April 9 – Devotion Sharing (Revelation 4)

Submitted by Emily K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • What is God like, according to this passage?

God is someone who is holy, and who inspires worship and praise.  The picture of his throne is filled with grandeur.  He sits on a throne surrounded by twenty-four other thrones.  The elders who sit in those thrones fall in worship of God whenever living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to God.  All around are vibrant colors, jewels, sights and sounds associated with power, might, and light.  According to biblical commentary, the four living creatures with six wings and eyes all around represent the animals at the top of their respective domains: lion over wild animals, ox over all domesticated animals; the eagle among flying creatures; and human over all created beings.  In this way, they lead all of creation in worship of God.

The words and images created in this scene evoke a sense of fullness, of expansive glory and majesty, and paint a picture of a God who is so worthy of worship that to worship him forever and ever simply would not be enough!

  • How does this apply to you? 

This picture of God is so grand I get the sense these words aren’t enough to capture the whole of who He is.  I am truly filled with awe as I reflect on this vision of God in His heavenly home.  And what I am struck with is my smallness.  Who am I?  This is the question that resounds.  Who am I, who are we, that this God cared to go to the greatest lengths to redeem rebels unto himself?  What a peculiar juxtaposition.  This God is enough, He is complete, He is the “I Am,” and yet he descended into this muck of a world – a muck made by man – and suffered the cruelest death and humiliation before all, in order to forgive people who were so busy going about their lives that they didn’t even know they needed forgiveness.  God didn’t have to do any of this.  This is a God who has no need, who is so perfect and glorious that the only proper response to Him is to fall in worship of Him.  Putting this picture of God next to the cross, I am struck with deeper gratitude, with the scandal of grace, and with the deep mystery of love.

I am also struck with shame as I think on how small I often make God out to be.  I think about my concerns, and how I shrink God down into someone I put unstated demands on to make my life how I want it to be.  It might be garnering respect and approval from people, being free from struggle and strife, or having enough money in the bank so that I don’t have to worry.  It might even be about having a thriving ministry where people are coming to know Christ and growing in their faith so that I can feel good about myself and feel like I am “contributing enough” to God’s work.  How presumptuous and ridiculous it is when I look upon this scene.  Who am I to claim some kind of right to anything before such a God, who is seated upon the throne, and who will be forever and ever?

The struggles and concerns of this life seem so big to me at times, filling me with fear.  But if I were to see God rightly, with his heavenly majesty as the backdrop to the costly and brutal sacrifice on the cross, I would be struck silent, and as my heart and mind fill with the bigness of who God is, my earthly concerns would shrink down to their appropriate size.  This is what I need to do when I struggle against my sin, against the voices of doubt and fear. I see how in some ways I make spiritual life harder than it needs to be.  It really is about God, and not myself.  If I were to simply turn my focus on God, on who He really is (and not what I wish he were in my limited vision), and what He promises, then my fears and worries, my petty concerns, would take on their proper size in the grand scheme of things.

Reflecting on who God is can be a strong weapon in the spiritual battle both within and without.  What strength and comfort I can draw from the fact that I do not serve a God whom I have fashioned out of wood, a created god, but that my God is before all things, He is over all things, and He will still be after everything in this world falls away, because He IS.

Submitted by Mark L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • What is God like, according to this passage?

Verse 11 – “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

One thing that is clear from this passage is that God has the authority and dominion over all of life. He is the one who is worthy enough to sit on the throne. The word “throne” is mentioned nine times to indicate that the fact that He alone deserves all of the praise and worship. There is no other comparable being that would be able to make a legitimate claim to the throne. At best, Satan attempts to make the same kind of claim to the throne through the creation of his dominion. Everything, however, is a degraded form of the life that is found in God’s dominion. Love for God and others is degraded to lust and self-love; worship of God is degraded to idolatry and the worship of control, power, and wealth; and the virtues of gratitude and humility gets degraded to feeling entitled that life and God would bend towards one’s desires. All of these things give the surface appearance of life but they are only illusions as they fail to give true life. What is the basis for God’s claim to the throne? It is the very fact that God has created all things, and by His will they were created and have their being (v.11). In other words, He is the creator and giver of life. He is the source of all life. It is in God’s nature and being to command and to will nothingness to life and order. Because of this, God is the ruler and has authority over all of life.

Verse 8 – “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

What is also clear about what God is like is that He is holy. This means that He is pure and without sin. Many different words could be used to describe the character of God but because of the fact He is a completely different other, they would all fall short. He is perfect and, therefore, the only one who is legitimately able to discern what is right and wrong and to dispense judgment.

  • How does this apply to you?

God’s holiness – Satan would make much of the fact that because God is holy and without sin and because I’m in sin, this would be the basis that God would choose to be distant from me. And God would have every right to do so. I can recall the past failures, missed opportunities in loving God and his people, pursuing personal desires and ambitions in midst of serving God through ministry, and wanting to break free so that I wouldn’t have to make life so hard by struggling with my sins. Though there is the promise of forgiveness and the defeat of sin and Satan through the finished work of the cross, I have more than often than not allowed myself to be weighed down by past failures and sins. There is guilt, shame, and regrets and the power behind Satan’s accusatory voice is that there is truth to all of this. The greater reality, however, is that the truth about my past failures is only partial. It isn’t the definitive picture of my life but only a piece that is forced to yield itself to a greater picture. The hope that I can claim from God’s holiness is the fact that He is completely different. And that is good news to me. He is completely different from me. I, being full of sin, am also full of anger, a desire to be vindictive, and a desire to strike back and defend myself in order to preserve my pride. If God were like me, then I would surely be dead. I would have struck back to make sure that it was clear who was the authority. I would have certainly been left to deal with the full consequences of my sins. But because God is unlike me, because He is completely different from me, because He is holy, the first words Jesus utters after being crucified isn’t anger or condemnation but words of identifying with my sins and pleading for leniency on my behalf – “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

God’s authority over all of life – At my work, there are differing levels of authority. There is a clear cut hierarchy as to who is in charge. But with people coming and going from our group, sometime it’s not so clear what the hierarchy is. In God’s kingdom, the hierarchy is very clear: He is ruler over everything and we are His subjects. I was created and made to worship God alone and nothing else. A reversal of this order would be straying from reality and there would be consequences. Worship of God degraded to the worship of power and respect. I wanted to essentially become the authority figure in my life by dictating the terms of what a successful life would like. It was a desire to be known as someone who has succeeded and is respected within ministry. As I look back at the period of my life, the consequences of the reversal in the order of life was such that I had missed out opportunities to love others but more than that, I had grown distant from others and calloused and hardened in my heart towards God. It was an illegitimate claim I was making to the throne. I was so confident that my pursuits were legitimate only because it had to do with ministry but in reality I had become deluded to the underlying reality that my heart was rotting from the worship of power and respect and from the pursuit of being in control over my life. I was living in a way that was completely contrary to God’s original design and intent. It was only through God’s word that I was reoriented to the reality of the proper order of things in life, God as the ruler and I under His dominion, and came to repent for my rebellion. I have come to see over time that it isn’t really so much that God desires to lord over things in my life but it is so that I can flourish in my life.

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