"Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister." (Colossians 1:15-23)
A city hall or town hall is the headquarters of a city or town's administration and usually houses the city or town council, its associated departments and their employees. It is also usually the base of the city, town, borough or county mayor.
Palo Alto, California has 26,000 households and probably three dozen churches. Several of these churches exist as beacons and lighthouses through which Jesus is invited to shine into a dark, lost world. But most churches are social gatherings for people with common interests. This has come about in the course of history because of widespread ignorance concerning God's self disclosure in history. (God maintains a low-profile most of the time).
"County hall" is used for the headquarters of County council administrations. The question of municipal autonomy is a key question of public administration and governance. The institutions of local government vary greatly between countries, and even where similar arrangements exist, the terminology often varies. Common names for local government entities include state, province, region, department, county, prefecture, district, city, township, town, borough, parish, municipality, village, and local service district. City Hall Mayor and/or City Manager, Police and Safety, City Court, Parks and Recreation, City planning, City Attorney, City Treasurer, Social Welfare, City Council, Planning Department, City Schools, Waste Management, Homeless Shelter, Retirement Community, City Hospital, City Utilities...
In North America, a hall is labeled a "city" or "town" hall depending on the size of the municipality it serves. City halls are usually found in larger cities and town halls in smaller urban areas. In the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and many Commonwealth countries, "town hall" is the more common term. During the 1960s many of the older town halls were replaced by "Civic centres". The civic centre was a functional building, offices of the council only, without the art gallery or hall for cultural activities which were a feature of many of the older town halls.
One huge world wide institution has long claimed that the Apostle Peter was commissioned to be the first head of that body. But Peter was killed in Rome about 30 years later along with the Apostle Paul, and no church entity or building would appear on earth until nearly 300 years after Peter and Paul were executed. Nevertheless, thousands of ordinary people in the Roman Empire became followers of Jesus in the first three centuries, and obviously many more down to today.
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, (Petros) and on this rock (petra) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20)
Could it be that the true church has been under construction silently and invisibly all this time? Yes, surely! Is it possible Jesus said what He meant and meant what He said? Suppose Jesus has in fact been building a glorious invisible cathedral of people to be unveiled at the end of the age? The Administrative task of managing His entire church has been no problem for Jesus. We just can't correlate the present workings of God behind the scenes very well with unfolding events in history. When Jesus takes the wraps off the finished product everyone will see. The true church will number perhaps one or two billion men, women and children, all with glorious new, immortal bodies, "A glorious church without spot or wrinkle."
If a generation is about 40 years, then 50 generations have elapsed since Jesus walked the shores of Galilee. During that time world population has increased from about 300 million in the First Century to more than 7.7 billion now.
To understand what Jesus has been building consider the seven symbols the New Testament uses to describe how Jesus has been at work for 2000 doing exactly what He said He would do.
The true church Jesus is now calling out of the world, is symbolized in the New Testament by seven figures:
1. Jesus is the Great Shepherd and we Christians are the sheep.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. (John 10:1-18)
2. Jesus is the Good Shepherd
Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
3. Jesus is the True Vine and we are the branches
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:1-8)
4. We are "living stones" building built into a house which is a habitation for God---Christ Jesus is the cornerstone
"Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord, Through which the righteous shall enter. 'I will praise You, For You have answered me, And have become my salvation.' The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalms 118:19-24
"Therefore thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not be in haste. Also I will make justice the measuring line, And righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place. (Isaiah 28:16-17)
“Come to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.' Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,' and 'A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.“ (1 Peter 2:4-10)
Our Lord Jesus is also described as a merchant who finds and buys a single pearl of great price
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45)
5. Jesus is Great High Priest over the household of faith, and we are his servant-priests
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
6. The church is the Body of Christ, every one a member of every other, and all under the direction of Christ the Head of the Body
"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father." (1 Corinthians 12:12-18)
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased." (Ephesians 2:11-18)
7. The church is the Bride of Christ and Jesus the waiting Bridegroom
“...For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:22-27)
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west...” (Revelation 21:9-13)
The true church is never a building nor an organization according to the Bible. The foundation of the true church was put in place at the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, about 30 AD. Since Jesus is alive today and occupying the highest office in the universe according to Hebrews Chapter One, his Lordship over the entire church should be self evident. Sadly probably 80% of the people who have ever lived have refused God’s mercy all their lives—and perished.
Note: Members of the true church are not the only group of people who have been or will be saved. Many millions probably were rescued by God’s mercy in the time interval between Adam and Noah. (Creation date probably 5793 BC). After the Flood, world population climbed back up from eight persons to perhaps 10 million people by the time of Abraham. (c.2305 BC)
The church Jesus is building meets in a place usually, in homes, in a warehouse, or school auditorum. The building of great cathedrals, glass houses or impressive temples is fast fading in today's world. In the New Testament the church of Jesus is never a building, it's always people.
Problems today in the Professing Church: Compartmentalized Groups. Consensus Committee Meeting---Not Holding Fast to the Head. No Body Life. Disconnected from the Head, Central Nervous System Blocks. Organ Failure. Disconnect from the Head. Living in the energy of "self," i.e., by self-effort.
The Only Potentate
“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Timothy 6:11-19)
The Greek word kosmos, meaning "ornament, decoration, arrangement" gives us our English word "cosmetics." When the Bible speaks about not loving the "world" the reference is not to nature but to the social order, the culture of the nations we live in.
1 John 2:15-17 is a key reference:
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever."
The "world-system" involves a concern for external appearances more than inner content and quality. As used in the New Testament, the world does not refer to nature, but to the organized world-system, to society and human culture. The world system is outwardly religious, scientific, cultured and elegant. Inwardly it seethes with national and commercial rivalries. Music, art, literature and philosophy along with art, fashion wear, paint and perfume conceal disease, malnutrition, starvation, murder and death. The appearance of things covers the hidden reality that we are out of sync with God. “Man looks upon the outward appearance but God looks upon the heart.”The general characteristics of "the world" (as the term is used in the Bible when referring to the fallen "world system") may be described roughly as follows. The world:
* Produces conformity to cultural norms or traditions of men; stifles individuality.
* Makes use of force, greed, ambition and warfare to accomplish objectives.
* Offers financial reward at the cost of one's soul.
* Cares little for the worth of the individual or his uniqueness.
* Promotes myths and illusions which appeal to human vanity and pride
* Diverts attention from spiritual values by appeals to pursue pleasure, pride (vainglory), or to power.
* Permissive sexual, moral and ethical values to encourage self-indulgence.
* Superficiality of life and appeal to immediate pleasure rather than long-term goals.
* Ignores eternal values and invisible realities.
* Offers false philosophies and value systems to support its goals. The root problem is pride.
* Exalts man, his abilities and his supposed "progress"-for example, through the myth of social evolution.
* Glosses over and hides suffering, death, poverty the depravity of man, and our accountability to God.
* Seeks to unify mankind under an atheistic humanistic or pantheistic ("one world religion") banner.
Teaches human progress and advancement through better education or social welfare.
Jesus Christ announced to his disciples that He would build His church, a glorious church, which would be made known to everyone openly and publicly eventually when He (Jesus) returned. The Greek word ekklesia means the called out ones. The message of how to know Jesus and how to be part of the ongoing, behind the scenes. work of God, is available to everyone. "All who will may come." Jesus taught that His message to the world would draw in two groups of people symbolized by wheat and tares. See Ray Stedman's message, The Mysterious Harvest drawn from Matthew 13. His disciples asked if the wheat weeds could be separated, but Jesus said no:
The servants said to him, "Then do you want us to go and gather them?" But he said, "No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with it. Let both grow together until the harvest;" (Matthew 13:28b-30a RSV)
"Let both grow together until the harvest." That is our Lord's word. It is amazing how many Christians ignore those words of Jesus, and are constantly trying to purify the church in ways unwarranted by the Scriptures. Even in the great awakening we are seeing today, many young people are making this mistake again. They say that they are going to go off and start their own church, and it is going to be a true church, a pure church. There is going to be no heresy in it. And so you find groups splintering off and breaking away and calling themselves the "True Church," the "One Way," the "Only Way," etc. They say they have the truth and no one else does. They are going to be free from error and from any kind of garbled doctrine. But, you see, that is impossible. Jesus said that you cannot do it that way. You cannot separate evil from the church. You cannot even drive it out. It is going to be there in some form. This does not mean that we are not to expose it, and to meet it positively with the teaching of the truth. We are. Nor are we to allow those who exhibit clear forms of error to take leadership within the church. Other Scripture helps us here. But what our Lord wants us to understand is that no human effort is going to eliminate error from the church. "Let them both grow together," he said. (RCS The Mysterious Harvest)
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love the fulfillment of the law.
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13) God's Strange Servants: On Government, by Ray Stedman.
Ray Stedman speaks of the church of Jesus Christ at the end of the age:
As in all the letters, our Lord introduces himself in a very significant way. His opening description form the key to what the church needs.
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:"These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation." (Revelation 3:14 NIV)
Apparently the Lord wanted this church to see him in this capacity. He was first of all the "Amen." We are all familiar with this word. We utter it when we close a prayer or when we want to express our agreement with a meaningful statement. But it is also a word that Jesus used frequently. In the more modern versions of the gospels, he begins many statements with the words, "Truly, truly, I say unto you." The King James Version renders it, "Verily, verily." Actually, in Greek, that is "Amen, Amen." It indicates that Jesus is saying something extremely important. It always marks significant truth. So when you come to this word in the Gospels, pay careful attention because Jesus himself is underscoring that what he is saying is not only true, but it is important truth.
We use "Amen" as a last word, and it has that meaning too, when God speaks. The book of Hebrews begins, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son," (Hebrews 1:1-2a NIV). The word of Jesus is the last word, the final word of God to man. Anyone who goes beyond the words of Jesus is not giving us new truth; he is departing from the final word that God has spoken. Also, our Lord calls himself "the faithful and true witness." He has emphasized his truthfulness before in these letters, but here he adds the word "faithful," i.e., he not only tells the truth, but he tells all the truth. He does not hide anything. He speaks plainly and clearly and reveals the whole truth. He wants this church to understand that.
