Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Wrath of the Lamb

Some will remember when children were taught to pray, “Gentle Jesus meek and mild….” and many have sung, “no crying he makes…” But, what kind of image does this conjure up of Jesus – a very nice, ‘docile’ Jesus – compliant, non-offensive, someone who just gets on with everybody, and is everyone’s friend?

My ‘personal’ Jesus
A number of years ago now the controversial ‘artist’ and musician Marylin Manson released a song called Personal Jesus (originally by Depeche Mode), and it begins with the words ‘Your own personal Jesus, Someone to hear your prayers, Someone who cares.’ In 2006 it was ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Songs Ever. Now you may say, what’s wrong with that isn’t that what he is?
But there’s something very subtle going on here and it’s found in the expression ‘your own personal Jesus,’ i.e. one that is unique to and for you, not necessarily the Bible one, one that you make and suits your own personal desires and needs. (The song was inspired by the book Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley).
We need to be careful it’s not public opinion or our own personal feelings that are shaping our knowledge of Jesus.

The wrath of God
Some today struggle with the whole idea of the wrath of God, with the typical objection being how could a God of love act in such a way. Some get round this by suggesting that the God of the New Testament is somewhat different to the God of the Old – as if there has been some development of God. Some see Jesus as different from God, or the nicer face of God, but this is to divide God.
Might I suggest that the problem is ours and not God’s. The problem is that we struggle in our politically correct, humanistic world, to conceive of anger and love going together – they seem to be opposites. In reality they are not two opposites, anger (rightly expressed) is an aspect of love. In fact love without anger leaves us with an insipid ‘attitude’ (you can’t call it love) that fails to bring true discipline to a rebellious child, in fact the cry for justice arises from the fact that love (the basis for normal healthy relationships, and therefore society) has been violated in some way, and without justice its seen to be excused, acceptable, doesn’t matter….. A loving father sets up boundaries, and threatens consequences. If those consequences are not followed through in a loving way, the child will lose respect for the Father, and actually a lack of love.

All of scripture
The whole Bible must be our teacher, it reveals Jesus in his own ‘right’, not after our own ideas of him. On the one hand that may be:
1. Disturbing and discomforting,
2. Encouraging and stirring.

Just as an aside a question arises as to whether the lack of men in the church is due to an effeminate portrait of Jesus, or as someone put it ‘my Boyfriend in the sky,’ caricature.

In Revelation we get an unfolding picture of Jesus, in fact John’s knowledge of Jesus is expanded considerably. He has known him as a fellow human who walked the earth, a good man, a friend of sinners, a miracle worker, at the transfiguration he encountered him in his glory as the Beloved Son of God, he knew him as the Saviour who died and rose again. Then in Revelation 1 Johns gets a revelation of Jesus as the ascended and all glorious Lord. Then in Rev. 5 and 6 another unfolds culminating in, “the wrath of the Lamb …. the great day of Their wrath has come.” This verse parallels Luke 23:30 and Matthew 24.

“The wrath of the Lamb” sounds like a contradiction! We love lambs. We love to see them playing, skipping, running up and down. We love to feed them, stroke them. They are so innocent. They would never hurt you, and yet here we are confronted with the wrath/anger of the Lamb. It is the Lamb who opens the Seals. It is the wrath of the Lamb that is manifested against an unbelieving and ungodly world.

In order to understand this you need to step into the THRONE ROOM, as the psalmist said “When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless (wearisome task) until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their end.” Psalm 73:16-17. There’s an important principle here, the need to go into the sanctuary, where God is encountered for who he is, as he is, holy – other than we are, creator – the world was made by and for God, redeemer – the One who has bought us. It is from this vantage point we must look at what unfolds in Revelation.

In reading Revelation we need to keep in mind the big story. God created the world, humanity. Humanity sinned and spoiled God’s creation. God gave a promise, called and raised a man – Abraham, who had a family that became a nation – Israel, to whom he gave his word through the prophets, of a Saviour, who came in the fullness of time. He came to his own, and lived and taught, and revealed the heart of God, but his own rejected him. He wept over Jerusalem, and warned of coming judgment, and said that ‘all these things would come on this generation,’ and how he had wanted to gather them to himself, but they were not willing, and now their house was ‘left desolate.’ (Matthew 23).

The Lion and the Lamb
The Lamb shows us Jesus in all his purity and meekness – we love lambs, we play with them. The Lion shows us that he is King – sovereign and powerful and not to be trifled with. This Lamb is not to be messed with, not because he is a Lion, but because is the Lamb who has suffered, was slain, and is alive again, the worthy One. The one who took on flesh like ours, was tempted in every way as we are, the One who the devil through everything at, yet he conquered and so he has the right to judge.

As it says in the Acts of the Apostles:
“ Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:31,
and in Pauls letter to Tmothy:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead….”(2Ti 4:1).

We cannot have one aspect of Jesus without the other. The New Testament says “Our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29, and “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31.

I think Dorothy Sayers put it well when she wrote:
“We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggests a milk-and-water person; they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand.”

Monday, 10 October 2011

Heaven's Perspective

Perspective is everything, if we don’t have it we are in trouble.

In Revelation we encounter a persecuted and suffering church, and things are not going to get better. From their perspective it doesn’t look or feel good, later on we will hear the cry, “how long, O Lord?”

Following the messages to the seven churches we see heaven’s door open and we are immediately launched into heaven, “Come up here,…” (Rev.4:1) was the summons – an invitation into the very presence of God, and my what a revelation.

A Throne
This word will be repeated numerous times. Yes there is a throne in heaven upon which God sits, and from that throne he reigns. He has the first and last word.

John says that before it was “something like a sea of glass” – nothing can disturb, or trouble the throne of God. God is not thrown into a quandry by what’s going on on earth. In fact in the words of the psalmist, “The One enthroned in heaven laughs” (2:4 HCSB) at the schemes of man.

God is Trinity
“One was seated on the throne…. seven Spirits of God or the sevenfold Spirit of God….. A Lamb…” God is Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that blessed (happy) community of eternal fellowship that exists at the heart of the universe and is the cause and creator of it.

God is holy
The thrice holy – utterly unique One who is so much more and other than we are. How frequently we bring God down to our level, and then wonder why our Chrisitan experience is so feeble and frail.

The forever God
God who was.
God who is.
God is to come.
No beginning, no end. He reigns for ever and ever. Hallelujah!

We see him praised and worship:
1. For who he is (4:10).
2. For his work in creation (4:11).
3. For his work in redemption (5:9, 10, 12, 13).

How often our worship starts with ourselves – feelings: I don’t feel like it; self analysis: I don’t feel good enough; or with what we are going to do: “I will …”, “We will …” and then we wonder why we never get airbourne, why it seems hard work and little more than the old genie in a bottle trick.

When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, worship came first, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name…” it’s about two thirds of the way through that we get the confession, “Forgive us our sins…” Maybe your prayer life is taken up with too much of yourself – it’s all about you. That’s whirlpool worship, it sucks you in and leaves you exhausted.

David stirred himself up, spoke to himself, “Bless the Lord O my soul…” Psalm 103:1. Worship involves a looking away from ourselves to Another who is worthy in himself, and secondly for what he has done.

We need to get God’s perspective
Getting into God’s presence and get his perspective makes all the difference.

Yes life for the churches John was writing to was tough and going to get tougher, but God was on the throne, and he reigns. Satan and those he works through will not win. The world is God’s, he has wrought salvation, and his people can have every stong hope in him.

Perhaps your perspective has become skewed, fear has become your consellor, and you are on a downer - It’s time to get into the presence of God, to see him on his throne, to know that he commands your destiny, to get his perspective on your life.