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Christ in the Church
Pastor Steve
Revelation 2:1 - 3:22
May 06, 2017

The book of revelation opens up with these words. The revelation of Jesus Christ, and then it begins to show us this glorious vision of the son of man, the alpha and the omega. The one who is, and who was and is to come, and if you fast forward to the end of the book of revelation, you see this beautiful picture of the new heaven, the new earth, the river of life feeding the tree of life. All is bliss, evil has been defeated and death is no more. There’s no more crying, no more pain, no more tears, no more arguments with your spouse. There is some significant appeal, to jumping directly to that end, to the bliss, the defeat of evil as history, instead of yet future. Let’s just meet Jesus and skip directly to our eternal happiness, but alas, we can’t do that standing between the vision of the son of man, and the vision of the new heavens, lies the church. The road from Christ to heaven, the battles against sin, runs through the church. It is likely that if you have heard a series of messages on the book of revelation it settled upon these two chapters, which we will consider today and next week. 

The letters to the seven churches of revelation they make for a neat little sermon series. A seven-week series, one for each of the seven churches, and when I wrote this sermon I was determined I was going to cover all seven today. And then I had a fellowship lunch yesterday, and just happen to mention that I am going to cover seven churches of revelation, yeah, revelation 2 and 3 in one sermon and that one of my seven points had seven sub points. And another one had 5 sub points, and as I vocalize that I realize I must have been drinking some really heavy duty mountain dew when I read that sermon. So we're going to cover revelation 2 and 3 this week and next week, and we're going to draw seven conclusions from these seven letters, and we are doing so remember through the prism of the first word of the book of revelation that it is a revelation of Jesus Christ. So what we’re asking ourselves as we read through this study, is, what does this teach us about Christ? So we’re going to step back, and look at this letters not individually, but rather as set of letters meant to communicate powerful messages, not merely to the seven churches, but to all churches throughout all ages about who Christ is. 

By now, you have hopefully opened your bible to revelation 2 and 3 and you’ll follow along, we’re not going to read in one set, we’re not going to read the two chapters now, otherwise we’d be there for 3 weeks. But, we're going to refer to this two chapters throughout this two messages, so keep your finger there, and, well let's start. Speaking of a start, each of these seven letters, begins with a description, not just of the church it is being written to, but a description of the one who is speaking through the hand of John, and it reminds us that Christ is connected to the church. Christ is connected to the church. The first (ah), in chapter 2 verse 1, we read the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand who walks among the seven lamp stands. In 2:8, the words of the first and the last who died and came to life. 

In 2:12, the words of him who has a sharp two edged sword. 2:18, the words of the son of god who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 3:1, the words of him who has the seven spirits of god, and the seven stars. 3:7, 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 will open. And 3:14, the words of Amen, the faithful, and true witness the beginning of God's creation.

Now for those of you, that missed the last couple of weeks, and haven't perhaps read revelation one, you may have missed the repetition in 2 and 3, the verses that I just read and how they harken back to the description that John gave of the voice the he heard. Remember in chapter 1, he turned to see the voice that was speaking to him, and then he describes one like the son of man, and he uses the descriptions which Christ now uses of himself as he writes to each of the churches. Christ holding the seven stars, standing among the lampstands, the first and the last, the sharp two edged sword, the eyes like a flame of fire, the feet like burnished bronze. It seems though Christ read the first chapter of Revelation, and he used it to describe himself. And the conclusion, that I reach from this is that the son of man is connected to the church, and the church is connected to Christ.

