“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.
“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in our favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.” – Revelation 2:2-6
John received seven messages for seven churches, represented in his revelation as seven lampstands. This first message was for the LOYAL CHURCH in Ephesus. Each message sounds a lot like a job performance review. Do you recognize it? You are doing these things really well…Here is where there is room for improvement and where your performance is lacking…This is what the consequence will be if you do not start doing things differently…This is the reward waiting for you if you do as I have asked you to do…
“To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.” – Revelation 2:7b
There are six more messages to six more lampstand churches. Lord, show us if one of these “performance reviews” describes where we are at spiritually. Protect us from false guilt but open our hearts to the truth as revealed by Your Spirit. Amen.
Smyrna is seen as a SUFFERING CHURCH – a Church who has suffered much for God but they have done so in fear. God is guiding them – Don’t be afraid of the suffering that is ahead of you. If you remain faithful through this difficult time, I will give you a crown of life (2:8-11).
Pergamum is the COMPROMISING CHURCH. They remained loyal during times of persecution but they had also tolerated false teaching. They have a choice set before them – repent of your sin or I will come and fight the false teaching myself with the sword of my mouth. If you find victory in this area of pushing away false beliefs, I will give you manna from heaven. And, to each of you, I will give a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name no one understands except the one who receives it (2:12-17).
The Church in Thyatira has a similar problem – they have been the OVERLY TOLERANT CHURCH. God has seen their love, faith, service and patient endurance. In the presence of constant improvement, they have unfortunately allowed teaching that permits sexual sin and the eating of food offered to idols. When given the opportunity to repent, they have chosen immorality over God’s plan. To this church God is saying – I know the thoughts and intentions of every person and I will give to each of you whatever you deserve. If you choose to obey me to the very end, you will be given victory and authority (2:18-29).
The Church in Sardis has a reputation for being alive but God sees that their actions do not meet His requirements – they are the SPIRITUALLY DEAD CHURCH. They need to go back to what they believed at first and hold to it firmly. Then they will wake up and be strengthened. There were some in the church who had not “soiled their clothes” and they would walk with God in white because they were worthy of this privilege. Their names will be written in the book of Life forever (3:1-6).
To the OBEDIENT CHURCH in Philadelphia: I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, YET you obeyed my word and did not deny me…Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown (Revelation 3:8-11).
The message to the Church in Laodicea is probably the one we are most familiar with. They are the LUKEWARM and UNCOMMITTED CHURCH. They are not completely cold and dead, but neither are they on fire for God. They are like lukewarm water that God will spit out of His mouth. They are rich and think they have everything they need, but they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.
To the lukewarm God says, “I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.” – Revelation 3:19-21
So where did you find yourself among these bad news / good news reviews? There is hope! The difference between these 7 messages and job performance reviews is found at the end of each message: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”
God is saying – I’m not asking you to perform based on your own abilities. I’m asking you to enter into my presence and allow my Spirit to fill you. Then listen to the Spirit and pray for understanding of how the Spirit is asking you to live. As we discovered yesterday, we can position ourselves to hear from God by entering into His presence to worship Him. It is in these times that we hear from Him and receive strength from Him.
God, that is exactly where we want to be – positioned to hear from you. We want to be filled with Your Spirit so that we can respond minute by minute to your leading. Lord, we confess the areas in which we have been lacking and thank you that “GRACE” is written in red all over our performance review. Thank you for coming in and sharing this morning coffee together as friends. Open our ears so we can listen to Your Spirit and understand what you are saying to us today. Amen.