Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sermon--Revelation 3:7-13-- Philiadelphia-- Access Granted

The ending gets a little ragged b/c it represents ideas that came up on Saturday night. So I hope it makes sense.

When visitors go to the White House, they cannot just wander around, they cannot go wherever they want to--they have to stay with the tour, there is limited access to the overall building—ZERO access to the President himself. But when you go into the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ, you are given a VIP Access Pass—no one can stop you, no one can deny you entry, no one can prevent you from going straight in to the Holy Presence of God—you don’t have to make an appointment—you don’t have to sit down and wait at the receptionists’ desk. The Door is Open to You!

This Letter is about Promised Access

Here we come to a church that had much to be commended for even in the midst of disinformation and hardship. READ vs. 7-13

Philadelphia was a city strategically located on the road from Rome to the east, and was a strong fortress city. It was a city of major influence in the area and was located on the edge of a great volcanic plain which was fertile as a result and perfect for growing grapes. It was the centre of worship of the greek god Dionysius, the god of wine – no surprise really. It’s proximity to active volcanoes was a constant threat and the people in the most part lived outside of the city due to the threat from falling buildings within the city walls.

The church in this city had little strength—not great in numbers—but they had a great faith—a faith that was continuing to overcome hardship and difficulty. And in this Church

Jesus Walks Among Us In Righteousness & Authority

Jesus is holy & true—He is sinless, set apart from you and me—He is the Truth—and as He walks among us, He will not lie—about His love for us, about what He sees in our lives that are right, about what He sees in our life that is wrong—He is Holy—He is True—

Holds the Key of David—a very Jewish reference—it comes from Isaiah 22:20—The Key of David—is the Authority of the Messiah—the Promised King of the Line of David who will Restore the Kingdom of God—bring about the Promises of the Covenant.

Jesus is the one who has the authority in the Kingdom of God. Since He has the key—there is no blessing that is unavailable, no riches that are off limits to Him—only those who call upon Him will He allow to truly enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom. No one can just waltz in and go wherever they want—they must be given and granted access to the Covenant of God through the One who Holds the Master Key. Jesus is the One who holds, the one who Wields that Authority.

He has the authority to open and close all access. He is the Way, the Truth & the Life—no one comes to the Father except through Him. The Terms of the Covenant—the Terms of Relationship with the Father are set and determined by Jesus and His Death & Resurrection.

Jesus walks among us and He is not a “Yes Man”

Many companies, many colleges will hire an Outside consultant every few years to give a fresh evaluation of the company’s effectiveness. Sometimes, the findings are not welcome—as a result those that hired the consultants question their motives, question their qualifications—the more the outside consultant challenges or questions what you do or how you do it—what they’ve actually been called in to consult on—the LESS likely they are to be well received. In many cases, consultants are brought in with the expectation of “confirmation”—no you really are doing a good job—most things are fine—all the problems are minor.

We need to remember in our walk as the Church, that Jesus is not a consultant that we bring in every so often for an outside opinion. He is not a hireling, He does not wait to be invited in

He is the Owner & Founder, He is the CEO that takes a daily/weekly walkthrough to Inspect the Effectiveness of One of His Branch Offices/Departments/Productions

His assessment is Valid. His assessment in Unbiased. His assessment is Authoritative

What He opens cannot be shut—what He shuts cannot be opened. There is no one to appeal to; no one to overrule Him, not even a majority vote—His decisions are Final.

He has the Key, the authority of David as the Messiah. The One with this Authority is also the One who invites us to pray-- LK 11:9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jesus Walks Among us and Knows Some Want to Close Doors—vs. 9

The Jewish Community wanted to

Close the Door to the Synagogue for any Jew who Believed Jesus Was the Messiah

Close the Door to the Covenant and Blessing of God because anyone who Believed in Jesus ceased being a Jew

Close the Door to the Love of God for anyone who received baptism in Jesus’ Name

Close the Door to Family & Friendships for their betrayal

Close the Door to a Relationship with God for any Gentile—that did not have the lineage of Abraham.

Just by accepting Jesus—a believer would suffer hardship and loss and only if they renounced their belief in Jesus would those doors be opened to them again.—they taught that God would shut them out, that God didn’t love them, that they were under the same curse that Jesus experienced. They had ceased being Jews anymore by claiming this false Messiah and for accepting Gentiles into the faith.

They claim to be Jews—with a true zeal for God--but in God’s Assessment, Faith in Jesus is the Determining Factor of someone being a Member of the Chosen People of God—Faith in Jesus makes you a part of the TRUE Covenant Community—not based on Lineage, Ethnicity or anything other than FAITH--Trusting Jesus brings you Under the Blessing of God and

Paul had to address this confusion Romans 2:28-29 --A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

Romans 9:6-8-- For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." 8 In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring.

Some of you may be seeing some doors closed to you b/c of your faith in Christ. Some of you may have felt the sting of having doors closed, relationships ended, friendships denied or maligned. Be assured that Jesus knows all about it and He is encouraging you to stand with your faith.

In today’s world there are attempts to

Close Doors to Biblical Truth—the Bible is so old and outdated, you can’t possibly believe it anymore

Close the Doors of the Church—not to keep them out, but to keep us in and without influence--just keep your faith inside these walls and don’t bring it out—then we’ll accept you, then we’ll like you and let you

Close Doors to The Exclusivity of Jesus—it’s so arrogant of you to believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven—what about all the other beliefs out there—they are just as valid.

Close Doors to Evangelism—don’t try to tell me my beliefs are wrong

Close Doors to Public Expression of Faith—the mistaken notion that the First Amendment to the Constitution says the Gov’t has the responsibility to provide “freedom From religion” not “freedom of religion”

Close Doors to Friendship—your desire to live differently may cost you friends who want to live it up and don’t want to be reminded that there’s another way to live.

Close Doors to Business Partnerships or Jobs—such opportunities are a very real occurrence-openly in countries where Christianity is a minority, but even subtly here in America—where you’re expected to “tow the line”, be willing to fudge a little bit.

Many will try to close doors to you as a believer in Jesus Christ. But there is Promise-

Jesus Walks Among us and Holds the Door Open—vs. 8

They are commended for

Keeping His Word—meaning they were obeying and growing in their walk with Christ—they believed and tried to live out their faith and the teachings of Jesus

Not Denying His Name—even though there was great temptation and pressure to just stop talking about Jesus, to stop making decisions with your faith in mind, to just do things that the rest of the world is doing because it’s not a big deal anyway—when we compromise our faith, we are denying His name

Even with Limited Strength—

Keeping His Word and the Pressure to Deny our Faith are tiring—it wears you down. And yet Jesus commends these believers in Philadelphia. He does not focus on the nuts and bolts, the details of every little thing they do, He speaks generally of their deeds, but it is their heart, their obedience, their endurance which truly draws His attention. It’s not so much what they are doing as the faithfulness behind the deeds. They are Keeping True to the Teachings and Faith of Christ. They are Keeping True to Christ and not mixing their Christianity with other faiths, not being a Christian and a Pagan, a Christian and a Bhuddist, not a Christian and a Capitalism, Communist Christian—they were remaining true and faithful to Him.

They had little strength—few numbers, not a great amount of influence—but they were faithful in what they had been given.

And so there is an Open Door before them—a Door of Access.

Door of Salvation--door mentioned in scripture is the door of salvation For instance, in John 10:9, Jesus said: (John 10:9) I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. Jesus was teaching the remarkable truth that he is the only way to salvation. Inside that door or gate, there is safety and everything we need.

Door Into the Presence of God-- HEB 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Door to the Gentiles—Acts 14:27-- On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles”—There is a desire to Throw open the gates and let anyone who is willing to come in—not limited to a select few, not limited to a particular race or ethnic group—but open to anyone who believes.

There’s a another type of door mentioned in scripture that is still about accoess

Door of Opportunity--For instance, Paul says in Colossians 4:3: “and pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains”. This is a Door where God allows us to be at Work in His Kingdom—He’s Hiring—There are Job Openings to be had—access and employment in the Kingdom. God gives wonderful opportunities to Serve and Glorify Him—opportunities to share the gospel, opportunities of prepared hearts and lives to receive the VIP Access Granted through Jesus Christ.

Throughout history, people have found that God has a unique way of providing opportunities for fruitful service, and hearts ready to accept the gospel.


He has placed an open door—one that cannot be shut--For What?

For them to come in Before the King—no one can deny them entry—no one can block their way, no one can say—“No Philadelphian Christians Allowed”

No matter what anyone else tried to say—that they were Locked Out, Cut Off, Denied—Jesus is Saying ---NO-the Way is Open for You

The Great Promise is that Jesus Walks Among us With Reward—9b-13

The promise is that they will fall down by the “making” of Christ—they will then learn and know that He has truly loved them—where the Love of God for Christians was called into doubt, He will receive you and love you and shower His blessings upon you.

