Sunday, August 27, 2017

Medium to Mild

Medium to Mild
August 28, 2016
Revelation 3:15  "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!"

To the church in Laodicea, Jesus did not describe Himself as wielding a sword or with angry fireballs in His eyes. He described Himself as the ruler, as the one who had been given charge over the earth, and the one with the only true testimony in life. In other words, He had the final say and His final say was the truth. Jesus then told the church He was aware of their actions, but more importantly the truth about their hearts. He knew the condition of their hearts, in unbiased fashion, and their hearts were at a setting going from medium to mild. They were not on fire for the Lord, yet they were not ice cold to Him either. They were just tepid in their relationship with the Lord and fully content to stay there.

When he was describing their middle-of-the-road status, He was not talking about their maturity level in their walk with Him. A new Christian can be completely sincere in His faith, with the execution of it off slightly; Jesus has patience for this. Jesus was not talking about their knowledge of the Word or that they were following false teachings. He had no complaint with their doctrine, their belief system, or the method of handling the Word. He was frustrated with them because they had simply allowed their hearts to be set at medium. Apparently, Jesus does not like medium. He'd prefer all or nothing. In the letter, He wrote that they had become wealthy Christians by the world's standards and their wealth was allowing them to deceive themselves. Since Jesus had the only unbiased testimony about them, He told them that their hearts were not focused on the right things, their wealth was not helping them they way they thought it was.

Jesus recommended they trade for gold that had been refined in the fire by Him. The meaning of this is similar to laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven. His gold was truth, and faith, and being rich in deeds, not monetary treasure. True wealth has nothing to do with physical assets but everything to do with spiritual rewards. Their spiritual rewards were lacking, since they depended on their physical wealth while allowing their hearts to be set on medium. This is one of the biggest issues facing the church in first-world nations. Decorative housing, occasional vacations, ample health care, freedom to live out a personal walk with Jesus without persecution--these are actually dangerous to a person's heart. They give the feeling of comfort, which creates complacency. Complacency allows a heart to go from medium to mild. Jesus said He wanted to spit complacency out of His mouth. This imagery is similar to a person who thinks he is talking a refreshing sip of ice water on a hot day and realizes mid-mouthful that it is vinegar, spitting it out with vigor. That's how Jesus feels about most of the Christians in His churches today. He wants to spit them out of His mouth like vinegar. 

While you can evaluate your own life all you want, the opinion of Jesus is the only one that matters since He holds an unbiased testimony about you. Does He find that you are comfortable and complacent, that you've reach a level in life where you can coast in your walk with the Lord while focusing on your simple pleasures? Jesus wants your all or your nothing, not the middle-of-the road mentality that you think is enough to get by in life and church. Jesus wants hearts that are dedicated to Him. Half-hearted attempts at serving the Lord won't make it in His kingdom. In fact, Jesus promised discipleship for those who found themselves at a setting of medium. This discipleship, He said, will come in the form of discipline. Turn the dial up on your Christianity, lest you get ready for some discipline.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 6:19-21, 1 Cor 3:11-14, Heb 11:26, Heb 12:4-11, Rev 3:13-21, Rev 22:12

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Truth Revealed

Truth Revealed
August 21, 2017
Revelation 3:9  "I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars--I will make them fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you."

The letters Jesus wrote to the seven churches, His light to the world, all carried with them a strong degree of correction. This was for all the churches except for Philadelphia. Jesus had praise and encouragement for the church in Philadelphia. To the other churches He started His letters depicting His frustration and anger, but not so when He addressed Philadelphia. In their letter, Jesus described Himself as holy and true, holding the keys of David. The description of holding David's keys was in referencing to being a king, THE KING, and holding the rights to the throne. Those holding rights to a throne also had all power and authority over the kingdom. He was reminding the church that He had all power and authority over the world and all those in it, with the ability to make the inhabitants do what He wants. 

This was critical to encouraging the church of Philadelphia, reminding them He held the authority over all the inhabitants of the kingdom. The church in Philadelphia was like most healthy, God-fearing church today, dedicated in serving Him yet growing weary of doing the right thing and fighting off those who would try to pervert their Christianity. Jesus called those, who were not true Christians, liars. Jesus promised He would protect them from the liars. Not only would Jesus protect them from the liars, but make the liars confess the truth in front of them, being humbled on their knees and acknowledging the true saints as being right in the eyes of the Lord.

It does not matter that you are right and that others know it, however; it matters that you are right in the eyes of the Lord. It matters that your Christianity is true. It matters that you always do the right thing and deny those who would pervert Christianity trying to get you to do the same. Jesus encouraged that church and reminded them of His willingness to honor those who held to His teachings, who were not liars in their faith, and who stayed faithful to the end. Jesus holds the authority over those who are around you, those who may not be true Christians and those who may be attempting to deceive you. The Lord holds the authority over the liars. The truth will come out and the Lord will honor those who hold true to Him. The truth will be revealed in front of everyone. The Lord holds the keys to the kingdom and the door He has opened for you cannot be shut. He has opened the door to His kingdom for those who remain full of His truth.

Not only will the Lord reveal the truth, but some day those liars will be humbled in front of you. It is not your job to humble them or force them to admit you are right, that is the Lord's responsibility. He has promised to vindicate you, forcing them to acknowledge He has loved you on account of your faithfulness. He has promised to make them acknowledge He has shown you favor because you have held true to Him. Furthermore, the Lord has promised you will be spared from the suffering that is coming during the end times, keeping you from living through the tribulation. While the tribulation is a whole other conversation, all you you need to do is keep the faith, do the right thing, and the Lord will protect you from it. You are not a liar and the Lord desires you to hold truth to His word. He understands you are weary of doing right, when at times it would be easier to deal with liars according to their own methods. That is not an option if you are going to remain faithful to Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 63:11, Rom 1:18, Gal 1:10, Col 3:9, Rev 2 & 3

Monday, August 14, 2017

Not Always Saved

Not Always Saved
August 14, 2017
Revelation 3:2  "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God."

When Jesus dictated the seven letters to the seven churches, His lamps unto the World, He was not writing to the non-believer. He was not writing to the Jew, or to the Pharisee, or anyone following false religions. Jesus was writing to a very specific group of individuals. He was writing to Christians, to those who professed to follow the name of Jesus and had received salvation for the repentance of their sins. It was a very narrow group of individuals, and each Christian church was subject to their own struggles. None was perfect and Jesus recognized that. He was sending the letters on ahead of Himself, to convince the believers He was on His way and that when He arrived, they better be living rightly. They better had fixed the problems within the four walls of their church and within the lining of their hearts.

The church of Sardis, though, they were unique above all other churches. Jesus said they had a reputation that preceded themselves. He acknowledged that they were known for being a healthy church, a living and vibrant place where lives were changed and people were true believers and worshipers of the name of Jesus and the one true God. They hadn't fallen victim to false teaching and they hadn't worshiped other Gods. Their problem, however, is probably the most common problem among churches today. He said they had a reputation for being alive but they were really dead inside. This reputation of once being alive could not have been gained if it wasn't legitimate at one time. My guess is that the church of Sardis was once an amazing environment where lives were restored and healed, where people were truly introduced into a relationship with Jesus. Their fault, however, was falling victim to the status quo.

The church of Sardis had risen to the level of excellence in the eyes of many and they tried to maintain it on programs and practice and the perpetuation of going through the motions. Jesus said they had gone through the motions long enough that it still looked real to those peering from the outside. They were now faking it, because somewhere along the line it was easier to do it from memory than from the heart. Their hearts were no longer in it. Jesus had a warning for them; He threatened to erase their names from the book of life. Many people believe that once you have come to the knowledge of Jesus as your Savior, and repented of your sins, that you will enter Heaven no matter what you do after that moment. Jesus said He had the authority to "blot out that name from the book of life." A name could not be blot out if it had not been written there in the first place by the only one who could write it in place. I can't write anyone's name in the book of life, only Jesus has that authority. But Jesus also has the authority to take away someone's name, thereby voiding their salvation and ticket into Heaven. Only true believers, those who believe and live that way until the very end received salvation. Those faking it or going through the motions are at risk.

