Category: Salvation (page 1 of 28)

Living for the Lamb

We’ve made the book of Revelation too complicated. I love what Randy Harris says about it. He claims the whole book of Revelation is super easy. It’s only got three points:

1) God’s team wins.
2) Pick a team.
3) Don’t be stupid.

Revelation reminds us of the promise and shows us the hope. Revelation reveals to us God’s ultimate goals for his people and all of creation and shows us what it looks like when it’s ultimately fulfilled.

Revelation gives us one of the most stunning, creative and beautiful pictures of Jesus Christ and his eternal Kingdom in the whole Bible. It’s a masterpiece. Yes, some of it’s pretty wild. But the overarching point is about the conflict between good and evil. It’s about the cosmic clash between the kingdoms of the world and the Kingdom of God. And it tells us — no, it shows us! — that the best and only hope for us and the world is Christ.

Our God’s mission is to bring all things in heaven and on earth together in Christ. As children of God and followers of Christ, we join him in that mission. We’ve given ourselves to that mission. And Revelation shows us that mission when it’s finally and fully accomplished.

The vision in Revelation informs and empowers the Church’s mission. We know what God has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus and we know where this whole thing is headed. We’re compelled by the current realities and the future realities to teach and heal, to encourage and comfort, to sacrifice and serve, to show the love of God and to share the victory of the Lamb with others here at home and to as much of the rest of the world as we can.

Every time a church is planted, every time a hungry child receives a meal, every time a missionary is trained and sent, every time a sick person is healed, every time a sermon is preached, every time a homeless man is brought into Christian community, every time a Bible is opened in another language, somebody is brought face to face for the first time with the power and love of Jesus Christ. Somebody gets the idea that this world belongs to God, not to the forces of evil. Somebody begins to believe that there are promises and there is hope because the Lamb of God is on the eternal throne and the situation here is not all there is.

Peace,

Allan

Victory of the Lamb

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men and women for God from every tribe and language and people and nation!” ~Revelation 5:9

The Lamb of God has been slain, but he has not been conquered. The Lamb has been killed, but he’s not hurt. The risen and glorious Lord Jesus is holding the world’s salvation in his hands and he is standing — standing victoriously! — in the center of the eternal throne. Because he died. Jesus conquers not by violence, but by humble sacrifice; not by threat, but by suffering; Jesus’ victory comes not through force, but by his willing death.

That’s one of the jokes, right? It’s the irony of the Good News of the Gospel. The Bible calls it the foolishness of the cross: that the sinful structures of this world — the beast — and the evil forces of sin and death and Satan are conquered by a little lamb. This is how God works.

Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but he doesn’t reign as a prowling, predatory lion — he’s a Lamb. The Lamb of God is not worthy because he’s divine or because he’s powerful; he is praised by all of creation because he gave his life for all of creation. Christ Jesus is worthy of all worship and glory and honor and praise, he’s worthy of ruling the universe in love and peace, because of his sacrificial death on our behalf.

Because he has purchased people for God with his blood. Not just A People. This is not just a victory for one particular group of people, this isn’t salvation for just one nation or one tribe or even for twelve really special tribes. The Lamb of God shares his victory with men, women, and children from every tribe and every language and every people and every nation! No partiality! No discrimination! Everybody’s invited and nobody’s left out! We are all more than conquerors through the Lamb who loves us! The Suffering Servant who came to seek and save the lost. The humble King who came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Peace,

Allan

Song of the Lamb

“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.” ~Revelation 5:1-4

God sits on his throne in heaven and holds in his right hand his eternal plans for the salvation of the world. The scroll is full — it’s got writing on both sides. The seven seals indicate that the scroll is official. It’s authentic. This is the real deal, it has authority. But the seals also make sure only the authorized party can open the scroll and read it. Only someone worthy, only someone with the right credentials and the right status can open it up and put whatever’s inside into effect.

So this is God’s plan to undo and overthrow sin and death and Satan and everything that separates us from God, everything that’s attacking us and destroying us and the world. This is God’s divine decree to deliver and rescue and save all of creation from the forces of evil. God’s holding it right there.

And this dramatic scene turns tragic when no one is found who is worthy to open it.

