Have you ever noticed that whenever Jesus described us as His children in the Gospels, somewhere nearby He spoke of fruitfulness?
As we open to the Matthew 13 Parable of the Soils, He said His born-again believers bear three levels of fruit: some 30, some 60, and others 100-fold. Look at v.8 and then at v. 23.
In the John 15 Vine and the Branches discourse, He said that He is vitally interested in us bearing “more” fruit. In fact, John 15 states more clearly than anywhere else in the Gospels what Christ’s constant desire is for us as His children: glorifying God equals fruitful lives.
God is a Farmer, His Word calls us His field (I Cor. 3:9), and our lives are searched by Him for fruit, so He can harvest from our lives. That is what we will see as we open to Revelation 2 this morning.
Much like the farmers all around us and the many gardeners among us, if you want a good crop this year, the field needs to be prepared and worked.
Jesus desires, from each member of His Body, a life that is plowed, planted and watered, so that we produce a harvest of fruit that pleases Him.
The last book of the Bible seems to be the most fascinating and revealing of all the books of the Bible[i]for believers. Nowhere outside of the first three chapters of Revelation is there such a concentration of church-related truth and they are the single most important source of understanding Christ’s present focus and work of any Book of God’s Word.
In the Four Gospels we find a quadrophonic symphony of Christ’s Earthly life and ministry. Acts shows what the Spirit of God, using the Word of God, can do through normal people. Romans through Jude records the doctrinal truths and foundation for everything in our new lives as believers, when we become a part of Christ’s Church.
We are part of the gathering, of all His obedient children, for Jesus asked us, as believers, to keep gathering to worship Him until He comes. So, there is perhaps no portion of Scripture more vital for us as we live out our lives on Earth than the last book of the Bible. In the final book of God’s Word we find that:
Revelation is the Culmination & Conclusion
This book comes last because it is not only the Conclusion of God’s Word, it is also the Culmination of God’s Plan. We see everything that started in Genesis: the Perfect Paradise of God, the Rebellion and Fall of the Universe into Sin, the Flood of Water Destroying the rebels, and the choosing and saving of the People of the Covenant-all in their final form in Revelation.
There was a church in the New Testament world that was doing all the right things for the Lord; but there was one problem: they were doing all the right things for the wrong reasons. Jesus addresses that problem in His first letter to the Churches in Revelation 2.
If you were arriving into the harbor to visit the church of Revelation 2 in Ephesus this morning, there is only one sight that would catch your eye. Not the bustling harbor teeming with boats, not the roads lined with the exotic spices and goods from the east. No: it would be the lustrous golden gleam of the Temple of Diana.
As we open to Revelation 2:1-7, we are reading the personal message in Christ’s last words to His Church. These verses are part of a warning about what tripped up the earliest generations of believers. Jesus wanted them, and us, to stay on the right path.
These churches were real gatherings of people 2,000 years ago. That means that Jesus saw seven different types of believers gathering at that moment in the history of His church. Have you ever thought about that?
Every believer back then was like one of these seven types of believers addressed by these seven letters we are studying. In some part of the end of the First Century AD there were Ephesian types of believers (2:1-7); Smyrna types of believers (2:8-11); Pergamos types of believers (2:12-17); Thyatira types of believers (2:18-29); Sardis types of believers (3:1-6); Philadelphia types of believers (3:7-13); and Laodicea types of believers (3:14-22).
As we open to Revelation 2:8-11 we are opening to the second of Christ’s seven personal letters to individual churches of the late First Century. We looked at them as a group, but now we are taking a look at each individual church.
As we read these words, the historical context is that the Church at Smyrna was going through the second wave of persecutions that the Early Church had to endure.
A Short History of Early Church Persecution
Someone told me this week they could save the first half hour of my messages by just “Google-ing” what I talk about, and implied they wanted me to just stick to reading the text of the Scripture. But for the rest of you that are willing, if you will bear with me, I’d like to give you a sanctified mind’s analysis of Church History: something that they could never get on Google.
As we open to Revelation 2:12-17, remember that Revelation 1-3 is all about:
Seeing Jesus Gathering with His Local Churches
Jesus wants us to know He is walking among us and watching our lives.
