Category: Uncategorized

HANGING OUT WITH FRIENDS IS NOT THE CHURCH

Who doesn’t like getting together with friends and sharing about life? What’s not to love about having deep conversations about spiritual truths with those close to you? Those things are great, and we should do more of them, but they are not the church. People seem to be increasingly thinking that their spiritual hangouts with friends a congregation. They are exploring the question: What is the church? Great question.

It seems like some of those who are asking this question are not driven by a desire to be a part of a biblical church of any model. They just want an excuse to claim their discussions over dinner as church. There are several ways these gatherings of friends fail short of what it means to be the church.

First, they raise questions of self-centeredness. When someone desires to break away from being an active part of a local church and instead wants to substitute a gathering of friends in its place, the question to consider is not “Can we?” but rather “Why would we?” It’s a matter of motivation.

Second, they prevent us from growing as we should. You and I need other people to be the church. We need other people who aren’t like us to be the church. We need other people who are not like us to help us become more like Christ. Other people who are in different life stages than us, have different personalities than us, come from different backgrounds than us, not only protect us from heresy, they help chip away and sand off our self-centered traits. When we just gather with friends and those like us, we remove much of the way God uses others in the body to refine us. The desire to be only with those like yourself assumes that only they can teach you and help you grow. It dismisses the contributions others can (and would) make in your sanctification.

Third, they rob us of places of service. There are so many avenues for growth and service that can never be yours if you exchange being a part of a church with hanging out with friends. The church comes together to serve one another using the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has given us and goes out to help others using the equipping of the saints the church provides for us.

Will you be hurt within the church? Absolutely, but who is to say Christ will not use that to conform you to His image? Jesus has promised to be in the midst of even two or three gathered in His name, but He has not called that the church. If you are gathering with a group of friends to talk about life and the Scriptures, don’t stop. But don’t confuse it with church either. Seek to build up the bride of Christ, not try to replace her.

Edited by Mark Johnson

Reasons We Should Sing Passionately

From the beginning of the church, singing has been an integral part of corporate worship. The first hymns are as old as the early books of the Bible. Here are just five of the many reasons we should all sing passionately as the church this Sunday:

1) We are commanded to sing! We are called to sing; indeed, the Scriptures command us – more than 250 times – that we are to sing. It’s hardly one of those “controversial” issues that are hard to ascertain precisely what scripture is saying. It’s not a choice; it’s not dependent on “feeling like it;” it’s not our prerogative.

Throughout Biblical history, in every place and circumstance; in victory, in defeat; in celebrations and festivals; in death and mourning; singing was second nature for people of faith. Indeed, the largest book of the Bible is itself a songbook, exploring the range of human experience and interaction with God through singing.

2) Singing together completes our joy. Celebrating with each other is as natural as breathing. At your kid’s soccer game or when we watch football or March Madness, it’s not enough for our team to win, we want to revel in the moment and share it with other people. C. S. Lewis believed singing completes our faith, explaining in his book Reflections on the Psalms, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise does not merely express but completes the enjoyment; it is appointed consumption.”

3) Singing is an expression of brotherhood and unites generations. Singing together is a picture here on earth of the hope of heaven where every tribe, tongue, and nation will sing to God. Throughout history, God’s people have both discovered and affirmed their solidarity in times of celebration and in times of tragedy through singing.

4) We are what we sing. Singing affects how we pray, think, feel; it influences our memory banks and even the deepest parts of our subconscious. If the songs we sing to ourselves and to each other are just about the moment, detached from Scripture and lacking in history or perspective, we’ve little to keep us moored to Truth. But, when we are intentional about singing and about the songs we sing, we build up a testimony that will travel with us through life.

As you worship God today – as overworked dads, stressed out mums, grandparents struggling with health and young people looking for wealth – each of us can, with integrity and with relief, go with repentance and thanksgiving to the One who has created us, forgiven us and lives within us. How can we not sing?

