Romans 12:3-8; John 16:15; Ephesians 1:18-23 & 3:20
Followers of Jesus Christ live throughout the world. We make up a very diverse Body of Christ. Within each people group there are varied levels of faith, spiritual understanding, and experiences in the Holy Spirit. This leads to the many perspectives of who Jesus is and our understanding of Him and who we are as one of the Father’s children. There is a purpose for all these differences within the Body of Christ and the Apostle Paul addresses this in Romans 12:3-8. In these verses Paul teaches us that there is a purpose in having diversity in the Body and that each of us has a different ability or gift. Our responsibility is to do the very best with what we have been given. In the same way we need to support one another by lifting up each other in prayer, celebrating our differences, and encouraging one another in love. Unfortunately, this is not often realized. Having an agape level love for one another is a challenge we often fail at. Is it any wonder we have to be reminded many times in scripture that the primary commandment Jesus has for His church is to love one another? The infighting within the Body of Christ limits our spiritual growth and the effectiveness of Christians as a whole.
Another aspect of what inhibits the effectiveness of daily living out our faith as a Christ follower, individually and corporately, is our limited understanding of Jesus Christ and who we are in Jesus and our relationship with Him. Jesus knew this would be a problem for His Apostles as well as for all those who come to salvation throughout human history. He encourages us in John 16:15. In this verse He tells the Apostles and us, “All that the Father has is mine and the Holy Spirit will take what is mine and disclose it to you.” Jesus is saying that all God the Father has and is, is coequally possessed by Him. He stands in the very center of the heavenly throne. (Rev.5:6 & 7:17) In Jesus Christ, all the fullness of the Deity dwells, (Col.2:9) and all of creation has been placed under His feet. (Eph.1:16 – 23)
Do we truly fathom the immensity of what Jesus has told His Apostles and us? Can we even begin to understand its implications? As we try to contemplate on this, Jesus continues to inform the Apostles that one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit will be to reveal and teach the wonderous divine nature of Christ. Think about what we are to be taught. Jesus said, “All that is mine will be disclosed to you.” What is hindering us, as Christ followers, in being receptive to the revealing work of the Holy Spirit? Have we built up walls that limit our perception of God? Have we established our own spiritual boundaries limiting how God is to interact with us? Have we created a substandard version of God, a safe God, we can believe in? Let’s face the truth. All who God the Father is, is beyond our comprehension or understanding. Therefore, since Jesus states that all the Father has is also His, He is also beyond our comprehension or understanding. Hence, it can only be by the Holy Spirit that the factual true nature and heart of our Savior can be made known. But we need to remove our walls of unbelief, personal dogmas, theologies, preconceived notions, and be willing to hear from the Holy Spirit.
It is the desire of Jesus that we experience an ever-growing relationship with Him. As we learn more of who He is, we also learn more of who we are in Him, who He is in us, and who we are to each other. It is in this learning process we die to self; doing nothing based on self-interest or prideful conceit, but humbly valuing others more than ourselves. (Phil.2:3) This is the way by which the whole Body of Christ is edified and rises to a greater life in Him. In fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to love one another, we are not to dispute our differences, but encourage one another to excel in our individual gifts and callings, thus becoming the dynamic presence Jesus wants His body to be in this dying world.
It is the Holy Spirit revealing deeper truths of Christ that empowers Christian believers to daily live out their faith.
2Timothy 3:1-5, Revelation 2:1-29 & 3:1-22
I find, reading through the Bible, that it is a journey of discovery. One never knows what may stand out and speak to the inner realm of the soul. Such was the scripture of 2Timothy 3:1-5. In the first four verses Paul tells Timothy of the heart of man in the last days and how it is expressed. It is a deplorable dissertation of what man will be like when he has fully embraced the theology of the world and has total disregard for God. In verse 5, I see aspects of the Church and what it has become by the marriage of the world’s moralistic ideologies with Biblical truths. The outward form of godliness and the rejection of the “true power”, are seen on the same level of blasphemers, idolaters, sexually immoral, proud, covetous, boasters, and the like. Paul warns Timothy to turn away from such as these.