 The son of man, Christ is connected to the church. Without Christ the church has no identity. Apart from Christ, there is no church. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing and we are nothing but a pious society or maybe not so pious society of souls. Throughout all of the scripture the church is tied to Christ, and Christ is tied to the church. That’s one of the reasons the church ought to be significant in the life of every believer because Christ loves the church. With all of its weaknesses and all of its frailty Christ loves the church and insisted John write this seven letters, this seven love letters to his creation. Christ is connected to the church, and he loves the church. It brings me to this one conclusion, which I find as my wife use to track about this a lot as a mother, and I realize how absolutely correct she is, that it's easy to love someone who loves the things that you love. If you treat my kids well, I'm going to like you. If you treat my kids poorly, not so much. When the mark of love is to love the things which are love by the ones we love. And we start of in these picture of the seven churches and we realize that Christ is connected to the church, and he loves the church, and perhaps we ought to be connected to the church, and we are to love the church.

 We emulate Christ in that, because Christ is connected to the church and when you think of the implications of that for our life, for our long term connection with the church, we realize that Christ throughout the ages has always been connected to the Church. He is chosen to abide in the church. The church is a high value of Christ. Therefore, ought to be a high value of ours. Christ is connected to the church. The second lesson, is that Christ knows the church. To each of the churches, there's a personal touch, a touch which flows from an intimate knowledge of the trait and the troubles and the triumphs, of the local church. Sometimes when you’re praying don't you want to tell god stuff in case he missed it.

 Heavenly Father, you do know I have this pain in my elbow, could you take care of that? just in case you’ve forgotten I got a pain in my back and you're a pain in my ne-. No, we want to tell God stuff, so he doesn't know it. We want to tell him that about the church. We kind of develop this attitude, if God only knew, what that church was like there's no way that he would not go there. Guess what? he is here and he loves the church. We start off with what? Christ is connected to the church, and he knows everything about it. He knows what colored chairs we are sitting on, he knows what color carpet we have, and you might not think it's all that significant.

 To Ephesus, he says this, revelation 2:2, I know your works, your toil, your patient endurance, I know you cannot bear with those who are evil, but tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and found them to be false. This is God, looking at the church in Ephesus, and understanding them, knowing them, an intimate knowledge of the things which are doing what they can’t bear, what they’ve tested, their patient endurance.

 To Smyrna, he says, this is 2:9, I know your tribulation and your poverty. I love the parenthetical statement they cited there, but you aren’t rich. The offering isn't all that much, you don't have a lot extra in your pocket. You live in poverty, but, remember you are rich. He says, I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are synagogue of Satan. He knows what's happening in this poor church, and he affirms them.

 To Pergamum in 2:13, says, I know why you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Maybe Pergamum, was like, ok I’m tempted to throw in one of the local towns here, Vegas, maybe it was like Vegas. I know why you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. This is Christ saying to the church, I understand just how difficult ministry is in your setting. Yet, you hold fast my name and you did not deny my faith. He knew this church.

 To Thyatira 2:19, he says, I know your works, your love, and your faith, and your service, and patient endurance, and that your latter will succeed the first. He says you get better every year. The longer you’re involved with me, the more you are doing, the more your blessing the kingdom. He knows the church.

 To Sardis, he says, I know your works, I know that you have a reputation of being alive, and he’s going to say some more things about church Sardis, but starts off I know all about you.

 To Philadelphia, I know your works, behold, I’ve set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut, and know that you have that little power and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

 Christ knows the church. He says the same thing in 3:15 to Laodicea, I know your works. Sometimes it can feel as though we are in this wilderness, in this desert, where, well God’s kind of forgotten about us. Forgotten about the Grand Valley, you know, look at what's happening at house values and employment and then what’s wrong with the western slope that we don’t get that blessing? Did God forget that this is the same kind of environment that is in Jerusalem? You know desert hails and stuff. Couldn’t he bless us? Sometimes we forget, that God still knows everything about our local church. He understands all the high points, all the low points, all the troubles, and the traits, and the triumphs. He knows everything about us and he still loves us. That is an amazing god.

