Saturday, March 18, 2017

Revelation 14:13 – VANTAGE POINT

Revelation 14:13 – VANTAGE POINT
Life from God’s perspective

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this:

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

Sometimes we need a little perspective… we experience things that require a change in vantage point.

Like the young man who went out for track in college in order to please his father. His dad had always been a good athlete, but no matter how hard he tried, the son had no athletic ability whatsoever. To make matters WORSE, his first race was a two-man race against the best runner in school. He was badly beaten.

Not wanting to disappoint his dad, the boy wrote home as follows: "You will be happy to know that I ran against Bill Williams, the best athlete in school. He came in next to last. But I came in second."

Talk about PERSPECTIVE!!!

When God looks at us, He sees things we can’t. He knows where we have come from… He knows what is just around the bend on life’s road. He knows the people and the circumstances, the challenges and disappointments we will face. He knows. He has a different PERSPECTIVE of our lives than WE do.

It’s kinda like the difference between driving and flying. When you are driving, you might experience a lot of bad traffic. You get frustrated over how slow the cars are moving. Your vision is limited… you can only see so far.

But up in the air, you can see the problem ahead. You would realize that, if you will just be patient, once you get around that wreck, it’s smooth sailing.

Perspective – sometimes you need to see things from a HIGHER vantage point.

We have an example of perspective in our passage.

What we find in this chapter might scare the begeebers out of us. In fact, a LOT of people avoid the book of Revelation out of fear… the hostility against the people of God – the suffering and even death of many of God’s people.

As you read Revelation, it seems the whole world is pitted against the Church ⇒ because it IS! As the apocalypse unfolds, there is blood, smoke, and death on every hand. But THEN God speaks… and the message He gives inspires confidence... hope… peace.

“What changed?” we ask? Perspective. Death is still there. Defeat is all around. But God moves in and reassures His people that His plan has not been thwarted – that He STILL is in control – He is STILL on His throne!

Which made me think of YOU. I don’t know all the things going on in your life right now. But I do know that you are human. I know you struggle to understand many of the things that happen in your life. At times you are at a loss for answers – worried, fearful. It happens to the best of us.

But God offers you reassurance today. He is STILL God. He is STILL ON His throne. And one of these days we are going to understand things.

We just need a change in perspective.

We focus on the hurt. We only see death. But God says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

To help us bear the burden of living in a broken world, God offers some perspective from His throne.

1. Notice first, the Reality for those who love the Lord. You want reality???

The Christian life is hard – and those who live it WILL face hostility. You would THINK the world would appreciate the difference the Lord makes in a life. How living for Jesus makes us better people – honest, compassionate, generous, better neighbors, great work ethic. You would THINK a lost man would value the Christian’s integrity. But sadly, we are despised.

We live in a country where freedom of speech has long been considered a basic right of its citizens – and it STILL is for those who would spew their venom. Are you kidding me??? Liberals get away with saying TERRIBLE things - but when a Christian answers a question about homosexuality according to his belief in God’s Word, the whole world rises up to shout him down. He’s called “a homophobe… a radical… an ignorant redneck” when all the person did was respond to a question from God’s Word. Nothing mean-spirited was intended. Nothing deserving of such animosity.

This is our reality.

You would THINK that a man deserves recognition for doing what is right – but our world is so confused about WHAT is right that it calls good “evil” and evil “good.”

That is our reality.

The Church will never be appropriately lauded for the good things it does.  The hospitals built in this country BY the church; the schools, orphanages, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

The Church will never be respected and honored for taking a stand on the scriptures. In fact, the more of a stand we TAKE, the more of a TARGET we become. As Paul told Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus WILL BE persecuted.”

We need to forget about trying to make THEM happy.

Our text actually implies TWO realities:

It shows us how, in THIS life, the church will be ridiculed and attacked for its faith. How the last days will be hostile to our hope… how the church will move from being the butt of all jokes to being viewed as the enemy of progress. People like you who love the Lord will become objects of scorn… some will be faced with the hard choice of standing for truth or losing their jobs. That is the first reality.

But there is a second reality… a heavenly one. Though the world tramples the sacred, though they challenge you and persecute you and take your rights away – God says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” The very WORST this world can do is hasten our home-going.

When the emperor Valens threatened Christian historian, Eusebuis with the confiscation of all his goods, torture, banishment, and even death, the courageous Christian replied, "He needs not fear confiscation, who has nothing to lose; nor banishment, to whom heaven is his country; nor torments, when his body can be destroyed at one blow; nor death, which is the only way to set him free from sin and sorrow." To put it simply, this world wasn’t his home… and as powerful as an emperor might be – he couldn’t take away what God had given him.

Though my reality in THIS life may be rejection and ridicule, I have a reality that is waiting for me that is far better than ANYTHING I could EVER have in THIS life. And when your focus is on heaven and pleasing God, your joy, your peace will not be threatened.

As a Christian, don’t fall into the trap of focusing your thoughts, fears, loves - HERE. Fix your eyes on the eternal. THAT will give you perspective!

2. But not only do we see the Reality for those who love the Lord, we ALSO see the REST for those who love the Lord, when it says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may REST from their labors…” 2 things are implied by the word - “rest:”

First, the Lord promises a future rest to those who love Him. The great invitation of Jesus is found in Matthew 11, where He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In this world, there is struggle. In the Lord, there is Satisfaction. In this world, there are problems. In the Lord, there is peace.