Keith Getty (edited and adapted by Mark Johnson)

Titles and Terms found in the Psalms

Titles Of Literary Or Musical Genre

1. Song (shir)
a. normally a reference to songs sung in the temple
b. suggests a vocal rendering (rather than instrumental)
c. when used in conjunction with mizmor (psalm), it suggests accompanied singing
d. used as the heading for Psalms 120-134, “songs of ascent” (shir hamma’ aloth)
1) these are pilgrimage psalms (going to Jerusalem to worship)
2) see Ezra 2:1; 7:9 – describes the going up from the Babylonian exile
3) the term was later applied the fifteen steps leading up to the temple proper and the temple singers would sing one psalm on each step
2. Psalm (mizmor)
a. used fifty-seven times
b. suggests playing a musical instrument
c. four times, the musical instrument is specified – 33:2; 98:5; 144:9; 147:7
3. Miktam
a. there is no consensus on the meaning of this term
b. it occurs in the titles of Psalms 16, 56, 57, 58, 59, and 60 (which are all Davidic psalms)
c. suggestions as to what Miktam means:
1) “gold” (a golden psalm)
2) “atonement” (an atonement psalm)
3) “indelible”
4) “silent prayer” (covering the lips in secrecy)
4. Maskil
a. it occurs in the titles of thirteen psalms: 32, 42, 44, 45, 52, 53, 54, 55, 74, 78, 88, 89, and 142
b. it also occurs in Ps. 47:7
c. some have rendered it as “artistic psalm” or “didactic psalm”
d. a participle with the same root occurs at 2 Chron. 30:22, which describes Levitical activity
e. presenting songs and poems in a skilled, intelligent, and artistic way
5. Shiggaion
a. the term only occurs at the heading of Psalm 7
b. the plural form occurs at Hab. 3:3
c. it comes from a verb which means “to err” or “to wander”
6. Tehilliah (“song of praise”)
a. it normally used in the sense of “praise” (22:25; 33:1; 34:1; 40:3; 48:10; 65:1; 71:8; 100:4; 106:12, 47; 119:171; 147:1; 148:14; 149:1)
b. see also Psalm 145
7. Tefillah (“prayer”)
a. appears in the titles of five psalms: 17, 86, 90, 102, and 142
b. it also occurs in Hab. 3:1
c. it is the general term for prayer in the Psalms as well as in the Old Testament
8. Selah
a. possibly refers to a musical note that signals reaching a crescendo
b. it may signal the worshippers to utter a worshipful cry (similar to “Amen”)
c. not strictly a title
d. 3:2, 4, 8; 4:2, 4; 7:5; 9:16; 24:6

Titles With Musical Terms

1. Lamenatstseakh (“to the choirmaster”)
a. occurs in the title of 55 psalms and in Hab. 3:19
b. the verb form means “to lead,” “to excel,” or “to be a the head” (see Ezra 3:8; 1 Chron. 23:4; 2 Chron. 2:2)
c. provides instruction concerning speed, inflection, and other stylistic considerations
2. Binginoth and ‘al-neginoth
a. Binginoth (“stringed instrument”) occurs in the titles of Psalms 4, 6, 54, 55, 67, and 76
b. ‘al-neginoth (“to run over the strings”) occurs in the title of Psalm 61
c. these psalms were to be recited or sung to the strains of stringed instruments
3. ‘al-hashminith (“according to the eighth”)
a. some suggests that the instruments are tuned for the bass singers
b. some suggest that it refers to the “eighth string”
c. it occurs in the titles of Psalms 6 and 12
4. ‘al-muth, ‘almuth labben, and ‘al-alamoth
a. probably all three phrases are variants with one meaning
b. “according to maidens” – 1 Chron. 15:20
c. the soprano key
d. they occur in the titles of Psalms 9, 46, and 48

Titles With Musical Tunes

1. ‘al-gittith
a. used in the titles of Psalms 8, 81, and 84
b. possibly a musical instrument that originated in Gath
c. it may also refer to the “winepress” and suggest a “vintage song”
2. ‘al-tashkheth (“do not destroy”)
a. used in the titles of Psalms 57, 58, 59, and 75
b. used in Isa. 65:8, where the expression seems to refer to a vintage song
3. ‘al-‘ayyeleth ha-shachar (“on the hind of the dawn”)
a. used in the title of Psalm 22
b. we do not know what this tune was
4. ‘al-shoshannim (“on the lilies”) and ‘al-shushan eduth (“according to the lily testimony”)
a. occurs in the titles of Psalms 45, 60, 69, and 80
b. has something apparently to do with “those whose situations change for the worse”
5. ‘al-yonath ‘elem rekhoqim (“set to the dove of the far-off terebinths”)
a. occurs in the title of Psalm 56
b. we do not know what this tune is

