Eggs; the inner egg and the outer shell

In Romans 8.2 we read that the law of the Spirit of life has set us free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. We are no longer bound by meticulous religious rules covering everything from our dietary intake to our haircut (good news for some…).

This freedom is liberating, we are now bound only to live the life of the Spirit, in the Spirit, for Christ. If we want to mix milk and meat in a meal, that’s fine. If we want to cut our hair short on the sides and round off the corners of our beards, that’s fine. If you want a tattoo, or to pierce your ears, fine too. If the ladies don’t want to wear a head covering in church, that’s fine too. We are no longer under the law as a heavy yoke, which invariably we would break, which leads to sin, which leads to death. Bad. Now we are living under the Spirit of life. Good.

This means, in a strange sort of way, we are like an egg.

We are free to associate with whoever we want, go wherever we want, eat and drink whatever we want, watch anything we want on the tellybox, be friends with anyone we want. Jesus was not concerned with His outer shell or its appearance, was He? He hung out with some pretty down and dirty people during His incarnational ministry (His time on earth living as fully God and fully man, incarnation literally means ‘in the flesh’).

Like a toddler at meal times, Jesus’ outer egg shell was covered with all sorts of things that people thought it should not be; don’t talk to her, don’t touch them, don’t stay at his house…

Jesus trashed His outer shell, ultimately breaking it for us, but never compromised His inner self.

Therein lies the lesson for us; we are free from the law as a heavy yoke and now have a wonderful liberty as Christians. But, as Jesus ultimately broke His body for our benefit, we need to use our liberty for love, for the benefit of others, not to simply have a good time. 

So yes, we are free to eat, drink, watch whatever we want, but the bigger Christian principles still apply; who is being glorified through what you are doing? Things too, like Philippians 4.8,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

So, yes, we can dirty up our outer shell, but we must never compromise our inner egg. And, if we are dirtying up our outer shell, let us make sure that it is for the benefit of others, using our liberty for love, not lusts.

Glory to Glory

Sometimes the progress in our Christian life, or our life in general, is not as quick as we would like it to be, is it. You know, maybe you start a new diet or fitness plan and after two days you look in the mirror and wonder why you don’t look like an Olympian. 

In our faith life, we are the same, aren’t we. We make a commitment, step out in faith, see that the claims of Christianity are true, but then it dawns on us that we are still the same person. There has been no miraculous instant whole-life change and that seems, to us, like it’s not happening.

Maybe you react in the same way to something you did before you believed.

Maybe you still feel the pull towards doing something or going somewhere you know you shouldn’t.

Maybe old habits still linger.

But you think ‘This isn’t how it’s supposed to be now, I’m a Christian, I should be living like Jesus, or like wonderful Christian example Mr./Mrs. ___ ‘.

At this point we can become discouraged, downhearted, and maybe even deterred from walking this way. When this happens, we need to remind ourselves of the wonderful truths of the Word of God.

If God has started a work in you, it will unequivocally, absolutely, 100% be finished (Philippians 1.6). Being transformed from glory to glory comes from beholding the Lord, spending time with the Lord, meditating on the Word of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3.18). 

All I know is this
There’s nothing that You miss
If it’s not beautiful yet
It’s gonna be

When I can’t see beyond
A thousand things gone wrong
If it’s not finished yet
It’s gonna be

I believe all that You start You complete
From glory to glory

So, if things don’t feel like they’re moving on as quickly as you’d like, if you seem to have arrived at a place from where you see no progress, if you feel down and out, take a moment and behold the glory of the Lord, and rest easy in the fact that He always finishes what He starts, and He who began a good work in you will bring it completion, He is transforming you from glory to glory. 

Psalm 34 (Taste and See)

Today for Thursday Music, Psalm 34 (Taste and See). This version is sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and features Shane and Shane

Really simply, this is what worship should be like, this is what worship is about. The word worship comes from the idea that we give worth to whom it is due. As believers, we would assert the truth that God alone is worthy of worship (1 Chronicles 16.25, Psalm 96.4-5, 2 Samuel 22.4, Philippians 2.9-11, Hebrews 1.6, Psalm 29.1-2). Worship should be about giving God His due glory, not singing songs about ourselves. Much Christian music is good for reminding ourselves who we are in Christ, but worship, at the core, should look like this.

Much of this song is straight out of the Psalm,

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
    for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life
    and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
    and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
    not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
    none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

What a wonderful declaration for us to take into the day – magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!

This Psalm encourages us to draw near to God when things are not going well (vv.18-22), and we are told that none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

So, no matter what we are going through, whether good (vv.4-5) or bad (v.6), thick or thin, we are encouraged to bless the Lord at all times, letting His praise be continually in our mouths.