 Christ is connected to the church, and he knows the church. He’s not like an absentee landlord who every once in a while has a property management company stop by and check in the property. He knows the weeds that we grow, he knows the Swiss chard, and the red oak lettuce, the peppers, and the tomatoes. All that stuff we grew out there that I’m hoping I won't have to eat. We have to give away some benevolent food because I don't want to have to eat all that stuff. He knows the church. He loves it. Third observation from this letters. Christ wants to affirm what's right. Christ would speak words of affirmation to the church. Look at what he says, not just a general hey you’re cool, you know you went to church, you sang cool songs, and thanks the old ones, included the old people, the new ones, that was cool, good worship. It’s not like he’s just vaguely he knows the church, but, he up close and personal.

 In the letter to Ephesus, he says, they work hard, they persevere, they cannot tolerate evil man, they’re careful about their spiritual leaders, they endure, they’ve not grown weary. Smyrna is encouraged that Christ takes note of their brave suffering in the midst of poverty and blasphemy. Sometimes they just want to be noticed revelation did you notice god? Unfaithful you think about the opportunity you’ve had to sin and you go you know god I took the means of escape that you gave me now I want to give you credit but give me an Atta boy and so Christ does for the church “Atta boy” you’re doing alright.

 Pergamum, known for holding fast to the faith even in times of great persecutions even as they watch others die for their faith we are so incredibly fortunate to live in the United States of America I know there’s arguments about how much religious freedom we have and in this week supposedly I’ve been liberated to endorse political candidate for office from the prophet. Okay I don’t care who the president is I’m going to pray for him or her whoever the president is that’s what the bible says to do and I’m pretty sure that no matter who we put in office it’s all of part of God’s plan.

 Evangelicals have had this persecution complex. Isn’t that what the bible says is supposed to happen? Why is it we are so surprised? but we don’t live like the churches in other countries where the government brings soldiers in and they arrest people and they throw them in jail and they die in prison for their faith. How incredibly difficult it would be to hold fast to our faith in the face of such persecution? All over the world there are churches that can’t gather in a setting like this because the local government would arrest them and destroy them. Pergamum, known for holding fast to the faith even in the times of great persecution. It’s possible that some of you know somebody who has been martyr for their faith but it’s unlikely, probably not one of your family members who’s told to renounce your faith or lose your life. Happens throughout the world. It happened in Pergamum.

 Christ as I understand know what’s happening in your church he affirms via Thyatira who has love, faithful service and perseverance. Philadelphia is commended for its brave steadfastness. Causes me to reflect and wonder what would he say about us. I know what I wish he would say about us. I know your love for bringing living hope to all generations, that you have chosen to connect the older generations with the younger generations you’ve intentionally tried to blend with one another in order that the next generation might know the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ that we might share our faith from generation to generation we might be solid in Christ and in His word. What I hope that you would say is I know that you have loved one another with love, acceptance, and forgiveness, and you’ve cared for those in need, that you built a greenhouse even if your pastor doesn’t even like vegetables. And it was my idea.

 I know you’ve probably be warned to pay for counseling right? But why? Why do we do these things? So that we can reach our community and impact them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So that we can impact the environment. So we can grow vegetables using less water than is required otherwise. So that we can provide food for people who don’t have food. So that we can have an impact on our generation and the generation yet to come as we teach one another how we can be better stewards of our environment and in this great earth that we’ve been given. In order that we might be known as a church which is willing to invest in the future. That we didn’t just used up all our natural resource but we saved fossil fuels by growing our vegetables where we can walk to get them. I applaud you because you have chosen to take a road less travel in order to impact this community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 I don’t know what Christ will say, but I do know this - that He’s connected to the church, He knows all about the church and He wants to affirm us. We would do well to remember that Christ wants to affirm the church he wants to encourage the local church, He notices what is good in it, and maybe we should be on the lookout for those good things in the local church. When we think about the local church we often lose track of this truth - that there is good in the local church - good which Christ sees, good which he would emphasize and we would do well to emphasize as well, that we would repeat and encourage one another in the goodness of the local church.