Ancient Near Eastern Concepts of Divine Rest

The biblical world is not our world. The biblical text was written to communicate to original recipients (Israelites in the wilderness, Christians at Rome, etc.) using the language, thoughts, and images of their time. This means that we must do some work to understand what the text meant to the original readers. The fancy and intimidating name for this is historical, grammatical exegesis. Do not let that scare you. This refers to “unpacking” the text by understanding the word meanings, syntax and grammatical context of the verse or paragraph that one is studying. The historical (cultural) setting also sheds light on the meaning of the words, phrases, and concepts.

One example of this is what does it mean that “God rested” in Genesis 2:1-3? Rest in our time and place communicates taking a nap, leisure time, maybe a vacation. That is not what the Ancient Near East thought of when people of that time read about divine rest. The following is an excerpt from one of John Walton’s publications that helps the contemporary reader understand what “divine rest” communicated to the original readers.

THEOLOGY OF REST IN THE BIBLE in John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2015), 47–52.

When God tells the Israelites that he is going to give them rest (nwḥ) from their enemies (Deut 12:10; Josh 1:13; 21:44; 2 Sam 7:1; 1 Kings 5:4), he is not talking about sleep, relaxation or leisure time. The rest that he offers his people refers to freedom from invasion and conflict so that they can live at peace and conduct their daily lives without interruption. It refers to achieving a state of order in society. Such rest is the goal of all the ordering activities that the Israelites are undertaking to secure their place in the land.

When Jesus invites people to “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28), he is not offering a nap or leisure time. He is inviting people to participate in the ordered kingdom of God, where, even though they have a yoke, they will find rest. Furthermore, when the author of Hebrews refers to the rest that remains for the people of God (Heb 4:10–11), he is not referring to relaxation but to security and order in the kingdom of God.

In light of this usage, we can discern that resting pertains to the security and stability found in the equilibrium of an ordered system. When God rests on the seventh day, he is taking up his residence in the ordered system that he has brought about in the previous six days. It is not something that he does only on the seventh day; it is what he does every day thereafter. Furthermore, his rest is not just a matter of having a place of residence—he is exercising his control over this ordered system where he intends to relate to people whom he has placed there and for whom he has made the system function. It is his place of residence, it is a place for relationship, but, beyond those, it is also a place of his rule. Note Psalm 132:7–8, where the temple is identified both as God’s dwelling place and as his resting place. Psalm 132:14 goes on to identify this resting place as the place where he sits “enthroned.” The temple account in Ezekiel 40–48 also identifies this element clearly: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever” (Ezek 43:7).

When Jesus talks about the Sabbath, he makes statements that seem unrelated to rest if we think of it in terms of relaxation. In Matthew 12:8, he is the Lord of the Sabbath. When we realize that the Sabbath has to do with participating in God’s ordered system (rather than promoting our own activities as those that bring us order), we can understand how Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. Throughout his controversies with the Pharisees, Jesus insisted that it was never a violation of the Sabbath to do the work of God on that day. Indeed, he noted that God is continually working (Jn 5:17). The Sabbath is most truly honored when we participate in the work of God (see Is 58:13–14). The work we desist from is that which represents our own attempts to bring our own order to our lives. It is to resist our self-interest, our self-sufficiency and our sense of self-reliance.

ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN CONCEPT OF DIVINE REST

It would not have been difficult for a reader from anywhere in the ancient Near East to take one quick look at the seven-day account and draw the conclusion that it was a temple story. That is because they knew something about the temples in the ancient world that is foreign to us. Divine rest in ancient temples was not a matter of simply residence. As we noted in Psalm 132, the temple was the center of God’s rule. In the ancient world, the temple was the command center of the cosmos—it was the control room from where the god maintained order, made decrees and exercised sovereignty. Temple-building accounts often accompanied cosmologies because after the god had established order (the focus of cosmologies in the ancient world), he took control of that ordered system. This is the element that we are sadly missing when we read the Genesis account. God has ordered the cosmos with the purpose of taking up his residence in it and ruling over it. Day seven is the reason for days one through six. It is the fulfillment of God’s purpose.

