21 Feb 16
Series - House on Fire! Part 4
When a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!
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.
As we come to our fourth church in this series John hangs picture number four right smack dab in the middle of this church. Like the other three, it is a picture of Christ. If a picture is worth a thousand words then this one is perhaps worth ten thousand words. Maybe this is why this is the longest letter of the seven letters.
Text: Revelation 2:18-29
What are the key aspects of this picture?
Son of God - What does this title say about the identity of Jesus? Check out Romans 1:1-4.
Note that the next two titles both point to brilliance and light. Note how v.23 gives further understanding of eyes and feet with these qualities. It would seem that this is a picture of the omniscience (all-knowing) and omnipotence (all-powerful-bronze picture of strength) of the Son of God.
So how does this picture of Jesus impact what John writes to this church?
One clear implication is that God Sees My Story! He sees their story, He sees my story. There is nothing hidden, nothing in the shadows, nothing unbeknownst to the Son of God about their story.
God Sees My Story.
What does he see?
He knows where I have been in my story (v.19)
Notice the key words that describe a little bit of their story up to this moment in time. Two key statements are,
“patient endurance” - The capacity to bear up under difficult circumstances. As Jesus sees their story and where they have been he sees that they have been bearing up. But notice the next statement.
“your latter works exceed the first.”- In bearing up they have grown. Jesus is looking at their past compared to the present and sees growth. They have been to the school of “hard knocks”, and for many they have grown. It has been difficult, but the trenches have helped them grow.
God knows their story. As God looks at your story – where you have been – would he see growth? In what way has bearing up under difficult circumstances helped you grow? What has been the difficult circumstance and in what way did you grow through it. God knows your story!
He knows where I am in my story (v.20-23)
One thing that is true about the nature of the church and the members that make it up is that our stories are complex. While Jesus saw that many were bearing up, some were falling down. While some had held fast (see v.24), some had found themselves in a compromised position. What is true about the corporate reality of the church is also true about the individual reality of the believer. We live with the good and the bad all mixed in to our story. That is what was happening in Thyatira.
Note the compromised nature of the church by discussing the key words like tolerance, Jezebel and seduction.
Does where they are in their story have any bearing on where we (the Church of the 21st century) are in our story? Discuss the following.
According to a George Barna report,
“The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.” The result? “A Church that has become tolerant of a vast array of morally and spiritually dubious behaviors and philosophies.” The postmodern mantra, “true for you but not for me,” has infected our churches. The majority of Christians do not think Christianity is objectively true—true for everyone whether they believe it or not.
The following definition of tolerance may be helpful in your discussion.
“Tolerance used to be the attitude that we took toward one another when we disagreed about an important issue; we would agree to treat each other with respect, even though we refused to embrace each other’s view on a particular topic. Tolerance is now the act of recognizing and embracing all views as equally valuable and true, even though they often make opposite truth claims.” (Wallace, Cold Case Christianity, page 142)
He knows where I am going in my story (v.24-29)
He will restore all things and we will be part of that restoration story.
This is what we need to keep our eyes on.
As a group you will need to do your homework on this section. On Sunday, I did not have time to develop. The following are some helpful notes.
V.24 - Mystery cults stressed deep secrets shared only among the initiates.
V.25 - until I come - the Greek implies an uncertainty when that will be.
V.26 - Christ promises believers who are faithful that they will join Him in His millennial rule (Ps. 2:8–9; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:4–6).
Note: Someone who did not know the Old Testament would have applied this description to the Roman emperor; Revelation declares that Jesus is greater than the most powerful emperor the world had ever known.
V.27 - “rule” (“poimanei”) means “to shepherd,” indicating that they will not simply be administering justice but will also, like a shepherd using his rod, be dealing with his sheep and protecting them as well. Though Psalm 2:9 refers to Christ’s rule, John’s quotation of it here relates the ruling (shepherding) to the believer who overcomes. Believers will have authority just as Christ does (1 Cor. 6:2–3; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 3:21; 20:4, 6). Christ received this authority from His Father (cf. John 5:22).
V.28 - The morning star, Venus, heralded the dawn, and great people could be compared to it as well as to the sun shining in glory (Eccles 50:6; cf. Revelation 22:16). Because most of the Greco-Roman world believed that life was ruled by the stars, to be given authority over one of the most powerful of stars (a symbol of sovereignty among the Romans) was to share Christ’s rule over creation (2:26–27).
Is there mystery in these words and images?
Do we have everything figured out as we look to where our story will end up?
Thank the Father for giving us Jesus the head of the church. A church filled with stories of people that contain the good, the bad and the “Jezebel” (very bad). A church whose Head knows our story, because He is the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. He will make all things well and we who hold fast get to be part of that radical transformation, that we start now as we live out a story submitted to Him and see completely realized when He comes.
Check out http://bethelkingston.com/unleashed and be sure to come to Unleashed, today (February 21st) at 4 pm in the Upper Room.