There will be a Great Reversal—the believers in Philadelphia may not be strong now, there may not be very many—but they will be glorified at the Coming of Jesus.

They have Kept the Command to Endure—to hold on to what they have and so Keep the Crown of Righteous Victory that is promised.

Jesus Walks Among Us With Instructions

Hold On to What You Have—Forgiveness & Salvation in Jesus Christ, A New Hope & Future, a Community of Believers—With Total and Complete VIP Access to God and His Blessing--Hold On to it-don’t Go Back, don’t Quit, no matter the opposition, no matter the closed doors.

He will make you into a Pillar in the Temple—you are not the foundation, but upon the foundation that has already been laid. In most cases, the foundation is not a highlight—we don’t typically see the foundation. But a pillar is supposed to open up the structure—it’s supposed to make it open and visible so the beauty put into the structure can be seen.—open for worship

Pillars let you build a large open space. Allows you to build higher

But there’s even more here. Most scholars believe Revelation was written in the 90’s AD—meaning that it is about 20 years after the Temple in Jerusalem had been Destroyed—so the idea of the Temple standing is a powerful promise—but they would all have heard just how the pillars of the Temple could be removed. And it wasn’t the first time.

1 Kings 7:15, 21—“ 1KI 7:15 He cast two bronze pillars, each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits around, by line. 16 He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars; each capital was five cubits high.-- 21 He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz.

2 Chronicles 3:17 – He erected the pillars in the front of the temple, one to the south and one to the north. The one to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz.

Jakin means—He Establishes

Boaz—means “In Him is Strength—but it was also the name of the Kinsman Redeemer from the book of Ruth

2 Kings 25:13-- The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the LORD and they carried the bronze to Babylon.

25:18-- The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers.” There were supposed to be 4 who controlled access to the Temple

Jeremiah 52—destruction of the Pillars

They had read about the Temple being destroyed and the Pillars carried off. They may very well had been lamenting the loss of Herod’s Temple—so the idea of a permanent place—permanent access to God was uncertain. But that is what Jesus promises they will be.

2 Corinthians 6:16— For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."

In describing the New Jerusalem—and the New Temple—Revelation later says:

Revelation 21:22-- I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

21:25-- On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.”

There will never be a time when Access to God will be closed off.

God’s Name will be written on our Heart—His Name name will be permanent—our citizenship, our membership is secure and irrevocable-

Jesus’ New Name will be written on us.

And we will never Leave the Temple—Never Leaving the Presence of God—is the hope and dream of this community—that there is no greater or better existence—no better way to spend the day than in the Presence of God surrounded by those who Praise Him. That is what Heaven will be like.

And how many of you are just counting the minutes until we get out of this building?

He is standing before us—walking among us—there are some doors that He has shut for us—but there are other doors that He is holding open—Doors of Opportunity that are before us that He wants us to walk through.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Last Year's Halloween Sermon --Mixed Signals

Since I'm in the middle of a series on the 7 Letters to the Churches in Revelation, I'm not going to specifically hit Halloween on a Sunday morning. So, I'm reposting my Halloween message from last year. Go to that sermon here. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sermon--Church by Reputation Only--Revelation 3:1-6

In all honesty, you may get more out of this message by listening to it here than just be reading it.

The Sun is about 93 million miles from the earth. If the sun were to blow up right now, we would know it in about 8 minutes. The star nearest to the Sun is Proxima Centauri. Astronomers measure the distance between stars in units called light-years. A light-year equals 5.88 million million miles (9.46 million million kilometers). This is the distance light travels in one year at a speed of 186,282 miles per second. Proxima Centauri is 4.3 light-years from the Sun. It is a dim red star in the constellation of Centaurus that lies at a distance of over 40 million million kilometers, some 270,000 times greater than the distance between the earth and the sun.

If it blew up right now, we would not know it for 4.3 years. The North Star is about 30 light years away. If the North Star blew up right now—we would not know it for 30 years. From our perspective, it would continue shining, continue pointing the way with all the appearances of life.

I believe much can be said for many churches in our country today. They have been dying for many years, some died many years ago, just nobody knew it yet.

Sardis was a capitol city of Ania minor—it was wealthy economically, it important militarily, and it was a ruling city over the region had to come and pay honor to the gods. It was a place of the upper crust, the politicians worried about maintaining the good name they’ve established to get elected.

Sardis was also famous for its impressive necropolis, or cemetery, of "a thousand hills" (modern Bin Tepe), so named because of the hundreds of burial mounds visible on the skyline some seven miles from Sardis.

