“WHAT IF GOD WROTE US A LETTER?”
CWBC – 4/29/18
INTRO – Good morning, everyone! I’m so glad we are together to worship the Lord Jesus this morning!
We are getting close to end of school year. Graduation coming for many students, which means that many of them will be writing thank-you notes for graduation gifts they’ve gotten. Here’s how many of those notes are going to go:
“Dear Mr. & Mrs. Smith,
Thanks so much for the gift you gave me. I really appreciate it. Thanks again for the gift.
High School Graduate”
Some of you sitting here thinking, “That sounds pretty good!” NO!!!
Letter-writing is a lost art. When is last time YOU actually wrote a letter to someone? I mean an actual hand-written letter. Not an email. Not a text. Not a quick thank-you note. Not a letter you wrote on the computer & printed it out. I would venture to say that some of the younger folks in here today have never written a letter to anyone, or gotten an actual, hand-written letter from anyone. Don’t know the anticipation of going to mailbox every day hoping that there will be a letter in there. Don’t know the excitement of finding that letter, opening it, & reading it over & over again.
I read an article entitled, “The Lost Art of Letter Writing” – “My suspicion is that in a world where we are constantly chatting and [tweeting], very little is actually being said. We substitute human emotions with punctuations :> :< and emoticons, hoping somehow they could substitute our sensibility and taste and convey the nuances of our lives.
‘The majority of students are leaving high school without the necessary reading and writing skills needed to succeed in college and a career,’ noted the Alliance for Excellence in Education. And according to the [National Assessment of Educational Progress], more than 60% of middle and high school students scored below the ‘proficient’ level in reading achievement. So with speed and easy access, the first few casualties may be depth and style. But I fear the last might be literacy itself…
Indeed, these days I find the only people who write good letters are the old or those living in refugee camps or in prison. A refugee picks up his pen and begins to bleed himself into words. And the prisoner, too, who lives intimately with the knowledge of his own solitude, and who longs for the insularities of the world he left behind, finds his voice true and clear.
For the rest of us in this age of mobility and information, there simply isn’t any time for such a thing as a long, flowing, hand-written letter. I am no exception. Reading the passage L. sent me, I was overwhelmed by the desire to possess those letters I had sent away so freely so long ago.
Or rather, I longed to know him again, the lonely writer of those letters who never heard of such things as e-mails, twitter and who lived in an age not so long ago, but that might as well belong to another era. It is one where the mailman still played the troubadour of sorts for star-crossed lovers, and not what he is now: The carrier of bills and junk mail.” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-lam/the-lost-art-of-letter-wr_b_1543386.html)
Open your Bibles or your Bible app to the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Go to chapter 2 (pg. 1028) & look at these verses with me:
- 2:1 – “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.”
- 2:8 – “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.”
- 2:12 – “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.”
- 2:18 – “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.”
- 3:1 – “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.”
- 3:7 – “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.”
- 3:14 – “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.”
These 2 chapters, Revelation 2 & 3, contain 7 letters to 7 actual churches that existed in the first century when the Apostle John wrote the book of the Revelation in about A.D. 95-96. As the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus has the authority & the right to inspect every church body that claims to represent Him & proclaim His message of salvation. And this is exactly what He did to these 7 churches. To all 7 of them, He said, “I know” this about you – the good stuff & the bad stuff – the stuff that brought His words of affirmation & words of indignation, words of “Well done” & words of warning, words of strong confirmation & words of stern correction.
- Ephesus (2:1-7) – The distracted church – had forsaken their first love
- Smyrna (2:8-11) – The triumphant church – suffered & endured persecution
- Pergamum (2:12-17) – The entangled church – needed to repent from their acceptance of false teaching & immoral behavior
- Thyatira (2:18-29) – The contaminated church – tolerated evil, depraved teachings of Jezebel that led to sexual immorality
- Sardis (3:1-6) – The weakened church – had fallen asleep spiritually
- Philadelphia (3:7-13) – The devout church – had patiently endured in the midst of trouble
- Laodicea (3:14-22) – The absurd church – had a nauseating lukewarm faith
Though they were literal churches in that time, there is also spiritual significance for churches and believers today. The first purpose of the letters was to communicate with the literal churches and meet their needs at that time. The second purpose is to reveal seven different types of individuals/churches throughout history and instruct them in God’s truth. We can definitely see how there is application from each of these churches to our own personal lives today & the church of the 21st century. So let’s make application to our lives right now here at CWBC.
God knows everything about us, which means that we need to strive to live for Him every moment of every day. He sent these letters to these churches to communicate His truth & His direction to them. And He has done that same thing to us through His Word & through the Holy Spirit who reveals & teaches His truth to us. Jesus said in John 16:13, “When the Spirit comes, He will guide you into all the truth…”
So we know that this book that you hold in your hand right now IS God’s letter to us, His love letter to us. He has already written us His letter & there’s no need for Him to write any more letters. This letter that He has given to us is credible, complete, comprehensive, & commanding, & is the perfect guide for our lives. As our own Baptist Faith & Message states: [The Bible] is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.
