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Meditations Contents
Series Theme:  Revelation 1 to 3 Meditations

PART THREE: Chapter 3

Meditation Title: Overview 

  

 

 

Part 1 : The Bringer of the Revelation

1

1:1

God of communication

2

1:1,2

The Witness

3

1:3

Be Blessed!

4

1:4

Our place in history

5

1:4

God's Grace

6

1:5

Jesus, witness, firstborn & ruler

7

1:5,6

The work of Jesus

8

1:7

The Coming One

9

1:8

God who is

10

1:9

Our place in history (2)

11

1:10

Revelation!

12

1:11

Directional prophecy

13

1:12,13

Lord of the Church

14

1:14

The All-Wise & All-Seeing One

15

1:15

The Tried & Tested One

16

1:16

Authority!

17

1:17

Effects of Divine Encounters

18

1:17,18

The Overcomer

19

1:19

The extent of revelation

20

1:20

Church Structure

 

 

Part 2 : The Words he brings (1)

 

 

2.1 Ephesus

21

2:1

Lord of the Church

22

2:2,3

Struggles and Strains

23

2:4,5

Losing our first love

24

2:5

Accountability

25

2:6

Righteous Hatred

26

2:7

The Reward of Life

 

 

2.2 Smyrna

27

2:8

The Lord who is the Overcomer

28

2:9

Opposition

29

2;10

Suffering

30

2:10,11

The Reward of Eternal Life

31

2:12

The Speaker of the Word of God

32

2:13

The Faithful Ones

33

2:14,15

Beware the Heretics

34

2:16

Beware the Word of God

35

2:17

A Secret Reward

 

 

2.4 Thyatira

36

2:18

The Revealing One

37

2:19

The All-Rounders

38

2:20-22

Beware the false prophetess

39

2:23

Retribution

40

2:24,25

Hold on

41

2:26-28

Authority Imparted

 

 

Part 3 : The Words he brings (2)

 

 

2.5 Sardis

42

3:1

The One who Holds the Church

43

3:1-3

Wake up!

44

3:4

The Clean Ones

45

3:5,6

Acknowledged

 

 

2.6 Philadelphia

46

3:7

The Key Holder

47

3:8

Little Strength?

48

3:9

Deceived Opposition

49

3:10

The Second Trial

50

3:11-12

Pillars of the Church

51

3:12

Named

 

 

2.7 Laodicea

52

3:14

The Faithful Witness to the End

53

3:15-17

Lukewarm

54

3:18

The Remedy

55

3:19,20

The Guest

56

3:21,22

Ruling with Christ

57

….

Lord of the Church - Summary

58

…..

Areas of Vulnerability

59

…..

Our Inheritance

60

1:3

Doers of the Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Series Theme:  Revelation 1 to 3 Meditations

Meditation No. 42

Meditation Title: The One who holds the Church's Life

     

Rev 3:1    To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

 

Again we have to consider, as we start looking at the letter to the fifth church, why the descriptions given to Jesus are given in respect of this particular church. This church we will come to see is challenged because they are known for being alive but in fact that is wrong; they are dead. They have clearly received a lot from the Lord but have not put it into practice. Now this makes us think about where the life of a church comes from. Well, there is a clear indication from a variety of Scriptures that the Lord speaks His word to His people, expects them to be obedient to it, and when they are He blesses their obedience with fruitfulness and life. That is how it happens: He speaks, we obey, He blesses. Result: life! In this church he had spoken but they had obviously not responded and so the end result was lack of life, i.e. death!

 

So let's look at the descriptions given here. It starts out, These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God.” Now that is interesting because that is the first description that was not a repeat from verses 12 to 18 of chapter 1. In fact the only prior reference to the seven spirits of God was in the earlier part of chapter 1 (v.4) when describing the Trinity. You may note in your Bible a note at the bottom of the page that the ‘seven spirits' can also be referred to as ‘the sevenfold Spirit.' Seven, as we have commented previously, is the number of perfection or of completion in Scripture and so the ‘seven spirits' or ‘sevenfold Spirit' is a reference to the perfect Holy Spirit of God. The picture of Jesus, the Son of God, the Lord of the Church, holding the Holy Spirit in his hand, suggests that he is the one who had the right, ability or authority to release life to the Church. On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the waiting believers, as Peter preached under the anointing of the Spirit, he attributed that activity to Jesus: Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and (he) has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:33). It was Jesus acting under the Father's authority who released the Holy Spirit on his church. Again this is part of his ‘ruling activity' that we have noted before, as he sits at his Father's right hand in heaven.

 

In this particular description of Jesus, it is almost as if he is showing us that he has one hand linked to heaven through which to bring the life from heaven, and the other hand on the leaders of the seven churches. (There is a measure of speculation there for there is no reference to different hands hold different things, but it is a fair inference.) We need to see that the life-flow for the church comes from the Holy Spirit at Jesus' bidding. The apparent condition for that life-flow being given, according to Scripture, is our obedience: the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:32).

 

Linked to this we can see the second description as, These are the words of him who holds …… the seven stars.” The seven stars we have seen earlier as the angels, or messengers or leaders of the local churches. Remember it is to this being that the letter is addressed: To the angel of the church in Sardis write. Whether this is a literal angel or simply the God-appointed leader of this church is not clear, but do you see what is happening? Jesus is speaking to this leader and is essentially saying, don't you realize that you are in my hand? He is saying, I have each these leaders in my hand, and therefore I remind you specifically that you are in my hand. Now what does it mean to be in the hand of God? Well the hands are the main part of the body for doing things. If we are in his hands, there is a sense of being totally vulnerable to whatever he wants to do with us. If you have read fairy tales with giants in, you may remember pictures of the hero in the giant's hand. In that place they are totally vulnerable to the wishes of the giant. He can be gentle with them and set them on the ground if he wishes, or he could just crush them instantly or even throw them far away. Being in ‘the hand of God', means we are totally at His mercy. He can do with us as He wills. It is a place of security but it is also an awesome place to be if we have any doubts about our life.

 

Thus when Jesus speaks to the leader of this church, it is like he is going to say, you've got a reputation for being alive, but you aren't, so realize that, here in my hand, you are totally at my mercy and unless I see some changes taking place, I'm going to do something serious (we'll have to wait for a later meditation to see what that is.)

 

Let's summarise what we have seen here. Jesus is the one who releases the life of his Holy Spirit to his church and he does that when he sees our obedience to his word. He wants us to be aware that, as his church, we are in his hand, under his eye, and completely at his mercy. We are accountable to him and he requires obedience to what he has already said to us. May he find that obedience in us, so that he may yet pour out his Holy Spirit on us! May it be so!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Series Theme:   Revelation 1 to 3 Meditations

Meditation No. 43

Meditation Title: Wake Up!

   

Rev 3:1-3 I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

 

The opening words here seem simple but they come with devastating power to the Church in all ages: I know your deeds . If we look at the modern Church, the Church of say the last century, there has been the nominal church – those who call themselves Christians but really just perform on Sunday and are untouched otherwise; there is what has been called the liberal church – those who have a loose view of Scripture and are subsequently a powerless block that in many places in dying; there is what we in this country call the Evangelical church – that focuses very strongly on Scripture and belief in the atoning work of Christ, and there is the Pentecostal or Charismatic church – that majors on the gifts and work of the Spirit, but has not been so strong theologically. The life has been in the latter two groups, Evangelical and Pentecostal-Charismatic, but even there I suspect, very largely these words could apply, because few of us have shown much interest in ‘works' and yet it is on the basis of their works, or lack of them, that the Lord of the Church judges this particular church and several of the other churches.

 

Now before we consider these ‘deeds' any more we should note what more Jesus says to this church. First, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. This church apparently has the outward show of spiritual life but in reality lacks life, lacks the life of the Holy Spirit energizing it, and therefore is actually spiritually dead. Is this a claim brought against churches that have structure of service and weekly activity but of no signs of the creative life of the Spirit? Do we measure our ‘deeds' in terms of what happens on a Sunday morning, the weekly prayer meeting, Bible study, youth meeting, ladies meeting, men's meeting etc.? In other words, do we associate ‘deeds' with meetings?

 

Later Jesus continues, I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. In other words they are only doing a bit of what Jesus says he expects them to be doing. Failure to complete suggests they started well but petered out. The Lord of the church has a whole lot of things he wants them to achieve – but they gave up. Now those are Jesus' two complaints: appearance doesn't match life, and what they started they gave up on. So what does he tell them to do? Three things.

 

First of all, Wake up! That indicates they have gone to sleep spiritually. Put another way he might say, come to your senses, come to conscious awareness of the true state of things. Then, second, he continues, Strengthen what remains and is about to die . There obviously is some life still there but unless they do something quickly, it will die and then truly they will just be an empty caricature of a church. Third, he says, Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. This is the crucial issue. They have received the directions of the Lord quite obviously in the past, so they do know what they are called to be and to do, but are simply not doing it. The obvious thing, therefore, is simply obey – do it! – and that means repent, turn around from the path of not doing and start being the church that does what the Spirit has told it to do.

 

So what are the ‘works' that Jesus expects from his church? Well first of all let's consider the character of whatever happens. Whatever we do must come with the character of Jesus – love, joy, peace etc. (Gal 5:22 ,23), the fruit of his Spirit. What about the nature of what happens? It must come from faith for without faith we cannot please the Lord (Heb 11:6). We are called to live by faith (Gal 3:11 , 2 Cor 5:7). But what are the ‘works'? I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. (Jn 14:12) What did Jesus do? He spoke his Father's word to whoever came to him and he did whatever was on his Father's heart to do: Jesus gave them this answer: " I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (Jn 5:19) Today the local church is the body of Christ (see Ephesians) and God has given it ministries (see Eph 4:11) to teach and equip the rest of the church to do works of service (Eph 4:12). Works are whatever the Lord puts before us each day, as we are led by His Spirit. it may be to pray for someone, to share God's love in words to someone, to share God's love though practical help with someone. It may be to bring revelation, hope, reassurance, it may be to help change circumstances, to bring help or healing. These works may start inside the church – blessing one another and building up the church, but if they remain there Jesus' complaint about them being incomplete, will apply to us. Jesus wants to touch and change this world through his church.

 

His final warning? If you don't sort this out quickly I'll come to you without any warning, just like a thief comes at night, and I'll deal with you. Now he is no more explicit than this and so the threat is left hanging in the air. We know that elsewhere Jesus taught, He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit. (Jn 15:2). Removal of dead branches is the clear warning. May we heed it today!

 

 

 

 

 

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Series Theme:   Revelation 1 to 3 Meditations

Meditation No. 44

Meditation Title: The Clean Ones

     

Rev 3:4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.

 

Throughout the Bible there had always been a faithful remnant, those who remained faithful to the Lord while most people turned away. When Isaiah prophesied to Hezekiah, after speaking of the devastating work of the Lord, he declared, Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors” (2 Kings 19:30,31) This sort of idea arose again and again. After Elijah's encounter with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, after he fled from Jezebel, he declared to the Lord, I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:14 ). That's what it felt like, but the Lord was able to reassure him, “I reserve seven thousand in Israel --all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” (v.18). There was still a faithful remnant of seven thousand in the land. All the rest may have turned away, but these had remained faithful.

 

The challenge that always must arise whenever we consider such a faithful remnant, is the question, will I remain faithful, even if everyone else falls away? Will I remain true to the Lord, whatever anyone else may do? Now that may sound an easy thing but the truth is that few of us like standing out and being called a ‘holy Joe' or whatever other derogatory phrase is used. We like to be liked and the trouble is that when you stand out as faithful, other people's unfaithfulness is shown up. Here in the church at Sardis, most of the church had become lifeless, and were relying upon ritual or habit, and not upon the Holy Spirit. Now normally when we think about people sinning and the analogy of wearing dirty or spotted or soiled clothes is used, we tend to think of big obvious sins of immorality, but the implication in what we have considered so far, is that this church has fallen asleep and have become indifferent to the Spirit, apathetic about the work of the Lord, and unmoved by their state.

 

This clothes picture is the same as that seen by Zechariah, “Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.” (Zech 3:3) which in a later verse (v.9) clearly epitomized his sin. Isaiah had prophesied at one point about Israel 's state: All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isa 64:6) By contrast, the church at the end of time is described very differently: For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” (Rev 19:7,8).

 

Again, picking up a point we made yesterday, note that in both the Isaiah prophecy and the Revelation prophecy, reference is made to ‘acts' or ‘deeds'. We are measured not so much on what we think, but on what we do or don't do. In Isaiah's case, whatever they did that appeared good, was in fact tainted by their godlessness and so was in fact like filthy clothing. The righteous acts of the church at the end of time are righteous because they had been given to her to wear, they were acts inspired by the leading of the Holy Spirit, for that is what righteous acts are. Thus the acts of indifference of the majority of the church in Sardis are referred to as soiled clothes, again very different from that picture near the end of Revelation.

 

But the point being made in today's verse is that there are still some in the church there at Sardis who are not in that state. They have not fallen asleep, and they are not indifferent. These ones, says Jesus, will walk with me, dressed in white. That description is of the Roman day of triumph, when the victors walked in the victory procession, in pure white. These people, this remnant who have not become lethargic, will have the honour of walking alongside Jesus in the garments that show to all the watchers that they are the victors, the overcomers. They will be honoured by the Lord of the Church because they are worthy . They have resisted the temptation to succumb to lethargy, to indifference, to carelessness. In a day of great materialism, when we have more than any previous generation, the temptation to become like this church is very real. The main criticism against them was that they no longer relied upon the Holy Spirit; they just performed and appeared spiritual without really being so. It is easy to become like that when material possessions make you think that you need little.

 

To be this remnant, unspoiled by indifference and lifelessness, we need to again and again stir ourselves to realise that as church, without Jesus we can do nothing (Jn 15:5),and without the energising of the Holy Spirit, we can achieve nothing. Will we be a remnant that calls out for His life to flow in us and through us so that we truly do the works of Jesus today? That is the challenge that comes through this church?

        

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 45

Meditation Title: Acknowledged

     

Rev 3:5,6   He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches .

 

As we said yesterday, some sins spring to mind and others seem less obvious. Yet any failure before God is sin. We tend to think of murder, rape, adultery, theft and so on when we think of sins, but the accusations against this church are just as bad in that if they are not dealt with, they will receive the severe attention of the Lord of the Church! This church is accused of being asleep, of being spiritually dead while appearing good, of having only partially done what they were told to do. The sins here? Apathy, indifference, laziness, carelessness. I wonder how many churches those apply to? And so the call, as in each case, is to overcome, to deal with the issues and get back to a right place before the Lord of the Church. So what things are said to the Overcomers here?

 

First they will be like them , like the people who haven't given way to these things, and they will be dressed in white . As we said yesterday, white is the ‘colour' of the clothes of those who walk in the victory procession, the ‘colour' of purity and of triumph. But there is another thing: I will never blot out his name from the book of life. This book was first mentioned back in Exodus, please forgive their sin--but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written." The LORD replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.” (Ex 32:32,33). David also was obviously aware of this book: May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.” (Psa 69:28) as does Daniel, But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book --will be delivered.” (Dan 12;1). It comes to a head at the end of Revelation: And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books… If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:12,15) and referring to the New Jerusalem, Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life (Rev 21:27) The Lamb there, of course, is Jesus, and so this is referred to as his book, because people are only in it because he died for them.

 

Thus to say to these people in this church that their names will never be blotted out of this book is both an encouragement and a warning. It is first an encouragement because it means that there IS an alternative possible to their present state. The Lord of the Church is not writing them off; he is presenting them with an alternative possibility. There is hope for them, even if they do appear dead and lifeless at the moment. It is also a warning because by implication if the overcomers won't be blotted out of the book, those who don't will be.

 

But there comes a further really nice thought with these promises: I will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. Imagine for a moment, a great state occasion that you have been invited to, and there are hundreds of people there and you know one of the influential people there. Imagine that the Queen, President or whoever is the leader of the country is there and as they circulate, your influential friend introduces you to the great person. What a privilege, what an honour! It says that you are someone worthy to be brought to this great person's attention, you are special. That is what is there in this little phrase about being acknowledged. Jesus says, I will bring to my Father's attention these ones who have overcome. I will point them out to all my angels who serve me. These are special people!

 

So, here it is; a challenge to overcome our apathy, indifference and carelessness, a challenge to rise up and allow the Holy Spirit to freshly energise and direct us, and when we do we will find ourselves among those who walk in triumph alongside the Lord of the Church as he parades through heaven to glorify his Father and show off all that has been achieved on the earth. We will know the complete security that comes with knowing we have our names written in God's book of all those who have a place with Him in heaven in eternity. We have no fear of appearing in the other book of those who will be condemned. Even more we will be brought before the Father by the Son and shown off as a trophy, one who overcame and came through the battle of life on earth triumphantly with the grace of God. That is our destiny. Let us ensure we take it.

