home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > April 1st > I WAS IN THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD’S DAY

THE FAITH OF CHRIST’S YOUNGEST APOSTLE

A year earlier all hell had broken loose when the tyrant emperor Caesar Nero had outlawed Christianity; and now, the last surviving apostle of Christ had been banished to Patmos Island. All looked bleak. The youngest of Christ’s apostles, John was just a teenager when he witnessed the brutal and protracted execution of Jesus. John, now in his fifties, had many reasons to feel disappointed and even disillusioned with God. His apostolic colleagues had each been martyred – having been put to death in often gruesome ways including: crucifixion, flaying, and beheading. On this barren rocky island, separated from the woman he had pledged to her crucified Son that he would look after, and away from the people that Christ had shed His blood for, John was alone. Ever since Jesus had risen bodily from dead, these life-time faithful sabbath-keeping Jews now recognised that Christ had sanctified the first day of the week, Sunday, as His day. It was also on this sanctified day that Christ poured out Holy Spirit on his gathered disciples. Ever since that day, no matter how he felt or the circumstances he was in, John had made it his custom to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. This is why the earliest Christians shifted the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday as their ‘Sabbath’.

John’s first Sunday on this island of banishment was no exception. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. While some weak Christians (note Rom. 14:1; 15:1; 1Thess. 5:14) find disappointment with God an excuse to forsake God, John did not. While they may use their excuses for disappointment with God to walk away from their church family, John did not. John’s example has something to teach us.    

¶ I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation
and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus,
was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God
and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…
Revelation 1:9-10a

 

JOHN’S WORSHIPPED CHRIST
EVEN WHEN THINGS GOT DIFFICULT

Have you had a bad day? A bad week? A bad month? Have you prayed and God has not answered your prayers? The apostle John had been subjected to horrible violent persecution for month after month since Caesar Nero had commenced a State sponsored campaign of martyrdom against Christians. He had recently been publicly humiliated in Ephesus and it is believed that he was subjected to an attempt to martyr him (note Rev. 1:9). Rather than yelling at God about how unfair God had been, John continued to remember what his Lord and Saviour went through – especially after Jesus had entered Jerusalem days before He was to be crucified – and understood that God is still good even when things are bad. Shortly before the apostle Peter was martyred by order of Nero, Peter had written this to the Bithynian believers (take note of how he referred to Nero):

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor…
But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious
thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ
also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow
in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered,
He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.
First Peter 2:17, 20-23

 

JOHN ALWAYS KNEW THAT GOD WAS GOOD
EVEN WHEN LIFE WAS SOMETIMES BAD

Each of the apostles of Christ, including John, had a resolute confidence in God’s goodness despite their often difficult circumstances. The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans before he was extradited there to stand trial before the Emperor, and stated in Romans 8, that all of creation was subject to futility as a result of the fall of mankind into the devil’s plot to destroy them.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly,
but because of Him who subjected it, in hope
Romans 8:20

All of creation, says the apostle Paul, was subject futility as a result of mankind’s rebellion. But it was not subject to this futility – disease, sickness, viruses, accidents, pain, betrayal – by the devil. No, it was subject to the consequences of rejecting God by God who subjected it in hope! What is our hope? It is surely not that we will lives exempt from futility as much as we would prefer that. No, our hope extends beyond this life, beyond the grave, to the kingdom of God prepared for all ‘the children of God’.

 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption
and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Romans 8:21

This world is subject to the futility of cancer. This is world is subject to the futility of war. This world is subject to the futility of injustice. But the believer is not subjected to only dwell with God in a world of futility. In my previous Pastor’s Desk I cited the fourth century theologian, Athanasius, who said that followers of Christ now “despise” death and find it as nothing to be feared.

Death used to be strong and terrible, but now, since the sojourn of the Saviour and the death and resurrection of His body, it is despised; and obviously it is by the very Christ Who mounted on the cross that it has been destroyed and vanquished finally.
Athanasius, On The Incarnation, 5:29

HOW DID JOHN GET IN THE SPIRIT?

John tells us that it was “the Lord’s day”, so, he took steps to be in the Spirit (Rev. 1:10). He treated Sunday as a day different to every other day. This was the day when believers gathered to sing, pray together, heed God’s Word and Spirit, and fellowship together (“Communion”) over the Lord’s Table. It was a day to hear from God and be refilled with His Spirit. Even though John was alone and isolated from his brothers and sisters in Christ, and he prepared his soul to meet with God. Perhaps he spent time in prayer. Perhaps he spent time seeking God. Perhaps he worshiped by singing the songs that the early Church had developed to teach theology and gospel truths to their illiterate members. Then he waited to hear from God. And he did (which is how we came to have the Book of Revelation). How would our Sunday church’ experience be different if we each took time to prepare our souls to meet with God together? How might our collective witness be effected if we each regarded Sunday as a different day to every other day? 

¶ Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me,
and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,
and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man,
clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around His chest.
Revelation 1:12-13

 

TWO LESSONS 

John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. We have just considered these two important aspects of how the last of the original apostles remained faithful to Christ even when he was on his own. John’s example inspires us not to let our disappointments or unanswered prayers to be excuses to walk away from God. Secondly, John understood that Jesus ushered in the New Covenant and sanctified a new day of corporate worship, Sunday. This new day of worship would not need the old festivals and ceremonies that the Old Covenant demanded (Heb. 10:18). The New Covenant was commemorated by bread and wine. The Old Covenant involved effort, rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices, and a priesthood. The New Covenant was established by Christ and administered by the Holy Spirit. And it still is. And it this same Holy Spirit who invites each of us to prepare our souls to meet with God, especially as we prepare to meet together on the Lord’s day.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together
was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and
continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Acts 4:31

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

2 Comments

  1. LYDIA

    To be able to have written material sink into my brain, I made a habit years ago to read out loud. I’m assuming this is then a two-fold exercise as my eyes not only see the words but my ears hear the words and therefore they penetrate into my heart and soul. What I love about the way you write Andrew is that, reading out loud and slowly too, I hear and see things that I might very well have missed otherwise.
    I did not understand that we can take ‘steps’ to be in the Spirit, that by observing the new Sabbath, our Sunday, that we deliberately take that step. Sure I love going to church, I love hearing His Word and singing praises to His holy Name, as I love being with those who worship.
    Thru life there have been a number of serious happenings to which I cannot recall ever wanting to stop going to church nor that I was angry at God. Yes, on occasions I questioned what Christianity was, but knew in my heart that the Spirit made me willing TO be willing and I was kept. I might have been blind as a bat on occasions but none the less I sat on the pews because this is where the Lord wanted me.
    With the world being in chaos, history has testified that many flocked the churches during those times. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if today, without any coercion, people were to flock the churches so that there were not enough seats to go around?

    Secondly I did not know that the New Covenant was administered by the Holy Spirit.
    And as you wrote Andrew, John waited on God. So even if we were to be alone, even on an island… not knowing what the future holds, we are never alone, all we need do is wait on the Lord.

    Reply
  2. Vanessa Dunkley

    Thank you Andrew for, as always, led by the Holy Spirit, sharing Scripture to encouage us. After listening to Pastor Karim today, and then reading your words Andrew, how could we not hold fast to our Awesome God who holds us in His hands (as the song goes … “He holds the whole world in His hands”) no matter what the world throughs at us. HE WINS …. so we win.

    Reply

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AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.

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It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

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Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

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