DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

The Lukewarm Church (Revelation 3:14-22)

  • please open your Bibles this morning to Revelation 3:14-22
  • did you ever see Rocky 3?
  • in Rocky 3, Rocky Balboa has been the heavyweight champion of the world for several years
  • the once obscure and impoverished street fighter from Philadelphia is now living in a Hollywood style mansion
  • he's enjoying a life of wealth and fame and self-indulgence
  • the day he plans to announce his retirement, he is challenged by an unknown behemoth
  • one final fight, and Rocky accepts the challenge

  • Rocky trains for the fight in a circus-like atmosphere
  • he signs more autographs than he hits punching bags
  • meanwhile, the challenger is in a meat locker, punching sides of beef and knocking around dock workers and docks

  • when the fight time comes, one wonders whether Rocky can reach down and pull out one final victory, even though he is no longer at his peak
  • the challenger destroys Rocky in just three rounds
  • humiliated and dejected, Rocky tries to figure out what went wrong

  • Apollo Creed, his opponent in Rocky 1 and 2, gives him his assessment
  • do you remember his words? "Eye of the tiger, Rock. Eye of the tiger."
  • "You used to have the eye of the tiger. You used to be hungry to win. You used to have the want-to. You used to be willing to pay the price to train. You used to fight with abandonment. You used to."
  • "But winning led to fame, and fame led to affluence, and affluence led to indulgence, and self-indulgence led to weakness, and weakness led to defeat."

  • Apollo Creed convinced Rocky to work out in a run-down sweatshop
  • Creed spent months helping Rocky recapture the eye of a tiger
  • and as you all can imagine, Rocky, fighting with the eye of a tiger, recaptured his world championship and yelled, "Yo Adrian!" one more time

  • moral of the story: beware of the dangers of a life of comfort and ease
  • keep a watchful eye out to make sure it doesn't lead to an embarrassing and costly defeat
  • do whatever is necessary to keep the eye of the tiger in the various pursuits that are important to you

  • we're going to look this morning at the last of seven letters written by Jesus Christ to particular churches in the book of Revelation
  • the church we'll look at this morning - Laodicea - is the worst of the seven
  • outwardly, this church is in great shape
  • Laodicea was the wealthiest of the seven cities, known for its banking industry, its manufacture of black wool, and a medical school that produced eye ointment
  • so wealthy was this city that when an earthquake almost entirely destroyed it in 60 AD, its wealthy citizens refused imperial help in rebuilding the city, choosing rather to do it entirely by themselves
  • the citizens of Laodicea were rich - and they knew it

  • if you were a real estate agent at that time, it wouldn't be hard to sell Laodicea
  • it was a great place to live
  • the only real negative about the place was its lack of an adequate water supply
  • the city of Hierapolis was just seven miles north of Laodicea, and was famous for its healing hot springs
  • Colosse, less than ten miles away, had cool water
  • but Laodicea, as rich as it was, had a serious water problem
  • the water for the city came along a six-mile aqueduct, and by the time it arrived, it was lukewarm, insipid, filled with minerals and chemicals
  • it sometimes even caused vomiting
  • but what's a little water problem in such a great city?

  • perhaps slowly, and perhaps imperceptibly, the culture of the city became the culture of the church
  • the comfort and affluence of the city caused the church in Laodicea to become comfortable and complacent
  • you initially get the impression that this church would be a good one to join
  • there were no false teachings that are mentioned
  • there was certainly no persecution from Jews or from the imperial cult
  • the church in Laodicea was not a dynamic church but it was not a dead church either
  • it was not a thriving church, but it was not a dying church
  • it was not a risk taking church, but it was not a comatose church
  • it was well with in the range of evangelical respectability, you might say
  • it was kind of normal
  • it was just a safe, comfortable place to attend and have a membership
  • no high risk plans on the drawing boards there
  • no dynamic ministry plans being prayed for there
  • just a warm, caring group of people meeting together to reinforce middle class values and a Christian orientation to life in general
  • just a benign group of believers content to cocoon together with other believers for an hour a week
  • they're not zealots, but neither are they antagonistic
  • they're not hot, but neither are they cold
  • call them tepid, call them lukewarm, and then call them disgusting in the eyes of Christ

  • shockingly, in verse 16, Jesus says to the church in Laodicea, "You make me sick"
  • verse 16 literally says, "I am about to vomit"
  • the Jesus that we think of as being meek and mild says, "What's going on at your church makes me ill to my stomach"
  • unlike most of the other churches addressed by Jesus in Revelation 2 and 3, there are no words of commendation to this church
  • Jesus is nauseated by their condition

  • my desire this morning is that we would evaluate ourselves against the two things that disturbed Jesus about this church
  • once we get over the shock of the strong language of Jesus, we learn two factors that make Jesus sick about the church
  • two things that Jesus can't stand in any church - then or today

