“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”(Revelation 3:21)
What does Jesus mean when he says this to the church in Laodicea?
Sit with Jesus on his throne? Really?
This is a promise to everyone who conquers, that is, who presses on in faith to the end (1 John 5:4), in spite of every threatening pain and luring, sinful pleasure. So if you are a true believer in Jesus, you will sit on the throne of the Son of God who sits on the throne of God the Father.
I take “throne of God” to signify the right and authority to rule the universe. That’s where Jesus sits. “He must reign,” Paul said, “until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25). So when Jesus says, “I will grant him to sit with me on my throne,” he promises us a share in the rule of all things.
Is this what Paul has in mind in Ephesians 1:22–23? “He put all things under [Christ’s] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
We, the church, are “the fullness of him who fills all.” What does that mean? I take it to mean that the universe will be filled with the glory of the Lord (Numbers 14:21). And one dimension of that glory will be the complete and unopposed extension of his rule everywhere.
Therefore, Ephesians 1:23 would mean: Jesus fills the universe with his own glorious rule through us. Sharing in his rule, we are the fullness of his rule. We rule on his behalf, by his power, under his authority. In that sense, we sit with him on his throne.
None of us feels this as we should. It is too much — too good, too amazing. That’s why Paul prays for God’s help that “the eyes of your hearts [would be] enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” (Ephesians 1:18).
Without omnipotent help now, we cannot feel the wonder of what we are destined to become. But if we are granted to feel it, as it really is, all our emotional reactions to this world will change. The strange and radical commands of the New Testament will not be as strange as they once seemed.
By John Piper
Jesus’ longest prayer is in John 17. There, Jesus prays to God as “Father”, which is his common pattern. Every time I preach about it, many people have the same question, “Should we pray to God the Father or can we pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit?”
That is a common question. As a general rule, most of our praying should be to God the Father. Jesus taught us saying in Matthew 6:9, “Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven”. Jesus modeled praying to God as Father repeatedly as some 165 times in the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), He refers to God as Father which is His favorite name for God.
Sometimes, it is fine to pray to Jesus. There is an occasion when an early church leader named Stephen prayed to Jesus as he was dying. We read in Acts 7:59 that Stephen saw Jesus in heaven and “he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’”.
Christian prayer is most often Trinitarian. Practically, this means we pray by the Spirit, through Jesus Christ our mediator, to God the Father. Praying by the Spirit is clearly taught in the Bible. Ephesians 6:18 says we should be, “praying at all times in the Spirit”. Jude 1:20 says we should be, “praying in the Holy Spirit”. Praying through Jesus Christ is what He meant teaching us to pray, “in my name” (John 14:13-14).
There are times, however, when it is sensible to pray to Jesus or the Spirit. For example, if you are reading the Bible and reminded that Jesus died in your place for your sins on the cross, it is a good thing to stop and thank Him for doing that work on your behalf. Or, if you love someone who is far from God and not paying any attention to the bad decisions that are harming their life and relationship with God, you can pray to the Spirit to convict them of their sin as that is one of His ministries (John 16:8).
Which member of the Trinity do you feel most familiar with? How can you get to know the others?
By Mark Driscoll
You live in a terribly broken world. The evidence is all around you. Every day you awake to a world that is groaning, eagerly awaiting redemption (see Romans 8:18-23).
You probably don’t need me to remind you of this reality, but everybody hurts. If you’re not hurting now, you’ve hurt in the past. If you’re not hurting now, you’re near someone who is. And if you’re not hurting now, you will someday.
Therefore, in addition to being a creature and a sinner, we must embrace a third core aspect of what it means to be a human being.
To pretend that suffering doesn’t exist or that you are immune to the effects of life in a broken world denies the reality of your circumstances. To act as if you have reached a level of spiritual maturity where suffering doesn’t shake you is both unhelpful and unbiblical.
The Christian faith never denies reality. On the contrary, the Word of God encourages us to deal with our suffering with shocking honesty.
We need to be honest about:
- How much the situations, locations, and relationships of life in a broken world can hurt
- The inclinations of our heart to respond with bitterness and vengeance instead of forgiveness
- Our doubts and questions regarding the wisdom, goodness, and sovereignty of God
- The desire to take life into our own hands and write our own set of rules
At the same time, that shocking honesty must be coupled with the glorious hope of the Gospel. Every sufferer needs to run toward the comfort of knowing that the One who rules over all things is a fellow sufferer.
