Friday, August 21, 2009

Demonstrating Brotherly Love

I Thessalonians 4:9-12

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)

I once heard a pastor say he had no use for “lovey-dovey” Christianity. In the world, sex, or romance are often passed off as love, with the result that real love is frequently ignored. Similar attitudes are often passed off as Christian love. As a result, many are confused about what Christian love involves. Jesus said our love would be the main indicator of our Christianity. I John 4:8 warns “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

The church at Thessalonica had allowed God to produce love in their lives, and not just to their own people. There is , however, always room for improvement, and Paul exhorts them to continue to increase in their demonstration of love.

“But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.” (I Thessalonians 4:9-12)

The reality of our Christian love can be called into question by our actions and attitudes. Taking advantage of others goodness is one way of destroying our testimony. As a result Paul instructs the Thessalonians to study to be quiet, literally, to hold their peace, to not meddle in other’s affairs. They are to take care of their own business, even to the point of allowing themselves to be taken advantage of by fellow Christians according to I Corinthians 6:1-10. Verse 7 sums it up thus, “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”

A part of that taking care of your own business is supporting one’s self. God has ordained that those who work in the ministry should be supported. It is to be based on actual work however. There should never be a taking advantage of the people, so that we can maintain a legitimate testimony before the world, and so that our needs can be met. II Thessalonians 3:10-12 clarifies this. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”

We are not to enable people to avoid responsibility. Those who refuse to try to change their state are not to be supported. They must expend effort on what they can do. I Timothy 5:11-13 describes helping a young widow. “But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.”

Brotherly love requires that we maintain a good testimony ourselves, and that we help others to develop a good testimony themselves. While it is necessary to help others, our help must never be allowed to destroy their testimony by encouraging them to sin. Maintaining a proper balance is sometimes difficult, but, but failing to do so is destructive, and sinful.

A pastor I knew kept a pile of firewood at the church. Those who requested help were offered the opportunity to split and stack the wood in exchange for very good wages. While the idea is unpopular, it is one way of dealing with the situation in a scriptural manner. Interestingly, most would not take the job, implying that they were not interested in having a good testimony. To give them money would have been sinful.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Knowing the Will of God

I Thessalonians 4:1-8

Years ago, when my parents first went to the Navajo Reservation, they were contacted by several prospective missionaries who had “been called” to the Navajo mission field. They were sure it was the will of god for them to help us in our work. One had been directed by God to rob a gas station, and the state of Missouri had agreed to drop the charges if he’d come to the reservation. Another had completed a semester at BBC and would know more than those Indians so didn’t need any more training. A third one had lost their home and decided that that was proof God wanted them to be missionaries. They were so sure they didn’t even call in advance to let us know they were coming.

Throughout history, people have claimed God’s direction in things. Their basis has ranged from visions, to prickling of the skin to tea leaves, from votes of confidence to allowing the Bible to fall open and basing their decision on the passage it falls open at. Unfortunately, while God could use all such methods of determining his will, Satan can also use them. All too often, such methods lead to disastrous results.

While we are often referred to Gideon putting out the fleece as a way, it is often overlooked that Gideon did not use the fleece to determine what God’s will was. He already knew what God’s will was, he just used the fleece to verify that he was not jumping to an incorrect conclusion. He also picked a sign that could not naturally occur. Finding the will of God is not a mystical process, but is rooted in God’s plan for all Christians. A description of that plan is found in Ephesians 4:11-15.

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”

God has determined each ones role in his overall plan, and each person has a specific part to play, Each one is given special abilities to perform his designated role. Finding God’s will is simply a matter of determining the role God has for you, and fulfilling it , thus contributing to the accomplishment of his overall plan. I Corinthians 12:4-12 illustrates some of the variety.

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.”

The church at Thessalonica was doing well, but Paul encourages them to continue to follow the things they have been taught. By doing so they will grow, becoming better equipped to fulfill their individual roles.

“Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 4:1-2)

Practicing what they have been taught will produce attitudes in their lives that pleasing to God. As the attitude or spiritual mind develops, the actions will begin to change to what is pleasing to God as well. We become set apart to God, or sanctified, which is his will.

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” (I Thessalonians 4:3-7)

As we allow God’s word to guide our lives, and the Holy Soirit changes our attitudes, sexual sin ceases to be problem. We are focused on God. We are no longer struggling with our lust. As Galatians 5:16 tells us, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Our attitude toward our fellow Christians will change as well. We’ll no longer be taking advantage of them in any way because that is not what God wants from us. Our attitude towards others indicates our relationship with God.

