Summary: Churches have many of the same common vulnerabilities / temptations … and a common solution … Jesus Christ.
Vulnerability and Victory: the Seven Churches in Review
Revelation 1:9 – 3:22
Sermon Objective: Churches have many of the same common vulnerabilities … and a common solution … Jesus Christ.
Those who study the seven churches of The Revelation closely see some broad overarching common traits between them. Sometimes they are missed because we isolate the churches and look at them individually; but there are overlapping vulnerabilities and weaknesses. My assumption is that we will find the potential for these in every church.
With that in mind, we are, again, going to read a substantive portion of the first three chapters this morning. Afterwards, I will offer three vulnerabilities (and victories) that not only reside within the seven churches but also within our local church. This will help us become the church our Lord envisions. Because it is very possible that Jesus is saying to our church what he said to Sardis (Rev. 3:2), “for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.”
2:1 – 3:22
As I said, I believe there are common vulnerabilities that not only reside within the seven churches but also within our local church. Jesus says, “for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God” (Rev. 3:2). And I think that applies to us.
Let’s see what we can discover and see if we can find transference to us.
The Seven Churches:
1. DOMESTICATED GOD
Eugene Petersen says in his book, “Living the Resurrection” that “The church is the community that God has set at the center of the world to keep the world centered.” That explains why Jesus is so concerned that His church remain a pure reflection of Him and that He remain its head.
The problem is that way too many times we try to make the church into our image rather than allowing God to shape it. Well, more accurately we try to make God into our image rather than being restored into His. If the church is not careful it will write its own Bible and shape its own God. More often than not, the God the church creates will be more like a best friend who has endless time for their needs, no matter how trivial. Scholars call this "domesticating God," turning him into a social planner, a therapist, a guardian angel, etc.
(Adapted from Lynn Garrett’s “Cafeteria Religion”).
The churches in Asia-Minor were guilty of “domesticating God.” They viewed God in a manner that was … safe. Their understanding of God was one which could be controlled and even manipulated. That is why they were able to justify heresies and tolerated (even encouraged) fellow church members to engage in practices that were unspeakable.
That is also why the church today (ours included) prefers a vision of God that emphasizes the more palatable expressions of deity.
In “Delighting God” Victoria Brooks says “We search for the more predictable Jesus that we trust – the Jesus who warms but never burns, whose light comforts but never blinds. We search for the Jesus of our past experience, the ‘perfect gentleman’, who patiently encouraged our troubled heart, unscrambled our tangled thoughts, and beckoned rather than pushed us past the points of our resistance.” (P. 41-42).
Sadly, this describes the vulnerability within many (if not all) churches. We want to domesticate God so that we can fully understand, control, and predict Him. But there is something significant about Jesus portraying Himself as Lord and God in these chapters which refuses to be domesticated and demands to be obeyed. Brooks goes on to say, “We search, but He is gone. In His place is something not entirely gentlemanly or mindful of our boundaries. … The intensity of God’s devotion is more than we bargained for. The ultimate tone of His intentions is unnerving. We feel pushed from behind to embrace things we don’t understand. … We knew Jesus would be our friend, our companion, our eternal habitation, but we didn’t expect to be His.” (p. 42 and 50).
If we want our deeds to be found complete in the sight of God it behooves us to make certain … very certain … that we are continually surrendering ourselves to the Lordship of Christ and not just living off of yesterday’s epiphany. Our deeds can only be complete when we are obedient and surrendered to the person of Jesus.
The Seven Churches:
1. DOMESTICATED God
2. DRIFTED FROM JESUS AND HIS TEACHING
These churches were not without proper teaching or proper mentors of the faith. Living and serving among these churches were such leaders as Timothy, Priscilla, Aquilla, the Apostle Paul, and the Apostle John. There were other noteworthy names too.
There is a vulnerability within the heart of every saint and every church … I call it drift.