November 24, 2013

The Faithful Church - Nov 24, 2013

Sorry, I’m not able to post the audio for this sermon this week. –Pastor Caleb Schaller


When I was in college I got to play on a recreational softball team called the “Old Timers”. Now we weren’t all old guys. Some of us were young. In fact, there was a pretty good smattering of ages and abilities on this team.

There was one old guy we used to call “Socks” (I’m not sure why). His knees were just about shot. Every game he’d have his knees wrapped tightly with ace bandages and neoprene sleeves pulled on over those. But you could still see that just running the bases was painful for the guy. Not that he complained, you could just see it was painful. But boy could he hit. Just about every time “Socks” got up to bat he’d line a single over the infield and into the grass.

“Socks” wasn’t a power hitter. He wasn’t going to hit any out of the park, but he sure was dependable. You know, dynamite is nice, but most of the time dependable is better.
Today we’re going to read Jesus’ letter to the church at Philadelphia. The church at Philadelphia was a lot like “Socks.” Jesus himself says that they didn’t have a lot of power, but they were dependable. They had kept Jesus’ word and had not denied his name. Today we read Christ’s letter to The Faithful Church.

Revelation 3:7-13 (ESV)

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
“ ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
It must have been surprising for the seven churches of Asia minor to get letters from Jesus. Letters addressed specifically to them. Letters dealing with their own personal situations, pointing out their own strengths, and weaknesses.

Out of all the churches who got letters, I imagine that the church at Philadelphia was the most surprised to get a letter from Christ himself. They weren’t a big deal like some of those other churches. 

 Jesus himself describes the church at Philadelphia as having “but little power”. Now, it’s hard to say what exactly what Jesus means by that phrase. Did they have “little power” because they hadn’t received an extensive education in the Bible? Were they just holding on to the simplest truths of Christianity? Perhaps their church was made up of the poor of the city who had little political power or influence among their neighbors. Maybe Jesus says they had “but little power” because they were prone to sickness and disease. Or, maybe Jesus is simply talking about their numbers. Maybe the church at Philadelphia was numerically the smallest of the Asian churches.

No matter how we understand “little power”, we still get the point. Philadelphia wasn’t dynamite. But, Jesus doesn’t have a single word of rebuke for this church. Maybe they weren’t dynamite, but they were faithful.

When they had heard that there was really only ONE true God in the universe, and that he was a compassionate God, they listened. When they learned how the Son of God went so far as to become one of them to rescue them from their own mess of sin. They warmed to the Gospel. And when they heard of the resurrection of Christ, which stood as divine evidence of all that Jesus had promised, they believed. And they had held onto the message of sins forgiven through Christ’s cross ever since. They had not been ashamed to be called followers of Jesus. Even when people from the local Synagogue ridiculed their faith, they refused to jump ship and abandon the divine Savior they had come to know and love.

And because they had continued to stoke the fire of faith that the Holy Spirit had ignited among them, Jesus was happy to call them his own people.
Sometimes we Christians lose sight of how huge that really is to really BE, “Christ’s people”. Not just to be CALLED Christians, but to be Christ’s people through faith in him. That slender, invisible bond to Jesus that we call “faith” is precious. For faith unites us to Jesus in a way that is more intimate and special than other unity known to man.

Before Jesus ascended back to the Father’s side he told his disciples…

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV).

By faith in Christ, Christians are connected to Sovereign King who reigns over ALL people, things, and powers. Jesus illustrates this to the Philadelphian Christians when he describes himself as the one who…

“…has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Revelation 3:7 ESV).

When King David ruled, his keys were held by a steward. This steward then had the power to open the treasury doors and dispense the riches of the king.

Here in Revelation Jesus is described as holding the “key of David”. But the key that Jesus holds isn’t just the key to an earthly treasure room. Jesus holds the key of the treasure room of Heaven.
In verse eight, Jesus tells the Christians of Philadelphia that he’s set an open door before them that nobody else can shut. Jesus isn’t just talking about any “open door of opportunity”. This door is the very door to heaven. In the next chapter of Revelation, the apostle John is given a vision of an open door in the sky. And when he is ushered through this door he finds himself in the throne room of the Almighty God. THIS is the open door that was placed before the Christians at Philadelphia. Through Christ, the door to Heaven was opened to them—even though they were sinful people.

