Monthly Archives: May 2014

Following The Lamb Wherever He Goes

Young Lambs

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders:and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. (Revelation 14:1-5 KJV)

Many people have argued about identity of the 144,000, but it will be of more profit to us if we simply seek to emulate them in their devotion to Christ. Although we are introduced to them earlier in Revelation, here in Chapter 14 it seems we see them at the completion of their ministry, as they receive their reward from the Lord.

This special group of believers is rewarded for their faithfulness with very high privileges. First, they are given the right to worship God with a special song which only they are allowed to learn and, apparently, play.  Second, they are invited to follow the Lamb wherever he goes. Think of that! Wherever Jesus goes, these loyal followers who will be there with him. They are His personal companions.  Third, they are described as being “before the throne of God.”  They have a special place of closeness to God’s throne.  John connects this to the fact that there is no deceit in their mouths.

I believe this is a reference to Psalm 15. In the Old Testament, people knew that you could only stand before God if you had clean lips. (We recall that Isaiah had to have his lips cleansed when he was taken up to the third heaven.) Psalm 15 goes like this:

Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. (Psalms 15:1-5 KJV)

The 144,000 display the kind of holy living that God seeks from his people. We see in them a quality of character radically different from that of the Beast-followers in the chapters preceding.

While followers of the Beast bear his hideous name or mark on their forehead, these men have the name of their Father. It may be invisible to us, but God can see that they are completely devoted to Him.

While followers of the Beast blaspheme God, these render Him pure worship, and they sing Him a new song.

While followers of the Beast have no “love of the truth” so as to be saved, the 144,000 have no deceit in their mouths.

The followers of the Beast reject God and fall away in the Great Apostasy, but these men follow the Lamb wherever He goes. And what a beautiful description of Christian living that is.

These overcoming saints live a life of personal holiness. During the trumpet judgments of Revelation, people refuse to repent of sins such as murder, theft, and sexual immorality – but these men refuse to defile themselves while sin is raging all around them.

What a beautiful contrast between two groups of people, and what a wonderful testimony to the grace of God. These men’s lives show us that even in the darkest days of history, His power can keep us close to Him, and keep us holy.

Indeed, if they did not follow Him wherever He went in the days of Tribulation to come, they would never have been rewarded by being welcomed to follow Him wherever He goes in the Age To Come.

Wanted: Obedient Ears

"Listen," by Ky
Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.
— Proverbs 25:12

Rebuking has gone out of style. Authentic and loving rebuke is rare, because few can deliver it. Few are discerning enough to see when someone has embarked upon a harmful path; few know a friend well enough to find a suitable way to deliver words calculated to bring salutary change; and, few love someone well enough to place a relationship at risk by delivering a loving reproof in any case.

We hear much today about how to correct people properly, although much of it is gleaned from the world of business and not the Word.  And there’s no shortage of hand-wringing among the saints over the fact that we don’t “speak the truth in love.”  Every American under 40 has grown up hearing that “when you point a finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you.” Yet I can’t help wondering if the greatest need of American Christians isn’t actually the other side of the coin: ears that can hear rebuke

Yes, we know that Paul tells those of us who are “spiritual” to restore with gentleness those who are caught in sin. (Galatians 6:1) But certainly there is no hope for adjustment of the offender’s life and no hope for him to reach the high calling to which he is called unless he himself has an ear that can receive a word of loving correction.

David prayed in Psalm 141 – no, not prayed – invited rebuke from the righteous: Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. (Psalm 141:5a, ESV)

Which of us is seeking this? Our generation is insolent, even surly. We accept no correction and our first instinct is the instinct of all flesh – to protect the precious life and self. Isn’t this what John the Baptist and Christ Himself meant when they called people vipers?  An outstretched hand or a flame too close will causes a snake to lash out, and in just the same way, the old man defensively bites at anyone who suggests there may be a better way than the way he’s doing it.

May the Lord give us grace to not only hear correction, but begin to actively seek His judgments in our lives. One of the most life-giving forms of spiritual poverty is this: to know that not only Christ but others, too, have what I need and that they may be able to see where I’m missing it, even when I cannot.

Is the real problem the fact that I’ve been rebuked or is it that my ear cannot hear it?

[Photo Credit: “Listen,” by Ky on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.]

The Day Before The Devil Became The Devil

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit goes before a fall. (Prov. 16:18)

The day before the Devil became the Devil, he was not the Devil.

On the Morning of Rebellion, we can well imagine that holy angels were astounded, for only yesterday he had been the anointed cherub that covered, and perfect in his ways. But that day, iniquity was found in him and he became something else. He became something formed and impelled to action by a haughty spirit. And pride. Pride that wants and pushes. Pride that disregards, pride that gives no honor where honor is due.

Only One could see the growing seed. Was there a warning? A kindly admonition to be content with his lofty place? (We will probably never know, for when we arrive There we will be so consumed with that Face that we will no longer care. Such questions are for now.)

Regardless, a seed was watered, and he nursed his ridiculous grievance until Pride, the monster that makes monsters, blossomed and the angels saw Sin for the first time – ugly, petty, and ungrateful. In Heaven’s light its nature could not be hidden, and its originator must be evicted, his presence now to be tolerated only on occasion.

On that day, Satan became the Devil. But the day before he became the Devil, he was not the Devil at all. He was beautiful and awesome in his wisdom and ability. But nurturing his thoughts of self-promotion made him something terrible and new in those early days of Creation: a sinner.

May God keep us from the destruction and the fall that come from pride and a haughty spirit. Only by His Grace can we keep from becoming the thing that, only yesterday, we never thought we would.

Search Me, O God

It’s good to examine our own hearts but to do this the wrong way can only bring discouragement, even a sense of hopelessness over our spiritual condition. The Bible says in Jeremiah 17 that our heart is more deceitful than anything and desperately wicked, then asks us this question: “Who can know it?”  (Jer. 17:9) So it is really impossible to understand our own hearts, much less to repair them.

Jeremiah goes on to reveal the solution to our problem. God says, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind…” (Jer. 17:10)  God alone has the ability, and the loving care, to show us our own hearts and point us to a remedy that will give us hope and grace for change.

Other people may discern what we are but their observations and criticisms (even their compliments) carry no power to transform us. So God has ordained that we look into His Word and allow His Spirit to show us our own need and His remedy for character flaws and besetting sins.

Through His Word and His Spirit, He will cause us to see ourselves and feel a spiritual despair at our condition. But it is not the same feeling as when people condemn us. It is something healthy. When God shows us the heart, He can also give us grace to repent and to take Christ as our remedy for every failing and insufficiency.

Let the Lord examine you. Pray like David and say, “Search me, O God!” God will surely answer that request and begin His holy task of confirming you to the image of His Son. It may be painful at times, but throughout the process you will sense His Presence and will not succumb to despair, because you will know that He who began this work in you is intent on finishing it.