Sunday, 30 January 2011

Revelation - beyond our grasp?

When we first announced that we would be starting a new preaching series on the Book of Revelation in the new year, I was very excited at the prospect. That was back in November, and although I am still excited, with just a week to go before we start, not a little apprehension has joined the mix!

My strong interest in the book goes back over 30 years to my days at London Bible College (now London School of Theology) when I chose to study the Greek text of Revelation in my last year, and was privileged to have the late Donald Guthrie as lecturer.
I remember thinking that by the end of the year I would have it all worked out and be clear on the true meaning of this mysterious book! Thirty years, and many commentaries later, I confess to still being on that journey, hopefully with rather more humility in the presence of God’s last words to man.

Does that mean that the Book of Revelation is beyond our grasp? The answer, I’m afraid, is yes and no! Can we understand it in a way that will encourage us, equip us and build us up in our faith? Absolutely! Can we understand the full meaning of all that is written? Probably not, and for that reason, we need to approach the book with a good dose of humility and not be dogmatic on points that are not clear to us.

Vern Poythress in his excellent little book, ‘The Returning King’ puts it like this: ‘Revelation is a picture book, not a puzzle book. Don’t try to puzzle it out. Don’t become preoccupied with isolated details. Rather, become engrossed in the overall story. Praise the Lord. Cheer for the saints, Detest the beast. Long for the final victory.’

Following that advice, we will be unpackaging the big themes of the Book of Revelation in the weeks and months ahead. We will be studying it systematically, vision by vision, and with the Spirit’s help, and in the context of the whole of Scripture, expect to hear God speak to us in a way that will radically alter our worldly perspectives and change our lives.
I mention the issue of the context of the rest of Scripture because much mischief has been done by reading Revelation in isolation from its canonical context. Eugene Peterson has done the maths and informs us that.. ‘The Revelation has 404 verses, there are 518 references to earlier scripture. If we are not familiar with the preceding writings, quite obviously we are not going to understand the Revelation.’

We are giving the series the title: ‘Living Life with Heaven’s Perspective’, making the important connection with our daily lives. Why? Because, In Vern Poythress’ words, ‘God gave us Revelation not to tickle our fancy, but to strengthen our hearts.’

In the weeks to come I will be using my Blog to follow up what is preached on Revelation, and add further comments and study aids. Here goes....!


Sunday, 23 January 2011

Fighting talk!

Everyone loves a good story, and the narrative of David & Goliath is one of the best known - and I really enjoyed what Marcus preached from this famous account this morning. Check out the download entitled ‘Fighting Talk’. Maybe ‘enjoyed’ is the wrong word; it challenged me! When he described the armies of Israel, armed, equipped, poised for battle, but feebly inactive due to their fear and the intimidation of the enemy, I was challenged. How often am I like that when confronted by ‘enemy activity’? How often do I respond with passivity to fears or injustice or temptation? I am challenged.

At this point I am reminded of a story I heard a while ago about how C J Mahaney asked his listeners after he had just preached, if they had been blessed by the message. When they replied positively that they indeed had been blessed, he shocked them with a stark warning: “Beware!” he shouted, “You are in great danger of being deceived! The Scripture warns us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.!”
We can be guilty of the very passivity that the armies of Israel were guilty of that day when David went out against Goliath.

I hear too many people bemoaning that they are victims of their circumstances when actually they should be nothing of the sort - and I allow this to be true of myself too often. We may be outnumbered, overwhelmed or under the cosh, but that should never diminish the fact that we are sons and daughters of the living God, alive in Christ, sharing the triumph of his death and resurrection, and members of a new kingdom that is advancing and will never fail or fade. O how we need to engage in fighting talk in those moments! “No, I’m not putting up with that accusation / temptation / discouragement / ......... (fill in the gap). Satan, you are a defeated foe and the Lord of the armies of heaven is on my side!”

I was reading Psalm 13 this morning. Look at how David refused to be overwhelmed and how he turned the tone of his complaint. Watch out for that wonderful word but!
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

That’s fighting talk!