Myanmar 2018 Part 7: Confessing Great Things 16 DEC 2018

Myanmar 2018 SEVEN Part series


Part 1:
Overcoming Obstacle to Revival
21 OCT 2018

Part 2:
The Word and Spirit of Love
29 OCT 2018

Part 3:
Glorious Unity
05 NOV 2018

Part 4:
Stephen and the Final Judgement
19 NOV 2018


Part 5:
Restoring God’s Reputation
25 NOV 2018

Part 6:
The Glory of Angels
12 DEC 2018

Part 7:
Confessing Great Things
16 DEC 2018

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1 Tim 3:14-16 | 1 Tim 6:11-16

vs.14I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, vs.15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. vs.16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Tim 3:14-16 ESV)

INTRODUCTION

I was praying during the night in Myanmar about what to preach the next morning and had a sense the Lord was speaking about “great things”; this passage with its language of “great we confess/testify” came to mind.

Keen Christians everywhere love to give testimony about God’s great acts in their lives. 

Every week in Perth Prayer we have someone give such a testimony. This is usually very God-glorifying, but occasionally the centre of the testimony is the person’s own experience and ministry.

It’s easy to forget that “The story is not our story with a role for Christ. The story is Christ’s story with roles for us.” (R. Jenson).

The power of today’s reading is that its an extremely concentrated summary of key phases in the life of Jesus. And it is to the life of Jesus that we must relentlessly turn again and again.

This has been impressed on my soul in an indelible way which I believe has forever shaped my identity.

I will never forget some comments from Geoff Bingham when he was over in Perth for a conference. He’d just had a conversation with one of my students who remarked, “All of John’s students are afraid of him.” Geoff said to me, “I think it’s because you speak of great things.”; and all the things of Christ are the greatest things.

EXPOSITION

vs.14I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that

Paul longed to see Timothy face to face, but in the meantime sent a letter, as he did to all the churches, to communicate to them how they should live. And our manner of life will flow from what we understand of the behaviour of God towards us in Christ1)Eph 4:32 ESV; Phil 2:5-13 ESV; 1 John 4:19 ESV etc..

(vs.14 … so that), vs.15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

This passage opens with a very exalted view of the Church. We are “the household of God”, that is, God’s family, for he is our one Father (Eph 4:6 ESV).

We are “the church of the living God”. Someone came forward for prayer a few nights before I preached this sermon asking to know the living God.

The “living God” doesn’t bear the name Buddha, or Allah or in Paul’s time the name of one of the pagan gods (cf. 1 Cor 8:4-6 ESV).

The “living God” is exclusively and exhaustively defined by his activity in the life of Jesus. So we prayed for this searcher that he come to know Christ! The Christ, that is, of which Paul is about to testify.

To call the Church “a pillar and buttress of the truth” means that it holds up the standard of truth in the world.

There’s nothing more secure in this world than the truth lived out by the Church and human beings crave security.

I remember being in Uganda on the second story of a building during a rain storm, my African companion was quite anxious because he rightly understood that such buildings quite commonly collapse in that part of the world because they’re not properly constructed.

The Church is a spiritual building that must be constructed on the foundation only of Christ (1 Cor 3:11 ESV). Since the Christian community holds a central place in presenting the truth of God in the world it’s no surprise that false teaching inside the Church is a never-ending problem e.g.2)Matt 24:11 ESV; Acts 20:30 ESV; 2 Cor 11:13 ESV; 1 Tim 4:1 ESV ff., 2 Pet 2:1 ESV.

In recent years under pressure from the LGBT+ lobby an increasing number of Evangelical scholars have swung around to support committed homosexual relationships and same sex marriage claiming its compatible with the Bible. These are false witnesses under the power of the devil.

Pilate sceptically asked Jesus a question which our cynical society might ask today, ““What is truth?”(John 18:38 ESV). As a young man I thought in every way that I was an earnest “seeker after truth” and that’s what led me to read the Bible and come to Christ.

But it took me a long time to realise truth isn’t a set of accurate ideas but a Person, Jesus. As he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”(John 14:6 ESV).

Or as Paul comments, “the truth is in Jesus”  (Eph 4:21 ESV), and so quite remarkably, “the truth of Christ is in me(2 Cor 11:10 ESV).

In the context of our passage the shape of the life of Christ which Paul will expound is the Truth about humanity and its relationship with God. The confession of verse 16 is a confession of ultimate truthfulness.

vs.16Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

The cry Allahu akbar / God is the greatest.”  arises billions of times daily across the earth.

I recall being in a part of Cairo when the hills surrounding a church funnelled these words from numerous loud speakers on minarets all calling out the same thing at once- it was almost a hypnotic experience.

For the followers of Jesus the greatness of God isn’t located pre-eminently in the power of God as Creator-Judge but in the humanity of the Son of God who was great enough to humble himself in becoming human, to live, die on a cross, and, for us, return as a human into the eternal glory of God (John 17:5 ESV).

we confess”, confession here means to testify in some pubic way. Preaching, teaching and prophesying in the Church, evangelism in the world, holding fast (Phil 2:16 ESV) to the truth about Jesus when on trial or persecuted are all forms of confession.

mystery” is an important word in the New Testament, especially in Paul3)Rom 16:25-26 ESV; 1 Cor 2:7 ESV; 4:1; Eph 1:9 ESV; 3:3-9 ESV; 6:19 ESV; Col 1:26-27 ESV; 2:2; 4:3 ESV. It always means something once hidden in God but now revealed in the coming of Jesus Christ.

The revelation of the mystery especially involves the inclusion of the nations/Gentiles in the saving plan of God. We non-Jews now take our salvation for granted, but for ages you had to belong to Israel to be saved.

godliness” in the New testament4)1 Tim 4:7-8 ESV; 1 Tim 6:3, 6, 11 ESV; Tit 1:1 ESV; 2 Pet 1:3, 6 ESV; 2 Pet 3:11 ESV never happens in private but is a form of life that can be seen by others.

It means visibly sharing in the shape of the perfectly God-like life of Jesus (John 14:9 ESV)!

Paul most famously expounded this godliness in the Christ hymn of Philippians 2:5-11 ESV which speaks of the emptying, suffering and exaltation of Jesus. He is about to cover the same territory here but more briefly.

manifested in the flesh” points to the Incarnation; “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth(John 1:14 ESV).

What sort of flesh did the eternal Son of God become? Jesus himself said, “the flesh is useless(John 6:63 ESV), powerless in itself to bring about God’s will.

Jesus had to become this wretched flesh in order to destroy it; vs.3… God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh(Rom 8:3 ESV).

Jesus was fully identified with us in our weakened depraved humanity, “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin(Heb 4:15 ESV).

Jesus was not a super man with super powers, but a humble sinless human being filled with the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:28 ESV). In this context “manifested in the flesh” includes its crucifixion.

vindicated by the Spirit” says something immeasurably important. As a reference to the resurrection of Jesus in the power of the Spirit (Rom 1:4 ESV) it reveals that Jesus was perfectly in the right with God, that is, “justified”.

Whereas the highest human powers condemned Jesus as a blasphemer, criminal and trouble-maker worthy of death the tribunal of God declared Jesus to be innocent of any sin and perfectly righteous by raising him from the dead (Isa 53:11 ESV).

Romans 4 sums up what this all means for us, “Jesus our Lord… was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.(Romans 4:25 ESV)

The resurrection of Jesus is the content our justification and his risen glory is our peace with God (cf. Rom 5:1 ESV).

This means there can be no degrees of justification in Christ.

The fulness of the revelation of our justification with Jesus awaits own resurrection with him at the Last Judgement; vs.20our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, vs.21 who will transform four lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.(Phil 3:20-21 ESV). In the meantime, we live by faith.

seen by angels” most likely refers to the ascension of Jesus into heaven. vs.9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. vs.10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,vs.11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”(Acts 1:9-11 ESV)

The ascension involves Christ being taken up into the highest position of honour, power and authority at the Father’s right hand5)Mark 14:62 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV; Heb 8:1 ESV. Angels are witnesses to the Lord’s majesty and victory and assist us to confess our faith.

proclaimed among the nations” refers to the ongoing gospel proclamation in the world. It is what Paul committed his life to. Bringing Christ to others is central to our confession.

believed on in the world” doesn’t refer to some sort of “nominal” Christianity, like the Australia of the 1950’s in which I grew up when nearly everyone would say they were a “Christian”. It means deep full-hearted trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord.

taken up in glory” points to Jesus’ permanent position at the right hand of God. This was the highlight of my recent preaching on the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts 7. It is as he is fearlessly confessing the greatness of Christ, that “he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God(Acts 7:55 ESV).