He was tempted in all the same ways that you are (Hebrews 4:14–16). He understands the damage that suffering does. He is sympathetic to your situation, and he offers you mercies that are form-fit for your individual need.
And it really is true that he exercises his sovereign power for your good, even in those moments when what you’re going through doesn’t seem good at all (Ephesians 1:15–23).
He knows what it’s like to be hungry. He knows what it’s like to be homeless. He knows what it’s like to feel disliked and cast out. He knows what it’s like to suffer injustice. He knows what it’s like to be forsaken and betrayed by one’s closest companions.
In your travail he doesn’t look down on you; he will never mock you in your moment of need, and he doesn’t condemn you. Instead, he enters into your suffering with patient grace, faithful love, and life-altering wisdom.
So this week, as you experience life in a broken world, and as you comfort those who are suffering, remember: the Gospel is both shockingly honest and gloriously hopeful at the same time!
Paul David Tripp
Like the Old Testament, the New Testament speaks of regeneration on many occasions and in many ways. Perhaps the most well-known example is Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus, the Old Testament scholar, recorded in John 3, in which He explains that a person must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus is understandably confused about Jesus’ image of being born again. What Jesus meant is that we are all sinners, meaning we are born physically alive but spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13) Therefore, to be spiritually alive to God we must experience a second birth of our spirit; in other words, we must be born again. Jesus tells Nicodemus that this new birth, or regeneration, occurs by the work of God the Holy Spirit.
This depiction of being born again is repeated elsewhere in the New Testament, as the following examples illustrate:
- Born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13).
- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Pet. 1:3).
- Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pet. 1:23).
- Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him (1 John 5:1)
Elsewhere in the New Testament many other images are used to explain regeneration. These include “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4), “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), “new man” (Eph. 2:15; 4:24), “alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13), and “created in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:10).
Three very important truths help to illuminate regeneration in the New Testament:
- It is vital to understand that regeneration is done to ill-deserving, not just undeserving, sinners ( Eph. 2:1-5).Therefore, regeneration is a gift of grace, as Titus 3:5 says: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
- Regeneration is something God the Holy Spirit does for us (John 3:5-8). Therefore, unless God accomplishes regeneration in people, it is impossible for them to live the Christian life.
- Without regeneration there is no possibility of eternal life in God’s kingdom (John 3:3, 5; 1 Cor, 2:6-16). Therefore, regeneration is required for someone to be a true Christian.
Out of the New Testament Scriptures above, which one speaks to you most deeply? Why?
Grace enters our life in three powerful forms:
1. The Grace of Forgiveness
It’s inconceivable to think that all our sins of the past, present, and future have been completely covered by the blood of Jesus. We don’t have to work to excuse what we’ve done or make our conscience feel better by blaming someone else.
No, we can stand before God just as we are, without fear, because in Jesus Christ we’re fully accepted! The grace of forgiveness not only gives us confidence and assurance; it mobilizes us for ministry. When we’ve experienced God’s forgiveness, we want others to know the joy, rest and hope we have.
Finally, the grace of forgiveness makes us want to obey. In our gratitude for the One who has forgiven us, we desire to think, do and say things that are pleasing to him (see Luke 7:36-47).
2. The Grace of Enablement
Because of forgiveness, we can live without fear of God’s judgement. But a new fear should grip us: the fear that we don’t have what it takes to live as we should.
Sin not only leave us guilty; it leaves us unable. It cripples our ability to be what we’re supposed to be and do what we’re supposed to do. Along with daily forgiveness, we also need daily power.
In grace, God gives us the only thing that can truly help: himself. The Spirit of God unzips us and gets inside us, enabling us to desire, think, do and say the things that fit within the boundaries of his plan and purpose for our lives (see Galatians 2:20 and Ephesians 3:20).
God will never assign us a task without first giving us the grace to accomplish it. He animates and strengthens us with his presence, so that we can say “no” to sin and “yes” to the call of his kingdom.
3. The Grace of Deliverance
One day, sin will die and we’ll live forever, permanently liberated from the tyranny of sin. It’ll be the only funeral we joyfully accept the invitation for!
