Saturday, October 31, 2015

151101 Wake Up!

Revelation 3:1-6  “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Jesus’ message to the church in Sardis is short and bittersweet. This church had a reputation for being alive but it was dead. That is true of many churches today. We live in an area where we are surrounded by former church buildings. When I first came into the area I located 35 former church buildings and I’m sure that many more could be located. Once those churches were springs of living water for the community where they were placed. Now, in most of those communities there is no witness to the Lord at all. And also there are many communities where a church building exists but there is no gospel being presented in the pulpit! What must they do?
Jesus is very specific in pointing out the needs and the cures for the church in Sardis. Again, he says, “I know your works.” And then he points out that they have a reputation of being alive but they are dead! Many churches in existence today could be described by that phrase, “You are reputed to be alive but you are really dead.” In fact I will go so far as to say that some of the “liveliest” churches are really spiritually dead.
Wake Up!…
Strengthen what remains. Listen while I read from 2 Thessalonians 2:15. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
The letters to the Thessalonians were some of the earliest that Paul wrote. That being so, they already had some of the problems that the church in Sardis had begun to display. Paul had to admonish them to stand firm and hang on to the good traditions that he had taught them. There is a need in every church today across the nation and around the world to strengthen the good that remains and build on it a future that glorifies God. It is very easy to let the traditions slide away from us. For instance while we enjoy contemporary songs we need to also remember — and relearn in some cases — the old hymns. Why? Because they are based on sound theology. They speak the word of God in ways that are easy to remember.
The church in Sardis had been examined by Jesus and found that their works were not complete in the sight of God the Father. I am afraid that in some cases the same would be true of our church! Some of our work is not complete. Pray, pray, pray that God will show us what we need to change and how it needs to change. We need to Wake Up and…
Remember what has been. I have begun this week to journal information about the beginning of our church here. We need to remember what has been and build on it. Listen while I read Romans 6:17-18. But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is probably the most complete and perfect statement of Christian theology ever made. And here in the sixth chapter they were told to remember that they once were slaves of sin. Now, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they have become obedient to the sound teaching they had received and have been set free from sin. Having been set free from sin they are able to be slaves of righteousness. In like manner the church in Sardis (and everywhere) needs to wake up and strengthen the good that has been learned and then…
Repent and return. Repentance is not just feeling bad about what has been done. Listen while I read 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Paul had written to the church in his first letter pointing out the fact that they tolerated unrepentant sin in their midst. It is both saddening to me and encouraging in a way that these things were happening so early in the history of the church. We are surrounded by a culture that supports openly sinful lifestyles. The fact that these lifestyles are sinful is not a matter of opinion. This fact is based on the word of God. Particularly, the culture around us supports and encourages all kinds of sexual sin.
When the church in Corinth received Paul’s first letter they took action and redeemed the situation. They were not just grieved, they were grieved into repenting! The reason they repented was they felt a godly grief. When we find ourselves supporting or encouraging any sin we need to be grieved with a godly grief that causes us to repent. I am not calling on you to judge others but I am calling on you to encourage others to come to a lifestyle that honors God. If you have a particular question ask in private and I will try to give you a biblically-based answer. The church in Sardis was admonished to Wake Up and shore up the gaps in their works and spiritually feed the works that are alive. Having done so, they needed to remember their first works and repent of the wrong they have allowed into their midst. They must know that God will not long tolerate evil in the midst of his people. We must deal with people who are walking outside the biblical norms by speaking the truth in love and admonishing them to return to a godly walk. If a person is born again we will, over time, see positive changes in their lifestyle. If we are not seeing that change we need to encourage them lovingly and compassionately.
If sin is not dealt with when it is obvious…
Christ will come against you. We need to remember the words of the writer of Hebrews 12:7-10. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
Being sons and daughters of the living God is a great honor. But it puts us into the position of being disciplined and directed by him. God disciplines us in a number of ways. He told the church in Sardis that he would come against them! As we’ve seen in other letters, this is not a promise of Jesus’ second coming it is a promise to intervene in the church by his power and strength. Jesus comes in many ways to the churches and corrects the church, or removes the candlestick.
Without a doubt Jesus Is Coming Again! We must never forget that truth and we must always be prepared for his coming. I quote John Piper, The center of Christianity is the coming of the Son of God into the world as a real man to destroy the works of the devil and create a new people for His own glory. The very heart of our faith is that He did this by obeying the law of God, dying for the sins of His people, rising victorious over death, ascending to God’s right hand with all His enemies under his feet. The second coming of Christ is the completion of His saving work. If you take it away, the whole fabric of His saving work unravels.”
When Jesus comes in the interim, discipline will be exercised on the church. As a result, many will be cut off, even in this life, because they really did not know him.
But some will walk with Christ! Listen while I read from Revelation 7:9-10. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
This follows his second coming! There is going to be, in heaven, a great multitude beyond number. Every nation! Every tribe! Every people group! Every language! Will be represented in that large group when Christ returns. In the church we are “many members” yet “one body”.
In Sardis there were many who had soiled their garments. Yet Christ assures us that there are a few names there who have not soiled their garments. These will walk with him just as we will if we have come to him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Christ returns he will bring with him all those who have gone on before!
Paul assured the Thessalonians that, “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
And when we hear this we can 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
In Revelation chapter 19, we find a beautiful description of Christ coming again. He will be sitting on a white horse and he will be called Faithful and True. He will be dressed in a robe dipped in blood — the blood that he shed on Calvary’s cross and presented before the throne in heaven for us! He will be called The Word of God and he will have with him the armies of heaven. Those armies will be all arrayed in fine linen and also will be mounted on white horses. He will be coming as King of kings and Lord of lords! Praise God the promise in the letter to Sardis that his people will walk with him in white includes the truth that they will not only walk with him but will also ride with him on white horses. These are those who have confessed the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior and when they do…
Christ will confess their name. Listen while I read Jesus’ own words found in Luke 12:8-9.  “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
It is amazing to consider that when we acknowledge Christ before men he acknowledges us before the angels of God. Jesus said that there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10) I believe that means that there is constant rejoicing in heaven. Somewhere in the world there is someone repenting of their sin and turning to Jesus Christ as Lord. We may not see it happen here very often but it’s happening somewhere all the time! We should expect to see one sinner repent here on a regular basis as we bear witness to Christ. Jesus promised that he would acknowledge us before God and his angels if we will confess him before the world around us.
Jesus is coming again! We don’t know the day or the hour — or the season — we only know for sure that he is coming. As the first century came to an end Jesus sent out a letter to seven of his churches. The message to them had to be meaningful and at the same time it had to speak to the church through the ages. Everything in the book of Revelation is written for our instruction just as it was written for theirs. There’s a need today for people to wake up and pay attention. Wake up! Repent! And return! That is the message found in this letter to Sardis. It applies to us just as well. Have you repented of the sin in your life? Have you come to Jesus who promises to forgive when we confess?