In the ancient world, a god’s place in his temple is established so that people can relate to him by meeting his needs (ritually). That is not the case in Israel, where God has no needs. He wants to relate to his people in an entirely different way. Despite this difference, it is the temple that remains the focus of this relationship as elsewhere in the ancient world. When God entered the temple, he established sacred space. Sacred space is the result of divine presence and serves as the center and source of order in the cosmos. In this “home story,” God is not only making a home for people; he is making a home for himself, though he has no need of a home for himself. If God does not rest in this ordered space, the six days are without their guiding purpose. The cosmos is not just a house; it is a home.

These ideas are supported not only by biblical theology, by lexical semantics and by comparative study with the ancient Near East; they are supported by the connection to a seven-day period. If this cosmic origins story has to do with the initiation of the cosmos as sacred space, then we should inquire as to how sacred space is typically initiated in the Bible and the ancient world when a temple is involved.

Solomon spent seven years building the house to be used as the temple of God in Jerusalem. When the house was complete, however, all that existed was a structure, not a temple. It was ready to be a temple, but it was not yet functioning like a temple, and God was not dwelling in it. Consequently the temple did not exist even though the structure did. What constituted the transition from a structure that was ready to be a temple to an actual functioning temple? How did the house become a home? This is an important question because there is a comparison to be drawn if Genesis 1 is indeed a temple text.

We find that in both the Bible and the ancient Near East there is an inauguration ceremony that formally and ceremonially marks the transition from physical structure to functioning temple, from house to home. In that inauguration ceremony, the functions of the temple are proclaimed, the functionaries are installed and rituals are begun as God comes down to inhabit the place that has been prepared by his instruction. It is thus no surprise that in Genesis 1 we find the proclamation of functions and the installation of functionaries. More importantly, we should note that in the Bible and the ancient world, the number seven figures prominently in the inauguration of sacred space.

If we therefore ask about the significance of seven days in the account, the biblical and ancient Near Eastern background provides the key. It is not that God decided to build the house in six days and added a Sabbath to make a theological point. We must remember that the audience of this account is Israel, not Adam and Eve. We might imagine a scenario in which Moses communicates to the Israelites in the wilderness (hypothetically, realizing that the book makes no such claims). This shift in our perspective is extremely important. Expanding on that idea, we can imagine not only a setting (Moses communicating to Israelites); we can imagine an event. As a thought experiment, let’s consider the scenario of Moses sitting down with the elders of the people on the eve of the tabernacle dedication at the foot of Sinai.

He is trying to help the Israelites understand the gravity of what is about to happen. They are ready to establish sacred space defined by the indwelling presence of God for the first time since Eden. So he explains to them that God had planned for the space.

Reading the chapters as a home story allows the emergence of rich theology that is obscured by reading the text as a house story. We learn that, even though God has provided for us, it is not about us. The cosmos is not ours to do with as we please but God’s place in which we serve as his co-regents. Our subduing and ruling are carried out in full recognition that we are caretakers. Whatever humanity does, it should be directed toward bringing order out of non-order. Our use of the environment should not impose disorder. This is not just a house that we inhabit; it is our divinely gifted home, and we are accountable for our use of it and work in it.

If you desire more information about this, you can also consult:

Divine Rest and Temples in Cosmogonies from John H. Walton, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011), 110–119.

Hurowitz, V. A. I Have Built You an Exalted House. JSOTSup 115; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992.

John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 196–199.

John H. Walton, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011), 178–184.

Andreasen, N.-E. The Old Testament Sabbath: A Tradition-Historical Investigation. SBL Dissertation Series. Missoula, Mont.: Society of Biblical Literature, 1972.

Laansma, J. I Will Give You Rest. Tübingen: Mohr, 1997.