The third phrase is not, as the NIV version puts it, "the ruler of God's creation." It is really the word "the beginning of God's creation." It is the same word that the Gospel of John opens with: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," (John 1:1 NIV). Two verses later John says, "All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made," (John 1:3 KJV). Jesus is the origin, the beginning of God's creation. But not merely of the old creation, i.e. the physical universe in which we live, including the great galaxies of space, the planetary system of our sun, and the earth itself. All came from the hands of Jesus as the source of God's creation. But Jesus is also the source of the new creation that God is building. Paul tells us in Second Corinthians 5, "if anyone is in Christ he [or she] is a new creation," (2 Corinthians 5:17a NIV). We are part of a new world that the Lord is bringing into being. It has already begun -- that is the point: "old things have passed away; behold all things have become new," (2 Corinthians 5:17b KJV).
This church in Laodicea particularly needs to know that truth. At the end of his letter to the Colossians, Paul says, "See that [this letter] is read also in the church of the Laodiceans," (Colossians4:16b NIV). So the Laodiceans were to be familiar with the letter to Colossae, and it is in that letter that the apostle emphasizes Jesus' link with creation. He is the "firstborn of creation" (Colossians 1:15), and the "firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18b KJV), [i.e., in resurrection] which is the new creation. This church at Laodicea needs to be told important truth, the whole truth, and especially truth about how to relate to God's new creation. What does the Lord see in this church at Laodicea? In every letter Jesus says, "I know your works." He is aware of what goes on in every church. He is watching us as well.
"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold -- I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15-16 NIV)
There were two problems in this church: First, there was something wrong with their commitment. They were neither cold nor hot. They were suffering from what someone has well called "the leukemia of non-commitment." And, also, there was something wrong with their self-image, as we will see in Verse 17. They thought they were rich, but they were really poor. The church at Sardis was a cold church, a dead church. It was as cold as death. The church at Philadelphia was hot, alive, and vital. But here in Laodicea was a church that was neither hot nor cold. It is merely lukewarm. Archaeologists have discovered an interesting fact about this city. It had no local water supply, but obtained their water through an aqueduct from the hot springs at Hierapolis, some six miles away. If you were staying in a motel in Laodicea and turned on the tap to get a cold drink, and tasted the water, you would probably spit it out again because it was tepid, lukewarm. Traveling that distance, the hot water had partly cooled down, and it would be nauseating, repulsive. The word our Lord actually uses here is not "spit out," but "vomit." He will vomit out the church because it was nauseating to him. What created this condition? There is only one answer. It is compromise! When you want to make something lukewarm you mix together hot and cold. We do this continually with regard to air temperature.
That is what was happening in the church at Laodicea. They were compromising spiritually for comfort's sake. It is much more comfortable to attend a church where nobody takes doctrinal issues very seriously, where, for comfort's sake, you avoid discussions over issues. This church was compromising its teaching for the sake of peace. They had enough truth to salve the conscience without becoming fanatics; but enough coolness to calm their wills without freezing people out. It was a comfortable church. You could have attended this church for years and it would have probably been very pleasurable, but nothing much would be happening. You would not be challenged, or rebuked, or corrected, or exhorted, but only encouraged and respected because it was a comfortable church, but also a compromising church. What does Jesus think of a church like that? Yuck! Its nauseating! Repulsive! The people may like it, but Jesus does not. It may make them comfortable, but it makes him sick!
Once again I have to say there are thousands of churches like this around the world today, here in our country as well as elsewhere. In my judgment the most destructive and dangerous attitude a church can have -- and I run into it everywhere -- is that the church belongs to the people, they own it, and it exists for their benefit. That is what turns a church into what some have called a Religious Country Club, operating for the benefit of the members ...I read Scripture, I find that Jesus says, "On this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it," (Matthew 16:18 KJV). And when Paul speaks to the elders at Ephesus he says, "Tend the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof," (Acts 20:28). Nowhere in Scripture does it say that the church belongs to the people. It is Christ's church, and he has the right to determine what it shall be like and what goes on within it.'"
...Each church is the Lord's church -- that is what Laodicea forgot. But Laodicea was not only comfortable but, even worse, it was complacent. The Lord says to it in Verse 17:
"You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." (Revelation 3:17 NIV)
What a sad condition! There is a big difference between "you say," and "you are." Our Lord points this difference out. This is the "Faithful and True witness" speaking, the one who tells the whole truth, even though it hurts. This church at Laodicea was, to use a popular expression, "fat, dumb and happy." It was smug. It was self-sufficient. It was complacent. They had plenty of money. Perhaps they had beautiful buildings, gifted preachers, a great choir, a great organ, and the respect of the community. They thought they were doing well. But when Jesus looks at it, he says, "You are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." Why such a difference in these two views? It is because they were being measured by two different standards.
Laodicea was using the standards of the world. It was pleasant, comfortable, approved by the community around, and they thought they were doing well. But Jesus is using the standard of what he intended his church to be like. It is definitely not to be a Country Club, run for the benefit of the members. It is not a Performing Arts Center either, where one is entertained with wonderful music. It is not to be a Political Action Group, taking sides on the issues of the day, nor is it to be a protest movement. Elements of all these may, at times, be legitimately expressed in the church, but none is to be its raison d'etre, the purpose for which it exists.