Until then, our dissatisfied Redeemer Father won’t rest until every microbe of sin has been eradicated from every cell in our heart. Moment by moment, he wars on our behalf to deliver us from the sin that still remains.
To summarize, grace means that we’re never alone in our struggle with sin. God doesn’t grow discouraged, tired or weary. He never leaves us alone to deal with the temptations and realities of life in a fallen world. Our gracious Father is resolute in his determination for us to experience the complete spoils of the victory he gained over sin and death through his crucifixion and resurrection.
Now that’s a reason to get up every day!
By Paul Tripp
In addition to all, [take] up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16)
In Ephesians 6:13 Paul characterizes Satan as “the evil one” who attacks believers with flaming missiles. The Greek word translated “evil one” literally means “bad,” “vile,” or “wretched.” All are apt descriptions of the archenemy of our souls, who seeks to maim and destroy us spiritually.
The term “flaming missiles” pictures one of the Roman weapons of Paul’s day: arrows that had pitch-soaked cotton material affixed to their tips. In battle they were set on fire and shot at the enemy. As the arrow hit its target, flaming pitch spread onto clothing and other flammable surfaces. Under such attacks a Roman soldier without a shield was in a perilous situation indeed.
Satan’s flaming arrows come in many forms: solicitations to impurity, selfishness, doubt, fear, disappointment, greed, vanity, covetousness, and the like. But whatever the specific form, all are seducing temptations aimed at eliciting ungodly responses.
Your faith protects you from such attacks when you elevate God’s will above Satan’s in your life. When tempted by Satan, Jesus responded by saying in effect, “I will not violate my Father’s will by yielding to your devious schemes. In His own time He will feed Me, anoint Me as Messiah, and give Me the kingdoms of the world. I will not elevate your will and timing above His” (Matt. 4:1-11).
Jesus could have created food. He is the Messiah and the sovereign Lord over the kingdoms of the world. But He trusted the Father and yielded to His will, even though it meant personal discomfort and, eventually, the cross. When Satan saw that Jesus’ trust in the Father was unshakable, he left Him (v. 11). That’s the power of faith.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:9)
“If I . . . know all mysteries and all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing” 1 Cor. 13:2.
True knowledge is always governed by love.
Christians should never take knowledge for granted. The ability to learn of Christ and grow in His truth is a blessing beyond measure. Paul prayed that we would be “filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). That’s what enables us to live in a way that pleases God (v. 10).
But knowledge must be governed by love, just as love must be governed by knowledge. In Philippians 1:9 Paul says, “This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.” In 1 Corinthians 13:2 he says that knowledge without love is nothing. That’s a God-ordained balance you must maintain if you want to be effective for the Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 13:2 Paul uses a hypothetical illustration to emphasize the importance of love: “If I . . . know all mysteries and all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing.” The Greek word translated “mysteries” in that verse is used throughout the New Testament to speak of redemptive truth that once was hidden but now revealed. For example, Scripture speaks of the mystery of God in human flesh (Col. 2:2-3), of Christ’s indwelling in us (Col. 1:26-27), and of the church as Christ’s Body (Eph. 3:3-6, 9).
“Knowledge” in 1 Corinthians 13:2 refers to facts that can be ascertained by investigation. It’s impossible to know every mystery and every fact in existence in the universe, but even if you did, without love your knowledge would be useless. Knowledge alone breeds arrogance, but love builds others up (1 Cor. 8:1).
Maintaining a balance of knowledge and love is a practical principle that influences the decisions you make every day. For example, if you have a choice between going to a Bible class or helping a neighbor with some immediate need, the better choice is to help your neighbor. You will have other opportunities to learn the Word, but it might be some time before you have a chance to show Christian love to your neighbor.
By John MacArthur
Sometimes we need to plunge our minds into the ocean of God’s sovereignty. We need to feel the weight of it, like deep and heavy water pressing in against every pore, the deeper we go. A billion rivers of providence pour into this ocean. And God himself gathers up all his countless deeds — from eternity to eternity — and pours them into the currents of his infallible revelation. He speaks, and explains, and promises, and makes his awesome, sovereign providence the place we feel most reverent, most secure, most free.
Sometimes we need to be reminded by God himself that there are no limits to his rule. We need to hear from him that he is sovereign over the whole world, and everything that happens in it. We need his own reminder that he is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. We need his assurance that he reigns over ISIS, terrorism, Syria, Russia, China, India, Nigeria, France, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, and the United States of America — every nation, every people, every language, every tribe, every chief, president, king, premier, prime minister, politician, great or small.
