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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JESUS ATE with SINNERS!

This confrontation of the All-Good meeting face-to-face with Serpent-breath in the wilderness didn’t go the way the Dragon had become accustomed to. Even more baffling to him was what the Eternal Son did next. Rather than going to the supposed ‘rulers of this world’ He went to the despised and inconsequential: the people of His hometown, Nazareth and those in the socio-economically challenged region of Galilee. 

¶ And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read…When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
¶ Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.
Luke 4:16, 28-29, 40-41

Even more baffling to the Satan was that instead whipping up the mobs and leading a rebellion, the Christ went to the shunned, the despised, the broken, the humiliated, as their dinner Guest! It seemed like an odd strategy, especially to those who had been longing for so long for the arrival of the Promised One…

CHRISTIANITY IS A PROPOSAL NOT AN IMPOSAL

I do not want to give anyone the impression that Christian is just a set of intellectually propositions. It is much more but it is certainly not less. One of the propositions that we Christians make is that Christianity is a spiritual transformation of a soul. While its propositions are true, they are not just true, they invoke a miraculous transformation in a human being. Jesus described this as being “born again” (John 3:3). The New Testament describes the moment this happens as being a transaction with God where we surrender our life and our sin to Him and He gives us His life and His pardon (1Jn. 1:8-9)! This transaction includes a hope that goes beyond the grave. God the Father adopts all those who turn to Him. It results a new way of seeing life and the world. The things that once troubled us no longer do, because we have a growing confidence that God has a plan and is currently outworking that plan. If you have never surrendered your life in a transaction with God, you can now. You are just one prayer away from peace with God and purpose for your life – both now and beyond the grave! The choice is yours. We can’t impose this offer from God on you, but I do have a proposition for you.

DIVINELY PRECIOUS TRIPLETS

Some of the profound truths in the Bible are expressed in just three words. The late J.I. Packer, one of the world’s most respected modern theologians, was asked to sum up the gospel message. He did so in just three words: “God saves sinners.” Many of the most eloquent prayers ever uttered have consisted of no more than three words: “Help me Lord”, “Thank You God”, “God save me”, “Please heal her.” One of the greatest royal invitations only consisted of three words: “Come unto Me.” Three words is all it takes to start an exciting journey: “Come and see.” Many of these three words statements, prayers, and invitations, have become divinely precious triplets that have rescued a lost soul, repaired a broken relationship, and replenished the worn-out.  

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT JUST MERELY A MATTER OF TIME

The beauty of John 3:16 is that it is so simple it can be understood even by a child; and yet, as a believer’s knowledge of God and His Word grows, he or she will come to discover that there is a wealth of spiritually-satisfying treasure to be mined! In its simplest form, Jesus died so that all those who turn to Him in trust will go to heaven after leaving this life. Dig a little deeper though, and you also discover that the eternal life on offer is not merely about a location (‘heaven’) or a duration of time—but a quality of life and status of existence that elevates the believer into a glorified state with God Himself (Rom. 8:17; 1John 3:2). Our lives are now the training ground for our status as co-regents and co-rulers with Christ over all of His redeemed creation (1Cor. 6:2-3)! 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU FOUND A NEWBORN BABY AT YOUR DOORSTEP?

What would you do if you found a newborn baby that someone had left at your door? Hopefully your answer sounds similar to “I’d take care him or her.” What if it wasn’t a baby? What if it was a young child or a teenager, or an adult, who turned up at your door requesting to be helped? I hope that each of us would also be prepared to help whoever it was. What if it was not an abandoned child, a youth, or an adult? And what if it was not your front door? Instead, how might we each respond if it was a spiritually abandoned, and spiritually hungry, person who turned up at our church seeking help to know how to be saved? While you might feel a similar compassion as you might have felt for the child at your door, you may not be as confident in how you would spiritually help this person seeking a spiritual connection for God through Jesus Christ. “Where would I begin?” “How could I be an effective discipler of a new believer?” you might ask. Well, I’m glad you’ve asked. For any Christian to effectively disciple a new believer it must involve an individual, a small group, and a congregation.

A DECREASING VISION

There is one sin that is worse than all others. It is the worst because it is insidious and imperceptibly deceptive. It is always at the root of all other sins. It was the original sin. In C.S. Lewis’s classic book, Mere Christianity, it warranted an entire chapter (“The Great Sin”) and Lewis claims that it is the greatest threat to any person – including the Christian – and their standing before God. Thus, to be truly spiritual, Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered, and spiritual, demands that the man or woman of God be on guard against what Lewis called “spiritual cancer” — pride. To have any chance of guarding against the spread of this deadly spiritual and character blighting ‘cancer’ requires that we adopt a decreasing vision of ‘greatness’.

THE WIND BLOWS WHERE IT WISHES – SO IT IS WITH THE SPIRIT

This week I have heard of yet more stories of people who had no knowledge of Christianity as they grew up, yet had an almost sudden conversion to Christ. This has included the stories of several Muslims (now ‘former Muslims’) who knew nothing to very little about Christianity, and had always been taught that Islam was the one true religion, who then heard a Christian explain the gospel and were then supernaturally converted to follow Christ. (Several of these Islamic converts to Christ also had supernatural dreams where they claimed that Jesus appeared to them!) I also heard of an atheist scientist who been taught that science could explain away the need for believing in a God, who then heard the gospel and was resoundingly converted to Christ. The other story I heard was closer to home and involved a young lady who had grown up in an atheist home where her parents were actually hostile to religion and forbad her from anything to do with Christianity. Years later, she ventured into a church one Sunday morning, heard the gospel, and was converted to Christ. Each of these stories confirm what Jesus taught about the work of the Holy Spirit and His mysterious and surprising dealings with people to undergird the church’s preaching of the gospel.

NEVER BE AFRAID AGAIN

Fear can be crippling. Being afraid is often the result of not what is happening, but what we fear might happen. Such fears make each of us vulnerable to withdraw, give-up, hide, or excuse ourselves from ever trying something new. The result of this happening is that we each become less than who God has created us to be and in the process we deny the world the benefit of what God can do through us. In the Bible there are many stories of many heroes who learned the secret of overcoming their fears by trusting God and learning how to ‘fear’ Him despite their circumstances or fearful expectations. We read of how Kings led their vastly outnumbered army to defeat immensely more powerful and ruthless enemy armies by fearing the Lord. We read how previously unsure, uncertain, unable people became fearless, decisive, and confident and able to solve previously insurmountable problems by simply fearing the Lord. We read how the arrogant were humbled and transformed into gentle and caring souls when they experienced the fear of the Lord. Then in the early chapters of the Book of Acts when becoming a Christian could cost you your life, we read of the numbers of Christians exploded across the Empire because they also no longer had a reason to be afraid because they learned what it meant to fear the Lord.

THE FRUIT DIET WORTH MORE THAN MONEY

How different would your life be if you were filled continually with the Holy Spirit? This seems to have been the experience of at least the first Christians. We know that Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection to “receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22) which may have been the moment that they were “regenerated” which is a fancy way of saying that they were born again (Jn. 3:3). But then Jesus told His disciples to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit (Lk. 24:39; Acts 1:4) which was yet to come. The effect on the disciples when this happened was dramatic — especially in the Simon Peter (Acts 2:14). He went from being a cowering timid fearful backslider to being a bold courageous fearless leader of the Christ’s Church (Acts 2:15-39). Then some days later, as Peter was about to bear witness before the rulers of Judaism, he was filled afresh with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8). When Peter met again with the other believers to pray, all of them were filled with Holy Spirit again (Acts 4:31). Thus, being filled continually with the Holy Spirit seems to have been the usually experience of the early believers. As the Church grew and spread, the early Christians’ understanding of who the Holy Spirit was and what He wanted to do in each believer and church also grew. They discovered that the Spirit didn’t just fill them to be bold proclaiming witnesses, He also enabled them to bear witness to the power of Christ by how they lived. The apostle Paul called this, the fruit of the Spirit. 

HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL

One of the emotional/intellectual problems that people who accept that there must be a God that resembles closely or exactly the God described in the Bible have had over the years is the problem ow Why would an all good and all powerful God allow suffering, evil, and tragedy in His world? Either He is not really all good and doesn’t care — or He is not really all powerful and is unable to do anything about it. Theologians refer to this problem as Theodicy (the problem of evil). This problem is resolved by asking a greater question: Does God ever ordain or allow what we perceive to be “wrong” because He has a morally good reason for doing so? This greater question is answered when we reflect on Christ’s passion and crucifixion. By working through these questions we may be able to understand why God might allow or ordain natural evil (floods, fires, disastrous weather events) and committed evil (such as wars, violence, crimes against people, brutal oppression of others). Especially when we view the world from the perspective of there being an eternal Judge who redeems those who turn to Him, and holds to account those who don’t. This is why answering the question of destiny is so important to making sense of life and the world we live in.