All the Jews had ever been taught was the importance of working for their salvation. The Pharisees and scribes had saddled people with impossible burdens no man could carry. No matter how many things they might do, no matter all their offerings and sacrifices and regulations kept, their guilt was always there… their sins could not be forgiven through the keeping of endless rituals.

Only in Christ is there rest from all that.

It’s an exhausting thing - trying to save yourself. What’s worse, it can’t be done. Only Jesus can save… only HE could meet the perfect requirements of God, and all those who trust in Him find rest.

But not only does this text remind us that WHEN we accept Christ by faith, we have true REST, it also reminds us that we are called to WORK for the Lord with the time we have left. You don’t need rest if you don’t work. It’s like young people always complaining about how tired they are when they haven’t DONE anything. Work first, rest later. Or at least, that’s how it is SUPPOSED to be.

Sometimes, however, the church is guilty of thinking our rest is here and now. More interested in comfort and convenience, we neglect the work of the Lord. Words like “sacrifice” chafe us. Those who want to BE served don’t want to hear challenges to serve others.

The church often acts like a construction crew where there are 9 guys leaning on shovels while one guy is digging the ditch.

We have a work to do, church. The first thing the disciples of Jesus heard was “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The last thing they heard was, “GO ye therefore!” We have a work to do. Jesus said, “I must do the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man CAN work.”

The most satisfying life is one spent in the service of the Lord... whatever that service is. You will never be happy in your Christian experience, you will never grow and be all that God wills for you to be, until you find your calling, your ministry, and do it with all your might. Great things are accomplished by those who yield their time and talents to the Lord, for His glory, for His purposes.

Are YOU serving? Are you a part of something that matters? Something BIGGER than yourself? Are you yielding your talents to the Lord for His glory?

Rest will come – but NOW is the time for work.

3. But there is one more thing to see here. Not only the Reality and the Rest for those who love the Lord, think about the Reward for those who love the Lord. God says, “for their deeds follow them!”

Your works “follow” you. Sometimes that’s a BAD thing. When we have done wrong… maybe even broken the law – maybe there was a time in our lives we were known for the bad things we had done - and that bad reputation followed us. Maybe our misdeeds prevent us from getting a job. Our past indiscretions might keep us from being accepted by others or denied us promotions. So in CERTAIN circumstances, your works “following” you is a BAD thing.

But it CAN be a GOOD thing, such as HERE, where we have the promise that God will not forget the good works we’ve done.

Man might forget about the good works you’ve done. Man might not notice your sacrifice and talent – you may not be praised by your peers. But God sees and knows all that you are doing for Him.

7 different times in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 ALONE, the Lord says these exact words, “I know your works.” In Hebrews 6 the writer says, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints.”

God is an excellent accountant. He keeps books. He keeps them ALL the time. And one of these days we will stand before Him to give an account of our lives. On THAT day we will hear one of two things. Either “Well Done, good and faithful servant…” or “Depart from me for I never knew you.”

Your works follow you, friend - no matter how bad we wish they wouldn’t. You will be judged by Your works, not someone else’s. God isn’t going to give you credit for someone else’s work. And He isn’t going to compare YOUR’S with MINE. No, all of us will give an account for ourselves. And on THAT day, there will be JOY and there will be heartache.

James Denney wrote, “It is only Christians who are in view here. All that we have hidden shall be revealed. The things we have done in the body will come back to us, whether good or bad. Every pious thought, and every sin; every secret prayer, and every secret curse; every unknown deed of charity, and every hidden deed of selfishness; we will see them all again, and though we have not remembered them for years, and perhaps had forgotten them altogether, we shall have to acknowledge that they are our own.

Is not THAT a solemn thing to face at the end of life?”

The idea of being rewarded ought to be enough to keep us motivated to serve the Lord while we have time. The thought of PLEASING HIM, ought to spur us on to greater things.

That makes me think of a funny story someone shared in Reader’s Digest several years ago. It said, “One morning I opened the door to get the newspaper and was surprised to see a strange little dog with our paper in his mouth. Delighted with this unexpected "delivery service," I fed him some treats and praised him for his good deed.

The following morning I was horrified to see that SAME little dog sitting on my doorstep, wagging his tail, surrounded by eight newspapers.”

It’s amazing what a little bit of praise will do, Amen?!?

Perspective – this text provides it. As we suffer hardship and rejection in this life, we need to remember that God is STILL on the throne, and is working for our good, and will not forget the things we have done in THIS life.

REST IS coming. When we get to heaven, all our opportunities for work will be over. We need to make the most of our opportunities… we need to invest ourselves in things that matter, because one of these days it will all be over.

THEN we will enjoy our REWARD. God will recall all those things we have done – and the good will be rewarded.

What about you this morning? Are you experiencing rejection? Ridicule for your testimony? This is our REALITY.

But we have GOT to keep pressing on, serving the Lord while we have time. NOW is NOT the time for REST.

When God calls us home, THEN it will for REST and REWARD. He will open his books where all our deeds are recorded - he will reward us for the good things we’ve done and we will in turn use those rewards to glorify Christ for all eternity.

As we approach the end of the service, maybe God is speaking to YOU - - maybe YOU have been discouraged and you need to come to this altar and pray for God’s strength to continue pressing on? Maybe you realize you haven’t been faithful to use your time and talents in service of the Lord and you want to ask God to use you?

The best time to start - is today…