Summary: You've heard the saying, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do.' In other words, to fit in do what the natives do. Is that reaaly a good motto for followers of Jesus?

“The Great Unveiling: When in Rome …”

Revelation 17:1-18

You’ve heard the saying – “When in Rome do as the Romans do!” It means that to fit in wherever you are, do what the natives do. And, in the time Revelation was written, many people lived as the Romans lived. Some did not. But every person had a choice to make concerning his or her loyalty in life. And when we begin to understand what Rome stands for today, we recognize that we, too, have the same choice – when in Rome, will we do as the Romans do? When on earth will we do as the earthlings do? What will be our supreme loyalty? To help us with our thinking, let’s study this 17th chapter.

First, consider a WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE OF LEARNING. Verse 3 reads: “Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw…” Wilderness experiences have always had great significance for God’s people. THE WILDERNESS STANDS FOR A TIME OF DRAWING APART FROM EVERYDAY LIFE IN ORDER TO EXAMINE AND SEE MORE CLEARLY. One cannot examine the effects of pollution or smog while in the middle of it; one cannot know the extent of a fire when in the middle of the flames; one cannot know the extent of the enemy army when in the middle of the battle. He or she must get outside and look at the wider picture. In a wilderness experience we can see life as it really is; there we can see good versus evil and discover what evil really is.

Think of ISRAEL. For 40 years she wandered in the wilderness. Yes, it was a time of PUNISHMENT; BUT IT WAS ALSO A TIME OF TEACHING about the privileges of life with God and the perils of life without Him. There she could see and learn. Think also of MOSES, who for 40 years was PREPARED AND EQUIPPED in the desert. There he learned the skills and insights which enabled him to lead his people through that desert wilderness. And what of ELIJAH who ran to the wilderness in his despair, REGAINED HIS COMPOSURE AND FAITH when he was met and refreshed by God? And JOHN THE BAPTIST was uniquely prepared as he grew up in the wilderness and there RECEIVED HIS MESSAGES AND INSIGHTS FROM GOD. And it was in the wilderness where JESUS, by being tempted, ESTABLISHED HIS CHARACTER. The wilderness is the place where God can speak to us, form us, and prepare us.

We must be intentional about building that significance into our lives. WE MUST TAKE TIME TO RETREAT AND BE RENEWED. Some pf you will say, “But Pastor Curry, you don’t understand. I’m busy.” I do understand – and I also understand that we take the time to do what we value. St. Francis of Assisi often went to the mountains – it’s where he found extraordinary power and strength. Lloyd Ogilvie used to spend a concentrated period of time each year studying while cloistered abroad – and from that came his sermons and books. Did you know that the faithful Muslims fast for one month each year? Jesus retreated to the mountains to rest and pray. I wonder if these people and so many others point us to something that we have lost? Whenever I have practiced what I preach about retreating for renewal, and actually do it, it has a profound affect upon me. All I need to do is do it.

WE NEED MORE OF THE QUIET LIFE, THE PROLONGED SOLITUDE, THE FASTING AND PRAYER, which the saints of the old practiced so faithfully. The only way we can receive the message of God is to make room for it. We prefer for God to speak in such dramatic ways that “we can’t help but notice;” but He seldom speaks that way. God much prefers to wait for us to be prepared. Why not fast a day a month? Why not spend a designated time each day and each week in prayer and meditation? Why not spend some vacation time just meditating and reflecting, where no knocks on the door, no phones, no email, no twitter, no Facebook will interrupt us? WE MUST BE CLOSER TO GOD AND THE HOLINESS OF HEAVEN IN ORDER TO SEE THE UNHOLINESS OF THE WORLD; we must be covered by Christ’s light in order to see the darkness of the world.

Remember Lot (Gen. 13: 12-13). He spent so much time away from the wilderness, with his heart in the midst of the world, that his heart was never really freed from Sodom and Gomorrah. If, like Lot, we pitch our tents in the wrong direction, we will not be strong enough to withstand the fiery darts of the evil one. We must build into our lives more wilderness experiences of learning.

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