1. Jesus walks among us and is not impressed with our Reputation

a. This church had a reputation—maybe outside of town in the larger Christian community, maybe even a good reputation in town. They were a nice, friendly church. City councilmen maybe went there, school board members went there. Respected members of society. They had the reputation of being alive. They had all the Signs of Life—meeting together, singing loudly, bible studies, community awareness.

b. But the signs of life were a bit less convincing upon the close examination of Jesus. It’s much like my first trip to Disneyland and riding on the “It’s a Small World”—all the little creatures move their arms, legs, mouths, all coordinated to music and to each other. In a kid’s mind—because it moves, it must be real. But it’s not—the Animatronics give the appearance of life, not the reality of it.

c. This church appeared to be alive, but in reality it was dead—how would you like to be know as a Christian or a Church by Reputation Only? This church is Almost like they were pulling themselves off of Dr. Frankenstein’s experimental table—something lurching along when in reality it’s dead.

e. Dead also means destitute of force or power, inactive, inoperative. A dead church has no power—sees no power—sees little move of God’s Spirit.
A good reputation is great, but if not backed up by a genuine heart, reputation is not that valuable.

g. Let me give you an example of a Reputation that is not valuable or accurate. I’ve read ones like it several times in the newspapaers.Testimony of a Serial Killer’s Neighbor—“But he was always such a nice, quiet, helpful neighbor.” “I would never believe or suspect them capable of something like this!” "I think we realized all along, at least in our judgment back in the 1970s and 1980s, that this person was part of our community and he was able to function among us," said Richard Lamunyan, former police chief in Wichita.

h. "That was one of the difficulties we were having in actually bringing him to light so we could figure out who he was. He would be, obviously, someone's neighbor. He would be shopping at the grocery stores just like everyone else. He would belong to clubs. He would have a job."

i. Reputation can fool you and me—the only opinion that truly matters is our Savior who is walking among us.

j. What does an alive church look like? The Church—the Lampstand—is supposed to be filled with the Spirit of God—“give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning” It is supposed to be a Light—that cannot be hidden—Romans 5:8—“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord—live as children of light.”. An alive church is one that is shining in the darkness, that is burning bright—not with stage lights, but the Presence and Power of God—exposing evil, dispelling darkness, rescuing people—everything exposed by the light becomes visible.—Ephesians 5:13

k. What does a dead church look like? If you’ve ever seen an oil lamp running out of oil? The flame weakens, it flickers more, it puts out more smoke because the wick is burning instead of the oil—

Jeff Lee

· Plenty of beautiful, unused space

· Declining or steady number of baptism, attendance, and giving

· Worship services are proper but "blah"

· Little excitement for outreach or mission to save the lost

· Sins of the saints tolerated

· Few new and young families

· Church work is perceived as what takes place inside the church building only

· Prevailing sense of complacency

· Chronic shortage of leaders

· Leaders and members function out of a sense of duty, rather out of joy and vision

· Witness and outreach effort are done mainly by the pastors

· A high percentage of inactive members

a. At one associational meeting, a man was heard to say, “Brother Moderator, we didn’t baptize anybody this year. We didn’t have many new members and we didn’t take in very much money, but Praise God, none of the other churches around us did anything either!”

2. What does a fake church look like? Sometimes it is very hard for you and me to tell. It’s not going to be a matter of activity, it’s not going to be a matter of popularity & reputation—a crowd does not guarantee the church is alive, a small crowd does not guarantee the church is dead.

a. Let me say that Jesus knows exactly what one looks like.

b. We can never confuse activity with the power of God, activity is not a sign of the Presence and Power of God—a Good Reputation is not the be all end all

c. Practically every church, at one time in its history, was alive and vibrant, but when that church becomes too focused inward, they lose that vibrancy

Churches die when their focus turns so inward upon their own, upon Maintenance more than Ministry-- that they forget that there are people around them who are dying, who are spiritually dead, who are separated from God and can do nothing about it on their own, who are destined for eternal separation from God in hell because we are unwilling to reach them.