The simple message Jesus Christ gives us is that His Highest Priority right now is gathering with His local church. Remember where John first saw Jesus in Revelation 1:12? He was walking around His local churches (that is what v. 20 says that those lampstands represent: Christ’s local churches).
As we open to Revelation 2:18-29, we come to the letter to the Church at Thyatira.
That term, Thyatira, is usually a bit foreign to us outside of this chapter. To get our bearings we could also say, we are opening to the geographic area that received more of the books (epistles) of the New Testament than any other geographic area of the ancient world.
Have you ever thought about where these letters we hold were first sent?
God Sent More New Testament Letters Here than Anywhere Else
Here’s the lineup if you haven’t stopped to do the math.
All of us in Christ’s Church are called from darkness to light at salvation; and we are saved from the power of Satan; and we are being transformed into saints of God. That process in called consecration. Last week as we looked at the Church at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29), we saw that their consecrated lives were slipping because of compromise with sin and false doctrine.
Jesus called them to repent, to have a change of mind that would lead to a change in behavior. The letter to Thyatira is a challenge from Christ for His children of faith to do what is needed: repent of compromising their lives of sanctification.
110911AM CLW-20 Sardis.doc Christ’s Last Word to His Church SERIES: Sardis: Where the Great Physician Felt their Pulse and Declared Them Dead Revelation 3:1-6 This morning Revelation 3 begins with the second shortest letter of Christ’s Seven, written to Sardis, hometown of Aesop’s Fables and Midas’ Touch. When we read these words we are […]
This morning we look at what should become the model for us at Calvary. Revelation 3 introduces us to the church that pleased Jesus Christ, and thus had a His blessings poured upon all that they did for Him.
Of all the seven churches, Philadelphia, the sixth church, can be described as the Faithful Church and stands out as the model. My prayer would be that we as a church here at Calvary would be seen by our Lord as a church filled with Philadelphia-like saints, who gather and live out Christ in this faithful way.
The promises Christ gave them, the insights He shares with them, and the lessons He offers to us who listen are unparalleled in any of the other letters.
When Jesus Christ introduces Himself to those precious and faithful saints in Revelation 3:7, He makes one of the greatest promises ever made. They, like us, lived in an uncertain world, and more than to any other church, Jesus explains His power in a way we all can grasp and hold onto today.
We each need to hear and understand and hold onto by faith:
The Most Amazing Promise
In a world of uncertainties, lurking disasters, constant unknowns, and endless potential dangers-Jesus Christ told these believers so much like us: here is truth you can hold tightly.
Perhaps the most unlikely words to be uttered by the Lord Jesus Christ are in our Bibles this morning. Jesus says in modern terms of the church in Laodicea, “You make me sick!”
As we open to Revelation 3:14-22, Jesus writes a letter that all scholars conclude is the most piercing, stinging and scathing letter He ever wrote to any church. That means:
Laodicea is the Worst Church
Today, and every day of our lives, the Cross of Christ is the source of our power to live in this world of sin.
Living a life that glorifies God is called sanctified living.
Sanctification means that God is leading and controlling our lives.
As we return to Christ’s Last Words to His Church, we find that His Church at:
Laodicea was not Living in the Shadow of Christ’s Cross
For two generations, all the local churches around Laodicea had savored the truths about the Cross of Christ. Today as Christ’s Church we gather to hear again for our generation His warning to: Never stop living in the shadow of the Cross.
As we turn to Romans, think of this: Christ’s death on the Cross is the heart of our salvation. His substitutionary death paid the penalty of our sin, removed the record of our transgressions, and purchased our eternal salvation.
Christ’s life, now lived in and for us, opens to us His sanctifying power to save us from sin’s destructive power and keep us useful for his glory.
Life for us as followers of Christ is all about Listening to Jesus. Jesus said that as His sheep we need to hear Him and follow Him.
Listening to Jesus
Jesus came on an unannounced visit to a church in central Asia Minor two thousand years ago and then wrote a startling letter back to them about their deteriorating spiritual health. They really should have listened to Him.
As we open to Revelation 3:17, we are opening to Jesus the Christ of Christmas, talking about something so timely to Christmas, so relevent to our choices this season, and so right where we are today that it is uncanny.
