A New Beginning

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

Genesis 12:2    

Genesis 12:1-3 is one of the most important passages in the Bible.  This passage marks a new beginning in God’s dealings with man.  God chooses a man, Abraham, to begin a people, a people whom God will use to bless all people.  

In verse 1, God commands Abraham to leave everything.  Then, in the next two verses God gives him seven promises – each promise pregnant with implications.  

Let’s look at the promises, four in verse 2 and three more in verse 3.  

I will make of you a great nation. Considering the fact that Abraham was 75 years old with no children and a barren wife, this is quite a promise!  But it’s just like God, who delights in doing the impossible.  

And against all odds, it happened.  In fact, the nation of Israel still exists today, some 4,000 years later, with a power and influence far beyond its size.  

I will bless you.  God richly blessed Abraham for the rest of his life.  In fact, he becomes the most important man in the Old Testament and then appears in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament figure.  Abraham is the father of the Jews and the greatest example of faith in all the Bible.  Yes, God blessed him!  

And make your name great.  Has this happened?  Yes.  This unknown man, a childless nomad, is known and revered throughout the world today, four millennia later, by Christians, Jews and Muslims.  

When we exalt ourselves (like the people of Babel in Genesis 11, who cried “Let us make a name for ourselves”), then God humbles us.  When we humble ourselves, then God exalts us.  Every time.  

You will be a blessing.  God blessed Abraham so that he could be a blessing to others.  That’s why he blesses you and me also, so we too can be a blessing to others.  You are a river, not a reservoir.  Each day go out looking for people to bless.  Go out looking to bring God’s love and hope to the people you encounter.

Dare to Trust God

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”

Genesis 12:1  

Genesis 12 is one of the great dividing points in the Bible.  In Genesis 1-11, God deals with humanity, people in general.  But with Genesis 12 everything changes.  God chooses a man, Abraham, in order to create a special people, the people of Israel.  Using this people, God will reveal the Scriptures, bring the Messiah, and show the world what it means to be the people of God.  

Genesis 12 is the turning point.  Throughout the rest of the Old Testament and the Gospels, God’s plan focuses on Israel.  Only in Acts 2, with Pentecost and the birth of the church, does God’s focus shift from the nation of Israel to the international church of Jesus Christ.  

But Genesis 12 is not only a huge dividing line in salvation history, it is also a remarkable example of faith.  In the ancient world, to ask people to leave their ancestral home and all they know is to ask the impossible.  People stayed within their city walls, with their family, with their people.  But yet Abraham obeys God and leaves.  He leaves Ur, in modern Iraq, travels 650 miles to Haran, in modern Turkey, and then travels 450 miles to Canaan, in modern Israel.  

Why did Abraham obey God?  Because he trusted God.  He believed that God was the true God, that God knew best, and that God could be trusted.  So, Abraham obeyed.  

God is still looking for people who dare to trust him.  He is still looking for people who will obey him no matter what.  He is still looking for people who will live by faith.  

Will you be one of those people?  Will you be a man or woman who trusts God no matter what?

Babel and Fear

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Genesis 11:4    

The Tower of Babel stands forever in our memory as a tragic monument to pride and fear.  

People band together to build a vast tower reaching into the heavens so that they can make a name for themselves.  Their pride is seen in their independence from God, their self-reliance, their desire for fame.  Their fear is seen in their building a tower lest they be scattered over the earth.  Rather than trust a loving God to protect them, they give way to fear, and trust their own efforts for security.  

God’s response is decisive.  He confuses their speech and scatters them over the earth.  If they stay together, their potential for rebellion and wickedness is simply too great.  The tone of God’s response is not that of a rival’s jealousy, but that of a father’s concern.  For their sake, God takes radical measures.  He does the same for you too.  

At Babel people set out to make a name for themselves.  But those who exalt themselves, God is well able to humble.  Our calling is never to make a name, but to exalt a name.  The name of Jesus.  

That is your mission:  Exalt Jesus.  Lie low and exalt Jesus.

The Battle Is Real

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:15    

Genesis 3:15 is so important because this is the first direct reference in the Bible to the coming Messiah, Jesus.  

