The Letter to Philadelphia

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The second to last letter written in John’s Revelation was for the Church at Philadelphia (not the one in Pennsylvania). This church is the first church that Jesus didn’t have an issue with. He congratulates them on remaining faithful and encourages them to press on. But what can we learn from this letter? The previous ones were easy, since Jesus had a lesson and warning to give them. But this church gets its statement right at the beginning of the letter. “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close.” (Revelation 3:8a, NLT).

Christ opens doors for us. He offers us opportunities to further the gospel along. This could as simple as us talking to a friend, or could be a dramatic as becoming a celebrity. The focal point is that we use these opportunities for Christ. But the part that I love, that I believe truly makes the point is “no one can close”. This says to me that if Christ wants you to do something for him, not only will he give you the opportunity, no one will be able to stop you. The enemy will try to stop you, and believe me he will, but Jesus tells us “I will make [Satan and his followers] come and bow down at your feet” (Revelation 3:9, NASB). This shows that we will overcome against them as well. Jesus says that no one will stop us, so continue on in his power.

Has Jesus given you an opportunity to shine the light on him? Are you doing it? The Church at Philadelphia was taking the light shown on them for their good deeds, and reflecting it towards Jesus. We should follow this example, because when Christ has a will, there is no other way. So follow him, and let everyone know that  it is all for His glory (Colossians 3:4). Take no credit for yourself, because we are only able to accomplish what we do by the power of Christ working through us (Colossians 3:17).

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The Letter to Sardis

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The fifth letter written at the beginning of John’s Revelation, was given to the Church at Sardis. Sardis is a city located in between Thyatira (north) and Smyrna (south).  The church here had a significant problem with following through. Jesus says to them “nothing of God’s work has been completed” (Revelation 3:2, MSG). Christ even goes to the point of calling them “dead, stone dead” (Revelation 3:1, MSG). He is calling the church to come back to life and continue doing God’s work. He knows that they have the “can-do” spirit to get it done, but they have decided to stop working.

How many of us have this problem ourselves? I know that if I lose interest in a task, it may never get accomplished. But this doesn’t work when it’s God’s work we are doing. James writes in his letter, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (James:217, NLT). That’s what Christ was saying to the Church at Sardis, and it’s the same for us. We cannot simply say that we follow Jesus, and not do anything to progress the gospel (or even live it for that matter). Christ wants us to be alive in our faith, and we show that by doing things.

What can be done? Conveniently, Jesus himself told us how to live out the Gospel. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39, NASB). We must keep God as our focus throughout our lives, and love Him. Then we are to care for others, because this is what Christ taught us to do, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NASB).

So let’s come back to life, and resume the work God has given us to do!

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The Letter to Thyatira

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Today’s letter was written to the Church at Thyatira. It seems that this church had similar issues to Pergamum. They were doing great things for Christ, but they tolerated pagan/evil beliefs to enter the church. The difference between the two is that Thyatira seems to allow a leader within the church to teach people these evil beliefs while in Pergamum it was the “regular attender”. Jesus calls this person Jezebel (which is a reference an Israelite queen that influenced Israel to worship other gods, and persecuted the prophets of God) and says of her, “she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray…” (Revelation 2:20, NASB).

This is certainly a message to those of us in leadership in the Church, to be careful what we teach. Whatever we say or do must come from the Bible and be Christ-centered. The instant that this isn’t true is when we become like Jezebel and lead people astray. God isn’t happy about that. He wants His people to follow Him and not some made up god or some made up truth. Church leadership has stress over this because they have to make sure they have a message that speaks to everyone, and cannot be misunderstood.

But what if I’m not a leader? This message still applies to you. Where ever I am, and I have a Bible sitting next to me (or I’m reading it), people always seem to ask questions about it. I’m sure many of you have had a similar experience. We even hear people that talk about Christians, but their understanding of who we are is completely wrong; so you stand up for us and answer their questions. Or maybe you don’t respond, but wish someone would correct them. In these moments, we all have the opportunity to be a leader and bring people to Christ. No we may not see a conversion right there, but at least someone may start to understand. That’s why we have to study and understand the Bible. That way we can use it everyday to help others along.