3. Jesus walks Among His Churches with An Alarm Clock

a. Wake UP

b. Stop sleeping and living off your reputation—stop taking it easy, stop denying that there is a problem, stop pretending everything is fine— stop cruising toward retirement

c. Jesus has a song for a church that has died—“Up from the Grave He Arose”--Wake up to the fact that you are spiritually dead—wake up to the fact that your vibrancy for God has gone, wake dup to the fact that you are in a dangerous position.


ii. Don’t go through the motions
Ephesians 5:13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
"Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
EPH 5:15 Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.”

iii. Understand what we’re supposed to be doing—being the Light!

d. Strengthen what remains

i. Stabilize—to make firm, Reanimate

ii. Get the blood pumping again

iii. Perform CPR on the heart of the church

iv. Break out the zapper

v. Perform quintuple bypass if necessary

e. Works Not Complete—Not Accepted by Reputation

i. Since the light exposes everything—the One who is the Light is walking among them and Exposing their deeds.

ii. There was much left undone

iii. There was much not done well

iv. There were many things being done that were not fulfilling the Mission

v. There was much to be disappointed with

vi. It’s like turning in a great and well written paper to the wrong teacher, the wrong class, the wrong assignment.

vii. Some people go to college as the top of their class in high school—and they live on that reputation—as a smart student—so they coast a bit--until you see their work, until they get that first test back and actually do the work—you realize, maybe they are not the student you thought they were going to be.

viii. It’s like the church has turned in a dissertation that was really only a rough draft that still has glaring omissions, didn’t have any works cited, or the name wasn’t even put on it.

f. Our deeds are known and exposed—our life and vibrancy will be examined—and if we are not complete, if we have been weighed, measured and found wanting—Jesus will tell us and He will hold us accountable

g. 1 Corinthians 3:11-12—“ For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

h. God looks at the life of the church and assesses its contribution to the Kingdom of God

i. God knows the community we live in—he knows the spiritual apathy, the indifference that exists here in Macomb

ii. Knows there are plenty of opportunities for defilement

iii. knows the culture and the mindset of the people

iv. sure, it’s hard to get people interested, sure it’s hard to get people committed

v. sure they may ridicule, persecute

vi. sure there’s so many other options and choices to take people’s attention

vii. God knows all that and they are not excuses for our lack of spiritual vitality. He also knows that the same attitudes have infected the church. Their apathy indifference does not excuse our apathy and indifference. This is a letter to the church—it is not a rant about them—“my goodness if only they would do this… if only they would quit that…”

viii. Attempt Great things for God—Expect Great things From God.

ix. our lack of fervor or passion manifests itself in not even attempting great things for God—because we don’t really believe He will do great things among us.

x. Has it been so long since God did something great in the life of this church that we have stopped expecting it? Stopped even looking forward to it, but resigned to the sad reality that “it’s always going to be this way—nothing’s ever going to change”

xi. WAKE UP—That is not the kind of church our Savior has called us to be that is a dead and dying church and we are called to be Alive. WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!

4. Jesus walks among us and knows whether we respond to His correction—vs. 3

a. When your alarm clock went off this morning—what did you do? Did you get up right away? How many of you hit the snooze button? One of the most evil and destructive inventions in history.

b. If we’re alert, we’ll remember what we have received—the Grace of God poured out on our Sinful existence

c. We will remember the Great Commission we have been given that is supposed to guide our church to reach people trapped in darkness

d. We Must OBEY that above all else. We will repent

e. But it is so easy to ignore that alarm clock—it is so easy to turn over and go right back to sleep.

f. If we’re not alert, He will come against us—even his unfaithful bride—like a thief—we won’t know the time, our deeds will be fully exposed, our lampstand can and will be removed. There comes a point—if we keep trying to hit the snooze button with Jesus—He will no longer try to wake us up.

g. When the oil reservoir leaks, when it is cracked and no longer powered by the oil—sure, you can try to repair it, but in many cases, it’s easier just to get a new lamp, than it is to try and fix a broken one. You need to know—the same can be said of churches. In many instances it is easier to plant a whole new church that doesn’t have the baggage than it is to revive a dying one.

h. Jesus walks among us and Knows whether we have responded to His correction—He knows whether we have woken up or whether we are still asleep.

5. Jesus walks among us and knows who are faithful—vs. 4

a. This is the hope and promise of the Remnant—there are those who are awake, even among those who are asleep.

b. They have not been defiled—especially in a Jewish culture—contact with something dead—made them unclean, made them incapable of participating in the worship at the Temple.

c. Not all descendants of Abraham/Israel are Israel

d. Not all sitting here in this building are genuine in their walk—are undefiled—polluted, contaminated

e. He knows the remnant, the faithful—the living, those whose works are complete

f. Do you remember when God told Gideon to gather an army and about 32,000 turned up? God said, “No, that’s too many for what I want to do.” Eventually, God took that number down to 300 men.

