As I sat down with my morning coffee, I wondered what I would say, and how I would say it to you. What came to mind is our new journey. For one thing, we are all adjusting to the confines of the Covid-19 pandemic. For another, we are welcoming our new preacher and his family into our congregation.
When thinking about the adjustments we all need to make, I can’t help but wonder where I’ve gone wrong … what I need to change about myself … how I can be of better service to others? I think on this because of Revelation 1-3.
I imagine myself standing before the throne of God trembling in fear to behold his majesty. When I read God’s pronouncement upon the seven churches of Asia, I couldn’t help but tear up over what’s lacking in my life. I don’t want the Father to sit me down and tell me I’m good in this area of my life, but I lack in another, and if I don’t straighten up, I will be judged.
But how can I avoid such fate?
The Church of Smyrna and the church of Philadelphia are the only two churches out of seven found without fault.
What state will our church be in if Jesus comes with the clouds today? And what part have I played in my church’s demise or in my church’s glory before the Lord?
I don’t like new beginnings. I like routine. I would rather stay couped up in my house and not visit with a soul. I’m comfortable. Stubborn. Anti-social. I need no fanfare. I don’t care for gossip and I literally hate the telephone.
But as I write these words, I’m faced with this question: What am I willing to give of myself to further the kingdom of my Father?
The seven churches mentioned in Revelation are in Asia, specifically, modern-day Turkey, in the eastern Mediterranean area, on or near the Aegean Sea coastline, and were under Roman rule.
Ephesus was a city of 250,000 people, prosperous, wealthy, in the on/near the Aegean Sea, and under Roman rule. The ancient Greek city was located off the coast of Ionia, 3 Km southwest of present-day Selçuk in the Izmir Province, Turkey.
Smyrna is a city north of Ephesus – located on the Aegean Sea coastline that was later captured and destroyed by the Greeks, but rebuilt in the 3rd century, to later become an ally of Rome; is the third largest city in the country. It, too, was prosperous and had magnificent buildings. Today, known as Izmir.
Pergamos / Pergamon / Pergamum – located in the western portion of Asia Minor and north of Smyrna, approximately 15 miles inland of the Aegean Sea, and was once the capital of the Roman province.
Thyatira is located near the Lycus River and it’s where Paul and his companions were invited to stay at the house of Lydia where she and her household were baptized. This city is now known as Akhisar.
Sardis is located 50 miles east of Smyrna, 30 miles south of Thyatira. The Christian community was small and weak and a lot of them returned to their old religious beliefs. It was formerly the capitol of Lydia.
Philadelphia is located 30 miles southeast of Sardis, founded by Attalus II Philadelphus of Pergamos. It was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 17, but rebuilt by Emperor Tiberius. It is now known as Alasehir.
Laodicea is located 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia and 80 miles east of Ephesus in western Asia Minor – Turkey. It was renowned for its fine woolen garments and eye salves. This city is now known as Denizli.
The Church of Ephesus forsook their first love – Christ.
The Church of Pergamum had those in their midst who worshipped other gods and were sexually immoral.
The Church of Thyatira tolerated Jezebel who called herself a prophetess, teaching and misleading God’s servants.
The Church of Sardis is dead but pretending to be alive, their deeds incomplete.
The Church of Laodicea is lukewarm and is nauseating before the Lord.
What state are we in and how have I helped propel our sentence before the Lord?
I can’t answer this question for you, for I can’t assume to know what you know.
But I can say with certainty that each one of us has a role to play in helping to edify the Church of God. None of us has the right to warm a pew, nod in each other’s direction, cross our legs and criticize, sit back in silence, and carry on.
This is the time to pivot … to seize this opportunity … to set goals for ourselves in order to help the church move forward and not backward. We can’t afford to waste time waiting for a preacher, an elder, a younger person, or more families to move in, or our contributions to increase before we change our attitudes toward one another. When I stand before the throne of God, I will answer only for myself.
This is serious spiritual business. This isn’t a game. Prayer is not something you say, mere words, but is an interaction with God on behalf of another. Christianity is a spiritual communal affair. It requires engaging with others.
And have I mentioned that I’m anti-social and I’d rather stay home, alone, without a telephone?
