The book of Revelation is perhaps the most controversial book in the Bible among Christians. Even sincere, Bible-believing Christians seem to come up with more widely varying interpretations of this book than of any other passage or prophecy. The variety and severity of these disagreements can be intimidating or discouraging to the simple reader, who may feel that there is no one Truth to be found within its mysterious pages. But it is vitally important to remember that God did not inspire the writing of Revelation to bring confusion, but hope and joy to his suffering church.
I was blessed some time ago by Greg Gilbert’s book What Is the Gospel? This quote in particular struck me as helpful for Christians to consider, as we contemplate our motivation and message when it comes to evangelism:
Behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment… (Luke 7:37 ). Luke begins this little story with the striking phrase, “Behold, a woman…” There is a call to “Behold! Take notice of this!” followed by a remarkably vague description of, “a woman.” I’m not even going to tell you her name.
And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11) There is a library full of lessons in this single verse of Scripture.
The command “Behold!” appears 247 times in the New Testament. Each time this imperative is used in order to call attention to what is being said, or seen, or considered. It is a powerful word that forces us to pause, reflect, and be amazed by the subject matter being described. There are some things that are simply worth taking a long and careful look at. Not surprisingly, then, the New Testament opens — in the first two chapters of Matthew — with no less than six occurrences of this command as the story of Christ’s birth is narrated.
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! (Psalm 147:7). In this season of Thanksgiving, it is helpful to consider what “thanksgiving” specifically is, in biblical terms. And in this verse we see at least three crucial elements to godly gratitude. First, thanksgiving above all involves communication with God.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4). What does the psalmist mean when he tells us to enter the gates of God with thanksgiving? If I might put it so simply and colloquially, it means “Don’t even think about coming into God’s presence without praise on your lips.” God’s goodness is infinite, and God’s blessings are abundant, and so thanksgiving is the only appropriate response.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! (Psalm 139:1) Notice two things from this brief statement. First, it recognizes the fact that God knows us, is intimately acquainted with us. Second, it is a prayer. It is a prayer from the psalmist, talking to God, and recognizing God’s ever-presence with him. This is the essence of walking with God.
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart (Psalm 104:14-15). The psalmist is worshiping God for all his creative acts and wonders. And among the things God gets credit for, according to Scripture, is the results of human labor!
Give thanks to the Lord of lords … to him who alone does great wonders (Psalm 136:3-4). The authors of Scripture are unanimously in awe of the God about whom they are writing. And here the psalmist explains why: God alone does great wonders. “To him who by understanding made the heavens … to him who spread out the earth … the sun to rule over the day … the moon and stars to rule over the night” (Psalm 136:5-9). God is the God of creation.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20) When we open the door of communication with Jesus, Jesus himself describes this event as being like dinner with a dear friend. Do you come to your dinner table with a to-do list of things to cover in conversation? Are you nervous or hurried when you sit down to have dinner in your home with a dear friend?
We live in a mobile, global society. I am reminded of this as a pastor, with people who constantly move into our city for school or work, and simultaneously others who move away for the same reasons. Yet, as a pastor, I feel an obligation to help those who are leaving our church in Ohio to find a healthy home for their soul in whatever new place they may be landing. Just in the past year, I have tried to help people transition to Japan, California, China, Florida, Texas, Germany, and South Korea.
Imagine you are about to move to a new area. Not just a new location, but a whole new part of the world—surrounded by a new culture and new faces, and without any familiar friends or contacts. Besides the personal, emotional challenges of such a move there would obviously be some significant spiritual challenges to anticipate. Whatever spiritual habits you have in place will be changed or challenged; the fellow Christians by whom you’ve been encouraged and to whom you’ve been accountable won’t be nearby to help you.