My prayer for you today is that God opens your eyes to something new in Scripture. I also hope that you pray for your church leadership: pastors, worship leaders, lay leaders, other elders, deacons, committee groups, etc. They all need that prayer for encouragement. We must all be vigilant to be sure that we don’t lead people astray, and be unlike the church in Thyatira.

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The Letter to Pergamum

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The third letter written at the beginning of John’s Revelation was written to the Church at Pergamum. Pergamum was located north of Smyrna, still in what is present day Turkey.

We know that Pergamum was a city that was heavily pagan. Jesus says to them, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is;” (Revelation 2:13, NASB). While the church has apparently done a great job at continuing to proclaim Christ, despite their environment, yet Jesus still had a grievance with them. This church allowed “Christians” to still practice their non-Christian practices. “You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.” (Revelation 2:14b, NLT). This church was allowing people to profess a faith, but then practice an entirely different way of living.

How does this apply to us today? I think of a video that has been circling around over the past week. We are to fear God above all others. This can even mean that we have to go against society. It’s when we say “Yes” to the culture around us, and our beliefs tell us “No”, we begin to have the same problem as the Church of Pergamum. We all can think of someone that we know who attends church, professes to be a Christian, and yet do nothing beyond Sunday morning worship. These people can even attempt to do Christian behaviors, but do it for the wrong reasons (i.e. donating to charity for the tax credit, caring for the poor so they look good, etc.).

But our faith is a lifestyle. It requires a change in us. In Acts 9, Saul was traveling down a road to hunt down and kill more Christians (he had already done this quite a bit). Then there was a flash of light and Jesus was standing in front of him saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” After that encounter, and the following encounter between him and Ananias in Damascus, Saul was a changed man and began professing the very faith he was trying to hunt down and kill. He even went to the extreme of a name change! (Saul = Paul).

When we have met Christ, we cannot continue in our old ways. That is the problem of Pergamum. They had accepted Christ, and made sure to proclaim him to all people. But they failed at allowing their faith to change their lives. Some of them had, but there were still others that knew of Christ, yet didn’t want him to change their lives. That’s what we can learn from our friends at Pergamum. Let Jesus into your heart today, and allow him to change you. I promise, it is only for the good, never for the bad.

The Letter to Smyrna

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Today’s message is quite short. Jesus is speaking to the Church in Smyrna. Smyrna is located in what is currently known as Turkey.

Jesus offers them encouragement through suffering about to come their way. Their biggest enemy was going to be the Jews. The is constantly a theme through the early days of the Gentile Church. Not that the Jews were against it, but Paul always speaks against Jewish practices in the life of a Gentile Christian. Jesus says to the Church, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life… He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” (Revelation 2:10-11, NASB).

What does this mean to us today, you may be asking. Well, it seems to me to burst the bubble of the “Prosperity Gospel”. This is teaching that if you believe in Jesus, life is going to be easy-breezy. You won’t have any hardship or troubles. If you do, than you don’t believe in Jesus hard enough. This teaching is completely against the actual teaching of the gospel. Jesus says that we must pick up our cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). He goes on to discuss how suffering is apart of the game. All, but one, of the twelve apostles died a martyr’s death during the first century AD.

But Jesus offers us the same comfort he did to the Smyrnans (I’m not sure that’s what you’d call them, but it works for me). We must be faithful to Christ through the hard times. He doesn’t promise to lead us only through the good times; he’s also there in the bad.  If you are going through rough times, it’s even more important to keep your faith.

Reminds me of a hymn called God Will Take Care of You. Take a listen below

 

The Letter to Ephesus

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So I was really trying to figure out what to start writing about. I felt another series coming on, but didn’t know what to do, then God spoke to me. For the next few days, we will be reading a letter to one of the Churches found in Revelation 2-3. Don’t worry, this isn’t an “End of the World” series (people always seem to think that when you mention Revelation). We are seeking to find what God has to say for us today in his messages to the seven Churches.

