6 Weirdly Meaningful Words Christians Have Forgotten

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Sometimes I feel like the Professor on Gilligan’s Island, alone in random thoughts that probably matter only to me. Today, I ache a little over the lost of a common Christian vocabulary — the great words of theology, like justification, and propitiation. In addition to those theologically dense words, many of us grew up with other words, transliterations from Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic. Yesterday, I had to spell the word Maranatha for a young Christian gentleman who had grown up in church. He had never heard the word and had no idea of its connotation. No, the world hasn’t stopped spinning, and the message of Christ advances undeterred. However, I can’t shake the feeling that something’s been lost. A measure of understanding, maybe. Or a depth of insight. Or maybe it’s just a common experience of learning the vocabulary of the faith from the King James Bible.

Or maybe my Inner Curmudgeon is just feeling feisty. So, I offer you 6 weirdly meaningful words of a bygone era — words that many Christians have forgotten.

1. EBENEZER

Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us. (1 Samuel 7:12, KJV).

What old-timer doesn’t remember singing, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer / Hither by Thy help I’m come…” (Come Thou Font)? Samuel erected a monument to the faithfulness of God — something of a place marker. He did it to commemorate a mighty victory over the pesky Philistines. Look how far God has brought us! Let us never forget! God hasn’t brought us this far to let us down now. He has helped us to this point, and he will help us still. Continue reading

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Sunday: Why the Resurrection?

Jesus-Resurrection-Pictures-07Scripture is clear: if Christ was not raised from the dead, the Christian faith is worthless.

And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! (1 Corinthians 15:17, NKJV).

What does the resurrection of Christ accomplish that his cross didn’t? Continue reading

Friday: What Does Christ’s Death Mean?

jesuscross

On Friday — the day we call Good Friday — Jesus Christ was nailed to an old, rugged Cross. I can only imagine. The cosmos paused in stunned silence to see the Son of God, bearing our sin, forsaken of God, torn by a whip and hounded by Satan. There he hung, the God-man, winning the ages-old battle for souls. There has never been a moment like that moment — and all the ages of eternity will echo with ceaseless wonder at what happened the day Jesus died.

I thought it would be good to apply our minds and hearts, on this day, to that central day of history when our Savior died for us all.

There has never been a message so amazing as the gospel. No religion offers anything like it. Its astonishing gift of grace sets the gospel of Jesus in a class by itself. Paul summarized the gospel in one sentence, so simple we easily overlook its riches:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4, NAS95. Continue reading

Thursday: How is Christ’s Death Remembered?

lastsuppermuralGod is into commemorating because we are into forgetting.

On Thursday of Holy Week, our Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper, also called communion and the eucharist (which means thanksgiving). Scripture describes the scene: Continue reading

The Cross

iPad“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you.  It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’  Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross.  All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary.  It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”

[John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians (London, 1968), 179.]

As a pastor, I tailor my instruction to the audience.

Sometimes, I’m talking to people who are broken and desperate. They need to be built up, as Jesus did for the woman caught in adultery. Continue reading

National Grammar Day Resolved (part 2)

This post closes the loop from the previous post, located here.  [Yes, I wrote Grammer in the title, and, no, it wasn’t on purpose. Didn’t catch it till after it went out to the world. Excellent blog on this here by lit agent Rachelle Gardner.]

frazzled-150x150God gave me a love of words and sentences and grammar when I was young. I read every book I could get my hands on. I spent many days riding my five speed bike with banana seat and sissy bars to the Oriole Park library — a small branch library in Chicago — where I scoured the shelves for mysteries and sci-fi. I think I kept that place in business with overdue fines. Something about reading mesmerized me. Continue reading

Three Cheers for Vocabulary!

The surgeon says, “I have to pull out that little hangy thingy in your gut-parts that doesn’t do anything.”

The mechanic says, “I’ll have to brush off those shiny screwy ceramic thingies with the little metal tip.”

The contractor says, “I’ll just yank off those flat bumpy whatch-a-ma-call-its from the top of your house and see where it’s leaking.”

You’d be looking for a new surgeon, a new mechanic, and a new contractor. In each of these fields, we want experts. We want dedicated workers who have studied their craft and mastered it. We want a surgeon who knows the difference between an appendix and a spleen, a mechanic who knows the difference between a spark plug and a coil, and a contractor who knows the difference between a roof shingle and roof vent.

