Monday, July 18, 2011

Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World, Rev. 2:18-29

“Living Christ’s Kingdom Now” is our church’s motto. If you didn’t know that or forgot it, you will see it on the front of your bulletin. That motto, “Living Christ’s Kingdom Now,” is a good way of summarizing the last Great End of the Church--# 6 of our 6-fold mission statement, which is the Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World. When we do all of the other 5 great ends—proclaim the gospel, shelter and fellowship with one another, preserve truth, maintain worship, and promote social righteousness, then we do exhibit God’s Kingdom. God’s kingdom is coming in perfection when Christ returns, repeated over and over in the book of Revelation is Jesus saying, “Behold, I am coming soon.” But Christ commanded us to live out that kingdom even now. Darrell L. Gruder in his book Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World, which I commend to you and will leave on the back table, says, “The exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the world must be characterized by faithfulness to both the message and methods of Jesus.” We see in these 7 letters to the churches, Christ admonishing the churches for their failure to live out His kingdom and warning them of the consequences while also giving them hope if they return to faithfulness.
Even as a small church, we are called to exhibit Christ’s Kingdom to the world. The letters in Revelation apply to us too. The suggested reading for this particular great end of the church was the letter to the church at Laodicea. Many scholars find parallels between our culture and that one—it is the last of the 7 letters to the churches. Laodicea is the lukewarm church caught up in consumerism. And why I think that describes some American churches, I chose to read the letter to the church at Thyatira, because I think it speaks more accurately to the state of our denomination.
The church at Thyatira is commended for its works of love, faith, service, and patient endurance. The PC(USA) is great at some of these things as well. We are quick to respond to disasters, we advocate for those who have no voice, we are generous, we work for justice, have fabulous missionaries, etc. But like Thyatira, we have not only tolerated but succumbed to false teaching which draws us away from Christ and Christ’s transforming power. Warren Wiersbe says, “No amount of works can compensate for the tolerance of evil.”
The church at Thyatira was chastised by God for tolerating “Jezebel”. Whatever the false teacher or teachers in the church at Thyatira were doing and teaching, they were compared to Jezebel. You may remember Jezebel from our study of Kings. Jezebel was King Ahab’s wife, and she was a wicked woman. You may remember that she tried to kill Elijah or have him killed on more than one occasion. She wasn’t just a worshipper of Baal, she was a high priestess of Baal. She was responsible for leading and teaching worship. She claimed to speak on Baal’s behalf and deliver his words to the people. Whatever was being taught in Thyatira was similarly heinous in God’s sight. It included idolatry and fornication—people going elsewhere other than to God to have their needs and desires met, and practicing worship in a way contrary to what God has appointed. The teaching and practice was also referred to as “the deep things of Satan”.
There are challenges within our denomination to Jesus alone as the way of salvation, to the authority of Scripture, and to Christ’s call to holiness. You won’t find these challenges in the Book of Order, the words there remain orthodox, but you will hear them in interpretations and debates and see them in practice. Like Thyatira we have had time to repent and have not, and we are looking at an implosion of the church if we do not change.
I think some of the most hopeful words about the power of our risen and living Lord are found in I Corinthians 6. Paul writes: READ I Cor. 6:9-11. Paul says, “And such were some of you.” We were those who could not inherit the kingdom, but in Jesus, we are washed, made holy, and declared righteous. We have the full inheritance of the kingdom. Jesus always takes us as we are, but the good news is that He doesn’t let us stay there. He works to transform our lives. I am not who I was yesterday, and I am not who I will be tomorrow. There is no limit to what the Holy Spirit can do. If we submit to the Spirit, the Spirit will make us more and more like Jesus. Romans 8 says that all 3 members of the Trinity work to that end in our lives—to make us like Jesus. The transforming power of the Trinity must never be minimized. It’s not that we can’t change, it’s that we won’t change. If we are willing to be changed, then God will accomplish the changes that He desires in us. We have the power to resist change, but is that really what we want do? Sometimes it is because we like sin too much. But the message of the Kingdom is the transformation and redemption of everything and every part of us. Don’t resist the Spirit and the rule of Christ in your life.
Presbyterians love to say that we are “ecclesia reformata semper reformanda—the churched reformed always reforming.” The whole Latin phrase is this: ecclesia reformata semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei—the church reformed always being reformed in accordance with the Word of God. That last part is crucial. We are not to be about change for change’s sake or just any kind of change, but change in accordance with God’s word. Gruder explains…READ pg. 60, top paragraph.
Also like Thyatira, there are those who have held steadfast to the faith. Not everyone has succumbed to false teaching, and Jesus knows those who are faithful. He doesn’t ask us to do anything else but remain faithful, and keep doing what He has already told us to do. We are to continue in His works. Our prayer for the church can be that of Paul in Philippians 1: READ Phil. 1:9-11. We are to be the Body of Christ in the world until He comes. We are to live in such a way that shows what we can be and what God desires us to be—a redeemed creation, God-honoring, and obedient. We are, as Rev. David Gushee says, “a witness people,” testifying to the goodness and power of Christ and using words when necessary. Darrell L. Gruder says this: READ from pg. v
And finally, we are to be that community of love that John writes about in his letters. Jesus told us that it is by our love that people will recognize that we are His disciples. Love is our central obligation—our love not only for God and for one another, but for every person, including those who we think of as our enemies. Including those who actions and teachings we must renounce. Again Gruder writes: READ pg. 31. Once again we see the amazing goodness of Christ and His ability to transform and redeem the worst of the worst. Further, READ pg.
Jesse Eubanks spoke of this last week. We are to sow the seed everywhere. It is up to God to grow the seeds. We are to sow without compromise—without compromise to our own prejudices or to the demands of the culture around us. We must sow the seed of uncompromised gospel, never compromising the love of Christ.
We can be certain that God will complete what God has begun. God will bring in the great harvest, and God’s Spirit remains in, on, and with the church to enable us to obey in spite of and in tension with her sinfulness. We are called to faithfully exhibit a kingdom that is sure to come and already is come.


Blogger Pastor Parato said...

It's been so long since we've podcasted, I forgot to record. Sorry, it means you are missing quotations, but if you want them, I will supply.

July 18, 2011 at 7:24 AM


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