Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144).
“Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see – how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him. Worship God if you want the best; worship opens doors to all his goodness.”
— Psalm 34:8-9
We are reminded today of the Old Testament words about gathering Your people as a hen gathers her brood. We are in need of the blessing such a “gathering” will give to us. In spite of our current “scatteredness” we pray for the miracle of Your Spirit to bring us together … in Spirit, truth and a different type of fellowship. We pray in the name of the One who promised … “I will be with you always.” Amen.
Today's Message: Promises, Promises ...
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
As we depart a year we’d just as soon forget, it might be helpful to focus upon some of the promises that we read in scripture. The leaders in medical science and government are offering cautious hope about the end of the current virus situation … God’s word offers hope even beyond current circumstances. Let us take a look at the last book in the Bible, John’s Revelation to see these lasting promises … and how they may affect our lives right now!
- A New Earth (v. 1) – This first part of the apostle John’s vision reminds us of the physical nature of our lives and why this is so important to the Father. It reminds us of the incarnation, God coming in human form, just celebrated over the Christmas season. If the Father felt that a physical presence was important in conveying the greatest message of redemption, then our physical selves must matter as well.
- A New Jerusalem (v. 2) – As much as we are physical selves we are spiritual beings as well. Hence, a large part of the new vision for our future involves a place to worship. This was the original vision of David’s Jerusalem, where the Temple would occupy the most prominent place in the city. It will be the essence of our new life as well … and begins even now as we regularly gather for worship.
- The Dwelling of God (v. 3) – At that day, John writes, that he received as part of the vision that “the dwelling of God will be with men.” A way to translate this would be “the tent of God.” Most of us have experienced the intimate experience of camping. When applied to our heavenly Father it reminds us that being a follower of Jesus is not simply following a set of guiding principles … it involves real fellowship with a presence in our lives that is celebrated and keenly felt.
- Nature of His people – We get a sense that, as the plural for “people’ is used here in the second part of v.3, this part of the vision may expand our thoughts beyond the concept of just one race of chosen people. Jesus himself referred to “other sheep, not of this fold” (John 10:16); Paul’s reference in Romans 9 is to “people of the promise”, not just those born into a particular nation. From its earliest days, the Christian faith has always held a universal appeal. As we think beyond the Covid situation, specifically for this congregation with a new pastor in the near future, we anticipate folks we’ve never seen before who may embrace this congregation as their church home.
- No more tears (v. 4) – As one of the more popular phrases from this chapter of John’s Revelation, we think we know what is meant here, and we are probably at least partly right. But those who might read this book from start to finish, as well as the group who would have heard this work read to them “back in the day” of the early churches would not have been able to forget another reference to “tears” from earlier in the book. In chapter 5:4 John writes that he “wept and wept because no one was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.” But this is followed with a wonderful statement … that “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.” He, indeed, is able. This statement reminds us of what we know is true … people so need the Word of God for hope and guidance. It is our role as a church to encourage our folks to open it and read it.
- “Everything new!” (v. 5) – This is a very encouraging statement … when Jesus is involved everything is “new, fresh, remarkable.” As we ponder these words, others come back to us … “If any person be in Christ, he/she is a new creature”, Paul writes in II Corinthians (5:17). Certainly, there are other ways to live life … but, as Paul writes, “Everything is permissible for me – but not everything is beneficial.” When we give our lives to Jesus the possibility of a more excellent way of living is made know to us.
- A New Apologetic – As John continues to relay the vision he received, we get a hint as to why everyone doesn’t embrace the Christian message. John writes, “To him who is thirsty, I will give to drink (v. 6).” You have to be thirsty for spiritual things, for the stuff related to God and faith. I have come to believe through the years that this involves everyone, eventually … but not all at the same time.
- There will be justice (v. 8) – These are hard words in this verse. Yet, even in our own human societies we recognize systems of justice. Some have suggested that what the vision reflects here is a contrast between the worship of God and Christ and the emperor worship demanded by the Roman authorities in the first century. John paid the price and was exiled because he has refused such worship … many of his contemporaries suffered even worse. In our contemporary life we see evidence of competing ideologies, often in the areas of power, prestige, pleasure and profit. The Spirit inspiring John’s vision shares with him the consequences of such inferior worship …
The Corona virus has a shelf life. There will come a day when we will begin to climb out of this current state. Then the more eternal questions will come. What now? How shall we live? The wisest among us know … the time to start living “the more excellent way” is now.
After reading a portion of John’s Revelation, our gracious Father, we are reminded of other words from scripture, those that say, “My God shall supply all your needs.” Truly we are beginning to see that in the way You are moving in our world, through the miracle of medical science, a solution to this current virus is beginning to emerge. But as the vision indicates, Your plan involves much more than this life. For values and blessings far deeper than those prioritized by a hurting world, we give You deep and everlasting thanks.
Our prayer this day is for a vision broader than simply planning for the next crisis, whether it be in health, the economy or whatever other challenges nations may face. We praise You for Your provision for “our daily bread”, but realize we are made for so much more. As the vision states, the world cries for someone to break the seal and open the book. As a gathered group of believers, find us faithful in addressing this important part of our calling.
As the final days of this year dwindle down and we anticipate a new one, help us to know the forgiveness encouragement to step briskly forward, embracing new opportunities for ministry in Your Kingdom. In the strong name of Jesus, we pray … amen.
“For you, the Lord is a safe retreat; you have made the Most High your refuge.”
— Psalm 91:9