After searching all of humanity, the living and the dead, not one person is found worthy to execute God’s redemption. Not Abraham, not Moses, not David, not Elijah — nobody is worthy to preside over the salvation of the world. And John begins to weep uncontrollably. John is filled with despair. He’s distraught, he’s overcome with sorrow because it looks like God’s gracious plans for his people won’t be realized. John cries out loud because he knows the world is messed up and no human is going to fix it.

I don’t know what makes you cry. I don’t know how you are personally impacted by the brokenness of the world and by the fallen nature of humanity. I don’t know how your sin and the sins of the people around you affect you. I don’t know how hunger and poverty and disease and death and violence and hatred and war and corruption impact you. I don’t know what makes you cry.

But imagine if the only hope we had was in ourselves. What if the only chance we had to fix everything depended on us?

“Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed! He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals!’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne… He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.” ~Revelation 5:5-7

Only one is worthy to bring God’s salvation to earth. Only one is worthy to rule the world in perfect love and peace. Only one is worthy to defeat sin and destroy death forever by the Word and power of God. And when it’s announced that Jesus, the Lamb of God, is worthy, all of creation breaks out in glorious song.

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men and women for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a Kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth… Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!… To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever!” ~Revelation 5:9-13

The Lamb of God has been slain, but he has not been conquered. The Lamb has been killed, but he’s not hurt. The risen and glorious Lord Jesus is holding the world’s salvation in his hands and he is standing — standing victoriously! — in the center of the eternal throne!

The Song of the Lamb gives us a picture of the reality. God is sitting on his throne and the risen Jesus is standing right in the middle of the room with him. We see who’s really in charge of the world. God is sovereign over the world because it’s his — he made it! The Father and the Son are reigning supreme. They are the ruler over everything that’s happened in this world and over everything that’s going to happen. No matter what it looks like or feels like, to you or to anyone else, we know our loving and gracious God is in control.

Peace,

Allan

The Bible is Your Story

In 1 Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul tells the old story of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness and they way they complained and rebelled and how God faithfully provided. Paul says they were all baptized when they passed through the waters, just like us (10:2). They ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink from Christ Jesus, just like us (10:3). These things are examples for us, Paul writes (10:6). He says these things were written down for us as warnings (10:11). What happened to them, he writes, is common to all people, it happens to all of us (10:13). And, he says, God is faithful in all of it (10:13).

You see what Paul’s doing. He’s telling our story. The Bible is our story.

Story doesn’t just tell us something and leave it there, it invites us to participate. A good story drags us in. We feel the emotions, we get caught up in the drama, we identify with the characters, doors and windows get flung open, and we the nooks and crannies of our lives and our world we had missed.

The Bible as our story brings us into the vast wonderful world God creates and saves and blesses and offers us a place in that world. It shows us where we are. Good stories show more than they tell. And the Bible is the greatest story of all time.

“From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the child of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” ~2 Timothy 3:15-17.

The Bible is a story. If we read it and interpret it like a book of rules and regulations or like some kind of constitution, we won’t get it. We’ll respond to it in the wrong way. If you mistake a recipe for chicken enchiladas for a manual on putting a vacuum cleaner together, you’re going to wind up hungry in a very dirty house. If you misread a highway sign that says “Speed Limit 65” for a randomly posted bit of information and not the stern law of the land it is, a police officer is going to pull you over and give you a brief, but expensive, lesson in hermeneutics.

The Bible is not a moral code that says, “Live up to this.” It’s not a system of doctrines that says, “Think like this.” The Bible tells a story and invites us in. “Live into this.” This is what it looks like to be a human being in righteous relationship with God and others. This is what God wants. This is what God is doing. And here’s where you are. Now live into it.

“You accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” ~1 Thessalonians 2:13

Sometimes I am blind Bartimaeus on the side of the road near Jericho. Calling out to Jesus in my pain. Surrendering my life to the Lord. Yielding to his will. And he mercifully heals me.

Sometimes I am Naaman, covered with sores, dying of disease, and wanting to be saved, but on my terms. I try to dictate just how God needs to deal with me. He needs to do it my way. So arrogant. And he heals me anyway.

