Summary: The Letters to the 7 Churches of Asia Minor. Link included to entire 8 sermon series with PowerPoint Presentations, and Microsoft Word Text.
READING SOMEONE ELSE’S MAIL
Letters to 7 Churches of Asia Minor
Ephesus--“DUTY W/OUT DEVOTION”
Just as there are 7 Dispensations of human history, and we live in the Dispensation of Grace, “The Church Age”, this dispensation can be broken down into 7 further divisions I want to look at before we go further in our 20 Cs Series. We’ll get to that in a moment.
But first, we’ve had many families visiting…several joining over the last months. Just as many are still visiting and considering. PTL!
Very difficult is that task…evaluating and examining a church. Only Jesus can really do that accurately, for He sees the internals, not just the externals. A church may appear to be one thing, and beneath the surface be something quite different! That’s all the more reason to fast and pray and make sure you are God-led in joining a church. But I hope eventually you’ll be a person of commitment once God has led.
By the way, I encourage you not to just look for a church that can meet your needs. While that is important, you should also look for a church whose needs you feel God can use you to help meet…a church whose vision you can jump on board with…and don’t look for the perfect church, because it doesn’t exist…and if you ever do find it, by all means, don’t join it, for it will cease to be perfect, won’t it?!
In Rev. 2 & 3, the Lord Jesus writes 7 letters and gives each of these 7 literal churches an X-ray of their true spiritual condition. And it’s not wrong for us to read someone else’s mail, in this case, because our Lord wants ALL churches to read these letters and give heed to these letters.
Don’t miss this: These 7 letters have a 3-fold application…
1. Contemporary application
Apostle John was a pastor…no doubt God used him to write down these letters from his pastor’s heart…these 7 literal churches that he knew personally, for they existed in his day.
2. Composite application
All 7 messages are for all churches in all centuries throughout this church age. The messages in these 7 letters apply directly to GBC in 2009.
3. Chronological application (most interesting)
A complete panorama of church history can be found in these 7 letters. From the apostolic church of John’s day, to the day in which we now live. For example:
Ephesus—the careless church—A.D. 30-100—abandoned their first love—turned devotion into duty. They started out deeply in love w/ Christ. Read Ephesians and you’ll hear Paul speak of their love for Christ 20 times! “You are rooted and grounded in love” he said…but years later in today’s passage in Rev. 2 John relays Jesus’ words, “you have left your first love.”
And that was the general state of the church at large in the first century: they had left their love, devotion turned to duty, they were careless!
Smyrna—the crushed church—A.D. 100-300—v. 10, “10 days” Study church history and you will see that the 2nd and 3rd centuries hosted 10 great waves of persecution…the 10 Roman persecutions, from Nero to Diocletian.
Pergamos—the compromising church—A.D. 300-500
Now the church moved out of the catacombs and into the cathedrals. But they compromised with the world.
Thyatira—the corrupted church—A.D. 500-1500 (the dark ages)
Works salvation became their theme, and the gospel of grace was corrupted. It’s the Roman Catholic Church as plain as day.
Sardis—the crippled church—A.D. 1500-1700
The Reformation and Martin Luther brought about a remnant who escaped the clutches of Thyatira. But though they once again found grace they held onto enough of their past liturgy to cripple their future.
Philadelphia—the consistent church—1700-1900—the revival…a church for which the Lord did not have one word of rebuke. The best days of Christianity since the early days happened right here.
Laodicea—the cooled off, luke-warm church—1900-present…we live in this period of church history.
You and I live in the Laodicean church age, but we can be a Philadelphia church during this Laodicean age. (other combinations of all the above also exist)
You see, today in the Laodicean age we still have all 7 of these types of churches. But which one will we be? We can learn a lot from all 7. Both strengths and weaknesses of each will help us grow.
Ephesus: Duty w/out Devotion
Commendation: Before telling them what they’re doing wrong, the Lord tells them what they’re doing right:
v. 2 “works”—you are a serving church, no doubt.
“labor”—you are a sacrificing church. (work to point of exhaustion)
D.L. Moody: “I get weary in the Lord’s work, but I never get weary of the Lord’s work.”
“patience”—you are a steadfast church (endurance under trial)
rest of verse—you are a separated church
Criticism: v. 4
This is a cutting criticism, for the Lord Jesus is saying, you may be doing all the right things…but you’re doing them for all the wrong reasons. You’re not motivated by love for Christ / wholehearted devotion…you’re just going thru the motions out of a sense of duty. Ever been there? I have, even recently. But God doesn’t want us to serve Him because we feel we HAVE to...He longs for us to WANT to!