Thursday, November 3, 2016

3 November 2016

Good afternoon, welcome. We have finally visited all seven churches. While each church had a specific message, each message was also intended for all churches past and present. Taken as a whole, there is a progression of falling away just as relevant today as when John had his visions. Loss of love for Christ opens the door to questionable doctrinal practice. Once doctrine becomes corrupt discernment is lost, resulting in immorality and dead works.

Love for Jesus and for His church-our brothers and sisters throughout the world-is the foundation upon which everything is built. Love is important enough for Paul to devote one whole chapter-1 Corinthians 13-to it. John himself emphasizes love in 1 John; the word occurs some 24 times there. Without love doctrine runs the risk of becoming just another set of soul-killing rules and regulations.

They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me John 14:21-24 (NRSV)
Obviously, love for God is more than just some sentimental feeling. Jesus clearly equates love with obedience. But look at the promise-we will come to them and make our home with them. Now consider the promises of our Lord to His seven churches. Eternal life, a new name, Jesus Himself, a permanent place with and knowledge of God, intimate fellowship. Paul writes “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NRSV). The taste of fellowship in John 14:21-24 becomes a full-fledged banquet in Revelation. I have said this before but it bears repeating-if we do not learn to enjoy God here and now, how can we expect to enjoy Him for eternity? Study of scripture and the spiritual disciplines are relevant and necessary but only to the extent that they allow us to experience and be transformed by the perfect love that is our Triune God. Anything else is self-serving and self-defeating.

One final point. Jesus rebukes five of the seven churches. Rebukes, but not condemns or discards. Even the Thyatira prophetess Jezebel is given time to repent. All of us have and will continue to think, do and say things we will need to confess and repent of. When we do God welcomes us with open arms; it is incumbent upon us to do the same for our brothers and sister. Consider these words from the prophet Ezekiel “Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live” Ezekiel 18:31-32 (NRSV) and” Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die…” (33:11; NRSV). Words spoken to Israel to be sure, but what they say about God has eternal significance. Consider too Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” My point is this-in our eagerness to judge and condemn anyone who thinks or believes or acts or looks differently from us, we “…may even be found fighting against God” Acts 5:39 (NRSV).

Listen to what Jesus says to His church. Remember. Repent. Return.

May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.

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