   

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 46

Meditation Title: The Key Holder

     

Rev 3:7    To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

 

Whereas virtually all the other descriptions of Jesus come out of chapter one, the nearest description to that found here that was in chapter one was, “I hold the keys of death and Hades.” which appears quite different. The words ‘holy and true' don't even appear at all in chapter one. As before we need to look at the state of this church to understand the description that the Lord of the Church uses of himself here.

 

This was a weak church and yet one that had remained faithful and true in the face of opposition from the Jews. We need to take note of two characteristics: weakness and faithfulness. One does not preclude the other. This church felt it had little or no strength and such churches think they can have little influence in the world. Small churches often feel insignificant and feel they are just hanging on in the face of the pressures from the enemy and the world. The fact that they remain faithful says they are still a church open to the Lord. If they had not been faithful then this word could not have been brought to them for it is a word that stirs faith, enlarges existing faith – and faith was there in this church; it's just that there wasn't much of it. So let's look at the descriptions of Jesus.

 

First of all, the words of him who is holy and true. Holy is a known characteristic of God. It means utterly different, perfect, whole, complete. This church had remained holy and so it is appropriate that Jesus comes to them as the holy one of God to strengthen the resolve of that holy small group of people. Coming to stand in their midst, his holiness strengthens their holiness, strengthens their resolve in the face of the unholy world. But he is also true, he is also faithful to his Father, he is real, without pretence, the exact expression of God on the earth, so it is appropriate that he comes like this to a church that is struggling to remain true, struggling to remain faithful to the Father, struggling to be a real church without pretence, and exact representation of God to the world. These descriptions of Jesus fit the state and standing of this church at this time.

 

But next we find this strange description: who holds the key of David.This David has obviously got to be the king David of Jewish history, because Jesus was often referred to as the ‘Son of David.' Now David was the first of the great kings of Israel . David took the weak nation of Israel that had existed under the weak reign of Saul, the first king of Israel , and had made it strong. In a strong prophetic word, Isaiah, many years later, prophesied against what was happening in Jerusalem and spoke against the palace steward, Shebna, and said that he would be ousted. The prophecy went on, “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah….. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Isa 22:20,22). Now admittedly that was the key to the house of David, but there is a similarity in the words that followed and what we find in our verse today. David was significant because he was ‘a man after God's own heart' and also because he opened the way up for Israel to become a godly nation with the ark or presence of God in their midst. Keys refer to the ability to open a door and a door infers entrance into something further yet to come. David opened the way for the reign of God to come more fully into the nation. David had the ability to open up the future of the nation for God.

 

Jesus now stands before this local church that feels so weak and insignificant and presents himself as the one who holds the means for opening up the way for the presence of God to come more fully to this people. In the face of their weakness, he brings strength and hope. They felt impotent in the face of the world's power, but he comes as the one who has the ability to open up ways through the apparent strength of opposition, just like David had done. Jesus had said to his disciples, I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven(Mt 16:19) which similarly was like saying, “I am giving you the ability to open up the way for the rule of heaven to come down on earth.” There is a similar hint behind these descriptions of Jesus when it is said, What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open, which was an exact retake of the Isaiah prophecy.

 

How do we feel in the face of the world's power today? As a minority in the land, do we feel somewhat impotent? Humanly speaking that is how it is, yet the Lord of the Church comes and says these words and suddenly everything is changed. One minute we felt completely inadequate and unable to press on in the work of God; the next there is hope, there are possibilities as the Lord of the Church unlocks the way ahead and we suddenly find things are changing. If the way ahead seems impossible, it's time to call on the Lord of the Church to come and open up the way ahead, because once he does, no one can shut that door and stop the kingdom advancing. Yes?

    

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 47

Meditation Title: Little Strength

     

Rev 3:8    I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

 

Yet again it is the ‘deeds' of a local church that come under the microscope of the Lord of the Church. Again we emphasise that he doesn't assess them by their heart attitude or their thinking, but their deeds that flow forth from the inside. It is the fruit of the heart, the activities in life, which the Lord of the Church looks at. Having said that, he doesn't actually specify specific deeds; he simply speaks in overall terms here. See what he says. Let's try and catch a sense of their state.

 

Let's note first of all that he says in the midst of today's verse, “ I know that you have little strength .” There is no condemnation here, just a bald statement of fact. We don't know why they are weak, or even really what that means. Perhaps it does apply to what they feel about themselves. They don't feel they are strong and capable, and when you feel that you don't step out in great acts of faith. Spiritual strength is exhibited through faith, through prayer and through ministry and witness. Where it is lacking these things are lacking. Perhaps they have been taking a beating, for we'll see tomorrow that they have been receiving opposition from the Jews. Sometimes we feel weak because we are tired out. The battle has been hard and we're left feeling exhausted and exhaustion is often equated with weakness. Perhaps the enemy has been striking at them and that has left them feeling deflated and weak. Weakness may have many causes and they are often quite legitimate.

 

There is a natural weakness which in the face of strength appears very frail. Paul wrote, For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you.” (2 Cor 13:4). Christ took a frail line when he allowed himself to be taken and crucified. The strong line would have been to have stood up to the religious leaders, defended himself and rejected the Cross, but he didn't! Indeed following him means we are often called to follow the frail path. That was a letter all about the weakness that Paul felt before that church. Speaking about how he felt he said, Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Cor 11:28,29). He felt how his people felt. If they felt weak, he felt weak. Later he was to speak about his ‘thorn in the flesh' that made him feel weak, and when he petitioned the Lord for it, the answer he received was, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9). In other words the Lord was saying, you may feel weak but my power in you is sufficient to carry you through.

 

All of that may explain why Jesus says to this weak church: See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.An open door speaks of an opportunity. At one point Paul said, I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me.” (1 Cor 16:8,9) clearly referring to an opportunity to preach the Gospel that had opened up to him. The same thing applied when we wrote, when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me.” (2 Cor 2:12) and pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.” (Col 4:3). So it is quite clear that when the Lord of the Church speaks about an open door he is speaking about an opportunity that he is creating for this church, presumably to preach the Gospel and presumably to see the fruit of that. Remember we saw yesterday that Jesus is described here as the one who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” What opportunity he opens up, no one can shut down. That he reiterates to them in today's verse. It's been said twice to emphasise it to this church that feels weak and suffers opposition from the Jews. What Jesus is basically saying here is that you may feel weak and the Jews may oppose you but both of those things are irrelevant when I open up the way ahead. Nothing but nothing will stop him – or them – moving on in God's purposes. This is a sovereign declaration.

 

There is one further comment he makes that we haven't yet considered: yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.He can do this with this church because they have remained faithful to him. This church may be weak and they may be suffering opposition but they have remained true to him. This church he can take and achieve things through, despite their weakness.

 

We need to realize that we may sometimes feel small and weak but as long as we remain true to him, he can use us by his Spirit and achieve things through us. By ourselves we can do nothing, but with him with us, him directing, him empowering, him opening doors, nothing can stop us moving on in the growth of the kingdom!

       

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 48

Meditation Title: Deceived opposition

     

Rev 3:9   I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars--I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.

 

There are two trials mentioned in the verse today and the one that follows. The first implied, the second clearly stated. It would appear that in Philadelphia were a number of Jews, and these Jews had, as they always did when a number of them gathered together, a synagogue. The synagogue was simply the local meeting place for Jews where they would receive instruction from the rabbi and prayers would be offered. It was not like the Temple in that sacrifices were not offered there. It was purely a place for prayer and teaching. It was the bastion of ongoing Judaism. A Jew was simply a Hebrew by descent, a member of the nation of Israel , now scattered all over the world, and in their scattering they set up their synagogues to uphold and maintain their teaching, their difference. They were after all, the people of God.

 

Paul spoke to this sense of being different when he wrote: Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth-- you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” (Rom 2:17-21). Within that exhortation is the revelation of what they thought about themselves – they had a relationship with God (and others didn't), they had the knowledge of a better or superior way (which others didn't have), they had the Law of God (which others didn't have), and they were therefore guides for others who didn't have these things. They were a superior people – or at least that is how they saw themselves.