Sometimes we need to hear specific statements from God himself about his own authority. We need God’s own words. It is the very words of God that have unusual power to settle our nerves, and make us stable, wise, and courageous.
On the one hand hearing the voice of God is like a frightened child who hears the voice downstairs, and realizes that daddy’s home. Whatever those other sounds were, it’s okay. Daddy’s home.
On the other hand it feels like the seasoned troops, dug in at the front line of battle, and about to be overrun by the enemy. But then they get word that a thousand impenetrable tanks are rushing to their aid. They are only one mile away. You will be saved and the enemy will not stand.
Vague generalizations about the power of God do not have the same effect as the very voice of God telling us specifically how strong he is, how pervasive his power, how universal his authority, how unlimited his sovereignty. And that our times are in his hands.
So let’s listen. Let’s treat the Bible as the voice of God. Let’s turn what the Bible says about God into what God says about God — which is what the Bible really is — God speaking about God. And as we listen, let us praise him. There is no other fitting way to listen to God’s exaltation of God. This is what happens to the human soul when we plunge into the ocean of God’s sovereignty.
We praise you, O God, that all authority in the universe belongs to you.
“There is no authority except from me, and those that exist have been instituted by me.” (Romans 13:1)
We stand in awe, O God, that in your freedom you do all that you please and all that you plan.
“Whatever I please, I do, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)
“I work all things according to the counsel of my will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:9–10)
We marvel, O God, that you share this total authority and rule completely with your Son.
“I have given all authority in heaven and on earth to my Son, Jesus.” (Matthew 28:18)
“I love my Son and have given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35)
“I raised my Son from the dead and seated him at my right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. . . . I put all things under his feet.” (Ephesians 1:20–22)
“I welcomed my Son into heaven. He is at my right hand, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.” (1 Peter 3:22)
We submit with reverence to you, O God, because, through your Son, you remove and install the rulers of the world.
“Wisdom and might belong to me. I change times and seasons; I remove kings and set up kings.” (Daniel 2:20–21)
“I sent my angel and struck Herod down, because he did not give me glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” (Acts 12:23)
Indeed, O God, you not only raise rulers and put them down; you govern all their deeds in every age.
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in my hand, says the LORD; I turn it wherever I will.” (Proverbs 21:1)
“I will put an end to the wealth of Egypt, by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. . . . I will break the yoke of Egypt, and her proud might shall come to an end. . . . I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put my sword in his hand, but I will break the arms of Pharaoh.” (Ezekiel 30:10, 18, 24)
“I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.” (Jeremiah 27:6–7)
“As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. I will break the Assyrian in my land; and his yoke shall depart from my people.” (Isaiah 14:24–25)
“I will make the nations the inheritance of my Son, and the ends of the earth will be his possession. He shall break them with a rod of iron.” (Psalm 2:8–9)
We acknowledge with wonder, O God, that no plan of man succeeds but those which you, in unfathomable wisdom, permit.
“I bring the counsel of the nations to nothing; I frustrate the plans of the peoples.” (Psalm 33:10)
“No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against me.” (Proverbs 21:30)
And how mighty and wise you are, O God, that no man, no nation, force of nature can thwart your holy plans.
“No purpose of mine can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
“I do according to my will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay my hand or say to me, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35)
So, we bow, as dust in the scales, O God, and confess with joy, that we are as nothing compared to your greatness.
“I sit above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. I stretch out the heavens like a curtain, and spread them like a tent to dwell in. I bring princes to nothing, and make the rulers of the earth as emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:22–23)
The joy of our hope, O God, is that you magnify your greatness by lifting up the low, and putting down the proud.
“I look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand.” (Job 40:12)
“I have scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; I have brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.” (Luke 1:51–52).
And so it will be forever, O God. You rule over all, with an everlasting rule, for the sake of the lowly who trust your Son.
“I live forever, for my dominion is an everlasting dominion, and my kingdom endures from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:34)
“My Son will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33)
Therefore, overflowing with praise and thanks, O precious and holy God, we rest in your absolute sovereignty over our lives. And rejoice to hear you say,
“Your times are in my hand.” (Psalm 31:15)
By Paul Tripp