Thursday, March 3, 2016

Touching Base, Part 299

06 Mar 16
Series - House on Fire! Part 6
"Doors, Pillars, and a Cross"
Rev. 3:7-13

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.

We have now come to the second last church in our series, House On Fire! As we come to Philadelphia, we will discover that we have lots in common with this church. In fact, I think their issue is our issue (for many of us) - dealing with issues around the theme of rejection. We will see how this works itself out in Philadelphia, but first, as a group share, about this issue.

What are chapters in your life where you have had to deal with rejection? How has it affected how you trust, express, and communicate? What are the evidences in our culture that people crave acceptance and love?

TEXT: Revelation 3:7-13

What are the images that demonstrate that God has accepted this church?

#1 DOOR (V.7)

To understand this picture of Christ we need to look at the backstory. Check out Isaiah 22:15-25.
What does this imagery communicate about Jesus response to this church? See v.8. How much power does this church have? V.8.

V.9 - tells us why this imagery of the open door would be so powerful. The Messianic Jews in this city had experienced rejection. Christ referred to their enemies as the synagogue of Satan (cf. 2:9). They were Jews who opposed the believers’ Christian testimony. The local synagogue claimed that only those worshiping within their doors could be considered God’s true people and it appears they excommunicated Christian Jews. They have shut the door.

One writer has said that this door represents not only the authority of Christ but the open door represents presence, relationship, acceptance, and embrace. This was the exact opposite of what they experienced in the city.

Two observations:

Note that those being rejected were the ones with “little power” (v.8) - little power in relationship to God, but also in relationship to those Jews who were rejecting them. Talk about how in rejection there is often an unequal distribution of power. Talk about how the one being rejected can feel powerless, helpless and vulnerable. Talk about how the one with power can use that power to carry out the damaging act of rejection.

Note that for some, this rejection may have been from a group that they least expected it, fellow Jews with whom they shared such a rich history. Add to that they were in a city named for its brotherly love (PHILADELPHIA -- Gk. Philadelphia, Philadelphia “love[r] of brother”). They experienced brotherly rejection.

Sometimes, doesn't rejection have a little more sting because it can come from the least-expected place? Have you ever experienced rejection that completely shocked you? How did that unexpected rejection affect you?

V.10-11 - This most likely does not mean that Christ will somehow allow them to bypass trial. One writer has said that the language of this communicates that Jesus will provide a spiritual protection from the devil. The reason John says to hold fast in v.11 is because they will experience trial but they can know Christ’s protection from the enemy in the hour of trial.

#2 PILLAR (V.12)

The second image of acceptance and love in a context where the people of God were being rejected is the pillar.

For this second symbol to make sense, you need to understand the context: Philadelphia was located roughly 20 miles southwest of a volcano named Catacecaumene (modern Kula), in a region prone to seismic activity. The area was subject to frequent earthquakes, and in AD 17, one such earthquake badly damaged the city, prompting Emperor Tiberius to remit taxes for five years to many of the region’s cities, including Philadelphia, so they could be rebuilt (Tacitus, Annals 2.47). In fact as the shocks continued intermittently the people took to living outside the city (Strabo, Geography 12.8.18 [579]).

So these people are experiencing rejection from their fellow Jews… and the very ground beneath them is shaky! It is into this context that the image of the pillar speaks powerfully.

- represented strength, something that was firmly fixed.
- could be used to symbolize the people of God (Ex 24:4).
- symbolized people of importance and great value. Paul refers to James, Cephas (Peter), and John as people reputed to be pillars in the church (Gal. 2:9).

Note it is the pillar “in the temple of my God”. This illustrates presence and relationship. In the New Jerusalem, the Lord God is the temple (see Rev 21:22). And in addition you have God inscribing His name on the pillar (the people). This speaks of value, honor and relationship.

Note the pillar represented so many things that were contrary to their experience of living in Philadelphia:
- While culture communicated that they had little value, the pillar communicated importance.
- The culture kept them as outsiders, but the pillar spoke of value and belonging.
- The culture said they were fools, misguided and lost; the pillar spoke of their identity.

Here are some questions for you to ponder as you consider these two symbols.
- Do I allow my identity to be determined by what man says about me, or what God says about me?
- Do I allow my confidence to be determined by what man says about me, or what God says about me?
- Do I derive my sense of value from the city I live in, or the City that I am going to?

Check out and be sure to come to Unleashed today (March 6th ) at 4 pm in the Upper Room.

Mark Kotchapaw

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