"What The Church Lost"
Today we will consider two churches. Each suffered loss – one suffered the loss of their first love and the other suffered the lost lives of some of its members.
What the Church Lost
A. I want to brag on this congregation for just few minutes. We have care ministers here who take it upon themselves to walk beside some of our older members and just be a part of their life. While we have only been doing this for a few months, I have heard good things from some of our members.
B. In the last two months, we have had some difficulties strike a few of our members. One family has asked for congregational prayers, another has gone through physical pain and even others have been in and out of the hospital for various reasons. Be in each case, different members have stepped into the lives of those who had a need to meet their needs or to ask what needs they may have.
C. Over the years, this church has gone through good days and difficult times. We have been blessed with good leaders and we are learning how to function without elders. We have seen new life come into this world and we have had to bury some beloved members. Paul challenges the church in Rome, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, week with those who weep.” That is a type of love that many churches don’t fully embrace, but this congregation has done well in doing.
D. Today, as we take a look at two of the 7 churches of Asia, we will see this topic of love – love for each other, love for God, and love for the unsaved, come to the focus of the message Jesus gives.
I. The Seven Churches
A. John tells the seven churches in Asia Minor that he has a message specifically for them. He tells them that his revelation is from Jesus who is alive and well. This Jesus, whom they worship, has power over death and Hades, has the sword of God and walks among them in the spiritual realm that touches this physical world. He reminds them that Jesus sees and knows all about what is happening right now.
B. When going through good times or bad, Jesus is active in our lives. While it seems like Jesus is far away, the Revelation is that Jesus is with us, among us, and has the power to affect this world. Jesus is there to comfort, encourage and sustain us. But he is also there to inspect, warn and prepare us.
C. Each short letter follows a standardized form. It first describes Jesus in connection to the church. It then speaks to the good and the areas that need changing in the church. Then it concludes with an appeal to stand firm or repent as they have been taught by Jesus.
D. Today will look at two of those churches.
A. The church at Ephesus was had some great leaders. It was started by the apostle Paul and over the years saw people like Timothy, Barnabas, Aquilla & Percilla, Apollos and probably the apostle John himself. It was a church with a strong eldership that was trained by Paul. For three years Paul worked with this church. He taught in the member’s home, he preached when the church gathered together and he gave the church his love. It is to this church that Jesus wants John to write this letter (Rev. 2:1-3).
B. The church worked hard and persevered. They didn’t tolerate evil and they tested anyone who claimed to be an apostle. They endured hardship and persecution for the name of Christ. They didn’t grow weary. But there is more.
C. Rev. 2:4-5. There is more to being a true church than just the doctrine to which we hold. The right doctrine without the right love is nothing. It is not different than what Paul told the church in 1 Cor. 13:2. What is that “first love?” Again we look at Paul’s writing to this church and hear what he said about them early on (Eph. 1:15). This love is more than just a strong emotion towards Jesus and others; it is about a zeal for God in our walk. It is about the why we do what we do. It is about our motivation and depth of relationship with this Jesus we call Lord.
D. So the calling is to “remember and do.” I am sure that we as church can do more to hold on to the love we had when this church first began in 1966. The challenge is to love deeply, not just for the moment. It is to love completely, not just a part of who I am. Remember the love you had for God when you began your Christian walk, and love that again.
A. The church in Ephesus lost its love, but the church in Smyrna lost something more physical. Rev. 2:8-10. Of the seven churches, there are only two in which Jesus says nothing about a need to repent. This is one of them. In this case, this was a church that was suffering from persecution.
B. Who is the great enemy of the Church today? Is it some government? Is it some religious cult? Is it a person with great power who is the anti-Christ? The great enemy of the church is the same enemy we have face for thousands of years – Satan. The work of sin and evil in the lives of men is a direct assault upon the body of Christ. But no matter whose hand it comes from, the force behind it Satan.
C. I don’t know how many people would come to worship with us, if being a part of our worship may cost you time in prison or even your life. But what you need to hear today is that Jesus knows your pain. Jesus knew what it was like to face afflictions. Jesus knew what it was like to be beaten, spat upon, and humiliated. Jesus knew what it was like to live homeless. Jesus wants this church to know that what they are going through, he has already been through. I know your afflictions and abject poverty.
D. Sadly, Jesus also knows that it will get worse for some of them. Jesus knows the future. The future is not in the persecution. The future is not in facing death. The future is in the crown of life. Something greater than this life is ahead. You don’t have to quit. You don’t have to give up. You don’t have die in vain.
E. Some place the date as Saturday, February 23, 155. No matter when you place the date few deny what happened. It happened in Smyrna to a man named Polycarp who was a bishop or elder within the church. The Jews hated the man. They saw him as guilty of leading people away from God. They called for his death.
F. His response has been handed down through the ages. What we are told Polycarp said that day was, in part, these words:
“Eighty and six years have I served Christ, and He has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?… I fear not the fire that burns for a season. Come, do your will.”
G. As our text says, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you a crown of life.” Jesus knows our pain. Jesus knows our shame and the slander we face. But Jesus also knows our future.
A. I know of few who want to die. The truth is that all men will face the judgment of God. The question is not will there be a second death, but question is will you be hurt by the second death? Where will you spend eternity – in heaven or hell?
B. The call is faithfulness, sticking to your faith no matter what happens. The call is to take the bad and lean on Jesus for the good. The call is to walk the pathway of righteousness. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says the churches.” What have you heard today? Will you follow Jesus not matter what the cost? If we can help you in your walk, come as we stand and sing.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister