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“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
Because the Word is double-edged [Hebrews 4:12], scriptures often list those who will not inherit the kingdom of God in contrast to those who will [i.e. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-25]. Just as light would not be understood without the contrast of darkness, the life that God desires for us is not always clear to the human mind without looking at that which is in opposition to God’s will.
Since God is holy–meaning no impurity or sin is in Him–and since He is the sovereign of heaven–the authority before whom we will stand judgment–it is imperative that we understand what God expects of us, both to do and not to do.
So why does cowardliness make the list? Remember that this letter of Revelation is being circulated among the churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor. Jesus, through John’s writing, tells the churches that they were going to face persecution, hardship, imprisonment and even death for His name’s sake [Revelation 2:3 & 8, 9-11 & 13; 3:8-9]. In each instance, if they held boldly to their faith, if they did not cower from the physical, social and cultural threats of the world [Matthew 10:28], they would be called victorious and receive the inheritance of eternal life. We are not of those who shrink back from the world in fear, renouncing our faith to save our skin [Hebrews 10:39]. Rather we are to stand firm in our faith [1 Corinthians 6:13; Ephesians 6:11-14], boldly proclaiming salvation through Jesus Christ. The cowardly turn their back on God when times get tough. They do not acknowledge Jesus before others; in turn, they will not be acknowledged before God [Matthew 10:32-33].
Obviously, those who do not believe in God will not be saved. For it is, by grace we are saved through faith [Romans 1:5 & 5:2; Ephesians 2:8]. And even if we continue to struggle against sin we can experience God’s grace and, by faith, salvation in our lives. But if we do not have faith, then we will never see heaven.
Vile means morally corrupt. Since morals–standards of belief and behavior–are established by God who is holy, corrupted morals are anything that deviate from His norm. It makes sense then that those who buy into Satan’s lie that we can be our own God and make our own morals [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14], will never inherit the kingdom of God.
This corrupted moral system includes murdering, any sexual behavior that deviates from God’s plan of one man and one woman within the confines of marriage for life, trying to summon magical powers rather than rightly seeking the power of God, creating images of false gods and praying to/worshiping them, and telling lies. Many of these were addressed in the well-known 10-commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. All of these are natural desires of sinful people, but can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, and are completely forgiven us through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Who is God in your life? You or God? Not sure? Well, whose standard of right and wrong are you living by? Yours, the world’s or God’s?
“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21
Less than 100 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the apostle John received the vision that we now know as the book of Revelation. It circulated among the churches of key cities in Asia Minor–a Greek province of the Roman Empire–which is modern-day Turkey.
About 150 years later in a port town of this same country, a little boy was born to wealthy, Christian parents. A little boy named Nicholas.
They raised him to know God and love Jesus. Nicholas was still young when his parents died, but believing God and obeying Jesus’ words in Mark 10:21 [and Matthew 19:21], Nicholas used his whole inheritance to help the needy, the sick and the suffering.
He sought to know God more, journeying to Israel so he could walk where Jesus walked and understand Jesus’ passion firsthand. He was a generous man who loved others with the selfless love of God. He was a praying man who saw God’s miracles in response to his prayers.
He went to prison for preaching the gospel and, when he got out, he met with the other church leaders of his day to ensure that Jesus and the Word of God weren’t being distorted or watered down in the churches in any way. Nicholas devoted his whole life to loving God and pointing others to do the same. He spent his whole life proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How sad he would be to know that in his death people turned their hearts to trust in him rather than in his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That people turned the stories of his faith into magical fictions that fill children’s hearts with disbelief in the one true God so that businesses can make a lot of money.
But this St. Nicholas Day, hear the message of the one we now know as Santa Claus, whispered across the ages–Look to the manger and know that Jesus alone is what makes Christmas real.
Are you following Jesus? Have you given everything to spread the gospel? Do you love everyone you meet with the love of the Lord?
“He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” Revelation 21:6-7
Unbelievable! The entire book of Revelation John has been spoken to by angels, and heard the voice of God the Father and God the Son. But this time, God doesn’t relay His message. He speaks right to John.
And what does God Almighty say? Just as He announced–when the angel poured out the seventh and final bowl of God’s wrath–that sin had met its end [Revelation 16:17], so now He proclaims Gegonen again. Only this time, all of heaven and creation have been made new. The work of the New Creation is done.