But let’s just suppose that the Lord Jesus does write us a letter, a personalized letter for the Church at Country Woods. How awesome would it be to go to the mailbox & pull out an envelope addressed to us w/ a heavenly return address like this one right here (show envelope)!
While there are many things that He may say to us, I want to think about the parts of a personal letter & consider how these may apply to us here today if we were to get a letter from the Lord Jesus:
HEADING – The heading contains the address of the recipient & the date. Sometimes the heading simply contains the date.
Let’s think about our address & the date of our letter from the Lord. God, in His divine plan, knew that there needed to be a church planted right here on the corner of Big Creek Road & Siwell Road in 1990. He knew that, on this date, there would be 56,000 people within a 15-minute driving radius of this address, people who need to hear the life-changing Good News about Jesus Christ – some living in nice homes in nice places – even mansions, some in run-down houses, apartments, & housing projects, some on the streets & under the overpasses. He knew that some of those 56K would belong to Him, but that the vast majority of them are lost without Christ. He knew that some would be in strong marriages, some in horrible marriages, some divorced, some widowed. Some would be straight, some gay, some clean, some addicted, some rich, some poor, some white, some black, some Hispanic, some Asian, some Middle Eastern. Some would be law-abiding citizens, some law-breaking criminals. He knew that there would be some young, some old, some Trump-supporters, some Trump-haters, some in church today, some not – but ALL loved by Him & ALL in need of Him!
He knew that this building would be a testimony to the Gospel to every person that drives by here every day, that the steeple that rises from the top of this building would point to Him, & that the light in that steeple would represent the One who said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
GREETING – Usually starts w/ the word, “Dear” followed by the person’s name.
If it’s addressed to the Church, then it only goes to those who belong to Christ, who are a part of His Body, His FAMILY.
So, while this may be a very short portion of the letter, it has HUGE eternal consequences. The question for you to consider is this: Would YOUR name be in the greeting of this letter? It will ONLY if you’re a born-again child of God. In other words, what God would say to YOU today is – GET IN THE CHURCH! GET SAVED! GIVE YOUR HEART TO JESUS!
BODY – This is where the main text of the letter goes. While there are many specific things that we might think of that the Lord may say in this section, here are 4 things that I believe He would address in the body of this letter to us:
GOOD JOB! – Just like He did w/ the churches in Rev. 2 & 3, He may tell us, “I know” this about you – how you’re walking in faith – how you’re loving each other – how you’re sharing the Gospel & leading folks to Him. While we don’t work FOR our salvation, we do work BECAUSE of our salvation! He knows what we are doing for Him, for His glory.
GET THIS STUFF OUT! – When He addressed the churches in Rev. 2 & 3, He pointed out the places where they were falling down. He made sure that THEY knew that HE knew when they were tolerating false teaching, or giving in to sinful temptations & behaviors, or when they had become nonchalant in their walk w/ Him, just going through the motions.
You & I need to realize that the Lord sees & knows everything we do, every word we say, every thought we think. He knows about that secret sin that you are involved in that no one else knows about. He knows about the sinful habits you have that you continue to indulge in. He knows about your nonexistent quiet times & prayer life. He knows about your lack of tithing & giving, your laziness, your unwillingness to reconcile with that person in your life. He knows about the bitterness that you’re harboring within you, the anger that is seething within you, the lust that is burning within you. He knows ALL of this about you & me. And He demands that we address it. He’s not going to turn a blind eye to it, or give you a pass just because you’re in church today.
His plan for you to get that stuff out of your life is to come before Him in complete confession (1 John 1:9) & repentance. And His plan is for you to do that today!
GUARD YOUR HEART & LIFE! – He follows up His intense words about the shortcomings in your life w/ a powerful word of encouragement to guard your heart & life. He may remind you of that verse in Proverbs 4:23 that says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (NLT).
GO HARD TO THE END! – And then, He may issue you this inspiring challenge to stay faithful all the way to the end. Just like Paul told Timothy in his letter to him, the Lord wants us to “fight the good fight, finish the race, & keep the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7) all the way to the end when we take our final breath. And His promise is that He will be with us, “to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
CLOSING – Usually, just one word. If it’s a more formal letter or someone you don’t know well, may use the word, “Sincerely.”
But, when it’s someone who is dear to your heart, someone you’re close to, what’s the word we use? “LOVE.” I’m pretty sure that’s the word that the Lord would use to close His letter to us.
- John 3:16
- John 15:13 – “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
- 1 John 3:1 – “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; & that is what we are.”
- 1 John 4:10 – “This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us & sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (NLT)
SIGNATURE – “Jesus” – Even His name is an important word to us & part of His message to us. His name means, “Yahweh saves.” And it’s the ONLY name that one day will cause EVERY knee to bow & EVERY tongue to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
CONCLUSION – (open up envelope) – Inside this envelope today is a blank piece of paper. This represents your life right now today. Today, the message that the Lord wants you to know is that HE KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU, He loves you, & that you have the opportunity today to decide what’s going to be written on the pages of your life starting right now. Sure, there are some things that you can’t control. But there are some things that you CAN decide to change today.
- You can decide today to give your life to Christ.
- You can decide today to get rid of the sin that is weighing you down.
- You can decide today to start walking w/ the Lord again.