John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 71–91.

The Meaning of “moed” and Genesis 1:14

Genesis 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons (מוֹעֵד) and for days and years

It is most probable that in Gn 1:14 (P), where מ׳ || אֹתֹת, the reference is to the sacred seasons as fixed by the moon’s appearance; and so also עשׂה ירח למ׳ he made the moon for sacred seasons ψ 104:19 (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977, 417).

מוֹעֵד (ca. 200 times), מוֹעֲדוֹ/דֶֽךָ, מוֹעֲדֵי, מוֹעֲדָי/דֶֽיכֶם: —1 place for meeting, assembly point; 2. meeting, assembly; 3. agreed time, appointed time; 4. festival, time of festivity (Koehler, Baumgartner, Richardson, et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000, 557–558).

מוֹעֵד (môʿēd), nom. appointed time, (time of) feast, (#4595a); meeting place, assembly, tent of meeting (#4595b); < יָעַד (yāʿad), appoint, designate (#3585).

OT 1. Usage. The nom. מוֹעֵד occurs 223× in the OT, most frequently in Num (65×); Lev (49×); Exod (38×); and 2 Chron (4×). The nom. is used 149× in Exod 25–Num 31, where a pronounced priestly influence can be detected (TWAT 4:744).

Noncultic use of מוֹעֵד. The nom. מוֹעֵד in the OT refers to a determined place or time and can vary from the birth of a child (Gen 17:21) to the migration of a bird (Jer 8:7). A meeting between Jonathan and David can, for example, be referred to in this way (1 Sam 20:35). Koch is of the opinion that the nonreligious use of this term is concentrated in preexilic times (TWAT 4:746).

Cultic use of מוֹעֵד. A religious festival can also be called a מוֹעֵד (Lev 23:2, 4, 44; Isa 1:14; Ezek 36:38; 44:24; 45:17; Hos 2:9 [11]), but מוֹעֵד refers to more than only the pilgrimage festivals. In the OT a “feast” in the general sense of the word referred to “all set times of communal observance” (IDB 2:260). Some of the more important religious feasts in the OT are: the Festival of the New Moon (Num 28:11), the Sabbath (Exod 20:8–11; 31:12–17), the New Year (Feast of Trumpets, Lev 23:23–25; Num 29:7–11), the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:23–26, 32), and the Year of Jubilee (25:8–55; 27:17–24). For the use of מוֹעֵד as Tent of Meeting (#4595b).

Theological considerations on festivals. The biblical accounts of the feasts of Israel are recorded in different festive calendars (חַג [#2504]); much more research will have to be done on how different festival traditions (from the northern kingdom and Judah) were combined in the final text of the OT (Goldstein & Cooper, 19–31).

(a) Two theological elements can be traced in all of them: the grateful and joyous commemoration of the redemptive acts of God, and care for the poor and the needy (ISBE 2:295; Wilms, 42–45). According to Cox (21), “The festival breaks through the routine and opens man to the past, it widens his experience and reduces his provincialism.” Religious feasts were the reenactment of God’s salvific events in the past (esp. the Exodus). They had a distinct educational value in nurturing succeeding generations in the faith. The feast became the recurring reminder that God can also determine the present circumstances of everyday reality (Otto, 44).

(b) The feasts were instituted not only to maintain community between God and Israel, but also to reestablish community among Israelites themselves by taking care of the widows and orphans (Vriezen, 284, 320). Deuteronomy in particular is concerned with the needs of the poor, which were to be addressed in the creation of solidarity among all Israel during the commemoration of a feast (Deut 16:11, 14; cf. Albertz, 91).

(c) The increase in the importance of the temple and priesthood in Jerusalem (esp. with the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah) led to a concentration on the outward performance of festivals, sacrifices, and fasting (Isa 1:14–15; 58:3–5; Amos 5:21; Eichrodt, 1:47). Modern theological interpretation of the OT festivals should be aware of the ongoing danger of degrading religious feasts to a level of superficial adherence.

(VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997, 871–872).