Jesus tells us plainly what his church is to be like. It is to be salt -- and not just plain salt, but salty salt! He said, "Salt that loses its saltiness is good for nothing," (Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:50, Luke 14:34). It will only be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. But a church that is salt should be salty. He means that, like salt in food, it should be spread throughout the whole area, flavoring whatever it touches. The church is to function not only when it meets on Sunday, but out where you people are during the week -- in business offices, in the marketplace, in shops, in your home, wherever you are. That is where the church does its work. That is where it is to tell the good news and to be salt, flavoring life with a different flavor, a different attitude toward circumstances, which does not go along with the willful, wicked, and wanton ways of the world but which chooses to walk in truth, righteousness, love and honesty. That is how the church becomes salt, filled with good works.
And it is also to be light. "You are like a city set on a hill," said Jesus. "You are the light of the world," (Matthew 5:14 NIV). Light is a symbol of truth. The church is to be a source of truth and of vision. It is the church that is charged with the task of making people understand the program of God throughout history, and of interpreting the events of the day so that men see what God is doing, not what man intends to do. That is the work of the church: To declare the truth about humanity's lost condition and the good news that a Savior has been born who will save us from our sin. Judged by that standard, Laodicea had nothing. They were as though stripped naked, poor, pitiful, wretched, and blind.
Each of the seven churches represents a time where the prevailing general atmosphere was consistent with the conditions described in that church. Now we come to the seventh age of the church. It is clear, as both history and prophecy would confirm, that Laodicea is the church of the 20th century, the last age of the church. It is characterized by the phenomenon of the people dictating what will be taught. It is significant, is it not, that the name Laodicea means "The judgment of the people," or, to put it loosely, "People's rights." That is the cry of our times, is it not? The rights of the people -- exactly the opposite of the Nicolaitans who were a dominating clergy class that told the people what to believe. But Laodicea is where the people tell the ministers what to preach. We are seeing this happen today. The Apostle Paul predicted it in his second letter to Timothy when he said, "In the last times people will gather unto themselves teachers having itching ears, who will turn many from the truth and turn them unto myths and fables," (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Unfortunately, and sadly, that is what is happening today.
There was once a time when the church taught that the self life, the natural life with which we were born, was something that needed to be crucified. It needed to be denied. It required careful control and to be kept under rigid restrictions. Jesus said it himself, "He that comes after me must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me," (Matthew 16:34, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). But we are living in a day when churches are openly advancing self, asserting self, saying we should discover its possibilities, and act and live in the light of those possibilities. Once the inerrancy of Scripture formed the bedrock of all evangelical churches. You could count on the fact that the Bible was fully accepted as the unerring Word of God. But now churches, seminaries, and colleges that call themselves evangelical, are rethinking the nature of the Scriptures, denying the inerrancy of the Word, and claiming that we cannot trust it; it must be judged by men before it can be accepted.
This is the age of compromise, of drift within the church. Once there was a great urge within the church to evangelize the lost, simply because they were lost. The Scriptures tell us that all men are lost, that we are a lost race, drifting down the river of time. We reflect that lostness in the corruption and evil that is widespread in our day -- the pollution of our planet, the terrible rise of crime, the frightening toll that drugs and other things take of our youth, the failure of morals, etc. All this is testimony to the fact that we are not a pure people. We are not born good. We are born lost. But in many churches we are being told that God is too loving to condemn anybody; that good people like Ghandi and Schweitzer, who were not evangelical Christians at all, must at least have a second chance after death. Once it was unheard of in churches that the murder of unborn babies would be approved by evangelical believers, or that homosexuality would ever be acceptable. Yet, as we well know, abortion is increasingly accepted, even by evangelical Christians in many places. And on national television this week it was announced that the Episcopal Church has ordained its first openly practicing homosexual as a priest within that church. This is truly the age of Laodicea. Our Lord's appeal to this church falls into three simple divisions. First of all, verse 18:
"I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see." (Revelation 3:18 NIV)
The key to that verse is the three little words "buy from me." Jesus has all the church really needs to function. It is nice to have buildings, great choirs and beautiful music. These are not wrong, I do not mean in any way to suggest that they are, but they are not what the church needs. What it needs is what our Lord describes here, "Gold, and white clothing, and eye salve." We will see in a moment what those symbols stand for, but he alone possesses them. That is why it really does not make any difference whether we are persecuted, hounded by the government, put to death, or patronized and accepted. What the church needs is to be obtained only from Jesus, and our Lord tells us what it is.
First, "gold refined in the fire." Peter interprets that for us. He tells us that our faith is like gold refined in the fire: "More precious even than gold that perishes, though it be tried by fire," (1 Peter 1:7). Faith in God. Faith in his Word. Faith comes from Jesus. As we look to him our faith is awakened and stirred. We then see how true the Scriptures are, how they explain life and fit with all that we experience daily. That awakens a sense of confidence and faith, and that is what this church needed first. It lacked faith in God, but was resting on its own abilities or the world's resources.