  • and the first one is found in verses 15 and 16
  • FIRST, JESUS IS DISGUSTED WITH CHURCHES THAT ARE INDIFFERENT
  • (Revelation 3:15) I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
  • (Revelation 3:16) So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
  • unlike the water of Colosse, whose water was cool and refreshing, and unlike the water of Hierapolis, whose water was hot and healing, the water at Laodicea was lukewarm and hard to swallow
  • Jesus extends this to the church
  • back then, cold didn't have the same meaning as it does today when applied to passion
  • I don't believe that Jesus would want anyone to be openly hostile to him - although at least then they have some emotion
  • but what Jesus is saying here is, you're all the wrong temperature
  • you're passionless and indifferent
  • you don't take a stand for anything
  • you're not doing anything for Christ
  • you're a group of half-hearted, nominal Christians who are self-sufficient - and you're disgusting
  • you're making me ill

  • there's a fancy word that we sometimes use called entropy
  • it's used to describe the tendency towards decay and deterioration of everything around us
  • left to itself, everything is in a state of decay
  • a car left untouched in your driveway for ten years doesn't become better - it becomes a piece of useless metal
  • I'll get technical with you for a second
  • the second law of thermodynamics states that "a closed system eventually moderates so that no more energy is being produced"
  • in other words, unless something is added from the outside, the system decays and dies
  • as one person says, without added fuel, the hot water in the boiler becomes cool
  • without electricity, the refrigerant in the freezer becomes warm

  • even a church cannot become a "closed system"
  • and yet the Laodicean church had become independent, self-satisfied, and secure
  • and it made Jesus sick

  • if you could compile a hymnal that would be appropriate to use in the Laodicean church, it would include such songs as "I surrender some," "Take my life and let me be," "Sit up, sit up for Jesus," "My hope is built on nothing much," and "Be Thou My Hobby"
  • but before we laugh too much, how many of us are familiar with churches that are lukewarm?
  • how many of us even here this morning are wealthy, and live fairly easy lives, and are confident, satisfied, complacent, and indifferent?

  • I don't know about you, but I didn't sign up for that
  • ask yourself - didn't your passion used to burn for Christ and for the church?

  • I grew up believing that the church was God's hope for society
  • that the Gospel has the power to do what government can't do, what science can't do
  • I believed that Jesus Christ was mankind's only hope
  • and I believed it so much that I sensed God calling me into full-time vocational ministry
  • I thought, "There's no better way to spend a life"
  • I believed the old saying, "If God's called you to be a pastor, don't stoop to be a king"
  • but then I became a pastor of a church
  • part of the problem was that the church was full of nice people
  • our budget was being met
  • we were seeing some growth
  • and the slow but subtle trend was for me to forget that the church has a mission
  • it was almost enough to open the doors for the same people week after week, to enjoy our fellowship, and have almost no passion for the lost, or even a passion for God
  • that's the truth
  • beware the dangers of living a life of comfort and ease
  • because winning leads to fame, and fame leads to affluence, and affluence leads to indulgence, and self-indulgence leads to weakness, and weakness leads to defeat

  • the second thing that Jesus can't stand in the church is found in verse 17
  • (Revelation 3:17) You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
  • SECOND, JESUS IS DISGUSTED WITH CHURCHES THAT ARE SELF-DECEIVED
  • you see, the deeper problem of the church in Laodicea was not simply their indifference, but it was ignorance of their true condition
  • they thought of themselves as being rich and sufficient
  • but Jesus evaluates them and says, "You're really spiritually wretched and pitiful. You're poor, blind, and naked"

  • in an excellent book The Heart of a Great Pastor, H.B. London and Neil Wiseman write:
  • To acknowledge frailties in the Church and failures in the ministry is giant step toward renewal...I heard a recognized clergy leader tell ministerial students...that the "Church is doing a better job of fulfilling her mission now than at any time in church history." A student asked a friend seated next to him, "I wonder if the speaker really believes that? If everything is right, why are so many giving up on the church?"
  • Let's admit that the Church is not what it should be. It is not what it can be. Deep in our hearts, we all know that the Church needs to be renewed and refocused. There is a growing feeling...that something has to be done about it...
  • Winston Churchill is quoted as saying that challenges are keys to self-renewal. If he is right, the Church is presented with the potential of an awesome awakening.

  • to people who realize that not all is well in the church, Jesus offers four words of advice
  • FIRST, COME TO ME FOR EVERYTHING YOU NEED
  • (Revelation 3:18) I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
  • in a city that had plenty of gold as a source of its wealth, Jesus says, "It's not enough. You need gold from me"
  • in a city that was known for its manufacture of black wool, Jesus says, "You need to get clothes from me"
  • and in a city renowned for its manufacture of eye salve, Jesus says, "Come to me for divine eye salve. You need a renewed spiritual vision so you can see life and eternity for what they are. Your eyes have been blinded by the light of culture, but my eye salve works"
  • come to me realizing that you have no resources of your own
  • you need my salvation, and my power to be what you need to be

  • SECOND, JESUS SAYS, ACCEPT MY DISCIPLINE
  • (Revelation 3:19) Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.
  • Jesus still loves lukewarm saints, even though their love for him has grown cold
  • Jesus tells us here that he sometimes permits churches to go through times of trial so they can become all that they need to be

