The Lord is just in all He does

And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” 

(Rev 16:7)

Judgement is coming. It is unavoidable. God has providentially purposed to judge all those who do not submit to His reign and rule. In this section of Revelation, we see God pouring out judgment on those who have taken the mark of the beast — those who have chosen to follow the satanic world order, rejecting the Lord and His right to rule over them. Judgment is poured out in a number of ways in this section. 

What is interesting is that as judgment is poured out the people do not repent and turn to the Lord, pleading for Him to exercise grace and mercy on them. No, they curse the name of the Lord (Rev 16:9). They gnaw at their tongues for the pain and curse the God of heaven (Rev 16:10-11). Even as hailstones a hundred pounds each fell on them, they continued to curse God for the plague (Rev 16:21). 

Man, apart from God’s intervention will continue to run from the Lord even as great and powerful plagues are being poured out on them. Man hates the Lord because He is a threat to their reign and rule. Ever since the garden we have desired to reign and rule in God’s place. Instead of submit to God, we rage against Him (Ps 2). We desire to call the shots, to be the big “K” king. 

While these plagues are horrendous, the Lord is just in His judgment. He does not act unfairly. He is absolutely justified in pouring out His wrath on mankind for their continue and unceasing rebellion against Him. 

We must recognize our proper place in this world. It is not to reign and rule. Rather it is to bring the Lord glory as we submit to His reign and rule, recognizing His wisdom is greater than our own. 

Christian, you can, must, and will endure!

If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” 

(Rev 13:10)

No one is promised an easy life. Especially those who live contrary to the world system. 

In the middle section of the book of the Revelation John sees a vision of two beasts. The first beast was allowed by God to make war on the saints and to conquer them (Rev 13:7). Not only is the beast able to conquer the saints but all who dwell on the earth end up worshipping the beast. Everyone except the saints “whose names [have] been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Reve 13:8). 

True Christians cannot and will not be conquered. 

Their allegiance to King Jesus cannot be changed. They have and will continue to follow Him, even as two beast are terrorizing the world. 

A Christians assurance of eternal life with King Jesus is guaranteed but a comfortable life and escaping death in Jesus’ name is not. Those who have been destined for captivity and death will face captivity and death (Rev. 13:10)

Where is the comfort? 

The comfort comes in knowing our names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life before the foundation of the world. The comfort comes in knowing God is not only a sovereign God but a providential God. In other words, His sovereignty is purposeful and His purposes are not and cannot be hindered. Though we might be taken captive or slain, we continue to trust in the providence of God. In His purposes and will along with His ability to bring His purpose to pass. 

Knowing who our God is, what He capable of doing, and what we could possibly face, we are called to endure (Rev 13:10b). To remain steadfast in the face of whatever may come our way in the future. That is not an easy proposition because the future is unknown to us. But it is what we are called to do by the Lord God. 

We can endure! We must endure! We will endure!

Revelation, a mystery and a certainty

“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation  11:15)

Revelation is a mysterious book. At times, well most of the time, it is hard to understand. I like to refer to it as the final exam of the Bible because it pulls in imagery from all the books before. In order to understand Revelation, you need a good handle on the rest of the Bible. Reading Revelation in and of itself will be difficult if you have not read and do not have a good grasp on the meta narrative of Scripture. The overarching story of God’s Word that follows a trajectory from Creation to Restoration.

While Revelation may be difficult to understand, there are parts that are clear. Today’s text is one of those texts. We learn that Jesus’ kingdom will reign forever and ever. It will never cease. It will always be. We can count on it because the Creator of the universe promises it. The Creator of the universe we read about in Scripture. The One who has fulfilled countless promises throughout redemptive history.

Do you believe and trust that God will establish His eternal kingdom one day on this earth? Are you convinced that everything will be restored? That sin will be wiped away and we will live in the world in which we all hope? The book of Revelation is difficult in many ways, but it is clear that Jesus will return, His future kingdom will be established, and we will live in the world for which mankind longs, if you are a follower of Jesus.

Why Shouldn’t We Be a People Pleaser?

You might be thinking: “Why shouldn’t I seek to be a people pleaser, especially in this day and age? I could lose my job, my livelihood, my status. I could get canceled and everything I worked so hard for is gone.” So why?

Why Shouldn’t We Be a People Pleaser?

(1) Seeking the approval of man is a never-ending cycle.

You all know that trends, opinions, and ideas change, and they change often. What pleases someone one day isn’t necessarily what’s going to please them the next. Seeking the approval of man traps you in a never-ending cycle of always having to figure out what’s going to please someone and then convince them that you are worthy of their attention, praise, and affection. That never-ending cycle is a grind that will eventually beat you down, leaving you broken and depressed. I believe this is why so many celebrities end up abusing drugs or alcohol, or even committing suicide. The constant pressure of having to maintain a certain status is just too much.

