Monday, November 25, 2013

Family Birthmark

 Sometimes family resemblance is so clear it’s scary! 
Several years ago I put my grandson’s picture next to my baby picture and one thing was abundantly clear – I will never get to deny that kid!
The Scriptures make it clear that Satan imitates everything God does.  As the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one…so is the Devil, his beast (Antichrist) and false prophet.  You can recognize Satan’s family by their marks; so it is with God’s family.
God’s Family is Marked
Then I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.  Revelation 14:1 (NLT)

The Flock is Numbered

Some groups place great literal significance on numbers.  Some claim that, above all other believers in history, there will be exactly 144,000 who are the “worthy chosen” to stand with Christ. 
Most evangelical scholars see this number not literally, but more as representative of all people who have trusted in God for salvation.  The significance of the numbers represents groups as well as ways that numbers are used in Scripture.  Here, for instance, the number 144,000 is pointing to the 12 groups (or tribes) of the Old Testament, and 12 groups (or apostles, patriarchs) of the New Testament.  These two groups represent the leaders of all God’s people and the innumerable numbers of them throughout history. 
So 12 OT tribes x 12 NT apostles x 1000’s = 144,000).  This isn’t an actual headcount; it’s signifying all believers in all ages as Christ brings all of God’s family together for the final conflict with Satan and his followers.

The Flock is Named

…144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.  Revelation 14:1b (NLT)
In the previous chapter we note the “mark of the Beast”, Satan’s claiming of those who reject Christ.  But here the family of God is marked with His own name.  It is the seal of God’s Holy Spirit:
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.   Ephesians 4:30 (NLT)
This seal is for our protection:
The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me.  I will protect those who trust in my name.  When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble.  I will rescue and honor them.  I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”   Psalms 91:14 - 16 (NLT)
God’s Family is Musical

An Overpowering Song

And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of mighty ocean waves or the rolling of loud thunder.  It was like the sound of many harpists playing together.    Revelation 14:2 (NLT)
God’s people have always sung.  The Methodist movement was marked by singing – LOUD singing!  John Wesley warned Methodists to not sing as if we’re half-dead.
I don’t know that you could have counted all the verses of “Jesus Loves Me” were sung in the Brownworth car on the way to school when our children were little.  There were versions of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” but I also taught my kids to sing hymns and choruses.  (It’s a wonder any of them sing on key these days!)
Listen, in heaven the singing is going to be long, loud and will lavish great praise on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  If you’re going to join in then, it would be well that we practice here.
(And if you feel like you can’t make a joyful noise…make a joyful racket; God is waiting for you to open your mouth!)

An Overcoming Song

This great choir sang a wonderful new song in front of the throne of God and before the four living beings and the twenty-four elders.  No one could learn this song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.  Revelation 14:3 (NLT)
When I read this passage and try to imagine the tune and words all I can hear is “Amazing Grace”.  Only the redeemed of God can sing this song. 
a.     Because of Sin
This song comes out the heart of gratitude; it is a song only people who were lost and now are “found” can sing.  Angels are not so; they have always lived with God and do not sin.  Our sin would have separated us from God for eternity, but his grace and his cross made a way to the throne of God.  It’s an overcoming song!

b.     Because of Suffering
This song’s triumph is over suffering and heartache of this life.  Remember the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – how they refused to bow down to anyone but Yahweh, and they were thrown into the fiery furnace?  Remember Joseph, unjustly imprisoned (several times in his life) – how God redeemed and restored him?  Remember Job – lost it all and God restored it many times over. 
Don’t despise the troubles you may suffer because of your faith in Christ.  All these suffered, but God lifted them to overcome their tragedy.  This song is an overcoming song!

The Family of God is Marked, Musical and….
God’s Family is Mature
Maturity has nothing to do (as we all know) with how old you are.  I’ve known some pretty mature sixth-graders; I’ve also known some octogenarians who could use a dose of common sense.  Maturity has to do with how you act.  God’s family is mature insofar as they mirror the character and actions of their Master, Jesus Christ.

Mature in Purity

They have kept themselves as pure as virgins,… Revelation 14:4a (NLT)
Some would make this a case for celibacy, but that is too literal for the meaning here.  God is much more concerned about our spiritual chastity to limit this to a physical virginity.  It boils down to this:
People totally in love with Jesus act like it!

Mature in Loyalty

…following the Lamb wherever he goes.  Revelation 14:4b (NLT)
Being redeemed by the blood of the Lamb gives you a pretty clear sense of direction about what you’ll do in life – follow your Redeemer!  This is the “seal of the Spirit” – those who have been saved live like the Savior.

Mature in Royalty

They have been purchased from among the people on the earth as a special offering to God and to the Lamb.  They have told no lies; they are without blame. Revelation 14:4c, 5 (NLT)
When you have an audience with a king you wear your best clothes and use your best manners.  If you’re the child of the king, you stand before him a little taller. 
Jude, half-brother of Jesus closed his little letter with this doxology about how we will stand before the throne of God:
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen.                               Jude 1:24 - 25 (NRSV)

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