The River of LIfe

Heaven will be stunningly amazing. Heaven will be better than anything on earth and better than everything on earth. Heaven will be better than the very best thing on earth. Nothing here comes close to comparing to what it will be like there. The sounds will be crisper, the colors sharper and more brilliant, the sights will be more spectacular, the smells will be more aromatic, the sensations will be euphoric. It will be sensory overload. To experience the marvelous light of the glory and presence of God will be something like, all at once, tasting all the best tastes (ice cream, chocolate, strawberries, fine wine), hearing all the most beautiful sounds possible (ocean waves, Beethoven symphonies, a babies laugh, a kitten’s purr), feeling every good sensation possible (back rub, sitting down after standing for hours, silk on the skin, toes in a sandy beach), inhaling all the most wonderful scents at once (lavender and lilacs in spring, Chanel No. 5, fresh bread baking), and seeing all the most beautiful created things possible (Aurora Borealis, a murmuration of starlings, the Milky Way on a clear night, the Grand Tetons, a lightning storm). Yet heaven is better than all of this multiplied a thousand times, but heaven is at least all of this” (this idea inspired by a Joshua Gibbs blog post). It will be a purity and beauty of experience that no human words can convey. All the symbols John uses in Revelation are meant to communicate to us that what’s in heaven is beyond what mere symbols can capture. It will be above and beyond anything we could ask or imagine. It will be better even than the Garden of Eden which is being paralleled in John’s vision. The river and the trees, the abundance, the beauty, the intimacy with God Himself, all of that it turns out was a prophetic vision anticipating an even greater future. What the first Adam lost by his sin, the second Adam recovered by His obedience. That wonderful paradise lost is regained in heaven. This final vision restores the very first vision of unbroken, idyllic fellowship between God and man. The end is far better than the beginning.

The Lifestyle of Sojourners and Exiles

Beloved. Peter loves those he is writing to, this is a love letter, full of compassion, care and concern. But the one writing this letter through Peter loves also and His love extends not just to them but to us. This letter is one of countless expressions of God’s love for us. Have you ever had some one really important, really busy, really wise, turn aside to you and give you special time and attention and focus? Have you ever felt honored by such an action? This is that to you this morning. Beloved by God, sojourners and exiles in this world, once not a people but now a people, God is speaking to you, He cares more about you and your soul than you or anyone else. Listen to the very words of God to you this morning. They are His warm embrace. I John 3:1-2 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. … 2 Beloved, we are God's children now. As Peter writes, so I feel as I preach and teach and pray and minister here. I carry a deep burden for this flock and for your souls. You are loved by God and by your pastor. Beloved, I preach to you who are sojourners and exiles in this land.

God is Marching On

In 1858 Kimball, a Sunday School teacher, led a Boston shoe clerk to give his life to Jesus Christ.  that clerk, Dwight L. Moody, became the evangelist who awakened the evangelistic zeal in the heart of F.B Meyer, the pastor of a small church. o Meyer, preaching on American college campuses, at 1 time brought to Christ a student named J.Wilber Chapman. o Chapman, engaged in YMCA work, employed a former baseball player, Billy Sunday, to help with evangelistic meetings. o a group of local men were so enthusiastic about Billy Sunday's series of services in Charlotte, NC, that they planned another campaign with Mordicai F. Hamm as the preacher. o during these meetings, a young man, Billy Graham, heard the gospel and gave his life to Christ.. o & Billy Graham...well you know the rest of the story—it goes on & one & on!  well, we could ask ourselves the question: “Have I started something lately for the Lord? o “Witnessed to another person who in turn is telling another about Jesus & so on?” Now we see from that course of events God is on move in this world to save it  He continues to forge links & a procession of Christian witnesses & workers who love & serve Him.  Christians whose lives show God's saving grace. o & whose lips proclaim His good news around the globe. o from east to west, north to south, to bring people to Christ. Well, Paul is kind of talking about that in the passage we read from IICor.2.  here he praises & thanks God that He continues to move mightily through the world, defeating sin & Satan. o & establishing His Church & extending His Kingdom through the preaching & practicing of His saving Word everywhere.  & he praises Lord that He is doing that despite events & experiences that go against us & hinder God’s mission & ministry we have on earth. Th'fore, as we face another new year of service for the Lord in His work of mercy & missions & evangelism for salvation of sinners,--