(2) Seeking the approval of man means we’re going to have to continually change our message.

As you all know, times change, culture changes, and along with those things, what man approves of changes. If our only goal is to win man’s approval, our message is going to end up changing along with the times and culture. The liberal church is a good example. If you look back at their history, you would see that as the culture changed, their message has changed along with it. So much so that they are a mirror of the world instead of being a light to it.

God doesn’t call us to be a church with an ever-changing message. He doesn’t want us to be progressive. Instead, He wants us to remain faithful. In order to do that, our desire has to be to please Him instead of our fellow man.

(3) Seeking the approval of man means we will often be forced to act in ways that are contrary to God’s commands and the gospel.

Peter is a prime example. As soon as the circumcision party showed up in Antioch he withdrew from the Gentiles so that they wouldn’t think any less of him. Obviously, that doesn’t coincide with the gospel’s message that there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Or with God’s command to love others as ourselves. But Peter wasn’t concerned with that. He wasn’t concerned with following God’s commands or promoting gospel unity. Instead, he was concerned with pleasing the circumcision party.

If our only goal is to please man, then we are going to find ourselves acting like Peter. We are going to have to choose between following God and upholding gospel unity, and doing what will win us favor with others. That’s a problem. A big problem. Because God, His commands, and His gospel should be the only thing we care about promoting. He is our Creator, Sustainer, and Savior. Pleasing Him and doing what brings Him glory should be our only concern. But the only way we are going to do that is if we are Christ pleasers instead of people pleasers.

(4) Seeking the approval of man means we aren’t living in the freedom Jesus provides.

In Christ, we are freed from having to continually seek man’s approval. That’s because in Christ we have the only approval that matters — God’s approval. That approval will never change because it’s not dependent on our work. Instead, it’s dependent on Jesus’ work on our behalf.

When we realize that we are free in Christ, we will be free from the grind of having to please others. We won’t have to deal with the anxiety that’s caused by wondering if we have done enough. Nor will have to deal with the inner turmoil of whether or not we sold out to the culture. Instead, we will be able to live joyful lives, knowing that we have the only acceptance that matters — God’s.

God’s approval is the only approval that should matter. Instead of seeking the ever-changing approval of man, we need to rest in God’s unchanging approval that’s found in Christ alone.

Let God not man dictate your value.

After Thanksgiving, everyone typically gets excited about the Black Friday sales. I know some of you are probably out there early taking advantage of those deals. Personally, I’m not one of them. I hate crowds, I don’t like getting up early and rushing out the house, and I’m definitely not looking to get in a fight over that year’s most popular toy for my kids — I just assume get them something else. While Black Friday isn’t my cup of tea, I do like a deal, which is why I look forward to Cyber Monday each year. Not only can you find really good deals on electronics, but I don’t have to battle the crowds to get them.

Now, there is nothing wrong with a deal by any means. I am always in search of a deal. But have you ever thought about why we get excited by deals? Why we are willing to get up early and fight the crowds or log onto our computer at just the right time? Besides the fact that we are saving money, I believe we get excited about these deals because we are seekers.

A seeker is someone who is attempting to find or attain something. That might be a deal. That might be the latest news or information. That is why we scroll endlessly on an app like Facebook. We are seeking out information in realtime. We want to be in the know. It is also why we do crazy challenges on apps like Tik Tok or obsess over our the look and feel of our Instagram feed. We are seekers, who not only seek out deals, the latest news, and information, but we also seek out the approval of others.

Seeking out the approval of man is not something that should drive our life. But if we are all honest, we are all guilty of it from time to time. Just so we are all on the same page, that phrase — the approval of man — can refer to a number of things.

I run a small photography business on the side. In order for that business to be successful, it’s important others approve of my work. If they don’t, no one is going to hire me. My goal, then, is not only to produce pictures I’m proud of but pictures that others approve of and are willing to pay me for. When I talk about seeking the approval of man or pleasing man, I don’t mean for us to completely disregard the approval or opinion of others. If we do that, we might be out of business or out of a job. Instead, what I’m suggesting is that we don’t find our ultimate worth or value in another’s opinion of us or our work. Tim Keller, Pastor, and Author puts it this way:

“It [seeking the approval of man] is a situation in which your desire for their blessing amounts to adoration and worship, and in which you give some form of human approval the rights and power over your heart that only God should have. It means you will be devastated by the loss of this approval as if you felt criticized or condemned by God.” (Galatians for You, 33).

When I talk about seeking the approval of man, that’s what I’m talking about. I’m talking about us elevating the approval of others to an unhealthy place. To a place where we are allowing them to dictate our life, or determine our value and worth. That’s not healthy, nor is it right. God is the only One we should ultimately seek to please. He is the only One who is supposed to dictate our life, our value, our worth.

Why must the gospel remain the same?