 

Now this sense of superiority was the thing that brought their downfall. When Jesus came, he didn't come in the way they expected. When the church was born on the day of Pentecost, it was perceived as a threat or competitor. Throughout the Gospels and throughout Paul's letters there is this reference to ‘the Jews' meaning those who held on to their past (in theory at least) and rejected what God was doing today, through His Son and by His Spirit. Tragically many Jews purely performed the outward ritual and a genuine relationship with God was missing. Hence Paul said, A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly…. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly.” (Rom 2:28 ,29)

 

If they weren't obeying God, these Jews were obeying Satan for they opposed the new people of God, those with a genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ, those who came to be called Christians. Tragically, those who had been called to be the people of God, a light to the rest of the world, came to oppose God and oppose God's will being worked out, oppose the new people of God. The good thing was that the early church was initially entirely Jewish, but then, as it did what the nation of Israel had been called to do and became a light to others, more and more Gentiles became followers of the Christ and the proportion of Jews in the church naturally became smaller and smaller. There have always been Jews who have found Jesus to be their Messiah, but as Paul explains later in his letter to Rome , the majority of them are blinded to the truth.

 

Jesus had received opposition from these ‘Jews', and in fact it had been they who had pushed the Gentile authorities to crucify him. As the church spread out from Judea , it was the Jews who brought the greatest opposition to the likes of Paul (as seen in Acts). It wasn't until later in the first century that it was Roman emperors who caused violent persecution of the Christians. In the early decades it was the Jews and Jewish religious leaders who caused the greatest opposition to the work of God through the Church.

 

Yet says the Lord of the Church, who is also the Lord of the world, I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. In the same way that God humbled a proud Jewish zealot by the name of Saul of Tarsus (see Acts 9), so He would make some of these bow down and acknowledge the truth. All He is doing here is bringing reassurance to this weak church that He will deal with one of the main thorns in their side. Having just promised to open the way up before them, He now forestalls their possible concern, ‘How can this be when we receive such opposition from the Jews here?' It's like He says, “I am opening up a way before you, and don't worry I'll sort out those who would try to stop you going through this door of opportunity!”

 

Even thinking about these things there are two obvious lessons to be noted. The first is the lesson of the Jews. May we never get so set in our ways that we find ourselves opposing the will of God as it is being worked out in the present day. Second, may we realize that if God says He is opening up a way before us, then He will also deal with any obstacles that might try and hinder us. They seem very simple things but they are, in reality, very profound, and they can have great impact on our lives.

        

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 49

Meditation Title: The Second Trial

     

Rev 3:10    Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

 

We started off by suggesting that in this and the previous verse, there were two trials mentioned. The first implied and the second explicit. The trial of the previous verse was coping with the opposition of the Jews. The trial of this verse is a worldwide trial that Jesus knows is coming. What we have here is Jesus' reassurance that he will keep this church secure because they have been obedient. Now there is a difficulty here. It is that of prophetic fulfilment. For this word to have any genuine meaning for this specific church (for it was spoken specifically to them) it must have been fulfilled in the years immediately ahead. Now a study of the periods of persecution about that time suggest that under Roman emperor Domitian (between AD81 and AD96) there was persecution and if John was writing in the early part of that period then this may be what is being referred to. After Domitian came Nerva of whom little is known but he was followed by Trajan under whom persecution continued but Christians were not sought out. It would suggest that the persecutions under Domitian might thus be what is referred to here in terms of immediate fulfilment.

 

However in Scripture there is also a wider and bigger fulfilment spoken of. In the end times there seems to be a worldwide evil upheaval under one referred to as the Beast: “He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.” (Rev 13:7). Jesus had previously described this time: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Mt 24:9-14).

 

Speaking of Jesus' return, Paul had written, Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thess 2:3,4). Daniel had been told, “There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.” (Dan 12:1) and this is echoed in Mark's Gospel: those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now--and never to be equaled again. If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.” (Mk 13:19,20)

 

Thus Scripture testifies to an end time of great upheaval when evil and godlessness predominates, yet the church still survives, which takes us back to part of today's verse: I will also keep you from the hour of trial.” The original Greek phrase that is used here can be taken to be either, “keep you from going through” or “keep you through.” The Lord of the Church reassures us that when such times come, whether or not he delivers us so we don't go through such times, or he delivers us through such times, the truth is that he WILL deliver us. God's grace and His power and His presence will always be with us whatever happens. The testimony of the early church, as we've noted before, is that sometimes God allows us to go through death – John the Baptist (Mt 14:9,10), Stephen (Acts 7:60), and James (Acts 12:2) – and sometimes He delivers us from it (e.g. Peter Acts 12:5-11). Whatever is God's will for us, His grace will be sufficient for us and will see us through whatever comes. Something to be remembered when considering these things is that that grace comes when it is needed and not before. We may not be able to consider how we could cope under persecution, but the testimony of the church throughout the past two thousand years is that when such times come, God's grace comes in equal measure to enable His people to cope gloriously.

 

So, as we look to the future, can we be at peace in the knowledge that our Lord has got everything under control and whatever may come, His grace will be sufficient for us? Be at peace, rest in the knowledge of His provision for whatever comes today or tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 50

Meditation Title: Pillars of the Church

     

Rev 3:11-12   I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it.

 

Remember these are words of encouragement to a weak church, a church that has been receiving opposition and a church that has been promised a new way forward. They have also been warned that there is coming a time of trial. The difficulty with Scripture quite often is that it does not spell out in detail what is being meant. It almost seems that in prophecy the Lord speaks sufficient to catch our attention but often not enough to fully explain it. For instance, the opening words here are, I am coming soon. Now two thousand years later Jesus has still not come – at least in the sky in what we call the Second Coming. Rather than try to create some convoluted argument to explain why this, in this verse, means the Second Coming, I would suggest that there is a much more simple understanding of these words – I am coming soon by my Spirit to do what I have said. The picture in Scripture, that we've looked at before, is of Jesus sitting at his Father's right hand in heaven, overseeing the reign of the kingdom of God in what we refer to as the church age, i.e. from Pentecost until now. Now in that period there have been many times of what we sometimes refer to as revivals, times of the sovereign power of God bringing many into the church. Now these must have been, are and will be, times when Jesus is overseeing what is happening and it is the Spirit of Christ that is working, times when Jesus came.

 

The danger of interpreting prophecy from this distance is that we so often forget that first it was spoken to a specific group of people in a specific place at a specific time in history – it was for them! Now it may also have subsequent fulfilments, because God does that, but we need to remember that it was first for this people at this time. So when Jesus says to the church at Philadelphia, Hold on to what you have that was a specific instruction for the people in the church there at that time to persevere in the face of their sense of weakness and the opposition they were receiving from the Jews. Thus Jesus is basically saying, hang on in they guys, I'm about to come in the near future to sort this, but hang on in there until I arrive!

 

Now follows an interesting phrase: so that no one will take your crown. They have a crown? A crown is a sign of a ruler! This weak church is ruling? They are ruling in the face of Jewish persecution? Yes, because they are an expression of the rule or kingdom of God, simply by their existence as a local church. The local church is the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27) and Christ lives on the earth to express the kingdom of God. As much as he lives in the members of his church, he expresses his reign through them, and thus they reign. That's why Paul said, God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 2:6) It's just another way of saying we reign with him or he reigns through us. The call to hold on is thus a call to resist the works of the enemy who would seek to weaken us and pull us down so that we cease to operate as an expression of the body, and cease to exercise the rule of God. Now this is quite a challenge. Are we aware of being the instrument of God through which He exercises His rule? Are we aware of the head of the body, Jesus, directing us to perform his works and thus express the kingdom of God , where we are?

 

Now we come to the promise to the Overcomer: Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. What is the present temple of God ? We are! Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor 3:16) There is both an individual and corporate sense in this verse. I am part of the temple of God because God lives in me. We are the temple of God , the church, because God lives in us and expresses Himself corporately in and through us. The point about the temple analogy is that the temple was the meeting place with God but, even more, the place where God was revealed and was glorified. The temple analogy is therefore all about God being revealed through us and glorified through us. What is a pillar? It is a major structural element that holds up the structure, that maintains it, keeps it standing. If you are called a pillar of the church it means you are one who is steadfast, who ensures the ongoing continuation of the church, the place where God is revealed and glorified. This is said to this weak church under threat, to encourage them. Don't worry guys, is what Jesus is saying, you hang on in there and you will be a means of perpetuating my church and bringing glory to my Father in heaven. Never again will he leave it ? That simply means that no one or nothing will be able to separate you from this temple and from God's love and from being a part of His purposes. Wonderful isn't it!

