Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lessons from The Seven Churches of Revelation

The Seven Churches of the Book of Revelation tells us the different kinds of churches that we have learn much from and be a mirror for us to review our own church. It shows us the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church. The good and bad of the churches. and the call for repentance and correction with promises of rewards were given by Jesus. It gives us great comfort and encouragement in this challenging times. What kind of church do you have and how can you make improvement for the church and your spiritual walk with Jesus?
The Overview of Seven Churches
We can study the seven churches one at a time. We can also study them as a group. We will do both in this post because there are many benefits to gain by taking these two different viewpoints. Some people think that the seven churches represent the seven stages of the history of the church. Others think that they are the seven types of the church at the end times. The important thing for me is --- what can we learn from each of them and as a collection of them. Here is the summary:
I. The Study of Individual Church

For each church, we can see the pattern given, Jesus described some attributes about Himself, then praised them for the good work, pointed out their bad things, called them to repent, warned them of the consequences if unrepented and promised them of the rewards.  We will go through each of the church as shown in the sequence of mind-maps.

1 Ephesian Church - Lost of 1st Love - Truth overrides Love.

2 Smyrna - Persecuted but Living Church
As Christ has suffered for us, we shall also be willing to suffer as Him for the sake of His church.
  • Philippians 3:10 I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.
  •  Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
  • Mark 8:36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

3 Pergamum - Compromised Church

4  Thyatira - Misguided In Darkness Church

5 Sardis - Appearance Only, Form without Substance Dying Church

6 Philadelphia - Obedient Powerful Church

7 Laodicea - Materialistic Church

II. Studying them as a Consolidated Group:

Jesus and the Church:
See also: Knowing Jesus through the Seven Churches of Revelation

The Good of the Churches:

The Bad:
See also: The Qualities of Good Believers from the Seven Churches of Revelation

The Corrections:

The Warning:

The Rewards:

See also: Your Eternal Rewards in Heaven according to the 7 Churches of Revelation

The Key Truths:
See also: Lessons from The Seven Churches of Revelation
and 7 Management Principles of Jesus in His Letters to the Seven Churches

III. Applications:

Which kind of church do you have?
Most likely, you have some of this and that. The key thing is to examine ourselves and our church and make corrections before it is too late.

May God bless you and your church that they may be God's shining light on this earth pointing others to Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

Lim Liat (c) 12 Oct 2015

Friday, October 9, 2015

Religion vs The Gospel - Learning From Tim Keller

Is your Gospel a religion or a good news? What is the difference? How are you living out the Gospel?
Our Bible Study group has a discussion based on Tim Keller's Sermon on Losing Our Religion which in summarized in a mind map at Loosing Our Religion and Knowing Jesus Rightly. Recently, Tim Keller podcast has a related sermon called Inside-Out Kingdom which covers the attractiveness of the Gospel and we included that in our Bible Study as well. The key bible passage referred is Luke 18:9-14 - The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. 

Religion - A Set of Standards to Earn Your Acceptance (salvation by work).
What is a religion? A religion is a set of rules for good behavior that you obey to earn your rights for acceptance and justification. It is salvation by work of the laws (the rules of good conduct). You start with nothing and do to get right. Your worth is defined by what you have done externally. You are very self-conscious and also insecure. Insecurity comes from having to obey the laws. If you think you have obey them, you feel proud. If you fail to obey them, you feel condemn. To make you feel better, you will be looking for others sins and be quick to condemn them to make yourself feel superior and better. This is exactly what the Pharisee did. Luke 18:9 ...trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.

  • 18v11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee,
    While he addressed God, it is all about himself. He is telling God how good he is. He is thanking God not about how good God is but how good he is. He proudly stood in the center for all to see and hear his prayers of how good he is doing.
  • that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican (tax collector)
    He is saying he is better than others , they are sinners, especially the tax collector in the corner. A religious self-righteous person is quick to prejudge and condemn others to show his superiority. A loving person is sensitive to others needs and see if he can help. He/she see their sufferings and needs due to their bondage to sins.
  • 18v12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
    While such acts are good, the motivations behind such acts are more important. God sees and judge by the hearts and intentions of man. Jesus said hatred and lustful thoughts towards others are already committing the sins of murder and adultery correspondingly. Religious people do good work not for the good of the work but for the show-off and the earning of good points for oneself. 
The Gospel - Begins with Repentance and Acceptance

A believer on the other hand, begins with knowing one's sins and be repentant to receive the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ who paid the price and gives the new life. The Good News of the Gospel is there is hope and assurance for anyone who repents.  It is not by our good work; we could not save ourselves because we are conscious of the sinfulness within. Not that we cannot do good work. It is just that our good work on the outside cannot change the sinfulness within us. We need a rebirth of a new life. The Gospel is not about making bad people good but rather making dead people alive. A transformation of a new life is needed. But its reception begins with repentance ....
  • 13 And the publican(tax collector), standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
    We see the shame and repentant heart of the Tax collector. He acknowledged his sins (may be he cheated by over-collecting taxes from others and under-declaring on his submission to the higher authority.). He is asking God for forgiveness. 
  • 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
    Jesus proclaimed the forgiveness for the tax-collector. Without Jesus' redemption on the cross, repentance is of no use. The OT sacrifices of animals for men's sins have no effect without Jesus' payment. The cross of Jesus in the NT actually rectifies the sacrifices of the OT.
The Gospel is so much better ...

Here is a mind-map summary of Tim Keller's Inside-Out Kingdom that shows the goodness of the Gospel.

Some key points to emphasize:
  • Believers are salts --- salts focus on making others taste better. They bring out the beauty and strengths of others rather than itself. Believers make others look better.
  • Believers righteousness exceeds that of Pharisees --- How? Believers are internal driven whereas Religiosity is outward driven.
  • Turning the other cheek is not about offering to be slapped again but rather expecting to have a kiss of friendship from animosity. (The Middle Eastern Customers of friendship is about touching of cheeks or kissing of cheeks). Believers go the extra mile to turn enemy into friends by the love of Christ. This is the real meaning of being more than conqueror.See The Meaning of "More than Conquerors.
  • Don't go over to other extreme to neglect the Laws.
    We are all quite aware of the danger of  'legalistic" Christianity. However, many, the seeker friendly and prosperity gospels preachers, preached it as if obeying the Laws of God is bad. On the contrary, " one of the ways you know you’re a Christian is that you love to study the law of God and obey it. Ps 1v2"
See also Legalism or Discipline

Lim Liat (c) 10 Oct 2015