  • THIRD, REPENT AND BE ERNEST
  • (Revelation 3:19) Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
  • rekindle your love and loyalty for Christ
  • humble yourselves before the sight of the Lord
  • it's not too late to replace complacency with zeal

  • FOURTH, RESPOND TO CHRIST'S INVITATION TO THE CHURCH
  • (Revelation 3:20) Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
  • now verse 20 is one of the most graphic portrayals of the nature of Christ in Scripture
  • usually that verse is used for evangelistic purposes, and I suppose that's permissible
  • but that's not the way that verse is meant to be understood
  • it's a picture that Jesus paints for all of us, a beautiful picture
  • by rights, lukewarm Christians should be standing at Christ's door, begging for forgiveness for their half-heartedness and their apathy
  • but look at the picture that is painted here
  • no other love is like Christ's love!
  • the nail-scarred hands of Jesus are knocking on the door of a callused Christian, whose heart should be warm with worship night and day
  • but it's not
  • so the disappointed but long-suffering Jesus patiently knocks on the door of a tepid Christian, saying, "I'm seeking you out"
  • "True, I Jesus, am the offended and the wronged party"
  • "But I am extending myself to you. I'm knocking at your door. I'm taking the initiative."
  • and he says, "Open the door"

  • that's what you call amazing grace
  • Jesus, what a friend for sinners
  • Hallelujah, what a Savior!
  • what a picture of hope for lukewarm Christians

  • this is a call for you to leave the ranks of the half-hearted
  • and become fully devoted
  • so tepid Christians, you know who you are
  • this last call is for you
  • the Christ you claim to love is standing at your heart's door this morning
  • and he's patiently knocking
  • he's patiently offering you the hope of forgiveness, renewal, and growth
  • open the door!
  • don't delay, don't put him off
  • don't make him chasten you
  • before the rod of discipline is employed
  • welcome him to a position of lordship in your life
  • resolve to get back into good spiritual shape again by rigorous disciplines
  • resolve to meet with him every day so you never grow distant from him
  • increase your spiritual intake
  • meet regularly with other Christians to sharpen each other
  • make Sundays priority in your life
  • recapture the eye of the tiger, spiritually speaking
  • what about it friends? Christ stands at the door of your heart and knocks
  • open the door

  • let's pray
  • God has given us these letters to the seven churches, given to us so that we might examine our lives and ministries
  • over the past six messages on this subject, I believe that many of us have been convicted
  • many of us have not enjoyed being convicted, but we have heard the Holy Spirit speaking to us on such subjects as losing our first love, on being attacked by the evil one, on allowing compromised teaching and leadership, on coasting, on being lukewarm, and on allowing God to open the doors
  • these are not my words to the church; they're Jesus' words
  • they're what Christ thinks of the church

  • I'm going to close this morning with Jesus' challenge that he have to each of the seven churches:
  • (Revelation 2:7) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
  • the challenge is that we will hear the Spirit's voice that accompanies the words of Jesus, if we're to realize the victory Jesus promises

  • so how is it?
  • will you hear the Spirit's voice this morning, and respond?
  • will you open the door as you hear Jesus knocking, and allow him to enter, and eat with him, and he with you?
  • will you cast off indifference and self-deception, and leave the ranks of the half-hearted?
  • I'm going to ask you to pray silently for a minute, responding to what the Spirit has said to you through these messages in Revelation 2 and 3
  • [pause]
  • Lord, make us into the church we need to be, the people we ought to be, in Jesus' name, Amen.

The Grace of God

  • please open your Bibles to Ephesians 2
  • (Ephesians 2:6) And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
  • (Ephesians 2:7) in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
  • (Ephesians 2:8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--
  • (Ephesians 2:9) not by works, so that no one can boast.

  • in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey tells the story of a friend who works with the down-and-out in Chicago:

    A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter. Through sobs and tears, she told me she had been renting out her daughter - two years old! - to men interested in kinky sex. She made more renting her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night. She had to do it, she said, to support her own drug habit. I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story. For one thing, it made me legally liable - I'm required to report cases of child abuse. I had no idea what to say to this woman.

    At last I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. I will never forget the look of pure, na?ve shock that crossed her face. "Church!" she cried. "Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They'd just make me feel worse"


  • the crying need of this world is to understand God's grace
  • the woman in this story needs God's grace, and she also needs to find a church that believes in and lives God's grace
  • Jesus is never recorded as using the word grace, but his life was full of it
  • he was friends with prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners
  • he pardoned a woman caught in adultery
  • he exhibited God's kindness to people who only deserved judgment

  • this evening we're going to look at one of God's most surprising qualities
  • it's a quality, that if properly understood and lived out in this church, will draw person after person into this church and into the kingdom
  • it's my goal this evening to clearly communicate what God's grace means
  • this evening I'm going to preach the gospel of grace that is so easily misunderstood, and highlight one of God's amazing attributes - his grace
  • grace means that God deals with his people not on the basis of what they deserve, but according to his goodness and generosity
  • but I'm going to go further than this definition and tell you exactly what grace means
  • three things:
  • NUMBER ONE: GOD'S GRACE MEANS THAT WE DON'T HAVE TO EARN OUR SALVATION
  • another version renders Ephesians 2 this way:
  • (Ephesians 2:8 NLT) God saved you by his special favor (grace) when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
  • (Ephesians 2:9 NLT) Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
  • (Ephesians 2:10 NLT) For we are God's masterpiece.

  • you see, this is completely contrary to human thinking
  • in life, everything is predicated on performance
  • we're taught as children that if we want something, we have to earn it
  • as adults, if you want a promotion, you need to put in long hours and extra effort
  • if you want a sales award, you've got to post the numbers
  • if you want to succeed, we're told that we have to make it happen ourselves

  • we approach God in the same way
  • we think we have to somehow earn salvation by our righteous deeds
  • the only problem is what the Bible says about our righteousness:
  • (Isaiah 64:6) All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
  • to paraphrase Isaiah, our most righteous acts - our Sunday best - are like service station "grease rags"
  • they're dirty laundry
  • noble deeds could never get us into heaven, no matter how hard we try
  • our efforts fall pitifully short

  • then God comes along and says, "My grace means you don't have to earn salvation"
  • Philip Yancey writes:
  • God dispenses gifts, not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God's requirements for a perfect life. If paid on the basis of fairness, we would all end up in hell. In the words of Robert Farrar Capon, ‘If the world could have been saved by good bookkeeping, it would have been saved by Moses, not Jesus.'

  • you need to realize that this is different from every other religion
  • only the God of the Bible says that we don't have to earn our salvation
  • during a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if anything, is unique to the Christian faith
  • they began eliminating possibilities
  • is it the incarnation? other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form
  • is it the resurrection? once again, other religions had accounts of people rising from the dead
  • eventually, C.S. Lewis wandered into the room
  • "What's all the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions
  • Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace."
  • the conferees had to agree
  • "The notion of God's love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law - each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional" (Philip Yancey)

  • (Titus 3:3) At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
  • (Titus 3:4) But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
  • (Titus 3:5) he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
  • (Titus 3:6) whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
  • (Titus 3:7) so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
  • God saved us - not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy!
  • we don't have to earn salvation!

  • many people try to earn salvation by their good deeds
  • but no matter how many good deeds we accomplish, it's still not enough
  • along comes God, and he says, "I'll give you my Son, to earn salvation on your behalf. Salvation, adoption into God's family, and eternal life are my gifts to you - completely free of charge"
  • that's some offer
  • listen: fact number one is that God's grace means that we don't have to earn our own salvation
  • Christ has already done that for us

  • NUMBER TWO: GOD'S GRACE MEANS THAT WE DON'T HAVE TO WORRY THAT OUR SINS ARE TOO GREAT
  • Martin Luther wrote to his friend:
  • "If you are a preacher of grace," he said, "do not preach a fictitious, but a true, grace; and if the grace is true, carry a true, and not a fictitious sin. Be a sinner and sin vigorously..."
  • and then he wrote, "It is sufficient that we recognize through the wealth of God's glory, the lamb who bears the sin of the world; from this, sin does not sever us, even if thousands, thousands of times in one day we should fornicate or murder"
  • are you shocked by what Luther wrote?
  • "sin boldly...for sin does not sever us, even if thousands, thousands of times in one day we should fornicate or murder"
  • Luther was using hyperbole to make an important point: sin can never overpower God's grace
  • we never have to worry that our sin is too great for God's grace

  • most of us know the embarrassment of bouncing a check
  • but God has no problem covering his checks
  • God's grace is so inexhaustible, so unlimited in its supply, that it never runs out
  • (Romans 5:20) But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.
  • this could literally be translated, "Where sin abounds, grace super-abounds"

  • someone asked theologian Karl Barth what he would say to Adolph Hitler, and he replied: "Jesus Christ died for your sins"
  • Ron Nikkel, who heads up Prison Fellowship International, gives a message to prisoners in which he says:
  • "We don't know who will make it into heaven. Jesus indicated a lot of people will face surprises: ‘Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven.' But we do know that some thieves and murderers will be there. Jesus promised heaven to the thief on the cross, and the apostle Paul was an accomplice to murder."

