Friday, February 12, 2016

Touching Base, Part 296

14 Feb 16
Series - House on Fire, Pt 3
Who Wields the Sword?

This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching in this series is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Take a moment and review the two portraits John has hung in the hallway of each church thus far. Check out Revelation 2:1 and 2:8. Note how each portrait is intimately tied into what John proceeds to say to the church. In a sense, he is fleshing out the portrait in what it is saying about Christ and the implications for that particular church.

In your group, take a moment and talk about memorable portraits - perhaps a picture of a jaw-dropping scene in nature, or perhaps a highly sentimental picture of a family vacation. Talk about feelings and memories associated with that portrait.

As we come to the third church in our study, House On Fire, we come to the third portrait.

Text: Revelation 2:12-17

Is this a comfortable, or a troubling, portrait?
What image comes to mind?

We see several times in Scripture (i.e. Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12,13) how the word of God is compared to a sword. As we proceed into the letter, we will see how the two-edged sword operates in the local church.

Question: How does the two-edged sword operate in the local church?

To help answer that question, we not only will look to the rest of the text, but also to 2 Timothy 3:16 -
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Note how the function of the word of God in 2 Tim is illustrated in our text.

TEACHING - Refers to instruction, meaning “to impart knowledge”. The word informs but it never does so in a vacuum and thus it often creates tension. Note the context.

V.13 - This third church was in Pergamum or Pergamos, about 20 miles inland from Smyrna. Like Ephesus and Smyrna it was a wealthy city, but it was wicked, being a major stronghold for Emperor worship. Furthermore, Pergamum was also a center of pagan cults of various deities. Like Baskin and Robbins, Pergamum had “31 deity” flavors - Asclepius, Zeus, Athene, Demeter, and Dionysus…

Yet how is the church described in 13b? What do we learn about the church?

The teaching component of the word sometimes puts us at odds (to say the least!) with our culture.
Where do you sense tension between the word and our culture?
Can you relate to “holding fast”?
What does this look like in your life, practically-speaking?

REPROOF - In v.13, the word is creating tension and dissonance with culture, thus the need to hold fast. Now in v.14 and 15, in the context of the local church, the word is creating tension and dissonance between the church and God. The word “reproof “means to rebuke or refute, to state that someone has done wrong. Christ is angry with some of them and he is stating what is wrong!

Here is a little history lesson:

Balaam was a pagan prophet hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to pronounce a curse upon the invading Israelites. God prevented Balaam from doing so, and instead caused him to issue a blessing on them (Num. 22:5–24:25). However, Balaam subsequently devised a plan (in continued disobedience to God), whereby some of the Moabite women would entice the Israelite men to “defect from the LORD” (31:16), by fornicating with them and joining with them in the worship of their pagan gods (25:1–3). This plan proved successful, and God punished the Israelites for their idolatrous involvement.

So regarding the Nicolaitans, some speculate that it could merely be another name for the Balaam sect.

Perhaps some who had at one time held fast (v.13) to “my name” had gradually “slip-slided away” to the point that they were now holding to the teaching of Balaam (v.14).

Ever experienced or watched this slippery slope?
What can cause this to happen in peoples’ lives?

Discuss the following - “Adultery doesn’t just happen. It is the result of many mini decisions.”
How does this relate to what is being discussed? What are the many mini decisions people make that move them from holding fast to the word to holding to different teaching?

CORRECTION – v.16 Notice how John’s letter progresses from reproof “I have a few things against you” to correction, “repent”. Correction builds on the idea of reproof. It means to offer a new path, to replace a mistake. Jesus, through the pen of John, is asking them to repent, to choose a new path, to replace a mistake, to walk in a new way.

How does repentance work in your life?
How does repentance correct and offer a new path?
How does repentance keep you on the new path?
How hard is it to stay on that new path?

TRAINING - The final key word in 2 Timothy, that parallels our text, is “training”. This word represents the idea of forming new habits. It is a word that speaks of the fruit of repentance. As we accept God’s correction and repent we then begin to walk it out. V.17 gives us a picture of this formation of a new habit. Note the action on the part of the listener (“let him hear”); note the voice of the Spirit and note that these are the words of God to the church. As we train, we need to be attentive and pay close attention to the voice of the Spirit which helps us apply the word of God. This describes training - proper habits.

Describe this Christian habit in your own life. What hinders or helps this habit?

Note finally that this is the kind of Church that God wants to bless. Two phrases illustrate this as we conclude.

Hidden Manna - There is lots of speculation at what the writer is getting at. Perhaps this is contrasting the food eaten in idolatrous worship compared to God nurturing his people and using the imagery of manna that would have reminded these Jews of God’s provision to the people years ago.

White Stone - A white stone was commonly associated with a vote of acquittal (cf. 4 Maccabees 15:26; Acts 26:10) or a favorable vote. Conversely, a black stone indicated guilt

What is the admonition to the church in Pergamum? How would we sum up all that Jesus is saying to this church? SURRENDER TO THE SWORD!

As we surrender to the sword, he will light our house on fire!

Check out and be sure to come to Unleashed, starting today (February 14th) at 4 pm in the Upper Room.

Mark Kotchapaw

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