After 8 years of Pastoring, I have finally decided to tackle the book of Revelation. This won’t be an in depth study. There are better authors and eschatologists labouring away at that. I have instead (as always) tried to tune in to what God wants to say to our congregation today.
The theme that is sitting with me strongest is that of ‘completing the race’… of running, not growing weary, and persevering… As I was planning a theme around this, one of our congregation simply asked…. “Are you ever going to do a study on Revelation?” And at that moment, in a sudden flash of clarity… I said “Yes… next week”
So, here we are…
“You are not the Prize”
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV) “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
It is easy as we go about our lives and our days, that we slip into an accidental form of faith… a form of faith that is hung on the structures and purposes of our own lives, like clothes hung on a very large and bulky coat rack. We sing the right songs at church, pray great prayers, say the right things, and even read the right books and preach great sermons… but often in life… it almost seems that these prayers, books, sermons, conversations and thoughts about God are there to re-enforce our own thoughts about ourselves and God rather than transform us into someone new…
As I was studying Revelation I was struck by a very powerful thought… some would say, the pivotal theme of the whole book. That we are small… that our struggles, our thoughts, our lives and our pains (no matter how significant they are to us) are tiny in the grand drama of eternity. In fact… We are but a small piece of eternity, orbiting a universal center that is absolutely not us. In showing us heaven and eternity, and heaven and earth rebuilt within eternity, the author, John shows us a picture of life that is designed to put God at the center of everything.
So, what better place to start thinking about this, than in Hebrews. This simple scripture guides us in to a way of thinking that really helps us step in to more…
“…Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders…” Since we are surrounded by all who have come before us, all the champions of faith”… who persevered but did not see the fruits of that perseverance… that realised that their reward was rooted in an eternal view of history… “let us throw off everything that Hinders”… That word actually means “Everything that weighs us down”, Everything that is a weight on our minds, bodies and hearts.
My bills weigh me down. So do my responsibilities, and many of my relationships, and my work deadlines, and the effectiveness of my social media accounts, and at times (more than I probably realise) the emotional investment I have on certain TV shows and cinematic universes. The Scripture continues, encouraging us to throw off the …“Sin that so easily entangles”… It does right? It entangles… envy… jealousy… judgement… idolatry… gluttony (our consumerism and consumption)… apathy… indifference. Sin is embedded in so many of our thoughts and actions, it ensnares and traps… I really don’t know how people who are more religious than me manage to get so upset at other peoples sins, when my own are so glaringly obvious.
The scripture then takes an interesting turn… It encourages us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.…”
If Jesus is the goal post, the cross, the “us defined by the grace of God” is the goal, then all those weights and sins can’t be the destinations our eyes are fixed on. This is a perfect starting place when thinking about revelation, because it sums it up.
In his Book “unholy Allegiances: Heeding Revelation’s warning”; Author David A. DeSilva put it this way…”consider how we tend to invoke God and involve God in the religious settings of which I am a part, I find John’s vision of a God-centered cosmos raising even more disturbing questions about whether or not we are guilty of treating God as if he orbited around us, expecting God to show up to do our bidding, warming our hearts here, healing us there, taking care of this concern or problem over here. John would have disciples in every age understand—and live like they understand—that they exist to do God’s bidding, because God created all things for the doing of God’s will and pleasure (4: 11).
This re-centering of our faith within the context of history and the drama of eternity is a great place to start any discussions about Revelation, but also any inward journey into a deeper journey of faith.
I’ll continue to post ideas and sermon summaries on this theme as they come up.
Have an incredible week and as ‘homework’ take sometime to observe yourself… your faith, your work, prayers and thought-life. If you compassionately observe yourself… What is your center?