Summary: Christ appoints whom He wills to preach the message of life, and He holds those whom He appoints in His hand.
“I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.”
Evangelical churches today should be classified by-and-large as dysfunctional. I am not giving a pass to the statist churches—they largely departed from the Faith long ago. Liberal churches are irrelevant in influencing society for righteousness; they don’t truly count in the tally of Kingdom work. However, I am concerned that evangelical churches, seeking acceptance from the culture in which they exist, are quite prepared to compromise the Faith. For far too many of us who identify ourselves as Evangelicals, compromise with the world is acceptable—nay, even mandatory.
In making statements such as these, I don’t wish to appear harsh; however, professing Christians generally appear to be ignorant of the Word—they either are incapable of or unwilling either to define or to articulate what they profess to believe. It appears to be a general rule that professing Christians seek personal comfort; they long for something that will make them feel good about themselves. Tragically, too many professing Christians give little evidence that they understand why they were saved. I fault those of us who preach in great measure for this condition; we who occupy the sacred desk have often done an abysmal job of declaring the mind of God. Threatened by the unrighteous demands of spiritually dyspeptic parishioners, we who bear the name of Pastor are hesitant to declare the revealed will of God. Rushing from one committee meeting to the next and endeavouring to fulfil the expectations of personnel committees, we have little time for study of the Word and even less time for prayer. It is a mark of God’s grace and power that anyone is actually saved. Too often, if we are honest, we preachers must confess that God works among His people in spite of us, and not because of us.
Among modern churches, self-centred church members appear to be the rule. However, this is not what is presented in the Word of God. There, whenever we witness Christ and His churches, the will of the Master is always central. Jesus is in the midst of His people, observing their actions and grieving over their exaltation of the self. For far too many of our churches, the name could be changed to Ichabod Church, for the glory departed long ago [see 1 SAMUEL 4:21]. Though the people on the platform labour mightily to generate excitement, they always discover that there is a great difference between excitement and worship.
I am convinced that we who preach, to say nothing of those who listen each week, are in desperate need of recapturing a vision of the Master. In order to address this need, I invite you to consider the vision the Revelator presents when he was commissioned by the Ascended Master.
JOHN FIRST SAW SEVEN GOLDEN LAMPSTANDS — I am struck by the fact that when he turned, John’s eye was drawn to the seven golden lampstands. It was only after he had described the lampstands that he witnessed the Master standing in the midst of the lampstands. Shortly, the Revelator will inform readers that the seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches [REVELATION 1:20b]. The significance of this observation must not be overlooked. Underscore in your mind that before he sees the Risen Christ, John sees the churches. The world always sees the churches, identifying Christ with the body through which He is revealed. Christ is identified with His people! There is a reason that a church is identified as the Body of Christ.
When the world hears the voice of the Master, they will hear His voice emanating from the midst of the churches. The voice of the Master does not come from some spiritual section of a bookstore. Neither does the voice of the Saviour arise from some noisy March for Jesus or even from a rambunctious convocation of men shouting spiritual slogans in unison. The voice of the Master will be heard from the midst of His churches, for that is where He stands!
Before pursuing this thought farther, pause to consider one momentous truth—the message we proclaim, either with our voice or through the manner in which we live, is identified with the voice of Christ. If our lives speak of casual faith, or if our voice gives an uncertain sound, the world will not be drawn to the Person of the Master. If our lives reveal commitment to live to glorify the Master and if our message boldly proclaims His grace, the world will hear His voice. In this way, the people of God can be said to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour” [see TITUS 2:10].