Listen to the Spirit
Revelation 1:10 - 3:22
The book of Revelation is generally thought to have been written near the end of the first century, about a generation after the churches had been perhaps started by Paul or his contemporaries. We get a glimpse of the condition of the churches and how they were being influenced by the world and social pressures. Most churches had some good points but they also had weaknesses. About 150 years ago there were churches in Smyrna, Pergamos Thyatira and in Philadelphia but in Ephesus, Sardis, and Laodicea the candlestick was gone. Why do some churches endure and others are totally destroyed. We use term church in the biblical sense; not a building but a group of people called out from the world to represent Christ in a community.
Jesus is here in the middle of the churches in Revelation. Since He is the same yesterday, today and forever, he would be here with us right now. There is an Angel assigned to our church - The Leamington MB Church has a messenger sent from Christ himself.
Jesus. Please speak to us like you did the churches in John's day.
In Revelation 2 and 3, Christ is doing the analysis of the people in the churches. I find it interesting about what He says about the churches; their strengths and weaknesses. We want to summarize these 7 churches and see if we can identify with them. As we work though these churches, if you can identify an area God is prompting you to work on write it down.
I want to look at the positive side of the churches first to get a picture of what is commendable to Christ. We will then look at the weaknesses which Christ points out and then make an application to examine which characteristics of the churches fit us.
What I find so interesting is that some of these descriptions of the character of the churches are characteristics of Christians. While there are positive qualities which Christ speaks to there are also some glaring faults which end up to be the ruin of the church.
When I began reading about the Ephesian church, I thought that this was a super church. They were hard working, they persevered, they did not tolerate wickedness, they tested the spirit of the message of those who claimed to be sent from God, they endured hardship, they had not grown weary and they hated the teaching of the Nicolatian which put them on the side of Christ on that issue.
We do not get a clear picture of what the Nicolatian teaching is from the Bible or church history. There are some that look at the Greek root words which make up this word which are "to conquer" and "laity". From those words we get the picture that the Nicolatians abused their leadership power to subjugate the people in the church to their spiritual powers and would not allow others the freedom in Christ which all believers should experience. The Nicolatians today look at others which have differing views as rebels. Those that take initiative are considered disruptive and if people do not fall into line they are called on the carpet in an attempt to quiet them or to get rid of them.
Another view found in church history is that the Nicolatians taught unrestrained indulgence, to do anything a person chose to do including immorality and licentiousness. They abandoned themselves to self-indulgence. We have advocates of this in the church today including those that bless sodomites and others living in sin.
The church in Smyrna was a persecuted church. Around the world the church is facing sever opposition. Thursday was a memorable day. Not because of the black out but because I got my DAWN report telling some of the exciting things God is doing around the world. (July 2003) Let me read you a couple paragraphs.
"Thomas" lies in bed in a rather run-down hospital in India. As he recovers from the massive beating he took for preaching the gospel, he has only one thought in mind: How soon can I get out of here and start preaching again? He is part of a growing cadre planting literally thousands of churches in some of the most difficult unreached people groups in the world....
A report just in from the region where "Thomas" works, for example, shows that 32 missions or churches started with 2,515 house churches on January 1 2002 and ended with 8,784 by December 31 that same year. That's 336% growth in 12 months! ... The number of believers increased from 43,676 to 128,655
In Thyatira, the believers were full of love, service and faith. They persevered and they were especially commended for the fact that they were doing more than they did at first for Christ. One of the mistaken mind sets today is that when we get more mature, we can let younger believers do the work and we will coast on to glory. That is not in my Bible. If we want the commendation of Christ, we need to double our efforts at building His Kingdom as we grow older. Those who persevere will be given authority to rule over nations and will receive the morning star. The morning star is Christ himself and we are promised his presence and an opportunity to sit with Him on his throne. What a great experience that will be to sit with Jesus and rule with Him. We should never be weary of well doing for we will reap if we faint not.