In the aftermath of sin, God pronounces judgment on Satan, the power behind the serpent.  The judgment is the enmity, the hostility, between Eve’s offspring and Satan’s offspring.  The woman’s offspring refers to all people, including Jesus Christ.  Satan’s offspring includes people who reject God, and demonic beings.  
God also announces the outcome of this enmity.  Satan will deliver a glancing blow against Jesus, a blow to the heel, a reference to the cross.  But Jesus, by that very death on the cross, will deliver a fatal blow, a blow to the head, against the devil.  

The outcome of the battle was never in doubt.   

Be ever mindful:  The battle is real.  We ignore the battle and the enemy at our peril.  

Dr. Haddon Robinson describes the attack:  

When Satan comes to you, he does not come in the form of a coiled snake.  He does not approach with the roar of a lion.  He does not come with the wail of a siren.  He does not come waving a red flag.  Satan simply slides into your life.  When he appears, he seems almost like a comfortable companion.  There’s nothing about him that you would dread.   The New Testament warns that he dresses as an angel of light … One point seems quite clear:  when the enemy attacks you, he wears a disguise.  As Mephistopheles says in Faust, “The people do not know the devil is there even when he has them by the throat.” … He does not whisper to Eve, “I am here to tempt you.” … He doesn’t come and knock on the door of your soul and say, “Pardon me, buddy, allow me a half hour of your life.   I’d like to damn and destroy you.”  

Satan slides in.  He slithers.  He comes to deceive, accuse, tempt, condemn.  

Don’t listen!  Recognize his schemes.  Resist his attack.  Fight the battle in Christ’s strength.

Hide and Seek

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

Genesis 3:8-9  

The first thing Adam and Eve do when they sin is hide.  They hide from God.  They hide because of their sin.  They feel guilt and shame, unworthy to be with God.  So they hide.  

How does God respond to this hiding?  Does he turn his back on them?  Fold his arms in disgust?  Give them a disapproving scowl?  

Hardly!  He does the opposite.  He pursues them.  Seeks them.  Chases after them.  It’s the first game of hide and seek!  They hide, God seeks!  

When God asks Adam, “Where are you?” it’s not a request for information.  Omniscience does not need to request information.  God doesn’t need to ask, but Adam needs to be asked.  God is drawing Adam out of hiding, ever so gently. God is wooing, drawing, pursuing.  Just like he woos you.  

Adam and Eve were hiding because of their sin.  We do the same thing.  When we sin, we run from God because we feel guilt and shame.  We are uncomfortable with ourselves, uncomfortable with others and uncomfortable with God.  So, we hide.  

How do we hide?  We hide with busyness, with shopping, with overwork.  We hide with TV, with Facebook (ironically), with travel.  We hide with humor, with sarcasm, with shyness.  We hide in a thousand ways.  

Me?  I hide by being in control.  (Or trying to be in control.)  I hide with reading, by running, by asking questions.  I hide in all kinds of ways, some of which I’m unaware of.  I hide so well that sometimes I hide from myself that I am hiding!  

How about you?  How are you hiding these days?  

Here’s the good news:  You can stop hiding.  Hiding is the core human strategy to deal with sin.  God’s strategy is better:  Confess your sin and receive God’s overwhelming grace!

First Faint Echo

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Genesis 3:7  

In Genesis 2:25, Adam and Eve were naked and felt no shame.  They felt no shame because there was no sin.  But by 3:7 they have sinned and now they feel shame in their nakedness.  

Satan had suggested to Eve that she was missing out, that God was holding back something she needed, that God could not be trusted.  Satan lied.  

What does sin bring Adam and Eve?  Exactly what sin brings us:  guilt, shame, fear, mistrust, alienation from God, rupture of relationships, the end of all joy and peace.  In a word, sin brings death.  

So much for Satan’s promise.  

Sin may look good but it hurts us.  It always hurts us.  Mark it down:  Sin will always hurt you, sooner or later.  Often it hurts others too.  

