There are seven attributes of the Spirit being built within us: the fear of the Lord, instruction, knowledge, understanding, discretion, counsel, and reproof. We cannot be constructed and experience these attributes without intimacy with Jesus.
November 3, 2023
Speaker: Greg Sanders
Passage: Revelation: 1:1-8
Holy Spirit, we invite You, the guide and the teacher, to lead us as we look at the scriptures. Open the eyes of our hearts to see things we may not have seen before, to understand things we may not have understood before. At the end of this gathering, I pray that our surrender will be greater, our discipleship will be more intense, and our love for You will burn stronger. Lord, we gather before You, the redeemed. Those who bear Your name. The purchased, the atonement, the forgiven. The family of God, knit together by Your blood. We cry worthy, worthy, worthy is the only wise God. The only one worthy of all of our adoration, all of our affections, all of our work ethic, all of our mental aptitude. You’re worthy of all.
Revelation, chapter one says, “This is a revelation from Jesus Christ. Which God gave Him concerning the events that will happen soon. An angel was sent to God’s servant John so that John could share the revelation with God’s other servants. And John faithfully reported the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, everything he saw. And God blesses the one who reads this prophecy to the church. And He blesses all who listen to and obey what it says. For the time is near when these things will happen. This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. Grace and peace from the one who is who always was and is still to come. From the sevenfold spirit before His throne, from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead and the commander of all the rulers of the world. All praise Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding His blood for us. He has made us His kingdom and His priests who have served before God His father. So give Him everlasting glory. He rules forever and ever. Amen.”
Lord, we give You everlasting glory. I don’t know what that looks like. But I know it starts now. We honor You as the head of the church, the rightful commander. Open our eyes, open our hearts, and open our minds. Come teach us.
I want to pick us up in verse four. We’ve been talking about the lenses we want to use to interpret Revelation. The heavenly lens is what this book will reveal about the culture of heaven. The earthly lens focuses on the responsibility of the church and what she is to do on the earth. The Jesus lens — I sense it this morning, that’s the lens. I feel like the Lord refined everything.
I promise you, you can’t fall too in love with Him. You can’t focus too much on Him. You can’t be too captivated by Him. He is the only thing you can be fully excessive towards and be safe.
John will write this letter to the seven churches in the province of Asia, “Grace and peace from the one who is who always was, and who is still to come.” I want to give an overview of what four says.
John’s writing it this way, if I could put it into my paraphrase: I’m extending the kindness and message of Him who is supreme of all, all is under Him. All is His to command. He is at peace with you. His heart is gentle towards you. That’s the summation of what John is sharing here.
I want to take a deeper look at this phrase, “grace and peace.” How many have ever heard the phrase, “grace and peace” before? It almost has a greeting card familiarity to us. But you see, John’s not writing to us. He’s writing first to the seven churches in the province of Asia. These two words, “grace” and “peace” would have been familiar for them. They were connected to Greek mythology.
Charis is the word for grace here. Charis is the name of an ancient goddess of grace, beauty, and fertility. In this region, it would have been normal for them to see statues committed to these deities. I love it when the writers of the scriptures do this, where they grab onto a really common idea, and they make it holy. He grabs onto the word Eirene, which is the goddess that these Greeks viewed to be the daughter of Zeus and the personification of peace and springtime. It was this vibrancy, this vitality, and this freshness.
Paul will do this as well. Both John and Paul will use the phrase, “grace and peace to you.” They’re stealing something from modern culture and assigning it to the Kingdom. What they’re doing is pulling something out of their culture. We can reference this in Numbers 6:20, which says, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
They’re grabbing onto that very Jewish idea and adapting it to this younger culture. What I want to highlight is that they’re using this as a twofold thing: their posture of writing and His posture towards humanity. Essentially, this greeting could read like this: I am smiling at you and am at peace with you.
What it’s intended to communicate is everything that follows. I’m going to teach you or share with you comes out of this place of smiling, and being at peace with you. I don’t know if that’s always the way we assume the book of Revelation to be read. Everything that is to follow is coming from one who is smiling and at peace.
What does it look like when you and I live our lives from the place where we know He’s smiling at us and He’s at peace with us? Was He happy with sin? No. But Jesus did something on the cross that is so incredible. Once, for all time, He dealt with sin. There was never going to be another sacrifice necessary to deal with sin. His sacrifice once and for all time dealt with it.
I want you to catch that His posture towards you is that He’s smiling at you, He’s at peace with you, and what you choose to do with that posture is another thing. So many of us want to try to strive and earn and serve God because we’re hoping that He’s at peace with us and someday, we’ll get it to where He’s happy with us. I want you to understand that is the wrong dynamic.
The dynamic is much different. It’s Him saying, look, come on, I’m for you. I’m not against you. I know what I have planned for you. I know what I want to do with your life. I want to give you a future and a hope. I want to bless you. I don’t want to curse you. Come on, come with me. Let me lead you. I have things I want to do in your life. Here’s how you get there. Just follow me. Do what I’m saying.
Then you have on the other side of that equation this other person, the enemy, who loves to say, come on, He wants to control your life. He’s afraid that if you make your own decisions, you’ll be like Him. So come on, do nothing. Jump up and down. Be a man. Come on, make your own decisions. You don’t have to follow Jesus.
John is setting an incredibly important stage for his readers, which is to begin to understand that this Jesus Christ, this King of Glory, the one who was, who is, and is to come, this Jesus Christ is for you, not against you. He’s saying, “The one who was, is, and is to come,” for a specific reason. In our culture, in our day and age, Jesus often gets thought of as a historical figure who might have walked the earth.
There’s a bunch of people in our culture that say, “I don’t even know if He existed. Maybe He’s not even real.” It would kind of be akin to us saying, “Abraham Lincoln’s not real. He’s just an idea.” We can’t do that because we have history books that prove it. It’s close enough connected to our time that we know he lived. This is when he lived. This is where he lived. I just went to Washington DC this summer, and I saw the memorial.
This culture that John’s writing to was young enough, close enough connected to Jesus Christ being on the earth, that they knew who he was as a man. So John’s point of saying, “The one who was, who is, and who is to come,” is establishing something for them. He’s saying, look, this Jesus that you know of who walked on the earth, wasn’t just a man. He was God. He existed from eternity, He lives now, and He exists forward into eternity. He is working to set the stage for them to learn how to receive from this one who is at peace with them, the understanding of how to live because He’s God.
If He’s at peace with us and He’s in a good mood towards us, He has invited us to live in a way that’s going to produce blessings. John’s building that case just to draw His reader’s attention to what Jesus is going to say about how to live.
He goes into this next phrase, which is a really interesting phrase for us to understand, “The sevenfold spirit before His throne.” For us in English, that’s a very strange phrase because it almost comes off like seven individual spirits are running around the throne of God. In Greek, it’s plural, but I think the easiest way for us to grab onto it would be that these are attributes of His truth. They’re aspects of who He is.
How many have ever read Proverbs? Okay. I’m a huge Proverbs fan. Did you know that you can read a proverb every day? And there’s 31 of them. You can read a proverb every day and you can read five of the Psalms and you get through the books of Psalms and Proverbs every month.
Proverbs will talk about wisdom. Proverbs 9:1 says, “Wisdom has built her spacious house with seven pillars.” Here, Jesus is using poetic, pictorial language. It’s intended to create a picture for us to understand what’s going on. “She’s prepared a great banquet, mixed the wines, and set the table.”
What we see here in Revelation talks about the sevenfold before the throne, and wisdom has built her spacious house with seven pillars. There seems to be a revelation or something connected about the throne of heaven, the throne room picture.