Those 300 men were much like God’s remnant—and God did more with those 300 committed men, than He could do with 31,700 mildly committed people.

g. They are worthy—not because they have earned it, but b/c they have put on the white robe given to them by X—

i. This is more than a black tie affair

ii. Rev. 7:9-- After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

iii. 7:14—made white in the Blood of the Lamb

iv. Invitees to the wedding banquet—Jesus provides the clothes—Rev. 19:8-- Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."

v. REV 16:15 "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."

h. Vs. 4—walk with me—“and He walks with me and He talks with me”—Jesus wants us to walk with him—there is nothing better—it will be just like it was back in the Garden

i. Coming to the Garden in cool of the day—a leisurely, pleasant stroll that is desired above all else

j. Vs. 5—Victors, dressed in white, their name never erased (never forgotten, never blotted out, never stricken from the record, never annulled), Acknowledged before God—special guest of honor

6. Jesus knows what kind of church we are today—He knows whether we are alive or whether we are living by reputation only. He knows whether you are sitting there right now angry at the possibility and suggestion we may be dying—still asleep in other words—or whether you are awake.

7. Jesus also knows whether you are a believer in reputation only—He knows whether you have put on the mask of Christianity

8. Is our light shining across the galaxy? Is your light shining across the galaxy?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Alive or Dead Church?

  1. What does a dead church look like?

  2. What does an alive church look like?

  3. What does a "faking it", reputation church look like?

  4. How do you tell the difference?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sermon--Thyatira--Revelation 2:18-29

Thyatira--So far, through the letters in Revelation, we’ve been looking at what Jesus has to say as He walks among the churches—many of their issues have been distant to us, and many of their problems find parallels in our lives and in our own church. Today is no different.

Compared to the city of Ephesus, Smyrna & Pergamum, Thyatira was a smaller city, but still very important as a trade center--untouched, unexcavated until 1968

Thyatira was on a major trade route and was well known for its trade guilds - there were carpenters, dyers, sellers of goods, tanners, weavers, tent makers, etc all making a living from their trade. You might remember Lydia in Philippi. She was a trader of fine cloth and came from Thyatira. She was in fact one of Paul’s first converts when he visited Thyatira on his second missionary journey (Acts 16). Acts 16:14 --“One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.”

Thyatira was also well know for it’s metals, particularly bronze—which is the combination of Copper and usually tin—that was used as jewelry or weaponry or art.

The trade and work in town was run by various guilds. Now these guilds were somewhat similar to our trade unions over the last 100 years. It was very difficult for the blue collar tradesmen and women to make a living unless they were a part of one of these guilds. They differed from trade unions, however, in that they were linked with the worship of other gods. Each guild had its particular patron/guardian god and as a member, you would be expected to attend all its functions and participate in its activities which included offerings, feasts and often immoral behavior—participation in the “faith” was essentially a part of your dues.

The members of the church in Thyatira were torn between making a living on the one hand which meant having to be part of the guilds and on the other hand staying faithful to Christ and his standards.

And it was into this town that Jesus walked. READ Rev. 2:18-29

Jesus is Described as having…

Eyes of flame

Creative Fire/Elemental Power—In Spiderman 2—the bad guy boasted he held the power of the sun in the palm of his hand, well—Jesus has a much greater power at His disposal and it is not an outside source—it is a part of His being. Our God, He is a Consuming Fire—tolerating no rivals, but also His eyes see right through you and me—eyes that purify and burn away our excuses

Feet of Burnished Bronze—radiating, glowing power—something the people would have been familiar with and would have meant something powerful to them—solid foundation. With those feet…

Jesus walks Among us and knows How We’ve Grown

Deeds, Love, faith, service, perseverance

He knows that they are greater now than at first

I would be thrilled to have this said of us here at UBC—that Jesus can look at us and say we are faithful—more now than 5, 10, 20, 40 years ago—that we have more faithfulness, more service, more endurance and perseverance—that we are Bringing Him More Glory Now than in the early days.

Jesus knows how we have grown.

He knows our thoughts, our past, our immaturity and he knows that we are not the same as we were when we first became disciples.

My faith is not what it was when I was 18. There are some interpretations that I used to be so sure couldn’t be understood another way that have been transformed in my thinking and my growing in Christ. There are some doctrines and teachings that I used to be unsure of that I am sure of now. There was a potential cockiness or arrogance I used to have with thinking I knew the full counsel of the Word of God that I have been humbled by. I used to believe I knew better than God on how I was going to fulfill my calling. I hope you can see growth in your life & faith.