  • grace has no limit!
  • we never have to worry that our sins are too great!
  • Paul wrote:
  • (1 Timothy 1:13) Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
  • (1 Timothy 1:14) The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
  • (1 Timothy 1:15) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.
  • one of the devil's most dangerous lies is that our sins are too great for God's grace
  • let me tell you this evening - God's grace has no limits!
  • no matter what sins you have committed, in the distant past or even in the recent past, God's grace is able to cover those sins and more
  • wouldn't it be great if we preached this message loud and clear, so that prostitutes, thieves, and immoral people would realize that we have good news for them
  • what an amazing fact, that our sins are never too great for God

  • NUMBER THREE: GOD'S GRACE MEANS THAT WE DON'T HAVE TO LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE BY OUR OWN EFFORT
  • there are a lot of people who believe we're saved by grace, but once we're saved, they act like we live the Christian life by human effort
  • they believe that we're saved by grace but live by effort
  • but Paul wrote to the Galatians:
  • (Galatians 3:3 NLT) Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

  • have you ever seen a church that tries to live by external rules - do this, don't do that
  • at one time, the list included coed swimming, wearing shorts, jewelry, or makeup, dancing, bowling, and reading the Sunday paper
  • the old Baptist creed, "We don't smoke, we don't chew, we don't go with girls who do"
  • do you know the problem with these rules?
  • if rules were enough, we wouldn't need grace!
  • we certainly weren't saved by works, and we're not going to live the Christian life by conformity to external standards!

  • some people have gone to the other extreme, and said that since we're saved by grace, we can live however we want
  • they haven't read Romans 6 or Titus 2:11-12
  • God accepts us the way we are - but he certainly doesn't want us to stay that way

  • but don't ever try to live the Christian life on your own effort!
  • don't ever become enslaved to manmade rules!
  • having been saved by grace, don't begin to live the Christian life on the performance treadmill, thinking that you can earn God's favor by your acts of righteousness
  • as Philip Yancey writes:
  • "Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more - no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less - no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love"

  • the key is to love God; everything else falls out from that
  • both Jesus and Paul summed up all the law in the simple command, "Love God"
  • Augustine made the famous statement, "If you but love God you may do as you incline," and he was making a good point
  • what God calls us to is not a set of external standards
  • he calls us to a divine love, out of which our good works will naturally follow - apart from human effort

  • if we properly understand God's grace, we'll get off the performance treadmill
  • let me ask you some questions, taken from Jerry Bridge's book, Transforming Grace
  • these questions will reveal if you're trying to live the Christian life on your own strength
  • you know you don't understand God's grace when...
  • you live with a sense of God's disapproval
  • you feel sheepish bringing your needs before the Lord when you've just failed Him.
  • you think of His grace as something that makes up the difference between the best you can do and what he expects from you.
  • you feel you deserve an answer to prayer because of your hard work and sacrifice.
  • you assume that 1 John 1:9 no longer applies because you've sinned too much.
  • you feel more confident before Him if you've been faithful with your Christian disciplines (prayer, quiet time, witnessing, etc.).
  • you can't honestly say you see yourself as "blameless" in His eyes.
  • you don't really believe He likes you.
  • you can think of someone to look down on.
  • you shy away from asking God for things because you think it annoys Him.
  • you think of the Christian life as "the cost of discipleship" rather than the chance to experience an unending supply of His goodness toward you.
  • you fear that the day may not go as well as expected because you missed your quiet time.
  • you assume you can do something to make God love your more or less.
  • you believe you've been called into His service because of your worthiness or qualifications.

  • don't think you can please God by human effort; receive his grace and the power to live a holy life from him
  • don't try to live the Christian life on your own strength, or accept when others impose external man-made religious laws on you
  • (Galatians 3:3 NLT) Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

  • a man who was used to chopping trees down by hand went to a hardware store
  • the owner said, "We have this new power saw. With this saw, you can cut down thirty trees a day instead of the three you're doing now"
  • the man said, "Are you serious?"
  • "Yes, thirty trees a day with this power saw"
  • the tree-cutter said, "I'll take one"
  • a week later, he came back
  • "Why did you sell me this piece of junk? It took me a week to cut down one tree with this piece of junk. I was better off using my old axe!"
  • the store owner said, "Let me see it"
  • he took the saw, pulled on the cord, and it started right away with its motor roaring
  • the man jumped back and asked, "What's that noise?"

  • you don't buy a power saw so you can go out and put even more effort into cutting down trees
  • you don't receive God's free gift of grace so you could continue trying to live life on your own
  • receive God's gift today - not only for salvation, but to live a life that's pleasing to him

  • that's God's amazing grace
  • three facts:
  • number one: God's grace means that we don't have to earn our salvation
  • number two: God's grace means that we don't have to worry that our sins are too great
  • number three: God's grace means that we don't have to live the Christian life by our own effort

  • in church we sing, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me"
  • do you really know the grace we're singing about?
  • are you open to this grace - a grace that's so amazing, it seems scandalous?
  • will you open your heart this evening and take in this grace in its richness, its fullness, and its pardon?
  • let's pray

The Church of the Open Door (Revelation 3:7-13)

  • a little trivia quiz this morning
  • you may want to take out a piece of paper to write the answer down
  • how many doors are in this sanctuary?
  • don't turn around and count - just take a guess, and write it down
  • how many doors are in this sanctuary?
  • second, how many doors are in this entire church?
  • put a number down

  • okay, now exchange your papers with a neighbor
  • just kidding - you can mark your own
  • how many doors in this sanctuary?
  • thirteen
  • that's easy
  • how do I know?
  • well, people who are bored with my sermon tell me almost every other week
  • how many doors, how many chairs, how many lights, how many squares - you name it!