How did Adam and Eve respond to their shame?  Fig leaves.  They tried to hide behind fig leaves.  Trust and transparency had vanished.  Barriers went up.  And ever since Adam and Eve, we have all been wearing masks, hiding, posing, pretending, running from God, blaming others.   

Our only escape is the grace of God.  God alone can tear the walls down and set us free.  How does God set us free?  It takes blood.  It takes blood because someone has to die for sin.  So God threw away the fig leaves and clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins.  To get animal skins would require death and bloodshed and sacrifice, the first faint echo of a Savior, the first faint echo of a future day when God himself would shed his blood.  For you.  And for me.

The Deceiver

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

Genesis 3:1

Genesis 1-2 gives no word of the battle.  We see God’s creation.  It was good.  God creates Adam.  Then he creates Eve.  The creation narrative ends with Adam and Eve naked and unashamed.  There is trust and transparency in paradise.  Things are very good.  

But wait!  Genesis 3 opens with a crafty snake who subtly suggests that God is not good and he cannot be trusted.  There is an enemy in paradise, an opponent of God, who turns out to be Satan.  

Satan comes to deceive and devour.  What is the satanic strategy?  Listen to his words to Eve:  “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  

Can you hear the tone, the incredulity?  “I can’t believe it!  Has God really said that you can’t eat of any tree in the garden?  How unfair!”  

What is Satan doing?  He is suggesting that God is not good.  He is questioning God’s love for Eve.  He is casting doubt on God’s goodness to Adam and Eve.  He is insinuating that God is holding back something from Eve that she really needs.  

This is still the satanic strategy.  Satan wants to devour you.  This is his strategy.  

Expect to hear the same voice in your head.  Nothing’s changed.  You will hear a voice suggesting that God is not good, that God does not really love you, that God is unfair to you, that God is hard to please, that God is in fact a cosmic Scrooge.  

Have you heard that voice?  Sure you have.  Recognize its source.  Don’t be naïve about the unseen spiritual war.  

Behind all sin is the suspicion that God isn’t very good and therefore he cannot be trusted.  This is Satan’s main ploy in his quest to ruin your life and devour your soul.  

You will hear things like this:  

“God is being so unfair in what he says about divorce (or adultery or honesty in your business or generous giving or forgiving your father or Christians marrying only Christians or pornography).”

“God is holding back something I need to make me happy.”

“What applies to others doesn’t apply to me.  My situation is different.”  

Don’t listen!  Shut your ears to the voice of the deceiver!  Stand firm in Christ’s strength!

Naked Marriage

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:25  

This verse, early in the Bible, surprises us.  It is so stark, so unusual.  And yet it has such power and poignancy. “They were both naked and they were not ashamed.”  What is God telling us about marriage?  

There are naked bodies and yet no shame, no embarrassment, no fear, no masks, no walls.  What intimacy!  What closeness!  What freedom!  What trust!  What transparency!  

They trusted one another.  And because they trusted one another, they felt safe.  They felt accepted.  They felt secure in their relationship.  No threats, no fears, no shame.  They could trust each other with their bodies because they trusted each other with their hearts.  They were open and honest.  Transparent.  Secure.  

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  Can you imagine this kind of marriage, feeling so understood, so accepted, so safe?  

How does this happen?  It starts with trust.  Trust comes when you are always truthful and honest, when you are dependable, when you do what you say, when you are loyal and faithful no matter what.  

When you tell the truth and do what you say day by day, week by week, year by year, you build trust.  As trust builds, you feel safe.  You open your heart.  You let her, you let him, know what’s really going on inside.  You connect at the heart level.  

You listen deeply, with all your heart, because you long to understand your spouse.  And over time, you feel close.  Incredibly close.  You begin to experience the magic and mystery of marriage.  One-flesh marriage.

One-Flesh Marriage

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24    

This is the essence of biblical marriage:  leave, cleave, become one flesh.  

First, leave.  If the couple does not adequately leave, then the marriage is torpedoed from the start.  Honor your parents, love your parents, but look to each other for primary support and direction.  You are a new family.  Live like it!  Beware of undue dependence on your parents.  