Always, I am Peter. Always shooting my mouth off, always wanting to be up front, always wanting to be the leader. One minute I pledge my allegiance to the Lord — Even if I have to die with you, I will never leave you! — and the next minute I’m a shrinking coward, warming myself at the world’s fire and denying that I even know who Jesus is. And then Jesus comes to me and asks, “Do you still love me? Then, come on, let’s keep going.”

Is that you? Where are you right now in the Bible’s beautiful story?

Are you Martha? So busy. Way too busy. Running around like a chicken with your head cut off, taking care of all the urgent stuff that needs to be done. Family. House. Chores. Neglecting your most important relationships. Maybe avoiding your relationship with Christ. And Jesus knows it. He’s sitting right there in the next room, waiting for you to slow down and pay attention to him. Even though you haven’t talked to him in months or even years, he keeps coming over. Have you noticed that about Jesus? He keeps coming over.

Are you Zacchaeus? You’ve got a great job, lots of money, wonderful benefits, more than enough security. But you’re alone. You’re not close to anybody. You’re just watching all the church people do all their church things and you don’t understand it at all. But here he comes. Here comes Jesus, walking right up to you. He pulls you down out of your tree and says, “I’m coming over. I’m coming to your house right now.”

Maybe you’re being torn apart by a terrible storm. The flood waters are rising, the things you love and the people you know are being destroyed. It’s dark and people are dying. It’s scary, this flood. And you know that God uses these times to cleanse and renew and recreate and make things right. But you don’t know if you’re in the ark with Noah or out in the water drowning. Listen as God’s Church reminds you, “You’re with us. You’re safe. You’re saved.”

Are you David? The King of Israel, the man after God’s own heart. What did God see when he looked at David that day and chose him and blessed him? David was just a kid, kind of an afterthought, just a boy hanging out with the sheep. Remember the story? What did God see in him that day? Did he see David’s fierce violence or his fierce loyalty? Did he see David as the great psalmist or as the notorious outlaw? Did he see David’s prayers and humility or the adultery and lying and murder and all the sin? God saw all of it. Every bit of it. And God still picked David. He chose David. And he chose you in Jesus Christ before the foundations of the earth.

The Bible is our story. It’s got our God on every page. It reveals our God who loves us intensely and saves us faithfully and who will not be stopped or even slowed down in his determination to live with us eternally. The story’s got all that.

You’re in there, too. It’s got you, too.

Peace,

Allan

If

Nationally-acclaimed poet David Bowden was at Central last night as part of our “Together@Central” summer Wednesday nights series. David is a powerful proclaimer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He’s a poet, a preacher, a minister, a composer, a performer, and a gifted prophet. And last night he inspired and encouraged us, he taught and challenged us. He opened up the Word of God to us in brand new ways that made an eternal impact on every person in our chapel.

David performed one of my favorites: “If.” Here’s the Youtube version. It’s different, but not better than what he did here last night.

Open Your Eyes

We are so blessed by God to be alive today during this particular time. We are so privileged to be alive during this current chapter of God’s Story. Right now, today, we are living during the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God! Because of the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit on all people, through the Church, we get to see things and experience things nobody else could!

We get to participate as co-workers with God as he redeems and restores his creation. We get to experience Gods’ Spirit moving into and re-creating people. We get to watch as God moves into a place and reclaims it for his glory. The prophets could only speak of such things; we get to live it! Israel’s kings could only imagine the worldwide spread of God’s reign; we get to help fund it! Peter says angels long to see such things; we get to see them and live them every day!

Here at Central, we’ve watched and participated as the Route 66 strip club has been transformed into a place where every day 50 homeless and marginalized men and women gather for Bible study and grace and love and dignity and Christian community in the presence of God!

We’ve painted and prayed and stacked diapers and sorted car seats as the Planned Parenthood building down the street has become a place where nearly 900 young women last year said “No” to abortion and said “Yes” to God’s promise of life!

Open your eyes. God’s Kingdom is breaking out everywhere around us. Broken things are being fixed, what’s wrong is being made right. We’re so blessed by God to live when we do, right now, in the wonder and joy of his visible reign.

Peace,

Allan

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