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 51

Meditation Title: Named

     

Rev 3:12  I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name

 

Christmas can be a beautiful time with so many good experiences. One of the things I enjoy doing at Christmas is writing the names on the tags to go on each present. This present is Esther's and this one is Will's, and so on. These names designate ownership, the names of the new owners of these gifts. I go into a store to buy a new spade for the garden. I walk up and down the aisles until I find spades and then I look at the different materials. Some have wooden handles, some plastic handles and some steel handles. I look at the shiny blade or the matt black blade and envisage it cutting into the soil, but the thing that I look for most is the name on the spade. The name is there for all to see. There are some names that stand out and are known for excellence. If I find one of these I know that it is a quality spade. Then there are other names that are little known and I am not sure of the quality. The name here reveals the quality. But then there are names of materials that tell me the character of the material. There is stainless steel and there is cast iron. The cast iron will be good for shape but tends to be more brittle. Stainless steel, I know, has been through a completely different process to produce a completely different end product.

 

Ownership, quality and process. Do these things help us as we ponder our verse today? Jesus continues to say what he will do for those in this weak church under pressure who overcome. I will write on him the name of my God . That sounds like a stamp of ownership – but it's also a mark of quality and process. These who have been through the trial as children of God, who have resisted the temptation to give up, who have remained true in the face of enemy opposition, these ones have the mark of God on them. They are clearly stamped with God's name for all of creation to see. They stand out and are shown for who they are – His! They belong to Him; He has bought them with the blood of His Son and with the enduring power of His Spirit. They have fought the good fight, they have finished the race, they have kept the faith, (2 Tim 4:7) and therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God. (Heb 11:16). God looks at us and says, “Mine!” We may feel weak like this church, we may feel opposed as they were but, as we stand in the face of all the world can bring against us, God declares to all of creation, “They are mine!” We belong to Him because of the process we have been through.

 

But there is more: and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God.” If you go behind the counters of Heathrow Airport say, into the baggage handling areas, you will find every piece of luggage has a name on it – the destination where it should end up. Without that name tag there is no hope that any piece of luggage will follow its owner to the place they are flying to. For these overcomers Jesus attaches a ‘flight tag' that ensures destination. God has a city. A city is a place to live, a place of ordered security. Remember we quoted, Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb 11:16) well it continues, for he has prepared a city for them.” The writer to the Hebrews described Abraham as a man who was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb 11:10). Our destination is a place where we will live with God, a place of His making. Near the end of the Revelation John recorded, I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” (Rev 21:2). That is the destination of every Overcomer.

 

But it hasn't finished yet: and I will also write on him my new name Not only is there the name of ownership, quality and process, and not only is there the name of destination, but there is also a precious name denoting intimacy. In eternity Jesus will have another name which only those who live there will know. It's a mystery and it will only be revealed when we get there. For the moment it's like it is printed on us in invisible ink. We don't know what it is, but it is there, this glimmer of a future intimacy, knowing Jesus as he has not been previously known. Maybe it is the name that is revealed near the end of the book: King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” ( Rev 19:16) but we can't be sure. Whatever it is, it signifies that Jesus himself identifies with us in the closest way possible.

 

So there we are us Overcomers! We are stamped with the mark of ownership which also reveals our quality and what we have been through. We are also marked with the stamp of destination. Our future has been definitely confirmed. And we also have the stamp of the Son of God himself. The Lord of the Church stands before us and identifies with us. We are his! Hallelujah! There is no doubt about this!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 52

Meditation Title: The faithful Witness to the End

     

Rev 3:14    To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.

 

So we come to the last of these seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor , and again we must look to see the nature of this church and why the Lord of the Church describes himself as he does to them. They are a church that is lukewarm, neither one thing nor another. They are weak and don't know it. To them the Lord of the Church comes with a threefold designation.

 

First of all he describes himself as the Amen. When we conclude a prayer, we often end it with the word ‘Amen' meaning ‘so be it' or ‘let it be so' which is a declaration of desire for God's will to be done. We find the same thing in Scripture: Then the woman is to say, "Amen. So be it.” (Num 5:22). When the Law was recited publicly the Israelites were to agree to each part with “Amen!” (Deut 27:15-26). It is used similarly many times in the New Testament. Thus when Jesus describes himself as the Amen he is calling himself the seal of the will of God, the one who affirms the will of God at all times. This church needs to know Jesus as this, as a reminder to them that Jesus came to usher in the kingdom or will of God. The all-important thing is for them to ensure they are living in the will of God. A church that is lukewarm cannot do that!

 

Then he describes himself as the faithful and true witness. We can do no better than repeat what we said in the sixth meditation where we first encountered Jesus described as the true witness. A witness is one who testifies to what he knows. A faithful witness is one whose testimony remains true and accurate through his testimony. Jesus' ‘testimony' was first his very life, second his words, and third, the things he did in his ministry. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (Jn 14:9,10) His life expresses the Father so if you see him you see the Father. The words he speaks are the words of his Father and point to the Father, and in his ministry the works he does are the works of the Father which further reveal the Father. In all these things he testifies to and reveals the Father to us. The writer to the Hebrews described Jesus as, The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being (Heb 1:3) Paul described him as the image of the invisible God.” (Col 1:15). The same thing keeps coming over; the Son reveals the Father. His life, his words and his deeds testify to the existence of and the nature and character of God.

 

But perhaps the thing to emphasise even more here to this church is that Jesus is the faithful and true witness. He remained utterly true to who he was throughout his life on this earth. By implication, he expects his church to remain faithful and true to who they are. He expects us to remain true to his nature and character and not to vary from it. By the fact that they were no longer whole hearted they showed that they were no longer truly revealing Jesus to the world. They were no longer truly representing him.

 

It is a question we need to ask ourselves in this day when the church is clearly a minority in the nation: how are we seen, how do we represent Jesus, do we represent him accurately so that the world sees Jesus revealed accurately through us? If we cannot answer those questions positively, we need to ask ourselves how we are lacking, what is it that is missing, how do we fall short in being a witness to Jesus in today's world?

 

Jesus' final description of himself is the ruler of God's creation. As in all previous letters, he doesn't just come to speak to them; he comes to warn them that he will be taking action if they don't deal with the issues he places before them. He comes as a ruler, one who can exercise his will. Moreover he comes as the ruler of God's creation, which means ruler over all things. This means he is all-powerful and can do whatever he likes. They must not think that because he has allowed them to get into this state that he is powerless. Oh no, he can deal with them in whatever way he wishes, so they had better take note of what he says.

 

When he speaks of himself as the Amen , he comes declaring his commitment to bring the will of God – which will include bringing it to them! When he comes as the faithful and true witness, he comes as the prototype man of God who has revealed his Father to the world, and who he expects his church to emulate; they will be measured against him. When he comes as the ruler of God's creation, he comes as the all-powerful one who has the ability to impose God's will on his church if necessary, to correct it and make it as it should be. Do any of these descriptions and activities make us feel uncomfortable? If they do it indicates we have work to do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 53

  

Meditation Title: Lukewarm!

     

Rev 3:15-17   I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

 

Again, and with these letters we cannot emphasise this too much, Jesus starts speaking about this church's deeds , i.e. what they do. Their deeds reveal their state. Now it is important to remember with this church that there were deeds and it is those deeds that were assessed as neither cold nor hot . The language is easy to understand. A comedian talks about a ‘cold audience' or about ‘warming up the audience'. Cold indicates inactive, lifeless. Now this church wasn't that! Hot is quite the opposite. When someone says of a music group, “They were really hot!” they mean that they were full of life. But this church weren't that either! Thus Jesus adds, I wish you were either one or the other! If a church is lifeless at least Jesus can speak into it words of life. If it is full of life, that's exactly what he would prefer, but this one is somewhere in between, and that is worse than being cold because there is at least a measure of warmth and that is deceitful, as we'll see later. No, this church us simply lukewarm or tepid. You know what lukewarm food is like? If you were served a roast meal in a restaurant and it was lukewarm you would complain because it is supposed to be hot. It you ran a bath and climbed in only to find that the heating wasn't working properly and it was only tepid, you would soon jump out. A tepid bath just doesn't live up to expectations!