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

151025 Judgement, Encouragement and Promise

Revelation 2:18-29 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 “ ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
We come today to the letter written to the church in Thyatira. Of course, it is attached to the book of Revelation. So far Jesus has promised that the overcomer, or conqueror, will have access to the tree of life in the paradise of God; protection from the second death; some of the hidden manna and a new name; now let’s see what this fourth letter promises us. But, first we have to look at the judgment and the encouragement given to those believers.
In the very beginning of the letter Jesus identifies himself as the Son of God. In searching the New Testament I find that only one other time did Jesus use these exact words to identify himself. Others often use the term “Son of God” to identify Jesus. After his resurrection he is commonly referred to with that title. Some people today claim that Jesus never said he was God’s one and only son. In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 36 Jesus said, “I said, ‘I am the Son of God’”. Having established his credentials the church in Thyatira is reminded that…
Jesus knows their works. And ours. In point of fact, God has always been “all-knowing” or omniscient. David was overwhelmed by his understanding of God’s knowledge of him. Turn with me to Psalm 139:1-6. O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
Five times in these introductory letters Jesus assures the churches that he knows their works. Never, ever think that God does not know and see what we do. For the church in Thyatira God knew their love and faith as well as their service and patient endurance. These are all qualities that each congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ needs to have cultivated. Love, faith, service, all indicate an active church seeking to reach the lost and grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. They had to do that with patient endurance. Our lives are improved immensely as we practice patience. We can do so because we trust God to meet all of our needs. Not only did Jesus know their works…
He observed their progress. Their latter works exceeded their earlier works. Jesus had noted that the church in Ephesus had abandoned their first love. The church in Sardis would be warned that Jesus did not find their works complete in the sight of God. The church in Philadelphia is commended for keeping his word and that they have not denied his name. The church in Laodicea, on the other hand, had works that were lukewarm — neither cold nor hot — and were in danger of being rejected. The church in Thyatia was growing in grace and the knowledge of the Lord…
But! They were tolerating unrepentant evil. Throughout Revelation there is a theme of a lack of repentance. Listen while I read Revelation 9:20-21. The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
We will see as we get into the book of Revelation that God’s wrath will be poured out in many different ways. The outpouring of God’s wrath is really a blessing not a curse. The goal of all God’s actions toward mankind is to lead mankind to repentance. Whether it be an act of kindness by God, or allowing plagues, storms, wars, famine or breakdown in society. All are designed to bring an end to sinful behavior and an awareness of God in the lives of people. In the church in Thyatira there was a toleration of evil in the form of a woman who claimed to be a prophetess. She was teaching sexual immorality and idol worship. The woman is characterized as Jezebel. We know that Jezebel in the Old Testament was the wife of King Ahab. As such she enticed him to all kinds of wrong doing. The kind of idolI worship that she engaged in was focused on sexuality. Baal worship involved priestesses who were religious prostitutes. The Jezebel of the Old Testament had a godly man murdered just so she could give his vineyard to Ahab, her husband. In the church of Thyatira the woman Jezebel was given time to repent. But she, like so many others, refused God’s gracious offer. As a result…
The evil one and her crew will pay the price! Jesus had promised during his ministry. Listen while I read Matthew 16:27. For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
A large part of the second coming of Christ involves judgment. God the Father has fixed a day on which he will judge the world by Jesus Christ. Along the way, God will judge individuals while they are living. That judgment will not put aside the coming judgment after death. It is a matter of bad consequences for evil conduct. When Christ comes again we will all appear before the judgment seat. I am grateful that God has provided for us redemption. If we confess our sins now, while we’re living, John tells us that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Our God, who knows everything, chooses not to remember our sin that is covered by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ His Son. (Isaiah 43:25; Jeremiah 31:34)
Not everyone in Thyatira had followed after this evil woman. So for those who had kept themselves clean and refused Jezebel’s temptations…
