is my Theology strong enough for this?

I have spent this semester studying the book of Revelation. I just completed working through this magnificent literary masterpiece, with its every word breathed out by the Holy Spirit and penned by the apostle John, for the third time since January. I spent the better part of last week researching for and writing a paper entitled “The Blood of Jesus in the Revelation of John,” in which I attempted to show how John emphasizes the atonement of Jesus Christ in order to encourage his readers to persevere in the midst of terrible persecution. In fact, I think the book of Revelation portrays the heart of the gospel, namely the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ in place of sinners, more vividly and more centrally than it shines forth the beautiful reality of his imminent glorious return!

One passage of which I have become quite fond in recent days is:

Revelation 12:10-12–And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Ah, Satan has been defeated, totally conquered! John has just been shown a microcosm of the climax of redemptive history with a vision of a woman pregnant with a son. The great red dragon would have devoured the son, but he was taken up to heaven. This is a picture of Jesus Christ, the Messiah’s birth, and then the vision skips all the way ahead to his ascension to the Father. Then, John was shown that the dragon fought a great war in heaven with Michael the archangel, and the dragon was defeated and cast down to earth. But verses 10-12 reveal what truly defeated the dragon and it wasn’t Michael and his angelic army. The focus of this victory song is actually on believers, those who benefit from the victory. Note that the voice proclaims that it is the accuser of the brothers who has been cast down, so the herald here has particularly the accusing power of the devil in mind. We see this role of Satan most plainly in the account of Job in the Old Testament, but we may assume that he actually has functioned similarly toward other people throughout history. Verse 11 notes that “they” have conquered the accuser, referring to the brothers who were formerly accused. But it is not on their own strength that they have overcome the great accuser. It is, first of all, by the blood of the Lamb that the great accuser has been thrown down. This refers back to Jesus’ death on the cross, for it is that moment in history that the great accuser lost his power to accuse. The substitutionary death of Jesus accomplished redemption with the price of his blood, and as he purchased for God a people from every tribe and language and people and nation (see Rev. 5:9), the accuser lost his accusatory power against those purchased. Indeed, this is how the second part of verse 11 shows its function, for the word of testimony mentioned is nothing other than the gospel believed and proclaimed. These in particular have clung to the gospel so tightly that they have not seen their very lives as worth keeping. One may recall Jesus’ words, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39, 16:25). Or perhaps Paul’s words: “‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:36-37).
I shall include some relevant thoughts for current events.
I’m not certain where I am going in life. I’m not certain of whether my wife will find joy in her work…ever. I’m not certain of whether or not she will be able to get a job soon enough for us to be “financially stable” as I begin graduate school. I’m not certain that we will be able to pay the bills that are coming. I’m not certain that I am cut out for graduate school. I’m not certain that I will live through this night, for even this is not guaranteed and should not be taken for granted (see Luke 12:16-21).
Of one thing I AM CERTAIN: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). Good news. What else do I need to be certain about? If this is true, I should not even shrink from death itself, for it has no claim on me, since he has died in my place. The beauty of atonement, the beauty of the gospel. In that one man’s death, the devil was conquered, death itself was conquered, sin was conquered, and reconciliation with God was effected for rebellious sinners like me.

“The Gospel” by Jimmy Needham
The Gospel, the Gospel
Fragrance in words
The sea of my soul
Is calmed when it’s heard
Peace to the broken
The captives set free
May the Gospel of Jesus
Wash over me

The Gospel, the Gospel
My freedom explained
No more shall these garments
I’m wearing be stained
The old man is missing
The new man is free
May the Gospel of Jesus
Wash over me

Wash over me
Wash over me
Come make me clean
Wash

The Gospel, the Gospel
She’s good and she’s true
She cost quite a fortune
To make all things new
So breathe in with faith
And out with his peace
May the Gospel of Jesus
Wash over me

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Published in: on April 15, 2008 at 10:15 pm  Comments (2)  

the Lord is moving…always

In recent days, I have been selling books. Not just any books, like I used to do when I worked for LifeWay Christian Store (oh, how good the past tense verb in that clause feels!); rather, I have been selling my own books. If someone asked me why I am selling books, I would probably be able to conjure up some answers about needing some extra cash or lightening the load if I am commanded to move in the near future. But as I ask myself the question, I am uncertain that those are the real, bottom-line answers. Perhaps, there is a more fundamental reason why the Lord would have me to be selling books, right now, at this particular time in my life. Everyone who knows me well could characterize me as a bibliophile, and rightfully so. My living room walls are quite literally covered with books. Maybe the Lord is pleased when I redecorate…

 This week has been a trying week for Tamara and me. My beloved wife expresses her frustrations as we have stepped forward, ever so feebly by faith, making contact with a hospital in Wheaton. In addition, we have e-mailed someone who works at Wheaton College (2 different people, now that I think of it) to seek advice as to what the nursing landscape looks like in the area. We have received no replies as of the time of this posting. No return phone calls. No e-mail responses. While at work, she calls me to see if we have received anything in our inbox, and my negative response elicits a sigh from my wife and trepidation-filled words like, “Well, God must be closing the door.” My poor attempt at encouragement probably sounds to her like a rebuke, and perhaps it is a rebuke as I am hard-pressed to find the distinction between rebuke and encouragement sometimes. “Patience, my dear. We must be patient. Let us not draw conclusions from silence.” Is my statement full of faith or does it disclose my own insecurity about it all?
Oh, Lord, help us to wait on you. You are moving; you are never idle. And you have us exactly where you want us. And you will take us where you want us to be when you want us to be there. Take us soon…

Is it possible that in selling some of my books the Lord might be setting me free from some obsession that I have? Maybe. I must acknowledge, however, that I have been extremely selective as to which books I am selling. Only books that I now think I will never have the least desire to read, or that I have already read and feel that I can no longer glean anything from them are to be discarded. Still, perhaps the Lord is taking me somewhere in my faith but only a small step at a time. Ah, how kind he is! His goodness overflows even as he is gently tearing me apart. ‘Tis for my sanctification.

Published in: on April 3, 2008 at 10:31 pm  Comments (1)