 

It is more the food analogy that Jesus uses because he warns , “I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” This is a terrible picture! To spit food out is a sign of disgust of or being revolted by the food. It's (to mix metaphors) almost a knee-jerk reaction of revulsion. That's how Jesus feels about what he finds in this church!

 

He goes on to describe elements of this lukewarmness. You say, ‘I am rich' . This tepid church, this church with only half-hearted life, thinks they are well off spiritually. This is part of their self-deception. Why do they say that? Because they also say, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. This has to mean spiritual wealth because Jesus didn't deal in material currency. So, they believe that they have received teaching and revelation and even possibly spiritual gifts and so they feel, what more could we ask for? The answer of course, is life!

 

Now when Jesus uses words, he means what he says and doesn't use words without meaning them. So note when he says, you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. There are five descriptions there.

 

‘Wretched' means miserable and unhappy. They had accepted a level of spiritual life that was far less than the inheritance that really should have belonged to them, and the joy of the Lord was not there. They just tolerated or accepted church life. Do we get a thrill when we meet together as church, or have we lost the thrill and wonder of it?

 

‘Pitiful' means to be pitied. Anyone who knows the truth will look in on this church and feel sad about what they find there. It's a form of religion without the power and life of it. Spiritually mature people will see the state of this church and feel sad for them.

 

‘Poor' simply means they are in a state of spiritual poverty. They do not have spiritual riches, things of spiritual value. The apostle Paul spoke of the riches of his glorious inheritance.” (Eph 1:18) and the incomparable riches of his grace.” (Eph 2:7). Riches indicate a state of wellbeing but that is absent here.

 

‘Blind' means they cannot see the truth about themselves. It is hidden from them. They think they are all right, and just cannot see what they are really like. Spiritual blindness is a work of sin and of the enemy and it stops us seeing the truth.

 

‘Naked' immediately gives the picture of one who has lost everything. One thinks of the ‘ robes of righteousness' (Isa 61:10) and later in Revelation we are shown people from all over the world and They were wearing white robes (Rev 7:9) and we are then told, they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” ( Rev 7:14). From the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve realised they were naked, the Lord has been about the business of clothing His people (Gen 3:21), now in His righteousness. This people, though, are naked. How tragic!

 

We have here five measuring sticks to set against the church of our day. Do we fit any of these descriptions? May it not be so!

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 54

Meditation Title: The Remedy

     

Rev 3:18   I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

 

Laodicea was known for its wealth, its wool production, and its ointment. The Lord of the church takes these three things and with a touch of irony suggests that this church obtains these things from him to remedy their spiritual defects. It is almost as if he is saying, well, you have become affluent with the world's riches but have not found them helping you spiritually, so you'd better come to me now and receive the spiritual equivalents to make you who you should be. Let's consider the three things.

 

First there was gold. Gold we know was considered probably the most precious of the metals and of immense value. Gold, when it was used to cover other materials distinguished that object from all others. When the Lord gave instructions on how to construct the Ark of the Covenant, it was to be made out of acacia wood that was to be overlaid with pure gold, both inside and out.” (Ex 25:11). Similarly the table in the Tabernacle (Ex 25:23,24) and all the plates and dishes (v.29) and the Lampstand (v.31) were to be of pure gold. At the end of Revelation the New Jerusalem was described as a the city of pure gold.” (Rev 21:18). Gold thus speaks of holiness, referring to the uniqueness of God. But this gold that Jesus refers to is gold refined in the fire. The fire speaks of testing and trying. Peter, referring to such trials says, These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine (1 Pet 1:7). So says Jesus in this figurative language, stand out as my people against the ways of the world, don't be afraid to face the trials of opposition from the world, let your faith be proved to be genuine in the face of such trials and then you will indeed be rich spiritually. You will then know who you are and all the resources that are yours. You will indeed know the riches of God's grace, (Eph 1:7), “his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19)

 

In a day when we prefer peace and comfort, these words are concerning and uncomfortable, but if that is so then it is more an indication that we are more like the Laodicean church than anything else. Trials and testings for our faith are supposed to be a normal part of our Christian lives and you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything, (Jas 1:3,4) and as Peter says above, help prove the genuineness of our faith. The absence of them is worrying!

 

Jesus also speaks of white clothes to wear . White as always in Scripture refers to purity. When Solomon wrote, Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil,” (Eccles 9:8), there was also a sense that white clothes were a sign of peace, contentment and well-being. This church, that Jesus described as wretched or miserable, needs to come into a place of peace, purity, contentment in Christ, and well-being, and this will only come when the life of God is able to flow through their faith again. But even more, these white clothes are to cover your shameful nakedness. Clothing, as we hinted at yesterday, is the provision of God. Naturally we are naked, we have nothing. Paul said, all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal 3:27). When we become Christians it is like we put on the nature and character of Christ and that is what is seen. Our ‘natural' selves are covered with the divine nature of Christ, but that only continues as long as we continue to live ‘in him'. If we just live in our own strength, and by our own wisdom, in a godless attitude, Christ will not be seen, just our own natural nakedness. That is what this church was like.

 

The final thing is salve to put on your eyes. This church was blind so they needed this salve to wash their eyes so you can see. Surely this ‘salve' must be the Holy Spirit. There is no other way to see spiritually unless He comes and brings us revelation. Paul once prayed, I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Eph 1:18,19). We need His help to be able to ‘see' spiritual truth.

 

Have you noticed that Jesus speaks all these things in picture language and so they are not obvious to the natural mind? When Jesus does this he does it so that we will seek him to find answers. It is part of his method or process, to bring us back to him. He speaks in ways that only seekers will persevere with, only those whose hearts are truly for him. They may have become casual, but they can be stirred to seek the truth from him, and that is his desire for us. If Scripture is unclear to you, seek him; you are being checked to see the state of your heart!

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 55

Meditation Title: The Guest

     

Rev 3:19.20    Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

 

Having just exhorted this lukewarm church to do various things, the Lord now in these two verses gives additional encouragement to do those things. He starts with a simple statement of truth: Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. Now this is actually encouraging because earlier he had said, I am about to spit you out of my mouth (v.16) which sounded really bad news and sounded like their demise, but talk of discipline, although painful, gives hope that there is yet a future together. When he says Those whom I love , the implication is that he loves them and so this applies to them. Those who he loves he doesn't write off, but he does things with them to remedy the situation. Yes, he will rebuke or tell them off and strongly draw to their attention their errors, but he does that because he loves them and wants something better for them.

 

When he says he will discipline those he loves, he means that he will come and bring correction and teach self-control (or self-discipline, i.e. training) to enable them to change. That's what God's discipline is. It is not punishment; it is training to bring change. The principle is seen in a number of places in Scripture: do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in (Prov 3:11), which is reiterated in Heb 12:5,6. One of Job's friends had the right attitude: Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty” (Job 5:17). Often we will say, “God loves you exactly as you are, but He loves you so much that He won't leave you as you are because He has something better for you.” This is why God disciplines or trains us.

 

But there is a further side to this: So be earnest, and repent. We have a part to play in this, a heart part. Yes, Jesus can discipline us and train us but he wants heart agreement to the changes in us. That is what repentance is about. But he also wants us to eager and enthusiastic for change, hence the call to be earnest.

 

Now he gives a picture which is supposed to be of major encouragement. It is a verse that in the past at least has been used often in evangelism. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. Now there is a hidden implication here, and it is this: if Jesus is standing at a door knocking and wanting to come in, it implies he is outside of where we are. That is the shocking thing about this picture and this church. They give an appearance of having some life but in reality Jesus is not in this. Jesus is never lukewarm! So Jesus stands outside this church and appears almost as a guest who invites himself in. Yes, note that. This is a very gentle picture. He is knocking and asking for entry. He is not forcing entry. He respects our free will and so comes, even to this church needing severe discipline, with great gentleness. In the Song of Solomon there is a terrible warning. I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My lover is knocking: "Open to me, my sister, my darling(Song 5:2). Similarly this church seems half asleep, but instead of leaping up and letting in her lover, this girl made herself look good, and by the time she had finished, I opened for my lover, but my lover had left; he was gone.” (Song 5:6). He will not knock for ever. He wants us to respond as we are now. He doesn't want us to dress ourselves up before we face him!

