Revelation 1-3, Psalm 40
There are so many pitfalls that can occur when reading the Bible. The first is the most obvious and prevalent, most just don't ever read. The next is to become so familiar with certain portions that you read it quickly and gloss over the words thinking, "I know this portion", therefore not allowing the Holy Spirit to give us fresh insight. There is also the pitfall which I was guilty of for years, especially in the book of Revelation. So excited to get to the cataclysmic events in the Tribulation, especially in chapters 6-19, I would rush through the earlier portion, not allowing the depth of this message to take root. Jesus' message to the churches in Revelation 2-3, has become one of my favorite portions of Scripture, A few years ago, Pastor Lloyd, slowly went through this portion, with an amazing handout, and my eyes were opened to this section like never before. Interestingly, one verse repeated to all 7 churches which reveals just how applicable it is to us now is, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Rev.3:22). Though initially I read this as Jesus' message to 7 particular churches (all in present day Turkey) and having interesting historical information which is true, it also prophetically speaks of each subsequent church movement, and applies to each believer personally. To each church we will find mentioned: a characteristic of Jesus, a commendation, a criticism, counsel, consequences and a contract. The information enclosed to these churches are so full of information that it is not possible to present it fairly in a short post.
To the Ephesian church in Rev 2:1-7, we see a church which started out strong, but that , "have left your first love". They were rich in service and doctrine, but lacked love. They lost the heart of worship and allowed themselves to follow Him in a rote or routine fashion. We can never forget that we don't have to do anything, but that God actually allows us to read His Word, Worship Him, and Fellowship. A true relationship is not forced but flows out of love and desire. The Persecuted church of Smyrna in Rev 2:8-11, receives no criticism, and reveals that it is the persecuted church that is often the one that is truly getting closer to Jesus daily. The church at Pergamos in Rev 2:12-17, is a picture of the compromised church formed when Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion. To accomplish this purpose he had to make many compromises. There are those who state that Satan's attempt at persecuting Christians proved ineffective and despite the martyrdom of 5-7 million Christians between 100-300 A.D., the church continued to grow and flourish. Realizing this Satan joined the church movement to weaken it from the inside. It was during this phase that rather than elders and pastors, a priesthood was established (the Nicolaitans). In the Old Testament the Priest would serve as a mediator between God and man, being God's representative. But Jesus in John 14:6 states it is through Him and Him alone that we come to God, and Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:5, "There's only one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." It was during this time that idols, icons and sacred relics began to be revered. It was also in this church that Christmas and Easter were merged with pagan holidays to enhance there being honored (does anyone wonder why there is an Easter bunny with Easter eggs? It has to do with honoring the pagan goddess of fertility which was merged with the resurrection of Jesus). The church at Thyatira in Rev 2:18-29, is a picture of a corrupt church with applications to the current Papal State Church. With revering of saints, idols and graven images; and the worship of Mary people are restrained from repenting and forming a relationship with the only one that counts, Jesus. Many, as a result of this live a life of Biblical illiteracy and don't even know the gospel message, the only message which can save. The Church of Sardis in Rev 3:1-6, is the Reformation or Protestant church movement we see. It started out in protest with the likes of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox rebelling against many of the abuses they saw in the Christian faith. Over time this movement has died, with people appearing godly but dead on the inside. Growing up in the Episcopal church, I had no interest in forming a relationship with Jesus, for the whole scene appeared fake and devoid of life. The church of Philadelphia in Rev 3:7-13 is the Missionary church currently and like Smyrna receives commendation only. Once again, persecution and perseverance through this will result in a strong relationship. Lastly the church of Laodicea in Rev 3:14-22 represents the Last Days church which receives no commendation, only criticism. This church seeking to be relevant will grow by speaking popular messages of prosperity, avoiding messages confronting sin, avoiding prophecy. Our world is full of this now.
This message is so applicable for us today. Besides being useful in choosing a church and a specific place to worship, it causes us to critically evaluate our own walk. Have we left our first love, and now go through the motions lifelessly. Does our walk match our talk. Have we allowed true worship of Jesus as written in His Word to be replaced by anything else. Do we try to only focus on uplifting and positive portions of Scripture, avoiding the entirety of it. This is not a once and done evaluation. Every day we must decide in this dynamic, not static, walk with God whether we are moving a step forward or a step backward. If we ever feel lost or backslidden, we need only read the amazing promise of Jesus in Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." He will never force Himself against our free will, but He is available 24/7 to any of us who decide to let Him in for the first time, or allow Him in again if we have lost our way.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: