The God of Creation and Redemption in Revelation 4 and 5

Kathleen Nielsen

Scripture, when read rightly, will lead us to worship.

Why does John weep loudly at the prospect of the scroll remaining unopened? Look to the rest of Scripture.

The scroll in Ezekiel and the scroll in Daniel. Unfolding human history at the decree of God.

Writing on both sides of the scroll. Every last space was required for God’s decrees for the unfolding of human history. If the scroll would not open, human history could not unfold at God’s decree. What if there is no larger purpose for the days in which we live? John weeps at the prospect of a universe separated from its Creator.

For the remainder of the notes on Kathleen’s talk on Revelation 4 and 5, go to:

The Rape of Christ

We are only prepared to receive and comprehend the grace of God when we have understood His infinite holiness and our incredible sinfulness. ~James MacDonald

I have been attempting for months to help someone understand just what the big deal is about our sin, and sexual sin in particular. I was struggling to bring to light just how badly our sin breaks the heart of God, and 1 Corinthians 6:5-20 is the passage I ended up returning to several times.

This passage gives us a clear explanation of the connection found in mind, body and soul specifically; each is intricately involved in the health and welfare of the other. Sins actively committed in our body impact our souls and minds; thoughts lead to actions which lead to spiritual disconnect from the Father. Spiritual brokenness can cause mental and physical side effects like depression, anger, apathy, even physical pain.

So, according to this passage, our physical actions impact us mentally and spiritually as well. We use our bodies and train our minds to respond a certain way, leading to addictive behavior. Most people today watch enough Dr. Phil to understand the mind/body connection.

But what about the spiritual aspect of sin? How does that impact us? How does our sin impact our relationship with the Triune God? According to this passage, our sin effects Christ intimately and directly. He tells us that, at the time of salvation, we become joined in one Spirit with Christ. He is a part of us, we are a part of Him. This is why the marriage relationship is a picture of our relationship with Christ; separate beings, joined together to become one while still remaining unique beings. One of the greatest mysteries of how we as spiritual beings function.

Follow this logic for a moment; as believers, we are joined to Jesus, being one in Spirit. He is with us and a part of us, present and actively involved in all that we think, say and do. That’s a pretty convicting thought.

But Paul then immediately uses an extreme illustration to make his point; he asks who in his right mind would ask Jesus to sleep with a prostitute? The answer to that rhetorical question is, “No one!” Jesus was tempted in every way, yet without sin. Jesus doesn’t want to engage in illicit sexual activity; his one goal is to glorify His Father in Heaven in mind, body and spirit.

So, following Paul’s graphic illustration, what are we doing when, as believers, we force Jesus, with whom we are joined in one Spirit, to join us in immoral sexual behavior? We are essentially raping Jesus. We are forcing him to participate in sexual activity He wholeheartedly desires to avoid because it brings no glory to the Father in Heaven.

Some statics claim that by the end of college (or age 22) as many as 20% of all women have been at least convinced to participate in a sex act she would otherwise have avoided. Ask any woman who’s been in that situation, and she will tell you how it made her feel. Dirty. Shameful. Used. Broken. Brokenhearted.

Sometimes it’s difficult as believers to understand how our sin breaks the heart of God. In following Paul’s logic in this passage, it should be abundantly clear; to engage in immoral sexual activity is to force Jesus to engage in sexual activity against His will. Our selfish momentary pleasure is equal to the rape of Christ.

Looking at it from that point of view, how do you think our sin breaks the heart of God? How would your heart break knowing that a loved one had been raped, abused, molested? How did you feel if it’s happened to you? What steps do you take to protect yourself from being in a situation in which those things could happen? How do you teach and train the young boys and girls in your life to avoid those situations? Shouldn’t we do the same for Christ?

If we are one in Spirit with Him, shouldn’t we live our lives in such a way that we do everything within our power to keep Him from being involved in activities He desperately wants to avoid?

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

The following series of posts is a detailed summary and review of Paul David Tripp’s book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. I hope that providing this will encourage you to read the book in its entirety.

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, by Paul David Tripp. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002. 375 pages.