Jesus is addressing the condition that the believers at Laodicea had gotten themselves into. They were simply described by Christ as: loaded down with stuff.
They could afford all that stuff, they bought all those items with their hard-earned money. They stored their possessions carefully, and used them regularly. But, what the Laodiceans are confronted with by Christ is not that they had so much, but the danger that comes when we have too much stuff.
There’s only one portion of God’s Word, specifically written to the Church, by Jesus Christ: Rev. 2&3. Join me there as we to continue systematically exame Christ’s challenges to this, the seventh and final of the churches.
If you had traveled to visited friends or family in Laodicea, three things would have stood out to you in the First Century. These three unique features to this city, are the framework of Christ’s words we are examining today in Revelation 3:18. These could be called:
Laodicea’s Three Key Industries
One of the greatest works of God in salvation was opening our blind eyes to see.
Protecting spiritual sight is the final of the three elements we are to deliberately pursue, according to Christ’s Last Words. Jesus counsels His Church in life-long, spiritual vision-care, promoting healthy eyes.
Christ Desires Us
To See Clearly
Please open with me to Rev. 3, and listen again to Jesus, telling the church at Laodicea what they needed to have lives that pleased Him. Please give attention to the public reading of Scripture.
As we open to Christ’s last words, we have come to the last church He addresses in Revelation 3:19. Here in the last words to the last church we find a grand summary of the entire life of the believer, reflecting the theme of most of the New Testament epistles.
In other words, Jesus ends His words to His church asking us to live a life of constant repentence, we are to avoid getting lax about sin. V. 19 brings us to:
Challenge Seven: Jesus wants us to Repent of any Spiritual Laxity
v. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
Jesus changes the tone of His Voice as we open to Revelation 3:20. After seven rebukes to the most disobedient church of the seven, Laodicea is hearing something amazing. Jesus makes them an offer that is unbelievable. Jesus invites anyone who wants to spend time with Him, face-to-face and one-on-one, to join Him for the most refreshing meal of the day: the unhurried evening meal that every laboring person longed for after a hard day’s work, and every rich person looked forward to as the best time of the day.
One of the things I love about the Lord is that He always saves the best for last. Unlike the world whose joys run out and fade, God’s path that shines brighter each day we walk it (Pr. 4:18).
Just like when Jesus turned the water into wine, all the guests said that the best had been saved for the last. Just like the promise to those who stay close to the Lord in Psalm 92, our God is the God who gives better and better joys so that those at the end surpass all others. As we turn to Rev. 3:21-22 we find that once again, our God has saved the best for last.
This morning we are looking back at where we’ve been. Much like getting home from a trip and spending time looking at the pictures that you took while traveling.
We have invested the past year, looking at the only part of God’s Word dictated by Christ, for the express purpose of: being sent to His Church, being read by His Church, and being obeyed by His Church.
There is no part of the Bible so clear, so personal, and so direct: as these three chapters. What exactly did we find in Revelation? We found that:
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Each of us here today became Christ’s disciple the moment of our salvation. Disciples are Christ’s sheep, who hear His voice, and follow Him. Followers are disciples, disciples are believers, and believers are Christians, and Christians have been born again at the moment they were saved. So we gather as God’s family, saved by grace, through faith, the moment we called upon the Name of the Lord.
Communion is when we gather as Christ’s Body, to declare that Christ is the center of our lives, and we are His disciples. We celebrate by reaffirming: Christ’s death in our place, His burial with our sins, and His resurrection for our endless life, is the heart of our life here on Earth each day.
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When we were born again, we become citizens of Heaven. Salvation was when we entered and began to live in the Kingdom of God, while still living here on Earth. That tension between our citizenship in Heaven, and our stay here on Earth is what so much of the New Testament is written about.
There are three truths that will transform how we look at our calling here on Earth as believers. These three truths we all need to know if we are to master the discipline of disciple-making. Here are those truths:
1. Jesus Taught that Salvation was Coming Under God’s Kingdom & Rule
2. The Apostles Taught that Salvation was Coming Under God’s Kingdom & Rule
3. Disciple-makers Understand that Salvation was Coming Under God’s Kingdom & Rule
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Today, each of us believers gathered here, represent what God began at Pentecost. We are the local, visible gathering of the Church that Christ Jesus is building.