What I think we can deduce is that there are seven attributes, pillars, or spirits that attend before the throne of God. Attributes of His truth that we can grab onto. Who is the house of the Lord? Ephesians will say this, that we are being built up as the household of God. Wisdom has built her spacious house. If wisdom is the personification of Jesus, Jesus is building His house with the seven pillars.
If we study the book of Proverbs, here is a list of what I think the seven pillars are. It doesn’t explicitly say these; they’re laced into the text. I want to give you seven things that I want to talk about, that I believe happen when we encounter Jesus and learn to build a life face to face with Him, learning how to be taught by Him.
These are the things He builds into us, such as the fear of the Lord. If there was a single thing I was to point at right now in the modern church that’s missing, it’s the fear of the Lord. Instruction, knowledge, understanding, discretion, counsel, reproof. These seven attributes present this all-knowing, all-powerful, all-creating king.
I’d love to submit that the way we receive the benefit and the growth that these attributes bring is through intimacy and obedience to Him. In other words, we trust His leadership, we stay positioned under Him, and He brings these attributes. He grows them in us.
I’ve been saying this thing lately. It started as a funny joke, and it’s become tragic. We’re in a spot right now where I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it so clearly. The enemy doesn’t have to work very hard because people have got to do it for him. I don’t mean that to be kitschy. I just mean it is an honest declaration that we’ve got to decide that we’re going to be under the Lordship of Heaven and stay there.
Why is that important? Because if we go back to Proverbs, there’s a character introduced in Proverbs called the adulterous woman. She’s discontent with her husband, bored with his provision. For us, this is to be considered a picture of the church, becoming discontent with the leadership and the instruction of Jesus, leaving Him to find something else. When we leave His leadership, we leave the seven provisions being built into us. Rot begins to ensue.
Why would the church leave His leadership? Well, simple perspective. Opinion, offense, appetite. There are a lot of reasons, a plethora of reasons, why we leave His leadership. John’s reminder here is very simple. What we and his readers need for life and growth is found only in Jesus. There is nothing else. There’s no place else you’re going to go with your life and search and find an answer. It’s just Him.
We’re going to see Jesus begin to challenge these attributes in the seven churches, and I want to take a look at them real quick and consider them. First of all, the fear of the Lord. What is it? The willingness to follow His path. It’s that simple. The fear of the Lord is the willingness to follow His path. When does the fear of the Lord get tested? When we disagree with His direction.
Rick Howard was a teacher pastor Gary would bring into our church when I was growing up. I love this phrase he used to say, “People are like sponges. You don’t know what’s in them until you squeeze them.” You see, when the Lord leads us in a way that we disagree with, we find out where we’re at in the fear of the Lord. When the Lord holds an opinion, scripturally, that we disagree with, we find out where our fear of the Lord sides because the fear of the Lord teaches me that I gave my life to Him and how He says to live. I trust because He’s already told me, “My plans for you are good and pleasing.” They’re perfect. I have a path if You would just take My hand and let Me lead you and say you’ll follow what I said to do.
It will lead you to life. It will lead you to blessing. It will lead you to prosperity, to a future, and to hope. The enemy understands that that is the end game for the Lord. He understands all it takes is the whispers that that part doesn’t matter. You know, the Lord’s not with it. You need to get more modern in your thinking.
I’d love to challenge us that so many of the things that we struggle with in our culture right now, our opinions, our perspectives, and how we handle XYZ in the culture come back to a fear of the Lord issue. It is okay to say, “I’m not permitted to have an opinion here that argues with my King.” I understand why He called you, but you don’t have to understand. It is okay to say, “Lord, I don’t understand this, but I trust You enough. I’ll follow it. I trust that You’ll help me understand, and if You don’t, it’s okay. Because You don’t owe me an answer. I’d love to learn. I’d love to know more of You. But You’re God all by Yourself. You don’t owe me an explanation.”
How many have ever said to your kids, “Because I said so?” Now I understand that it’s not the most eloquent parenting tactic. But there are times when in your children the discipline is, You don’t need to have to understand it, you need to obey it because you respect me. That respect will teach you how to live.” The root issue is not having the trust.
