Another Saturday recap of our Daily Devotionals. Enjoy and be blessed.
Jesus Calls His Churches To Repentance
As we move onward through our study on repentance and revival in believers and the New Testament church, we are going to take a little swing through the Book of Revelation and Jesus’ letters to the seven churches of Asia. I think this is important, as the church belongs to Jesus Christ; He is the head of it. As the head, Jesus is also the only one qualified to assess the performance of any church and correct it.
This time we spend in Revelation is not going to be a discussion of prophecy, end times, or anything like that. We are going to take His letters to the churches pretty much at face value, as instructions to individuals and churches concerning their activities and behavior.
There are many ways the seven churches of Asia have been treated by commentators, and this won’t be any real look at those ways. During our next few days, we will simply treat them as letters to churches which exist today, as many of the lessons we see are applicable to individuals and churches today.
In His letters to the churches, Jesus corrects all but two of them in some way, and specifically told four or them to repent, or turn away, from the direction they were going. Le’ts look briefly at those words and later we will discuss each individually.
To the church at Ephesus Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
To the church at Pergamos Revelation 2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
To the church at Sardis Revelation 3:3 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
To the church at Laodicea Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
One final note before moving along. Jesus also told the church at Laodicea the following:
Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Many teach that as an invitation to salvation; I disagree. Jesus is speaking here to churches and the simple fact is that Jesus is not always welcome in our churches. Is He locked out of your church?
Losing Our First Love
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
As I said earlier, we are going to take just a quick look at four of the churches Jesus spoke to in the book of Revelation. These won’t be detailed studies of these churches, but just overviews of the basic issue facing them. We are going to look very quickly at Ephesus, Pergamos, Sardis, and Laodecia, as these are the four churches Jesus told specifically to repent.
Jesus had some substantial words of commendation for this church at Ephesus. We won’t be picking the commendations apart here, but we can sum up the good things going on at Ephesus quickly. The have labored hard and patiently, possibly under resistance and even persecution. The word patience we see used in verse 3 of the text would indicate something akin to “endurance under fire.” In other words, this church did not give up when the going got tough.
We see that they seemed to be a very doctrinally true church. They have carefully examined those who would come to teach them and rejected them and their teachings if found to be false. I fact, we see in this section that the church at Ephesus rejected various forms of false teachings. Many good things seemed to be happening here. What, then, was the problem?
They had lost their first love. It is not crystal clear exactly what it was that they had lost in the church at Ephesus; there are varied opinions and many of them are good. Perhaps their love for God was growing lukewarm, or their love for each other. Perhaps their love for the study of and growth in Scripture had grown stale. I personally thing the admonition later in the passage to do the first works may give us a hint. Has any reader seen a new Christian who us just on fire for God? This is the new believer who can’t wait to tell people about Jesus, can’t wait to read and study his or her Bible, and simply can’t wait to be in God’s house anytime the doors were open. We may have been that person. The real question is: do we stay that person? Had Ephesus stayed that church?
Are we possessed of the zeal and excitement we had when we first came to know Jesus Christ? Do we still love Jesus as we did then? Do we love His Word? Do we love the lost souls enough to reach out to them like we wanted to at first? Or, are we happy where we are. We know the right stuff and challenge the wrong stuff, so we are all good, thank you very much.
If we have lost our first love, we might need revival.
Be Careful Who Comes In the Door!
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
This church existed in difficult circumstances. They were referred to as living in Satan’s seat and where Satan dwelleth. The particulars of this don’t really matter, as just the very definite idea that paganism and heathenism were very much alive and well in Pergamos. Jesus commended them for standing fast in the face of seemingly substantial adversity, even to the point that apparently one among them had been killed for the Faith. Again, however, we have a problem.
Things had slipped in which concerned Jesus vastly. There were those teaching The Doctrine of Balaam. If we read the story of Balaam, we can see this likely involved sin and sexual immorality, as this is how ultimately Balaam caused the Israelites to stumble in the eyes of God.
Next we see that the church at Pergamos was tolerating those who taught the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. What exactly this was is up to some debate and discussion, but one thing is clear about it; this was some form of false teaching in this church, and some in the church were tolerating it.
So, what could be going on here? The list is potentially long. It is likely that there was some substantial “secret” sin among particular members of the church at Pergamos. It is never really said how common or pervasive it was, but the implication seems to be that it was at minimum, tolerated.
Second, we can clearly see the inroads of some form of false teaching taking root in this church, and the issue seems to be that the members holding steadfast to the faith were also allowing this to exist without a word being said in opposition. It seems they were quite firm when standing against threats from the outside, but not so much when the danger was from the inside.
Do we know of and tolerate rampant and notorious sin on our ranks? Do we never take clearly defined Biblical steps to restore such a person to correctness and fellowship? Are we so fixated on the threats from the outside that we allow false teaching to invade us from the inside?
If so, we might need revival.
A Dead Church
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.