Revelation 3:14


Sermon preached on March 11, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Before I started working as a longshoreman, I think it was my dad who warned me against the tricks that some of the older men would play on the newest worker. If someone new and inexperienced started working one of them would inevitably send him on a fool's mission. I think the favorite thing to do was to send him looking for a skyhook. Now we know that there's no such thing as an actually skyhook, something that you can hook onto the sky. But it's not inconceivable that something can be named a skyhook, and that's where the problem comes in. The unsuspecting new worker is naïve and thinks that there is actually something called a skyhook. So when they tell him to go to the mechanical shop and bring back a skyhook, he dutifully goes to the mechanical shop and asks for a skyhook. The men in the mechanical shop immediately catch on and tell him that the skyhook was loaned out the day before to electrical department and send him over there for it. And round and round he goes until everyone has a huge laugh because he was so gullible.

In our society we're in the midst of a war about truth and what it is. Pilate's question to Jesus has never been more relevant. The contradiction is incredible. In this postmodern age in which they will tell you that there is no truth, that everything is relative—at the same time they are very keen on insisting that what they believe is true. The world has its experts and they never stop telling you what is true. Who are you going to believe? Are you going to believe the experts of our society, whose truth changes with every generation, or are you going to believe what the Bible says?

What we have in our society today is a marked contrast between what 'experts' tell us and what God tells us in His Word. Jesus makes a statement here, that, for Christians, should put on end to all doubt. We read,

"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen,
the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation."

Jesus emphatically declares that He is truth, that you can depend on Him. Even more than that, this is a warning that you had better listen to Him, or you will miss out on the blessings of the new creation.

What do the experts of the world tell us today? A couple of weeks ago I read an article in a British newspaper. The headline caught my attention. It read,

"Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say."



For a brief split second I thought to myself,

"They're finally seeing the truth that unborn babies are human beings, just like babies that come out of the womb alive."



But then I thought to myself,

"No, this has to be bad. If experts are saying this, then they're not coming to the Christian position, they're going away from it."



Here's how the article began, (The Telegraph, Feb. 29, 2012)

"Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are 'morally irrelevant' and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued."


They argued:

"The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual."



They don't view newborn as "actual persons", but rather as "potential persons". They explained:

"Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a 'person' in the sense of 'subject of a moral right to life'.""We take 'person' to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her."



They stated it was,

"not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense."



It's interesting that they refer to the infant being killed as 'her'. That's because even though they talk about abortion being a 'woman's right', most of the abortions are performed on female fetuses. In many countries there is such a thing as sex-selection abortion, which targets female fetuses. Experts will tell you that that's not happening in our country. But I'm not so sure. I did a search yesterday for abortion statistics and although I didn't spend more than 15 minutes at it, I found all sorts of statistics regarding abortion in our country—but I could not find any statistics about the ratio of how many female fetuses were aborted. That raises questions. Perhaps they don't keep track of that statistic. If not, why not? Abortion is a travesty to the female gender. Yet the experts will talk about it in terms of 'women's rights'.

It's amazing what experts will come up with. Really, it's 'not possible to damage a newborn'. You wonder if they were drunk or high on drugs when they wrote that. I've never heard such nonsense.

The Bible tells us that human life is sacred, that we are made in God's image and that to kill babies is a horrendous sin. One of the sins that is condemned in the Old Testament is the sacrificing children to Molech. Leviticus 18:21 says,

"Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed
to Molech, for you must not profane the name
of your God. I am the LORD."

Molech was the detestable god of the Ammonites and people used to sacrifice children to him. Yet these experts today are telling us that it's okay to kill children, especially if these children are disabled. They wrote,

"To bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care."



Another thing that some experts today will tell you is that certain people are hardwired for some behaviors and that we should not try to change them. They use that argument with homosexuality. Some Christian counseling organizations have tried to help homosexuals leave that lifestyle and 'reorient' them. Society's experts look on that as the worst thing you can do because, they will tell you, these people were born like that and they can't help it.

It's true that people are born sinful. I would even say that we are all hardwired for sin. I also believe that people are different and that some people are born with a propensity for a certain type of sin and other people are born with a disposition toward another type of sin. I don't deny that at all.

But God tells us that sin is sin and that people need to turn from it. God tells us that there is hope for sinners and that, through God's grace, we can repent of sin and live in newness of life. The gospel is good news because it tells of God's love for sinners and His work to save them—which includes granting them repentance and enabling them to leave the sins that so easily beset them.

The world's experts say,

"This is the way that people must be. Their behavior is normal and good. To call it anything else is not only unkind, but is promoting hate and should be considered a hate crime."



Yet God says that sin is sin and needs to be repented of.

Those who are opposed to Christianity try to project the impression that they are the ones that are concerned about truth. Christians, they will tell you, are anti-intellectual, are hypocrites and distort the truth. That's the impression that they try to give.

A few months ago, the atheist Christopher Hitchens died. After his death he was extolled as a great seeker and defender of the truth. For example, this following was a headline from the Los Angeles Times, (December 17, 2011|By David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic)

"Christopher Hitchens' first loyalty was to the truth".



I was shocked when I read that because I was familiar with his book, "God is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything". One that is familiar with history doesn't have to look at the book for very long to discover that it contains blatant falsehoods. Here was a man who was supposed to be an intellectual, supposed to be interested in promoting the truth, and he wasn't interested in truth at all. For example, here's what he wrote on Calvin and his city. (p. 233)

"Calvin's Geneva was a prototypical totalitarian state, and Calvin himself a sadist and torturer and killer, who burned Servetus (one of the greatest thinkers and questioners of the day) while the man was still alive."



It's hard to believe the number of inaccuracies in that one sentence. That Geneva of Calvin's day was a totalitarian state—that brings to mind all kinds of negative things—like oppression, tyranny, dictatorial rule, etc. Geneva of Calvin's day was certainly a city of the 16th century. But it was a shining example compared to other cities of its age. Geneva in Calvin's day was noted as a refuge for people from foreign lands who were oppressed. Protestants who had to flee their native lands flocked to Geneva. One of those refugees who came to Geneva was the Englishman John Bale, who wrote: (John T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism, NY: Oxford University Press, 1954, 178, 179.)

"Geneva seemeth to me to be the wonderful miracle of the whole world: so many from all countries come thither, as it were a sanctuary, not to gather riches but to live in poverty …Is it not wonderful that Spaniards, Italians, Scots, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, disagreeing in manners, speech and apparel, sheep and wolves, bulls and bears, being coupled with the only yoke of Christ, should live so lovingly and friendly, and that monks, laymen and nuns, disagreeing both in life and sect, should dwell together, like a spiritual and Christian congregation."



John Knox, the Scottish reformer, had to leave Scotland for a time and he went to Geneva for refuge. Geneva welcomed him. He's what he said about Geneva under Calvin, (From Thomas M'Crie, John Knox. p. 100)

"I neither fear nor eshame to say is the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth, since the days of the apostles. In other places, I confess Christ to be truly preached; but manners and religion so sincerely reformed, I have not yet seen in any other place."



Now it is true that Geneva wasn't a state like a modern democratic society. But I wouldn't by any stretch of the imagination call it the 'prototypical totalitarian state'. There were factions and parties that struggled for control. At one point a faction that hated Calvin gained control and expelled Calvin and Farel from Geneva. Calvin was never more than a pastor in Geneva. He wasn't a politician. He didn't burn Servetus. It was the civil government in Geneva that did that. Calvin often didn't get his way. In fact, he did not agree that Servetus should die by burning. He spoke against it but the civil authorities wouldn't listen to him.

Not only that, to call Calvin 'a sadist, torturer and killer' is one of the most outrageous lies ever told. Anyone who has read about his time at Geneva, who has read his writings, his letters know that such charges are not only untrue, but absolutely the opposite of the truth. Calvin was not perfect but I agree with Scottish theologian and historian William Cunningham's opinion of Calvin. He wrote, (The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation, p. 298-299)

"as a systematic expounder of the scheme of Christian doctrine, as a controversial defender of the truth and impugner of error, and as a friend and practical advisor in the regulation of the affairs of the church; and his pre-eminent excellence in all these departments are, we are persuaded, such as to entitle him to a place in the estimation and gratitude of the church of Christ, which no other uninspired man is entitled to share."



To call him a sadist, torturer and killer shows that Christopher Hitchens cared nothing about certain truths.

My point here is that the impression that the world tries to give of its experts is that they are seekers of truth—is often blatantly false. They're not interested in the truth, in neutrality, in objectivity. Rather they are interested in pushing their own agenda.



In contrast to such nonsense, Jesus claims to be,

The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness.

Jesus is the "Amen". Robert H. Mounce writes, (Revelation 108)

"In the OT and Judaism 'Amen' is primarily the acknowledgment of that which is valid and binding. As a personal designation it would indicate the one in whom perfect conformity to reality is exemplified."



Jesus often used the word, "Amen". We see it used 31 times in Matthew, 16 in Mark, six times in Luke and in John there are 25 double 'amens'. These were used by Jesus to denote, (Grant Osborne, p. 204)

"his authority to speak for God as the messenger of God."



In John 14:6 Jesus said,

"I am the way and the truth and the life."

Jesus is the truth. He is not only utterly dependable, but because, as D. A. Carson writes,

"he embodies the supreme revelation of God…"



Or, as John Calvin sums up the verse,

"If any man turn aside from Christ, he will do nothing but go astray; if any man do not rest on him, he will feed elsewhere on nothing but wind and vanity; if any man, not satisfied with him alone, wishes to go farther, he will find death instead of life."



The Old Testament background for our text is probably Isaiah 65:16. There we read,

"Whoever invokes a blessing in the land
will do so by the God of truth;
he who takes an oath in the land
will swear by the God of truth."

Literally, those two phrases are, "God Amen".

He is further characterized as,

"the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation."

In Isaiah 43:10–12 God and Israel are referred to as, 'the faithful witness'. It's interesting that Isaiah 65:16 is just before the section about the new heavens and the new earth. Here Jesus refers to Himself as, 'the ruler' or 'the beginning' of God's creation. In the Greek the word can be translated either way as the word means both things. Some Christians are reluctant to translate it, 'the beginning' of God's creation because other places in the Bible tell us that Jesus is God, that He is eternal, that He didn't have a beginning. But other Christians tell us that 'the beginning' is the better translation here because of the connection in Isaiah with the 'new creation' and the fact that Jesus, as the 'source', or 'origin' — the beginning of the new creation. G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation, p. 297)

"These OT allusions [Is. 65:15-16, Is 43:10-12] are used to indicate that Christ is the true Israel and the divine 'Amen, the faithful and true witness' to his own resurrection as 'the beginning of the new creation of God…'"



The problem with the church at Laodicea was that they were compromising with the world. They thought they were self-sufficient and rich. But they had ceased to be God's witnesses to the world. Jesus wants them to stop compromising and imitate Him as the faithful and true witness. If they do not He will spit them out of His mouth. More than anything else, (Beale, p. 302)

"This church needs an injection of Christ's resurrection power…"



They need to repent and show that they are part of the Christ's new creation. Jesus points them to Himself. Jesus is the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of the new creation.

One of the lessons for us here is that churches are not to be measured by how wealthy they are, nor by what they think of themselves, nor by what society thinks of them—but only by their conformity to Jesus' teaching—their obedience to it. Jesus was poor. In many circles Jesus was not well thought of. Yet He was the light of the world. He was the light of God. He was the faithful and true witness. The church is to follow in His footsteps, not only pointing people to Him as the Savior of the world, but being a witness like Him, preaching repentance and showing them the way to be saved.

Jesus tells us that we can trust Him. He has truth. He is faithful. He is the supreme One, the One who is going to set everything right, who has inaugurated God's new creation, wherein will dwell righteousness. He is the Amen of God.

So, who are you going to believe? The experts of this world tell you that it is not possible to damage a newborn baby by killing it, that it's okay to do that. Jesus says that human life is sacred and that we are to love others as we love ourselves. The experts of this world tell sinners that they should just carry on in their lifestyle because it's not wrong and they don't have to worry about the future. Jesus tells sinners that there is hope for them if they repent of their sins and turn to Him for forgiveness. He warns them that if they don't, they will perish. The experts of this world tell us that it would be wrong to deny certain couples the right to get married when they love each other. God tells us that He hates divorce and that marriage is between one man and one woman. Jesus tells people today that if they want life, life to the full—they need to repent of their sins and turn to Him—that He's their only hope.

Who are you going to believe—the experts of this world or Jesus?

But it's not just about believing. Jesus continues and says,

"I know your deeds…"

Christianity is about putting the gospel into practice in your lives. So the great question for you is,

are you putting your belief into practice?

Are you living like Jesus—being a light to the world? Are you saying no to sin and living in righteousness? If you're not, Jesus is going to spit you out of his mouth.

Lastly, to those who are not Christians. What is Jesus telling you here?

Jesus is telling you that you can trust Him.

What is truth? How do you know what's true? You can't go by the world's experts—often they just reflect society's preferences and their advice changes over time. Shifting sands is all you get there.

You need to base your life on truth. That truth is only found in one place, in Jesus Christ. He is the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. Go to Him today. Go to Him for salvation.