sovereign.
In this message, we begin a deep journey into the prophetic words of Christ found in Matthew 24. Why? Because we are truly living in the last of the last days and it would do us well to see what our Lord has to say about the events that precede His coming. And we will especially look at the first sign Jesus told us would point to the beginning of the end, deception. That’s right, deception is planáō in the Greek and means “to cause to wander, to be led astray, to mislead, to seduce, to cause to err.” Or, simply put, good old-fashioned deception.
Which raises just a few questions.
How are we being deceived today?
And, if we are being deceived, how would we know?
Are there other places in the Scriptures that warn us against deception?
What kind of deception can we expect?
And what was the specific focus of the deception Jesus spoke about?
How Important is the Coming (and Present) Deception
To see how rampant deception is in our society, and as a sign of the end, look at how many times Jesus spoke about it in Matthew 24:
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” – Matthew 24:5.
“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” – Matthew 24:11.
And how powerful will that deception be?
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” – Matthew 24:24.
Did you catch that? If it were possible (and we know that it’s not), even the elect, those chosen and sealed by Christ, would be deceived. It’s gonna be bad.
Who Do You Trust?
One final question regarding trust and deception. Ask yourself this one question: Who do you trust? If you’re honest, your answer may shock you.
Unfortunately, in our walk with the Lord, Chaucer’s ancient adage proves true: Familiarity Breeds Contempt. It breeds contempt in the form of apathy, laziness, indifference, lack of honor or respect and, finally, of misplaced love. It seems to be the curse of Western Christianity that wants for nothing save the things that matter.
What can we do when we find our relationship with the Lord boring at best? What happens when, to quote the classic song by the Righteous Brothers, “we’ve lost that lovin’ feelin'”? What happens then?
How can we recapture what we have a hard time even remembering? We find the answer in the Lord’s letter to His church in Ephesus.
Familiarity Breeds Contempt
The church at Ephesus, when John penned the Revelation, was only one generation removed from the life of the Lord. They were a hard-working bunch of committed believers who had a resume and doctrinal purity that would be the envy of almost any church today.
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary” – Revelation 2:2-3.
In fact, they worked for the Lord to the point of sheer exhaustion.
“I know your works (the results of employment, duty, business, something to be done), your labor (to toil to the point of exhaustion, the labor which demands the whole strength of a man exerted to the utmost to accomplish the task), your patience (to remain under, to bear up under), and that you cannot bear (support, stand) those who are evil (bad, worthless, wicked, vicious, harmful, bad in heart, conduct, and character). And you have tested (tried, to prove either good or bad) those who say (affirm, proclaim) they are apostles (messengers, sent ones) and are not, and have found (by examination, search, or inquiry) them liars (false); and you have persevered (to bear up under patiently) and have patience (to endure, to remain under), and have labored (to be fatigued, worn out, weary, faint) for (what) My name’s sake and have not become weary (faint from constant work).”
I get tired just reading all that they did. But, like the church today, they had missed the most important part of their relationship with Jesus. The relationship!
“Nevertheless (in spite of all this) I (Jesus) have this against you, that you have left (to forsake, quit, abandon, desert) your first love ( agapē)” – Revelation 2:4.
Sobering words. The Lord said He is “against” them… even after all the good they had done. How could that be? And what can they do to right their sinking ship?
It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things. Sometimes it is painfully hard.
“Remember (to call to mind, to keep on remembering) therefore from where (why, how) you have fallen (to fall off or from, to fall away, to fail, to be without effect, in vain); repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place— unless you repent” – Revelation 2:5.
Do You Remember?
It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things. Sometimes it is painfully hard. Consider the following questions to help begin the process of remembering:
There comes a time in each of our spiritual lives when the Lord brings to us His divine interruption that always comes with a choice. And that choice, other than obedience, seems to focus on our willingness to let Him move us into an area that we are totally unfamiliar with. Or will we choose to remain where we feel safe and comfortable? The choice is either to follow Him into the deep or remain in the kiddie pool holding fast to our water wings. And as always, the choice becomes a matter of faith, of trust.
After all, we sing songs about Him being a “good, good Father.” Do we really mean it? Or is that just for church?
The question or choice is simply this:
Are you in? Or are you out?
If you look at the major faith personalities in the Bible, you will find every one of them had to ask themselves the same question. Every one of them was faced with a choice that comes with a set of troubling questions: “Do I continue in the course that seems right to me? Or do I trust I actually heard from the Lord and go in a direction totally unfamiliar to anything I’ve ever done or known? How much faith do I really have?”
