Why are we doing this “STORY” series? Well I believe it is VITALLY important that for the health of every Christian and non-Christian that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. For the Christian, that is the STORY of the Bible—the Story of God. It is in this Story we find joy, happiness and fulfillment.
Theme: Appreciating the End requires appreciating the cost.
1. To appreciate the End we need to remember what got us here.
Before we begin to today let me read the end of the Story—READ Revelation 21.1-4. Doesn’t this place sound awesome?! What is preventing us from rejoicing in what we read here? Does it sound impossible? Is it to FAR away? Think through that today friends.
One thing I believe that is preventing us from rejoicing in the end of the Story is because we forget the rest of the Story. So, in order to truly appreciate the Story, or rejoice in the end, we need to review what has happened. Our first parents entered a world who’s designer and builder was God. The world God created had NO pain and suffering. But our first parents began a pattern that would be pasted down to every son and daughter of Adam and Eve. That pattern is a striving to build our world. It is what Augustine called the city of man. We were made for the City of God—to display the Glory of God to each other and the rest of creation. Colossians 1 tells us:
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.—Colossians 1.16
Revelation 21.1 tells us it is not about us going back to the Garden, but building something better. Scripture is progressive. We were made to cultivate creation—to bring more good into the world. We were meant to make salsa, pizza, iPhones, computers—“Every good and perfect gift comes from above”. None of these are evil, but they become evil when we seek to glorify ourselves with them. Continuing to do what our first parents did. This is why Jesus tells in John 3 that we need to be BORN AGAIN! We need a new FAMILY. We need new DESIRES. We need new VALUES. We need a NEW LIFE.
2. To appreciate the End the outcome must be our greatest desire.
Pastor John Piper wrote a book called, God is the Gospel. The point, or thesis, of the book is the reason the Gospel is “GOOD NEWS” is because we get GOD! People who dwell with God do not dwell in suffering, pain, and turmoil. We get our greatest desire—GOD!
I know in our present age it is hard to understand the language of this text, because many of give our hearts, and sometimes, even bodies away to SO many passions. We given so much away we feel as if nothing will ever satisfy us. We can’t even imagine what a satisfied life looks like. But what John is describing here in Revelation 21 is entire nations of people being FINALLY satisfied. They are no longer running around chasing joy, fulfillment, value, worth, and satisfaction because they are find it all in God—READ Revelation 21.2-3.
The message of the Bible is NOT about making you into a better person, but making you into a SATISFIED person. But far to many of us want a manual on how we can fix ourselves. And why is that? It is because our sin is so DEEP that we want to even use God and His laws as a means to get what we want. We want another “SELF-HELP” book, but the Bible is a God help book. We want, “Give me 3 points to make me a better dad, mom, worker, or whatever.” But the Bible is about humbling asking for God’s help in our parenting, marriages, work, and whatever else. And we are NOT even promised we will get those desires. They may never come in this life, but we are promised in God’s Son is that we will be conformed to His likeness—READ Romans 8.28-29.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.—Romans 8.28-29
3. To appreciate the End we must remember it is expensive.
All that sounds awesome John, but WHAT NOW?—READ Revelation 21.5-7. What the heck does it mean to CONQUER and how do we do that? Conquering comes from learning to listen to the Spirit of Christ. Now let me say this is NOT something I have mastered but I am still learning today, and will continue to learn until I reach the point in the Story we have looked at today.
When I read the Story of Christ I see doing awesome stuff. When I read the stories of the apostles and the early Church I see them doing awesome stuff. So, I begin to ask myself, why is that not happening in my life, during my lifetime, or in our church? Here is what I was meditating on this week, and have been for a few weeks now—they are practiced what it meant to be led by the Holy Spirit.
Far to many of us have NOT been taught what it means to be led by the Spirit because it was either neglected or emphasized in such a way that is a bit overwhelming. Learning to listen to the Spirit is a simple & difficult task. How is it simple? It is simple because we live in a culture here in the west where we have access to the Bible in our own language. The Gospel of John tells us:
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”—John 14.25-26
Therefore when we read II Timothy 3.16-17 we are supposed understand it in light of what Jesus said in John’s Gospel:
All Scripture is breathed out [inspired] by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [person] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.—II Timothy 3.16-17
If you want to HEAR from the Spirit of God friend READ your BIBLE! Our Bibles help our desires align with God’s desires. It helps our hearts be satisfied.
This is a FAITHFUL discipline. I say that because many times you will read your Bible, and see yourself NOT living out what God requires. You may work at it for a while, but then FAIL. What do we do in those moments? Do we say, “Oh, it didn’t work, so I’m giving up on that.” NO! If that arises in your heart it is a heart check. You need to ask yourself a couple of questions, “Who was I doing that for? Was that for my glory or God’s glory? Was I doing that in FAITH or in the flesh? Am I willing to WAIT on the LORD to change my desires?” We don’t quit just because it gets tough. No, we are actually promised it will be TOUGH. Anything worth any value comes at a COST.
This is the difficult part friends. We striving to work with the Spirit training our mind, hearts, and bodies to know the will of God and love the will of God. There are easier decisions I can make today because I have spent a great deal of time in the Word, but there are things that are tougher to decide because I have spent a great deal of time in the Word. Then there are also things I still completely don’t understand because I have not spent enough time in the Word. In order to conformed into the image of Christ I need to know what is the WILL of the Father. There is this challenging part of Christianity where I am trying to beat my flesh into submission, but it will not happen until God decides to send His Spirit in power. No matter how hard we try we still have to have FAITH.
There is one more difficult part I want to focus on this week. And that is what to do with our knowledge of the Bible when it concerns others? We will live in a world today where people are running around telling each that we need to be more loving and compassionate toward each other. The problem is we have no idea what is loving and compassionate—READ Revelation 21.8. This tells us that those who practice these things will DIE a torturous that will last forever. You are not a loving person if you have a cure for the deadly disease in someone’s life and don’t share it with them. The Story is we all had this deadly disease and someone brought the cure to us, and we took the cure on faith. Who are we to withhold it from someone? We might have not really gotten what has happened to us if we are not willing to share it. We might not believe it.
Who is the person God is laying on your heart RIGHT NOW that you need to go share the cure with? If Jesus has called me to pour into someone’s life, I can do that because I know Jesus has something better for them just like He does for me.
The theme I want us to see today at the end here is—we cannot claim to have been changed by God without it COSTING us something. Christ left the perfect joy-filled fellowship of the Trinity so that we could come into that relationship. It COST Christ His life. II Corinthians 5 tells us:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.—II Corinthians 5.14-15
This week I would like us all to spend one day, just one day meditating deeply on this passage. After you do that I want you to ask God to lay on your heart someone in your life that it would cost you something to spend time with them. Ask God to make it WHITE HOT in you—so much so that you can’t do anything but go be obedient. This may mean you will have to miss a meal with your family, a date night with your wife, not spend as much time on work. You may have to get up earlier than you like, or go to bed latter than you like. It will need to COST you something, but it will FAIL in comparison to what it COST Christ to buy back our souls. Let the LOVE of Christ control you this week.