  • second, how many doors are in this entire church building?
  • ninety-five - did anybody get that?
  • that was worth coming for this morning, wasn't it?

  • did you know that a lot of doors are mentioned in Scripture as well?
  • both in the Old and the New Testament, the Bible talks about a number of doors, often with very different meanings

  • for instance, in Revelation 3:20, Jesus says:
  • (Revelation 3:20) Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
  • this is the door of intimacy with Christ
  • we usually apply this passage in an evangelistic sense, and yet it was written to a church of believers
  • it illustrates for us the willingness of Jesus Christ to pursue believers who have grown cold in their relationship with him
  • the imagery is of Jesus knocking at the door of a church, and waiting for the church to re-open that door so that a vital relationship can be re-established

  • another type of door mentioned in Scripture is the door of salvation
  • for instance, in John 10:29, Jesus said:
  • (John 10:9) I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.
  • Jesus was teaching the remarkable truth that he is the only way to salvation
  • inside that door or gate, there is safety and everything we need

  • there's a third type of door mentioned in Scripture - the door of opportunity
  • for instance, Paul says in Colossians 4:3:
  • (Colossians 4:3) And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.
  • it's mentioned a number of times in Scripture, and it refers to the way that God gives wonderful opportunities to preach the Gospel, and also how he prepares willing ears to listen and eager hearts to receive it
  • throughout history, people have found that God has a unique way of providing opportunities for fruitful service, and hearts ready to accept the Gospel

  • this morning we're looking at the sixth of seven churches in the book of Revelation
  • this church is located in Philadelphia - obviously, not the one in Pennsylvania
  • this one was in Asia
  • it was a city strategically located on the road from Rome to the East, and was a strong fortress city
  • it was sometimes called "little Athens," because it was full of gods and idols
  • it was a city of major influence in the area

  • Jesus Christ, the one giving this prophetic message, introduces himself in verse 7 as the one "who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open"
  • he's reminding them of his absolute sovereignty
  • he has the authority to open and to close the doors to the kingdom
  • he alone has the power to admit whoever he chooses
  • all power is his
  • in those days, keys and locks were a symbol of power
  • a key was sometimes worn around the shoulder as a symbol of official authority
  • in the Old Testament, the key to David's kingdom was taken away from an unfaithful official, and given to somebody else
  • but here in Revelation 3, we read that Jesus has the key to David's kingdom
  • he alone has the authority and the power over God's household

  • NOW, IF YOU SCAN VERSE 8, YOU CAN SEE WHAT JESUS COMMENDS IN THIS CHURCH
  • two things
  • first, their deeds were commendable
  • (Revelation 3:8) I know your deeds.
  • and you can imagine the people in Philadelphia were getting nervous when they heard this!
  • after all, Jesus had just finished telling the church in Sardis, "I know your deeds...and you're dead!"
  • but here, Jesus has no words of warning
  • their deeds are commendable

  • second, they had kept his word and hadn't denied his name
  • verse 10 says again, "you have obeyed my command to persevere"
  • the church here had recently passed through a time of severe trail, and yet had remained true to the Lord
  • they had been faithful to the Gospel and to the apostles' teaching, even during a time of trial, probably at the hand of the Jews in the city

  • I doubt many of us have thought how pleased God is when we stand firm in the trenches
  • when we make daily choices of loyalty and commitment to him, God takes notice and God is pleased

  • [THE PROMISES]
  • Scripture is replete with promises to people and churches who remain faithful to him
  • and this passage is no exception
  • because Jesus promises them in verse 8:
  • (Revelation 3:8) I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
  • in the middle of the two commendations, Jesus gives a strategic promise: "I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut"
  • scholars are divided over what this open door means
  • some argue that Christ is referring here to the door of salvation - that Christ is opening the door to his kingdom for those who love him
  • but others argue that the open door refers to a door of opportunity that Jesus will open for that church

  • most historians believe that the church in Philadelphia was small in number and in scope
  • verse 8 says, "I know that you have little strength"
  • in 17 AD, the region around Philadelphia was destroyed by an earthquake
  • as a result of the destruction around the city, many people chose to live in the rural area rather than in the city itself
  • as a result, the immediate population was probably much smaller than it had been
  • and the church in Philadelphia, although faithful, was not a large one or a strong one

  • on top of that, this little church had undergone a time of severe testing
  • verse 9 refers to the Jewish opposition to the church
  • no doubt they were excluding the Jewish believers from the synagogue, and falsely accusing the Christians

  • despite the opposition, this church had remained faithful
  • yet despite their faithfulness, the church had not grown in size or in strength
  • you can imagine how discouraging this would have been for the core of believers who prayed, who fasted, who taught without compromise, and who gave generously out of their resources to support the work at the church in Philadelphia
  • because they were still small, and they were still weak