Following Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension the most amazing event of all of human history began at Pentecost.
The Church was born in Acts 2, as the Holy Spirit began to apply the sacrifice of Christ Jesus to doomed earthlings, making them sons and daughters of God.
As we open to Ephesian 5:18, we are learning what it means to Get Full, Stay Full & Live Full of God’s Spirit. This may be one of the most vital topics, in the Bible, for any believer.
Sometimes, when we study a topic as massive as the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we need to remind ourselves why this study matters. For a moment think of the record we find in Acts.
Have you ever noticed how clearly God personally communicated with the characters of Christmas? God explains things to them, shows them when and where to go, warns them of dangers, and arranges amazing meetings for them. What a wonderful way to live with God communicating so clearly & powerfully.
God is really into how we are dressed and what we wear.
Paul explains that truth as he makes a powerful statement in Romans 13:14 (NKJV), look at it with me for a moment:
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Last week we began our opening series of the year: an examination of the Spiritual Exercises Paul was inspired to write to Timothy in 1st Timothy 4.
As we turn there, think about the magnitude of what we are about to do. We are downstream twenty centuries from the first giving of these exercises, but they still work. These were the disciplines or training patterns that were invented by God to deepen and strengthen His hold upon my life. These are:
TIMELESS & POWERFUL DISCIPLINES
As we each stand at the doorway of a New Year, it is always a time of reflection, resolutions, and thoughts about what we really want to focus upon in the days ahead. This feeling is not new, it almost seems that God built into the seasons of both the Earth and of human life this element of pause, reflection, and renewal.
Just as the burst of life in Spring, and the flourishing of Summer into the harvest of Autumn, leads into the quietness and slowness of Winter to prepare and reflect upon the burst of Spring. So each New Year we pause to think about how to focus on what really matters. That is what this series is about:
LEARNING WHAT REALLY MATTERS TO GOD
One of the greatest dangers we face each day as believers is slowly allowing God’s influence over our lives to wane. This condition makes God weightless in our lives. He no longer weighs upon every thought, every choice, and every action of our day.
I wonder how many of us this morning really think that this message is for us. Before we dive in, perhaps we should do a little test for what may be called:
THE GREAT DISCONNECT
Everything in the Universe needs recharging except God; only God is self-existent. Of all creatures, we are most fragile, and most need to be renewed by God.
Today we come to the second exercise Paul assigns to Timothy. We first saw that Paul’s hope for the future growth and health of Christ’s church rested with individuals who could guard against false doctrines and false teachers.
We have been examining the Discipline of Truth: that God is the source of truth, and that we are to know and defend His truth. So that leads us to ask: What are the Biblical Convictions—of a Citizen of Heaven, while living on Earth?
If I were to apply the truths or doctrines of the Scriptures as far as they relate to the current climate in human society, I would say that God has revealed Himself in His Word as:
GOD is Pro-Life—God is opposed to Abortion and Euthanasia. He is the Creator of Life, the One who grants conception.
GOD is Pro-Marriag
Do troubles and trials push you toward God – or away?
Today, look back over your week. How is your spiritual health? Has it been a week with any trials, troubles, and struggles? Did pressures increase at work, at home, in your health or finances? And then what happens inside of you? Did you cry out to the Lord, fall upon His grace, turn from any wicked way? Or did you seethe in anger, wallow in self-pity, or worst of all harden your heart to spiritual things?
The test of pruning (which is affirmative) and chastening (which is disciplinary) is in our response.
That is one of the simplest ways to test what is going on in your life.
Pruning always draws us closer, chastening initially can push us away.
Today God wants to know how serious we are about following Him, as we open to 1 Timothy 4:7-10. God’s Word is explaining to us that we have an appointment for a workout in the gym. God Himself wants to train us in how to live, walk, and grow in Christ. The Discipline of Integrity means we choose to do what God’s Word says we are supposed to do.
As Paul continues to relay God’s message to each of us, we remember from last time Paul used the highest level of emphasis that is possible to convey in the Greek language. Remember those bright colored words that stand for the emphasis God placed on them grammatically?
