Friday, March 8, 2013

By Hearing

It’s not often that I end up with two posts published on the same day, even if one is a guest post.  But the backstory makes it interesting.  My week had been “interesting”, to say the least.  So I missed any mention of this weeks theme (or, maybe, forgot it) for our G+ Christian bloggers community.  At 1:30 this morning, I found out it was “faith”.  But, at that point I was ready for bed and posted a guest devotional from one of my favorites, Todd Parsons.  As you know, we’ve been writing about John 15.  I’ve also been doing a 31 day reading plan from YouVersion called “Deeper into Scripture”, which seems to focus on a theme for each week  And, when I finished today’s reading, it seemed that the community theme, the place where we’re parked in John 15, and this week’s theme in my reading plan came together to create an interesting picture.  One we need to look at.

When we look at John 15:19, again, we get an interesting picture.  It says, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”.  If we look at the verses around it, it’s clear that faith is the only thing that will get us through those circumstances.  The how and the why become really interesting.

Think of the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus goes to pray before going to the Cross.  We hear of the disciples falling asleep while Jesus is sweating blood from the demonic attack against Him and His prayers.  I’m not sure about anyone else, but I’ve had times where I had a hard time understanding how the disciples could sleep through such a charged event.  Then it struck me.  Jesus wasn’t the only one being attacked.  The disciples were under a more subtle attack.  And Jesus wasn’t pointing out their failure, but rather trying to get them to recognize what was happening.  Think about how they would deal with that apparent failure in the future as they shared the Gospel.  The demons wanted them to feel like they weren’t good enough, without seeing that Jesus made us all “good enough”.  They needed faith in God’s workings when theirs were obviously insufficient.

The reading plan’s theme for this week, at least as I see it, is that our external words and actions are molded by our internal relationship with God.  Even faking spirituality is based on that.  Today’s reading is Revelation 1:9-20.  As we know, John’s stay on Patmos is a painful one.  But he does what he’s asked in this passage, he writes about what God shows him.  And there’s something interesting in verse 20.

Revelation 1:20 (KJV)  The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
We know that the seven churches are used as types of churches.  So, when John is told by God to send his book to the seven churches (verse 11), there’s a sense that it’s supposed to go to all churches.  When we get to verse 20, we see an interesting phrase, “the angels of the seven churches”.  The word “angels” is agellos in the Greek, which can mean angels or heavenly messengers.  But it can also refer to human messengers of God – pastors, teachers or evangelists.  If we consider that verse as speaking of church leadership, then it takes us right back to Romans 10:17.

Romans 10:17 (KJV)  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Where do we hear the Word of God?  From evangelists, wherever they may be, and from pastors in church.  If we look back at the Old Testament, the people of God were given prophets to build up their faith.  The prophets had two functions:
  1. They foretold the future, pointing to the coming of Christ.
  2. They forthtold (or read and preached) the Word of God for the then present day.
If we look, there are no New Testament prophets mentioned in the Bible once Jesus began His ministry.  There was no need to foretell Jesus’ coming.  He was here!  But there were commands to share the Gospel.  Evangelists, teachers and pastors are the order of the day.  Our faith is not only based on understanding that He did come.  It also grows because of understanding everything that involves.  And, since none of us will be scholars in everything, God gave us pastors and teachers to help us grow in the details, so that we have what we need to strengthen our faith.

God gives us what we need to maintain our faith in troubling times.  And, as the latter part of John 15 tells us, there will be bad times along with the good.  Our own sense of self preservation ought to have us latching onto every tool that God gives us to build up faith, so that we maintain that relationship with Him and have a strong faith to carry us through everything we experience.  What have you done to build up your faith, today?

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