And I want a pastor who knows the difference between justification and sanctification, propitiation and redemption, the Hypostatic Union and the Mystical Union, Omniscience and Omnipotence. I want a pastor who has studied the craft and mastered it (not that you can ever master either God or Scripture, but you can be proficient in it at least). I know that some will immediately read me as saying all I care about is theological vocabulary… No. There is immeasurably more to being a pastor or church leader.

But clarity on theology is an indispensable foundation for everything else. Don’t tell me how to live unless you know deeply from Scripture what divine resources God has offered me, how they work, and how Jesus used them in his life… the soul-stirring vocabulary of the Christian faith.

In the realm of the spirit, I want to train you to become your own mechanic.

In olden days, everyone had the same Bible. We’d all read: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Romans 5:1, NKJV). Immediately the preacher was forced into explaining justification… and we’d all learn it. Over the years, we’d develop a fairly sophisticated picture of justification as distinct from, yet related to, sanctification. We’d understand why Martin Luther attempted to correct his church’s theology on the doctrine, and why it mattered so enormously.

Today, however, we read in a dozen translations, some bland variation on: “having been made right by faith” and nobody needs to explain it. In fact, by obliterating the theological vocabulary, the reader isn’t even alerted to the existence of an entire theological system summed up in one word. When a mechanic says “carburetor” he calls to mind a whole piece of machinery and its interplay with the other machinery. One word conjures a vast, systematic picture.

So it is in Scripture: justified, justification, justify, just, righteous… there is an ocean of wonder to explore in this one great word.

Take the word “gospel.” It has morphed into a thousand things, mostly shallow, and mostly emotional. Yes, the gospel is good news, but it is the title for a precise theological bit of good news: that Christ died for our sins, etc (1 Cor 15:3) and that if we mess with it, then we’re to be damned (Gal 1:8,9). God help us all if “gospel” means so much that it stops meaning anything.

By losing our vocabulary, we’ve lost the riches and the wonder. We’ve lost the clarity. We’ve lost the powerful and beautiful inter-linkages that tie all of Scripture together.

We’ve also lost the subtle distinctions that protect us from heresy. After all, the early church split over a single letter: whether Jesus, in his deity, is homo-ousios (the same substance) or homoi-ousios (similar substance) with the Father. Picky? Yes! Essentially picky. Life-changingly picky. Picky the way you hope and pray your surgeon is picky. Vocabulary matters enormously.

The authors of Scripture never shied away from long sentences and big words. They developed a sophisticated vocabulary and weren’t afraid to use it.

This is not to suggest that our sermons and Bible classes become dry, academic, theological lectures. Not at all — and if you’ve heard me preach, you probably wouldn’t describe my sermons that way [I hope]. The people of God crave the deep things of God — let’s take them there, assuming we’ve taken ourselves there first. Let’s patiently build the concepts in their minds. Let’s lay out a rich feast for hungry souls. Let’s integrate deep truth into real life. Let’s go beyond the surface.

Pick up any collection of sermons from a hundred years ago and notice the dramatic contrast: ours today are painfully dumbed down. Sorry.

Paul validated his ministry saying, “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, NKJV). Do we declare the whole counsel of God? Or do we settle for funny stories, thin sentimentality, and relentless exhortations to duty.

Three cheers for the meat of God’s Word and the vocabulary that expresses it!

And three cheers for any preacher brave enough to teach it.

Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and doctrine. (1 Timothy 5:17, NKJV).

 

Eternal Security #2

A continuation…

Objections

Not all Christians agree on the doctrine of Eternal Security. This is one of those areas where reasonable Christians disagree. A good number of godly, scholarly, biblical evangelical, born-again Christians would deny Eternal Security. They offer two main objections: 1) that the Bible doesn’t teach it; 2) that it leads to spiritual laziness.

1) The Bible doesn’t teach it.

