Saturday, 28 February 2015

Laodicea – the lukewarm church

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see” (Revelation 3:14-23)

Of all the seven cities mentioned in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation, none was richer or more insolent than Laodicea. When it was the victim of a terrible earthquake in AD 60, the Roman historian Tacitus tells us that it disdained to accept any aid from the emperor Nero.

As with the city, so with the church in Laodicea! No word of commendation is given it in the ‘letter’ addressed to it by the glorified Christ. Researchers tell us that water was piped to Laodicea from nearby hot springs, but tended to arrive lukewarm. The reference, then, to the church as being “neither cold nor hot” – and fit only to be spat out was an apt rebuke for a merely nominal church (v. 15,16).

1. Here was a church claiming to be rich, yet was spiritually ‘poor’

2. Here was a church claiming to be a showpiece, yet was ‘naked’

3. Here was a church claiming to be self-reliant, yet was ‘blind’

The rescue way is this. Christ knocks for admission outside the door of a church that excludes Him (v. 20). His promise is there – yes, even for the single individual – ‘anyone’ - who will open the door to Him: ‘I will come in.” If you’ve never done so, will you receive Him into your life this very day?

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Philadelphia – the serving church

“These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut” (Revelation 3: 7.8)

Years ago I remember a letter arriving from a Communist. It ended, ‘Your jammy little job will go for a Burton. And not before it is time.’

So it seemed with the church at Philadelphia (now the Turkish city of Alasehir). Hated and persecuted, it was – like Smyrna (Rev 2:8-11) - precious to Christ, with no word of criticism! Notice three symbols here.

1. THE KEY (v.7). The clue to ‘the key of David’ is in Isaiah 22:22, where the key of King David’s house was placed with his steward, with the words, ‘What he opens, no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.’ The steward is but an illustration of the authority of Christ!

2. THE DOOR (v.8). The ‘open door’ set before the Philadelphian church symbolised its opportunities – ready for the taking! A Christian leader years ago regularly prayed, “Lord, give me eyes to see, and grace to seize, every opportunity for Thee.” Could your church so pray?

3. THE PILLAR (v. 12). Permanence is the emphasis! In a city often shaken by earthquakes, as Philadelphia was, this symbol would have meant much to the fragile, persecuted church. Permanence and stability are the rewards for faithful service to the Church’s divine Head!

Take these seven verses of Scripture as a model for your own church!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Sardis – the Dying Church

“You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Revelation 3: 1,2)

When Christ’s message from Glory was delivered in the book of Revelation to the church of Sardis (situated in today’s West Turkey), the fact was that the greatest days of the city itself were over. Here was a city reclining in its past…. and - tragedy! - this spirit had crept into the church itself. Here was a church that had a name without life, a form without power, a fa├žade without reality. Oh, they knew the right words and phrases from the past…. but it was all a hollow sham. Sardis was a dying church.

What can cause us to ‘wake up’ in obedience to Christ? In the case of the church in Sardis, part of the way back lay in the hands of ‘the angel of the church in Sardis.’ The suggestion has been made that the ‘angels’ of these seven churches of chapters 2 and 3 were none other than the pastors themselves – acting as the earthly representatives of the heavenly ‘star-like’ guardians above.

If so, then the remedy to “Strengthen what remains and is about to die” is practicable for any Christian worker or leader. Who make up the remaining tiny remnant - the faithful few - in your church fellowship or Christian meeting? We start with them - meeting, working, planning and praying together – to see if by the power of God’s Spirit a change for the better can steadily be brought about. It has happened many times before!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Thyatira – the Polluted Church

“These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze” (Revelation 2: 18)

“I’m looking for the perfect church,” someone was reputed to have said to the celebrated Baptist preacher, C.H. Spurgeon.

“Well, when you find it,” replied Spurgeon, “let me know. But don’t join it – or you’ll spoil it!”

Every church is imperfect, just as the church was in Thyatira – to which was addressed this inspired message from the glorified Christ, through the apostle John’s writings in the book of Revelation. There was a problem woman in Thyatira’s church – tolerated as a member of the fellowship, but seen by the blazing, all-seeing eyes of Christ (v. 18) as a repeat figure of the notorious Baal-worshipping Jezebel of Old Testament times (1 Kings 21:25).

She had evidently set herself up as some kind of prophetess, and had gained some influence among the believers. False teaching and idolatrous, immoral behaviour were causing havoc in the church. Those who joined with her would ultimately be overthrown along with her.

But the ‘overcomers’ (v.26) had a two-fold promise coming their way. They would share in the messianic rule of Christ (v. 27 is a quotation from the messianic Psalm 2) – and they would receive ‘the morning star.’

What is this star? We do not usually have to look outside the Bible for the right interpretation; the Bible interprets itself. Revelation 22: 16 gives us the identification. The ‘Morning Star’ is Christ Himself!

More of Christ…. Could there be a greater reward for enduring faithfulness?

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Pergamum – the Compromising Church

“You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam” (Revelation 2: 14)

The church in Pergamum – to which this third of Christ’s ‘letters’ is addressed in the book of Revelation – was challenged not only by a temple to Caesar, but by a highly pluralistic belief-system, involving Zeus, Athena, Dionisus and Aslepius.

Yet - comes the message from heaven - “You remain true to my name” (v. 13); indeed ‘Antipas’, one of their number had actually been a martyr.

What, then, was this ‘teaching of Balaam’ which was attracting some of their number? Balaam, of the Old Testament, had a prophetic gift but in his relationship with the heathen king Balak compromised it with licentious and idolatrous advice (Numbers 25 and 31:16; also 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 11). The ‘Nicolaitans’ (v. 15) were evidently a New Testament sectarian version of Balaam.

This teaching was spurious in its nature (a compromise of the Gospel), sectarian in its operation (‘some’ - not all - of the church had been taken in); and diabolical in its source (‘Satan’ was at work in the city, v. 13).

How can Christ’s disciples stand against an ideology? The answer is by attitudes of humble repentance (v. 16) and diligent attention to the true teaching of the Spirit (v. 17). And the reward is more of Christ – for He is ultimately the promised ‘manna’ (John 6: 30-35), and it is He who is the fulfilment of the ‘white stone’ that had been part of the breastplate, giving godly direction to the former high priest (Exodus 28:30). And ‘white’ in the book of Revelation always refers to Jesus!