Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #337 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Revelation 3 today and our focus is on What Does Jesus Have to Say to The Church? What is Jesus Saying Right Now to His Church? What Kinds of Churches Does Jesus Commend: Great and Powerful Churches or Weak and Poor Churches? We are a daily 10ish minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Three more letters from Jesus to His churches to read today. Yes, they were dictated almost 2000 years ago, which might make you assume that they aren’t current, or maybe even stale, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not sure God is outside of time, but I am sure that God’s relationship with time is quite different from our relationship with it. We are subject to time – from the richest, to the most famous, to the healthiest, to the poorest and the sickest, we all have the same amount of time in a day. God, however, is not at all subject to time. He is the Lord of Time – He is over time. Time has no impact or effect on God, and time bends completely to the will of God and to His Son Jesus. And, because “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.” in a very real sense, these letters from Jesus to His churches are less than two days old – basically hot off the presses. These are Words of truth, comfort, instruction, warning and encouragement to us and they are as fresh today as they were in 90 A.D.
One other note, before we look at each letter individually. I count that Jesus wrote 7 letters to His churches. Of those 7 letters, 5 contain rebukes, warnings and calls to repent. Among the strongest of those rebukes are words to Ephesus – a church with apparently great doctrine and theology, but in danger of being shut down as a church – by none other than Jesus Himself. Also, challenging and stinging words to the rich church at Laodicea and the supposedly “alive” church at Sardis. Jesus tells “rich” Laodicea, that that are factually poor, naked and wretched in His eyes, and He tells “lively” Sardis that they are actually dead. Ouch. Two churches, however, are met with only encouragement and comfort from King Jesus – no negative words. Those two churches are extremely poor Smyrna (“9 I know your affliction and poverty, but you are rich. Rev. 2:9) and extremely weak Philadelphia “Look, I have placed before you an open door that no one can close because you have but little power” Rev. 3:8 Yet another example of the truth Jesus proclaimed in Luke 16:15, “for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” Let’s read our passage and then discuss.
Fifth letter: Sardis. I have long marvelled that there are still churches named “Sardis” in the United States, including some in the city I grew up in. This is surprising, because the church at Sardis in Revelation is really challenged by Jesus, “I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead. ” Rev 3:2 In fact, the most positive thing Jesus says about the church at Sardis is, “4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothes, and they will walk with me in white, because they are worthy.” Revelation 3:4. This tells us this ultimate value of reputation: in spiritual terms, a reputation isn’t worth much, is it? Sardis church was supposedly alive and lively, but Jesus said, quite flatly, that they were dead. What was His prescription for this church? “3 Remember, then, what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent. If you are not alert, I will come like a thief, and you have no idea at what hour I will come upon you.” Revelation 3:3 The cure for spiritual deadness, then, is to remember God’s Word – KEEP it, guard it, treasure it, and repent so that you turn back to following it. That will bring life.
Sixth letter: Philadelphia. As already mentioned, this was a church of very little power. They were apparently under severe persecution from a group of Jewish people who have rejected Jesus and His Gospel. They were struggling greatly, and yet the Lord gives this assessment of the church: “yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” We might have looked and thought well of doctrinally sound Ephesus church, alive Sardis church and rich Laodicea church, and had pity on weak Philadelphia church and poor Smyrna church…but Jesus sees things radically different, doesn’t He? Jesus promises to this church that He will keep them from a time of trial coming to the world and He urges them to keep holding on to His Word and Himself. 10 Because you have kept my command to endure, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is going to come on the whole world to test those who live on the earth.11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one takes your crown. Rev 3:10-11
Seventh letter: Laodicea. There are a lot of Sardis churches still around, but very few churches named Laodicea – though that number is not zero. Apparently we have a Laodicea Baptist church right down the street from the Bible 2021 bunker in Oakland, California. That is surprising, because Jesus gives one of the starkest threats/promises in the Bible to this particular church, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before. “16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16 What is it that marks this church as so lukewarm, and therefore repulsive to Jesus? He explains it briefly in vs. 17: “17 For you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” This church seems to have an inordinate trust in their wealth and resources, and their confession is that they “need nothing.” Jesus’ response to this attitude is crystal clear, “18 I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous and repent. 20 See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus says to His church: Don’t trust in worldly gold and resources – even if you have all the money in the world, you still have great need….instead, He calls His church to SEEK HIM for spiritual gold without impurity and spiritual ointment for our eyes so that we can see as He sees – not with natural eyes, but with eternal eyes. He calls this church – and many modern churches – to turn away from self-reliance and money-reliance and to wholeheartedly turn to Him. He says to His church that He is standing OUTSIDE (not in their midst) and He is knocking. This church – and all churches who overtrust in themselves and their resources – are not churches with Jesus at the center, but human organizations with Jesus on the outside. So must we be zealous and repent and open the door to our Savior.
Bible Memory passage for the month of December: Revelation 5:12, “They said with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
The Bible 2021 Podcast Is a ministry of Valley Baptist Church A Baptist Church in Salinas, California.
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