Opponents to the doctrine say the Bible teaches just the opposite, that you can, in fact lose your salvation. They have a whole list of verses that they claim teach this. However, if you analyze these verses one by one you will discover that they really do not teach against Eternal Security at all. Rather these verses either talk about people who weren’t saved in the first place, or about people who lose the joy of their salvation without losing their salvation. There are about six
main Bible verses routinely brought up. We could spend hours here, but I’m only going to offer one or two sentences on each verse. OPEN YOUR BIBLE… and make some notes!!

1. Matt. 10:22. This verse is about deliverance from physical destruction at
the end of the Great Tribulation, not about enduring spiritually
to the end of your life in order to obtain eternal salvation.
2. Hebr. 3:14. The issue here is the word “end.” Until the end. End here
refers to the end of the process of salvation, not to the end of
your life. In the context we learn that getting saved is a
process. You are saved if you start the process of salvation,
and then bring it through to completion by faith in Christ. That
is the goal or end in view in this verse.
3. Hebr. 6:4-6. One of the “mother-ships” of conditional security. This passage is about people who dipped their toes in the
water of salvation, but were never saved.
4. 2 Pet. 2:20-22. Again, this verse refers to people who were really never saved.
5. James 2:17; 2:20; 2:26. An act of mind only (faith) without a choice in the will (works) is useless (dead). Still, though, we believe that life true faith does result in a life of good works (Eph 2:10).
6. Col. 1:23. The word “if” here in the KJV should be translated since.

These are some of the scriptural objections to Eternal Security. We have only mentioned six verses, and there are others. But if you really study them in context, you will see that all of the objection verses would be correctly interpreted in two categories: either the people weren’t saved in the first place; or they were and are saved, but have lost the joy of their salvation.

Tomorrow, the objection that eternal security produces spiritual laziness, then on to the mountain of positive affirmations of once saved alway saved.

One parting shot… is conditional security really security at all? Is a conditional forgiveness really forgiveness at all?

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39, NKJV).

Word! (Chapter 7 from Four Letter Words)

Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.

Attributed to Mark Twain2

TOUCHY IDEAS

1. The Bible is the inspired Word of God.

2. The Bible is God’s only and final Word, in its own class, above all other religious literature.

3. The theology and ethics of the Bible transcend time and culture and are as applicable today as when originally written.

4. No other book has improved society or benefited mankind as much as the Bible.

TOUCHY SCRIPTURES

1. So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. (Exodus 19:7).

2. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food. (Job 23:12).

3. The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers. (Acts 28:25).

4. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

5. For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21).

6. Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. (Revelation 22:7).

 * * * * *

EVIDENCE, VERDICTS, AND MAKING THE CASE

I’ll never forget the first time I opened Evidence that Demands a Verdict. First published in 1972, the book rocketed to best-seller status. Josh McDowell blew my high-school mind with his flawless logic and undeniable evidence for Christianity. He spoke my language. His book assembled massive amounts of data to support the Bible as God’s Word and Jesus as God’s Son. When I read his book, I felt excited. It was like an encyclopedia of unbeatable arguments for Christianity.

Surely my skeptical friends would be convinced. I was right; they were wrong. God rules! That’s how I felt, at least.

To my young mind, McDowell proved beyond doubt that no other religious book compares with the Bible in terms of the number and quality of ancient copies. He laid out proof of Christ’s resurrection that would stand in any court. He contrasted the Bible’s historical accuracy with the inaccuracies of other religious works. McDowell made the case. He put forth evidence that demanded a verdict.

I thought any rational reader would be convinced.

I was wrong.

For most people, the jury is still out on the Bible. I don’t know if it’s postmodern cynicism toward truth, or our inborn allergy to accountability. Maybe it’s a sincere disagreement with the facts, but the evidence that looks so conclusive to me is blatantly inconclusive for a whole lot of my friends.

But for me, there is something about the Bible that sets it in a class by itself. Unfortunately, I can’t prove it like a scientist can prove that a virus causes the flu. It’s hard to subject the Bible’s claims to empirical or rational verification.

So I won’t try. You can find hundreds of excellent websites and books that make the case for the Bible from logic, evidence, and history (you can find links on the Four Letter Words website). I’m all for that, and I’m convinced. But in this chapter, I’d like to take a different approach.

I’d like to look at the Bible’s beauty and love.

WHOSE GOD IS LOVE?

In the history of world religion, it is Christianity alone—drawing from its roots in Judaism—that demolished preconceptions by offering a God of boundless love. If you erase the Bible from history, good luck finding an all-loving deity.

Here are nine major religious perspectives and their core concept of god:

Buddhism

Buddhists do not proclaim a god of love, because Buddhists do not proclaim any god at all. According to BuddhaNet, a major online resource,

“There is no almighty God in Buddhism. There is no one to hand out rewards or punishments on a supposedly [sic] Judgement [sic] Day. Buddhism is strictly not a religion in the context of being a faith and worship owing allegiance to a supernatural being.”3

Buddhists, like Hindus and others, believe in karma, a soulless force that makes sure the bad guys get what’s coming to them—either in this life or the next life, or the next life after that. No doubt, Buddhists can be extremely loving people. But, if you need a God of Love, look elsewhere.

Islam

The one God, Allah, is bigger than, and outside of, creation. Though we can know his will, we cannot know him personally. Muslims do not normally speak of a relationship with Allah. Even when they speak of God’s mercy, it is usually set in the context of justice rather than relationship. One Islamic scholar states, “God does not reveal Himself to anyone.”4 Instead, he reveals his will, and we’re stuck with it. No one can question kismet—the unbending will of Allah. The God of Islam leads with authority, not love.

Hinduism

I struck up a conversation with a gas station attendant in Los Angeles. A calendar hung on the wall behind him with a drawing of a man in a golden suit. I asked the attendant about the picture, figuring it was a politician or celebrity. He answered, “Oh, that is god.” The calendar displayed a different god for each month. Scholars debate how to classify Hinduism. By offering a menu of thousands of gods, it is polytheistic. By claiming that ultimately all things dissolve into oneness—including the gods—it is pantheistic. By suggesting that all gods are aspects of a single Supreme Being, it resembles monotheism. Hindus are comfortable in all three camps. The main gods of Hinduism form a kind of trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. “They are respectively the creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe.”5 Each one has a female partner-god or consort. Though some of the gods may love their people—especially Devi, the Mother-Warrior goddess—Hinduism offers no all-supreme god of boundless love.

Animism

Animists find spirits lurking behind all things, including people, animals, plants, rocks, streams, trees, and thunderstorms. When the spirits are angry, worshippers appease them through rituals, spells and sacrifice. In the past, this has included human sacrifice. The spirits of animism do not love mankind in any special sense. Most animists resonate more with fear than with love.

Deism

There is a Supreme Being who created the universe and no longer interferes with its operations. Deists threw out any idea of miracles or supernatural influence in the world. Thomas Jefferson stitched together his own Bible by literally using scissors to cut out Scriptures he judged miraculous and therefore unworthy of Jesus. He claimed the true history and sayings of Jesus shined out from the false ones, “like diamonds on a dung heap.” He left the dung heap in the dung heap, and pasted up a 48-page Bible. It told the story of Jesus from his birth (minus angels and a virginal mother) to his burial (minus a resurrection).6 Deism offers an emotionally icy God of High I.Q. who watches from a distance, like a father who left behind a pile of money, and then abandoned his family.

Atheism

There is no god of love because there is no god. Would it annoy you if I pointed out again that ideas have consequences? Strip mankind of its Creator God of Love, and the most heinous crimes become not only thinkable, but actual. It is estimated that communism – in the service of atheism – has slaughtered more humans than any other system ever devised. Death by Government author, R. J. Rummel, estimates that communism in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia, killed (or let die) over 110,000,000 people—almost three times the number of humans who died in all the world’s wars during the twentieth century.7

Before you accuse me of breaking the needle on the “moron-meter,” I’m not painting every atheist as a genocidal maniac. One of my good friends is an atheist, and he’s a good-hearted, thoughtful, fun-loving guy. But how can you subtract God’s love from the core of the cosmos, and expect the world’s rulers to curb their lust for power? Why should they?

Wicca

Wicca is an animist religion, and like animism, believes in the spirits of trees and rocks and birds. Through spells, incantations, and rituals, Wiccans hope to persuade these spirits to play nice. Wiccans can exhibit great love for others; I have a couple of ex-Wiccans in my church, and they are kind-hearted people. But while they were in Wicca, no one ever offered them a God of love.

