Philadelphia: The Faithful Church
The Christian race is not a competitive event to see who comes in first, but an endurance run to see who finishes faithfully. It?s like the experience of Bill Broadhurst, who entered the Pepsi Challenge 10,000-meter road race in Omaha, Nebraska. Ten years earlier, surgery for an aneurysm in the brain had left him paralyzed on his left side. Now, on a misty July morning in 1981, he stands with 1,200 lithe-looking men and women at the starting line. The gun cracks! The crowd surges forward. Bill throws his stiff left leg forward, pivots on it as his right foot hits the ground. His slow plop-plop-plop rhythm seems to mock him as the pack fades into the distance. Sweat rolls down his face, pain pierces his ankle, but he keeps going. Six miles and two hours and twenty-nine minutes later, Bill reaches the finish line. A man approaches from a small group of bystanders. Bill recognizes him from pictures in the newspaper. He?s Bill Rodgers, the famous marathon runner. "Here," says Rodgers, putting his newly won medal around Bill?s neck. "You?ve worked harder for this than I have." Broadhurst had also been a winner.
God has never demanded we finish the race first. He has never said we had to be the best in the race, all he has ever asked us to do is finish the race.
I. Another Picture of Christ
A. Holy and True
1. There is no way you can read through the letters to the churches without realizing that Christ is the holy, righteous God.
2. Even here, the word true means original. He isn?t a duplicate like the statues in the temples.
3. He isn?t an also ran god.
4. He is the original, holy God of mankind.
B. keys of David
1. a reference was made to holding the keys of David.
2. The background of this imagery is Isaiah 22:15?25. Assyria had invaded Judah (as Isaiah had warned), but the Jewish leaders were trusting Egypt, not God, to deliver the nation. One of the treacherous leaders was a man named Shebna who had used his office, not for the good of the people, but for his own private gain. God saw to it that Shebna was removed from office and that a faithful man, Eliakim, was put in his place and given the keys of authority.
3. Jesus has the keys of authority over man given to him by the father.
4. What he says is the voice of God himself.
A. Open Doors
1. Throughout the history of Philadelphia, it was known as the doorway to the east.
a) The east was fairly unsettled lands that slowly came under the influence of Rome through trade and interaction.
b) Traders had unlimited opportunities going into those eastern lands.
2. God gives them an opportunity and a responsibility
a) Jesus has opened a door that no one can shut.
b) This church of little strength will be able to do awesome things because Jesus is holding the door open for them and no one can shut it.
3. That?s encouraging for a small congregation like us.
a) We don?t have to have all the great things of a big church if God is opening the door of opportunity for us.
b) We don?t have to be worried about the latest worship trends of God is opening the door.
4. What we do have to do is take advantage of the opportunities he places before us.
a) It doesn?t matter how great the opportunities are on the other side of the church doors if we are unwilling to take our faith through them.
b) Just as much as we have an opportunity, we have a responsibility to teach the lost.
c) I feel God has opened the door for us through the preschool, through the building we have, through the varied contacts we have in our community.
d) Are we taking full advantage of those opportunities?
e) We are doing pretty well, but there is still so much more we can do if we take our responsibility and God?s opportunities seriously as individuals and as a church.
B. They endured patiently,
1. Scholars are unsure as to what John was talking about here specifically.
2. What we do know is that they trusted in God and were faithful in bad times as well as good times and God would reward them for that faithfulness.
3. Americans are usually willing to endure if it is necessary, but we are terrible at doing it patiently.
a) As a church maybe we have been doing that without even realizing it.
b) For 40 plus years, our growth as a congregation has been slow and sometimes painful.
c) It wasn?t because we didn?t try. It wasn?t because we didn?t care.