This glory isn’t the glory of the earthly Jesus, or even of the Jesus who conversed with the disciples after this resurrection, but his eternal radiance in heaven.

Stephen’s revelation of Christ “taken up in glory” follows on from the fact that, as Paul puts it later in 1 Timothy, the original confession is made by Jesus himself, “Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession(1 Tim 6:13 ESV). Stephen shared, as we all can, in the greatness of Christ the Testifier.

Great things” is the medium in which all Christians live. For Jesus said, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12 ESV).

The key to doing these “greater works” is not to focus on the works but the fact that Jesus has gone to the Father.

For us Jesus himself put it, ““You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”(John 14:28 ESV)

CONCLUSION

Human beings were always created for great things, not the limited things of this world nor the mystical Nirvana or Paradise of other religions, but the truly great thing made real in the life of the God-man Jesus.

To speak out and live out the truth of Jesus is our destiny and the purpose of the Church as “the pillar and buttress of the truth”.

To lose sight of these things is the explanation for the weakness of so much of contemporary Church life. How can this change?

C.S. Lewis once said its not about great faith in God but faith in a great God.

In like manner we should not seek to possess a great vision, as many church leaders do, but to receive a revelation of the greatness of Christ.

Then we will invariably confess “great things” in the Spirit because such marvels will have laid hold of us (cf. 2 Cor 5:14 ESV).

Rightly said, “Do you not know…what God’s estimate of the gospel is?  Do you not know that it has been the chief subject of His thoughts and acts from all eternity?  He looks on it as the grandest of all His works(Charles Spurgeon)

In our hearts every truly “born again” believer carries the mystery of Christ and it is super-natural work of the Spirit to place the testimony of Jesus on our lips.


vs.8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); vs.9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.


Rom 10:8-9 ESV

As we do confess such “great things” our lives, by action and reaction, praise, persecution and perseverance will be transformed to become more and more like the Jesus to whom we testify6)Rev 1:2, 6, 9 ESV; Rev 12:17 ESV; Rev 19:10 ESV.

1 Timothy 3:16 ESV expounds the shape of a godly life, Jesus’ life.

For us, some of this is future, awaiting our resurrection, but what is the decision of our life today?

Are there parts of our lives where we live like “nominal” believers, or are we going deeper and deeper into glory.

The one who when on trial himself made “the good confession(1 Tim 6:13 ESV) and never regretted it can help us become more and more like him. 

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 ESV) 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 16th. December, 2018 Location: Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

16th December, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. Eph 4:32 ESV; Phil 2:5-13 ESV; 1 John 4:19 ESV etc.
2. Matt 24:11 ESV; Acts 20:30 ESV; 2 Cor 11:13 ESV; 1 Tim 4:1 ESV ff., 2 Pet 2:1 ESV.
3. Rom 16:25-26 ESV; 1 Cor 2:7 ESV; 4:1; Eph 1:9 ESV; 3:3-9 ESV; 6:19 ESV; Col 1:26-27 ESV; 2:2; 4:3 ESV
4. 1 Tim 4:7-8 ESV; 1 Tim 6:3, 6, 11 ESV; Tit 1:1 ESV; 2 Pet 1:3, 6 ESV; 2 Pet 3:11 ESV
5. Mark 14:62 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV; Heb 8:1 ESV
6. Rev 1:2, 6, 9 ESV; Rev 12:17 ESV; Rev 19:10 ESV

Myanmar 2018 Part 6: The Glory of Angels 13 DEC 2018

Myanmar 2018 SEVEN Part series


Part 1:
Overcoming Obstacle to Revival
21 OCT 2018

Part 2:
The Word and Spirit of Love
29 OCT 2018

Part 3:
Glorious Unity
05 NOV 2018

Part 4:
Stephen and the Final Judgement
19 NOV 2018


Part 5:
Restoring God’s Reputation
25 NOV 2018

Part 6:
The Glory of Angels
12 DEC 2018

Part 7:
Confessing Great Things
16 DEC 2018

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INTRODUCTION

Whilst the activity of angels occupies a significant place in the teaching of scripture their role seems rarely understood. Churches either effectively ignore the angelic host or swing to the other extreme of an unhealthy fascination with these supernatural beings.

Recording of angelic singing have done the rounds of the churches more than once. You may have heard prayers where people ask God to send his angels for protection or intervention.

This comes close to “telling God what to do” and is a request modelled in scripture.

It’s not only today’s Christians who have been intrigued about angels, the recipients of the letter to Colossians were in danger of “the worship of angels” (Col 2:18 ESV)

This probably means joining in the worship angels perform, a sharing through some form of mystical-ascetic devotion rather than the mediation of Christ.

The readers of Hebrews needed to be convinced that Christ is superior to the angels (Heb 1:4 ESV ff.).

Confusion over angels is a symptom of a failure to subject angelology to Christology.

Paul can use the expression “the elect angels” (1 Tim 5:21 ESV) for the purpose of the angelic creation exists solely in terms of their being chosen in Christ.

This means that the majesty and glory of the angels is not static but has increased through Christ in the progress of the plan of God. Since angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation(Heb 1:14 ESV) it is not too much to say that because of our union with Christ the angels were created to serve us in the wonder plan of redemption.

ANGELS AND THE PLAN OF GOD

The creation and election of the angelic host is contained in God’s eternal choice of his Son to be Saviour.

The angels are integral to the plan of God in Christ. In dealing with the “Colossian heresy” of elevating supernatural beings like angels into some sort of mediatorial capacity in salvation Paul is adamant about the pre-eminence of Christ, vs.15Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, vs.16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.(Col 1:15-16 ESV)

Angels exist in the plan of God in relation to the Incarnation. Not in relation to an abstract disembodied eternal Son of God.

When Hebrews testifies that “in these last days he/God has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the ages(Heb 1:2 ESV) it has the Word made flesh, the human Son of God in mind.

Likewise, the biblical testimony of vs.19the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.vs.20 …chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.(1 Pet 1:19-20 ESV), and “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world(Rev 13:8 ESV) means the eternal plan of God included a place for angels.

Whenever we encounter angelic activity throughout scriptures it must be interpreted as serving the, vs.9the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ vs.10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.(Eph 1:9-10 ESV).

Angels are serving a universal purpose that will unite them with us in Christ in one Body. Angels are ministers of the Word of God par excellence, coming from heaven their words are equivalent to God speaking.

Naturally then angels are keenly interested in what the Lord is doing in humanity and especially the glory of God for the human race. This would seem to be intimately related to the description of angels as “glorious ones1)2 Pet 2:10 ESV; Jude 1:8 ESV.

This is especially true if the original vocation of the host of heaven was to guard the glory of God in creation2)Gen 3:22 ESV cf. Isa 14:12-14 ESV; Ezek 28:11-17 ESV.

Perhaps originally not from personal evil but from cosmic disorder3)cf. Gen 1:2 ESV; Pss. 29:10 ESV; Pss. 74:12-17 ESV; Pss. 89:10-15 ESV; Pss. 93:1-5 ESV; Pss. 104:1-9 ESV; Job 9:5-14 ESV; Job 26:5-14 ESV; Job 38:7-11 ESV.

They were called to assist in bringing creation to its completion by overcoming the latent forces of chaos. The fall of the creatures we now call the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41 ESV) is beyond the scope of this teaching.

However, it must have involved a foundational rejection of the moral beauty of the plan of God.

A rejection that human beings should through redemption become more highly elevated than angels, by nature superior in strength and intelligence (Jonathan Edwards)?

ANGELS AND GLORY

As rational feeling beings from their creation the holy angels enjoyed intimate insight into the moral beauty of God and so delighted with an indescribable joy.

