In today’s Bible reading, we see two things that are called, “awe-inspiring”: an awe-inspiring sign in heaven (v. 1) and the awe-inspiring works of God (v. 3).
Awe is a word that is foreign to many Believers. We just don’t see things as being “awe-inspiring”.
The things of God tend to be, quite frankly, normal. Boring. Ho-hum. Have we become calloused? Have science and Hollywood so desensitized us to magnificence and a sense of wonder? If so, is there a way to get that sense of wonder back? I think there is. And I think this chapter gives us a clue how.
John tells us that overcoming Believers sang the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb. In other words, they sang what’s revealed in Scripture: Moses from the Old Testament and the Lamb in the New Testament.
Reading, meditating, and worshiping based on God’s Revelation can give us a fresh glimpse of what is truly awe-inspiring. God’s Word can give us the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things to dwell on. (Philippians 4:8) As we meditate on these things, we see new facets of the things of God as a jeweler sees new facets of a diamond as she peers through a magnifying loop.
When’s the last time you spent time worshiping God in song? I’m not talking about singing about God. I’m talking about singing to God. There’s a world of difference between the two. One references God in the third-person. The other references God in the second-person.
“Great and awe-inspiring are your works, Lord God, the Almighty; just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All the nations will come and worship before you because your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:3-4 CSB)
Note how their song addresses your works, your ways, your name. You alone are holy. all the nations will come and worship before you because your righteous acts. The overcomers aren’t singing about God. They are singing to God.
The next time you’re in church, note the songs you sing. If your church uses hymnals (or if you have your own), note whether the songs are about God or to God.
A few years ago, as I prepared a sermon on this very issue, I thumbed through the hymnal we used in church. I was shocked to see how few hymns actually addressed God in the second-person. Almost all of the hymns referenced God in the third-person. Now, there’s nothing wrong with singing about God. But singing about God isn’t worship.
Spend some time today singing songs to God. Use your Bible to express your adoration to the lover of your soul. Here are a few places to start. These Scriptures are examples of worshiping God in the second-person.
The Psalms are full of praises about God. As you read, ask God to overwhelm you with a fresh glimpse of Himself and His ways. Personalize the Psalms and other passages into second-person references to God.
Finally, spend a few minutes listening to my sermon, Worship in the First and Second Person Singular Present Tense.
In today’s Bible reading, John is commanded to eat the scroll held by the angel straddling the earth and sea. The angel warns John that the little scroll will taste sweet, but will upset his stomach.
God’s Word is difficult to digest but is sweet to Believers. The Psalmist says, “How sweet your word is to my taste— sweeter than honey in my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103 CSB) and “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are reliable and altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold— than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:9–10 CSB)
Ezekiel, too, was told to eat a scroll. (Ezekiel 3:1-3) His scroll was also sweet when he ate it. In both cases, having eaten the scroll, the men are commanded to prophesy (to speak God’s Word)
All too often, preachers prepare their sermons by studying the Bible without personally applying it to their lives. Oftentimes we will let our sermon prep be the only time we read and study the Word. It’s very easy to fall into this habit. And that is very sad.
Fortunately, most of us aren’t preachers. But how do you approach your Bible reading? How often does God’s Word come across as bitter to you? Perhaps it doesn’t sit well with how you have understood it in the past. Or perhaps it highlights something in your life that doesn’t line up with God’s character or His ways as revealed in His Word.
I would venture to say that if you aren’t confronted and convicted by God’s Word, you aren’t reading/studying it well. How does that taste? Bitter?
God has inspired His Word to teach you, but also to confront your sin and to prepare you for doing His work, regardless of whether or not you are a preacher or Bible Study teacher.
Spend some time asking God to show you something new in His Word as you read and study it. Ask Him to sanctify you with His Word, because His Word is truth. (John 17:17)
Expect to be confronted. Expected to be convicted.
Destructive heresies. Greed. Made up stories. Bold arrogant people. Slander. Spots. Blemishes. Delighting in their deceptions. Eyes full of adultery, never stopping to look for sin. Gone astray by abandoning the straight path. Loving the wages of wickedness. Springs without water. Mists driven by a storm.
The list of descriptions of these false teachers continues through 2 Peter 2. If these descriptions are true, why would any child of God follow such evil people? Peter partially answers the question in 2 Peter 2:14b, “They seduce unstable people.” (CSB) Paul adds, “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3 (CSB)
Because they’re deceptive, they’re difficult to see. It’s like the devil. He isn’t a guy in a red suit with a pointed tail like you see in cartoons. False teachers may look slick. They may sound slick. But like wolves in sheepskin, don’t judge by outward appearances.
So how do you guard against false teachers? The Apostles give us the answers we need: Don’t be unstable. Learn sound doctrine. Read widely in your Bible, not just your favorite passages and your favorite books of the Bible. Log time in the Word. Surround yourself with consistently-strong Bible teachers. And be careful what you read and who you watch/listen to. Some of the “big names” in Bible teachers may be the worst offenders!