The church at Philadelphia kept the word of God, did not deny Christ's name and endured patiently. They were given a door of opportunity and because of their faithfulness, they were honoured by unbelievers and satan's followers falling at their feet to acknowledge that Christ loved these church people. Those who were overcomers would become pillars in the temple of God and would have the name of God, the City of God and the name of Christ written on them.
These chapters give us some real encouragement for those who are faithful, diligent, active for Christ, endure hardship for Christ's sake and remain true to the end. But there is just as many warnings and punishments for those who fall away or do not follow God's word.
Have we like many in the church in Ephesus lost our zeal and love for God and His work? Are we more interested in going out and having a good time than we are going to prayer meeting or bible study? Have we lost our first love? Is Christ as meaningful today as He was when we first accepted Jesus into our lives? Some here today have never made Jesus their first love. Won’t you start down that exciting journey with Jesus today by asking Him to forgive your sins and asking him to send his spirit to cleanse you, fill you and guide you from now on?
In Pergamum, some of the church people were accepting the teaching of Balaam. My understanding of this is that although Balaam was given money to curse the Israelites, he refused to but he did reveal a chink in the armor. He told Balak to encourage the young women to go to the Israelite boys and seduce and marry them. These young women believed in Baal and other gods. Thus by infiltrating the families of the Israelites with unbelieving spouses, the Amlekites could destroy the faith of the Israelites and eventually conquer them. Once their faith in their powerful God was gone, they were milk toast. Paul warn Christians in II Cor 6:14-16 not to be married to an unbeliever yet it is happening with more frequency in the church and we wonder why divorce and family strife is increasing in the church.
The church at Thyatira was tolerating the prophetess Jezebel. Whether there was a woman named Jezebel or just represented the ideas that Jezebel in the Old Testament propagated we do not know. This woman was seeking to mislead church members into sexual immorality, putting the flesh above the spirit and encouraging indulgence. She was unwilling to change so Christ brought judgement upon her and those associated with her. Sometimes I wonder if the outbreak of aids, sexually transmitted diseases or SARS is not a part of God's judgement upon those who are immoral including the city of Toronto. Christ knows what you are thinking. You cannot hide your sensual touch, fornication, defrauding, immorality or adultery from the all seeing eye of God. God searches the hearts and minds of people and judges them accordingly. If this is a weakness in your life, please ask God to direct your path so that you keep from the fires of hell. Ask God to liberate you from this stronghold and get help from a brother or sister.
The church at Sardis looked vibrant and alive but like so many churches today, it is a show. The church that puts on the best show wins. It does not have to be spiritually vibrant, just active and exciting. Let’s have dances, rock concerts or exciting activities. Even a little gambling and BINGO. They will draw huge numbers and it will have the appearance of a good church but will have a shallowness that will be its downfall.
The church in Laodicea was a church which Christ had nothing good to say. They were just neutral when it came to spiritual things. They were not excited about spreading the liberating power of Jesus Christ. They lived for themselves; good bench-sitters, good fence-sitters, no sacrifice, no zeal or passion. 100% Canadian.
Each of these churches had an area of concern for Christ. What is your weakness?
All of you have at least one area of weakness. Either in your spiritual life, your thought life, your relationships or family life. If you have a piece of paper write it down. Some of you may need a roll of toilet paper to write down all your negatives. Then flush them down. To every negative there is a positive. Paul said that where I am weak I am strong. Look for a way to change our weaknesses. Replace our weaknesses with strengths that bring glory to God.
Where are you in your relationship to Christ now? Where do you want to end up. Heaven or Hell? What are you doing to get there?
Those that are hot are those that have an intense love for Christ and His people. These people have depth in their spiritual character. They have strong convictions which guide them through life. They are active in bringing people into the kingdom and nurturing and discipling others. What would Jesus say about you this morning?
Are we truly listening to the voice of God through the Spirit? He who has hearing ears, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.Return to Sermons Index