When present at the glory of the creation event4)Ps 19:1 ESV; Ps 72:19 ESV; Ps 104:24 ESV; Isa 6:3 ESV; Rom 1:20 ESVthe sons of God(i.e. angels , Job 1:6 ESV)shouted for joy(Job 38:7 ESV).

Ultimately because they discerned a happy wisdom (Prov 8:30-31 ESV) which would culminate in the perfection of the image of God in Jesus (1 Cor 1:24 ESV).

If celestial powers make up the divine council5)1 Ki 22:19-23 ESV; Pss 82:1 ESV ff; Jer 23:22 ESV then the angels would have participated in the election of Israel as God’s human “sons… daughters… created for my glory(Isa 43:6-7 ESV).

There is debate about whether the “let us mankind in our own image” of the creation of humanity is a dialogue between the Lord and the angels? If it is, it would indicate that angels, as sons of God6)Gen 6:2 ESV; Job 1:6 ESV; Job 2:1 ESV; Job 38:7 ESV, bear the image of God.

The scriptures testify that angels mediated the giving of the Law7)Acts 7:53 ESV; Gal 3:19 ESV; an occasion of great glory for Israel (Ex 24:16-18 ESV).

Yahweh himself is “enthroned above the cherubim” on the ark of the covenant which is the throne of his glory8)Ex 40:35 ESV; 1 Sam 4:4, 21-22 ESV; 2 Sam 6:2 ESV; Pss. 80:1 ESV; Pss. 99:1 ESV; Isa 37:16 ESV.

In Ezekiel’s vision of the glory of God the cherubim take the place of the Lord’s footstool9)Ezek 1:22 ESV; Ezek 10:1 ESV ff. and they transport the visible glory of God away from Jerusalem.

This connection points to a relationship between angels and the return of the glory of God to Israel in Jesus.

They would have understood that the plan of God encompasses the coming of Christ for fallen humanity in a way which will lift them into a greater glory.

With the Word of God now immediately related to a creature in Christ God nearer to angels than before.

They steward the manifestation of the glory of the invisible God10)Col 1:15 ESV; 1 Tim 1:17 ESV cf. Rom 1:20 ESV in the life of Christ.

Knowing that the “Son is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe”, them included, “by the word of his power(Heb 1:3 ESV) they are intently committed to the course of Christ’s life unto glory.

It is Christ, not us, who is first of all foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified and requires angelic assistance11)Eph 1:3 ESV; 1 Tim 3:16 ESV; 1 Pet 1:20 ESV; cf. Rom 8:29-30 ESV.

As identifying himself as the new Jacob and the gate of heaven, Jesus defined the ministry of angels in relation to his own Person, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”(John 1:51 ESV) (citing Gen 28:16-17 ESV)

As such angels are joyfully present at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:9-15 ESV). In strengthening him in the wilderness12)Matt 4:11 ESV; Mark 1:13 ESV and at Gethsemane (Luke 22:43 ESV) their ministry confirmed Jesus in his human journey towards immortality.

Satan seems to have understood this when he quoted from Psalm 91 to test Jesus in the wilderness, ““‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”(Matt 4:5-6 ESV).

Angels are radiant at the empty tomb13)Matt 28:2 ESV; John 20:12 ESV and the ascension into heaven14)Acts 1:10 ESV; 1 Tim 3:16 ESV.

The most striking concentration point for the ministry of angels in relation to the glory of Christ is however his Second Coming.

Here angels are ministers of judgement:
(Matt 13:39 ESV ff) | (Matt 13:49-50 ESV) | (Matt 16:27 ESV) | (Matt 24:31 ESV) | (Matt 25:31 ESV) | (1 Thess 4:16 ESV) 

“whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”(Matt 8:38 ESV; Luke 9:26 ESV)

vs.6God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, vs.7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels vs.8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.(2 Thess 1:6-8 ESV cf. Jude 1:14-15 ESV).

The book of Revelation reaches a redemptive climax with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb when Christ returns to judge the nations accompanied by “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and purefollowing him on white horses(Rev 19:14 ESV).

The military imagery supports an angelic interpretation of the armies of the Lord15)Ps 103:21 ESV; Ps 148:2 ESV; Zech 1:12 ESV etc., but the pure white robes suggests the saints of God washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 19:8 ESV).

Most likely we are to see that the army of the End consists of the entire holy family of God, human and angelic (Eph 3:14-15 ESV), enforcing in unison the final triumph of the Lamb.

THE CROSS AND THE ADORATION OF THE ANGELS

The cross must be a matter of sheer marvel and astonishment in the eyes of the holy angels.

That he who through whom and for whom they were created (Col 1:15-16 ESV) and who as God is their infinite superior (Heb 1:1-13 ESV) should be “made for a little while lower than the angels(Heb 2:7 ESV) is beyond their comprehension.

Yet the path of the humbled humanity of  Christ means as “crowned with honour and glory because of the suffering of death(Heb 2:9 ESV) as  a human being Jesus now reigns over both earthly and angelic realms (Heb 2:8 ESV).

To them the wisdom of God is entirely transparent and infinitely superior to all other wisdoms.

This means the Incarnation has brought a major shift to angelic identity.

They are now servants not only of the “LORD of hosts/angel armies” (Isa 6:5 ESV etc. 223 times in OT) but of “him who sits on the throne and … the Lamb(Rev 5:13 ESV).

For “Jesus Christ… has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.(1 Pet 3:21-22 ESV).

Their worship is now directed to God the Father through a divine-human being! 

They are now subject to the authority of a fellow creature who knows what it is to live a submissive life; this Creator-creature union in Christ has brought a massive increase in angelic glory.

Their worship of God and Christ is drawn out of their very being as they are upheld by the en-fleshed Word and directed16)John 1:14 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV towards the goal of God’s great plan for unity in Christ (Eph 1:10 ESV).

Holy, spiritual and incorruptible as angels may be the form of angelic glory is also their limitation; the gospel preached by the Spirit contains mysteries about “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories…. into which angels long to look(1 Pet 1:12 ESV)

They cognitively grasp that the way of suffering is the way of glory (Luke 24:26 ESV), but as disembodied they cannot share directly in such suffering, and resurrection, unlike us!

As “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation(Heb 1:14 ESV) their whole being is taken up into serving the realisation of the what it means for the Church to bear the image of God in Christ as his Bride. (This is something they cannot be a part of, they cannot after all marry (Matt 22:30 ESV)Nevertheless, they are eternally content in the form of their own glory and in this way a lesson to us in the time before the End.)

ANGELS REVEAL THE LAMB TO THE BRIDE

Jesus cautioned, ““See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.(Matt 18:10 ESV).

Those who treat lightly the sheep of God who constantly enjoy his favour will lose God’s favour towards themselves (cf. Matt 25:31-46 ESV).

Jesus’ words also imply that the angels in seeing the glory of God’s fatherly care for the precious little ones share in a reflected glory.

This must be because the vulnerable “little ones” radiate something of the image of God in Christ (cf. Col 3:10 ESV). This seems to be close to Paul’s point in Ephesians. that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places(Eph 3:10 ESV).

In the inclusive grace of God outworked in the unity of the Church as Jew and Gentile the angelic host see a prefiguration of the goal of reconciliation of the whole creation. They are surely astonished!

In context, the “rulers and authorities” here are likely demonic powers, but if they perceive the excellence of divine wisdom, so must the holy angels.

The rather obscure comment, “That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.(1 Cor 11:10 ESV), likely means that there should be a unity between the order of worship in the church and the worship the angels offer to the Lord in heaven. In both situations awe, reverence and respect are a fitting atmosphere for ministering to God.

The author of Hebrews understands that the Church Cf. the perspective on the heavenly places in Paul17)Gal 4:26 ESV; Eph 1:3 ESV; 2:6 ESV; Col 3:1-3 ESV. to “have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering(Heb 12:22 ESV).

The angels are rejoicing in a heavenly festival of celebration over the the Father and Son bringing many sons to glory (Heb 2:5 ESV).

They are surely excited. Jesus’ proclamation, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.(Luke 15:17 ESV) must include the angels increasing delight as the plan of God moves forward to its unstoppable completion.