It’s interesting to note that, In the beginning [Genesis 1:1], derives from a different word than the Beginning used here. This totally makes sense since God is eternal and His creation is not. Like the Alpha and Omega that begin and end the Greek alphabet–an alphabet which does not contain every possible phoneme, or sound-letter-representative–God is the Beginning and the End of all things, though He Himself does not have a beginning or an end. He exists outside of created time just as His Word–that Word which created all things–exists outside of the Greek alphabet, and every other alphabet ever conceived.
He gives John the same gospel message to share with the world as Jesus brought–living water [John 4:13-14]. Water is so essential to the creation. It was the foundation of the world on which God created everything [Genesis 1:2]. It flows through every living organism, and without it, nothing can live.
Jesus is that spring of eternal living water. His death paid the wages of our sins, while we can freely receive His gift of eternal life [Romans 6:23].
But if it’s that easy to be saved–and it is–then what does God mean that we must overcome? Just as He counseled Cain so long ago, we must overcome the crouching tiger of sin who is waiting around every corner to devour us [Genesis 4:7]. But not in the way that we must defeat sin of our own accord. We are not gladiators thrown into a ring of divine entertainment. Jesus overcame it all [John 16:33] and–by His Holy Spirit living in us–we can stand firm in the faith [Ephesians 6:10-18].
When we choose to will and to act in obedience with God’s commands, then, like Christ, we show ourselves to be overcomers of this world–we show ourselves to be conduits of living water. And we become children of God [Galatians 4:7] and co-heirs with Christ [Romans 8:17]. Our inheritance? Heaven for all eternity.
Are you thirsty?
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
In the Levitical sacrificial system, the thanksgiving fellowship offering required making a variety of breads to share with God [Leviticus 7:11-15]. It was a time of reconciling sinful man with our holy God in anticipation of the day when our sins would be forgiven and we could daily fellowship with Him for eternity–heaven.
It’s no coincidence then, that Jesus called Himself the bread of life [John 6:35] or that He referred to His crucified body as bread broken for us [1 Corinthians 11:24]. Jesus was prepared lovingly by the Father to be the bread God offered as the one true fellowship offering for all time.
Give thanks! God made us. He loves us. And He wants to restore our relationship to Him so that we can live for eternity the way He intended. He made the way through His son Jesus, and all we have to do is believe on Him [John 3:16].
God is actively pursuing the hearts of every man, woman and child at all times. But we should just as actively be pursuing the heart of God. Those who hunger and thirst for the things of God will be filled with them and be blessed by them [Matthew 5:6]. This is not a physical desire to eat and drink. This is referring to the appetite of the mind, emotion and soul.
When we hunger to know Jesus, the bread of life, He shows Himself to us. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive them [1 John 1:9]. By faith in Him, we have eternal life [John 3:16]. He indwells us with His Holy Spirit so that we may live our lives in the power of God Most High [Acts 1:8]. When we thirst for eternal life, we ourselves do not rest until we take hold of it.
This drive for truth and righteousness results in finding them both. It is not a surface kind of hunger and thirst, it can only be satiated by digging deeper into the things of God, becoming more and more like Him with each passing day.
With Thanksgiving behind us and the celebration of the birth of Christ looming, hold on to an attitude of thanksgiving. Earnestly seek God. Hunger and thirst for more of Him each day. Get in His Word. Pray. Give thanks to Him in all things. Daily.
What desires drive your life? Do you recognize God pursuing your heart in your life? Are you persistently pursuing God’s heart?
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17
Yesterday’s scripture, Philippians 4:4-7, instructed us how to operate in our daily lives by faith.
Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. Receive peace. Repeat in all things.
Luke 6:45 tells us that from the overflow of our heart the mouth speaks–that is to say that the condition of our heart dictates our response to life.
So if our heart is full of God and full of rejoicing, bent towards prayer and thanksgiving, and therefore full of peace, then the daily walking out of our faith flows from heart to mouth to eternal-life affirming deeds.
Conversely, if our heart is not full of God, if there is little or no rejoicing, prayer or thanksgiving, and therefore much anxiety or even fear, then our faith is either sick or dying.