 

Why does he want to come into this church? I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Sitting down and eating with someone is a most beautiful picture of fellowship. He wants to come in and spend time with the people of this church. Note that this isn't him wanting to get them to do more acts of service. No, this is him wanting to restore fellowship with them, because everything else flows from that. Jesus' greatest desire is for us to fellowship with him, to share with him. He wants to hear us, to know us, and for us to hear him and know him. All the rest will flow out of that. That's why Jesus said of Mary in Mary and Martha's home, Mary has chosen what is better,” (Lk 10:42) when Mary just sat at Jesus' feet listening to him while Martha worked. Working can follow the fellowship, not the other way round.

 

There is a condition to this though: If anyone hears my voice and opens the door. We have to recognize that Jesus is calling, Jesus is knocking, and we have to respond by opening the door of our lives and specifically inviting him in afresh. That opening the door is a crucial thing. It means accepting the truth of where we are, laying down our will and surrendering to his will. That is necessary before we can say, please come in.

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 56

Meditation Title: Ruling with Christ

     

Rev 3:21,22     To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

 

A number of times in the past when I heard someone preaching on this seventh church, the church at Laodicea, I always had a sense of guilt at the end as the preacher showed how terrible this church was, a church that some say typifies the Church in the Last Times. However as we face these final verses today I am filled with an almost overwhelming sense of God's amazing grace. Because many of us have encountered bad authority figures in our lives in the past, we tend to think of Jesus as a nasty schoolteacher who comes with a big cane, and all we can remember are the words, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (v.16). They seem to match our imaginary idea of a severe Jesus who has come to deal with this church in a strong and harsh way, yet the truth is as far from that as you can get.

 

We commented yesterday on the gentle way Jesus comes and knocks on the door requesting entry, and not forcing his way in. As sovereign Lord of the Church he has both the right and the ability to do that, but he doesn't; he invites them to invite him in to fellowship with them. This is an invitation to restore or create a living relationship with the Lord of the Church, which is obviously absent, so that his life may flow in them and in the life of their church in a new and dynamic way. A harsh God would force himself upon them and either condemn them and write them off, or demand repentance in the most harsh of terms – but He doesn't!

 

Instead his gentleness continues as he says To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne. Pardon? They are offered a position of immense privilege and power? Here is Jesus, the Son of God, sitting on a throne beside his Father, ruling over all things, Lord of the Universe, Lord of all the Universes. He has both the power and the authority to do as he wills, and he says to them, come on guys, you can overcome, you can rise up against this lukewarm apathy that prevails in your church that has kept you powerless and fruitless, you can do this, and when you do, you can be those who will reign with me!

 

Imagine a headhunter, going to a school to look for someone to fill a most senior position in one of the world's biggest companies. He is taken to interview the sixth formers to look for a likely candidate. He sees them one by one, and has their past reports before him. One young man comes in, looking defeated from the start. The headhunter looks at his reports and again and again sees such phrases as “Could do better,” and “Never seems to reach his potential,” and “If only he tried harder he could do so much better,” and “Is mostly characterized by apathy and indifference although every now and then there is a spark of interest shown.” The young man knows what is there in the reports; he knows that he is condemned. The headhunter smiles and says, “Right, this is all very obvious.” As he pauses the young man knows this is a hopeless interview, but then is startled as the headhunter says, “Here's the deal! You rise up against this apathy and indifference which seems to have plagued you, acknowledge your state, but have a clear desire for something completely different, and I have a job for you.” The young man thinks, “Yes, right, office boy making the tea for the rest of his life.” But the headhunter continues, “Yes, if you do this I'd like to offer you the job of personal assistant to the managing director of the company, not to carry his bags, but to be trained to take over from him.” The young man is staggered. He cannot believe what he has just heard.

 

THAT is exactly what we have here in these verses. Jesus says to these lukewarm people, really desire to come alive, turn from your apathy, and I will make you universe rulers alongside me. Now of course this action has already happened once: just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. Jesus came in human form in immense weakness to Jerusalem on that last week before that final Passover. Yes, he was God in human form, but the human form rendered him utterly weak. Naturally he could do nothing, but as he submitted to his Father's will and faced the Cross, he passed through death and was raised from the dead and was then raised up to heaven to sit alongside his Father in heaven, ruling over all things. His is the model for us to follow. As we lay down our lives to him and say, we desire to follow your will as fully as possible, so he raises us up into a place of immense honour. What does ruling with him mean? Well that could be a subject for you to meditate upon for the next year!

 

It is difficult to take in so, if you need to, read over these notes again and ask the Lord to really take in the shear wonder of his grace and mercy. Be blessed by it. Be thrilled by it. Rise up to receive it!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 57

Meditation Title: Lord of the Church - RECAP 1

     

To conclude let's consider together each of the descriptions of Jesus in these letters:

 

Rev 2:1 These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lamp stands This is the Lord of the Church who holds the leaders or angels of the local church in his hand of authority. They are answerable to him. They only have their position because he has so called them and appointed them. Moreover he walks among the churches watching and observing all that goes on. He sees all that happens and the local church is answerable to him.

 

Rev 2:8 These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” Jesus comes to his church with the reminder that before all other things were, he was, and when everything is wound up, he will still be. He is eternal but he has also come in human form and lived in this world where he died for us on the Cross, and was then raised from the dead. He is unique. He is the eternal one who lived in time-space history and lived with us. Thus he is able to speak into our world with understanding.

 

Rev 2:12 These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.” This is Jesus who comes to confront his church with the truth which he speaks to us. His word comes, cutting through all pretence and sham and pierces to the very innermost where it has the most effect. Jesus brings his word (rather than simply acting himself) because he wants us to have a part in the change and he looks for our cooperation. He wants us to share in the change he comes to bring.

 

Rev 2:18 These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” This is the Son of God and not only does he come with his word but he comes as one who sees everything. His eyes burn through all outward pretence and he sees and knows everything. He has walked through the fires of affliction as he walked on the earth and born our sin on the Cross, and so he understands us completely.

 

Rev 3:1 These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” He is the one who holds the executive arm of God, the Holy Spirit, who knows and empowers every believer, every church. Indeed every believer and every leader or ministry is in his hand. It is a place of security and a place of accountability. He is the one who directs his church and who teaches us, inspires us, guides us, and empowers us. Not only does he speak but he empowers as he guides.

 

Rev 3:7 These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” This is the one who sets the standard for the life of the church, the standard of his own character. He is holy, utterly different, perfect & pure. He is true and so there is nothing false about him. He holds the key to the future of the kingdom of God and so when he opens up the way and provides opportunities for his people to move forward, no one can stop that happening.

 

Rev 3:14 These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.” Jesus is the one who is utterly committed to his Father's will (the Amen). He has come and perfectly revealed something of the Father to us. Throughout his life and death he remained true to the Father so that he remained a perfect witness for us about the Father. He has come and lived here and remained true here, but now he has returned to heaven and is seated at his Father's right hand where the rule of all things has been given to him, until the End of all things, when he winds up this present world and returns the rule of the kingdom to his Father.

 

This is the Lord of the Church who comes to us through these seven letters. He comes as the one who has all authority over all the Church, the one who is eternal yet has lived in human form in our world, the one who bring change by his cutting words, a word he administers as his eyes see everything and know everything, and understands us because of what he has been through. He is the one who empowers and directs the church, who comes to administer the rule of the kingdom of God , opening up opportunities for his people that the enemy cannot stop, the one who has faithfully revealed his Father to us and now rules over all things until they are complete. This is our Lord. Worship him. Praise and acknowledge him for each of these things revealed in these letters.

 

Understand that the Church is because of Jesus. He bought it with his blood, and now he directs and empowers it by his Spirit, as he continues to work on the earth to bring the kingdom or rule of his Father, through his Church, of which we are a part. Be aware of these things and be part of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 58

Meditation Title: Areas of Vulnerability - RECAP 2

     

To conclude let's consider together each of the problems these churches faced and see that these are all things where we might be vulnerable, things we need to watch for:

 

Rev 2:4 I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” This is a warning to us to hold on to that initial fresh love that was completely dependent on Jesus and which made Jesus its focus. It is a love that is fresh and lively, an open and willing love, a love the bubbles in every area of life. It is a warning to not let this go as we mature. Maturity is not becoming old and boring but more and more full of the life and love of Jesus.

 

Rev 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days.” The Christian life is not free of difficulties; in fact for those who desire to be godly, opposition will be a natural part of their lives (2 Tim 3:12). Those who are ungodly and unrighteous will be defensive because our godliness and righteousness will show them up. The enemy will seek to use their opposition to wear us down. The truth is that the Lord of the Church knows all about this and is there for us in every situation.