  • but Jesus says, that's about to change
  • he says, "I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut"
  • it's likely that Jesus is promising to this small and struggling church that he will give them wonderful evangelistic opportunities, and willing ears that will listen and eager hearts ready to receive the Gospel
  • Jesus was giving to this church an open door - an opportunity for ministry that would be great, despite their size

  • in fact, he promises three things t o them:
  • FIRST, HE SAYS, I'LL TAKE CARE OF YOUR ENEMIES
  • (Revelation 3:9) I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.
  • one day, these people who were opposing the Christians would acknowledge that they were right after all!
  • Jesus promises that he will make those who are persecuting his followers acknowledge that they are not heretics, but God's people indeed

  • SECOND, HE SAYS, I'LL KEEP YOU FROM THE TIME OF TESTING THAT IS COMING ON THE WORLD
  • (Revelation 3:10) Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.
  • Christ promises here protection for the church from the time of trouble that will come to the entire world
  • a worldwide time of testing would come, but the church would be safe
  • the time of testing that the Philadelphia church endured was just a foretaste of the great, last tribulation before Christ's coming

  • THIRD, JESUS SAYS, I'LL HONOR YOU
  • (Revelation 3:11) I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
  • (Revelation 3:12) Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
  • Jesus will honor these people by giving them a crown of reward, if they remain faithful

  • verse 12 says that he will also make them a pillar in God's temple
  • Philadelphia, you will remember, was a place that was constantly threatened by earthquakes and aftershocks
  • often, the only part of a city still left standing after an earthquake were the huge stone temple columns
  • Christ promises that he will set believers in his kingdom so securely that no disturbance will ever force them out

  • let's talk about the church
  • I think there are three principles that we can learn from the church in Philadelphia
  • first, let's remember that Christ opens the doors - we don't
  • Christ has the keys - we don't
  • Christ has the ability through the Holy Spirit to open wide the doors of a church, that it will experience more blessing than they could have imagined
  • Christ is the Lord of the harvest, and the head of the church

  • have you ever been serving God, and the doors appear to be closed?
  • no matter how hard you try, and no matter what you do, nothing happens
  • the results are meager
  • your efforts are unrewarded
  • and then, all of a sudden, it's as if the doors swing wide open
  • you're not doing anything different, but God brings different results
  • we forget sometimes that we don't have the keys
  • we don't open the doors
  • God does
  • that's lesson number one for the church

  • second, remember that it's up to us to remain faithful, but the results are up to God
  • God's purposes often ripen slowly
  • but the law of sowing and reaping comes into effect: we will reap what we sow
  • (1 Corinthians 15:58) Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

  • the lesson is: if the door is shut, don't put your shoulder to it
  • remain faithful, and wait until Christ takes out the key and opens it
  • one leader in our Fellowship has correctly observed that most ministry takes place away from the spotlight, with little fanfare, and sometimes few results
  • many ministries are not easy or automatic
  • and sometimes, years of hard labor are necessary before things begin to take off
  • when Paul went to Corinth in Acts 18, opposition was stiff, and results were few
  • God appeared in a dream to Paul and said, "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city."
  • and Paul stayed at it a year and a half

  • I don't know about you, but somehow I seem to prefer the easy assignments
  • I seem to like it when, with little effort, the doors seem to fly open, and the results are immediate
  • the only problem is then I stop depending on God
  • our job is to remain faithful, and to pray that God would open up the doors so that our labor isn't in vain

  • third, and I believe this is the most appropriate application for us this morning:
  • pray that God would open up the doors of ministry
  • (Colossians 4:3) And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.
  • (Colossians 4:4) Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

  • do we believe that prayer is central to God's activity in our lives and in the church?
  • do we really believe that God holds the keys and can open the doors?
  • do we really believe that in answer to our prayers, God is able to open the doors wide and to do more here than we could ever imagine or think?

  • God monitors the faithfulness quotient of a church
  • and when God feels that the time is ready, and the church has reached a state of readiness, God says, "Hold on, I'm going to do what I've wanted to do for a long time, I'm going to open the door!"
  • "I'm going to go before you and multiply your effectiveness, so hold on!"
  • how filled with worship we should be because of God's sovereignty
  • how fervently we should pray that God will open the doors at Richview!
  • because it's only as we pray that God will do so

  • so how many doors does Richview Baptist Church have?
  • thirteen in the sanctuary
  • ninety-five throughout the entire church
  • and, I pray, a door that God will open up for ministry - wonderful opportunities to preach the Gospel, and willing ears to listen and eager hearts to receive it

The Love of God

  • an accomplished theologian was once asked, "What is the most profound thing you've ever learned?"
  • after giving it some thought, the theologian replied, "Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so"
  • God's love for you is probably the most profound theological concept you will ever encounter
  • I can understand God's justice and holiness
  • it makes sense to me that he is all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere
  • it's almost intuitive that God is good
  • but God loves me?
  • that's nothing short of staggering

  • 1 John 4:8 tells us that "God is love"
  • love is a central attribute of God's character
  • I'm going to share some facts with you this evening that have amazed me
  • these facts about God's love will lead us, I think, by the end of this message to want to praise God for his great love
  • we're going to close this message with a time of praise, and we're going to enjoy some fellowship with the God who loves us

