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Exodus: God’s Battle for the Heart

Quick: when did the American Revolution end? Most people assume it started in 1776 (though it actually started about a year before the Declaration of Independence). If you guessed 1783, you’d be right! At least historically speaking. But according to John Adams, one of the nation’s founders, he believed the war was won way before 1783:

[The] radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution

In that sense, the war was won before it was ever even fought.

We are about to start a new sermon series on the Book of Exodus. It is a book full of plagues, thunder, smoke, walls of water, earth quakes and works of power. It tells the story of God’s relentless pursuit of the rescue of His people, fulfilling the promises he made to Abraham four hundred years earlier. It roots God’s law and instructions on the worship of God in the context of this great rescue plan unfurled. Yet, as we walk through the story, we will begin to realize that the real battle taking place is on the battlefield of the heart. Like the John Adam’s quote above, God is chasing His covenant people with His grace to change their principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections concerning God and life. It is the same hunt God has begun in us and won’t stop until our hearts are His.

Revelation Intro

In the coming weeks, our Christmas series will be drawing from classic texts from the Gospels and sections from the Book of Revelation. Maybe I am getting over my head, but I am so excited about seeing how the Book of Revelation can illuminate the Christmas story. I thought, by way of preparation, that I might give a VERY quick guide to how I approach the Book of Revelation which I won’t be able to go into during the sermon series. Here goes:

  1. The Original Audience of Revelation was a Specific Group of Churches. In Rev 2-3, specific churches (or groups of churches within cities—presbyteries?) are mentioned by name and have several specific applications addressed to them in a similar manner to, say, Paul’s letter to the Galatians or Ephesians. This fact is very helpful to readers because it sets the context for why the book was written: to churches facing persecution from the world as well as a temptation to follow the ways of the world. What they needed most was assurance that God was in control, that evil would be done away with, and that their destination was going to be glorious. Therefore they are called to persevere by faith in Christ. If we want to read Revelation better, I think we need to start with understanding this is a primary purpose of the letter.
  2. The Visions in Revelation are Symbolic and Steeped in the Old Testament. You certainly have to have a healthy sense of imagination to take in all that this book has to offer, with its seals, beasts, angels, horsemen, new heavens/new earth. But probably more importantly is that you will need a good background in the OT. One professor told me if you want to prepare yourself to read Revelation well, you need to read four things: Exodus on the Tabernacle, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. If you are confused about a particular image, one of the best resources is to go back to the Old Testament.
  3. The Visions in Revelation can be Described not Linearly but also in Terms of Cycles. Something I have grown in appreciation for in the last couple of years is the cyclical nature to the visions in Revelation. In each cycle there is worship, problems, a going to the brink, a saving, and more worship. There is an orderly pattern to each vision. Here’s a summary of them:

VISION*          CHP    CONTENT

   1                   1-3       Seven Churches in a Fallen World

   2                   4-8:1    Seven Seals

   3                   8:2-11  Seven Trumpets

   4                   12-14   Battle Against Satan

   5                   15-16   Seven Bowls

   6                   17-19   Downfall of Babylon (City of Evil)

   7                   20-22   Church Perfected: New City

  1. Revelation Speaks to the Past, Present, and Future. For the most part, the passages we will be looking at won’t be the ‘controversial’ ones that get people into knots over (e.g. millennial views), which is sometimes the only topic that some people pay attention to. Revelation is not merely ‘a book of the future’ because it is absolutely rooted in Old Testament imagery, at times it points to history (from our perspective) within a generation after the resurrection of Jesus (like the destruction of the temple), speaks to contemporary churches of John’s time, and concerns future (both in the short term and long term). The patterns in Revelation can speak to many ages both past, present, and future. So how should we most effectively read it? That’s where we go to next…
  2. Revelation Presents us with Timeless Principles we can Apply at any Time. In every episode we must ask the question (like we should with every part of Scripture), what can I learn and apply to my own life right now? So as we approach the Book of Revelation, what do we learn about Jesus or the world in each passage and how does it help me to fight temptation or persevere despite opposition?

*Table taken from Derek Thomas’ book, Let’s Study Revelation (Let’s Study Series), (Banner of Truth, 2003)

Christmas Series: Pulling Back the Curtain on Christmas

A little plastic baby Jesus rests woodenly beside shrouded faceless parents, crepe paper ‘hay’, a donkey, and an A-frame open ‘stable’ that would do little to keep out the rain. This is your run-of-the-mill nativity scene you will probably see hundreds of times during the Christmas season. It’s quaint, maybe a bit little tacky, but wholly unremarkable. Unfortunately, because many people  assume Jesus is just like His ‘images’: wooden, hokey, and unremarkable. A passing fad of by-gone era, or fun for now, but to be put away in the attic for next year. Truly this misses the true identity of Jesus as the powerful creator of all things, one robed in light come to rescue his people from their sin. In this Christmas series, “Pulling  Back the Curtain on Christmas,” we are going to be walking through the Christmas story in the Gospels and comparing them to passages in the Book of Revelation to help us see the grandeur, the power, the wonder, (even the terror), and the hope that the Christmas story points to.  Please join us in worship every Sunday from 9:30-10:45am, Nov 27th-Dec 25th as God’s Word opens our eyes to the awesomeness of Jesus and His coming!

Nov 27th: Baby Jesus: What Child is this? (Lk 1:26-37, Mt 13:53-56, Rev 1:9-20)

Dec 4: Christmas Songs: Singing the Lamb’s Song (Lk 2:8-20, Rev 5:1-14)

Dec 11: Christmas and Family (Lk 1:34-45, Lk 2:1-7, Rev 7:1-12)

Dec 18: Christmas and Conflict: (Mt 2:8-18, Rev 12:1-17)

Dec 24: Christmas Eve Service: Joy to the World (John 1:1-14, Rev 21:1-7) — 7pm-8pm

Dec 25: Second Christmas (Rev 22:12-21) — 11am-12pm