Greetings! Today is a glorious day in our corner of northwest Oregon!
After taking a few weeks break, the infamous Delve and I are beginning the last leg of our prophets project. After going through Isaiah and Ezekiel, we are now moving on to Revelation. This book is always fascinating, frustrating, and uncomfortable for me. So much good stuff, too much I can’t pin down, and a heavy dose of the overwhelmingly passionate heart of God.
I really don’t have much to say today. I’m just going to let the first three chapters of Revelation speak for themselves. These chapters are the words of Christ to actual, historical churches, made up of real people struggling to live out the gospel in a hostile world.
Such a treasure of insight into how God feels about the church. Talk about an authoritative resource for those in church leadership!
I decide to make lists. I listed all the things that God commends about the churches, and then all the things God condemns. I looked for repetition, patterns, and themes. Then, of course, I compared these with what I see in the church today.
Here’s what I saw:
What Jesus appreciates / acknowledges
- Deeds (2:2, 19)
- Growth (doing more than you did at first) (2:19)
- Work/service (2:2, 19)
- Perseverance (2:2, 3, 19)
- Not grow weary (2:3)
- Cannot tolerate evil men (2:2)
- Test and recognize false apostles / teachers (2:2)
- Hate the deeds that he hates (2:6)
- Did not deny his name (2:13; 3:8)
- Love (2:19)
- Faith (2:19)
- A Few who have not soiled their garments ((3:4)
- Have a little power (3:8)
- Have kept his word / the word of his perseverance (3:8, 10)
Things Jesus does not appreciate:
- Left your first love (2:4)
- Have tolerated / not dealt with false teachers and prophets (2:14, 15, 20)
- Have a name that you are alive, but are really dead (3:1)
- Incomplete deeds (3:2)
- Asleep (3:2, 3)
- Lukewarm (3:15-16)
- Proud, wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked (3:17)
There is so much here.
The theme that struck me most, though, was that of the church’s relationship to false apostles/prophets. This one shows up in both the likes and the dislikes.
The church in Ephesus is commended for not tolerating evil men, for testing false apostles and finding them to be false, and for hating the things God hates (2:2, 6).
The church at Pergamum is called to repent of keeping those in their midst who hold to false teaching that lead others into sin (2:14-15).
The church at Thyatira, also, is chastised for tolerating false teaching that is enticing members to sin (2:20).
Admittedly, my window is pretty small, but from my angle, I really don’t see much guarding against theologies, philosophies, and worldviews that are antagonistic to Kingdom-centered living. Me-centered, wealth-amassing, compromising, sin-excusing, powerless Christianity is the going commodity, and if we recognize it at all, we don’t seem to care much as long as we’re comfortable with where we’re at in “our own walk”.
We may or may not embrace or preach these views ourselves, but could it be said that we “do not tolerate” them? Do we do anything to repent of them being active in our midst? If we had “evil men” or “false prophets” in our church, would we ever even call them that, much less do anything about it?
That’s not to say we don’t get bent out of shape and rowdy about each other’s views. We do; it just doesn’t usually seem to be motivated by a desire to eradicate teachings that promote and validate sin. Our discussions are about leadership methodologies, atonement theories, and the western church’s relationship to a pluralistic society. They are about muddy details…not about how our lifestyles do or don’t line up with the clear life and teachings of Jesus.
But I said I wasn’t going to say much. So, what do you see God saying to the church in the first three chapters of Revelation? What likes / dislikes stand out to you? How do you think we compare?