Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Revelation 7

In Revelation 7, John writes about the 144,000 and the great multitude.  He begins describing the four angels who are standing at the four corners of the earth in complete control of all things.  The angels were holding back the winds which symbolize the destructive force of God’s judgment, as often experienced in the Old Testament. “I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel”. John tells us that the 144,000 chosen are divided among the 12 tribes of Israel. Though only God may know their tribal ancestry, there are 12,000 from each tribe which is listed in scripture as such.

We aren’t told what the specifics are for those who are sealed in this way.  Guzik tells us that there are clarifications about the 144,000 in Revelation:

  1. They are called the children of Israel (Revelation 7:4).
  2. Their tribal affiliation is specific (Revelation 7:4-8).
  3. They seem to be protected and triumphant through the period of God’s wrath, meeting with Jesus at Mount Zion at His return (Rev 14:1).
  4. They are celibate (Revelation 14:4).
  5. They are the beginning of a greater harvest (Revelation 14:4).
  6. They are marked by integrity and faithfulness (Revelation 14:5).

It is best to see the 144,000 as specifically chosen Jewish people who come to faith in Jesus, protectively sealed throughout the tribulation as a sign.

John goes on to tell us “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb”!  John knew they came from different nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues so we know that there will be differences among people in heaven, just as there is on earth. We will not all be the same. We will be individuals.

The multitude recognizes that God is the source of salvation, and no one else. Salvation isn’t something we earn, it is something God gives.  Everyone is worshiping God who sits on the throne. “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever”! John paints the picture of what heaven will be like.  On earth, when we face trials and suffering, God is there to give us strength and comfort.  But someday, every tear will be wiped away in heaven.  “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”.  What a glorious God we worship!

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Revelation 4

Revelation 4 gives us a glimpse of heaven looking down on earth. “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, Come up here, and  I will show you what must take place after this”. In the description of heavenly things, John uses symbols. However, not everything is symbolic. As in the parables of Jesus, many of the details are merely descriptive and they are not necessarily intended to carry a special significance of their own. Revelation four introduces us to the place judgment comes from: God’s throne in heaven.

Behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”.  This throne was what first impressed John, and it is the centerpiece of his vision.  The throne is not empty. There is some One who sits on this great heavenly throne. The throne is a powerful declaration of not merely God’s presence, but of His sovereign, rightful reign, and His role as eternal judge.  We can’t think about much of anything until we reconcile in our mind that there is an occupied throne in heaven, and the God of the Bible rules from the throne.  He alone is in control.  He alone will judge each of us as we stand before Him.

Around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald”. Around this setting of all sovereignty, power, authority and glory – this setting of the throne of God – God has a reminder of His promise to never destroy the earth again with water, a promise that directs His sovereignty.  He is faithful to His Word, and the rainbow reinforces that truth.  John goes on to describe what he saw around the throne of God.  There are many different interpretations of what John saw, some of which may be prophetic or symbolic, and some of which is likely just details of what is.

But the key learning here in this vision is what happens around God’s throne.  Those who are there recognize who God is and place Him in the spot He belongs.  “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come”.  God is not only worthy of our praise, but also is eternal.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  His glory is coming.  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created”.  Here is the reality of what is.  John ends this chapter reminding us that God is the Creator and worthy of our praise!

Revelation 3

Revelation 3 has John continuing his analysis of the final three of the seven churches that are addressed.  He writes about Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.  He begins with the church at Sardis where he writes “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead”.  This church had the external appearance of life, but under the covers they were really dead.  A good reputation is no guarantee of true spiritual character.  God’s message is that they need to “Wake up, and strengthen what remains….remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you”.

Appearances mean nothing to God.  He knows the state of our heart.  He knows whether we are truly alive or are secretly dead.  And if we have fallen away and are dead, there is one solution – to repent and return to what we know as truth.  Philadelphia had been built with the deliberate intention that it might become a missionary city. The church at Philadelphia had a different problem.  While the Sardis church had the outward signs of life, they were dead.  Philadelphia had impostors in its ranks that were pretending to be part, but really were not.

Jesus was completely pleased with this church. He had nothing negative to say to the church at Philadelphia. The church of Philadelphia is commended for keeping the Word of the Lord and not denying His Name.  The church at Sardis doesn’t have the same review.  “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth”.  In this spiritual sense, lukewarmness is a picture of indifference and compromise. It tries to play the middle, too hot to be cold and too cold to be hot. In trying to be both things, an individual ends up being nothing.

God is committed to helping us become more like Christ.  That is His plan for us as Christ Followers.  “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent”.  God is in the business of growing us up and maturing us into Christlikeness.  He will move us toward that if we don’t make those choices on our own.  He won’t allow us to continue on a bad path, or to live a lukewarm life.  He is continually pursuing us.  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”.  We have a willing Savior who is ready and able to take action in our life.  He doesn’t force His way in.  He patiently waits for us to open the door and allow Him to move in our life!

1 Peter 5

1 Peter 5 has him reminding the elders to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory”.  The label ‘elder’ is more about wisdom and maturity than age. Peter was qualified to speak because he is a fellow elder.  There is a responsibility to use our wisdom to help those in our patch.

Peter then speaks to the younger crowd and says “you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”. His word to be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility applies to everyone.  Leaders mus still be under authority.  Only God is an authority with no other. True humility is shown by our ability to cast our care upon God. It is pride and presumption to worry and care about things that God has promised to take care of.