“He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.” (I Thessalonians 4:8)

Romans 14:1-5 warns against looking down on those who hold different standards of diet or celebrations of holidays than we do. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”

James 2:1-9 warns about looking down on those who don’t dress by our standards, or who have less money. “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”

I have heard a couple of preachers say their standard was a little higher than God’s. Apparently, they consider themselves better than he is. Obviously, they don’t have much of a relationship with him. God forbids us imposing our standard on others. Doing so demonstrates our lack of spiritual development. If sexual sin is still a big problem, or we are taking advantage of or are judgmental toward others, we not yet attained his will in our lives.

Monday, August 17, 2009

They’re Leaving the Nest

I Thessalonians 3:1-13

When kids leave home, there is the possibility of them really getting into trouble. Two factors are especially important in preventing their getting into trouble. The first is what their parents have taught them. Some parents have taught a list of taboos. Kids who have grown up with taboos are only slightly better prepared to face life than those with no moral standards at all. Sooner or later, they will run into a situation where there is no taboo, or it doesn’t appear to offer real guidance.

Kids who have been taught a moral basis, can logically decide if something is right or wrong, and thus can more easily decide how to deal with new circumstances. While they make mistakes, they rarely make such serious ones. It is much harder to teach a moral basis than to teach taboos, with the result taboos are most common.

The second major factor in protecting kids from major mistakes is communication with their parents. Kids who feel their parents want control, and those who feel that no one cares don’t share their problems. Those who want to control disrespect their children’s maturity, while those who don’t care disrespect the person. The kids are thus deprived of their parents experience. It shouldn’t surprise us when they get into trouble.

Demonstrating respect requires allowing the kids to know about what is happening in the parents lives, as well as giving freedom to make decisions, while still demonstrating concern. Delivering ultimatums demonstrates a lack of respect, and destroys confidence in the reality of parent’s love.

In his effort to help the church in his absence, Paul has taken the trouble to inform them of the state of he and his companions. Knowing his state gives credence to his concern. It enables the church to emotionally connect with him.

“Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.” (I Thessalonians 3:1-4)

Children who have never seen their parents face problems are shocked when they do. Parents who divorce, drink, or accuse each other to escape problems teach their children not to resolve the problem. Understanding about problems can equip children to deal with them. Churches are comprised of people with the same attitudes, and must be dealt with in a similar manner.

Many times people hesitate to mention problems because they don’t recognize them as serious. By maintaining regular communication, parents can sense that a problem is developing, without prying, and begin to call attention to it before it goes too far. Paul has used a similar approach in his relationship with the church.

“For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?” (I Thessalonians 3:5-10)

This was something Paul did with several of the churches, besides sending letters. Even that interest helped to prevent falling away, and greatly reassured Paul of the efficacy of his ministry. It greatly relieved his mind to see that they were not being led astray.

Despite our efforts to protect the church, it is essential to recognize it is God’s church. Ultimately, God, not the pastor or missionary, is the one who makes the church succeed. His Holy Spirit causes love to grow. He gives the faith, peace, and patience that enables them to stay strong. It is Christ that makes us pure before God. Both the church, and the teachers, former and present must understand this. Efforts to help need to be directed by him, not by the flesh.

“Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (I Thessalonians 3:11-13)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Other Side

I Thessalonians 2:13-20

There is an old saying that there are two sides to everything. Sombody said that in marriage counseling, there are his side, her side and the truth. Unfortunately, I have found that in many cases, while both sides contain truths, you may be unable to determine the whole truth by hearing both of them. All that you can do is show each one how to correct their own actions, and allow correct actions to produce correct results. You probably be able to determine if his drinking caused her nagging, or if her nagging caused his drinking, but if they both stop their doing wrong, the problem will be resolved. If only one stops, there is still a problem.

Two factors were at work making the Thessalonian church a tremendous witness to the unsaved world. Paul and his companions had set an exceptional example in theor behavior, and had been very careful in their presenting the word of God so that there was no misunderstanding of what God wanted. At the same time the Thessalonians had received the Word of God as it was intended, and allowed it to work in them.