In ways usually veiled to us, they are working with the triumphant Christ in union with his indefectible intimacy leading the Church into the adoration of and participation in his unbreakable holiness.

This is why the liturgy is correct in proclaiming “Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you and saying: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.” “Let all God’s angels worship him(Heb 1:6 ESV cf. Deut 32:43 ESV) is constantly obeyed above.

The bulk of evidence for the ministry of angels to the Church is found in the book of Revelation (angelos – 67 times).

In Revelation we learn that each church has an angel, “to the angel of the church in…18)Rev 2:1, 8, 12, 18 ESV; Rev 3:1, 7, 14 ESV.

Jesus addresses the angel as somehow a custodian of the life of the congregation(s) in each city.

With no reason to suppose this arrangement has altered there is an “angel of the church in Perth”.

But why are we told about such angelic responsibilities any way?

Arguably the key to all the activities of the angels is the Marriage Supper of the Bride described in Revelation 19.

For this is the great goal of the Father, that Christ vs.26might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, vs.27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.(Eph 5:26-27 ESV).

The theme of the radiant Bride shines light on a strange phenomenon in Revelation.

Late in Revelation the apostle John seems irresistibly drawn to worship the angelic messenger, so compelling is his glory in testifying of the splendour of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, in which John, and us, will take our place. vs.9And the angel said to meWrite this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.vs.10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him,”. The angel’s reply however clarifies the true order of things,but he said to me,You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19:9-10 ESV cf. Rev 22:8-9 ESV).

Angels never draw attention to themselves but only ever to the message of God. As a pure witness and worshipper, the angel faithfully testifies to Jesus, whose testimony is complete and perfected in and through the Church. Angels adore the Lamb and his Bride but stand at a distance for the ultimate of marital beauty comes only through suffering.

From the beginning (Matt 23:35 ESV) but escalating under the new covenant and coming to a crescendo as the End draws near the saints of God suffer apparent defeat for his glory19)Dan 7:21, 25 ESV; Dan 8:24 ESV; Dan 12:7 ESV; Rev 11:7 ESV; Rev 12:17 ESV; Rev 13:7 ESV.

Yet the host of heaven isn’t passive in response to the persecution of the people of God on earth. Angels are released again and again bearing dreadful retribution against those who oppose the kingdom of God and the Lamb e.g.20)Rev 8:5 ESV ff; Rev 9:1 ESV ff; Rev 14:15 ESV ff; Rev 15:1 ESV ff; Rev 16:1 ESV ff.

This is the jealous love of Christ for his Bride21)cf. Ex 20:5 ESV; Deut 4:24 ESV; 2 Cor 11:2 ESV; Heb 12:29 ESV and in it the angels glory ever more intensely as the Judgement approaches.

This angelic ministry of retribution seems in proportion to the faithfulness of the Church under affliction according to the last days’ time-table of God22)cf. Rev 16:5-6 ESV; Rev 18:7 ESV. A suffering Church needs to know that she is never abandoned.

CONCLUSION

From “the beginning(John 8:44 ESV) the moral creation has been divided, on one side are the “sons of the kingdom” and on the other “the sons of the evil one(Matt 13:38 ESV), the “elect angels” are arrayed against “the devil and his angels23)Matt 25:41 ESV; 1 Tim 5:21 ESV.

In this cosmic conflict the whole being of God’s faithful ministering spirits is committed to the glory of the Lamb and to bring to him a submitted, holy, glorious and beautiful Bride. Face to face with the Lordship of Christ and indwelling the wisdom of God around his heavenly throne the angels perfectly perceive the uniquely blessed state of the suffering people of God.

A weakened and confused Church today, i.e. us, needs their ministry in all the ways outlaid in scripture to keep us faithful to the great and glorious but difficult purposes of the kingdom of God.

May the Lord show us mercy by sending us these great powers, his servants and ours24)Gen. 19:16 ESV; Gen. 28:12 ESV; Gen. 32:1, 2 ESV; Judg. 6:11 ESV; Judg. 13:3 ESV; Ps. 34:7 ESV; Ps. 91:11 ESV; Ps. 103:20, 21 ESV; Dan. 3:28 ESV; Dan. 6:22 ESV; Dan. 10:11 ESV; Matt. 18:10 ESV.

In my understanding the contemporary Church urgently needs a visitation of angels to awaken it to the essentially eschatological/end-times and apocalyptic/heavenly character of faith in Christ. Whilst we cannot direct God to send us angelic assistance we can surely petition him that the name of Jesus be made great in our midst by any means, which surely includes the ministry of angels. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 13. December, 2018 Location: Unknown

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date. Month, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. 2 Pet 2:10 ESV; Jude 1:8 ESV
2. Gen 3:22 ESV cf. Isa 14:12-14 ESV; Ezek 28:11-17 ESV
3. cf. Gen 1:2 ESV; Pss. 29:10 ESV; Pss. 74:12-17 ESV; Pss. 89:10-15 ESV; Pss. 93:1-5 ESV; Pss. 104:1-9 ESV; Job 9:5-14 ESV; Job 26:5-14 ESV; Job 38:7-11 ESV
4. Ps 19:1 ESV; Ps 72:19 ESV; Ps 104:24 ESV; Isa 6:3 ESV; Rom 1:20 ESV
5. 1 Ki 22:19-23 ESV; Pss 82:1 ESV ff; Jer 23:22 ESV
6. Gen 6:2 ESV; Job 1:6 ESV; Job 2:1 ESV; Job 38:7 ESV
7. Acts 7:53 ESV; Gal 3:19 ESV
8. Ex 40:35 ESV; 1 Sam 4:4, 21-22 ESV; 2 Sam 6:2 ESV; Pss. 80:1 ESV; Pss. 99:1 ESV; Isa 37:16 ESV
9. Ezek 1:22 ESV; Ezek 10:1 ESV ff.
10. Col 1:15 ESV; 1 Tim 1:17 ESV cf. Rom 1:20 ESV
11. Eph 1:3 ESV; 1 Tim 3:16 ESV; 1 Pet 1:20 ESV; cf. Rom 8:29-30 ESV
12. Matt 4:11 ESV; Mark 1:13 ESV
13. Matt 28:2 ESV; John 20:12 ESV
14. Acts 1:10 ESV; 1 Tim 3:16 ESV
15. Ps 103:21 ESV; Ps 148:2 ESV; Zech 1:12 ESV etc.
16. John 1:14 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV
17. Gal 4:26 ESV; Eph 1:3 ESV; 2:6 ESV; Col 3:1-3 ESV
18. Rev 2:1, 8, 12, 18 ESV; Rev 3:1, 7, 14 ESV
19. Dan 7:21, 25 ESV; Dan 8:24 ESV; Dan 12:7 ESV; Rev 11:7 ESV; Rev 12:17 ESV; Rev 13:7 ESV
20. Rev 8:5 ESV ff; Rev 9:1 ESV ff; Rev 14:15 ESV ff; Rev 15:1 ESV ff; Rev 16:1 ESV ff.
21. cf. Ex 20:5 ESV; Deut 4:24 ESV; 2 Cor 11:2 ESV; Heb 12:29 ESV
22. cf. Rev 16:5-6 ESV; Rev 18:7 ESV
23. Matt 25:41 ESV; 1 Tim 5:21 ESV
24. Gen. 19:16 ESV; Gen. 28:12 ESV; Gen. 32:1, 2 ESV; Judg. 6:11 ESV; Judg. 13:3 ESV; Ps. 34:7 ESV; Ps. 91:11 ESV; Ps. 103:20, 21 ESV; Dan. 3:28 ESV; Dan. 6:22 ESV; Dan. 10:11 ESV; Matt. 18:10 ESV

Church under water Drowning 10 DEC 2018

BACKGROUND

A few weeks ago, in our early morning Perth Prayer session several of us simultaneously sensed that the Lord was calling his people to go deeper in him. Even as it’s good to see a grid of prayer is expanding across the city, I sense that there’s a missing dimension.

Jesus commanded the disciples, ““Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”” (Luke 5:7 ESV) in preparation for a miraculous haul of fish, a prophetic type of their “catching men” (v.10). This “deeper water” will involve a greater desperation, brokenness and urgency in prayer, but it must be a movement of God’sown miraculous power.

