Revelation Discipleship - Part 2
Revelation. A book of awe and wonder, confusion and fear, and….. Discipleship?
Where else in the Bible can we study letters written directly by Jesus to specific churches telling them what they are doing right and wrong? If you are a “list” person (like I am), we couldn’t come any closer to a list of do’s and don’ts for the Church.
We’ve already established in the beginning of the series that discipleship is not only essential, but it is lacking in our modern North American church. During this time of crisis we’re going to dig deep into the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation to find a new paradigm for discipleship and “begin with the end in mind”.
One of the primary issues with our modern discipleship is the lack of teaching in how to actually study the Bible. We’ve been taught the concept of the “Quiet Time” for so long that we forget that we should do anything outside of 15 minutes in the morning with a good “devotional book”, a couple of verses, and a journal.
Not that a “Quiet Time” isn’t a wonderful tool, but what other relationship in your life could thrive on 15 minutes a day? This has become the new standard of obedience, and it’s truly an indictment against the Church that 15 minutes a day is considered varsity level. It’s become radical to consider even spending an hour a day in prayer and bible study.
Lifeway Research states “The more often people attend church, the more likely they are to read the Bible daily. Thirty-nine percent of those who attend worship services at least once a month read a bit every day, while only thirteen percent of those who attend services less than once a month pick up a Bible daily.”
Okay, nevermind that Lifeway Research thinks of “regular churchgoers” as those who go at least once a month (that’s a whole other article for another time), but of those “regulars”, only 39% read a bit of their bible every day?
Are we, in the West, a Church of people who claim that the Bible is our paradigm for life and worship, but never actually read or study it?
The research says yes, as does the Biblical illiteracy that seems rampant in our Western culture.Are we, in the West, a Church of people who claim that the Bible is our paradigm for life and worship, but never actually read or study it? Click To Tweet
For instance, yesterday I was on Audible looking for a new book to listen to. I clicked through to find the “best sellers” list under the “Christianity” tab and what did I find? Several of the top 5 were writers/thought leaders who have strayed far from orthodox Christian views. As I moved through the list most were very me-centered and some were downright New Age. Interestingly, the ones that seemed actually “Christian” were old classics.
How do they deem what is a “best seller”? The amount of purchases, of course. So the Christian books (at least in Audible, but the list is mostly across the board) most purchased are ones that are not necessarily Biblically grounded. This is only possible if WE are not biblically grounded, therefore we cannot tell what is orthodox and what is heresy.
Beginning with all this in mind, we need to determine how to study the letters that Jesus dictated to the churches in Revelation.
With any other piece of literature, the first question you would ask is what kind of literature is it? You would not study a poem the same way you would study a statistical analysis.
In this case, it is a letter.
When you receive a letter (remember those?), it comes in an envelope. On that envelope there is some very important information. Who wrote the letter? Who were they writing to? If you don’t know those two simple things, reading the letter could be a very confusing experience.
When you receive a letter, what do you do with it? You rip it open, turn directly to page three paragraph 2, read two sentences, and then ponder what they mean to you.
Then why do we read the Bible that way?
How crazy out-of-context would things be if you built your life around a few sentences in a letter that you were unsure who the writer was and who the intended audience was, you get my drift…
The first step to studying the Bible is receiving the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is absolutely essential in reading and properly interpreting the Scriptures. In John 14:26 it says:
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
When we separate the Spirit of God from the Word of God we get legalism and dead orthodoxy. Luke tells us how to receive the Holy Spirit - just ask! 11:13 says:
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
Now we're ready to ask the questions...
The first question to ask when studying the Bible is not “What does this say to me?”, it’s “What does this say?” Very simply, literally - what does it say. The Bible was written for everyone, not just highly educated people who could determine the symbolism in scripture. Why would God write a book meant for everyone in a way that is hard to understand?
Second question - “What does it mean?” What is the author trying to convey to the audience? This is where you use history, cross referencing, commentaries, all kinds of tools that are available to work out, through the Holy Spirit’s leading, what the author is conveying to their audience.
Third question - now that we know these things we can ask “What does this say to me?”
Do you see how skewed our interpretation of what the Bible is saying could be if we skip the first two questions and go right to “What does this say to me?”
The Bible can not say what it never said.
Read that again. I'll wait.
If your interpretation of “What is this saying to me?” cannot be backed up Biblically, then it is wrong. Simple as that.
So, on to the letters to the churches in Revelation!
We’ve established that they are letters written by Jesus to specific churches in specific situations. They have been placed in the canon of scripture because they have things to teach us today.
The first letter is to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. What does the letter Jesus wrote to them say to us who claim to be disciples today in 2020?
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