God’s Word teaches us a doctrine called “believer’s baptism” which means that: God has only designed baptism to be applied to believers. Believer’s Baptism started when Jesus Christ said that the way that people were to declare God’s ownership of their lives after they were saved, was when they were baptized in His Name. Jesus included this baptism of believers into the plan for the church.
Jesus came into the world to seek and to save the lost; and that is what it says as we open to Luke 19:10. Jesus spent three plus years talking to groups, and individuals, pointing them to salvation. Then He died for sinners, commending God’s love towards us, as Paul said. That is the heart of our Savior. That is the love of Christ. Jesus is still seeking and saving the lost, every day, all over the world; and He will keep doing that until the last moments of human life on Earth before the end.
The Eternal, Infinite God of the Universe is a Savior, and offers to anyone who will call upon His Name some amazing, supernatural transformations within. That is what the Gospel has been doing from the start: changing humans from the inside out. That is what Paul watched happen across the pagan world of the Roman province of Asia.
SALVATION: THE MIRACLE FROM GOD
Salvation is also the most amazing miracle that we get to see up close throughout our lives as believers. That we were even saved is in itself is a miracle of God’s grace; and those around us who are saved are also part of a constant stream of miracle we get to see and touch personally through life. Getting to disciple a miraculously saved individual is such an encouragement for our faith and walk.
From God’s perspective all humans are born into this world infected with a blinding, crippling virus that left alone: leads to eternal death in darkness and endless pain. So as God looks down He sees us all sitting blindly in the dark on the edge of a deadly chasm. Salvation is when He opens our eyes and turns us from sinful darkness lovers: to God loving and following saints.
Of the millions and millions and millions of people that lived before and during the time period of 15 centuries when God’s Word was written, the vast majority are nameless. People were born, lived, and died without most of the rest of humanity before or after them even knowing their names. The Washington DC think tank called the Population Reference Bureau calculates that by the time of the first century over 40 billion humans had lived and died.
God has given us an amazing picture of salvation in Acts. Salvation has only one Door (Christ), but has many descriptions (these accounts). Every one of us who comes to Christ, finds that He does what these accounts describe when He enters our lives.
God wants to use people. He provides everything needed. All God wants is willingness mixed with humility. When He finds that mix there is no limit to what God can do.
GOD WANTS TO USE US
Paul is an example of the limitless ways God can, did, and continues to use Paul. As God already told us in 1 Chronicles 16:9, His eyes are searching today, as they have always been, looking for those who will seek Him wholeheartedly. God found a whole-hearted servant in Paul. Just the fact that we are reading this account is quite a testimony to what God can do if we invite Him to control our lives.
As we open to John 10 this morning, we look at the very foundation of Christianity.
Whose birth do we celebrate as God with us, Immanuel? Jesus Christ the Lord.
Who lived the only perfect human life ever lived? Jesus Christ the Lord.
Who dies a substitutionary, atoning death on the Cross of Calvary? Jesus Christ the Lord.
We are to go through life as the Great Commission says, leading people to follow Who? Jesus Christ the Lord.
In Romans 15, Paul who had never been to Rome was writing to the church there and commending them on their living out the truth of Christ. He describes many elements of their lives that were what he noted as good, healthy, and part of a normal life of one supernaturally saved.
Mature, normal, healthy believers display compassion for believers who differ with their convictions (Romans 15:1-3).
Discipleship is Explaining What God Has Said
Discipleship is all about explaining what God’s Word says about God’s desires for our lives as believers. Every generation needs those who will explain God’s Word to the next generation. Not just the facts, but also the application. As the Great Commission puts it: “teaching them to observe all things”.
We are looking one-by-one at the Spiritual Living Lessons that new believers need to have personally taught to them by older believers.
Saved: We have seen salvation as portrayed across the pages of Acts by those early Apostles & disciples.
Scripture-Fed: Then we examined the Scriptures and the link between salvation through the Word and spiritual nurture by daily feeding upon the Word.
How Can We Avoid Grieving the Holy Spirit?