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.” (I Thessalonions 2:13-16)

They had chosen to follow the example of the Jewish churches, following Christ even though it led to persecution by their own countrymen. They were aware of the Jews attempts to prevent the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles, and it encouraged them to act with similar boldness in their own situation, even though it resulted in similar persecution. The unbelieving Jews only drew the wrath of God on themselves as a result of their rejection of God’s plan. The same will be true of the Gentiles who reject his plan.

To top it all off, the Thessalonians had chosen to continue, even though Paul and his companions had been forced to leave before being satisfied that everything was as it should be. They had attempted to return but were prevented repeatedly. While Satan was hindering, God had allowed him to do so. The Thessalonians continuation was a source of thanksgiving, because it authenticated Paul’s and his companions’ ministry, especially as they had not been dependent on their presence and support to continue.

“But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? 1th 2:20 For ye are our glory and joy.” (I Thessalonians 2:17-19)

The old saying, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” emphasizes that the test of whether the actions were right is seen in the results. By their testimony, the Thessalonians demonstrated the correctness of Paul’s approach, and their reception. They could now do the same things, confidently expecting similar results.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Learning From History

I Thessalonians 2:1-12

Arnold Toynbee, the historian once said history is bunk. Unfortunately our world seems to have adopted his outlook. History is the story of how we god to where we are, Science tells us that mechanically, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It also teaches us that the results of the same action under the same conditions will always be the same. The results of changes in conditions and actions thus become predictable.

Occasionally we hear that history repeats itself. As one philosopher said, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Not recognizing what led to an event leads us to do the same things repeatedly. Primitive cultures use a lot of story telling and association with their older people to help avoid some of the mistakes others have made. Pride, or prejudice result in distortion or concealment of facts, and corresponding faulty judgment.

Knowing what others have done enables us to make more effective decisions about what our actions will produce. Paul reminds the church of his struggles in his effort to build the church, just as a parent might share some of the things they went through to help their children understand their responsibilities.

“For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.” (I Thessalonians 2:1-2)

Paul’s goal was not to get professions, so there had been no misrepresentation, no offering of gifts, and no emotional or psychological tricks to get people to come to the altar. There had been no effort to distort the gospel to please people, but to preach it in a manner that pleased God, accurately conveying his message. The gospel was not used as an excuse for getting things for themselves, nor for the purpose of making themselves a name, although the opportunity existed, because of being an apostle. Paul would be considered rather ineffective by many today.

“For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.” (I Thessalonians 2:3-6)

Paul avoided many common practices of today because he was concerned about what Jesus described as the seed which fell on stony ground in Mark 4:16-17. “And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, mmediately they are offended.” They have made professions, but they have not been saved, there is no possession.

In the great passage about the need to count the cost, in Luke 14:26-27, Jesus says, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” To use any of the things Paul stressed avoiding risks preventing people making a valid decision, resulting in what is described in Matthew 7:21-23, where many professors are condemned to hell because they are not saved.

Paul’s love caused him to be patient with people, gently leading them, rather than trying to force action. They were willing to give themselves because of their love, and physically worked to avoid appearing to take advantage of the people, as well as working in the gospel..

“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.” (I Thessalonians 2:7-9)

Like a father who recognizes the effect of his actions on his children, Paul and his companions have been careful to set a good example in their personal lives, and in their instructing people so that their lives will be pleasing to God. We need to remember that he is the one to whom we are accountable.

“Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” (I Thessalonians 2:10-12)

Paul wants the people to understand what he has done so they can have similar results in what they attempt.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The First letter to Thessalonica

The Impact of a Spiritual Life
I Thessalonians 1:1-10

“Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Thessalonians 1:1)

The word church is translated from the Greek ‘Ecclesia’ or ‘assembly‘. Paul is wri9ting to the assembly winch is in Christ, as distinguished from other assemblies. While we think of church as being an assembly of believers, not every group which is called a church is. His greeting is that they may experience God’s gifts, and his peace.

“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” (I Thessalonians 1:2-4)

The church at Thessalonica did not just verbally profess Christ, but they followed up with evidence of living faith by actions based on their faith. They are not simply religious actions, but are like a man who sits on a chair because he believes it will support him. James 2:18-20 describes this kind of faith. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” This gave assurance of their salvation, and resulted in thanksgiving.

The Thessalonians faith was not based just on Paul’s words, but on the power they had seen in his life, and on the working of the Holy Spirit. Because of his physical presence among them and watching him work and live daily, they knew what kind of person he actually was. In Chapter 2, Paul will describe some of their behavior, but here he reminds them of the part it played in their turning to Christ. Until they have seen our lives, people have no reason to believe our words.