Second, cleave.  The idea of the Hebrew term is permanence.  God’s ideal is marriage for life, “till death do us part.”  At the beginning of your marriage decide that divorce is not an option for you.  If marriage is permanent, if you know that you are sticking together no matter what, then it will make all the difference in how you tackle problems.  

Third, become one flesh.  One flesh means a oneness at every level – emotionally, spiritually, socially, intellectually, recreationally, physically.  The point of the phrase is intimacy, a sense of closeness.  You are soul mates, lovers, best friends.  You live life together.  You pursue a shared life.  You are alert to any signs of creeping separateness.  And over time, despite many challenges and hardships, you become close, so close you can scarcely believe it.  

This is God’s dream for every marriage – a one-flesh marriage.  This is the beauty and glory of marriage as God intended it to be.  

Make it your dream too and pursue it with all your heart!

Marriage Partners

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.”

Genesis 2:18    

Marriage is God’s idea, God’s creation, God’s gift.  The foundational passage on marriage in all the Bible is Genesis 2:18-25.  

Adam is in a paradise environment, unlike any we can imagine.  He has God above him.  He has the animals below him.  But he has no one alongside him.  No one to share life with.  

And God says this is not good.  But we immediately see the goodness of God because God goes on to say that he will provide what Adam needs, a helper.  

The Hebrew term “helper” carries no notion of inferiority.  The term refers to someone who has resources and capacities that we lack.  In fact, the term is used of God himself, who is the Great Helper of Israel.  

God is telling us that woman has capacities and gifts that man lacks.  By implication, man has capacities and gifts that she lacks.  

Here is God’s ideal for marriage:  a man and woman, gloriously different, helping each other be all they can be for God.  As Alan Ross once pointed out in the theological magazine Kindred Spirit, marriage was not given to accumulate possessions, but to develop persons.  Two equals, two life partners, each for the other and both for God.  

Perhaps pairs figure skating pictures this best.  The man and the woman are equal but different.  One is strong, the other is graceful.  One lifts, the other jumps.  Each member of the partnership is essential.  When they work together something beautiful happens.  

This is God’s ideal for every marriage.

Your Work Matters

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Genesis 2:15    

At the outset of the Bible God gives man work.  

This means work is inherently good, not bad.  Work is not the result of sin.  It is not a consequence of the Fall.  It is not a necessary evil.  Work was created before the Fall.  In fact, God himself works.  When the Bible opens, God is at work.  Work in itself is completely good.  

Moreover, we are designed for work.  We are imagebearers of the God who works.  Work is part of our design, part of our humanness, part of the image of God in us.  We need work.  We are not fully alive without work.  

This is not to say that we need a job.  We do not need a paying job to be fully alive, but we do need work, whether this is house work, school work, volunteer work or job work.  We are designed for work.  

Our work matters to God.  Just as God cared about Adam’s work, he cares about our work.  He wants this work to be fulfilling, not frustrating.  

How does this happen?  How does our work become a source of fulfillment?  It happens when we turn our work into worship.  If we do our work for God, to please him and to honor him, then that work becomes an act of worship.  It is when we work for God that we find our deliverance from drudgery.  

The classic tale is the medieval construction supervisor who asked three of his workers what they were doing.  The first worker replied, “I am laying bricks.”  He goes a little farther along and asked the second worker, who replied, “I am building a wall.”  He goes still farther along and he asked the third worker, who replied, “I am building a great cathedral for the glory of God.”  The third worker got it.  He found deliverance from drudgery because his work had become worship.  

Work for the Lord.

Sabbath Rest

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Genesis 2:3    

God did not rest on the seventh day because he was tired.  He did not rest because he was weary.  Omnipotence does not get weary.   

Rather, God rested because he was finished.  His work of creation was completed.  But God also rested for our sakes.  We needed to see the rhythm of work and rest.  He rested for our sakes not for his sake.   

The Bible says God blessed the Sabbath.  He made it holy.  In what sense is the Sabbath holy?  Well, it is special.  It is a different day.  It is God’s gift to us, a day of rest and worship, a day to pray and play.  A day to stop working.   