Could I suggest that we deviate from the fear of the Lord because we don’t trust the one we’re following? Think about the Garden of Eden. What was the enemy’s tactic? What did he say to Eve? Did he really say…? It’s always the assassination of His character by the enemy. Well, if God is love, He is love. Even if you don’t understand how His perspective is loving, it doesn’t make Him not loving. It just means you don’t understand it.
If you have to understand it to follow Him, your faith has stopped at that moment. Because you’ve just put yourself on the throne and said, “What my mind can’t comprehend, I will not follow.” Good luck with that. According to Scripture, His ways are above our ways.
The second is instruction, which is the discipline to learn from Jesus and receive direction. It’s the voluntary laying down of your free will. To be able to be instructed by Jesus, you have to lay down your free will and say, “Lord, I willingly lay down what I want. Teach me. What are You on? Coach me.” I would love it if you each learned how to pray this prayer. “Lord, You don’t have to make me happy. I just want to know what You want.”
Knowledge is the courage to learn from our journey and become a resource to those around us. You see, because knowledge assumes teachability, it’s the long-term takeaway from instruction. Knowledge is what happens when we fear the Lord, and we are willing to step in and follow His instruction, and do what He said. On the other side of that event, we gain knowledge. We’re able to look back.
How many have ever heard that hindsight is 20/20? How many know to be better than that? It’s phenomenal. You look back and see, that’s how I should have done it. What happens if we don’t? How many of you can predict the future? What happens if learning to follow the instruction of the Lord is akin to having foresight? We can’t see anything. Think through this. If I follow His instruction, what I’m saying is that the one who’s giving me the instruction sees the end from the beginning. So He sees where I’m going, even though I can’t see where I’m going. I can’t see what’s coming. But I can step into following His instruction blindly because I trust His ability to see.
On the other side of that, I realize that was foresight. Does that make sense? Because His plans for us are good, pleasing, and perfect. He’s for us. He’s not against us. Understanding is the nuanced sense that comes from learning His ways, who He is, and what matters to Him.
I would suggest to you that Jesus wants us, desires for us, to get to know Him well enough that we learn to desire and want the things He wants. How do you know that? Jesus looked at His disciples and said, you’ve been with me this long, and you still don’t understand. This tells me there’s an expectation in His heart that as we spend time with Him, we learn of Him. We begin to want the things He wants, and we begin to know how He would view something.
How many are aware that you don’t have to ask the Lord, “Should I murder that person?” Because you already know He’s against that. How many have ever said, “Are you sure?” There’s an expectation in the Kingdom that we learn from Him and begin to see things like His discretion.
Discretion is developing the timing and sensitivity of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever considered that we are to deal with others the way He deals with us? How many would agree with me the Lord has passed up on a lot of opportunities to aggressively slap you upside the head? He’s incredibly gentle and patient. So much so that A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God will say it this way, “Christ waits to be wanted. Even though He’s the King of Glory, He knows the end from the beginning, He always has the right answer, and He waits to be invited to speak.” What a concept.
Discretion is learning how to learn from Him in the way we handle others—considering the impact of our movements. He expects us to grow in this. Can I give you an idea to think about? Seeing something does not validate communicating what you saw. Thinking something doesn’t validate speaking it. Just because you thought it doesn’t mean you have to say it. Just because you saw it doesn’t mean you have to deal with it.
Discretion is learning how to ask the Lord and learn from the Lord. Get a sense of timing. How do I deal with others? Why does that matter? Sometimes, we deal with people so aggressively that they miss the point because they’re so offended by how we handled it. I kind of love laying the hammer down sometimes. You get those one-liners, you’re like, this is going to be good. But that’s not how we are called to live.
Last time I checked, Ephesians says to speak the truth in love. In other words, if you’re not going to love, don’t speak the truth. Keep your mouth shut. That’s discretion. Considering others and how we impact them is that attribute He’s looking to release to His counsel, knowing what to say and when to say it and how to assist each other is an attribute of selflessness that He desires to grow in His people.
Have any of you ever been in that moment where what went on in your head was, “Oh, man, I don’t want to engage in that conversation? I know how long that’s going to take me.” Seeking counsel is having the selflessness to say, “I’m willing to be a resource. Even though it’s going to cost me time. It’s going to cost me mental energy, emotional energy, spiritual energy. I’m willing to help you and be that resource.”
Reproof. Knowing how to properly correct wrong mindset and perspective–that’s reproof. We live in a culture that says it’s wrong to tell somebody they’re wrong. It’s unloving. I would argue that the scriptures teach the opposite, that there is no love in watching somebody go blindly down a road incorrectly, and not saying, “That’s a mistake.”
This is a moment where to walk in the fear of the Lord, we have to learn to take our clues and our cues from scripture, not from society. But learning how to do that in a way that is tactful, gracious, and loving is a completely different thing. Part of the intolerance conversation towards the church isn’t about what the church says, it’s about how she says it.
There will be times when people say, “If you stand for this, I can’t be a part of your life.” Great. That’s your choice. It’s not mine. But I’m talking about learning how to correct people in a way that’s loving and timely. Here’s what I would tell them and tell you. One of my favorite scenes in the Star Wars movies is a scene where Palpatine looks at Anakin Skywalker, and Anakin wants to know how to how to grab onto this power that can protect his wife from dying.
Palpatine lays this very demonic trap. He says, well, you can’t learn that from a Jedi. His whole goal was to lure Anakin into his tutelage. Here’s what I’d love to tell you. You can’t learn this stuff from the enemy. You can only learn it from Jesus because these are the character qualities that He embodies.
So many of us think we can learn this stuff away from Him, but we can’t. The enemy loves it when we try to learn it away from Him. This culture that John was writing to was steeped in weirdness and Gnosticism and the belief that they could chase good attributes of life and never really have to embrace Jesus. John’s statement to them is, “The one who always was, who is, and who is to come” is the one that contains these attributes. This is the one I’m calling you to worship and learn from.
My goal in this, and I think John’s goal in this, was to put Jesus at the center so that all of us could say, “I need more of Him. I need to follow more closely. I need to let go of all the places in my life where I’m disconnected from Him, and I’m not listening to His voice.”
Maybe you’re in here today, and your answer is, “Are there are many places in my life where I’m living on my own–where I’m living as I see fit?” Please understand that John’s effort was to put Him at the center of your life. It is my goal to do the same. Follow Jesus. It’s really simple.
Get up every day, open your Bible, get alone, and hang out with Him. It isn’t rocket science. Surround yourself with people who love Jesus, whom you trust to help you, to reprove you, and to speak into your life. Hold yourself to the standard of, “If it’s in the scriptures and it says no, I won’t do it. If it’s in the scriptures and it says yes, I’m going to do it.” It’s a simple standard.
Whatever attitudes or appetites are in me that are contrary to that, my job is to put my foot on those and squish them and shut them down. Because they’re sin, because the enemy is winning, because the people of God are walking in the fear of the Lord. My heart cry for us is to change that. Let’s be a people so committed to the fear of the Lord that we settle ourselves before Him and say, “Whatever You say goes. You’re the commander.”
Jesus, we love You, we honor You. Holy Spirit, thank You for leading us and guiding us to set our eyes on Jesus. Over this week, I think there are areas You’re going to whisper to and deal with and invite us into, and we welcome that. We know it’s Your kindness that leads us to every place we need to repent. We know it’s Your goodness that leads us to the path of blessing. Lord, for all the places we’re struggling to trust you, if there are any of those places, we openly and willingly say right now, would You come coach us out of that? Speak to it, Lord. We love that You wait to be wanted. We want You to speak. May Your face shine upon us. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
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