Friday, September 27, 2019

Letter to leaders: Philadelphia (Rev. 3)

This letter is very encouraging to all who serve the Lord and yet run into opposition.  Here we go: 

"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:  These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 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 come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.  I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Rev. 3:7-13) 

After reading that, I could just end here.  Wow!  Let's mine out the nuggets that we will hold in our hands as leaders.  Jesus is "holy and true" and thus are His words.  He is the forever King, Who is mindful always of the saints who serve Him.  He knows the life of a sparrow.  He knows our lives equally intimately:  our struggles, our tears, our sorrows and our joy.  Leading the Body is all of these, and we need to stand on Jesus and His words:  

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matt. 7:24-27) 

You cannot stand on a foundation if you don't know what it is or what it is made of--so knowing the Word is essential to standing on it.  Sadly, many leaders today pick out a verse or two, and then spend the rest of the message telling stories, showing clips and doing just about everything but help their followers to really know the Word.  Better yet, do we apply it to our lives?  Do we know it and model it well enough for others to know the Word is an integral part of our lives? 

Jesus emphasizes hearing as well as doing.  

So, when all hell breaks loose in the marketplace, and competing gospels scream for attention, the culture demands preeminence over Scripture and leaders are trying to be hip and relevant, will they or anyone in their congregation still be standing when the cultural Hurricane Dorian is done? Jesus even expressed deep concern for those living in the End Times:

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,  and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matt. 24:9-13)

Why has the faith of the faithful grown cold? False teachers, pure and simple--people who are liars. Those who pretend to be of Christ but are really of Satan's congregation. But our Philadelphia church has "kept my word and have not denied my name." 

How we deny Him?  

Look at Peter: He denied Jesus out of fear of the authorities and their power to inflict pain and suffering. He hung back in the shadows, hoping that following Jesus could be a more private matter.  

Look at Judas:  He denied Jesus' words about His mission to be crucified and resurrected and instead re-imagined Jesus as a conquering king.  He tried to force Jesus' hand, by putting Him in a predicament that would demand a show of royal power to the ruling and oppressive authorities.  Jesus did the opposite.  

Look at Paul:  He denied the Messiahship of Jesus, for he thought he had this whole religious thing figured out, with all of his training and his devotion to Judaism.  He wanted these blasphemers harried and killed, all in the name of what he thought was right.  That spill off that donkey and the Voice quickly dispelled his "wisdom."

Look at you.  

Look at me.  

How do we deny Him?  Do we avoid His uncomfortable words?  Do we just want a gentle hippie Jesus, whose anger in the Temple makes us uncomfortable?  Do we want a culturally relevant Jesus, Who desires only to be our Cosmic Life Coach, therapeutically saving us and not doing the deep healing that our sin nature demands?  

We who stay true to Him, His Word and His love, will be pillars in the New Jerusalem.  We held up His name here and we will hold up His praise there.

As leaders, we must measure everything we do and say by His Word.  No compromise.  No new spins or having the Word more as an add-on than a central and foundational core to what we are and do.

Our brotherly love is desperately needed in this world, and only His Word can do the job:  

"For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For 'whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'  How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?" (Rom. 10:10-14)

Let the church leaders listen to what His Spirit is saying to the church.  

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