Then, second, they needed white clothes: "white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness." Everyone is morally naked before God. Every one of us knows something about ourselves that we would not want anyone else to know. But God knows! He sees us in our nakedness. What does he offer for it? The righteousness of Christ! All through these letters we have seen that white clothes stand for redemption, for righteousness imparted by Christ. We are no longer to be clothed with our own self-righteousness, which Isaiah says is nothing but filthy rags in the sight of God, but we are to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ himself, a perfect righteousness which God accepts.
Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head."
White clothes stand for a changed character; they mark someone who has taken his robes and washed them in the blood of the Lamb, as we will read in Chapter 7. Then the third thing that is needed is eye salve. Laodicea was noted for their eye ointment. But Jesus says they need spiritual eye salve that will enable them to see. Everywhere in Scripture we have mention of an anointing of the Spirit which opens eyes to understand the truth of God. John speaks of this in his first letter. He says, "The anointing that you received from him remains in you and you do not need anyone to teach you, but his anointing is real, not counterfeit, and teaches you all truth," (1 John 2:27 NIV). That does not do away with the need for human teachers. It means that unless the Spirit in you is opening your eyes to the meaning of truth taught it will fall upon deaf ears. But if we have the Spirit of Christ within, our eyes are opened to understand the Word of God and we see the Bible in a new, fresh and wonderful way. Are you having trouble with your Bible reading? Is it hard going? Is it difficult to understand? Then ask yourself, "Do I have the Spirit of truth? Have I received him or do I need this counsel of Jesus to "come to me and I will give you that anointing which opens your eyes to see"?
The second division of our Lord's appeal is given in Verses 19-20, where we learn how to get this gold and white clothes and eye salve. This is, I believe, one of the most beautiful sections of Scripture, a most gracious offer our Lord makes to individuals within the church of Laodicea to change. Here is what he says:
"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:19-20 NIV)
What a kind and loving word! Our Lord is simply telling this church, despite its terrible weakness and failure, "I love you, and it is because I love you that I rebuke you and discipline you." Does that remind you of the way your father treated you? Did he ever take you aside and paddle you for something and say as he did it, "I am only doing this because I love you"? You go away rubbing your behind and saying, "I wish you didn't love me so much!" But Jesus speaks with bluntness because he loves this church, and he offers them a wonderful way out.
Verse 20 is one of the finest explanations in the whole Bible of how to become a Christian. I have used it hundreds of times and seen it work. It has three simple divisions: First, there comes a sense that Christ is outside your life and knocking at the door of your heart, wanting to come in. That occurs when you feel your life is not what you want it to be. You feel empty and disturbed about yourself. You hear the good news in song and word about Jesus, the kind of Lord he is, what he can do, and something within you responds. You sense the knocking of Christ and you want him to come in. You long for it. You begin to be awakened to your need, and you sense him offering to enter your life. That is step number one. Then the second step is very important. You must open the door. He will not open it. He is not going to force himself upon you. He never forces anyone into salvation. He offers it to you. Everywhere in Scripture Jesus offers himself to men and women, and he grieves over the fact that people do not receive his offer. Remember that remarkable scene in the Gospels during Jesus' last week in Jerusalem when he comes over the top of the Mount of Olives and sees the city spread out beneath him. He wept over the rebellious city, saying, "O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You stone the prophets and kill everybody God sends to you. How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you would not," (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34). So he offers himself here, if you will open the door. You must invite him in. You must say to him, "Come in Lord Jesus. Enter my life. Be my Lord. Be my Savior. Deliver me from my sins -- and myself." Then the third step is very clear. He will enter in! He says so. You do not have to feel him enter. He does not say he will give you the feeling that he is there, although certainly that will come in time, but he says, "If you open the door I will enter in and remain with you. We will eat together and be together." It is a beautiful picture of permanently dwelling with you. He will move in to live with you.
There may be some here this morning who have never opened their hearts to Christ. If you turn away from his knocking you will remain lost, and, eventually, if you never repent, you will enter eternity lost forever. But our Lord says if you will open the door (you can do it even while I am finishing this message), and say in your heart, "Lord Jesus, come into my life and deliver me, change me, save me; I receive you, Lord," he will enter. John promises in his Gospel, "As many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe on his name," (John 1:12 KJV). The third aspect of our Lord's appeal is his word to the overcomer. It is given in Verses 21-22:
"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Revelation 3:21-22 NIV)
...The promise is to share in our Lord's reign. The true church is intended to reign with Christ. But our Lord makes a very careful distinction here. Notice how he distinguishes between his throne and his Father's throne. The Father's throne, of course, is the sovereign government of the universe. God is sovereign over all. The whole universe is under his control. Every human event comes under his jurisdiction. That is the Father's throne. When our Lord had overcome, when he, too, had endured faithfully to the end of his life, trusting God (as we are to trust God throughout the rest of our lives), he sat down on his Father's throne. When he ascended, we are told, "He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God," (Hebrews 12:2). Hebrews says that and Psalm 110 had predicted it. Thus he is Lord over all the universe right now, on his Father's throne.
But he too has a throne. He calls it "my throne." The overcoming Christian is invited to reign with him on it. In Scripture that throne is called the "Throne of David." When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, as recorded in the first chapter of Luke, he told her that she would have a son, that he would be called the Son of God and that the Lord God would give unto him "the throne of his father David, and he would reign over the house of Jacob forever," (Luke 1:32-33). The house of Jacob is the nation of Israel; all twelve tribes are descended from the sons of Jacob. So this is a promise particularly relating to the time yet to come when Jesus assumes the throne of David and Israel is made the head of the nations. It is the millennial kingdom which has been mentioned several times in these letters already. The church, resurrected and glorified, is to share with him in that reign. That does not end the reign of the church with Christ. It goes on into the new heavens and the new earth. But this is a particular promise looking to the coming kingdom on earth when Jesus will reign over the earth. Our Lord had explained this to his disciples in a rather amazing passage in the 19th of Matthew. In verse 28 it says, "Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth [i.e., verily, verily, or, Amen, Amen] at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel,'" (Matthew 19:28 NIV). You could not put that any plainer, could you? "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters of father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first," (Matthew 19:29-30 NIV). That is our Lord's amplification of this promise here.
Now for the last time in these letters we hear our Lord say, "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" -- not what the churches say about themselves, or to the world, but what the Spirit says to the churches. We are to receive truth from God and dispense it to the world. But we do not originate truth. We do not think up the things that we would like to believe and spread that abroad. We are responsible to hear what the Spirit says to the churches and then to pass that along, as we function as salt and light in the world. --Ray Stedman, The Rich Poor Church.
It is not intuitively obvious but “as the church goes so goes the world.” So said my mentor Ray Stedman,
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-4 RSV)
In the account in Acts 2, we read that, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter quoted the prophecy of Joel, in which the prophet said that "in the last days" God would pour out his Spirit upon all flesh, (Acts 2:17). That, Peter said, was beginning to be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, almost 2,000 years ago. The first words of the book of Hebrews are: "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son," (Hebrews 1:1-2a RSV). So it is clear, from that, that "the last days" is a period which has now grown to 2,000 years' duration. The Apostle Paul is saying that within this extended period of time there will come repetitive cycles of distress, times of stress, perilous times, when all the conditions which he describes with these chilling words will obtain.
As we look back through human history during these last 2,000 years we can see how true that is. Again and again in our Western world we have had periods of relative peace and prosperity, only to have them interrupted by these terrible times of stress and agony that repeatedly come into human affairs. So these words are not necessarily a prediction of the last days for the church, rather, they are a recognition of the cycle of days like this that will keep coming. And, of course, one of them is going to be the last one...
But what the apostle wanted Timothy -- and us -- to know, he clearly outlines: "Understand this," he says, "that these will be dangerous times, times of great stress, times when our faith will be pushed to the limit of its endurance, when we will be under attack and under threat." Furthermore, Paul reveals a rather startling thing, these times of stress will be characterized by and caused by two major factors, which he goes on to describe. The first factor is very startling indeed. The striking thing about this paragraph is not what I read in Verses 1-4, but what is in Verse 5:
...holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:5 RSV)
In other words, Paul says that the primary cause of these repetitive cycles of stress and danger is the hypocritical lives of Christians who outwardly look pious, religious, committed and devoted, but are actually unchanged inside and have no power to overcome evil in their lives. Hypocritical Christianity -- that is the bottom line in these times of stress.
I do not think any of us really grasps the revelation of Scripture about the nature of the church. The New Testament everywhere seeks to convince us that the church is the most important body of people in the world. God builds society around what happens in the church. The church is in control of history. "You are the salt of the earth," Jesus said (Matthew 5:13a RSV). If the salt loses its savor, becomes saltless, without flavor, the whole world will go to pot. "You are the light of the world," he said (Matthew 5:14a RSV). If the light dims, the whole world will sink into darkness. That is what the Scriptures tell us. Immorality in the world is caused by insincerity in Christians. Darkness among the nations is an outgrowth of ignorance and darkness in individuals...I am saddened and depressed by the biblical ignorance of church members. There is a terrible biblical illiteracy across the face of this apparently Christianized nation. People have only the most superficial knowledge of the Scriptures...
Let us take a closer look at this analysis by the apostle. It falls into four groupings: The first one flows out of that first term, "lovers of self." That is the basic sin of humanity. Self love, the worship of another god, is the vilest form of idolatry. It deprives God of the worship due to his name, and it places a rival god, oneself, on the throne of an individual life. That is where some Christians are, Paul says. They have not really been changed, they are still lovers of self.
When this condition obtains in the churches, it will also be much more clearly and widely exhibited in the world. Today, we have what is known as the "Me" society. The focus is all on "my" -- my rights, my needs, my views, is all we hear about on every side. The first question that is asked about anything is, "What am I going to get out of it?" Christians oftentimes point the finger at non-Christians, saying, "Look how selfish they are," but the apostle points his finger, and says, that is what is happening in the church. People are not changed, they are "lovers of themselves."