He reminds us that we have a very real enemy who is out to destroy us.  “Be sober-minded; be watchful.Your  adversary the devil prowls around  like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world”. Peter exhorts us to remain clear-headed (sober) and watchful, because Satan has not yet been bound and restrained.  We know what happens at the end of the war, but for now, the enemy is still out fighting battles seeking to destroy us.

And Peter wraps up his letter reminding us what lies ahead.  “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you”.  We may indeed go through some suffering, but it won’t be without a reward.  Peter lists four things that God Himself will do for us as Christ Followers if we endure and come before Him one day. But what does this glory looks like.  Guzik shared this list:

– It is the glory of purified character.

– It is the glory of perfected humanity.

– It is the glory of complete victory.

– It is the glory of being honored by a King.

– It is the glory of reflecting the glory of God.

– It is the glory of the immediate and constant presence of God.

– It is the glory of the enjoyment of God Himself.

God, who will do this great work in our lives is certainly worthy of our praise.

1 Peter 4

In 1 Peter 4, he challenges us to love each other.  “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins”.  Love does cover a multitude of sins, both the sins of the one loving and the sins of the one who is being loved.  Grudem wrote “Where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offences, and even some large ones, are readily overlooked and forgotten. But where love is lacking, every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding, and conflicts about – to Satan’s perverse delight.”  Love should define us as Christ Followers.

God has equipped us to function together in the body of Christ.  “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ”.  There are several principles of spiritual gifts that Peter points out here:

  1. Gifts are given to all of us as Christ Followers
  2. Gifts are given to serve others, not for our own benefit
  3. Gifts are given to glorify God, not ourselves

This chapter speaks about the end times, and it won’t be rosy as we approach that time.  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed….if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God  in that name.”.  Guzik wrote “We should never deny the place of suffering in building godliness in the Christian life. Though there is much needless pain we bear through lack of knowledge or faith, there is also necessary suffering. If suffering was a suitable tool to teach Jesus (Hebrews 5:8), it is a suitable tool to teach His servants”.

He reminds us that we will all stand before God someday and give account for our lives.  “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God….Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good”.  Christians can rejoice that the sufferings they face in this life are the worst they will ever face throughout all eternity. We have seen the worst; those who reject Jesus Christ have seen the best of life their eternal existence will ever see.  What lies ahead for them will be much worse.

James 3

James 3 begins with the author reminding us that “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness”.  God tells us in many places in scripture that those who teach or lead will be held to a higher standard.  We need to carefully consider the responsibility that comes with teaching and leading.  And then James launches into one of the key problem areas for every human – the tongue.  He makes it clear that small things create huge outcomes – be it a bridle, rudder, fire or our tongue.  They can all do great good when controlled properly.  We have to realize just how important it is to have that small part of our body under control.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet  it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire”!  Words matter.  What we say makes a significant impact to those in our patch.  The fire of the tongue has been used to burn many. “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell”.  James isn’t telling us to never speak or to take a vow of silence; in many ways that would be easier than exercising true self-control over the tongue.

But he is warning us that “no human being can tame the tongue”.  Trying hard is not the answer here.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit within us to win this fight.  There aren’t many sins that don’t involve talking in some way.  “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people  who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so”.  Our excuse can’t be that we just can’t help it. The tongue can be brought under the power and the control of the Holy Spirit. Only God Himself is mightier than the human tongue!  So to tackle taming it on our own will be futile.  We need God’s help from God’s helper – the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

James goes on to describe God’s wisdom telling us “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere”. God’s wisdom is shown clearly by its fruit. This wisdom can be seen by the fruit it produces. It isn’t just the power to think and talk about things the right way, it truly yields a fruitful result.  James isn’t talking about theory here.  If we seek and live out God’s wisdom, our life will bear the fruit of godliness and make an impact in the lives of those in our patch!

Hebrews 13

Hebrews 13 wraps up this book and ends with a set of instructions on how we should live as Christ Followers:

  • Let brotherly love continue
  • Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares
  • Remember those who are in prison….and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body
  • Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled
  • Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have
  • Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God
  • Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith
  • Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings
  • Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name
  • Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have
  • Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.

It is a very detailed list of how we should live.

The list is long and varied, covering relationships and people from every interaction we have.  The instructions cover those close to us, as well as strangers and those in prison.  The direction is all about how we live, and how we treat those in our patch.  The underlying principle is love.  God loves everyone around us, and through these verses we are given specific actions we can take to live out that love to those we touch.  There are warnings and there are actions.  But the key is that God’s given us some prescriptive guidance on how to live a life pleasing to Him.

This chapter also contains one of the most powerful truths in all of scripture.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever….we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me”? There are every few things in this world that are absolute certainties, but Jesus is exactly that.  We can know with confidence what He will be like today and tomorrow – exactly the same as He was yesterday.  There may not be any other things that carries the certainty that knowing Jesus.  And not only is He the same, He is our helper.  He is with us.  He has sent the Holy Spirit to minister in us and through us.  We can know it as truth!

The writer ends with a powerful benediction.  “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever”.  God has a plan for us.  He will equip us to do His will.  We don’t need to try and do it on our own, because we can’t.  We merely need to align with His will and allow Him to use us.  That’s how we glorify God.  That’s how we serve our Lord and Savior as Christ Followers.

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