Summary: Like the seven churches in Revelation the church today is broken - compromise, spiritually dead, lukewarm, loveless. The only way the church can have an impact is to hold onto the truth that Jesus is among us.
You can listen to this message in full here:-
“The Broken Church In This Broken World”.
In a moment we are going to read through two chapters in Revelation – the chapters which contain the letters to the seven churches. Now, before we do so, let me make a few quick points. The first point comes by looking at a map.
(Get a map off Google Images)
From this map it becomes very clear what is happening with regards to the letters. John is on the Island of Patmos and writes the down the Revelation that he sees. The order in which the seven churches appear is actually a circular route following the path of delivery.
Ephesus; Smyrna; Pergamum; Thyatira; Sardis; Philadelphia; Laodicea
Which helps us understand the particular order in which they are mentioned. Basically it is the shortest route.
I also want you to also see that each letter has the same basic structure.
They all start with a description of Jesus who is writing to them.
Each letter usually then lists the strengths of the church – some positive encouragement from Jesus.
Each letter usually lists the weaknesses of the church – some warnings from Jesus.
Each letter then lists a promise of blessing for faithfulness.
Basically that is the structure. So with that as the introduction let’s read.
The big temptation at this point is to ask:- which church do you think best represents our church? Our church is like …
Maybe the next temptation is to try and label other churches.
The Baptist Church on Musgrave in Banyo is like …
The Anglican Church on Froude Street is like …
The Uniting Church on Earnshaw Road is like …
Let me tell you right now that this is not the point of these verses. It isn’t about pointing our fingers at other churches and saying “tutt-tutt look how bad they are”. . Nor is it about looking at ourselves in the mirror and going “look at me, I’m so handsome”.
Because that is what we do, don’t we. It is so easy to look around us and see the faults in everyone else. To see churches which have poor teaching, or bad fellowship. To identify dying churches, and churches where compromise has taken place. But when we look at ourselves we would very quickly point out all our strengths. And probably we would make all sorts of excuses for our own weaknesses – and would get very offended if someone suggested that we somehow had got it wrong. But in all of this we need to have a reality check.
Put your left hand up to the side of your face.
Now your right hand to the other side.
What do you feel there? (ears)
Keep your hands there for a moment.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Despite what is written to each individual church each letter ends with exactly the same words. (You can put your hands down now)
Notice John doesn’t say “let them hear what the Spirit says to this church”, but what the Spirit says to the churches.
This is a message for us … now. A very important message.
The first message we get out of this is that, in many ways, the church is broken.
In Ephesus they have fallen into what we call “dead orthodoxy”. The members knew their Bible and they could sniff heresy from a mile away. They don’t like it when people are not truthful when it comes to teaching about Jesus – and they make their displeasure very clear. It is important to protect the truth and defend the truth.
BUT … in Ephesus … it was all about knowledge. They had forgotten about their relationship with Jesus. They had lost their first love.
The 10 commandments had become the 10 suggestions.
Their longing to worship God had been replaced with a longing to watch a movie, or sports, on television.
Sacrificial giving had been replaced with gathering material possessions.
Grief over sin had been replaced with trying to push the boundaries.
Dead orthodoxy breaks the church.
In Pergamum they had endured great persecution for Pergamum was a centre of pagan and emperor worship – the place was absolutely full of temples. They would not renounce Jesus even when they were threatened with death. But they were “minimising sin”. You see Satan is a very cleaver little devil. Blatant persecution wasn’t working, all it did was make the church stronger. So Satan uses Balaam’s technique.
Balaam is from the Old Testament. He is helping Balak fight the Israelites who are in the move from Egypt to the promised land. Balak is losing every battle so Balaam suggest sending a whole heap of beautiful women to the Israelite camp. While under the seduction of these women the men forgot their allegiance to the LORD and began to offer sacrifices to the pagan god Baal. In all some 24,000 Israelite men made sacrifices – and as punishment they were put to death.