“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.” (I Thessalonians 1:5-7)

Because their faith was solidly based, the people acted on their faith, and this resulted in their being examples to others. Such faith, results in obedience, and in the Holy spirit producing changes in daily lives. The attitude and actions are both changed, and people see God’s power. Any times the testimony goes far beyond the immediate area.

“For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (I Thessalonians 1”8-10)

Even people from other cities and Countries were familiar with the change in the Christians in Thessalonica’s lifestyle, leaving idolatry to serve God, and would describe it to Paul and his companions. As a result, people were ready to hear Paul’s message. Such an impact can never result from our own efforts to impress and reach others. I was reminded again of the impact as I listened to a lady describe how different her Christian aunt was from the rest of her family.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Message to the church at Laodicea

Revelation 3:14-22

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16)

Christ identifies himself to this church as the Creator and basis for the church. While the church is active, there is no real stance about anything. Doctrine is considered irrelevant, and people’s feelings have become the primary focus. II Timothy 4:3-4 describes this church. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

In Farmington, there is a church that used to take a strong and biblical Baptist stance. Today, I am told that if your background is Baptist, you can join the church as a Baptist, proclaiming that you hold Baptist doctrine. If you are not a Baptist, you can join by the standards of whatever group you identify with. Various services are held to meet the desires of the various groups, and arrangements can be made for you to conduct services of what ever type you desire if nothing else suits you. As one member said, “Anyone can feel at home in our church.”

Since changing their doctrine, the church has become the largest, and financially one of the richest in our entire area. Unfortunately, all of the people who were involved with starting the church and it’s original stance have been forced out because they believed the doctrine mattered. I believe this church is typical of the Laodicean church. It is interesting that God describes them as neither hot, nor cold.

If you have ever drunk lukewarm coffee, soda, or milk you understand the comparative loss of taste of the lukewarm. What may be overlooked it the fact that heat kills decay organisms, and cold prevents their growth. Lukewarm temperatures stimulate their growth, and hasten decay and spoilage. Most food items quickly become worthless, and potentially dangerous if stored at room temperature.

God says that he will spew the Laodicean church out of his mouth because of their total lack of concern. Even Jezebel, though she is opposed to God, cares what is taught. She considers their beliefs as important. Active support, or active opposition can be dealt with. but indifference is nearly impossible to break through. It sits in the way like a giant sand bag. unaffected by anything that happens.

“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” (Revelation 3:17-18)

The Laodicean church is convinced that they have done everything right, and that their size and wealth qualifies them to tell others how to do the job. Such churches often hold seminars and training sessions to tell others how to duplicate their success. They fail to recognize their true state. Many of their people are not saved, and those that are have no spiritual understanding. They are not experiencing the power of God in their lives, are living in sin, and have nothing to offer to God.

The cure for their state is to replace their own ideas and efforts with what God is offering. Philippians 3:8-11 describes what is needed. “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith; That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” By allowing God to produce, rather than doing their own thing, They can have all the fullness of Christ.

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:19-20)

Every child of God will be corrected. Refusal to listen just increases the discomfort. By correcting the sin, we can curtail the judgment. Christ is knocking and asking for the opportunity to help straighten things out Letting him have his way will produce fellowship and joy.

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)
Those who have placed their trust fully in Christ will be seated with him in heaven, along side God the father. For the seventh time we are warned to listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. We better pay attention.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:22)

The Message to the Church at Philadelphia

Revelation 3:7-13

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” (Revelation3:7-8)

Christ reveals himself to this church as the Messiah and King to this church. Like the message to Smyrna, there is no condemnation of this church. It has a little strength, and has faithfully served God, but is far less exciting than several of the other churches. They are not struggling to survive like Smyrna, and are thus able to reach out freely. Because of their faithfulness and focus on the word of God, unlike Pergamos,, they have something to offer. Even the other groups around them, which purport to be God’s people but are not will recognize that they are Christians, and serving God.

“Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” (Revelation 3:9)

Because of their patient, faithful obedience, this church is promised that they will be shielded from most of the trials which come on most of the other churches, even during the run up to the Tribulation and revealing of the Anti-Christ. Those who have gone along with Jezebel’s rebellion and false teaching, on the other hand will experience it to the max, according to Revelation 2:22. Even Smyrna will experience some, although limited.