The first letter sent out went to Ephesus. This is the same church that Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians to. This message, however, is coming several years after Paul’s writing. John writes these letters, under the prompting of Jesus/Holy Spirit, in order to address an issue found within the Church. For the Ephesians Jesus says, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove you lampstand out of its place — unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:4-5, NASB).  I find this statement from Jesus rather curious in light of the way Paul in his letter to them, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.” (Ephesians 6:24 NASB). So how did this church leave its first love?

I believe that this Church got to busy being a Church that they forgot what brought them together in the first place, Jesus Christ. Jesus tells them that it is good that they test apostles to find out if they are real and that they had the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans. But all of this is irrelevant if Christ doesn’t remain in the central position.

I feel that many churches today get in this same “rut”. It’s easy to do. The biggest symptom and easiest way to tell if this is happening to you is when asked the question “Why do you do that?”, the response is “Cause we’ve always done it this way”. When the church becomes successful, or even just programming, we don’t want to make changes for fear of losing that something special. Well friends, I’ve got news for you. Christ is that something special and if he stays in the central location for us, we won’t lose him!

But don’t give up if you find yourself in the “cause we’ve always done it this way group”. The people that stand up for change need you to keep them focused as well. People who want to change have the tendency to change for changes-sake. But that isn’t helpful either. Christ didn’t come to abolish the old Law, he came to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). The Ten Commandments are still very important to us today. They are the Law of God. Jesus came to change the way is was being enforced.

So the message Jesus has for Ephesus and us, I believe, is that we cannot get stuck “doing” Church. We have to “be” the Church. We have to be sensitive to what Christ wants the Church to do, because He is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). Jesus will want us to do the same thing for a time, but then he may change suddenly. He often did that during his earthly ministry; just looked to the disciples and said “We’re moving on”.

What is God calling you to do in your own life, and in the life of the Church? Spend some time in prayer to figure this out, because it may be a time for a change.

My Answer

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Yesterday, the blog Beautiful Christian World asked a question. The question was what does John 14:6 means to you? The Scripture is “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'” (NASB). Which I thought was a pretty good question and spent some time thinking on it. But instead of writing a comment on her blog, I decided to make a post about it on mine.

The Way

Jesus is the one true way to God. There are no others. He says in this verse that no one come to God any other way. Many would question what exactly is the way? To me the answer comes from the crucifixion and a question Jesus asked Peter in the previous chapter, “Will you lay down your life for Me?” (John 13:38 NASB). As Christians we are called to follow Jesus, but that call can sometimes get confusing. I believe that call means to lay down our lives for Christ to do God’s Will. Jesus did that by being put on the Cross. He laid down his life for the redemptive plan of God. He may not always ask us to fully give up our lives, but I believe that we are meant to live that way. Because our life isn’t ours, it was given to us by God (Genesis 2:7).

The Truth

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:1-3 NASB). In these opening verse of John’s gospel, he is showing that Jesus was present in the Creation. He has been with God, and is apart of God, ever since the beginning of time. When Christ came into the world, God’s message had become distorted. The Pharisees set on a seat of power, because they were using the Law in order to put everyone else down and raise themselves up. But Jesus came with his intimate knowledge of God in order to teach the truth of God’s message. Jesus proves his intimate relationship with God by saying, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John 14:10 NASB).

The Life

I believe that this part of Jesus’ tri-fold statement is found in the next chapter. Jesus says “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2 NASB). (Now I know I used this Scripture yesterday for a somewhat different purpose, but Scripture has so much inside of it that any one verse can hold many truths for a varying set of circumstances.) In order to have life, we must be plugged into Christ. If we are removed we wither and die. I think of a grape vine (which I’m sure Jesus was too). If you remove the grapes before they are ripe, they will never become good fruit. In order for us to have life, we must plug ourselves into God’s vine found in Jesus.

So to try to put this all together, this verse says to me that Jesus has shone me the way to God, revealed to me the truth of God’s message, and is the source of a good life. If Jesus isn’t this for you I would encourage you to spend some time in Scripture and prayer. I also spread the question to my followers.

What does John 14:6 mean to you?

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