Living Stones, Holy People

I remember being in a communications class at Wheaton College and being told by the professor to pair up and he would guide us through a series of questions to ask each other. The first question was easy, “who are you?” The second question was a little harder, “Who are you?” We had to give a different answer. The next eight questions were all the same and with each one it got harder as we had to drill deeper and deeper into who we are. If you had to finish the sentence, “I am …” how would you finish it and if you had to finish it ten times what might you say? How do we define ourselves, how do we think of ourselves? Peter has shown us God’s salvation. Now he shows us how it defines us, what it says about us and how we should to live it out. Verse five is the key verse and the one that gives us an outline for unpacking this passage:

The New Jerusalem

Remember how I started last week’s sermon with some people’s idea of heaven being wearing white robes, playing harps on clouds. I came across a wonderful C.S. Lewis quote I want to read: “There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps’. The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it. People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs” (Mere Christianity). We are most definitely in the realm of the symbolic in this great and final vision of John on the Island of Patmos. But just because it is symbolic, doesn’t mean it isn’t real or true. It just means that human language is employed here to try to capture something that can’t be expressed with human language. This is an earthly glimpse of a very real heavenly reality. As has happened three times before, John is carried away by the Spirit to be shown something. In Revelation 17 he was carried away by one of the seven angels to a wilderness to be shown a woman, a harlot, the great whore of Babylon. This vision is meant to be a great contrast to that vision.

What do you think of when you hear the word heaven? What flashes into your mind’s eye? One of the unfortunate images of heaven among unbelievers is of saints in white robes strumming harps on puffy white clouds, sing around a great throne for endless ages of eternity. No wonder some people think heaven sounds more like their idea of hell. Whatever we think of when we think of heaven is greatly handicapped by the fact that here on earth heaven is completely inaccessible to any of our five senses. At Jesus’ baptism a door to heaven opened a crack, we saw a dove come down and we heard a voice. In Revelation 4 the door opened even further: Revelation 4:1-2 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. Now we are at the moment of John’s final and greatest vision. These first 8 verses are a bit like a summary that will be expanded on in the rest of chapter 21 and 22. This is a forward or a preview, a setting of the stage for the grand finale of this great drama at the end of history. What a dramatic shift. How many chapters now have we been wading through pain and suffering, persecution and torment? How many promises have we heard made to those who persevere and overcome, who don’t bow the knee, who don’t bear the mark of the beast? Now comes the fulfillment, the consummation, the vindication. Our text has two parts, and passing of former things and the making of all things new.

Somethings Just Never Change

Last month I had the blessing of visiting with a newly wed couple. I delivered new Bibles to them from our church to replace their Bibles that were burned when their home burned down while they were away for their wedding and honeymoon. When we met with them they told us an amazing story. When the fire marshal finally let them into their home to look for anything salvageable they went in their bedroom and on the two night stands were the crumpled ashes of several books but their two Bibles were intact, singed around the edges, with smoke and water damage but intact, you could open them and read them. All the other books unrecognizable ashes. And get this, the fire marshal said he had seen the same thing many times before. What a picture of the imperishable Word of God. Peter sets before us the fact of imperishable seed which is the living and abiding Word of God which has been preached to you. Scripture reflects its author. Whatever you can say about God you can say about the Bible. Just as God is eternal and everlasting, so is His book. Just as God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so is His book. Just as God is true and trustworthy, so is His book. Just as God is holy, righteous and just, so is His book. Just as God is good, wise and discerning, so is His book. Just as God is unchangeable, so is His book.

God is the Greatest

You know there are fundamental fact of the Christian faith that we may never back down on or tone down.  these basic truths, like the Trinity, Jesus’ virgin birth & divinity, man’s sinfulness, Christ’s cross & bodily resurrection—  these truths we must believe & preserve at all cost for our salvation & eternal life with God. But there is really 1 fundamental fact of all the fundamental truths of faith.  & that fact is the sovereignty of Almighty God.  that, as Rom.11:36 says, “From Him & through Him & to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. ” Take that basis truth & text out of Bible & our faith, then you take away everything else Scriptures teach about God & our salvation.  & all the other fundamentals of the Christian faith & life vanish.  for we then take the only thing that can help us overcome sin. o the only thing that helps us to keep our senses & be strong & sure in our changing world with all its evils & errors, it hardships & heartaches. o & the only thing that will help us face a new year with confidence & courage, comfort & security; be able to walk through life & this world with joy & peace. We consider then this fundamental fact of all fundamental facts:  that God is sovereign, or THE GREATEST.  1st, the awesome meaning; &, 2nd, the manifold revelation.