“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Revelation 3:10-11)

The danger is real that this church could lose their rewards by allowing false doctrine in, or by losing their focus on God’s word. Colossians 2:18 warns, “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” Colossians 2: 8 warns, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Accepting the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes, of Balaam, or of Jezebel, could easily deprive them of their rewards.

“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” (Revelation 3:12)

Those who allow God to have their lives and overcome in him will have an active part in God’s plan, and in heaven, with no separation from God. Their place is assured, and they are clearly identified as God’s, with every right as citizens.

For the sixth time, we are reminded to listen to what the Spirit is instructing the churches. It must be really important. How many other things has he emphasized to the same degree?

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:13)

The Message to the Church at Sardis

Revelation 3:1-6

“And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” (Revelation 3:1-2)

Christ identifies himself here as the one empowering the pastors of the churches. As in each of the others, the message is to the pastor, and for the church. He has observed the Church, and this church’s works do not measure up to God’s standards. They are still very active, and have a reputation as a great church, but in fact the church is dead. Man focuses on the outward appearance and is deceived by the activity. I Samuel 16:7b tells us “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

Several years ago I had a small wind up bird that flapped it’s wings and hopped across the table when released. It produced an amazing appearance of life, but was totally an illusion. On the same table was an ear of corn, ready to be shelled and planted. Nothing about the bird had life, despite it’s appearance. The corn, which, at the moment was producing no activity, was full of life.

The church a Sardis was like the wind-up bird, with lots of activity but no life in it. The bird was inanimate, however and not dead, The church had once had life but was now dead. What could have happened? John 6:33 tells us that it is the spirit that makes alive. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

God’s word is spirit and life , and would make the church alive. John 15:39 tells us “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” while John 3;36 tells us “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” In John 14:6, Jesus says he is the life. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Apparently the Word of God was no longer being taught, with the result people were no longer learning the truth of Christ and living in him. A former member of our church moved away and spoke of his experience looking for a church in another city. There were lots of activities every week, and on Sunday they all went around and shook hands, but when it came to the teaching and preaching, they just read one or two verses and gave a short talk, usually about how to be saved, or occasionally the golden rule.. Since he couldn’t be saved again, a salvation message was of minimal value to him, and the other messages were, in his opinion, little more than pep talks, offering little or no nourishment for the believers.

The flesh offers nothing, and a church which has forsaken the Word of God may seem quite active for a time. They still have a doctrinal stance, but it is based on tradition, rather than scripture. This enables them to continue to act, even though there is no life., Dead bodies will frequently move for several hours after death, as the muscles begin to relax, but the activity does not signify the presence of life. Churches can go for many years in the same state.

The church could be restored to life if action was taken. Though it had stopped breathing and pumping blood, the organs were not yet dead. Infusions of the word of God could restore life. Remembering what they had heard and acting on it could resusicitate the church. Inaction would result in total loss at some unspecified point.

“Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” (Revelation 3:2-3)

Again the individual responsibility is stressed in Revelation 3:4. “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.“ The death or loss of the church will not destroy those who are serving God. They shall receive the same reward as all others who have truly received Christ. Their salvation is assured.

“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5

Christ then repeats his command for the fifth time. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:6)

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Message to the Church at Tyatira

Revelation 2:18-29

“And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. “ (Revelation 2:18-19)

Christ introduces himself to the church at Thyatira as the Holy one, who cannot bear to look upon sin. Again this church sounds fabulous. They are doing great things. Love is a strong factor in the church. They serve. There is a lot of faith, and they have patience to keep going. This results in a strong outreach. Most pastors would love to have such a church. God is not so happy.

“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.” (Revelation 2:20)

Thyatira is allowing Jezebel to deliberately teach false doctrine. While Balaam was a prophet of God who got caught up in getting his own way, Jezebel was not of God. She was deliberately trying to turn people from the truth, to something else. Her story can be found in the interval between I Kings 16 and II Kings 9. In I Kings 18 we learn that she killed God’s prophets, while financing the prophets of Baal. She tried to kill Eiljah for destroying her prophets, and was destroyed by God in II Kings 9.

Jezebel is accused of deliberately truing to convince God’s people to accept sexual sin, and to participate in idolatry. These are not the only such doctrines, but examining them will help understand what these teachers do, deliberately trying to pass themselves off as messengers from God.