 

Rev 2:14 You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam.” Here is a warning to be careful about what you believe. These believers had mixed their beliefs with the ways of the world. This was thus a warning to remain distinct from the world and not to let our thinking, our ways and our methods in any way imitate or follow the ways of the world. We are a chosen, distinct people, called to be holy, called to be different (1 Pet 2:9). We are to have our minds renewed (Rom 12:2) by Christ.

 

Rev 2:20 You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.” Beliefs are translated into actions and the warning here was twofold. First against false spirituality that led people astray and second, against immorality. This woman portrayed an exciting Spirit-life that drew many after her, but her behaviour did not match her apparent spirituality. The two are supposed to go together. We are called into Spirit life, yes, but we need to remember that He is a Holy Spirit, and that means He conforms to all of God's laws and never strays into anything questionable.

 

Rev 3:1 you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” Here there is a most subtle danger. We know that the church is supposed to be alive and so we do things that give an appearance of spiritual life – yet they are not motivated or empowered by Jesus. We can have orthodox beliefs and teach the Bible, yet it is possible that the life of the Holy Spirit is quite absent from the life of the church. We are called to do the same things as Jesus (Jn 14:12 ) but it is not possible to do these unless we are empowered by the Spirit. If He is absent, we merely have a dead replica of a church.

 

Rev 3:8 you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” This is a warning to persevere. There are times when we can go through great weakness and feel very inadequate, yet the call on us is still the same – to remain faithful. It is a warning not to give up. This church had also been getting opposition from the Jews and when we receive ongoing opposition it is very wearing. The call therefore, is to receive afresh the grace of the Lord to stand in the face of that ongoing opposition and indeed to carry on being the witness of life and truth that he calls us to be.

 

Rev 3:14 you are neither cold nor hot.” The final warning is against settling for some middle comfort zone that abhors ‘extremism'. This church derides those who are enthusiastic and zealous. This church does just enough to ensure everyone is a believer, but after that it seeks to calm people down so they don't get too ‘frothy' or too enthusiastic in their expressions of love for Jesus. This church stays on the safe ground where they remain in control and the risks of faith are avoided.

 

So here are the warnings that come from the head of the Church, things where we might be vulnerable to accepting less than Jesus wants for us. We can lose that first love that is full of life, we may be worn down by persecution, we can compromise and take on the ways of the world, have a form of spirituality but with poor moral standards. We can appear as orthodox but lack the life and power of the Holy Spirit, we can feel like giving up in the face of opposition, and we can settle for a middle, lukewarm, comfortable form of Christianity.

 

Summarising and consolidating these, our aim is to be a church that is full of the vibrant love of Jesus, standing firm against worldly opposition, strong in doctrine, life and morals, empowered by the Holy Spirit, being steadfastly faithful despite whatever comes, and being full of that Spirit life that energises and directs day by day. May we be this!  

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 59

Meditation Title: Our Inheritance - RECAP 3

     

To conclude let's consider together each of the things that are offered to the Overcomer, and see the opportunities presented to the church:

 

Rev 2:7 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” The first of the things offered to the Overcomer is simply eternal life. The original tree of life was in the Garden of Eden but no longer is that accessible. The new tree of life is in heaven and is accessible through the blood of Jesus Christ. Eternal life is a promise that occurs again and again in the New Testament.

 

Rev 2:11 He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” To go on living for ever is only a blessing if you can be assured that it is a good existence. Life in hell would be a terrible existence. The second death is the death of hell which comes after the first death and after judgment. For the Overcomer the promise is that we will not be judged and condemned. For those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, there is an assurance that once through the first death, there is nothing more to fear, for the Lamb has taken our sin and punishment and so there is no further accounting to come.

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Rev 2:17 To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” Eternal life and freedom from future judgment are the first two parts of what is promised the Overcomer. Now the Overcomer is promised a hidden supply of food, obviously a spiritual food from heaven that resources our daily lives. The white stone is like an invitation card to join in all Jesus is doing, and the fact that only he knows our new name speaks of a level of intimacy that we have with him. This speaks of the quality of life being offered: resourced, involved and intimate.

 

Rev 2:26 -28 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-- `He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' - just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star.” This is almost unbelievable. The Overcomer is to be a ruler. This is not at the end, but during their life here on earth. As they walk with the Lord, doing his will, so he imparts to them authority that cannot be withstood in the heavenly realms.

 

Rev 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.” The white clothing is the entry mark into God's presence and this invited guest has his name on the invitation list that will not be removed. This person is to be presented to the Father. This person, by being an Overcomer, has earned the right into the banqueting hall or throne room of heaven.

 

Rev 3:12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.” This Overcomer has become an essential part of the eternal structure that is the new Temple of God . This person has been stamped with God's name and the name of the New Jerusalem. This person has been declared, ‘owned by God and destined for the eternal future with God' so that all can see. All of creation can see the link between the Overcomer and their Lord and their eternal home. They are marked, they stand out.

 

Rev 3:21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” The ultimate place of rest for the Overcomer is alongside their Lord. This isn't about just being part of the heavenly congregation. If that was all our future involved that would be good enough, but it is far more! It is to sit alongside Jesus and sit and share in the ruling process over all of creation.

 

Have you seen that these are not just things for individual churches, they are things that apply to every Overcomer: the promise of eternal life, freedom from fear of eternal judgment, a life of provision and intimacy with Jesus, a role of ruling today in the heavenly realms, part of the heavenly congregation acknowledged by the Father, part of God's very dwelling place, and finally seated with Jesus ruling in eternity. This is the inheritance of the Overcomer who resists sin and temptation, resists the enemy and the world, and remains true to their Lord. Be an Overcomer! Receive your Inheritance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 60

Meditation Title: Doers of the Word

     

Rev 1:3   “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it

 

Before we finally conclude these meditations in the first three chapters of the book of Revelation, we must make this final observation: the words we have been considering are not for intellectual entertainment but to help us focus our Christian lives. From the moment we were born again, we found ourselves operating in a completely new world. It was a world where we found a range of things we had to learn. As we started reading the Bible we found we had to have a new way of thinking: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind . Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is.” (Rom 12:2). We realised that our mind was being changed, our way of thinking was being changed, by God's word.

 

We came to realise that there was a whole new way of understanding things ahead of us: I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe .” (Eph 1:18,19). We caught a sense of a whole new future, a whole new realm of things from God we were yet to enter into, and that His power was available to change us and enable us to serve Him.

 

As we read the Gospels we realise though, that this was not a life where we could choose just what to do: go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19,20). We came to see that the Christian life was one of discipleship, learning to DO the things Jesus said. Some of those things seemed relatively easy: let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,” (Mt 5:16) while other things, we realised, were impossible unless He clearly led us: anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” (Jn 14;12).

 

We began to realise that the changes on the inside of us, how we thought and felt, became the basis for what we did – but doing was a crucial part of the Christian faith. We read Jesus saying, Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21) and, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man.” (Mt 7:24). We read God's word that we may learn His will, so that we may then DO it. That is the teaching throughout the New Testament.

 

So now we come to some of the opening words of this book of Revelation and find the same thing. There seem to be two groups of people referred to here. First, Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it. When the prophecy was taken around the churches there would be one in the church who would read it out and the rest would listen. There is something about the nature of the word of God that when you read it out loud, it seems to come alive, strong and vibrant. It is a real blessing to read. But also, as you hear it thus being read, it also comes with strong impact.

 

Yet the most important part is yet to come: and take to heart what is written in it. When it says and take to heart, it means hear it, understand it, be moved by it, and then respond to it. This is the crucial thing as we conclude these studies. If we have intellectual knowledge of what is here and what it means, that is good, but it must not be the end of it. For the last three days, we have summarized three areas of teaching that come out in the letters to the seven churches. We need to take all these things and apply them to our lives as individuals and as churches. Do these things apply to us? How do we stand up under the scrutiny of these things? Do we fall short on some issues? What steps should we be taking to remedy these short comings? These are crucial questions we must ask ourselves.

 

The apostle James understood this well: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (Jas 1:22-24). If you have looked in the ‘mirror' of God's word and seen yourself and your church, and seen that in some way you don't match up, please don't walk away and forget what you have seen. Write yourself notes on what you have seen, where you feel you fall short, and what you feel you need to do about it. Put those notes somewhere where you will see them regularly so that you will not forget them – and seek the Lord for His help to bring about the things you have seen. Do it, be blessed. Amen.