Jesus wants us to grow—to give us fruit of the Spirit--Ephesians 1—prayer—so that you may know Him better. God wants to use all His blessing and All His empowerment for the purpose of knowing Him better and for making Him known in a more effective way.

God wants us to Grow up in our salvation

We are not meant to be immature, but mature, we are not meant to stay in the elementary teachings, but we are intended to understand the heart of God.

We are not meant to be more active at the beginning and less at the end—but our service, our love, our deeds, our desire to live for Christ is supposed to mature with age and experience. Service for Christ is not just for the young, the newbies, you who are mature are supposed to be showing the way, mentoring, discipling, raising up new leaders.

Don’t you want Jesus to be able to look at your journey of faith and say the same? “I’m proud of you—your deeds of late are greater than at first.”

As you grew, I gave you responsibility for more. As you grew, I gave you more opportunity to serve Me. Over the years, I’ve come to expect more from you—b/c to whom much is given, much will be required, or expected. And I’m seeing it in you!”

So if you think that now that you’ve been a Xn for awhile, you can kick back and take it easy. The more you know, the more you are accountable for you. Jesus wants to be able to say this—you are doing more for me b/c you are growing closer to me.

This is an amazing statement and one I hope you and I will be able to hear of our time here at UBC. Jesus was able to see their growth, but something was still wrong

Like an apple with a worm in it. This church looked good on the outside, but inside it was rotten or rotting—and this rotting steals the future of the church.

Jesus Walks Among Us and Knows What We Tolerate

A Church without a solid foundation is going to crumble. Church is not supposed to be about anything goes, anything new must be good, must be OK, anything that works, draws a crowd is not the measure of whether something has the approval of Jesus Christ.

We are not to be tossed in every direction by every wind of doctrine, we are to stay anchored to the Word of God and not popular opinion, not societal norms and expectations.

Not All Tolerance is Good! There are some things we should not tolerate in the church. There are some teachings that are inconsistent with faith in Christ. This woman was promoting several.

It is likely that this prophetess was teaching that it was alright to be part of the trade guilds - “After all,” she’d say “you need to make a living and God doesn’t expect you to starve. Don’t be worried, - God has told me its alright - It is alright to go and be a part of the guilds and participate in the immoral and idolatrous worship that occurs in their meetings - after all we live by grace and are not under the law any more.” And who were the rest of the church to disagree with what was being said - they weren’t prophets were they? They don’t have this new revelation from God.

Specific Issues had to do with:

Sex—we don’t need to follow what the Bible says about it—they didn’t know half of what we know today. Go ahead.

Food sacrificed to an idol—hey don’t worry about it—we know their gods aren’t real and besides—it’s for your job.

In this sense—eating food sacrificed to an idol is akin to full participation and acceptance and belief—by participating you are elevating whatever god and claiming it Lord, when you have already claimed Christ is Lord—Claiming 2 masters & Jesus said no can serve 2 masters—Luke 16:13 & Matt. 6:1

Right Doctrine is important—bad doctrine leads to bad behavior

The desire to approve or tolerate bad, sinful behavior has caused churches even denominations to change long accepted belief. When you study the pattern, in most modern cases

· Such change typically comes after the Rejection of Jesus as the “Way the Truth and the Life”,

· After the Rejection of the Bible as the Reliable, Authoritative, Sufficient Word of God;

· After they come to believe that only Some Scripture is God breathed—that some Scripture is no longer valid, that sees division between James and Paul, between Paul and Jesus

· After some new revelation, some tradition is built up over

Sinful behavior is tolerated in the Church and is justified by bad doctrine. So doctrine cannot be seen as irrelevant or boring—they both have major implications for the life of a believer and the church as a body.

Just like last week, this is the church in error over Belief & Behavior.

Sexual Immorality and food sacrificed to idols were both things that the rest of society approved of and said was normal. The Christians who said “NO” were the weird ones, the out of touch ones. Society would condemn Christians for saying anything to the contrary, would say they were wrong for not participating with them; would arrest them, would ridicule them, would execute them.

Romans 1:28-32

1 Peter 4:3-5

Now once again you may be sitting there thinking—“but what does that have to do with us—no one is teaching that we should eat food sacrificed to idols in order to keep our job. No one here, at least is advocating an anything goes sexual ethic

You mean no one in this room struggles with the demands of their job and the demands of their faith? No one struggles in their conscience thinking—“I wonder if I’ll get in trouble if I talk about this.” Or “Should I listen to my boss and alter this record—lie—in order to justify this expense—or do I remain true to my convictions.”—that’s quickly making the job an idol, a master to serve.