While most churches still oppose Homosexuality, there are two areas of sexual sin many accept today. The first is divorce and remarriage, and the second is so called “pre-marital” sex. I Corinthians 7:10-11 states, “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” While divorce is occasionally necessary, for example in cases of physical abuse, it is not to be taken lightly, and even in such cases remarriage is forbidden. Matthew 19::9 says that the remarriage is adultery, and the divorce exposes the mate to temptation to adultery. “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” Despite these scriptures, and many more, divorce and remarriage is widely accepted, or encouraged.

Sexual sin is often ignored in so called “premarital” situations for various excuses. Exodus 22:16-17 commands, “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.” The sex act obligates them to marry, although the parents may prevent the girl from living with the guy in some cases. This is clearly in line with I Corinthians 6:16. "What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.” The sex act joins them. Failure to go ahead and marry is deliberate disobedience, yet many churches forbid such marriages or condone such sexual activity.

The second area Jezebel type teachers are described as encouraging sin is that of eating food offered to idols. Paul deals with the specifics in I Corinthians 8-10. As believers we recognize there is only one God, and any food comes from him. It is thus acceptable for us to eat the food. However it is sin to eat it in the attitude of worship to the God it was offered to. Some will not distinguish the eating from the worship and sin by their eating.

“As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.” (I Corinthians 8:4-7)

False religions are Satanic in origin, and to participate in their worship is to worship Satan. As Christians, we are not to mock God by participating in Satanic activity. To participate in false religions implies that God is neither the almighty, nor the only God. I Corinthians 10:20-22 warns not to get involved. “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?”

Jezebel type teachers have no care for God, and thus can teach anything they choose. Balaam types, believing in God, must find some pretext to believe their actions are of God. Both are dangerous, but Jezebel is in open rebellion. Those who go along with and permit her teachings will suffer God’s judgment, and those who believe like her will suffer damnation.

“And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:21-23)

The judgment on Jezebel will make the other churches know that Christ cannot be deceived, and that every person will be rewarded or punished for his own actions. Those who have not accepted the false doctrine in the Church, but continue in their faith will not be punished for the actions of the leaders, but those who have gone along will.

“But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.” (Revelation 2:24-25)

Those who have been faithful, serving Christ to the end will live and reign with Christ. We may never have much power on earth, but it will be ours for eternity. Those who turn their backs on Christ along the way were never part, according to I John 2:19. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2:26-28)

“To emphasize the importance of these messages to the churches, for the fourth time Christ closes the message with the following words. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 2:29)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Message to the Church at Pergamos

Revelation 2:12-17

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” (Revelation 2:12-13)

This church is clearly one of God’s churches, but to them, Christ portrays himself, not as the loving head of the church, or as the risen savior, but as the avenging judge. At first glance it seems like a great church, serving God and staying faithful when surrounded by satanic influences, even martyrdom of some of their people. Unfortunately there are some things going on that are not right, even in this church..

“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” (Revelation 2:14)

Most people who go to church are familiar with the story of Balaam and his donkey from Numbers 22-24. Balaam wanted fame and fortune, that Balak offered. In his effort to obtain them, Balaam tried to convince God to change his mind. As a result, God told him he could go if they came for him. Balaam didn’t wait, he went and told them he could go. It angered God, and only his Donkey’s alertness saved him. Numbers 31:16 describes the results of his sin. “Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.” Though he was a prophet of God, he was destroyed along with the other Midianites in Numbers 31:8.

Some in the church a Pergamos were focusing on their own desires to the exclusion of God’s and were causing others to sin. They are described in James 1:10-11. “But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.”

They have begun to take positions for or against things without verifying that it is actually what God says. II Peter 2:12-17 expands on James’ statement, while I Timothy 1: 7 describes them as “Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” I Timothy 4:1-3 warns that some of them are turning from the faith after other things. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”

Romans 14 deals with a couple of the issues that arise with such people. Verses 1-5 stress that each person is responsible for deciding for himself on such issues. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”

Judgement for such things is God’s business, not ours. By judging wrongly we can cause others to stumble in their Christian walk. Romans 14:13-14 instructs us, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”

Colossians 2:16-17 says we are not to allow others to impose such standards. “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” They fail to distinguish what is important and what is not. Their goal is not the edification of the church, but gaining some benefit for themselves, according to Galatians 4:17. “They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.”

