Some of you who are “Trinity veterans” might remember that eight years ago I preached through the book of Revelation. It was a fun sermon series for me. I never had to worry about people thinking to themselves after hearing the Scripture read, “Well, I’ve heard this all before.” And each passage, understood rightly, kept pointing us back to Jesus and to what it means that he is our victorious king.
Beginning this Sunday, and continuing on through February, we’ll be returning to Revelation. Specifically, we’ll be focusing our attention on the “Seven Letters to the Churches,” where Jesus specifically speaks to the Church—to us—about what it means to follow him faithfully. And I cannot imagine a more relevant portion of Scripture for us today than this!
I believe that in America right now, the Church is facing an identity crisis. Over the past few decades, our country has begun moving toward what has been called a “post-Christian” society. Christianity once was ascendant and the dominant way of seeing the world, but increasingly that is no longer the case. In a way that was not true even a generation ago, people are distrustful of the church and its ministers, they find the teachings of the Bible antiquated and irrelevant, and they are quick to dismiss those Christian ethical teachings that do not coincide with their way of viewing the world.
And if we look at things honestly, we’ll see that Christian leaders throughout America have not known how to respond to this cultural shift. Some have sought to accommodate themselves to these changes, adjusting their teaching to make their church appear more relevant. In doing so, they have often lost the heart of the gospel, and therefore their reason for existence. Others have seen this new situation as a “culture war,” where it’s “us” against “them.” To win this battle and gain cultural ground, soldiers in this culture war have chosen to use any means necessary to attain victory, even if that means uncritically championing those who are clearly corrupt and unvirtuous. In doing so, they also have compromised their identity as followers of Christ.
Who are we? What does it mean to be the Church and to love a world that does not love us back? To answer these questions well, we must listen to the voice of our Shepherd. We must allow Jesus to define us.
And that’s what we find in the opening chapters of Revelation. In them, Jesus speaks to a church that is struggling to know who they are and who they should be. He reorients them by reminding them of who he is and of the victory he has already won. And he speaks to them, and to us, about what it means to join with him in being victorious.
My prayer is that we would have ears to hear what he, in the power of his Spirit, says to us, his church.