Gnosticism

This ancient philosophy/religion is on the rise, thanks to movies and books like The DaVinci Code.  It comes in many flavors and gloms onto a lot of religions: Gnostic Christianity, Gnostic Judaism, Gnostic Islam (the ‘g’ is silent). It’s basically a shape-shifter, except for a few core beliefs: Gnostics taught that matter was evil (your body), and spirit was good (your soul, all the invisible stuff). Since god is good, he has nothing to do with humans made of matter, like us. So he didn’t create us, and doesn’t relate to us. Instead, he spun off legions of mini-gods, called emanations or demi-urges, who spun off their own mini-gods, who eventually spun off mankind.

In essence, the Gnostic god distanced himself from filthy humans by creating myriads of go-betweens, like clerks in a government office, whose main job is to shield the boss from rabble like us. Can you feel the love?

Ancient Pantheons 

A pantheon is a roster of gods, and the ancient world offered loads of them. Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Norse pantheons listed literally hundreds of gods. None of the big ones—Ra, Zeus, Jupiter, or Odin—could ever be mistaken as a god of love. Yes, there was love and an occasional spasm of kind-heartedness from them. But it never dawned on ancient people that an Almighty Creator God loved them and had their best interests at heart.

* * * * *

I attended three colleges and flipped through five majors to finally get a bachelor’s degree. During my stint at the University of Illinois (Chicago), I was one of a handful of “Classics” majors. We studied Greek and Roman languages, literature, and culture. I took my first classes in ancient Greek with a Jesuit priest named Father Tracy. Good stuff.

But I don’t remember ever hearing about any deity’s love in any of my classes. Credit Jesus and his people for first injecting a loving God into the theological bloodstream.

GOD IS…

The Apostle John detonated a religious explosion when he wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He actually wrote it twice (v. 16). No other religion ever made love the heartbeat of God.

Christians own “God is love.”

We might not have always radiated his ideal standards, but we’ve never budged from this mother of all religious premises. We don’t simply say God has love, or that God shows love, or that God—after he’s been fed enough sacrifices—is loving. No. We say, God is love. Followers of Jesus brought that message to the world. Like the original, original, Original Pancake House, there are many copies, but only one original.

That original, found in John’s first Epistle, only echoes a thousand whispers of biblical teaching. John didn’t invent this truth; he only summarized it from all that Scripture already said.

He supremely learned it from Jesus. Jesus taught,

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13) and, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Does love prove the superiority of the Bible? Only if a loving God is important to you. Otherwise, it makes no difference.

THE MAIN THING

The love of God is the main theme of the whole Bible. The different authors of the Bible’s sixty-six books, hold up God’s love like a diamond, and make it sparkle from a million angles.

  • Moses highlighted this love as part of God’s abiding marriage covenant with his people. If God was jealous, it was only because the people he loved went after other lovers.
  • David composed songs about God’s love—friend to friend, and man to God. For David, God wasn’t just “the Big Guy up there,” he was closer than a brother, and more gentle than a shepherd.
  • The Prophets painted God’s love as a portrait of a mother nursing her child, or a lover wooing his beloved. “The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you’” (Jeremiah 31:3).
  • The Gospels depict God’s love as a fire burning in Jesus’ heart. Sometimes it was warm and tender: when Jesus ate fish with his disciples, when he turned water to wine, and when he healed lepers and embraced society’s outcasts. Other times…

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You’ve been reading an excerpt from FOUR LETTER WORDS: Conversations on Faith’s Beauty and Logic, by Bill Giovannetti.  © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

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The Apocalypse

I woke my dear wife up by snoring, and she returned the favor by shoving! So now I’m up at 3:00 and decided to tackle one of the topics suggested for my blog on Facebook (find me on Facebook and let’s be friends!).

I jumped on what I consider the toughest topic there: the Book of Revelation.  A couple Facebook friends suggested it. DISCLAIMER: There must be something about blogging in the wee hours of the morning that impairs one’s judgment, so you’ve been warned.

PS: when I use revelation with a small “r” I mean the concept of that which is revealed. With a big “R” I mean the book, unless begins a sentence, in which case you’re on your own.

PPS: read the blog, because at the end there’s an awesome project for you try.

I would not attempt to blog the whole book chapter by chapter, nor would I attempt to make a case for any particular eschatological scenario from this book.  I’ll do something better. I’d like to point out what I consider the baseline truth of the book; something you have to come to grips with before you should ever bother counting the toes on the beast or the horsemen of doom.

The book opens with these three words in Greek:  Apokalupsis Iesou Christou. A Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Think of revelation (apokalupsis) as an unveiling. An uncovering. Something is hidden and awaits a Big Reveal, like a statue in a park at its dedication. This book assumes that the person and work of Jesus Christ, in their deepest significance, are hidden from human understanding and require a revelation. This revelation takes two forms: 1) an eschatological, end time, last day physical appearing; and 2) this book itself, which reveals truth about Jesus.

Why is Jesus hidden?  Is God playing hide and seek? Is he holding back on us?

Not at all. The deep things of God are hidden because our minds are clouded by our fallen condition. We’re messed up members of a messed up race.

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV).

Without God’s initiative in sending down his written revelation, would would be stuck in the dark about Jesus, God, salvation, and ultimate reality. If you sat down in a room with the smartest people in the world, you would never create an accurate description of God. You would shrink him. You would distort him. You would never imagine his plan of salvation. You would never concoct his Savior. He is hidden from your eyes, and you need a REVELATION of JESUS CHRIST. An unveiling of his majesty.

We are fallen people whose instincts of God are warped.

Compounding our fallenness, we have the evil genius, Satan, throwing his veil of dumbness over our eyes.

3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4, NKJV).

The “god of this age” dims our corporate understanding of the Lord Jesus. Without a revelation, we’re clueless.

So God, in his great mercy, has provided the revelation we need. He revealed himself, partly,through nature. He revealed himself, historically, through his mighty deeds.  He revealed himself, supremely, through his Son, Jesus.

1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3, NKJV).

If you want to know what God is like, look into the face of Jesus.  And herein lies our problem. How? How can we study Jesus?

Through the deposit of revelation that we call the Bible. The Bible is God’s self-revelation — his self-disclosure — permanently inscribed for all time.  That’s what makes this book so important. That’s why I urge our church week after week to stay in the Word.  There is not and never will be a substitute for the Bible. Not even the Holy Spirit will provide truth for you apart from the Word (Eph 6:17). The Spirit uses the Written Word as his sword; every believer in Jesus has the Spirit, not not every believer has the Word.

How can you love God if you don’t know God, and how can you know God unless you seek his face in the Word? You NEED this written revelation, because you will NEVER, by searching, find out God! You will invariably distort and minimize him.  You are utterly, hopelessly, totally dependent upon God’s self-revelation… i.e., upon Scripture.

When John opens the book of Revelation with the words, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, he wants you to sit up and take notice. He is about to unveil the celebrity of the universe. Yes, Jesus will be revealed, eschatologically in history; but this book is about more than that.

It is about JESUS HIMSELF TODAY.  Who he is. What he has done and will do. What he is like. His names, attributes, qualities, character, agenda, and appearance. The Book of Revelation offers a glimpse into the heartbeat of Jesus.

If you want to know your Savior, pause your obsession with “end times” stuff (it’s definitely here, you can look for it later) and first look for Jesus.

So here’s your project of awesomeness.  Open the book of Revelation with a pencil in hand, and as you read, UNDERLINE COOL STUFF ABOUT JESUS.  Look for Jesus, not headlines. Jesus, not signs of the end. Jesus, not Antichrists.  Look for truth about Jesus.  Names. Descriptors. Plans.

When you find them, underline them. Reflect, meditate, think, pray.

You will be AMAZED at the profile that emerges. Here’s my sample from the first paragraph:

1:1* ¶ The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants–things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2* who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. 3* ¶ Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. 4* John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5* and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6* and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7* Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. 8* “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Try it, and let me know. Some sections of the book are packed with Jesus-statements. Where else is he the Alpha and Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty?  What a Savior! And what a powerful book!

Before you ever try unraveling the end times in this book, why not sit and contemplate its profile of Jesus first? Isn’t eschatology about the revelation of HIM, anyway?

I thank God that he deigned to UNHIDE himself and his plan through his written revelation; we’d be lost with out him.

I’m going back to sleep now. I hope this was encouraging to you.