May 10 2020 Revelation Inspires Our Worship Today
18th May 2020
Happy Mothers’ Day – Especially in this time – when many can’t see their children and grandchildren – at least in person – so now, more than ever, we need to appreciate and honor one another.
Let’s pray – Lord, thank You for this worship time – to sing to You and about You. To magnify and glorify Your name through praise, song, thanksgiving, and prayer. Give us a bigger vision of You – You are the only one worthy of our praise and devotion. Thank You for how much You love us – Your power and mercy and intimately connected – and Your power is seen primarily through Your mercy which is poured out on us.
Jeff mentioned the Revelation class – You are welcome to join us. I recorded it and sent it out.
It is more of a theological study – and one of the things we are discovering – there are several hymns, praise songs, passages that are sung – and many that some believe John took from early hymns and put in the book. There are also songs that have verses from Revelation stuck in them – modern hymns and praise songs have parts of Revelation in them.
We will look at how this book should inform our devotion and worship.
Revelation 1 is an introduction to the book, the writer, and the churches it is written to. Revelation 2 and 3 are specific instructions to those 7 churches.
Then chapters 4 and 5 are the center point of the book.
Revelation 4:1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things." 2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.
It is written like a movie or television show – where early you see this climactic scene – and then it flashes back to ‘earlier’ – the rest of the book shows how chapters 4 and 5 came about! It is an exciting way to think about it and read it.
All of the 7 churches are in Asia Minor – modern day Turkey-ish – and was known as a center for idols and statues and gods – and a new religion that began about 30 years before Christ – the worship of the emperor that began with Julius Caesar. This was the capital of the worship of Caesar. One of the cities – Pergamum – has a temple that was built about 30 B.C. – with a giant throne.
One of the phrases – you dwell where the throne of Satan is – and it is a reference to this throne. And the first thing we see in heaven – this amazing throne.
These things existed in harmony – In Ephesus, they had a temple to Artemis – and right next to it, they built a temple to Caesar – and it worked harmoniously.
Then the gospel of Jesus came along – there is only ONE LORD – and that is Jesus. (And Caesar is not!).
And Paul is writing to those who are suffering for saying there is only one Lord. So this begins with a throne that is superior – in every way – and there is only one who is worthy of worship – The God who sits on the Throne and Jesus the Lamb. These take center stage.
It is easy, and we must always allow – it is easy to allow things to take center stage – and we must allow Jesus to take center stage.
It is about loyalties. And competing loyalties. Like Bob Dylan sang – You’ve gotta serve somebody – and Jesus said you can’t serve two masters – and there is this comparison of true and false worship. Revelation tells these two stories – two meta-narratives – the public story of the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire’s narrative was this: Divine providence brought about the power of Rome to bring peace and prosperity to the world and Caesar is the son of God.
This is in contrast to the narrative of God
And there is this battle between the two thrones. There are always competing stories that are trying to capture our devotion – to this day.
There are not thrones or temples built for gods – but there are the usual suspects: Money, sex, power – things that are taking us from our devotion to Jesus and God.
There are also more subtle distractions – the good things – that try to take us from our devotion to God – really good things – Country! Family! Church involvement! And those are important, but Jesus said – he who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me – He is not saying to not have Mothers’ Day! But keep things in perspective.
It is really hard to see when something good becomes an idol.
3 And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.
5 Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; 6 and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.
7 The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME."
9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created."
There is so much symbolism in this language – we’ll get into that in the class – but I want you to notice this: Primarily – it is to show the glory and majesty of God. This throne room is amazing – awesome and awe-inspiring – superior in every way to any temple built on earth and there is only one worthy of worship – the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
This is inspiring of worship – all you can do is fall on the ground! The glassy sea – Cindy mentioned this – glassy is a reflective surface – reflecting and magnifying all that sits on it – it forms the floor! All of this awe-inspiring stuff is magnified. John is caught up and wants us to be caught up in worship. I believe God would have the church create an awe-inspiring environment for worship.
First – it must be God-focused – centered on the throne and the lamb. Less about us and more about God – not that it can’t include our feelings about God – but the main part is about Who God is, what God is like, what God has done.
Our worship needs to be thoughtfully theological – based on an understanding of who god is – the holy one who was, is, and is to come. That doesn’t mean we should use large, theological words that people don’t use in their daily lives – but not to use pop-theology either. But as formational theology - an understanding and knowledge of God that shapes and transforms us. That is what worship should do and be like. Shaping our lives – reshaping our lives – reforming our lives – by what we know of the one we worship – and this should characterize our worship in our songs, praise, prayers, teaching.
We want the how-to’s, to be practical, and that is good, but knowing God well is more practical than any how-to and self-improvement message – as those things are only temporary if we don’t know God well. That is what truly transforms us.
We need people who are captivated by the majesty and awesomeness of God. Not awesome, like used today – but totally OTHER – He is so beyond what we are like.
When we think of worship, we think of an event. It is not an event, it is a life that is lived in service, devotion, and loyalty to the one who is worthy. The word, worship and worthy go together. Jesus is the only one who is worthy.
In Europe and the old days – there was a worship – a service given – to the king, whom they deemed worthy. Like someone who is in service to a country they deem worthy. Even more so, we need to have a service to the One we deem as worthy.
Whether the worship was ‘good’ should not be first in our thoughts – but was God revealed?
Third – people need to discover their new identity in Jesus. For those in Revelation and Asia Minor – when they came to Christ and were rejecting the worship of these other gods and Caesars – they were rejected – and had a new identity in Christ. And as a new community – especially focused on Jesus’ love and devotion to us – and the cross and resurrection – that should shape our story – from here on out – more than anything else, we are people who belong to Him and He is the center of our lives.
Fourth – to create an awe-inspiring environment – we must rethink our spaces of worship. COVID 19 has done that in one sense – but even more so – when we think of our space for worship – even aesthetically – in the cathedrals throughout Europe were built to be awe-inspiring – there was this thing that took place – iconoclasm – there was a lot of artwork and statues – and the original purpose – for those who were illiterate, it told the story – but then people began centering on those – and in reaction to that – during the reformation – they threw the baby out with the bath water – and they met in churches that were white with pews and nothing else. We do these things to draw people in –
The best example of that is music. And that draws people in – that doesn’t mean that we don’t do music – but
Gathering – we need to figure things out – but eventually, we have to go back to a point – The church is a place where we need to welcome people who are shedding spiritual virus and embrace them – obviously not talking about a real virus here – but an environment where people with a spiritual virus can be fully embraced – with no social distancing.
, 11 "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created."
When we engage in this style of worship – we enter into this battle that God is involved in against the powers of evil and darkness – and by worshiping, we fully participate in the great victory of the Lamb over the powers of darkness and evil. That is how we engage.