Sunday, 17 April 2011

Marked for Life..

I don’t have any tattoos and I can’t say that the idea really grabs me - I mean, as I understand it, they are pretty much there for life, and life changes. Who wants to to be advert for a football team or a girlfriend who has long since disappeared without trace? It seems to me that being there for life makes it quite a big deal and worth thinking long & hard about!

This morning we got to that point in the Book of Revelation (ch7) where the 144,000 are sealed (tattooed) and we asked the question “Who are these people, and what is this all about?”
Some have suggested that this should be interpreted literally and that it speaks of Jews who will become Christians before Jesus returns, on the basis that it says that 12,000 from each tribe were sealed or marked.
I don’t think that is the right interpretation for a number of reasons, a couple of which I’ll mention here. Firstly the order of the tribes does not follow the traditional convention of naming Reuben first, Dan is omitted, and Manasseh is named. Secondly, this sealing of the 144,000 is exactly what Jesus promised in the Letter to the church in Philadelphia, “I will write on him the name of my God” Rev 4:12. And thirdly, the 144,000 are later identified as those who have been redeemed from the earth (Rev 14:3).
I therefore take the 144,000 to represent the church on the earth; it is these who are marked with God’s seal of ownership to safeguard them through the difficult times on the earth. After all, didn’t Jesus comfort his disciples with the thought that although he was to ascend to heaven, the Holy Spirit would be send to them and that he would not leave them? This is totally in accord with Scriptures such as 2 Corinthians 1:22 ‘and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.’ and Ephesians 1:13 ‘in him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit’.

So, the 144,000 represent the church on the earth, secure in the knowledge that they are numbered and known. Then, in verse 9 we see the multitude that no man can number, from every tribe, language and nation - the church universal, from every age of church history, present in heaven. Later, in chapter 13 we will see satan’s counterfeit, the mark of ownership that he seeks to place on people.
The point being made is that it is vital that we are clear who we belong to, and if we belong to Jesus then we have the indelible mark or seal of his ownership on our lives, more permanent than any tattoo, and grounds for great confidence and assurance!

“But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” ” 2Tim 2:19


Sunday, 10 April 2011

Conditional Grace??

In our series on Revelation we have now concluded the letters to the 7 churches, and for the most part, they have made sober reading. Strong words indeed from Jesus demanding drastic adjustment from his followers. Look at the words that Marcus spoke on this morning, words addressed to believers at Laodicea: “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. ” (Revelation 3:16). We have seen wonderful promises and woeful warnings. Lots if “ifs” and lots of “buts”.
So does that mean that God’s grace is conditional? Do we have to earn or buy (ch3v18) Jesus’ favour and blessing?

Make no mistake, both the promises and the warnings are real and we dilute them at our peril. There is no doubt that Jesus’ words to these churches and to us, deserve serious attention and response. The stakes are high and there is much to be gained or lost. But back to our question about conditional grace - surely that’s an oxymoron isn’t it? Surely grace is either a gift or it is nothing..??

Let me put it like this: God’s saving grace towards us is unconditional and cannot be earned or deserved. That is clear from many scriptures including Ephesians chapter 1. “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, ” Eph1:4–5. But look at those words: he chose us in him ...that we should be holy and blameless before him.
There’s an implication here, he chose us.. to be holy. So if there is no appetite for Christ-likeness in our lives, then one has to ask whether we have genuinely been born again, whether Christ is really in us. That appetite for Christ-likeness will show itself in a fight with sin, and it is that fight that the believers in the churches of Revelation (and you & me!) are urged to engage in, with the promise of reward to those who overcome. And here’s the key: it is our union with Jesus that makes all the difference!
We have been saved by grace alone. Period! But there are also grace gifts that our heavenly Father wishes to work in us by the Holy Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness etc and it is our responsibility to resist the world’s distractions and satan’s temptings and position our lives so as to live in the good of all that is ours - in Christ!

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

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