How can you encourage me to change? What good can I be to the church with my selfish attitude?
Sadly, the answer is: I can’t be of use to anyone. Unless. I. Change.
And you won’t grow either if you do not change.
We are all called to grow in the spirit by the Word of God.
When I think of the seven churches and the seven angels assigned to them, I can’t escape the possible fate we may fall into, both individually, and as a church. I’m hoping my obedience to the Father will increase … my love for the brotherhood will be sincere … and most of all, my love for God will be fervent and without fault.
But to love God is to love my brother and sisters. In I John 4; specifically, v.7-11; and v.21, we are commanded to love each other.
If I continue to conduct my life … If you continue to conduct your life the same way you did a month ago, what have we profited? Do we not fear God’s wrath? Do you really think your church attendance is enough to ensure you have a seat at God’s table?
I want so much more than just to act like a Christian and attend worship service. I want God to change me inside out. I want God to scrub away the callouses until I am raw and tender in heart. I want to look upon people with love–not filled with hate, not by social class, not by political parties, not by ethnicities, not by education, not by financial status. I want to give all of me without complaining, without wishing and hoping for something in return. I want a steadfast love–a love without blemish, a love without fault, a love without judgment.
For all of that to happen, I must humble myself before the feet of Jesus and stop playing and acting the part in a play. I must turn in my Actors Guild Awards and replace it with bent knees, and a humble and repentant heart before the Father.
For all of that to happen, I must give up my complacency, give up my attitude of “I’ve put in my time. Let someone else do it.”
Until that happens, it won’t matter what preacher you’ve hired, how many people have joined our congregation, if we have an adequate number of elders, or if our contributions have increased. You see, if we accomplish all these things and have not love, we will stand before the Lord and He will not fail to voice his displeasure and tell us that we are lacking and have forsaken our first love.
Two of the main themes in the book of Revelation is God’s encouragement to the church — telling them that they have a greater future than the chaos surrounding them; and the revelation of God’s awareness of their deeds. A reward awaits those who endure. Jesus is still and will always be the head of all things. He is the King of all kings, God of all gods. In the book of Revelation, God unveils the church’s immediate future so they can be comforted in times of persecution. He’s encouraging you to hang in there, don’t give up, persevere, for when Jesus comes with the clouds the final victory of the Lamb over Satan will occur and we need to stand ready.
God knows your deed, your hard work, your issues with complacency and laziness, your unwillingness to volunteer to be of service to the church, your hardened heart, your perseverance, your fears, the tears you’ve shed over disobedient children. Like the seven churches, he knows your hate for wickedness, how you’ve tested friends and loved ones, members of the body only to find them false or lacking, yet, you have persevered and endured for his namesake and have not grown weary. Be of good cheer! Be of good courage for God rewards the faithful.
To the Church at Ephesus, he gave the right to eat from the tree of life.
To the Church at Smyrna, he promised no pain by the second death.
To the Church at Pergamos, he presented them with a white stone with a new name.
To the Church at Thyatira, he gave authority over nations.
To the Church at Sardis, he promises to never blot out their names from the book of life but will acknowledge them before the Father and his angels.
To the Church at Philadelphia, he wrote God’s name and city, the new Jerusalem, upon them.
To the Church at Laodicea, he gives the right to sit on Jesus’ throne and Jesus will eat with them.
The promises of God are sure, firm, and will not fade with time. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is, and was, and is to come. Daily renew these words in your mind basis so your spirit can be refreshed.
God will not gloss over your complacency. He won’t ignore it. Like he found fault with the seven churches of Asia, he, too, finds fault with me and you. Imagine you are before the Father. What will you confess? Or rather, what is the first thing you will try to hide from him?
My encouragement to you today, is, for once, be honest with God. Stop all the talking with one another and talk to God. Confess your complacency. Confess your unwillingness to give of yourself, to be of service to your local congregation, to love the brotherhood of believers. Confess why you are expecting so much in return and no longer willing to give of your time.
For anything short of repentance is no repentance at all. And without repentance, there is no seeing the Father face-to-face, no eating at his table, no crown of life, no eating from the tree of life.
I am lacking. I must do more.
How about you?
Are you really willing to run the risk of having your Lamp removed?
September 19, 2020
Donna B. Comeaux