God designed you for a day of rest.  A regular day of rest.  One day in seven.  Your body needs it.  Your mind needs it.  Your soul needs it.   

But the Sabbath is more than the absence of work.  It is also the presence of worship.  It is a day to live in God’s presence, a day of drawing close to God.  The reason why the weekend doesn’t refresh most people, who are just as weary on Monday morning as on Friday afternoon, is because there is no true Sabbath.  There is the absence of work but not the presence of worship.  We need our souls restored, and that only comes when we touch God and let God breathe life into our weary souls.  It comes with worship.   
This is the Sabbath:  rest and worship, pray and play.  God’s gift to you.

Be Fruitful and Rule

And God blessed them.  And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 1:28  

In Genesis 1:28 we come to the very first command that God gives the human race.  It is a two-fold command.  First, be fruitful.  And second, have dominion over the earth.  

It is noteworthy that both commands express the image of God that was stated in the previous verse.  Because we are imagebearers of God we get to share in God’s work of producing human life.  And because we are imagebearers of God we get to share in God’s work of ruling over the creation.  Both commands, be fruitful and have dominion, express our identity as imagebearers of God.  

It is also striking that the very first command given by God involves sex.  The point of the command is not sex, but children.  Have children, be fruitful, fill the earth!  However the command inherently involves sex.  When it comes to sex, God is no Scrooge. He created it!  Sex is God’s idea, God’s creation, God’s gift.  And within the context of marriage, sex is wholly good.   

The second command is the charge to rule over the earth and everything in it.  This is often referred to as the cultural mandate.  We have the privilege of ruling over creation, but our rule is not the rule of an owner, but the rule of a steward.   We rule as God’s representatives.  

This is our calling as humans:  Be fruitful and rule over creation.

Male and Female

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;  male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27    

Alone of all God’s creatures, we bear God’s image.  This tells us our identity – who we are as humans.  We are imagebearers.  We have a basic likeness to God.  We are persons, we are relational beings, we are rational and emotional and volitional persons.  We are God’s representatives on earth.  

This is the central truth about us.  We are imagebearers of the eternal God.  This gives us worth, dignity, value.  We matter.  We matter not because of our achievements or money or looks, but simply because we bear God’s image.  

If you are a human being, then this is the truth about you.  You matter.  No matter what you have achieved.  No matter what you look like or how much money you have.  No matter how you have failed or how much you have struggled, you have worth, dignity and value simply because you bear the image of the immortal God.  Nothing can change that.  

If the first two lines emphasize our identity as imagebearers, the third line reveals our sexuality.  We are sexual beings.  God did not create neuter human beings.  He made us male or female, man or woman.  

Sexuality is far deeper than the physical.  It’s far more than plumbing!  Males and females not only have differently shaped bodies, we have differently shaped souls.  

Indeed, gender is the only fundamental distinction between humans.  Other distinctions, such as ethnicity, language, race, economic status or nationality don’t really matter.  They are superficial distinctions.  But gender, this matters.  

We see this when a baby is born.  Our first question is, “Is it a boy or a girl?”  For some reason that matters to us.  Gender matters to us in so many ways.  

This is who you are.  You are an imagebearer of God, either male or female.  You matter.  To the God of the universe, the God who made you, the God who cares about you, you matter incredibly!

Creator and Redeemer

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:3    

It is only fitting that God’s first act of creation is the creation of light, because light is a symbol of truth and life, of grace and goodness.  

The creation of light in Genesis 1:3 represents the first faint pointer to God’s redemption in Jesus Christ.  Just as light shines in the darkness, Jesus, the light of the world, will shine into the darkness of our hearts.  

Paul uses this very image when he quotes Genesis 1:3 in 2 Corinthians:  

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).  

God is not only Creator but he is also Redeemer.  The great Creator of the universe is the God who saves!  Where would we be if God was only great and he was not also good?  

But at the outset of the Bible we see that God is both great and good.  He is both Creator and Redeemer.  

And we see it all the way through the Bible, until we reach the great crescendo of Revelation 4-5, where God is worshipped as Creator (Revelation 4) and as Redeemer (Revelation 5).  

