A few weeks ago, Vicky and I went to the IBSA Annual Conference and as much as I hate to admit it—in the middle of a rather unimpressive sermon, my mind caught on to a single verse that’s very relevant to the series on the churches from Revelation.
—2 Timothy 4:8-- Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
The question that came to my mind was
Do I Love His Appearing? Does the reality of the Return of Christ for His Bride Thrill me? Jesus was speaking to & through the Apostle John to a group of churches that were struggling to come to terms with their place in a world they were convinced would be over soon. They longed for Christ’s appearing b/c of the great injustices they were seeing, for the pain and torment they were feeling, for the anguish. The return of Christ was and is a Very Real Event—and Jesus knows this and He sends them these letters—He preserved them in Scripture so that we as this church might benefit.
We as the church examine ourselves in light of the letters in Revelation.
In essence--what if Jesus wrote a letter to our church like the ones that appear in Revelation? What would He say?
If you love His appearing you will:
1) Hear His Encouragements
a. Almost every letter begins with a word of encouragement. Jesus has something explicitly good to say about 5 of the 7 churches.
b. You know you Love His Appearing When:
i. Ephesus—Persevere in your Hard Work, you do not tolerate Wickedness, but test all teachers for truth
ii. Continue to Bear your Afflictions and remain faithful even when Lacking
iii. Remain True to His Name & you don’t Renounce your Faith
iv. Growing & Doing More than at First
v. Remember the faith that you Received & obey it
vi. Keep His Word & do Not Deny His Name
vii. Fulfill Your Purpose
c. He will tell you what you need to know
d. He will tell you what you need to do—be faithful, overcome, proclaim
e. He will tell you what you need to hear
f. He will tell you what you need to say
g. If you are doing what God has called you to do
h. A demonstration that you love His appearing is that you want to see more and more people ready for that appearing, more and more people looking forward to it, more and more people ready to
i. When you are struggling in the face of great opposition, when you are depressed and wondering if it’s worth it, if you are making a difference—know that Jesus sees and recognizes your faithfulness—no matter the appearances of success, if you are being faithful, not taking advantage, not being lazy, not taking for granted your calling then Hear His Encouragement.
j. If you are doing what God has called you to do… you’d better keep doing it.
k. I don’t care who tells you to stop, who tells you to be quiet, who tells you you’re not doing good enough, who tries to discourage you—opposition which may come from outside the church but can also come from within the church if you are Faithful to the calling of God—Hear His Encouragement—Keep Doing What You Are Doing—Keep Being Faithful—Hear His Well Done—His opinion is the only one that matter
l. If you have the Approval of God, you don’t need the Approval of Men.
m. God knows our situation and wants to encourage you and me in our situation. He knows your works and all that you have been doing to serve Him and make Him known. He knows the spiritual darkness of our community, the apathy, the indifference, the coldness, the hibernation toward the things of God of so many living in Macomb—and how you and I are called to be the light that shines into a dark place—that is our calling as the church—to be the light—to fulfill our Mission—and in fulfilling that mission as a church—each of you has an individual calling and gifting to strengthen the church to do what God has called us to do. So hear the encouragement—if you Love and Look forward to your calling, then:
n. Obey Your Calling With Passion
o. Obey Your Calling with Faithfulness
p. Obey Your Calling with Persistence & Endurance—don’t quit just because it gets hard or not everyone understands it.
What Would Jesus Encourage Us About?
2) Loving Fellowship—people are welcomed and there is a strong desire for a sense of family love & connection
3) Sound Doctrine—we are unified around the essentials of the faith without being uniformists—we exemplify the traditional Christian phrase—“in the essentials—unity, in the non-essentials—liberty, in all things—charity”
4) generosity—UBC is a very giving church—I know not everyone tithes, I know your bills scare you into holding back—but I also know that when someone is in need—you will be generous.
a. Hear His Encouragements but also…
5) Heed His Warnings
a. Why should we?
b. Because you do want to be ready—heed His warnings because you want to accomplish the task, the calling He has given you. if you’re not doing what God has called you to do then Heed the Warning—Be about His business, the Business of the Kingdom—
c. Also, heed His Warnings b/c there is no perfect church. There are many things for Jesus to be pleased with—but every single church this side of heaven will need some correction—Always remember, this warning, this rebuke is a proof of His love—those He loves, He rebukes and disciplines—according to 3:19. So the fact that He warns and rebukes is not a bad thing—it is proof that He wants more for us.
d. If you’re not doing what He has called you to do—watch out—Shape Up—Stop Drop & Roll
e. If you’re not doing what He has called you to do—heed the Warning b/c Jesus wants you to fulfill His calling!
f. Symptoms that you don’t love His appearing:
i. You have Forsaken Your First Love and have stopped doing what you did at first—prayer, bible study, sharing, service
ii. You are Compromising your faith in Belief & Behavior excusing yourself and becoming a stumbling block for other believers.
iii. You have a reputation of being alive, but you’re really going through the motions and are in need of CPR
iv. You are not fulfilling your purpose—neither hot nor cold—remember, being cold in this context is not a bad thing—just like it’s OK for you to not have every gift that some other believer has—if your purpose and function is being cold—then do it. A symptom that you don’t love His appearing is that you have a Gift, you have a Calling and you’re not doing it—you’re resisting it—you’re ignoring it—you’re afraid of it.
g. Remember your first love or your lampstand/church will die
h. Stop Compromising your faith in Belief or Behavior and becoming a stumbling block for other believers or Jesus will oppose us to defend the truly faithful
i. Stop tolerating sinful beliefs and behaviors—no matter someone’s reputation or position, stand for the truth or everyone who follows them will suffer.
j. WAKE UP—if you love His appearing—then you can’t be dead and indifferent. The more we are lukewarm, the more you compromise our beliefs and behaviors, tolerate the attitudes of this world—the less you love and are looking forward to His appearing
k. We are in danger having lost our first love—the energy, the passion with which this church was built needs to be restored—we have such generosity, but
l. Peter lets us know that it is our faith that is more important to God than anything. He wants to refine it, to make it pure, to ensure that you are the best disciple you can be—He doesn’t want to see us going down the wrong road—so He will warn, He will seek to restore our Love—has your love grown cold? Have you forgotten your first love?
What Would Jesus Warn Us About?
1. A Tight Christian Family —Group Dynamics—a tight group can quickly become a closed, self-serving group--can easily dampen the burden for the lost and hurting. Our sense of family must never make us a closed group to new people with new ways to serve—with real hurts and struggles
2. Financial generosity must never take the place of hands on ministry to advance the kingdom of God
3. don’t forget your first & most important love—do what you did at first with more mature motives Now than then.
4. We are in Danger of being Distracted from Our Mission—Missions is not something you have to go off to Africa or Asia to do—Missions happens when you walk across the street to talk to a neighbor, you can fulfill the mission of the church when you go to the store, get in a conversation—don’t make an appointment for someone else to –we exist as a church not to serve ourselves but to Magnify His Name—to Advance His Kingdom—to Make Disciples—to see that others Long for His Appearing
6) Hold On to His Promise—don’t lose sight of it.
a. To him who overcomes…
b. The Tree of Life that had once been denied will be yours. The paradise from which humanity was thrown out—you’ll once again be able to walk in.
c. The Provision of God—the sustaining manna—even in the driest, most depressing times in life, God promises to be all you need—more than that He will give you the White Stone—the All Access Pass to the Creator of the Universe
d. You will See the Great Reversal—all the things that are wrong in this world will be restored to their rightful place under the command and leadership of God. You are promised the Morning Star—which is Christ Himself.
e. You will have the opportunity to walk hand in hand with your Savior and be Announced and even Celebrated before the Father and all the Angels
f. You will be made into a Pillar in the Temple of God and you will never have to leave the Temple of God—you will be a part of raising up the Temple—opening up the temple for God’s Glory to fill
g. Hold on to the Promise that says the Throne of Authority and Royalty is yours.
h. All of that is promised in the Second Coming of Christ—there are rewards—a crown of righteousness in store for you and me.
7) Do you love His appearing?
a. I hope that you haven’t lost sight of the vision of Christ’s Return—
b. Do you have a Vision of His Appearing? What happens when a people loses their vision?
c. Proverbs 29:18—“Where there is no Vision, the people perish” —where the church has no vision of our Savior’s Appearing, no Vision of our Mission and How to Fulfill it—no love for either—then we will perish.
d. Confusion—With NO Vision we won’t know What we’re supposed to be doing until He comes?
8) be like the servants, who when given talents while the master is away—doubles what has been given to them—because they loved their master—don’t be the servant who so feared the master’s return that he buried his talent in the sand—unused, unproductive.
9) you were never meant to be unused—you were never meant to be unproductive—find your passion
a. This vision of His appearing will lead us directly into
b. If you are not saved, if Jesus is not your Savior and Lord of your life, if you have not had your sins forgiven, then there’s no way you can love His appearing—you will be and should be afraid of it. The book of Revelation should freak you out. If you are nervous about seeing the Face