We can choose to keep God’s commandments and to lead a disciplined life. There are so many verses, let me just show you a couple. Turn to Romans 8—this is probably the best part of the Bible to mine out truth about the Holy Spirit. And this is what I want on your heart as we commune at the Lord’s Supper this morning. When we grieve and quench the Holy Spirit it immediately impacts the key areas of our Spiritual life. Romans 8:2 says this: When we sin, we must confess the sin immediately and repent of it, changing our minds and our behavior to conform to God’s statutes.
We are studying what it means to walk through life in step with the Spirit of God. There is nothing complicated about life as a believer, it is just staying under the direction & control of the Spirit. When we do so we can live the most amazing life possible, the life God desires us to live. This morning as we look at Mary there is one truth we need to notice:
Today, sitting here: we are gathered as the Body of Christ. So the first truth for us to consider today is this:
We are the Body of Christ
The Body of Christ: that is what we are called, and that is what we are by God’s grace to be.
We are to represent Christ alive in us, as we are living, and going through life in the world. That is what it means that our body is the temple of God. He lives is us; and He wants to radiate out of us in our words, attitudes, and actions.
But now comes the wonderful part. This truth is what has strengthened Christ’s church through all these centuries since Pentecost—when we gather obediently as Christ’s church, He is present; and when Christ is present He uses us to do his work of repairing one another from the injuries of life’s struggles.
This is what is repeatedly demonstrated throughout the pages of the New Testament:
Mended Lives Get Repaired And
Built Up by God’s Word and People
The only trustworthy, reliable, authoritative explanation of God is right here in our hands: it is God’s Word the Bible.
The Bible is the only real key to unlock truth about God, thus it is: the only sure doorway into His salvation, the only official map that leads to God, the only trustworthy reference book that defines and reveals God, the only verified classification guide to explain what God does, and the only navigational chart that leads us to the True & Living God.
Have you ever wondered how people in the Bible shared the Gospel, and did evangelism way back then? Last week we looked at our Discipline of Discipleship and saw that we have the very same Gospel, the very same Mission, and the very same power source of the Spirit of God. This week we need to go onward to examine exactly how they communicated that Gospel.
1. Each scene in Acts seems more amazing as we walk through these salvation messages. But of all the presentation of the Gospel, this is by all measures the best, most important, and the deepest impact. Paul shares the story of how Jesus Christ met him on the road to Damascus. In Acts 9, the details are sparse, but here the fullest and clearest account comes to us.
As we come to the Discipline of Disciple-Making, we come to our very own personal Job Description, left by Christ as the reason He saved us and left us here to serve Him through life. A question that should frame each day of our lives is: “Am I Doing What Christ Left Me to Do?”
God has always desired to be glorified by reaching this world with His message of love, His forgiveness of sin, and His offer of reconciliation leading to eternal life. God is not willing that any should perish, so He has always desired that the world to hear His message and repent, so that they may be saved. Because:
GOD IS A SAVIOR
Today, if asked, most of us would describe ourselves as “Christians”, some maybe as “Born-again”, others that we are “Saved”. Those are all good, valid, and proper terms; but, what is amazing is how far we have moved from what the New Testament called those who were saints and headed to Heaven.
If you just read and note the descriptions as you proceed through the books of the New Testament, you would assemble a list of the:
NEW TESTAMENT NAMES OF CHRISTIANS
Jesus constantly discipled His disciples; and Palm Sunday was no exception.
Welcome to our ongoing study of Biblical exercises for spiritual health & fitness in 2014. Paul told Timothy, and all the generations of believers to come, stay close to Christ: command and teach the church to be all Christ taught us to be. That is what we have before us in the New Testament. We are to command in the sense that “God says this”, and we are to follow up with teaching them “how to” observe what Christ wants from us who please Him by our lives.
Salvation is a person, but eternal salvation is ONLY through the RIGHT person: named the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Creator of Everything, who is the Savior God the Son who died as the true Lamb of God, and who is the Final Judge of all humans.
More than anything else: knowing, believing, following, and trusting the REAL Lord Jesus Christ is the ONLY hope of salvation. In 1 Timothy 4, as we study the Discipline of Truth: note the words of the very strong warning Paul gives: 1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,
BEWARE OF DOCTRINES FROM DEMONS