This is our God!  This is your God!  He is Creator.  And he is Redeemer.  He is great.  And he is good.

In the Beginning

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:1    

The Bible begins with the simple, sublime statement:  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  

In the beginning, God! Before anything else there is God. Above everything else there is God. Behind everything else there is God.  He is the uncreated Creator of all creation.  

The Bible begins with God.  Above all else, the Bible is a book about God.  This is God’s story, God’s revelation, God’s book.  

The Bible never argues for God’s existence.  It assumes God’s existence.  Down deep, every human knows that God exists, that God is Creator.   

To say that God created the heavens and the earth is to say that God created the vast universe, a universe that is staggering in its size.  Yet God created it without any effort whatsoever.  

When we look at creation all around us, we see God’s glory.  We see God’s thumbprint.  We see his power, his beauty, his majesty, his vastness.  How great is our God!   

The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:  “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”   

And Elizabeth Barrett Browning penned the words: 

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush aflame with God.
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.  

Jonathan Edwards put it simply:  “Nature is God’s greatest evangelist.”  

That God is Creator means that God made us.  He made you.  You belong to him, because he made you.  You are accountable to worship him, to serve him, to obey him.  He is your God!  

Everything begins right here, with the truth of creation.  That God is Creator is essential to the Godness of God.  No wonder Satan opposes this truth in any way possible.  No wonder the Bible begins:  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”


And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”

Revelation 12:10  

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis clarifies the spiritual reality:  

One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe – a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death, disease, and sin.  The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong.  Christianity agrees … this is a universe at war.  

The writer Frederick Buechner has a similar warning in A Sacred Journey:  A Memoir of Early Days:  

Reality can be harsh and you shut your eyes to it only at your peril because if you do not face up to the enemy in all his dark power, then the enemy will come up from behind some dark day and destroy you while you are facing the other way.  

Most succinctly, John Eldredge warns in Waking the Dead:  “To live in ignorance of spiritual warfare is the most naïve and dangerous thing we can do.”  

One of Satan’s strategies is accusation.  In fact, in Revelation 12:10 he is called “the accuser of our brothers.”  Satan’s characteristic activity is to accuse us and condemn us.  How many Christians have been totally defeated and discouraged because they listened to Satan’s accusations rather than listening to the voice of God saying to us:  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).  How many Christians have cowered back in fear and guilt because they listened to Satan’s nefarious lies?  

Don’t do it!  Stand firm against the enemy.  Stand firm in Christ’s strength and claim the promises of God’s Word.  Christ’s grace is bigger than your sin.  Rest in the grace of Christ Jesus – grace that is greater than all your sin.


I know your works:  you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:15-16    

Laodicea had a lukewarm water supply.  The nearby city of Hierapolis had hot springs that were great for bathing.  The nearby city of Colossae had pure cold water that was great for drinking.  But not Laodicea.  They only had lukewarm water, which was not great for anything.  

Jesus is saying to the church at Laodicea – and no doubt to lots of churches today:  You are lukewarm as a church.  You are neither hot nor cold.  You are just lukewarm.  Yuck!  It makes me want to spit you out of my mouth!  

Those are strong words.  Sobering words.  

A church is lukewarm when it is proud and self-reliant.  That was the church in Laodicea.  They were wealthy and this led them to self-sufficiency.  “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).  

This is a sober warning to every church in the United States, for we live in an affluent culture, and we must be wary, extremely wary, of pride and self-sufficiency.  

How do we know if we have pride and self-sufficiency like the church in Laodicea?  

The best indicator, the sure indicator, is prayerlessness.  If there is little prayer in the church, if prayer is seen as a preliminary courtesy before you get to the real work of planning and talking, if prayer is not seen as the lifeblood of the church, then you can bet that there is a spirit of self-sufficiency rather than a spirit of desperateness and dependence.  

Jackson Senyonga, a leading pastor in Uganda, has remarked, “In America the cry of sin is louder than the cry of intercession.”   

George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilization, commented, “The lack of prayer is the greatest scandal in the church today.  It is a greater scandal than the disunity, the immorality, the lack of love.”  

Our lack of prayer indicates our pride, our self-righteousness, our self-sufficiency.

Your First Love

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

Revelation 2:4  

Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the sea.”  I believe his insight applies to the Kingdom of God.  If you want to build a church that pleases God, don’t recruit people to tasks and projects and ministries, but rather teach them to long for Jesus.  

Above all else, a church must be a place where the people long for Jesus, where the people are pursuing Jesus, where the people are falling in love with Jesus.  

There was a great church in Ephesus, founded by the Apostle Paul.  They were tremendous lovers of God.  But 30 years later, Jesus sends them the sobering message:  “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”  

The church was full of people who worked hard for God, but they had left their first love.  They were workers, but not worshippers.  They had religious duty, but they did not have a love affair with Jesus.  

Fortunately, Jesus tells them what to do to recapture that first love.  “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (2:5a,b).  Three things:  Remember.  Repent.  Repeat.  

First, remember:  “Remember therefore from where you have fallen.”  If you can, deliberately think back about your feelings and thoughts and actions during your first weeks and months as a follower of Jesus Christ.  Remember!  

Second, repent.  Jesus gives the Ephesian church a simple one-word command:  Repent.  Come to God in brokenness and repentance.  Come to God in confession and surrender.  Ask God to change you.  Turn from yourself to your God.  

Third, repeat.  That is, repeat the things you did in your early Christian life.  “Repent, and do the works you did at first.”  Did you pray fervently?  Sing from your heart?  Gather with Christian friends?  Eagerly read the Bible as a love letter?  Give generously?  Share your faith freely?  Repeat all those things.  

Ken Gire, in his book The Divine Embrace, relays the story of a teenage girl in the atheistic Soviet Union who knew nothing of the Bible, nothing of the doctrines of the church, nothing of the differences between denominations.  She also knew nothing of Jesus until the day she chanced upon a copy of Luke’s Gospel.  When she finished reading it, her immediate reaction was, “I fell in love with him.”  

Jesus is looking for people who will love him back.  Jesus is looking for worshippers.  Jesus is looking for people who have an incurable disease – the disease of being smitten with Jesus.  

Are you smitten with Jesus?  Do you have a love affair with Jesus?  Did you start out with a white-hot passion for Jesus, but now the fire has grown cold?  

Above all else, God wants to be loved.  He wants to be wanted.  

How is your heart for God these days?

Burst of Praise

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

Revelation 1:5b-6  

In his greeting to the seven churches, John bursts forth in excited praise to Jesus.  He exalts Jesus specifically for three things:  

“To him who loves us.” 
The Book of Revelation is known as a book that focuses on the sovereignty and majesty and holiness and judgment of Jesus Christ.  And all of that is true.  But yet the book does not go five verses before Jesus is praised as the one “who loves us.”  

We must never lose sight of the gracious compassion of Jesus for us,the outrageous love of Jesus for us,the relentless tenderness of Jesus for us. Until you know and feel Jesus’s love for you, you do not know Jesus’s heart.  Not fully.  Let Jesus love you.  

“To him who has freed us from our sins by his blood.” 
Invariably, when the New Testament mentions the love of God it also mentions the cross of Jesus, for the cross is the final proof of God’s love for us.  Because Jesus loves us, he died for us on the cross and he has freed us from our sins by that shed blood.

Note the past tense:  He has freed us.  You are forgiven and free, if you have trusted Christ as your Savior.  

Do you feel free from your sin?  If not, whose voice are you listening to, that of the Great Liberator or that of the evil accuser?  

“To him who has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.”
We are the kingdom of Jesus.  The kingdom of Jesus is not land.  It’s not geography.  It’s people!  Our mission is to advance that kingdom in the lives of more and more people.  

We are also priests to serve our God.  We are priests because we have access to God and because we bring intercession to God and because we serve God.  In the New Testament, priests are not the professionals who wear collars and robes.  The priests are not the pastors and missionaries.  Every believer is a priest.  You are a priest to serve your God and spread his kingdom.