This is what being connected to Christ means. To the humble Christians of Philadelphia, Heaven had been opened.

Jesus tells them not to be worried about what the local Synagogue was saying about them. In  the end, the people who slandered them and ridiculed Christ would be made to bow down before them and acknowledge that they were loved by Christ. The Christians at Philadelphia didn’t need to worry. Justice would be served eventually.

This is what being connected to Christ means.

And Jesus goes further. He tells the Christians at Philadelphia not to worry about anything that the future might bring. There was an “hour of trial” coming soon for the whole world, but in that hour Jesus would watch over them. Jesus would keep them as his cherished people.

This is what being connected to Christ means.

In verse eleven Jesus says…

“…Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelation 3:11).

No matter what death would come to these Christians. Death by persecution. Death by crucifixion. Death by cancer. Death by old age. It didn’t matter. Connected to the resurrected Christ by simple trust, they could look forward to their own resurrection, and eternal life after that.
Of all the churches of Asia minor, the church at Philadelphia is the one we need to aspire to be. Not dynamite, but faithful. Not influential among the people of this world, but a church who knew they were loved by Christ. Not strong in their own abilities, but dependent on Christ for everything. Cherishing his word. Proud to carry his name. Patiently enduring whatever this life can throw at them. Joyfully waiting for the King’s return.

Through faith in Christ you and I have the same assurances that the church at Philadelphia had. Through faith, Christ is our King too, and we his people. Our King holds the key to the heavenly treasures of peace, hope, love, self-control, goodness, patience and compassion—just to name a few. Our King, has the power to open whatever door of opportunity he sees fit to set before us, in addition to the door of heaven. With Christ as our King we don’t need to even the score against people who hate us. Justice will come from our King in the end. With Christ as our King we can depend on being cared for in whatever “hour of trial” we find ourselves in. Even when we face death, which we all will, we too can be at peace, knowing that the crown of eternal life is already ours—in Christ.

This is what being connected to Christ means.
Jesus closes his letter to the Philadelphian Christians like he has all the other letters—with images that illustrate his promise of heaven. He gives them little pictures of promise to hold in their minds.

Jesus says that those who conquer, that is, those who keep trusting in him to the end will be made pillars in the temple of God. You could take THINGS out of a temple, but not the pillars. They were not movable. Those who cross the threshold of Heaven will never leave God’s presence ever after.

Jesus says that those who conquer by faith, will have the name of God written on them. You write your name on something to denote ownership. If God writes his name on you, that means you belong to him.

Jesus says that the faithful will have the name of God’s city written on them. The name of your state is put on your driver’s license to show where your belong. When God writes the name of his city on you, that shows where you belong. Where you reside. In the eternal city of God.

Jesus says that his people will have HIS new name written on them. Jesus is our Judge and our Savior. Having HIS name written on us ensures our eternal safety and illustrates His loving care. After all, you only label things  as your own when you really care about them.

This is what being connected to Christ means.
The Christians at Philadelphia weren’t dynamite, but they were faithful. They were connected to Christ. And as a result, they had Christ’s approval, protection, and the promise of a heavenly future.

In the book of Isaiah it says…

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV).

In this world, the strength of youth degrades. Time weighs heavy on our bodies. Destroys our knees. Compromises our health. Turns the dynamite of youth into the little firecracker of old age. But those connected to God through His Son are connected to a power beyond this world. And that power will renew us one day that we might rejoice in his presence forever.

May we always aspire to be like the church at Philadelphia. Not dynamite, but simply faithful. Connected to Christ. For it is then that weak men and women like us—become truly strong.

Prayer: Dearest Lord Jesus, you have set an open door before us here at Redemption. Move us always to trust in your promise of forgiveness and life. When we feel weak, remind us that we ARE weak, but YOU are strong. Remind us that you hold us in your hand, and will never let us go. If we are to do great things in your name, it will have to be your power that accomplishes these things through us. Graciously teach us to yield up all that we have, our lives, and our egos, to your guiding hand. Dearest Savior, truly be our King. Amen.

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