We call these moments Divine Interruptions.
In this message, we’ll look at these interruptions from the vantage point of:
James and John and Peter and Andrew
And finally, Hosea.
A Personal Note
And I will share with you the divine interruption I received this week while preparing for this message from Jude. In fact, in the weeks to follow I will share more about the changes the Lord has brought in my life regarding what His will is for me and this ministry. And I rejoice in that. Why? Because He has simply answered a prayer I have prayed for almost two years in a most profound way.
When it comes to revival, personal revival, we are somewhat hamstrung by the reality that many in the church today have no idea what that even looks like. Think about it. It’s not like you can pick up the phone and call a mature Christian saint who is at the top of their game spiritually, and has been for years, and ask them to mentor us in personal revival. It seems, at least in the West, that those people are few and far between if they exist at all.
And this is to the shame of the church… and to each of us as individuals.
So we’re back to the main question.
What Does Personal Revival Look Like?
In this message, we’ll look at a few Scriptures that describe to us what true, Spirit-led, personal revival looks like. Some of the passages we’ll examine are Psalm 119:25, 37, and 40, along with a few of the kingdom parables (Matthew 13:44-46). We then look at Philippians 3:7-8, and a few other passages, and conclude by asking just a few questions.
What is worth selling all you have to acquire?
What is worth everything you are?
What is the thing you value the most?
Have you asked the Lord to show you things in your life that are worthless and deceitful and are causing you to sin and grieve the Holy Spirit?
Or are you too afraid of what He might say?
What will you do if He shows you what must go?
Is the promise of living your life more alive and more abundantly than you are now worth more than holding on to what we are convinced brings lasting joy?
Will you ask Him right now to reveal it to you?
But as we shared last week…
The greatest need for the church, and for our fractured nations, is revival. No, not the kind of revival we have been satisfied with over the last two generations: the hired evangelist that comes once a year to preach all week to half the congregation of a church, salvation messages to people who are already saved. That’s not real revival. It’s a cheap second. A knock-off.
So what is real revival and is it even possible?
The First and Second Great Awakening
Real revival has taken place on our shores, but it was several centuries ago and has become known as the First and Second Great Awakening. It was spurred on by the preaching of Charles Finney, Wesley, Whitefield, and many others, who faithfully preached about the conviction of sin and the need for repentance and conversion. In fact, the results in the communities where revival took place were remarkable.
But note this, modern, manufactured feel-good meetings are not true revival. In fact, they are a cheap substitute for something Spirit-led and ordained by a sovereign God.
In 1932, William Sprague took upon himself to research the Great Awakenings in our nation and wrote a book titled, Lectures on Revival. In his book, he quoted many ministers who had experienced, first hand, the Spirit-led move of God on this land. One of these men was Francis Wayland, a Baptist pastor and president of Brown University. Wayland described the true revival he had experienced as follows:
As the Christmas season is winding down, it would be appropriate for us to look at the greatest gift we have ever received from the greatest Person we have ever known— our Lord, and to give Him praise for that wondrous gift. And for me, I find that gift revealed to me in Colossians.
Let’s look at this gift together.
No Longer Alienated and Enemies of the Lord
The Scriptures say that I, and all who are called by His name, are no longer “alienated and enemies” of the Lord. Look at this marvelous gift found in Colossians 1:21-22:
And you (your name), who once were (past tense) alienated (apallotrióō – to estrange, alienate entirely) and enemies (echthrós – hatred, hostility, enmity) in your mind by (what) wicked works, yet now (present tense) He (Christ’s actions) has reconciled (apokatallássō – the restoration of a relationship of peace which has been disturbed) in the body of His flesh (how) through death, (why) to present (paristánō – to cause to stand near or before) you (your name) holy (hágios – set apart, sanctified, consecrated, a saint), and blameless (ámōmos – unblameable, without spot or blemish) and above reproach (anégklētos –unreproveable, not merely unaccusable but unaccused, free from any legal charge) in His sight (presence, before His face).
But there is more. He keeps us from stumbling and presents us faultless before His glory. Amazing. Read it yourself in Jude 1:24.
Now to Him (Christ) who is able to keep you (your name) from stumbling (áptaistos – falling), and to present you (your name) faultless (where) before the presence of His glory (how) with exceeding joy (agallíasis – extreme exultation, exuberant joy),
And how do we respond to this incredible gift? Read the next verse.
To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
I pray you will begin the next year with the same praise and passion for your Lord that you ended the last one. And you can do that by realizing what a great God we serve and what a great gift He has given us in His Son. Will you join with me in exalting His Name?