One of the best things you can do is plug into a solid Bible-teaching, Spirit-led church. (And I’m not just talking about going to church; I’m talking about plugging into a local church.) There you’ll find help in discerning the good and the bad, the true and the false.
Today’s Bible reading begins and ends looking at the religious leaders. Dr. Luke says they question the source of Jesus’ authority. When He responds, asking them about John the Baptizer’s authority, they choke. They realized the gravity of His question and feared that “the people” would stone them if they learned the leaders believed that John’s authority was not divine. They refused to answer Jesus’ very pointed question.
At the end of Luke 20, Jesus issues a warning against the religious leaders’ hypocrisy. He basically says the same thing in His warning as He does in (Matthew 6:5) that they are receiving the only honor they will ever receive. They want the praise of men and they are getting that. But they will receive no praise from God at the judgment. Actually here, Jesus intensifies His warning. Not only will the leaders not be praised by God, but they will receive “harsher judgment”.
Being a pastor or teacher is an incredible honor. I know that I have been entrusted with declaring the glory of God as revealed in His Word. But with that honor comes tremendous responsibility to be faithful to that task. (James 3:1) I think that’s one reason that I prefer to use a manuscript for my sermons. I want to ensure that I say what I feel that God has given me in the way He has given it. Occasionally I will go off script as I feel God gives me a little more to say.
Those who sit under the teaching of someone else are also responsible: to study the Scriptures daily. (Acts 17:11) While the responsibility of the preacher/teacher is to speak the very words of God (1 Peter 4:11), the hearers must weigh what they hear against the Word. (1 Corinthians 14:29) I am not infallible. If I’m ever wrong in what I say, I need to be humble enough to receive correction from God’s Word, given by a friend. (2Timothy 3:16, Proverbs 27:6, Proverbs 27:17).
Who do you read? Who do you watch or listen to? Who do you follow on Social Media? You have to be careful! Yes, you can hear God’s voice from a broken, mistaken vessel. But sometimes preachers and teachers can be so wrong that it’s harmful
Please be discerning. Please! If something you hear doesn’t line up with God’s Word, gently and humbly pull the preacher/teacher aside and offer Word-based and Word-saturated correction in love. (Ephesians 4:15) If they don’t listen, take someone else and approach them again. If they still won’t listen, turn away from them and don’t look back. Treat their teaching as you would the teaching of an unbeliever who claims to speak from God. (Matthew 18:15–20)
The key for both the preacher/teacher and for the listener is humility. It’s a trait the religious leaders in Jesus’ day lacked.
In today’s Bible reading we fast forward a few years and Jesus and His cousin John (the Baptizer) are about thirty years old. John steps into the Jordan River and preaches that people should repent of their sins and be baptized.
By today’s standards, John was a very politically-incorrect preacher. Nowhere do we hear him talk about self-esteem. Nowhere do we hear him say that God loves everyone and has a wonderful plan for them. Nowhere do we hear him talk about God’s grace and mercy. Nowhere do we hear him talk about how God wants you to have health and wealth if you would only have enough faith. Nowhere does he apologize for offending his hearers. .
No, John simply preaches the Law. He preaches the bad news that people are sinners and in need of forgiveness. Sinners? Surely not! Where is the gospel, the good news?
Recent conversations with Facebook friends have revealed to me the massive divide between what I believe the Bible teaches and what they believe. For these friends, our deepest need is to be saved from not being good stewards of our planet. To be Christlike is to be more loving and accepting, and less judgmental of others. There is no mention of the word or even the concept of sin as described in the Bible. There was no admission of guilt for any sin on their part. Sin is a problem other, less tolerant people must deal with. These were people who were raised in the church. And today, they are leaders in mainline churches.
Until people hear and understand their helpless, fallen condition (the bad news), they won’t have a desire for deliverance from that condition (the good news). Look back at our earlier readings from Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. He begins with the bad news.
Look at the response of John’s audience in Luke 3:10, 12, 14. The exclaim, “What shall we do?” The Philippian Jailer asked the same question in Acts 16:30.
It isn’t until Romans Chapter 8 that Paul says that there is no condemnation for believers. (Romans 8:1) From that statement, Paul strongly implies that non-believers are still very much under God’s judgment.
Have you come to a point in your life where you realized that in light of God’s holiness, you have absolutely no claim to spending eternity with Him, much less walking with Him on this side of eternity? You may be better than many (or most) other people, but how do you compare with Jesus, the perfect man who was tempted just like we are, yet was without sin? (Hebrews 4:15)
I’m not just asking if you have sinned. Everyone (except Jesus) sins. I’m asking if you have ever come to God and confessed that you have offended your Creator and that you have an issue with a sin condition that separates you from His holiness?