Paul David Tripp received his M.Div. from the Philadelphia Theological Seminary and his D.Min. degree from the Westminster Theological Seminary, also in Philadelphia. Tripp is a counselor at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation in Glenside, Pennsylvania, where he is the director of Changing Lives Ministries, as well as a lecturer in practical theology at Westminster. In addition to his teaching and counseling responsibilities, Dr. Tripp has also authored several books and is a highly sought lecturer and speaker.

The purpose of this book is clearly stated by the author in the preface to the body of the text. Tripp states his two-fold thesis in the following manner:
…[T]his book is about: how God uses people, who are themselves in need of change, as instruments of the same kind of change in others. This book’s goal is not just that people’s lives would be changed as they give help and receive it. The goal is to help change the church’s very culture (xi).
Within the confines of this book, Tripp gives his reader a comprehensive outline for how these two goals can be accomplished, starting with the changes needed in the heart of each individual person, and then moving out, to describe the changes necessary in the behavior of people and in the interactions between people. While Tripp seems to be stating in his thesis that the ultimate goal is the radical culture change of the church as a whole, his writing consistently points to the fact that he believes change in the church will not occur without there first being an individual radical change in the hearts and minds of every believer in the church.

To further support this statement, Tripp begins his argument in Chapter One with the most basic heart change any person can experience: the change that occurs in the heart of one who has accepted Christ as Savior. Tripp argues that the need for change in the hearts of men is due to the Fall of the first man and woman. When sin entered the world, the need immediately occurred for a Savior to redeem the hearts of a now sinful mankind. In order for someone to recognize that a change is possible, or even needed, she must first recognize the fallen nature of her own heart and acknowledge the need to be rescued from that fallen nature.

Tripp clearly states from the beginning that only God can begin the redeeming process. “From the moment of the Fall, for generation after generation, he controlled everything so that someday he could fix what had been so horribly damaged. Into this world, at just the right moment, he sent his one and only Son” (3). While salvation from the damnation we deserve for our sins is reason enough to rejoice over the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the reader is quickly informed that, “The King came not to make our agenda possible, but to draw us into something more amazing, glorious, and wonderful than we could ever imagine” (4). There is more to this life than simply being redeemed so that we can share an eternity in Heaven with Christ; we are here to bring God glory through our actions and reactions to the world around us. Recognizing our sin and a need for a Savior and then accepting the call placed on every believer’s life to impact the lives of those around us is, Tripp states, the first step in becoming an effective instrument for change in the lives of people around us.

Chapter Two moves in a logical order from the main idea of Chapter One. Once a person has surrendered her life to Christ, there are certain things she should now be doing as one who is living in the grasp of the Redeemer. The overall theme of the second chapter is summed up in the following statement: “God transforms people’s lives as people bring his Word to others” (19). According to Tripp, this is the second step in the process of becoming a people helper; Christians are not to be those who simply refer their lost or hurting neighbors and family members to the church pastor. Rather, each person who has experienced a saving knowledge of Christ is called to bring Christ’s message of hope and peace and redemption to whomever in their life needs the message. Tripp continues to support his thesis of radical church change by focusing in this chapter on the idea that “in the biblical model, much more informal, personal ministry goes on than formal ministry” (19). His concept in this chapter is to enforce the idea that radical change is not solely the responsibility of paid church staff, but that, as a body, each member of the church is responsible for proclaiming the Word so that people’s lives will be dramatically changed.

Tripp spends a significant amount of time in this chapter answering the key question of any ministry: “What is the best way to minister biblically to another person?” (24). He answers this question in two ways. First he explains what biblical ministry is not. He states that biblical ministry is not the practice of throwing trite advice and biblical-sounding platitudes in the general direction of a hurting individual. He states that the topical, encyclopedic use of Scripture is an incorrect use of Scripture. In this vein of thinking, Tripp states, “If I handle Scripture topically, I will miss the overarching themes at the heart of everything else God wants to say to me…The sad fact is that many of us are simply not biblical in the way we use the Bible!” (27). Instead of simply stating the problem and moving on, Tripp does a good job of giving logical examples of how to use the Bible correctly in ministry situations. He then gives the reader what he calls the three overarching themes of Scripture: God’s sovereignty, God’s grace, and God’s glory. Next, these three things, he states, must be communicated to the hearer before any true change can take place in the heart. And change, Tripp concludes, “is the central work of God’s kingdom” (35).