If not our prayer networks and big meetings, like the Awakening in Melbourne, Jesus Loves Australia in Sydney and Franklin Graham gatherings in 2019, will finally prove disappointing.

It’s not that any of these initiatives are bad things, but none of them bear the quality of God’s kingdom action in sheer creative resurrection power.

I believe this 100% “God’s hand” (Acts 4:28, 30 ESV) is not yet amongst us because the quality of resurrection life only follows death, and the activist Church that I know refuses to acknowledge it’s deadness; ““‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”(Rev 3:1 ESV).

I’M A DEAD MAN

The afflicted in scripture give vent to a condition in extremis that we are all called to confess, vs.4The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me;vs.5 the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.”  (Ps 18:4-5 ESV), vs.5The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head vs.6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever;(Jonah 2:5-6 ESV).

They describe an experience of being totally overwhelmed so that their entire being knows with absolute certitude that only a sovereign action of God can save them.

These traumatic experiences are prophetic of the cross. For Jesus prophesied of his death, “as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth(Matt 12:40 ESV).

The cross, with its physical and spiritual desolation (Mark 15:33-34 ESV), was a dark night of Christ’s soul far more dreadful than any horror undergone by any other person.

But all this was a part of God’s most wonderful plan. Because, “Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears… he was heard for his godly fear” and delivered into resurrection life and light1)Heb 5:7 ESV; 2 Tim 1:10 ESV.

My exposure to Church life is limited, but I am not seeing sustained levels of crying out before the Lord like these biblical examples (cf. Mal 1:6 ESV). Let me press a little further on this.

OVER OUR HEADS

The Church in Australia is surely sinking below the waves, where this is not true of quantity it is true of quality.

No clearer example of our submersion is the status of our own Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a devout Pentecostal.

When Scott was elected leader of the Liberal Party through much political undermining of the then leadership (though not by him) many Christians were excited.

But if anything since then the infighting, electoral defeats, jumping ship, self-sabotage, claims of bullying etc. in his own party have only accelerated.

Unable to get legislation through national parliament and outflanked by a left-wing coalition intent of diminishing religious rights in education Scott is manifestly in hot political water over his head.

Worse than this, he is enmeshed I believe in a spiritual climate, triumphalist Pentecostalism, and a political culture of success that will not allow him to come to a place of humility and to confess unqualifiedly, “Our party, we, have failed the nation.”

I can only see the disunity in the Liberal Party in Canberra and the general political climate in this nation as evidence of demonisation. Forget about political saviours, only Jesus can help us.

JUDGED TOGETHER RAISED TOGETHER

What very few of us want to accept is that the whole Church in Australia is suffering under the judgement of God. “If one member suffers, all suffer together(1 Cor 12:26 ESV).   

If one part of the Body of Christ is groaning under the punishment of God2)Heb 12:6 ESV; Rev 3:19 ESV how can the rest of us carry on as though “she’ll be right mate”?

The Bible says, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Rom 15:1 ESV); but this is hardly happening.

If you cry out for help to, say, Hillsong or C3 or Kingdom City they will help you, but only as franchisees do.

This is hardly family life!

More broadly, if we really understood Body-life (Rom 12:4-5 ESV) we would see, for example, the Baptists, as a block of Baptists, praying for the Uniting Church, the A.C.C interceding for the spiritual health of the Anglicans, and don’t we need it, and the radical house church/ emerging church believers petitioning the Lord for mercy on the Catholics.

If all this sounds bizarre then it must be because we have slipped so far down in our spiritual discernment that we are no longer grasped by the cruciform (cross-shaped) life of the Bride of Jesus. Let me end with a very personal example.

CONCLUSION

Just a few months after becoming a Christian I had an experience of close drowning in a rip off Kangaroo Island.

Having “gone under” twice and having swallowed copious amounts of sea water I knew that apart from divine intervention I was a goner. But on a deeper level my experience was what I can only call paradoxical.

Whilst I was physically trying very hard not to die deep inside my spirit was at rest and I found myself spontaneously praying over and over with Jesus, ““Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”(Luke 23:46 ESV).

The Lord did save me, but I could not choose to voluntarily go through such agonies again. (Though I suppose if the Spirit told me to walk out into the scary depths I’d have to.) All of which reminds me of an ancient story, to which I will add a twist.

A hermit was meditating by a river when a young man interrupted him. “Master, I wish to become your disciple.” “Why?” replied the hermit. “Because I want to find God.”, said the young man.

The master jumped up, grabbed him, dragged him into the river, and plunged his head under water.

After holding him there for a minute, with him kicking and struggling to free himself, the master finally pulled him out coughing and gasping for breath.

Then the master spoke. “Tell me, what did you want most of all when you were under water.” “Air!” answered the man.

“Very well,” said the master. “Go home and come back when you want God as much as you wanted air.”

Surely it is Jesus who is pushing his beloved Bride beneath the waters, and he will keep doing so until we let go of human strengths and divine gifts and unconditionally submit to his Lordship.

When we hear a mass cry arising from across the Body, “How long O Lord”3)Pss 6:3 ESV; Pss 13:1 ESV; Pss 35:17 ESV; Isa 6:11 ESV; Jer 4:21 ESV; Hab 1:2 ESV; Zech 1:12 ESV; Rev 6:10 ESV etc., a great move of God is on the way.

The divine plan, agonising as it is, will not fail because it is a sharing in the good news of the death-and-resurrection of Jesus. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 10. December, 2018 Location: Unknown

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date. Month, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. Heb 5:7 ESV; 2 Tim 1:10 ESV
2. Heb 12:6 ESV; Rev 3:19 ESV
3. Pss 6:3 ESV; Pss 13:1 ESV; Pss 35:17 ESV; Isa 6:11 ESV; Jer 4:21 ESV; Hab 1:2 ESV; Zech 1:12 ESV; Rev 6:10 ESV etc.

Beautified by the Word  

Gen 1: 1-31 ESV | Ps 19:1-11 ESV | Heb 1:1-4 ESV | John 1:1-18 ESV

INTRODUCTION

Since I believe Dale’s claim in last Sunday’s message that much of the Church, including St Mark’s, is under judgement, is true, I want to pick up this theme, but from a very different angle.

But first I need to warn that any human attempt to preserve the Christian Church in Australia, whether as a religious institution, this diocese, or St Mark’s as a community we all love will fail under the judgement of God because to put the Church first is an act of idolatry.

Christ did not teach us to pray, “Your Church come…” but “Your kingdom come…”. To confuse the visible church with the reign Christ did once entangle up St Mark’s in lengthy fruitless efforts for the redevelopment of our site in order to survive. But survival is never the God’s will in Christ, his will is resurrection life (John 6:39-40 ESV)!

Dale compared the church to a withered plant that desperate needs watering, and quoted John the Baptist, ““the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”(Luke 3:9 ESV).

Wilted plants in the spiritual realm are as easy to recognise as they are in the natural realm. (JY brought 2 branches into the church, one healthy the other withered, from the same tree). If there is no-one who has come to Christ or grown in Christ-likeness through my life, then I am a withered branch (John 15:6 ESV).

As an ageing, illness-conscious church with people leaving our fellowship for no apparent kingdom reason we are a wilting plant. But in the Lord, there’s always a way forward no matter what the condition of the tree; read Job 14:7-9 ESV.

Christ is calling us into the deep roots of what the Bible calls “the mystery of God1)1 Cor 4:1; Eph 3:9 ESV.

This means discovering that the absence of spiritual vitality in the Church is a symptom of being inhibited in our union with the spiritual glory and beauty of Christ our Husband. God calls his people to relate as a faithful Wife to Jesus, enjoying what I can only call a nuptial rapture until we see his splendour face to face (1 John 3:2 ESV).

This is a reality that can be realised in the here and now by the ministry of the Word of Christ. That God’s Word imparts his glory is clearly taught in today’s readings; at climax of the 10-fold “God said” of Genesis 1 “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31 ESV).

Very good” in the sense expounded in Psalm 19, the entire creation was declaring the glory of God. Hebrews takes this further by explaining that the word through whom the world was created is, “the radiance of the glory of God(Gen 1:2-3 ESV), and as expounded in John 1, this is the glory of the Word made flesh, the “glory of the only Son of the Father(Gen 1:14 ESV).

All the glory and beauty of creation is founded and finished in Jesus.

THE OFFERING OF BEAUTY

We must counterbalance the persistent feeling that the world is getting worse with the fact that the world is full of beautiful things. The Church struggles in its partnership with Christ to faithfully release the fulness of such beauties. Donna will insist maths is beautiful, Andrew that music is beautiful, there’s a beauty in theology, and a beauty in cooking, hospitality and certainly in babies and grandchildren. Or, to move closer to the theme of this sermon, no one has ever seen an “ugly bride”.

The Church/us may behave like an “ugly Bride” but she can never be in the eyes of Jesus anything but limitlessly desirable. (He is in rapture over the Woman with whom he will spend eternity!) But how are all the beauties of God’s gifts released to dynamically serve Christ’s kingdom through his Church (Matt 16:16-19 ESV)?

Some people felt uncomfortable when Dale referenced from Malachi the giving of “tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8-10 ESV) to the Lord sending a spiritual watering on the withered plant of the Church. People are so hung up about money because they rarely possess the spiritual depth of revelation to understand how money becomes beautiful through the mystery of God!

Is there anything naturally beautiful about money? (JY holds up a $50 note) Not at all. The old term for money as “filthy lucre” reflects this (Tit 1:11 KJV).

But money given sacrificially to prosper the kingdom of God creates a sphere of glory which releases heavenly blessings to further the kingdom of God.

When the people of Israel brought “much more than enough” in gifts to construct the tabernacle the glory of the Lord filled the place2)Ex 36:6 ESV; Ex 40:34 ESV; when in Acts those with more than enough sold it to contribute to the needy believers necessarilygreat grace was upon them all(Acts 4:32-33 ESV); when in the midst of a financial crisis in South Korea believers in a fellowship started selling even their rice bowls to contribute to the assembly we shouldn’t be surprised that they grew to the largest church in the world.

There is no limit to the power of God to beautify even the seemingly most ugly things when they are offered up to him.

The wife of friend contracted terminal lung cancer some years ago, but they both became quite excited when the Lord spoke to them through his Word in Ecclesiastes, “God has made everything beautiful in its time(Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV).

Even death can be transformed into something glorious because there is no limit to the transforming power of the beauty and glory of the cross.

THE UNUTTERABLE BEAUTY OF THE CROSS

Dale’s image of a withered plant moved my mind to the prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah; “My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.(Isa 53:2 ESV)

To ordinary sight the cross was sheer ugliness and a repulsive tragedy, but God does not see as we see. And so the death of Jesus became the one thing in which the Church gloried; “But far be it from me” says Paul, “to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.(Gal 6:14 ESV).

Every time I speak of beauty I am constrained to share (2 Cor 5:14 ESV), even if very briefly, my experience in Jerusalem at the site of the crucifixion.

Transfixed by a painting of the face of the crucified Jesus I had a completely transparent sense of Father saying, “This was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” The love the Son of God showed in becoming a sacrifice for the Father to save the world was inexpressibly beautiful. Baptised into Christ’s death and resurrection we have been immersed in this eternal imperishable beauty (Rom 6:1-4 ESV). Isaiah says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.(Isa 40:18 ESV).

The Word in which we stand is Jesus and unlike earthly beauties we shall never perish (John 3:16 ESV). The word spoken to us in the gospel has unlimited power to water, purify and beautify.

BEAUTY OF THE CHURCH: WATER AND WORD

Those ““born (again) of water and the Spirit”3)John 3:5 ESV cf. John 15:3 ESV; Tit 3:5-6 ESV have the imperishable seed of the glory of eternity in their hearts (1 Pet 1:3-4, 23 ESV). And the greatest witness to the beautifying power of the Word in scripture is about our Marriage to Christ.

vs.25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, vs.26 that he might make her holy, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, vs.27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.(Eph 5:25-27 ESV).

This extraordinarily lovely image means any unfruitful, wilting, barren church is a Bride resisting the all beautifying power of the Word of Christ. Jesus will Return as our Beloved Husband and Word of God and he will impart to the fullness of the beauty of our Bridal identity so that marital bliss will fill the universe forever (Rev 19:11-16 ESV).

Then our nuptial rapture will be perfected and everlasting. Hallelujah! What might be preventing us from growing irresistibly into such wonders now?

UGLY BAD ROOTS

Instead of being “rooted and grounded” in Christ’s love (Eph 3:17 ESV) we may have an evil and defiling “root of bitterness” that “causes trouble(Heb 12:15 ESV), or lacking deep roots in the Lord we may have distanced ourselves from him for fear of rejection in the world (Mark 4:16-17 ESV).

If, as taught last week, the people in Malachi’s time were “robbing God” by withholding their material contributions most contemporary Christians are “robbing God” by not offering to him the best of their time.

Too busy to read the scriptures deeply, pray persistently and gather regularly with the saints of God to intercede and study the Bible. Until this satanic strategy is broken the Australian Church will remain crippled and immature.

Underlying all spiritual withering is a chronic unbelief that God’s Word can release his beauty and glory through our own ordinary lives.

But the glory in Christ crucified is without limit. Some years ago, soon after I had a soul-splitting then joy-releasing experience of the Lord’s powerful presence I took a regular communion service for frail, crippled, demented visibly perishing people in an old people’s home.

This time I was granted to see them through the eyes of Christ crucified in the power of his endless love and this hagged bunch were all amazingly beautiful. Loving radiant spiritual beauty covered them breaking in from another world.  

Withered though we maybe we can be seeing ourselves as covered in this beauty. But there is a step of obedience most of the Church refuses to embrace.

We are of course back to the cross. As soon as any group of believers obeys the call of God to sacrifice precious things a revelation of his glory will appear (Eph 3:10 ESV). This is the gospel (2 Cor 4:4 ESV).

CONCLUSION

The mystery of the Church and her fruitfulness and vitality is the mystery of a beautiful Woman loved through immeasurable sacrifice and called by her Beloved (Eph 1:6 ESV) through his Word to share in the power of his sacrificial life and enter into his glory and beauty (Eph 5:26-27 ESV).

When all the wonderful talents and treasures God has given us, with the ordinary and difficult circumstances of life, are placed at the feet of Jesus in living sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2 ESV) we will be inundated by the beautiful life of Christ.

The survival of the name “Anglican” or “St Mark’s” is a very small thing.

What really matters is that Christ manifest his presence in Bassendean and beyond through his beautiful Bride, the Church.

In the light of the revelation of the mystery of Beauty what will you offer Jesus today to make sure what is withered does not die but springs and sprouts radiant with his life? 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 9th December, 2018 Location: St Mark’s

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

9th December, 2018.

 

 

References   [ + ]

1. 1 Cor 4:1; Eph 3:9 ESV
2. Ex 36:6 ESV; Ex 40:34 ESV
3. John 3:5 ESV cf. John 15:3 ESV; Tit 3:5-6 ESV

Authority to Disciple 06 DEC 2018

vs.16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. vs.17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. vs.18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. vs.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, vs.20 teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matt 28:16-20 ESV)

INTRODUCTION

The so-called “Great Commission” is justly famous, but even when partnered with the Great Commandment (Matt 22:37-38 ESV) it’s usually presented in a way that places undue emphasis on the missional task to the exclusion of Jesus as the person who commissions. (This is part of the reason why so-called “para church organisations”, like “Power to Change”, are known for their activism rather than a more reflective spirituality.)

Making disciples of Jesus is much bigger and harder than making converts.

In various African countries, like Congo, over 90% of the people are professing Christians, but anarchy rules (Kenyan pastor to JY, “even the bank robbers ask God to bless their pursuits”).

While Jesus had already told the apostles before his death and resurrection that the gospel would be preached to all nations1)Matt 24:14 ESV; Matt 26:13 ESV a radical transformation had to take place in his own life before he could send them out to disciple the world.

The place to begin understanding the nature of this personal transformation is to recognise that the Son of God was himself the perfect disciple.