They can be encouraged. Hold fast. We have a responsibility also. Listen to Paul’s words to the Ephesians in Ephesians 6:10-12. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Each of us have the responsibility to choose to be strong in the Lord. It’s not our strength that keeps us from evil it is his strength! In reality our battle is against spiritual forces rather than people. The only way we can stand against the schemes of the devil is to draw near to God. Then, and only then, are we promised that he will draw near to us. As a result we can then resist the devil and he will flee from us. We are to hold fast until Jesus comes.
I believe there are two ways that Jesus will come. First, he comes to our aid when we are in need. He comes to take care of us not to physically stay with us. The other way is at his second coming at the end of the age! Just as he ascended into the air in the clouds he will descend to earth. He will bring with him hosts of angels as well as those who have gone on before in death. (1 Thessalonians 4:14) He will return to conquer and rule. Everyone who is alive, at that time believing in him, will be a conqueror. In his strength not ours — we conquer! And he has given us a promise…
The conqueror will rule with Christ. Psalm 2:7-8 This passage speaks of Christ but also of our role in taking the world for Jesus’ heritage. Listen to what was written hundreds of years before Christ was born. I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
Jesus says that he will give the conqueror authority over the nations. That must be speaking of a time when Jesus takes control and rules the world. Along the way, we have the responsibility to follow the footsteps of those who’ve gone before bringing the nations under Christ’s rule. Our enemy, Satan, expends a great deal of energy trying to stop the spread of the gospel around the world. Beginning on the day of Jesus’ ascension into heaven and continuing throughout history we have stood, like his apostles, gazing into heaven rather than going to all the world. There are many different ways that we avoid carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth. I have often heard the Book of Acts referred to as the record of the spread of the gospel. I have come to see that is not the case at all. The Book of Acts is a record of the hesitation of the Christians to carry the gospel to all the world. God the Father promised to give the Son the nations as his heritage. The Son of God issued to us what is called the great commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) As we read through the Book of Acts we see them not going and not making disciples! God had to send persecution against them to get them to move and then the Apostles remained in Jerusalem while the people went out preaching the word. When they did have good results in winning people to Christ the Apostles sent committees to see if they were doing it right. Finally, at the right time and in the right place, Saul of Tarsus was struck down on the road to Damascus and commanded to take up the cause and carry the gospel to the Gentiles.
The conquerors are promised that they will join with Christ in ruling the nations. And then finally Jesus says they will…
Have the morning star. We need to look towards the end of Revelation to get a grasp on what this means. Turn to Revelation 22:16. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
Here, as the visions come to an end Jesus identifies himself as the “bright morning star”. He promises those who conquer they will have him!
I was once asked where heaven is. My reply was simple, “heaven is where Jesus is”. I discovered recently — this week in fact — someone had written a hymn about it. In 1898 Charles Butler wrote these words:
Entitled, Where Jesus Is, ‘tis Heaven
Since Christ my soul from sin set free, This world has been a Heav’n to me;
And ’mid earth’s sorrows and its woe, ’Tis Heav’n my Jesus here to know.
O hallelujah, yes, ’tis Heav’n, ’Tis Heav’n to know my sins forgiv’n,
On land or sea, what matters where? Where Jesus is, ’tis Heaven there.

Once Heaven seemed a far off place, Till Jesus showed His smiling face;
Now it’s begun within my soul, ’Twill last while endless ages roll.
What matters where on earth we dwell? On mountain top, or in the dell,
In cottage, or a mansion fair, Where Jesus is, ’tis Heaven there.

Yes, we are given the morning star and that star is Jesus himself! Wherever he is will always be heaven for me.

This first century church had the same kind of problems we have today. It may be a little more intense today because we have the Internet, radio and television to spread the false teachings that are so common in the world today. Remember, the false teachers will finally and surely be struck by the Lord. They will suffer and die physically as well as, very likely, be overtaken by the second death which is hell! For those who love him Jesus will be with them to the very end. Have you given your life to the Lord Jesus Christ? Today can be your day of salvation.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.