In considering all of this I wondered, has Jesus addressed this issue? I decided to visit the second and third chapters of Revelation. In these chapters Jesus is dictating to the Apostle John what he sees concerning the seven churches of the Eastern Mediterranean region in what is now Turkey. They are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. But how do 1st century churches and their faith problems speak to the church today? Human nature is human nature. Since the first sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden until now, mankind’s self-will, self-determination, self-centeredness, et al, have set us in defiance of God. Not only did we attain knowledge of good and evil, through our free will, we even determine what good and evil should be regardless of God. Man’s human nature never changes just the tools by which we can express it. Take a brief look at the seven churches and see where you align with their spiritual condition.
Ephesus: They are commended for standing firm in faith and their zeal for weeding out false doctrine and false apostles, but Jesus said that they have abandoned the love they had at the beginning. What could that be? What did they replace their loving relational experience with Jesus and each other, with? Was it institutionalized? Have we replaced our relationship with Jesus with defined processes and guidelines that we use to define our Christianity and Christian experience?
Smyrna: Jesus is telling this church that He is aware of the persecution and tribulation that they are going through. He also informs them that it is going to get worse. This is a time of testing, however, He encourages them to stay strong and faithful even unto death and they will receive the crown of life. There are Smyrna churches all around the world. The average church in the United States has yet to experience Smyrna. How will we respond? Without the “true power” in the church, (as individuals or fellowship groups), godliness will not give us the strength to stand firm. If and when persecution comes, it is not because we have been abandoned by Jesus, but that we are experiencing testing for the crown of life.
Pergamum: This church is remaining true to Jesus in the middle of a land occupied by Satan. Pergamum is commended for their faithfulness; however, they are admonished because they have permitted those who have embraced false doctrine and worldly ideologies and teachings, into their fellowship. For that, they will be judged. There are fellowship groups today that are surrounded by a strong anti-God, anti-Christian populace. Many have stayed true to their faith in Christ, but some have compromised for the sake of false peace or have bought into the false doctrine of humanistic theology. Have we lost “true power” because we have embraced, for ourselves, or have openly permitted anti-God and the ideologies of the world to have a seat at our fellowship table?
Thyatira: Jesus is telling this church He is fully aware of their faith and how they have matured in love, faith, service, and perseverance. At times we may not feel we are maturing or even that the Lord notices, but He does. Though Thyatira has had solid growth in faith they have also allowed an individual or individuals with a Jezebel spirit to go unchallenged in their fellowships. Jezebel has self-titled herself as a prophetess giving herself an illusion of importance. This has led some followers of Christ into ungodly actions of sexual immorality, and interactions with idolatry. Jesus has given Jezebel and her followers a time to repent, but they have not. Therefore, they will come under serious judgement. Except for true repentance the judgements extend into the next generation. Have we permitted Jezebels free reign in our fellowships? Are the gains of our spiritual maturity being nullified by a bombastic Jezebel? Maturity also requires diligence and discernment. If not exercised properly in love, the “true power” will be lost and only a form of godliness will remain.
Sardis: This is a very sad state for a church fellowship. The term “a form of godliness” barely applies. The church of Sardis thinks they are alive in Christ, but in reality, Jesus is about to pull the plug on their life support. All their actions have been incomplete before God. Theirs has been a surface Christianity with no substance. Jesus tells them to go back to the beginning to the truth preached to them, repent, and implant the flame of Christ into their hearts. If they ignore the warning Jesus will come as a thief in judgement. I believe there are many Sardis churches in existence today. It is Christian in name only, though there are a few who are solid in their faith. The Holy Spirit has left the building, if He had been there at all, and it is now as it was in the beginning, only a social club.
Philadelphia: This is a special church and has a special place in Jesus’ heart. He begins by stating that He is sovereign over all things including the door of life, opportunity, and protection. A special door has opened for the Church of Philadelphia and what He has ordained for them cannot be prevented. They were not a powerhouse church and known as having only a little strength. On the other hand, they have kept the command to persevere. They have stood strong in keeping His word and have not denied the name of Jesus whom they serve. Because of their simple steadfast faith, they will be protected from the testing coming upon the earth. Jesus tells them to hold fast to what they have and they will retain their crown and they will be as a pillar in the temple of God. The same is true today. Do not look at other ministries or church fellowships. Stay true to that which Jesus has given you. He is the one who opens the door of life so that we may enter. Persevere, be steadfast, stand firm, keep His word, and do not deny the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Laodicea: This is a sad state for a church. Their achievements of faith have sickened the stomach of Christ. He wants to just vomit them out of His mouth. What is it that they have done to warrant such feelings from Jesus? The problem is they do not do anything. They are useless as a church for Christ. It has been described to me that Laodicea sat in a location near hot soothing mineral springs and cold mountain streams. People came for healing in the springs or to be invigorated in the cold waters. The church of Laodicea provided neither healing to the hurting nor invigoration to the weary. Jesus would have been satisfied if they would be one or the other, healers or invigorators, but a lukewarm faith that existed based on their personal wealth and social standing was vomit. Prosperity in the world has no true value. In reality they were wretched, pitifully naked, poor, and blind. Jesus tells them to come to him for true gold that will make them rich and to be clothed by Him in white garments that cover their sinful nakedness. Finally, he will put salve on their eyes so that they may see. Where have we, as a church body, rested on our tangible wealth and closed our eyes from the weary and hurting? What hot mineral springs or invigorating cold living waters have we fenced off for the sake of social standing? If we are a part of the Church of Laodicea, we are the most pitiful of the seven churches.
These are just seven examples as to how a body of believers in Christ transition into an “outward form of godliness and rejecting the true power there in”. I am sure you can think of many more. Chapter three of Revelation does not end with challenges, admonishments, and judgements. It ends with relationship and reward. Jesus address this to Christians in verses 20 and 21. In verse 20 Jesus states that He wants to come in and dine with us. He wants to be with and interrelate with us; to communicate on a very personal level so that we can fall in love with Him by knowing His true self, not a caricature of what we think He should be; however, we are responsible to open the door and invite Him in. Finally, what better reward than what He promises in verse 21, Jesus tells those who overcome all the challenges and weaknesses as exampled in these seven churches, that He will grant the right to sit with Him on His throne which He, Jesus, compares to His sitting on His Father’s throne after paying the price for our atonement on the cross.
It is disgusting to only have an outward form of godliness. Jesus desires that we be empowered believers living as empowered believers in this corrupt world.
March 15, 2020
Luke 24:13-35; Luke 24:21; Matthew 16:16, 21; Psalm 62:5-8
We are living in an interesting time. In a matter of a couple of months a virus called Covid-19 has circumnavigated the world. It creates a serious lung condition that in some cases has resulted in death. A question; is God calling on us to focus on an illness or to focus on Him and our savior Jesus Christ? We need to shift our focus on Jesus, but what Jesus are we focusing on?
On the day of Jesus’ resurrection two of His disciples were walking to the village of Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. (Lk 24:13-35) As they were talking, Jesus, hiding His identity, came along side and asked about their conversation. Surprised that this stranger did not know about the events of that weekend. They explained that the itinerant Rabbi and miracle worker, Jesus of Nazareth, had been crucified. And not only was He crucified, but some of the women of their group are saying He rose from the dead that morning and those women actually saw Him. This they found hard to believe.
Why did these two men who have been disciples of Jesus find His resurrection so inconceivable? Why do we find it hard to see Jesus intervening during our own times of trials and testing? Part of the problem is our perspective of who Jesus is. These two disciples express this in Lk. 24:21. Their perspective of Jesus was that of a conquering king Messiah, the one who would redeem Israel from Roman oppression and make Israel a mighty nation once again. The Jesus they believed in was not the eternal Jesus, Son of God.
On the remainder of their walk to Emmaus Jesus, beginning with Moses and the prophets, shared with them all the scriptures that revealed His true purpose as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind. These scriptures spoke of the Messiah’s death by crucifixion and His resurrection defeating sin, the grave, and death. Those two disciples had their eyes opened to the true Jesus.
In our times of trials, in this time of Covid-19, are we seeking a limited Jesus or Jesus, creator of all that exists. Do we come to the Jesus, our Fortress, Rock of Salvation, Prince of Peace, Healer, the one in whom we can trust, the one who hears our cries, Immanuel – God with us… The list can fill a book which it has, the Bible. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you through the scriptures. Discover Jesus and His true nature. Remove your limited perspective and embrace the eternal realm of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. His love for you is never ending and beyond the size of the universe.
As Jesus told His disciples, Jn. 16:33, “In this life you will have many trials and troubles, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” And in Mt. 28:20 Jesus says, “I will be with you always.”
You are an empowered believer in Jesus Christ, worshiping at the eternal altar of our Father,
the Most High God.
Live as an empowered believer.