 Now there’s a fourth lesson. That Christ wants to correct what is wrong with the church. Each letter brings words of encouragement and words of challenge. Words of affirmation and words of correction. Christ sees what is good in the church but he’s not living in lala land. He’s grounded in reality. He also understands what is bad. He knows that no church ever existed in the pure state. No church is perfect. If this church was perfect 22 years ago when I was called as a pastor, I ruined it. Because there is no pastor who is perfect. The church is made up of sinners. In which we are all in that class. Why is it that we are surprised when sinful things happen in the church? I love my dog. He’s a little pocket beagle. He’s about this tall or this tall when he’s on his back legs. It’s a gorgeous little dog.

 It’s a love for the neighborhood. I have a neighbor who walks my dog for me. Was doing it for 6 weeks before he told me. It’s a bizarre thing. Oh, by the way, I’ve been taking your dog for a walk on Sunday morning. My dog loves Sunday morning. We put him outside and on Sunday mornings the neighbor across the street comes over and gives our dog a bone. Every Sunday morning! It’s an incredible, wonderful thing, except. It’s a little pocket beagle that sheds hair. There is beagle hair everywhere. And my daughter is getting married, invited that dog to sit on my couch. And I can’t get her to get off. He jumps off and I say get out, get out. And so then the couch has got all this dog hair on it. I wanted to get rid of the dog hair and the only way I could get rid of it the dog. And therefore, I tolerate dog hair. You know the weird thing is, that hair bothers me but it never appears to bother her at all. I gathered it up and put it in her food dish. It’s food! She doesn’t care. She just loves laying around on the couch next to me being petted. She makes a mess of the couch that’s about all she’s good for. I actually asked her to clear the table. She has not once cleared the table for me. I told her to take off my shoes for me. She won’t even go get my shoes she’s good for nothing other than just a companionship of a hair-shedding dog. She looks at me like I speak a foreign language when I say anything other than “sure have a cookie.”

 You know sometimes a church is like having a dog. We love it. It brings us joy. But things get messy and need to be corrected. We have a feeding routine for our dog. She eats twice a day. Except for the neighbor’s feed, I have no idea how often she eats from our neighbor’s but she eats twice a day. And she is supposed to sit on the carpet just outside of the kitchen and wait there until we say ok. I can’t do a very good dog imitation but this is it. She’s sitting and when I have the food she (doing a dog imitation) sneaks up. She’s still sitting. She’s sneaking up and I had to say “hey, get back there,” and she goes (doing dog imitation), and then she sneaks up again.  Sometimes I will leave her for 5 minutes until she finally stays on that carpet and waits for me to say ok.

 You got to train the dog and that’s the way it is in the church as well Christ has to train us we do things we are not supposed to do we embrace the attitudes which are unbefitting of the children of god and so Christ challenges the church I started this was supposed to be one message and just about half way through and I have a minute and 21 seconds Christ challenges the church Ephesus is challenged of abandoning its first love I wonder how many times we’ve left out first love. Pergamum is challenged for being indifferent to hearsay sometimes we don’t think that doctrine matters. Thyatira is challenged for being intolerant to the immorality sometimes we just refuse to speak out against sin. Sardis is challenged for being apathetic who cares Laodicea is challenged for letting riches be a gauge of spirituality and a substitute for living a spiritual life that never happens to us does it?

 We never think if the person is making a good income? Their spiritual impressions to poverty isn’t spiritual that's what Laodicea did financial rewards are not indication of godliness no matter what the society might say each of the challenges of the churches in revelation are challenges which fit the church today perhaps there are so many series of revelation focused just upon these 2 chapters for us today the lesson is that Christ loves the church he is connected to the church he knows everything about the church he wants to affirm us and yes he wants to correct us because Christ cares about the church. Amen. Let’s pray, father I thank you for your incredible love for us and for the opportunity we have to get to know Jesus Christ through the letters to the churches of revelation reveal yourself to us we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.