The first and primary expression of it is in the next words, "lovers of money." Why are Christian people such materialists today? Why do they, like everyone else, seek a constantly increasing standard of living, a much more luxurious lifestyle? It is because money is a way of indulging ourselves. Instead of using it as the Scriptures exhort us to -- to meet the needs of others, to be ready to quickly respond to human need around us, and to delight to use our excess to that purpose -- we oftentimes merely plan to use it to increase our own possessions, to add to our own enjoyment in life...
Out of this grows another word: "proud." The word is boastful, braggarts. It bothers me to hear churches brag about how many millions of dollars they set aside for missions every year. I welcome the fact that the money is given, but to advertise it, to print it up in brochures that are handed out to others -- I do not know what this does to non-Christians who read it. I am sure it does not impress them very much. They see it as nothing more than the empty boasts of people who are trying to draw attention to themselves rather than to their Lord. That is an outcome of this loving of self.
The word that immediately follows is, "arrogant." Proud people are arrogant people. They have a secret contempt for others; they regard themselves as above them. This is the attitude frequently displayed in many churches and by many Christians today. It often takes the form of a self-righteousness is that looks down its nose at people who have fallen into open, blatant sin. Such Christians use derisive terms for homosexuals, for whoremongers, for prostitutes and pornographers. They gather their robes of righteousness around themselves and pronounce judgment with the same attitude of scornful cynicism revealed by the Pharisees in our Lord's day. That is why Jesus spoke so sharply to the Pharisees and so warmly to the prostitutes.
"Abusive" is the next term. This word describes people who use insulting, pejorative terms that put people down. This is the manifestation of an unhealthy, unwholesome, unchristian spirit within the Christian church.
Then there follows a second grouping that centers around family life. This seems to be addressed primarily to younger Christians. The first term is, "disobedient to their parents." Today there is a total breakdown of the home and a rebellion against parental authority...
With this Paul links the word "ungrateful." He is referring to younger people, particularly, who are uncaring about the hours of labor their parents have gone through to provide a home and opportunity for them...
The next word is "unholy." This word means an unwillingness to observe even the basic decencies of life. It is a flaunting of ungodly actions, a kind of shamelessness that takes pleasure in doing shocking things to provoke reactions from people. With that is linked the word, "inhuman." This means lacking in normal affections, brutish, beastly, cruel. With that is the word, "implacable" -- meaning beyond reason, unappeasable, having a bitter, unrelenting attitude that nobody can talk to or soften in any way.
All of these attitudes occur within the framework of a Christian profession -- of people who say they are Christians, and act as such on Sunday, but during the week, at home and in business, have an entirely different outlook and attitude. They are cruel, vicious and implacable.
Then the list moves to those areas that touch what we call 'interpersonal relationships.' The next word is, "slanderers" -- literally, devils; "profligates" -- people who are ungovernable, who have to satisfy their lust and their passions immediately; "fierce" -- savage people; "haters of good" -- that was our Lord's charge to the Pharisees, that though they were morally respectable, within they were opposers of God and haters of good, and they proved it by putting to death the best man who ever lived; "treacherous" -- the word is used of Judas, the betrayer; and "reckless" -- careless of what happens, entering headlong into things, impulsively reacting without fear of the consequences. Then the last thing, "swollen with conceit," which literally means, swollen-headed, people who think of themselves more highly than they ought.
Finally, the last grouping deals with the religious pretensions of such people -- "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion [the outward form -- the word is eusebeia-- of godliness, or wholesomeness, a Sunday morning godliness] but denying the power thereof." Why? Why should people who are exposed to the Bible, who profess the truth, sing the hymns, and go through the ritual that is being carried out in thousands of churches across our land today reflect during the week the attitudes described here in such a way that destroy the fabric of society? The answer is in this one phrase: "they deny the power thereof."
We do not have to guess at what that power is. The Apostle Paul tells us very plainly in First Corinthians, where he says, "The word of the cross ... is the power of God," (1 Corinthians 1:18. When you let the cross have its effect upon you then you will experience and realize the power of God released. It is the denial of the word of the cross that constitutes this kind of Christianity without Christ, godliness without God, spirituality without the Spirit. The word of the cross is that which puts to death the natural life -- denies self, in other words.
Jesus put it very plainly: "If any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me," (Luke 9:23, Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34). This is saying that until we are willing, as Christians, to say "No" to what the cross has denied, what it has put to death within us, we cannot enter into that eternal life that is available to us now. Unwilling to deny self means that we are unable to experience life from God. That is the problem.
That is why we lay constant stress upon the fact that we must practice what we preach. We must say "No" to all the risings of the flesh within us in order that we might lay hold of the supply of power and life and vitality which enables us to walk with God in righteousness and truth. Otherwise we contribute to, nay, even cause, these terrible times of stress that repeatedly come upon humanity.
RC Sproul...pointed out that the Bible divides life into four divisions of humanity:
The first group is those who are not saved and know they are not saved. They are the godless, the pagans, we call them, the people who do not profess any form of religion, the atheists, the agnostics of our day, who have no interest in the things of God, and say so openly.
Then there are those who are saved, but they are not sure of it. They really have come to Christ, they really do love the Savior, they know they have been born again, but, because they have not been taught properly, they do not understand the promises of God. For one reason or another they think that they will lose their salvation if they slip or fall in any way. When they do, they succumb to despair for weeks and months in a painful condition of uncertainty. This group is not sure of anything about their faith.