At times, change can be a good thing. I know it was for me. Over a decade ago, I made a change and moved to the DFW metroplex. Growing up, I never thought I would live in Dallas, but when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. I not only took the opportunity because I thought it would help me advance my career faster, but I also made the move because I felt like I needed a fresh start in order to work on my relationship with God. Starting afresh can be a good thing. It can kick start the change in our life that we need.

Take the change in the weather we have experienced over the last couple of days. At the beginning of the week I was dressed in layers of clothing with mountains of blankets on me. Yesterday, I was sitting on my back porch with no jacket on. Today is forecasted to be even warmer. The change in the weather is a welcome change. It is definitely for the better.

But as welcome as change can be at times, change isn’t always for the better, especially when it involves our core beliefs. Our core beliefs determine why we do what we do. They undergird our behavior. If we change our core beliefs, our behavior, our actions are going to change. So change, especially change for change’s sake isn’t always for the better. That’s especially true when it comes to the gospel. Why is that?

Why shouldn’t we change the gospel?

(1) Changing the gospel makes salvation impossible.

If we are forced to rely on our own works, we’ll never experience salvation.

When I was in college, I let my credit card get a little bit out of control. Nothing too crazy, but it wasn’t something I could pay off while I was in college. I just worked part-time at a climbing wall. It was a fun job, but it didn’t pay a lot. I ended up graduating college with some debt. Now, I didn’t keep that debt for long. After I got my first job out of college, I paid the debt off.

We often think of salvation like it’s a debt we have to work off by doing good works. If we do enough good works, God will forgive us and we will experience eternal life. But that’s not how it works. God doesn’t accept our works as payment towards our debt. He only accepts the work of Jesus on our behalf.

In Galatians 1:3-4 we read:

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,”

(Ga 1:3–4)

It was Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf that gave us peace. It was His sacrifice that delivered us. Not our works. That’s the case because that’s how God designed it. Notice that Paul says that this is “according to the will of our God and Father,” Since God doesn’t change, the payment He requires doesn’t change. If we change the gospel to a works-based system of salvation, we make salvation impossible because God doesn’t accept our work as payment towards our debt.

(2) Changing the gospel leaves us with a disturbed conscience

Starting in the middle of verse 7 we read,

“but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

(Ga 1:7b)

The idea here is that changing the gospel doesn’t help us instead it hurts us. Paul tells us that these folks are troubling the Galatians. It troubles them. It troubles us because a works-based system produces emotional distress. It makes us uneasy because we don’t know where we stand. We know that’s true because when you talk to folks who are caught up in a works-based system you hear them more often than not say something to the effect of: “I sure hope I have done enough.” They don’t know if they have done enough. They just hope they have done enough. Which means they are left in limbo. Always wondering if they are good enough. That affects us. It affects us emotionally because it produces a disturbed conscience.

As Christians, we don’t have to worry about where we stand. If we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are God’s children. We will experience salvation instead of eternal damnation and separation from God — All that is good and beautiful. We can be sure of that because Jesus’ work is enough. It has satisfied God’s wrath. So we don’t have to worry. We don’t have to live with a disturbed conscience, but those who change the gospel do.

(3) Changing the gospel means we aren’t delivered from bondage.

In verse 4, we learn that Jesus

“gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.”

(Ga. 1:4)

If we add works to the gospel, that means we don’t understand or believe the gospel. We aren’t trusting in Jesus as our Savior, which means He hasn’t delivered us from bondage. Since we can’t deliver ourselves, we remain in bondage. Satan remains our master and we are his slaves. All we have to look forward to is what this world can offer us because there is no resurrection to eternal life. That is a sad state in which to exist.

(4) Changing the gospel means that we are taking worship away from God.

In verse 5, Paul tells us that our salvation should result in God’s glory forever and ever. But if we make salvation a work that we do, we steal God’s worship away from Him. Instead of it being about God’s grace and sacrifice on our behalf, it’s about our work. What we do. Our ability to muster the effort, to crack the code of salvation. When we think like that, we’ll find that we start praising ourselves for what we’ve done, instead of what God has done in our lives. Changing the gospel steals worship away from God.

(5) Changing the gospel means that we will face a curse.

In verse 8 Paul says,

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

(Ga 1:8)

The idea here is that those who change the gospel will face a curse, and that curse is eternal damnation. Or as one commentator puts it:

To be anathematized then means far more than to be excommunicated. It means nothing less than to suffer the eternal retribution and judgment of God.

 George, Timothy, Galatians, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), xxx, 98–99

Conclusion

Changing the gospel isn’t a good idea. Even though we are experiencing a massive change in our world, we must hold fast to the gospel. It is not something we should change, it must remain the same. We must rest in the unchanging message of the gospel. If we do, we will experience salvation, deliverance from this present evil age in which we find ourselves, we will have something for which to look forward. We will have hope in this dark world.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything.