Last night at VBS I watched over 200 kids sing and dance to a hymn that is almost 150 years old—“O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus.” I doubt many, if any, of them knew that; what they did know as they sang the truth of the old song was that God’s love is “vast, unmeasured, boundless, free, rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!” This core doctrine of Christianity — God’s all-loving nature—forms part of the foundation of the Gospel, and it has been handed down to us generation after generation. I went home thankful and refreshed that such a historically important aspect of our doctrine, in all of its rich orthodoxy, was pressed into so many little minds in our own time and culture.
Perhaps that picture will provide a small glimpse into what I hope our next teaching series will do—connect you to churches of ‘yesterday’ in order to showcase Jesus, beautifully and gloriously, today! Beginning July 10, in a new series called “When Ancient Meets Current,” we’re going to look at the seven churches described in Revelation 2 and 3, seeing both the good and bad of these actual local assemblies in real cities. You’ll probably be surprised how relevant each one is; how ‘fresh’ the old actually feels. After all, in a very real way, we are connected to them; we in the 21st century church stand on the shoulders of those in the first-century church, all of us “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-20). They, too, like us, are part of God’s universal family, and we are not wise to distance ourselves from our biblical heritage. We can learn much in our day from what God said to them in their day.
To help us further appreciate God’s timeless work, we will be incorporating some other “ancient” elements into our service as well, such as historic church creeds, vital doctrinal confessions, older hymns, and even some stories of saints of old whom God used at critical junctures in the life of the church. We’ll be merging these into what we already do in order to portray to the maximum degree the grand narrative of our God over the course of human history and time—sending his Son into the world to redeem a lost people to the praise of his glorious grace (Eph. 2:11-14)!
Let me challenge you to embrace the freshness of old in our upcoming series! How? For starters, read those two chapters in advance over the next two weeks. Learn the seven churches by name. Investigate the history of those cities. Discuss the texts over a meal with a friend or your family. Memorize a key verse from each church letter.
In addition, let me exhort you generally to pray for God’s Spirit to open your eyes to truth. Prioritize your weekly church attendance by making the weekend service a family value. Arrive early. Sit together. Meet others. Sing loudly. Linger and fellowship.
Combined, I think we’ll see that those seven churches, in many ways, really aren’t that much different from us. More than likely we’ll see a merger take place between the ancient and the current, and we’ll know even more clearly why Jesus is the “same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Who knows—we may even have the kids belt out one more time, “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.” And this time we’ll join them!
With you as we make his passion our mission!