What a wonderful example of a true worship song, enjoy it now and take it into your day!

Revelation 3.14-22 – Lukewarm

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Interestingly, in some translations of the Bible, this last address is written to the church of the Laodiceans, rather than to the church in Laodicea. A small difference, but important. Laodicea means ‘rule of the people’, so straight away we see what kind of church this was; too many cooks spoiling the broth, because everyone wants to be the leader, the broth spoils and is not fit to eat anymore, it’s lukewarm and inedible. That’s not God’s design and structure for the church, for the workplace, for government, for the home, for life! Who should really be in charge of the church, the big cheese, who is the man? Jesus. Always. Period. Full stop.


Jesus is the Head of every church.


Again, another important, wealthy city…again full of Caesar worship and pagan worship (remember Asklepios the pagan god of healing?). This city had a poor water supply meaning that they were susceptible to being conquered by siege. So, to compensate for this, they made deals with enemies and tried to befriend everyone rather than making a principled stand against what was wrong and defending what was right…

They are described as lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. Hot water cleans, cold water refreshes. Men on fire for the Lord serve and give and do…men who are cold and in despair are often at a point of realising they need a Saviour…but lukewarm people are neither, it’s empty religion, empty practices, trying to please both God and man, the world and Jesus.

Interestingly, the very thing they boasted in was what they needed most…ironic, no? Their main exports were financial services, textiles, and eye salve. What does Jesus counsel them to do?

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.

Man, he knows these people intimately, doesn’t He?!

The point for us is so clear, isn’t it…the very thing we think we are good at, the very things in which we boast, the very areas of our lives that we think we are doing so well in are exactly where we need Jesus the most. This might sound counterintuitive, but think about it…

  • Are you doing well at work?
    • Does Jesus go with you to work every day and do you seek to glorify Him through your actions and reactions all day?
  • Do you feel you’re caring for your family like no other parent you know?
    • Does your family acknowledge, together, God the Father’s loving presence?
  • Are you on fire spiritually?
    • Did you by some self-given means begin to understand the Scripture in a way you never have, or does the same Holy Spirit who inspired the human authors also illuminate the Scriptures for you?

Friends, we need to acknowledge our need for His presence in our lives, acknowledge that our beloved is knocking (Song of Solomon 5.2), and acknowledge that without Him in our lives we are, at best, lukewarm.

 

Revelation 3.7-13 – Philadelphia

7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie–behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.

10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Philadelphia was the youngest city of the seven written to here in the early chapters of Revelation, and was originally founded as a missionary city to spread Greek language and culture. It was a prosperous city, by all accounts occupying a lucrative spot on a highway that connected east and west; the east with the west. Similar to Corinth, then, in the fact that it occupied a prime spot for trading of goods, ideas, cultures, and all else that is traded when people mix.

Jesus is described here as holy and true, and as having the key of David (Isaiah 22.20-23). Simply, then, Jesus controls our access to the Kingdom. As David did for Israel when ruling, so Jesus does for the Kingdom of God, there is no other way to get to God the Father, in the right way, than through His chosen Emissary, His Son, His likeness in a human body, Jesus Christ (John 14.6).

The church in Philadelphia were presented with a golden opportunity to evangelise (Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.). They were given the opportunity to spread the good news of Jesus to those around them who may not have heard it before, to reach those who are wandering, to influence the melting-pot culture they lived in.

Wow, what an opportunity! If only we could live somewhere so diverse and culturally rich and varied…(most people do now, don’t they…)

They receive a commendation and are not reprimanded for any actions, the only church written to in this way. As simply as possible, they were fully reliant on Him, faithful to Him, and drew on Jesus’ strength not their own.

The major blessing we see in this chapter is their removal from the coming tribulation, the hour of trial, also known as the Great Tribulation. Written in the past tense, they kept the Word of God, persevered, and as such are kept from the coming trial, which will try those who dwell on the earth. We know this is talking about those who are not believers, not saved, not following Jesus (Revelation 17.8 makes this clear). This is a particularly key verse in the pretribulational view of the rapture, basically that Jesus will come and retrieve the church from the earth before things really heat up, so to speak.

The church in Philadelphia received a promise from Him who is true and holy that they would not be subject to the coming tribulation. We then, by extension, (He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.), have the opportunity to be saved from the coming trials detailed in this book if we will do what the church in Philadelphia did;

  • Hold fast to the teachings of Jesus set forth in His Word to us – found in the Bible.
  • Stay on His works, Word, name, will, and way.
  • Above all else, be faithful to Him, keep our hearts focused on Him
    • (Proverbs 4.23 says ‘Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life’).