JESUS’ AUTHORITY TO DISCIPLE

The risen Lord had unlimited authority to tell the eleven to make disciples who would “obey all that I have commanded you” because he could earlier testify, ““If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.(John 15:10 ESV).

The climax of Jesus’ obedience to the Father is his suffering and death; as Paul puts it, “being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.(Phil 2:8 ESV).

The Son of God could never make mature disciples until he himself had gone to the place of complete obedience; as Hebrews teaches, vs.7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. vs.8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he sufferedvs.9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him(Heb 5:7-9 ESV).

The cross is a crisis in Jesus’ life in a way that is rather unimaginable to us.

Whilst Hebrews 9:14 ESV, tells us that Christ “through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God”, we must ask where is the Holy Spirit when we hear the Lord crying out, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34 ESV).

At the very pinnacle of his obedience, the Spirit who inspired all his words and works (Matt 12:28 ESV) and the intimate prayer, ““Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”(Mark 14:36 ESV), seems completely absent.

On the face of it this appears to be a complete contradiction to Peter’s preaching in Acts, “the Holy Spirit… is given by God to those who obey him.(Acts 5:32 ESV).

In his hour of experiencing forsakenness Jesus does not feel he is the Son of God honouring his Father; rather, he looks like no-one’s disciple because he is bearing our rebellion and our godless disobedience2)2 Cor 5:21 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV.

The wild, crazy, incongruous and to ordinary human understanding foolish love of God is perfected in the obedience of Jesus on the cross when it seems he has no reason to obey.

Obeying without the manifest presence of God (feeling good about God) is how Jesus’ sonship/discipleship was perfected – and that’s how it works in us.

The resurrection is the manifestation and release of Jesus’ completed authority to make disciples.

It is in raising him from the dead that the Father affirms to Jesus the truth of his obedient death; he “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord”.

It is as an affirmed righteous fully obedient Son in the power of the Spirit that Christ has an inner relational authority to disciple the world.

He does not disciple by sheer power but by the imperishable quality of his life; which is what “eternal life” is all about (1 John 1:2 ESV).

There is an immediate connection between the risen life of Jesus as a vindicated Son and our call to disciple the nations into obedience.

DISCIPLING

Christ vs.4was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, vs.5 … to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations(Rom 1:4-5 ESV cf. 1 Tim 3:16 ESV).

Paul was so compelled by love (2 Cor 5:14 ESV) to disciple the nations because he had a revelation of the obedient sonship of Jesus. vs.15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, vs.16 was pleased to reveal his Son in me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…(Gal 1:15-16 ESV).

Paul had a revelation of the all obedient Son of God who had obeyed all the commandments in his place. And he immediately comprehended that as Christ’s obedience came only through suffering he too would have to suffer greatly(Acts 9:16 ESV) in order “to bring about the obedience of faith” in all nations (Rom 16:26 ESV).

Which is why in 2 Corinthians he recounts an experience that shares in the forsakenness of the cross. vs.8For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. vs.9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. vs.10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.(2 Cor 1:8-10 ESV).

This pattern of despair and restoration in the perfecting of obedience shapes the whole of Paul’s ministry3)cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV; Col 1:24 ESV as a share in the death and resurrection of Jesus (Phil 3:10 ESV).

Only such God-appointed crises of discipleship in our own lives can deepen our authority to make disciples of others. This is not a popular truth.

I remember a pastor arguing with me in a public meeting that a genuine born-again believer could not suffer from depression.

Not only did he not understand the cross, he didn’t understand the lives of Paul, Moses (Num 11:15 ESV), Elijah (1 Ki 19:4 ESV), Peter (Luke 22: 31-32, 62 ESV) and saints like Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis and Mother Teresa. We cannot rise with Christ unless we go down into the depths with Christ.

US

Our spiritual authority to disciple others is in proportion to our sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Since the Lord Jesus is 100% committed to the realisation of the Great Commission he himself will give us many opportunities to die and rise with him.

I was talking with a businessman recently who from the age of 5 always believed that God had called him to be P.M. In his adult life he was deeply involved in political and civic leadership. Then stirred up to go and pray at 2 a.m. one morning the Holy Spirit told him to pull out of all these commitments. It was agony, but an essential point in his growing to be more like Jesus and make disciples.

Paul understood these things when he said, “that I might know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death(Phil 3:10 ESV).

What do you have to die to today; perhaps you have heroic view of becoming a spiritual giant without sharing in the brokenness of Jesus and those who have exercised enormous spiritual authority in Christ’s name?

The plan that the Father has to make you more like his Son is nothing like your own spiritual aspirations (Isa 55:9 ESV). It will prove to be as unpredictable as the cross was to the first disciples.

CONCLUSION

The discipleship crisis in the Church today holding back the discipling of the nations can only be healed when we experience the reality of how Jesus concluded the Great Commission, “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

This echoes the words with which Matthew’s Gospel begins, ““Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:23 ESV), but in a radically different way.

The depth of the presence of God with us in the incarnation of Christ in Mary is nothing compared to the depth of the humanity of Jesus as he gave the Great Commission.

There stood before them not only as someone they now worshipped as God (Matt 28:17 ESV) but one who they worshipped in his crucified, risen and triumphant humanity, a humanity he progressively, if painfully and gloriously, shares with us in the process we call discipleship.  

The key to the revelation of Jesus as Son of God through our lives (Acts 9:20, 25 ESV) is submission to the call of God, whatever the cost. 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 6. December, 2018 Location: Power to Change – Fremantle

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

Date. Month, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. Matt 24:14 ESV; Matt 26:13 ESV
2. 2 Cor 5:21 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV
3. cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV; Col 1:24 ESV

More Than Conquerors 2018 DEC 02

Text: Romans 8:31-39 ESV

INTRODUCTION

Our society is dominated by a little game in which there are celebrity “winners” in sport, finances, entertainment etc. and “losers”, people like addicts, the homeless, the imprisoned and many Indigenous people.

The “winners” enjoy “success” and the “losers” are thought of as failures.

In its testimony that “all have sinned and fall utterly short of the glorious life God wills for us(Rom 3:23 ESV) and that “the wages of sin is death(Rom 6:23 ESV) Romans brings God’s verdict on society’s game pronouncing the only victor in life is Jesus.

In a day when we have fallen into the culture’s trap of marketing celebrity churches and pastors God in his marvellous wisdom is marginalising Christianity from mainstream influence calling us back to the radical life of the Early Church in which every social norm was crucified and raised with Christ.

One Roman critic said, ““only foolish and low individuals, and persons devoid of perception, and slaves, and women, and children”, i.e. people without dignity in his culture, become Christians (Celsus).

The book of Romans radically redefines life’s deepest meanings; “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” is a prophetic proclamation over every faithful believer.

Since, “in all things God is working for the good of those who love him(Rom 8:28 ESV) nothing can defeat God’s eternal purpose to make us like Jesus. Paul placards the triumph of God’s plan in Christ by putting forward a series of unanswerable questions;

EXPOSITION

vs.31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

God is for us” summarises the whole argument of Romans so far, in justification, sanctification and the gift of the life-giving Holy Spirit our Father (Rom 8:14-16 ESV) is totally for us and never against us.

Our adversaries can never prevail over us.

As David, who knew something about the stresses of life, put it so poetically and powerfully in Psalm 23 ESV, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.1)See Biblical References Ps 23:4 ESV; cf. Ps 56:9, 12 ESV; Ps 118:6-7 ESV.

This is a great word but when Christians let their prayers and Bible reading slide and stop regular worship because they life feels too hard in practice they are denying that Jesus has mastered all our struggles. Paul gets right to the very heart of what matters by holding up the cross.

vs.32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Since the Father freely gave Jesus up as a sacrifice2)See Biblical References cf. Gen 22:12,16 ESV; Isa 53:6, 12 ESV, Isa 70 ESV; Rom 4:25 ESV he will surely give to us lesser things as a gift of his grace3)See Biblical References 1 Cor 2:12 ESV; Gal 3:18 ESV cf. 2 Cor 9:15 ESV.

The limitless height, length, breadth and depth of the love of the cross (Eph 3:18 ESV) is unconquerable; we need to see that in the End such will surely supersaturate all things.

The “all things” we are told God will give us include the “all things” in which he is working for our good (Rom 8:28 ESV) plus all present and future blessings of salvation. 

At the End we will share with Jesus his Lordship over the whole created universe4)See Biblical References 2 Tim 2:12 ESV cf. Rom 8:17 ESV; 1 Cor 3:21-23 ESV.

As Jesus was became Lord of all (Acts 10:36 ESV) by overcoming in his own life the temptations, conflicts and sufferings which destroy our quality of existence Paul goes on to expound the adversities of the Christian life.

vs.33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

In this court room scene no accusation can ever succeed against God’s chosen people because the Judge has already justified us/declared us to be in the right with him in Christ5)See Biblical References Rom 5:1 ESV; Rom 8:1 ESV cf. Isa 50-8-9 ESV.

I know from multiple personal experiences that to be accused falsely can be extremely painful, but in Christ such blamings provide opportunities to receive revelations of the glorious justifying love of God.

vs.34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Demonic powers, human enemies, and even our own conscience’s might try to condemn us (1 John 3:20 ESV) but the authority of our Saviour renders every accusing voice null and void.

With our sins are covered by the blood of Christ (Rom 3:25 ESV) we are free of all condemnation (Rom 8:1 ESV).

More than this, Jesus is constantly praying for us (Heb 7:25 ESV) and seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven (Ps 110:1 ESV) his prayers cannot fail because his victorious life mediates on our behalf6)See Biblical References 1 Tim 2:5 ESV cf. Luke 22:31-32 ESV; John 11:41-42 ESV.

Paul is about to open up to us a God-eyed view of what the Lord is doing in the world. “At the right hand of God” all Christ’s enemies are being placed under his feet (Ps 110:1 ESV); and this victory procession (2 Cor 2:14 ESV) primarily takes place through the faithfulness of a suffering Church.

As Jesus was attacked by sin, Satan, suffering and death it is necessary (Luke 24:26 ESV) for us to be attacked in order that we might triumph over these powers for his sake.

vs.35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? vs.36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No adversity can separate us from Christ’s love because his love has proved itself unfailing in death and resurrection. The List of afflictions Paul lists were all part of his apostolic labours in which the life of Christ had proved triumphant7)See Biblical References 2 Cor 11:26-27 ESV; 2 Cor 12:10 ESV.

In the eyes of the world a Christian may merely be a “sheep to be slaughtered(Ps 44:22 ESV) but through the eyes of faith we know this brings us into glorious union with the conquering Lamb of God ruling from heaven8)See Biblical References Rev 3:21 ESV; Rev 5:5-6 ESV. Suffering for the sake of the gospel9)See Biblical References 2 Tim 3:12 ESV; 1 Pet 4:12-13 ESV etc. is a normal part of following Jesus.

Recently the Coptic Christians of Egypt were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Last year 128 were killed and more than 200 driven out of their homes because of their faith.

Despite numerous brutal attacks and church bombings they have refused to retaliate but pursue peace with all (1 Pet 3:11 ESV). By having a cross tattooed on their wrist each Copt is a suffering sign to the world of the victory of Christ.

As Paul expounded earlier in Romans pain faithfully borne doesn’t separate us from Christ’s love, it brings us closer to God, vs.3suffering produces endurance, vs.4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, vs.5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.(Rom 5:3-5 ESV).

vs.37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Christians don’t just win the battle of life they are “superconquerers”. As Romans 5 testifies about Jesus victory, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more(Rom 5:20 ESV) grace “superabounded”.

Astounding victories in all life’s trials e.g. Australian evangelist Nick Vujicic’s life testimony, “No arms, No Legs, (literally!) No Worries”, can come only “through him who loved us”. Now the passage moves to a tremendous climax.

vs.38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, vs.39  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. He has conquered all evil10)See Biblical References cf. Ps 139:8 ESV; Eph 1:21 ESV; Eph 6:12 ESV; Col 1:16 ESV; Col 2:15 ESV so that in him we might never be lost from the grasp of God’s love.

As Lord of all (Acts 10:36 ESV) Jesus is right now demonstrating his victory to a hostile world11)See Biblical References Eph 3:10 ESV; Phil 2:15 ESV through the triumphs of his people.

In preparing this sermon I was reminded of the testimony of Pastor Samuel Lamb who I met decades ago in China.  He’d been imprisoned for over twenty years under conditions so dangerous that his trainee replacement didn’t survive his training period. Lamb pointed to various mementos, “that’s from Billy Graham, that was sent by Ronald Reagan, that’s from the astronaut Buzz Aldrin” and so on. His sharing held no trace of boasting because he understood himself to be more than a conqueror solely through Jesus.

CONCLUSION

Through God’s love on our side there’s no situation of rejection, illness, tiredness, ageing, poverty, or whatever, that we cannot conquer in Christ.

Paul testifies, vs.13 I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.(Phil 4:13 ESV)12)See Biblical References cf. 1 John 5:4-5 ESV; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:3 ESV; Rev 21:7 ESV.

Christ’s triumphant reign in us grows as we humbly follow him in all our afflictions. 

Some years ago I said to a pastor in a church I was working in that after a long string of exhausting disasters I felt that if things didn’t work out there it would be the end of my ministry.

Guess how that situation ended…. Catastrophically; but by God’s grace it became another source of overcoming so that the testimony of Jesus was intensified in my life to his honour praise and glory.

I have learned that the meaning of life’s struggles is the vindication of the name of Jesus in the world, “making Jesus famous” as some would say.

Christians should never whinge, murmur and complain about life just like other people because Romans defiantly testifies that as justified, sanctified and Spirit-gifted we are not just like other people.

In Jesus you are not just another human being and you are called to live the life of a super-conqueror (Rom 8:29 ESV)!

Early this morning I was aware of catastrophic pain – in our family, in our relatives’ families, in the families of our church, a network of underlying pain right across our nation which none of our culture’s games can ever heal.

In his death and resurrection Jesus’ has borne, mastered and overcome all our pains.

Only Jesus can transform suffering from the sphere of defeat to the sphere of boundless victory.

Not by giving us a pain free life but through the supernatural gift of the life-giving Spirit (Rom 8:18 ESV ff.) pouring into our hearts the loving presence of God (Rom 5:5 ESV) even as we groan.

Since the teaching of Romans about the Christian life is so great we must ask ourselves, “Why are we so stuck spiritually?”

Geoff Bingham, who lived in constant pain from a war wound for over 50 years, supplies the answer, “We are overcomers because Christ has overcome us and our rebellion” (2 Cor 2:14 ESV).

To the degree I have been conquered by Christ to that degree I will be “more than a conqueror through him who loved us”?

Let’s choose to be much more conquered today.

MESSAGE DELIVERED:  2nd December, 2018 Location: St Mark’s

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

2nd December, 2018.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Ps 23:4 ESV; cf. Ps 56:9, 12 ESV; Ps 118:6-7 ESV
2. See Biblical References cf. Gen 22:12,16 ESV; Isa 53:6, 12 ESV, Isa 70 ESV; Rom 4:25 ESV
3. See Biblical References 1 Cor 2:12 ESV; Gal 3:18 ESV cf. 2 Cor 9:15 ESV
4. See Biblical References 2 Tim 2:12 ESV cf. Rom 8:17 ESV; 1 Cor 3:21-23 ESV
5. See Biblical References Rom 5:1 ESV; Rom 8:1 ESV cf. Isa 50-8-9 ESV
6. See Biblical References 1 Tim 2:5 ESV cf. Luke 22:31-32 ESV; John 11:41-42 ESV
7. See Biblical References 2 Cor 11:26-27 ESV; 2 Cor 12:10 ESV
8. See Biblical References Rev 3:21 ESV; Rev 5:5-6 ESV
9. See Biblical References 2 Tim 3:12 ESV; 1 Pet 4:12-13 ESV etc.
10. See Biblical References cf. Ps 139:8 ESV; Eph 1:21 ESV; Eph 6:12 ESV; Col 1:16 ESV; Col 2:15 ESV
11. See Biblical References Eph 3:10 ESV; Phil 2:15 ESV
12. See Biblical References cf. 1 John 5:4-5 ESV; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:3 ESV; Rev 21:7 ESV