Summary: With a constant barrage of attacks and pressure comes a danger of compromise and to surrender to the enemy which can be avoided by staying close (following) to the Savior.
STANDING FAST AND FOLLOWING CLOSE
Sermon Objective: With a constant barrage of attacks and pressure comes a danger of compromise and to surrender to the enemy which can be avoided by staying close (following) to the Savior.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
It is an ever present temptation to for believers; especially so for those who live in environments that are antagonistic to the Gospel.
• High Schools aren’t the most conducive environment for someone trying to live a Spirit-filled life.
• College dormitories are certainly not known for their tolerance to righteousness.
• Work environments are often places which encourage you to cut corners ethically.
• Even many friendships seem to function more smoothly if we are willing to relax our moral boundaries.
The temptation wears on you after a while. Compromising just a little bit can bring a significant amount of relief from the great struggle of your soul … but it comes with a heavy price.
John’s apocalypse can help us with the struggle. You see, the temptation in Asia Minor was enormous. They were not being asked to abandon Jesus Christ outright:
• Just follow the Lamb AND honor the imperial cult
• Just follow the Lamb AND offer a few temple sacrifices
• Just follow the Lamb AND be more tolerant of moral laxity within the ranks
Most of the church’s pressure to compromise came from neighbors and co-workers; not from official sources like the state. That, in some ways, was even more intense because these were their friends and family. These were people directly affected by their choices and loyalties. These were people who really knew how to turn the screws too.
But the church and Gospel's message had to remain steadfast. There was no place for moral, ethical, or doctrinal compromise.
And, you know what? For the most part they were successful. The Christians of the first century suffered the consequences (loss of income, rejection by family, even death at the hands of an emperor) but they made it. John was convinced they had the right stuff to make it. That’s why he wrote them this letter of encouragement and motivation. And that’s why he tells them the following episode in his vision.
13Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?"
14I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
The phrase “great tribulation” is not talking about some episode of time yet to come … it is talking about episodes in the reader’s / hearer’s lives. This is not some sort of a formal term that is decoded throughout the book. To allow the prophecy pundits to hijack this phrase strips it of its present day potency. John is talking to his people. He is ministering to those who are going through hard times, suffering, and distress.
And you know what? I know some of you are going through hard times for your faith too. Some of you endure distress at work, school, home, and elsewhere because you are standing fast and following close.
And you know what? God knows it too! And God will reward those who are diligently seeking Him at a personal cost to themselves.
Psalm 31:23-24 says: 23 Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full.24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
The large cattle ranches in Oklahoma and the southern plains use wooden fence posts instead of metal "T posts" because of the constant wind. After a while the constant pressure from the wind bends the metal posts. The wooden fence posts are able to endure the force and remain upright. Properly maintained … they will stand fast for decades.
And so can you when you are “properly maintained.”
So how does John’s apocalypse teach us to be “properly maintained”?