Then there is the group who are saved and they know it. These are the ones we would call the strong, mature Christians who are growing, evincing a new, changed life. Though they have the normal struggles of everyone else, they show from year to year evidence of progress and growth in these areas. They know they belong to God; they have no doubts about it.
Finally, there is a great group, which Scripture faces, of those who are not saved but think they are. That is the group that is being confronted in this passage. Jesus said, "Many shall come to me in that day and say 'Lord, Lord, have we not done many mighty works in your name, and cast out devils in your name, and preached in your name?' And I shall say to them, 'Depart from me, I never knew you.'" (Matthew 7:22-23). They are the cause -- think of it -- of the times of stress that come upon humanity, times such as we are going through right now...
Remember, then, that hypocrisy and insincerity in the church is what was produced the times of crisis that are described here. We are living heirs today of the lukewarmness of the churches of the '20s and '30s of this century. God's righteous judgments always are based upon reality. He knows what is in the heart. If we think we are fooling God by our coming to church, by singing hymns, by faithfully attending Bible studies, but not allowing the Word to get at our self-indulgent lives and change us, we will awake sooner or later only to find we are fooling ourselves. These are strong, searching words from the apostle's pen. He goes on in the next section to tell us how to oppose these conditions, what to do in the midst of them, how to live in these times of stress...” Ray Stedman: Dangerous Times
Fifty years ago church people made lists of do’s and don’t they imposed on their kids. Bright and aware offspring soon detected much hypocrisy in the church and in their parents. Not always of course! Ofttimes mom and dad sought to save the kids from the failure they faced in their reckless youth. A great Cosmic Consequence Engine behind the scenes inexorably spares no one. But sometimes parents are too full of shame or guilt to talk about sexuality and the kids learn from gym class or sleep-overs and camping trips. Human sexuality is quite powerful after puberty and only management when libido management is in the hands of the Lord Jesus.
There will be no need for biological sex in New Jerusalem—welcome news for many forgiven sinners revirginized by Jesus.
Please listen to Andy Woods on Chaos in the Church.
Finding and Meeting Real Christians in the Professing Church
Here are five characteristics to help you recognize those who may attend church but not know the Lord. Caution! People will vary, so some of these may apply to a particular person while others do not.
1. They are more apt to talk about their relationship with their church than their relationship with Christ. The reason is obvious—their relationship with Christ may be nonexistent while their relationship with the church is something that they act upon weekly.
2. When they talk about the Lord, they use the generic term "God" more than referring to Jesus personally.
3. They are more comfortable speaking about spiritual things at an abstract level than at a practical level. They may talk about how Christian morals affect their thinking but not how Christ affects their daily behavior.
4. If you ask them, "Have you trusted Christ as your only way to heaven?" or "Do you know that if you were to die, you'd go to heaven?" they become intimidated and defensive.
5. They mention what they've done for the church more often than they mention what they are learning from Scripture. More than likely they are not studying the Word on a daily basis.
Part of reaching someone is knowing who they are. Many may think they are spiritual or good people based on their morals or church attendance, but these five points will help you determine what their relationship with Christ truly is.
This article is adapted from The Evangelism Study Bible, a product of EvanTell, a ministry that trains and equips Christians to share the gospel clearly and simply. Dr. Larry Moyer is the founder and CEO. For more information about EvanTell, please visit evantell.org.
Elijah and the Widow
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ ” So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah. Elijah Revives the Widow’s Son Now it happened after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him. So she said to Elijah, “What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?” And he said to her, “Give me your son.” So he took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. Then he cried out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?” And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.” Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives!” Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.” (1 Kings 17:8-24)
No Other Name
The Apostle Peter: Addressing the Sanhedrin
And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:5-12)
Man's Lost Estate
God gave them upFor the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:18-32)
Saul Consults a Medium
"Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had lamented for him and buried him in Ramah, in his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the spiritists out of the land.
Then the Philistines gathered together, and came and encamped at Shunem. So Saul gathered all Israel together, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.
Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.”
So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.”
Then the woman said to him, “Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?”
And Saul swore to her by the Lord, saying, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”
Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”
When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!”
And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.” So he said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.
Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do.”
Then Samuel said: “So why do you ask me, seeing the Lord has departed from you and has become your enemy? And the Lord has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.” Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, and was dreadfully afraid because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no food all day or all night. And the woman came to Saul and saw that he was severely troubled, and said to him, “Look, your maidservant has obeyed your voice, and I have put my life in my hands and heeded the words which you spoke to me. Now therefore, please, heed also the voice of your maidservant, and let me set a piece of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way.”
But he refused and said, “I will not eat.” So his servants, together with the woman, urged him; and he heeded their voice. Then he arose from the ground and sat on the bed. Now the woman had a fatted calf in the house, and she hastened to kill it. And she took flour and kneaded it, and baked unleavened bread from it. So she brought it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night." (1 Samuel 28:3-25)
Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
“The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.”
They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
(1 Peter 2:4-10)
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February 7, 2020