You and I are probably the most at risk for this. Those in the church of Sardis were still regular church attendees, after all they were part of the church body who would be reading His letter. Apparently, those who were once rich and vibrant in their relationship with Jesus, can still be church attendees until the very end, yet end up with their name blotted out of the book of life. This is a sad state of affairs, to lose the most important thing ever and not even realize it, your salvation. Jesus says wake up before its too late. Falling asleep in church could void your salvation. You still have work to do for Him; your life is not complete and therefore your tasks are not complete. Stay alert and keep your heart in it at all times, lest your name get blotted out from the book of life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  John 15:1-6, Rom 11:17-22, Phil 2:12, Revelation 2 & 3

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Modern Jezebel

Modern Jezebel
August 7, 2017
Revelation 2:22  "So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways."

As Jesus wrote to each of the seven churches, through the apostle John, He was specific, not just to state His concerns for each church, but to express His level of frustration. Recall the church in Pergamum, whom Jesus reminded He was standing there with His sword ready to use it. His emotion had risen to the level of action, on the edge of destruction. To the church of Thyatira, however, He was being rather patient with them. He reminded them that His eyes were burning like fire and feet like burnished bronze. He was suggesting that anger was in His eyes and that His feet were ready to march toward them. He was warning them, a cautionary measure because they were being deceived by someone else, someone who was akin to the devil's wife.

The church in Thyatira apparently knew better, but their spiritual laziness and apathy caused them to be deceived by Jezebel. Jesus called this deceiving prophet Jezebel, but was it the actual Jezebel in the Old Testament, in the time of Elijah? Jezebel had been dead for hundreds of years when Jesus dictated these letters to John. Jesus was using the name Jezebel to reference an allegory to what happened in the real story of Jezebel's life. Recall she had such sway over her husband that she forced her religious practices to replace the ones of the Hebrews, to replace the rules the Lord had put in place. Jezebel's husband was weak and succumbed to her control, doing things he knew in his heart were wrong. While she was not considered a prophet back then, she hired hundreds of false prophets and made sure she was their head and leader. Jezebel had such strong influence that eventually the pagan practices took over and there was no ounce of the Lord's standards or teachings or practices in place.

Jesus said this church, the church in Thyatira, was allowing itself to be lazy enough to tolerate bad religious practices, which in turn were driving out true Christianity, the true teachings of Christ. Jesus knew that if left unchecked, eventually there would be no ounce of Christianity, just the bad practices the church had tolerated and let creep inside. I would submit to you that most churches today, while their hearts were in the right place at the start, have tolerated, because of spiritual laziness, poor behaviors that don't embody the epitome of the Lord.  Jesus said Jezebel's fate had already been sealed but was giving the church an opportunity to get it right.  He said the deceit in the church of Thyatira was with regard to sexual practices, the same genre of deceit Jezebel let into the church. One such modern day deceitful practice is allowing those who profess homosexuality into church leadership. There isn't anything in Scripture to support this practice, in fact quite the opposite. Our churches today have different problems than churches from hundreds of years ago, however still relevant to the analogy of Jezebel.

When we become lazy in confronting these deceptive practices, we tolerate them into becoming mainstream in our lives and churches. Though the sins of Thyatira might be different in manifestation, the deceit in the church was and is the same today. Today, the same genre would be things like: co habitation among any generation, divorce among church leaders, un-repented divorces among church members, and homosexuality. When was the last time you heard your pastor take a firm stance on any of these topics from the pulpit? Likely, the politically correct stance is to avoid it so as not to offend anyone. But Jesus said this spiritual laziness was causing His eyes to burn with fire.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   1 King 16:29-33, 1 Cor 5:10-12, 1 Cor 6:8-20, 1 Tim 1:9-11, Revelation 2