The second problem in the church at Pergamos illustrates the first one. Unlike the church at Epehesus, who hated the actions of the Nicolaitanes, some in Pergamos were adopting it as doctrine, despite God’s repeated statements of his hatred for it. “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate,” (Revelation 2:15) Like Balaam, they select a passage like Judges 17:6, or Judges 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” to prove the need for a strong leader.

They ignore I Samuel 12:17-18, which rebukes them for wanting one, or Mark 10:42-44, which forbids the practice in the church. “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” God’s plan, for Israel, and for the church, is of personal responsibility, and he hates any attempt to change it

Judgement and destruction will come on the church which continues to allow such. Revelation 2:16 warns, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” It is impossible to win that fight. The practices and doctrines need immediate correction.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” (Revelation 2:17)

This is the third time God stresses the importance of these messages. Success in not falling for Satan’s tricks will enable us to experience God’s feeding us spiritually, and in personal identification as his child. The description is almost like having your own PIN number to get access to your account at the bank. It is reserved for you alone.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Message to the Church at Smyrna.

Revelation 2:8-11

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:8-9)

General Ulysses S. Grant was repeatedly passed over as top General for the Union army. Lincoln appointed various generals to the post on the recommendation of the War College, the secretary of war, and even the recommendation of the army itself. None of the popular, exciting, well known generals had significant success. Lincoln finally picked Grant against the advice of everyone, because “he wins battles.” That was the reason for having a General. Grant did not use spectacular tactics, or seek much attention, he just went out and persistently applied what he knew. It is believed that the Civil war would have ended at least two and possibly three years sooner, had Grant been in charge at the beginning.

The other Generals repeatedly failed to follow up on victories, allowing the South to re group. They attempted spectacular tactics that failed. They constantly demanded more soldiers and equipment, blaming failures on the lack of both. . Several times The confederate army was totally at the mercy of the Union army, but because the generals refused to move, was able to escape. The excuse was that a certain contingent was not yet in place. Despite superior manpower, weapons, and supplies, the Confederacy was winning until Grant was placed in charge.

The Church at Smyrna is not particularly exciting. Like General Grant, they were just doing all the basic things they should. They were going through tribulation, but it was not an issue, nor something to brag about. They are not complaining about what they didn’t have, simply trusting God, and seeing him supply their needs day by day. They were doing these things despite false accusations of others who proclaimed themselves to be God’s people but were not. To the outsider, the church seems far less exciting than the other churches, and yet it is one of only two that God never rebukes for anything wrong. The world tends to look for the flamboyant and exciting, rather than the best, and Smyrna was one of the best.

The only thing God offers this church is encouragement and re-assurance. No rebukes or corrections are needed. There is nothing that needs change because there is nothing wrong. Notice the Lord’s statement.

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

Christ warned them that they were going to have trouble. and suffer, but that the suffering would be comparatively short lived. The rewards would far out weigh the costs. Romans 8:16-18 describes our state. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Peter gives similar assurance in I Peter 1:3-7. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”

Serving the lord fully will probably not garner very much money, or much recognition, even by other Christians, in this life. Three times we are warned about seeking earthly praise in Matthew 6. There will be no future rewards. As Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Getting men’s approval will probably cost God’s approval.

Christ then re-emphasizes the importance of heeding these messages to the churches. Obedience reveals a living faith capable of producing eternal salvation.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” (Revelation 2:11”

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Message to the Church at Ephesus

Revelation 2:1-7

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” (Revelation 2:1-3)

This is clearly a message from the Lord to the Pastor of the church at Ephesus, for the church. It was sent through John, but it is not from him. The Lord describes himself as holding the seven pastors of the churches in his hand and walking among the churches. He is intimately aware of what is going on, and is in many ways complimentary. The description is impressive.

They have been doing what God has commanded, and they have actually worked at it, rather than just sliding by. The effort has continued despite less than impressive results, trials, and discouragements. They hate evil. They have checked the claims of various teachers and identified the false ones. They have been faithful to his name, serving him unflaggingly. They are doctrinally sound and doing all the right things, but still there is a problem.

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:4-5)

We’ve all seen the newly married couple who are so wrapped up in each other they hardly have time for anything else. They can’t wait for quitting time so thay can be with their mate. Their holding hands as they walk or drive, and she sits next to him. They are more apt to be talking to each other than to their friends when there is a get together, and when they talk to their friends, the subject is likely to drift toward things about their mate. They eagerly go to things the other likes even though they don’t care for them themselves. That first love is wonderful.

Unfortunately, most couples reach a point where they begin to take their time together for granted. They are no longer in a hurry to see their mate. They sit on opposite sides of the car, and rarely hold hands. They no longer direct talk to their mate unless there is some thin dramatic to report, or they are upset about something, and they either drop things the other doesn’t enjoy as much, or they begin to spend more time doing their own thing.

While the marriage still appears to be solid, and most would consider themselves happy, they have left that first love. The marriage is no longer what it once was. Other things have taken precedence over the relationship to each other. Much of the pleasure is gone, and temptations can begin to enter as a result. The behavior has less to do with pleasing their mate than with doing what they are supposed to do.

This later was the state of the Church at Ephesus. They were doing the same basic things, but out of a sense of obligation, rather than freely from love. They can cure the problem by remembering where they have come from, and that they got there by what Christ has done for them. By focusing on what he has done for them and is doing for them they can renew their love for him. Failure to repent, to rebuild that relationship with Christ will result in the collapse of the church, or in it‘s becoming no longer a testimonial to Christ. Action needs to be taken immediately.

There is one area where the church is especially commended. “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6) They hate the same thing God hates, the deeds of the Nocolaitanes. Since there is no record of a group called the Nicolaitanes, we will need to identify what he means adifferent way.

The word Nicolaitane is derived from the Greek “nicolaus” meaning “To conquer or rule over the people.” Jesus Specifically forbid this practice in Matthew 20:25-28. “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

His comments are repeated in Mark 10:42-45 and again in Luke 22:25-27. Samuel recognized that Israel was sinning in demanding an earthly king to take God’s place, according to I Samuel 10:19. “And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.”

God revealed that it was wicked to the people in I Samuel 12: 6-20, because they were replacing God with a man. As he says in Revelation 2:6, he hates this, and compliments the Ephesian church because they hated it as well.

He then directs that everyone who is able listen to the messages to each of the churches. There is a promise to those who are victorious in these things.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)

Revelation 22:14 tells us, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” They are guaranteed access to the new home of the Saints, New Jerusalem.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Messages to the Seven Churches

John’s Commission
Revelation 1:9-20

“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” (Revelation 1”9-11)

John starts out by identifying himself as a Christian, our brother and companion, waiting like us for the Lord’s return. He does not attempt to set himself at a higher level than we are. As brethren, we are equals, and he is struggling with tribulation just like the rest of us. He was on the isle of Patmos, in exile, because of his preaching of Christ. His obedience had gotten him in trouble, but he was walking in the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit was keeping him from depression, and strengthening his faith.

God rarely commissions one who is not actively obeying God or who is not walking in the Spirit. Many who have shown no interest in serving God suddenly claim to have been directed to do some thing. It is probably not God’s direction. Why would God give a special assignments until they complete the work he already gave them, or who isn‘t listening? According to John 7:17 and John 8:31, obedience will enable us to know if the directions are truly from God. John was in a state where he could be given an new assignment, and the speaker clearly identified himself before giving directions.

John was to write down the things he saw, and send them to seven individual churches. All seven churches were active at that time, several having been started by Paul. To me this implies that these churches do not represent different periods of time in church history, but actual churches at the same time. The descriptions of the different churches thus are applicable to churches in any age.

When John turned around, What he observed was definitely in accord with the identity he’d been given. The speaker looked like Christ, whom John had been very familiar with, although in a different state. While still recognizable, he would no longer be accepted as an ordinary man.

“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” (Revelation 1:12-16)

John’s response is typical of those who have seen a real vision of God. There was a sense of fear and respect. Every other glimpse of God had the same effect of making mankind aware of their wickedness, and in every case, God gave reassurance, while reminding them of who he is.

“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:17-18)

The Command is repeated, to write what John has seen, with two extensions, that he was to write the things that were then present, and the things which would happen in the future. He then explained part of the vision of himself. The seven stars represent the seven messengers to the churches, by implication the pastors, especially since angels in the common sense would not need a book written to them. The candle sticks represent the churches themselves. The messages to the churches are specifically to the pastors to be given to the churches.

Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:19-20)

Each of the Churches clearly are God’s churches, as are their pastors. The warnings are for Christian people. While all of revelation is important, perhaps the messages to the churches are the most critical for our day, because they deal with things the churches need to do immediately, before the Lord’s return. The rest of Revelation is for a later date, and is about things we can do little about. The fact that he stresses the need to hear what the Spirit says to the churches seven times underlines the idea. This is important!