Summary: The Church, our messes, Jesus' love
LOVE THE CHURCH HONESTLY
Revelation 2-3 (p861-863) June 23, 2013
Do you know how you can tell if someone really loves you or not? It’s not so much if they hug on you and smile at you in your presence…Don’t get me wrong, that’s encouraging and nice, too…but you can tell if someone really loves you by what they do outside your presence…when you’re not together.
Absence between people who love each other makes the heart grow stronger…because they can’t wait to see each other…get rid of the absence. But absence can also create…”Out of sight, out of mind”. And if someone doesn’t really love you…what they do outside your presence…and what they say outside of your presence will reveal something completely different than…Uh, LOVE.
Love for the church can be like that…On Sunday we can be together, smile, shake hands, hug….sing together, open God’s word…even meet around the Lord’s supper together, remembering why we’re here..
But have you ever met someone or experienced someone who Monday-Saturday has a completely different Spirit, or attitude, than what you witnessed on the Lord’s Day…”What’d you think of that sermon?” “I don’t know…pretty stupid if you asked me!” (They could possibly be right!) The conversation becomes a critique and one that reveals…not love, but well, something different. It happens all the time…doesn’t it…Complaining, dissatisfaction….sin begins to change the way life is lived outside the family of God…Outside the walls…in a culture that loves dissatisfaction and the downfall of others. Maybe initially they talked about love…but they’re ready to break up…
There was a girl who said while breaking up with her boyfriend, “I will always cherish the initial misconception I had about you!!... (Ouch)
You see, real love doesn’t happen in fantasy...it happens in reality…You can’t love someone for who you wish they were, you have to love them for who they really are….flaws and all…that’s why Dietrich Bonheoffer said “True Christian community begins with disillusionment. You aren’t really loving your Christian brothers until they’ve disappointed you and you choose to stick by them anyway.” That’s what Jesus does for the 7 churches of Asia Minor in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, and when I read these chapters I too am inspired to love the church more honestly.
I I LOVE GOD’S IDEA CALLED THE CHURCH
Man, when I read Acts 2-4…when I read the book of Ephesians…I catch a vision for this radical, vibrant, victorious community of faith…living it out loud and outside Solomon’s porch. In my imagination I see men, women, young adults…families ablaze with love for Jesus, sharing the good news in the market places, loving the sick…embracing the outcast, digging deeply into scripture together. Church, Baby!!!! I want to be part of the body like that---sign me up.
But then the reality hits me….I find people in churches who care more about carpet color than compassion, who cautiously guard their money and their positions, people who bicker and quarrel, who know the Reds starting line-up better than their Bibles…I saw a book the other day entitled: “Church: Why Bother?” and when I see churches shamed by moral scandal or dulled by years of routine, led by power players and brokers…I get frustrated and feel like giving up on church.
But not if I read Revelation…All churches are stained and wrinkled brides…all of them miss the mark of God’s glory, and nowhere is that clearer than Revelation 2 and 3…these churches are marked with immorality, sloppy teaching, apathy, and complacency. The churches are a mess, just like the ones I know….I love what one Christian leader said with this in mind…”We say we want to be the New Testament church…Congratulations…We made it!!!”
But the good news is…Jesus still loves these churches. It’s tough love for sure, but real love, nonetheless…and the Lord describes the ones He loves (Heb 12:6) (Rev. 3:19)…with each confrontation is commendation…for each Church, except LAODICEA, he affirms the good He sees mixed in with the bad. He loves these churches, not because they’re perfect, but because they’re His.
Each of the 7 churches are addressed through the “angel” literally “angelos” messenger…It might not be a celestial being Jesus speaks to…although I certainly believe in spiritual warfare and “unseen powers both good and evil” but It’s the same word used for preachers or evangelist…Messenger to the church at….
The messenger is accountable for his message…whether from heaven or Lexington, KY. The messengers in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea are given instructions from John through Jesus, “He who holds the 7 spirits of God and the 7 stars” (Rev 3:1), the one who “holds the seven golden lamp stands” (Rev 2:1)…We know the 7 Stars are the messengers.” The 7 lamp stands, the 7 churches.”
And with this in mind let me say a word about the symbolism of Revelation….Revelation might be the most challenging genre of scripture to interpret…Dr. Lowry from O.C.C. Said, “It can give you a Charlie horse between the ears.”