Summary: 2nd in a series on the seven Churches in Revelation. Looking at characteristics that help us have a positive presence in our community and in our church.
POSITIVE PRESENCE IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION
A Study in the Churches of Revelation
INTRODUCTION: Last week we began our series “Everybody is Known for Something”, and explored what we should be known for based on Christ’s conversation with the church at Ephesus.
We found out that Jesus is AWARE that the tools and qualities exist for us to have a positive presence in this world both as a church and as individual believers. Next, we found that Jesus UNDERSTANDS the process it will take to bring a positive presence to us as a church and as believers. And then, the third step in Jesus’ knowledge – the DESIRE to develop that corporate and individual positive presence in us.
And now, we come to the 2nd church in our study – the church of Smyrna, a church under persecution. Smyrna, we will find is one of two churches that receive only commendation from the Lord. Jesus declares what they are doing right – what they are doing to influence the world around them positively. He offers no encouragement to change something. For all intents and purposes, they are doing things RIGHT! In contrast, last week the church at Ephesus was encouraged as to what they already were; driven and steadfast, but also, they were encouraged to return from where they had slipped – leaving their first love.
From the moment we meet this church we are exposed to what a church should be like in the face of difficult circumstances. The name, Smyrna means myrrh, which is substance that was used in the anointing oil of the Tabernacle, and also used in the preparation of embalming fluids for the dead. It’s fragrance is released by crushing. So here is a picture of a Church, in difficulties, that is a sweet aroma to God. A picture of love so great ….
STANDING FOR CHRIST EVEN WHEN THE SURROUNDING COMMUNITY IS NEGATIVE
I. THE PEOPLE IN THE LETTER
A. Jesus, in sending the letter:
1. Tells us Who He is. The First and The Last
a. He is the supreme authority
b. He is what others can only claim to be
Others can claim to be the authority
Others can claim to have the last word on an issue
Others are just practicing a form of self-deception
Just recently our President expressed his correct understanding of Who is really in charge. In his memorial to those who lost their lives in the shuttle Columbia,
“Yet, some explorers do not return. And the loss settles unfairly on a few. The families here today shared in the courage of those they loved. But now they must face life and grief without them. The sorrow is lonely; but you are not alone. In time, you will find comfort and the grace to see you through. And in God’s own time, we can pray that the day of your reunion will come.”
President Bush understood that God is in charge of reunions, not death.
c. He is always there for the believer
2. Tells us what He did
a. Jesus became dead
b. Jesus “experienced” death – like a passing phase
c. Jesus IS alive – an act never to be repeated
d. Jesus will always be alive because Jesus defeated death
WE MAY PASS THROUGH SOME HARD TIMES, YET WE ARE DESTINED FOR SOMETHING FAR GREATER – LIFE!
B. The “Angel” in receiving the letter:
1. Reveals God’s pattern for developing a positive presence.
2. Letter is to an individual for a church.
3. Leaders are expected to model first, then instruct
4. People are meant to learn and assimilate first, then bring it into the church
GOOD POSITIVE PRESENCE AS A CHURCH COMES FROM GOOD POSITIVE PRESENCE AS AN INDIVIDUAL BELIEVER!
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF AWARENESS
WHAT MAKES IT IMPORTANT IS THAT JESUS SAYS HE KNOWS ABOUT IT
-- Jesus is aware
-- Jesus understands
-- Jesus wants to help us through it
A. Jesus knows our afflictions
1. The meaning of the word is pressure, burden, or crushing weight
2. Jesus is aware of the burden put on us because we are Christians
3. Circumstances all around us are ALWAYS trying to affect us
a. In Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do 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--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
1) Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.
b. In our text the world is squeezing our relationship with Christ out of us.
Understand this: THE ONLY THING THAT KEEPS US FROM FITTING INTO THE WORLD’S MOLD IS JESUS