Because as James 2:17 above says, faith without action is dead. So believing in what we hope for but cannot see without actively giving thanks is like dragging around a dead weight in our heart. Like a seed that will never grow into the plant it was meant to be is faith that doesn’t rejoice, faith that doesn’t pray, and faith that doesn’t give thanks and receive peace.
But how can one be forgiven a lifetime of sins, gain eternal life, and not be moved to give thanks [Luke 7:47]? Does the thanks you give equal the faith you profess to have?
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
In Philippians, Paul speaks God’s truth into our culture. Rejoice in the Lord always! For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. They’re not just the words for wedding ceremonies. After all, the church is the bride of Christ. We are to live this life with Him as our beloved, rejoicing in Him in every situation.
When we can relax and rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ, we become a gentle people that show others the truth of God with us. If people deny His existence, it’s because we first have denied Him with how we live our lives. If people reject Him as Lord of all, it’s because we first have rejected His call to live and love this world as He does. Our faith needs to be evident to all, to the glory and honor of God.
When we are full of worry and doubt, stress, anxiety and tension, we are giving in to the attacks of sin on our lives. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world, but He also told us that He overcame all of it [John 16:33]. I don’t know about you, but that makes me incredibly thankful!
And since the mouth speaks what the heart is full of [Luke 6:45], then I can truly in every situation–for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health–give thanks to my Creator God. To my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To my comforter, the Holy Spirit.
No matter what comes our way, we can relax and pray a prayer of thanksgiving that Jesus has overcome. We can relax and petition God to act faithfully on our behalf, giving thanks that Jesus has overcome. We can relax and bring our requests straight to God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, giving thanks that Jesus opened the way for our direct communication with the Father.
Having a heart centered on giving thanks to God, guards us with peace. Our hearts and minds can relax in the peace of God. A peace that those who have denied His existence will never know.
When is the last time you felt genuinely thankful?
As Americans we live in a society where our needs are usually met and even many of the things we don’t need are available if not provided for us as well–by human hands. Most of us live in general comfort–which ironically leads to discontentment, even boredom, and a general spirit of ungratefulness for the things that we have and the people who provide them–though it should make us eternally grateful.
Does your heart overflow with thankfulness to God? Is this heart of thanksgiving evident to all? Do you rest thankfully in His peace?
“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’ Then the people bowed and worshipped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.” Exodus 12:24-28
The Passover. But isn’t that right before Easter? As in not November?
Yes, it is. But Passover originated in a Thanksgiving feast eaten in faith that God would do what He said if the Israelites first obeyed what He said.
Now thankfulness to God and the act of giving thanks definitely occurred in scripture long before this first Passover–Abel’s offerings came from a heart of thankfulness and reverence [Genesis 4:4], Noah built an altar and sacrificed out of a thankful heart when he finally was able to leave the ark [Genesis 8:20]. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each gave thanks to God throughout their lifetimes. Joseph too. No doubt Moses’ mother and father gave God thanks for protecting their son from Pharaoh’s edict and for returning him to their care [Exodus 2:8-9; Hebrews 11:23].
And thankfulness is the natural response of the forgiven heart [Psalm 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:57].
The instruction to observe thankfulness was a lasting one. Not just a one and done. As God’s love endures forever, so our thankfulness should go on and on–on this earth just as it does in heaven [Revelation 4:8-9].
The Israelites ate a celebratory meal in anticipation of God’s faithfulness, of Him keeping His promise as spoken through Moses. By faith, they gave God thanks through obedience. They could only trust that God would do what He said.
This week, we as Americans will gather together with our loved ones to give thanks for all that God has already done for us. And to be sure, He has done great things [Psalm 107:8, et al]. We have much to be thankful for! But God calls us to live out thankfulness by faith–a life lived in thanksgiving for the things that He has yet to accomplish in our lives, things that He has promised but that we may never see come to fruition in our lifetime [Hebrews 11:39-40].
Can you imagine the power of such a statement?
I’m thankful that God will–heal, provide in every situation, move mountains, answer prayer, guide in His wisdom, accomplish His will–you name it!
I’m thankful that Jesus will acknowledge me before His Father one day [Matthew 10:32-33].
I’m thankful that my someday-spouse will love God and spiritually lead our home, that my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will know and love God–that they will impact their generation to the glory and honor of God.
What are you thankful for by faith? What has God spoken into your future? What has He promised that you may not live long enough to see? Are you seeking and giving thanks for that kind of spiritual legacy?