 

Revelation 3.1-6 – Two books

Today the church in Sardis comes under the microscope. Perched on a 1000 ft cliff, this community was wealthy and thought themselves invincible, but were eventually conquered by Cyrus, and again 300 years later. There is a strong parallel to Edom in the prophecy of Obadiah; living among natural fortifications (cliff/canyon) and feeling prideful and, basically, untouchable (Obadiah 3-4).

The church at Sardis had the reputation of being alive, but were actually dead…quite a condemning judgement. They were prideful about where they lived and no doubt prideful in their reputation (that is just my personal opinion, but, generally, prideful people are prideful people, it’s not situation specific for most).

They are encouraged to go back to what they received and heard, namely, the Word of God. The swift unannounced coming of our Lord is when He raptures the church (more on that tomorrow), and, unless the church at Sardis wakes up and repents, they will not be a part of that glorious event, then will not be found worthy of our Lord (Genesis 5.24).

The church at Sardis – and us, the wider Christian community – are told that, simply, unless you repent of your pride, unless you turn your heart to the Lord God, unless you remember and put into action what you have been taught from the Word of God, then our names will not be found in the book of life.

In the Bible, then, two books are mentioned at the start of the two testaments, or covenants; the book of Adam in Genesis 5.1, and the book of Jesus in Matthew 1.1. In ancient culture, to blot someone’s name out of the city register was a permanent irreversible thing, it happened when people were certifiably, certifiably, unequivocally deceased.

As we progress through Revelation devotionally, we will see that there are strategic points on the way to eternity from which they are no turning back. So, when Jesus says He will never blot out our names, that He will confess our names before His Father, and that we will be found worthy, these are things of permanence, eternal significance, and from which they are no turning back.

Thought for today –

Do you want your name to be found in the book of Adam, going the way of the world?

Or do you want your name to be found in the book of Jesus, going the way of eternity?

Revelation 2.18-29 – Jezebels

18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.

20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star.

29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

 

The church at Thyatira was in the smallest and in the least important city of the seven written to in this section of Revelation. It was a city of business and trade (Acts 16.14-15), and there is no documented persecution of the Christians there.

Again, as with the other churches, they are doing some things well. We read, ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.’ So, the church in Thyatira were loving, faithful, serving, and had patient endurance. Perhaps the best commendation is the last; that their latter works exceeded their first, so, basically, they were progressing down the discipleship path that we are all on.

Isn’t that the goal for us all? Don’t we all want a deeper, closer, more fruitful relationship with the Lord?

But, nevertheless, they had some things they needed to repent of and turn away from (the two go hand in hand really, don’t they). Jesus sees with a Divine clarity, so He knows their good works, but also perceives what is wrong without a shadow of a doubt, remember He has eyes like a flame of fire. Their problem was tolerating sexual immorality amongst themselves and engaging in idolatrous practices. This centres around a woman called Jezebel (1 Kings 16-21, 2 Kings 9.30-37). This may not have been her real name, but the title implies a self-styled prophetess and comes with a negative connotation, for sure. Just think if someone called you a Judas, or a Hitler…not a good title to have.

Thyatira was full of trade guilds, and, likely what happened was that this woman, Jezebel, lured believers to the social gatherings of the guilds whereat they fell into idolatrous practices and/or sexual immorality. Feeling compelled to attend to further their work lives, they fell.

The church suffered because they tolerated this corruption from within, Jezebel flat rejected God and His perfect ways (I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality), and what a warning this is to us! Maybe there were just one or two in the church that practiced this, but, as we know, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Given a glass of water with 99% water and 1% poison, we simply would not drink it, would we?

The Christians in Thyatira are told to

‘…hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star.’

This is so applicable to us too, isn’t it, if we hold fast to the teachings of Jesus, resist the lure of ‘worldly wisdom’ (what some call the deep things of Satan), then we will have our share in the coming Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour. We read we will share in His authority to judge and rule (Psalm 2) and we will receive the best gift of all, the best gift ever, Jesus Himself (And I will give him the morning star. – Revelation 22.16)

Revelation is not some mystical, future-ish, science fiction, far off prophetical utterance for a special few at a special time…it is truly for all of us.

Here, it is for those who are like Jezebel, leading others to sin.

It is for those who are following the teachings of a Jezebel.

It is for those who permit a Jezebel to influence them or those around them.

It also applies to the faithful in Christ as an exhortation to hold fast to the pure Spiritual nutrition of the Word of God.