“WEAK, BUT STRONG” Rev. 3:7-13
INTRO – I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of a church that doesn’t need to be corrected or disciplined by the Lord. When we look back over some of the other churches that we’ve studied, we definitely see some things that we want to avoid so that the discipline of the Lord won’t come down on us as it did on them. Remember what Jesus said to these other churches:
- Ephesus – Didn’t love each other like they should have – They had “forsaken their first love.”
- Pergamum – They had compromised on the truths of God’s Word & had begun allowing & accepting false teachings in the church.
- Thyatira – Had allowed impurity & immorality to seep into their lives. Strong words of rebuke for this!
- Sardis – Had fallen asleep spiritually & needed to “Wake up!” They needed a spiritual “slap in the face.”
Before we go any further, just need to ask you: How are you doing in each of these areas?
- Are you loving your brothers & sisters in Christ as you should? Is it more than just lip service?
- Are you listening to & allowing false teaching into your life? Are you compromising the absolute TRUTH of God’s Word in any way?
- Are you living in purity & holiness before the Lord? Have you become stained by the things of the world?
- Are you spiritually asleep? Have you grown apathetic & lethargic in your zeal for the Lord?
Remember that the Church at Smyrna did not receive a word of correction & rebuke b/c they were staying faithful to the end, even at the risk of losing their very lives.
And, now we come to the Church at Philadelphia, the only other church out of the 7 that does not receive a word of rebuke from Jesus. They were a church that was weak, but strong. One pastor called them, they were “The Little Church that Tried” (http://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/revelation/the-little-church-that-tried). Another pastor called them, “The Church Christ Prefers” (http://keepbelieving.com/sermon/the-church-christ-prefers/). It wasn’t a perfect church b/c there’s no such thing as a perfect church. As John MacArthur wrote: “…there are no perfect churches. The church is not a place for people w/ no weaknesses. It is a fellowship of those who are aware of their weaknesses & long for the strength & grace of God to fill their lives. It is a spiritual hospital for those who know they are sick & needy.” (Because the Time is Near, p. 87). They weren’t perfect, but they were obviously doing something right. Jesus applauded, appreciated, & authenticated them by His words of encouragement & commendation. So I think it would do us good to discover what it was about them that placed them in this place of obvious blessing & favor w/ the Lord.
Looking back for just a moment: One thing that we learned from His commendation of the church at Smyrna is that faithfulness in the face of persecution brings His strong support & blessing. That characteristic is going be more & more important in the days to come for us as Christ-followers as more & more blatant opposition & persecution against us grows in our nation & world.
But what about this little church at Philadelphia? What was it about them that brought such loving accolades from the Lord Jesus? Here are 3 attributes about the Philadelphian believers that set them apart in the eyes of the Lord:
HIS WORD WAS PRACTICED – v. 8 – Look at verse 8: Jesus said, “I know” to these believers twice here in this verse – “I know your deeds,” & “I know you have little strength.”
“I know your deeds.” He didn’t say, “I know your SPECTACULAR deeds.” Or “I know your deeds that made the front page headlines.” Or “I know your deeds that brought lots of praise from men.” He simply said, “I know your deeds. I know you’re being obedient to my Word.” He let them know that He knew how they were serving Him & carrying out His ministry. He knew where they were serving Him & getting the job done. He knew who they were serving in His name, who they were touching w/ His love, meeting their needs w/ compassion.
He takes note of His people when they serve Him. And when we are serving Him, He will open doors for us that we never knew about – “See, I placed before you an open door that NO ONE CAN SHUT.” He will use you in ways you never dreamed He would use you. He will take you in directions & to places you never knew He’d take you. He will work in your life in ways you can’t even imagine right now. “I know that you have little strength…” You don’t have to be the strongest person there is…the smartest person there is…the richest person there is…the most popular person there is…the most influential “mover & shaker” there is. You just have to be HIS & make obedience to His Word the priority of your life! He takes ordinary people & transforms them & uses them in extraordinary ways. He doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called! He doesn’t want your ability; He wants your availability!
Our brothers & sisters at Philadelphia knew the Word. But more importantly they practiced the Word. The Bible says in James 1:22 – “Be doers of the Word, not hearers only.” Do you want to hear words of commendation from Jesus? Then put the Word into your life, & then put it into practice!
HIS NAME WAS PREEMINENT – v. 8 – What is His name? His name is Jesus, which means “Savior.” To these believers, that name was preeminent b/c JESUS was preeminent in their lives. It was the name above all other names, the name that surpassed every other name, the unequalled, unparalleled, unrivaled, unsurpassed name. He was their Savior, their Redeemer, their Champion, & they would never deny Him, even if it meant losing everything. Listen to what the Bible says about His name:
- As Matt. 1:21 says, “And she will bring forth a Son, & you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
- Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given unto men whereby we may be saved.” CEV – “Only Jesus has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone.”
- As Rom. 10:13 says, “For whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
- As Phil. 2:10-11 says, “…at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, in heaven & on earth & under the earth, & every tongue confess that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD to the glory of God the Father.”
What should be our response to the name of Jesus?
- UNINHIBITED WORSHIP – Pure, adulterated, passionate, genuine, authentic, uninhibited worship!
- UNSPEAKABLE JOY – Have you ever had the experience of tears of joy just flowing down your face when you say the name of Jesus? The joy of knowing Jesus is so powerful that there aren’t enough words in every language in the world to describe it!
- UNDENIABLE FAITH – When you are truly saved by faith, you are called to walk by faith & live by faith in every area of your life. It’s an undeniable aspect of our lives as His followers!
HIS COMMAND WAS PRIORITY – v. 10 – Read v. 10 w/ me again. Jesus expects His followers to stand firm in the face of opposition & difficulty. Never said it was going to be easy. In fact, it’s those hard times that develop our perseverance & strength, leading to more & more Christlikeness. Lk. 21:19 – “Stand firm, & you will save yourselves” (GNT). He set the example of perseverance in the face of persecution for us, &, just as in every other area of His life, He expects us to follow His example.
But for those of us who know Him, who are living for Him, who have faith in Him alone for our salvation, He issues this HUGE promise in this verse: “…I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” This is one of the best references to the promise of the Rapture for the Church, the true followers of Christ! Ray Stedman said this about this passage: “…the promise to the church is specifically that it is to be delivered from the hour of trial. Actually the word is not “from,” but “out of” — to be delivered out of — not just the trial but out of the very time of the trial! This is one of the clearest promises in the Bible of the catching away of the church before the great tribulation begins. It is a promise of the departure of the church, which Paul describes so vividly in 1 Thess. 4:
‘The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.’” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 KJV) (http://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/revelation/the-little-church-that-tried)