Occurrences of מוֹעֵד (môʿēd) in the Hebrew Bible: Gen. 1:14; 17:21; 18:14; 21:2; Exod. 9:5; 13:10; 23:15; 27:21; 28:43; 29:4, 10f, 30, 32, 42, 44; 30:16, 18, 20, 26, 36; 31:7; 33:7; 34:18; 35:21; 38:8, 30; 39:32, 40; 40:2, 6f, 12, 22, 24, 26, 29f, 32, 34f; Lev. 1:1, 3, 5; 3:2, 8, 13; 4:4f, 7, 14, 16, 18; 6:9, 19, 23; 8:3f, 31, 33, 35; 9:5, 23; 10:7, 9; 12:6; 14:11, 23; 15:14, 29; 16:7, 16f, 20, 23, 33; 17:4ff, 9; 19:21; 23:2, 4, 37, 44; 24:3; Num. 1:1; 2:2, 17; 3:7f, 25, 38; 4:3f, 15, 23, 25, 28, 30f, 33, 35, 37, 39, 41, 43, 47; 6:10, 13, 18; 7:5, 89; 8:9, 15, 19, 22, 24, 26; 9:2f, 7, 13; 10:3, 10; 11:16; 12:4; 14:10; 15:3; 16:2, 18f; 17:7f, 15, 19; 18:4, 6, 21ff, 31; 19:4; 20:6; 25:6; 27:2; 28:2; 29:39; 31:54; Deut. 16:6; 31:10, 14; Josh. 8:14; 18:1; 19:51; Judg. 20:38; 1 Sam. 2:22; 9:24; 13:8, 11; 20:35; 2 Sam. 20:5; 24:15; 1 Kgs. 8:4; 2 Kgs. 4:16f; 1 Chr. 6:17; 9:21; 23:31f; 2 Chr .1:3, 6, 13; 2:3; 5:5; 8:13; 30:22; 31:3; Ezra 3:5; Neh. 10:34; Job 30:23; Pss. 74:4, 8; 75:3; 102:14; 104:19; Isa. 1:14; 14:13, 31; 33:20; Jer. 8:7; 46:17; Lam. 1:4, 15; 2:6f, 22; Ezek. 36:38; 44:24; 45:17; 46:9, 11; Dan. 8:19; 11:27, 29, 35; 12:7; Hos. 2:11, 13; 9:5; 12:10; Hab. 2:3; Zeph. 3:18; Zech. 8:19

What Does Christ Not Look For In His Church?

Last week I asked the question, “what is Christ looking for in His church?” The answers to that question came from the items (attitudes and actions) that Jesus commends or calls for in the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 2-3). This article is asking the opposite question, about what Christ is not looking for in His church (what does Jesus not want among His people). The answers will be primarily based on Revelation 2-3.

Notice that Jesus does not praise them for things like fundraising skills; the size of the congregation; organizational skills; building and property holdings; having great social events; specialized ministries for all age groups; being “involved” in their communities; etc. Some or all of these things can be appropriate (even necessary), but these are not the things that Jesus is looking for in His church. These types of things are not mentioned in Revelation 2-3 and they are not mentioned in any of the New Testament documents sent to congregations of God ‘s people.

As we read the letters to the seven churches of Asia, we also find several things that Jesus does not want in His church. What causes Jesus to rebuke and threaten to judge or remove His presence from among His people?

The church at Ephesus: leaving their first love (Rev. 2:4).

The church at Pergamum: tolerating false teaching, idolatry, unlawful silence, and immorality (Rev. 2:14-15).

The church at Thyatira: tolerating false teaching, idolatry, immorality, and lack of church discipline (Rev. 2:20-23).

The church at Sardis: reputation without reality and incomplete works (Rev. 3:1-2).

The church at Laodicea: spiritually lukewarm and lost spiritual values (Rev. 3:16-17).

These letters call for the people of God to see ourselves based on the things that are important to Jesus and not be deceived into evaluating ourselves based on cultural criteria. These letters also call for the saints to resist the constant pull to accommodate to or assimilate into the culture. We are recreated in Christ to be the counter-cultural people of God.

Mark Johnson

(a special thank you goes to Dr. Rick Oster for teaching me to ask these kinds of questions of the biblical text)