Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Can We Hear? Reflections on Revelation 3:20 (Part 6)

Why is the Lord Jesus Christ standing outside the door of His own church?

Haven’t we experienced this? We’ve gone to churches where the gospel is not preached. Our Lord isn’t there. The music, the preacher, the people may be winsome and attractive but when Jesus doesn’t stand in the center of His church and preside, His family knows.

The church is dead without Him.

The devil is shrewd. He’s good at this. His first job is to turn a church alive in Christ into a Laodicean church pumped up with pride, compromised with the world, completely focused on self so they’ve got no idea they’ve kicked Jesus out. Then he sustains it. Keep the Christians distracted so they can’t hear the two most important sounds in the world.

His knock. His voice.

His second job: Pass the Laodicean church onto a new generation who have never experienced the Lordship of Jesus Christ presiding over His Church. They’ve never heard the saving power of the gospel. They have no testimony of Jesus in their lives. They hold to the rituals of church but don’t know the Lord of the church – His voice. His knock.

The church dies! And it would stay dead if God Himself didn’t intervene. He steps in, calls to Himself the most unexpected people -- a small band who love Him and can hear Him -- His word, His knock, His voice -- and they do what He says.

They open the door!

Often, at great personal cost. The dead church that remains dead rises up in revolt to mock and persecute the alive church in Christ. It never works. Not while Jesus presides. Not while He sits at table with His family. The devil has to wait it out for an opportune time to slowly turn us back into Laodiceans again.

This is the story of church history. It’s also a pattern in our own personal lives.

We come to saving faith in Jesus. We know what it means to hear His voice, to love the Bible, to long for the preaching of His word, the fellowship of His saints, and experience the intimacy of Him dining with us and we with Him. But somehow, over time, we lose the wonder of it all. It all dulls and we don’t know it.

We get distracted by other things. Pastors, elders, long time Christians lose that “first love” for Jesus (Rev 2:4). The hunger, the longing for Him – His presence, the preaching, His dining with us – become dull. Satan convinces us we’ve experienced it all. We know it all. We need nothing, having no idea He’s outside the door of our lives.

The knocking, can we hear it? The voice, He’s calling us. He wants to dine with us. Have we lost our zeal for Him? Why are we not running to the door to open it for Him?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Those Whom I Love (Reflections on Revelation 3:19 - Part 5)

Why is hearing God hard to do?

The Lord once said, “I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices” (Isa 65:2). Doesn’t this perfectly describe the Laodiceans?

They acted like rebels – like they didn’t know Him. Boasting does that to us. Our arrogance blinds us to God. It deafens our ears so we can’t hear Him say: “you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Nor can we hear His counsel to get medicine for our eyes, clothing for our souls, and riches from His kingdom.

What will it take to hear His voice again?

Isn’t it surprising Jesus didn’t treat them as rebels? He spoke to them as if they were members of His own family. He used language already found in the Bible. It’s the language of parents speaking to their children.

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline…”

These same words are found in the letter to the Hebrews. It’s here we learn: “When the Lord disciplines us, “He’s treating you as dear children” (Heb 12:7 MSG). If He didn’t discipline us, we’d be considered “illegitimate” and “not really his children at all” (Heb 12:8 NLT).

Again, we find these words in Proverbs 3:12. Parents (see Prov 1:8) are teaching their children: “Don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights” (3:12 NLT).

This is our God: He loves us. We are His children. It’s why He disciplines us.

But to hear His discipline, our heart needs to be right. For this reason, just before Proverbs 3:12, we’re told how to do that. We’re to “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 paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil…” (Prov 3:5-7).

This means no more trusting in ourselves. No more boasting. No more saying, “I need nothing.” If we’re going to hear Him, we’ve got to “acknowledge” Him with all we are, all we do, all we say. Today and every day.

But there He is – our Lord -- standing outside the door of the Laodicean church. Does this fact alone concern them? Does it ignite their zeal to repent of their sin, their boasting, their double life, their self-exaltation, and put their trust in Him again?

But can they hear Him? Can we? Are the sounds all around us – in culture, in the church, even our own hearts – too loud for us to hear His voice speaking truth to us.

He loves us. We are His children. It’s why He’s disciplines us.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Craving Baby’s Milk (Reflections on Rev 2:18 - Part 4)

How would you react if -- starving for a decent meal – you got served baby’s milk?

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? We think we know God. We’re adults in the Lord. But what if we’re not? What needs to happen for us to see the real condition of our soul not through our lens, but God’s? How do we shift from being boasters like the Laodiceans – proud, utterly self-sufficient, in need of nothing -- to beggars who need to hear the first principles of the gospel all over again?

“You need…baby’s milk” cried the Hebrews writer (Heb 5:12 MSG).

Boasting is a great danger to our soul. In the days of the prophet Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar had a horrifying dream. He saw a great and mighty tree that “was visible to the end of the whole earth” (4:10). Suddenly, an angel descended from heaven. The tree was chopped down. And the declaration was made: The Lord rules over all.

The king didn’t understand. He needed Daniel to interpret it for him.

“It is you, O king,” Daniel said (4:22). The king, like the tree, had become great and mighty in the earth. His heart was lifted up so he could boast, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (4:30).

Daniel warned him. He pleaded with him. He counseled the king to “break off your sins by practicing righteousness” and “your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed” (4:27). It is here – in repentance, in doing right, in showing mercy to those in need – we find humility of soul. The perfect medicine against boasting and pride.

But the king didn’t take warning.

And down he came. Driven into exile until the king could testify, “Heaven rules…the Most High rules” (4:26, 32). The glory, the majesty, belongs to God and God alone.

Isn’t this the same story in Laodicea?

Jesus warns them. They’re boasters. They’re rich. They need nothing. Having no idea they’re lukewarm – wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Like Daniel of old, Jesus says the words, “I counsel you.” He has real riches to give them – “buy from me gold” – riches not of earth but of heaven (Eph 2:7). He has real clothes to give them – “buy from me…white garments” – that cover their shame and nakedness (Gen 2:7, 21). He has real medicine to heal their eyes so, blind to Jesus, they might see Jesus (Eph 1:18).

He’s giving them the gospel that saves the soul.

It’s baby’s milk to the newborn.

What does it take for us – lost in pride, arrogance, and boasting – to hear Jesus and “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word” (1 Pe 2:2)? Do we have to be chopped down to hear Him? Or is the counsel of Daniel and our Lord enough?

John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?