There are False Teachings & Attitudes that we tolerate even here at UBC—that in order for us to grow, must change

Matthew 28:19—The Great Commission

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Therefore YOU go and make disciples of all nations…

IF they Come, I’ll make Disciples—just don’t make me Go

If they Come, we’ll make MEMBERS and get them on the role but never worry about them again

If they Come, SOMEONE ELSE will teach them

IF they Come, we’ll teach them to obey SOME things—if they like them or really want to

When I’ve Got Time, I’ll Go

When I’ve Got the Money, I’ll Go

When I know they’ll Say Yes, I’ll Go

When I get the Gift of Evangelism, I’ll Go

If it’s Fun and entertaining for me, I’ll Go

Someone Younger Can Go

You Can’t Make Me Go

The longer you and I tolerate these false teachings on the Great Commission here at UBC, the faster we die as a congregation and the body of Christ.

Jesus Walks Among Us and Gives Us Time to Repent—vs. 21

God gives time to change—He calls us to repent, just like He called this woman. Are we Willing or Unwilling to Repent of our Selfishness,

Repent of our Self-Indulgence,

Repent of our Embarrassment,

Repent of our Pride,

Repent of our Wrong Priorities,

Repent of our Unresponsiveness

The Danger for us comes if we are Unwilling

This woman was to be cast on a bed of suffering for her false teaching and leading astray. Leading others into false teaching is a dangerous venture. This isn’t the kind of thing where you don’t get something verse exactly right while teaching Sunday School. This is deliberate and intensive false teaching—denying of the basics of the faith—the divinity of Christ, this is including immoral sexual practices and saying they are a part of true worship. See 2nd Peter 2

Not all Suffering is the same

Sure—Sin Brings Suffering, but then some of these Churches have suffered because of Faithfulness

Bad Judgment Brings Suffering, but then sometimes making the Right Choice brings Suffering, Condemnation or Ridicule

When we suffer because of Unwillingness, b/c of Bad Doctrine & Bad Behavior—the heart of God always wants to bring us to a place of Repentance. Suffering for all these things is Redemptive—but it does not last forever—there will be a time when God sees our Unwilling heart and will give us over to the full effect of our sinfulness—ultimately that is death.

“Only the Good Die Young”—is not true. Bad Doctrine, Bad Behavior has consequences for the false teacher, has consequences for the ones who believe it and the church that tolerates it.

It leads to suffering in spirit (guilt), mind (seared conscience), and body with pain, injury, disease, you name it. Such error can even contribute to an early death—but not just the individual, but whole churches can perish due to false teaching.

Jesus Walks Among us and Has Given us Time to Repent—but it doesn’t last forever.

Jesus walks among us and knows that Secrets are Being whispered

The kind of secrets that says

It’s not enough to love Jesus—you must do something to earn His love

There’s so much more to God than what you read in the Bible—you need to find it in this new revelation—you need to visit this particular church—you need to listen to this famous TV Preacher

Satan’s So-Called-Deep Secrets

Secrets are powerful—they key on a base desire to know something others don’t know—when the educational commercials say, “Knowledge is Power”, we believe it, especially with secrets—Insider Information, Insider Trading, Trade Secrets of the Rich & Powerful, Conspiracy Theories, Area 51, or As Seen On Oprah— “The Secret”—which is really just repackaged Gnosticism, positive thinking new age techniques from the 60’s & 80’s repackaged for the 21st Century.

Maybe the ones—you cannot speak against a sin you yourself have not experienced—or if you really want to know the Grace of God—you must experience the fullness of sin

Jesus Walks Among Us & Searches Hearts & Minds

Belief –What you believe matters


Motives—how you live matters—why you live matters

He uses the Word of God to point it out to us

He uses faithful people to confront us

He uses suffering to get out attention

He uses worship & prayer to awaken our spirits

Jesus Walks Among Us & Sees the Faithful Remnant

Even if society is going the other direction—even if everyone else says you’re backward, says you’re just behind the times, if your foundation is the clear, Word of God

Remain True to your Convictions—Hold On—Persevere

There is no other burden for you—--there is enough persecution with faithfulness, enough ridicule being biblical

Jesus does not look on you with Contempt or Disappointment


Authority over the nations

The ones now persecuting you will be held accountable and you will be a judge over them—they will look into the face of their victims and see justice done

Morning Star—Jesus is the Bright Morning Star—Revelation 22:16—“I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the Bright Morning Star”