Putting God's Word into Practice…

Revelation 2:18-28 ~ Pure Passion

Jesus started this letter to the church in Thyatira (I love the way that word sounds…go ahead, say it a few times…just rolls off the tongue!) by reminding them that His eyes are like fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze.  These were the words and warnings of THE powerful and pure Son of God–the only One who searches heart and mind!

The church in Thyatira was known by Jesus for their love, faith, service and patient endurance.  That sounds like a good list!  If Jesus knew me by those things, I’d think I was doing pretty well!  No one can be perfect, right?  Jesus demands holiness and purity.  Even a little discrepancy must be addressed and eliminated.

Again we see the problem with the church in Thyatira was that they were mixing self-indulgence and sexual immorality with holiness!  These are called the “deep things of Satan.”  Satan is always trying to get God’s people to doubt that His ways are for our good.  He tries to deceive us into thinking we are missing out on something.  He twists everything to make it about “us.” Like my husband says, “Satan shines up the fruit until we see our reflection in it.”  He makes God look bad and sin look good.  Satan’s purpose is to “steal, kill and destroy,” but because he “masquerades as an angel of light,” we get fooled into thinking sin is not that bad and God won’t really mind if we mix it in our lives as long as we’re basically “good.”

Jesus died and rose again to purify us and give us life!  We are to be like Him–holy and pure.  In His grace, He points out our sin and calls us to repentance.  He warns us of the outcome of chasing after sin–sickness, tribulation, and death.

Jesus is fair–He gives to each person according to their works.  Those who hold fast to Him and are faithful are rewarded with honor and HE GIVES HIMSELF TO THEM FOR ETERNITY!  Because the Bible uses the analogy of Jesus as the Groom and the church as His Bride, I picture Jesus waiting at the altar looking for our entrance. However, many times we forget that we will see Him face-to-face, and the things of this world and the desires of our flesh distract and derail our purity.  Jesus deserves a pure bride–not an unfaithful fiance!

Lord, keep Jesus before my eyes. Let the knowledge that I will see Him cause me to desire to live a holy life, so I will not be ashamed when I stand before Him.  Give me one pure and holy passion!

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Revelation 2:12-17 ~ Holding Fast

The people of the church in Pergamum were living in an area where Satan had a stronghold.  There was much idolatry and paganism.  It was spiritually oppressive and even dangerous.  In fact many of them saw one of their own, Antipas, be martyred for holding fast to the truth about Jesus.  When Jesus referenced Antipas in this passage He shared His own title of “Faithful Witness” with him.

Jesus came with the good news first:  many of them were also holding fast to Jesus and not denying their faith in Him in spite of their oppressive environment.  But just as with most good news, bad news follows.  The church of Jesus Christ in Pergamum was starting to let false teaching–teaching that justified self-indulgence and sexual immorality–mix in with the truth.  It is impossible to mix what God loves with what He hates!  Like oil and water!

In His grace, Jesus gave them a warning.  His gracious, kind warning was meant to lead them to repentance (willingly turning from sin).  If they chose to continue down the path of mixing Christ with their human passions, they would experience the painful pruning process of Him cutting away falsehood and sin.

Our hands can only hold so much!  We can’t hold fast to Jesus with one hand and hold sin in the other. Holding fast to Jesus requires emptying our hands of everything so that we can hold fast to him with both hands!  A mountain climber would never use one hand to climb and the other to hold a garbage bag on their way up to the summit! Yet, that is precisely what some of us try to do. Jesus alone is enough to fill our hands!

Jesus is all we need for security, sufficiency, and sustenance.  He promised in these verses that those who hold fast to Him will receive hidden manna (be provided for and sustained by His own hand) and a white stone with a new name written on it that is just between us and Him.  My study Bible said that white stones were primarily used for two purposes in Jesus’ day: 1) given to victors as a ticket to a winner’s banquet, 2) used by jurors at trials to vote for acquittal.  When we are faithful to the end, Jesus holds up the white stone with our name on it acquitting us of all our sins and then He hands it over to us and sends us into the feast of the victors!

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Revelation 2:8-11 ~ Better than a Beauty Pageant

When Jesus had John write His message to the church in Smyrna, He reminded them that He is the “First and the Last, who died and came to life.”  Then He goes on to say, “I know your tribulation, etc…”

Jesus doesn’t just know–He KNOWS–because He experienced it before them!  He endured tribulation, poverty, slander from “religious” people, suffering, prison and death!!!  Jesus had already been down the same road so that we can have victory over it!

In verse 10, Jesus gets to the root of their troubles.  The real trouble is Satan–the enemy of Christ and Christians.  He is behind their negative, painful persecution.  But he has no power!  Even if they die; they gain–heaven and eternal life in the presence of God where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

Jesus challenges the church in Smyrna to “Be faithful unto death,” and follows it up with a promise: “I will give you the crown of life!”  Death is not the end. Death is victory for a Christian because it has been conquered and overcome by Jesus–the First and the Last!  Death leads to a heavenly victory celebration where Jesus Himself will give the faithful ones their trophy!  Think of the joy Miss America exudes when the one who went before her places the crown on her head, and then multiply that joy by a billion!

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Revelation 2:1-7 ~ The Serious Business of Love

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The words of Him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.  This letter is not from John, but right from the mouth of Jesus–the one who died for the church, the one who holds the church in His hand and walks among them.

I KNOW YOUR WORKS, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.  I KNOW you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake and you have not grown weary.  “I know…” is both comforting and convicting.  Jesus sees our works–the good, the bad and the ugly.  He also knows the heart behind our actions.  “I  know your works!” How often do I long to hear that from someone?!  When I am toiling and it seems like no one sees or appreciates…God knows!  God also knows if I am doing it out of love or duty–caring for my home, loving my husband, meeting the needs of my children, leading ladies’ Bible study, making Keynote slides for Sunday morning, cleaning the church, preparing a meal for community group or a new mom, etc…

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had AT FIRST. REMEMBER therefore from where you have fallen; REPENT, and do the works you did AT FIRST. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you REPENT.  Jesus did not call us to works; He called us to love.  The first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Therefore anything less than love is sin.  We can choose to keep moving forward in loveless actions or repent and do the work of love and do works out of love!  Love is very serious business to God.  

REMEMBERING LEADS TO REPENTANCE AND RESTORED LOVE! I can remember when I was first dating my husband, and  I was constantly trying to display my love through cooking and cleaning abilities.  Or when my babies were first born and I loved changing and feeding them and washing their tiny clothes.  Or when I was first saved, and I boldly confessed my love for the Lord to anyone who would listen and followed Him in obedience no matter how silly the call seemed.  Or when we started the church, and no task felt like a burden but a blessing.  Somewhere along the way, actions become just actions, not necessarily motivated by love.  This morning, remembering those first loving feelings showed me how far I have fallen.  After some tears of repentance, I am filled with fresh love!

Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (notice they hate the works not the people!). He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I WILL GRANT TO EAT OF THE TREE OF LIFE, WHICH IS IN THE PARADISE OF GOD.  Works without love leaves us feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied; doing our lives separated from the presence and power of God.  A loving life is rewarded by God Himself with refreshment, fulfillment and satisfaction in His presence!

Lord, restore in me a heart of love.  Help me to love well!

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