  • FACT NUMBER ONE: GOD CREATED YOU FOR THE PURPOSE OF LOVING YOU
  • when God went to the drawing board and designed you, he did it with the express intent of loving you
  • God is the one who created you for this very purpose, that he could have a relationship with you
  • this is the purpose of your life - that you become the object of God's love
  • (Jeremiah 31:3) The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
  • (Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT) Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.
  • it's always been his plan to love you

  • I think I've told you before that my wife didn't really intend to love someone like me
  • she had a list of people she would never consider marrying, and I met almost every one of the qualities on her "don't like" list
  • she kind of stumbled on loving me; it happened in spite of her intentions
  • but it's different with God
  • God always intended to love you
  • in fact, he created you for this very purpose

  • if you want to discover your purpose in life, this is crucial
  • many people think their purpose is to make lots of money, achieve success, become happy
  • I'll tell you what your purpose is: to be loved by God
  • that's why God created you
  • before this world was ever created, God already had his eyes on you as an object of his divine and perfect love
  • you were the apple of God's eye before a single molecule of the universe came into being

  • you might ask God, "How long have you loved me?"
  • and God could reply, "Before I even made the world, I loved you"
  • and his plans haven't changed - it's still his plan today

  • it's important to realize that God didn't have to create us in order to love someone
  • John 17:24 tells us that the Father loved Jesus even before the foundation of the world
  • within the Trinity, there was perfect fellowship
  • God wasn't lonely; he didn't need to create us because he lacked anything
  • God was complete in himself, and yet he still choose to create us as objects of his love
  • for some reason, God thought it best to create you so that he could love you

  • I don't know what you're living for, but if it's money - money won't buy what's really important
  • if it's power - someone else is going to always have more power than you do
  • if you're living for any other reason than to enjoy a love relationship with God, you're missing out on your real purpose

  • THE SECOND FACT I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU IS THIS: GOD TAKES THE INITIATIVE IN LOVING YOU
  • God always takes the initiative in this love relationship
  • the simple fact is that none of us, of ourselves, would ever seek God on our own initiative
  • (Romans 3:10) As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;
  • (Romans 3:11) there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
  • (Romans 3:12) All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

  • left to ourselves, we'd be looking for love in all the wrong places
  • we all desire to be loved
  • God created us with the need to be loved, because as I said before, that is our purpose in life - to be loved by God
  • love is the crying need of the human heart
  • but we find that human love never adequately fills the need in our heart to be loved

  • all the while, while we're looking for real love, God is actively pursuing a relationship with us
  • he is relentlessly chasing us down with a divine and perfect love
  • it's probably the last place we would have looked, but the only place we'll find what truly satisfies
  • the love of a human being will never completely fill the void that is in your heart
  • only God's love can do that
  • (Jeremiah 31:3) The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
  • (John 6:44) "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

  • think about it: God came after Adam and Eve in the garden
  • he came to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the prophets
  • Jesus came to each of the disciples and chose them to be with him
  • he came to Paul on the Damascus road
  • and he comes to you in Etobicoke relentlessly seeking you out

  • God not only took the initiative in creating you and sending Jesus Christ, but God's love continually seeks you out even today
  • if you are running away from God, his love is still pursuing you
  • if you ever want to be encouraged, read Luke 15
  • Jesus tells three stories with the same message so that we don't miss his point
  • the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep which are safe in the fold, just to pursue one missing one - just one, ordinary, non-spectacular sheep
  • the woman who has lost one coin searched diligently for it
  • the father of the prodigal son kept constant watch for his missing son, and took the initiative in welcoming him back
  • it's as if Jesus says, "I'm not going to tell you once; I'm not going to tell you twice; I'm going to tell you three times - God loves you so much that he takes the initiative in searching you down with the express purpose of loving you
  • I love you so much that I'll leave ninety-nine others to come after you
  • if you ever get lost, I'll search until I find you
  • if you ever willingly wander away, I'll wait patiently until you return
  • and when you do come back, I'll throw my arms around you and throw you the biggest party you can imagine

  • God created you to love you
  • he takes the initiative in pursuing a relationship with you
  • and here's the third fact
  • GOD'S LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL
  • God's love is not tied to the worth of the person being loved
  • if God's love was dependent on us being deserving of that love, then none of us would be loved at all
  • if God's love depended on our goodness, we would be in a very tenuous position
  • but the Bible says:
  • (Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

  • we know that God intensely hates all sin
  • it's therefore all the more amazing that God could love us so much that he could see past our sin and die for us
  • Romans 5:8 tells us that God loved us in spite of our status as sinners, and do you know how he demonstrated this love ?
  • "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us"
  • God has chosen to love mankind - not only people we would call good, but God has also chosen to love sinful men and women
  • (1 John 4:10) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
  • (John 3:16) "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  • the Bible teaches us that Christ's death on the cross is the ultimate expression of his love
  • God loved sinners so much that he left heaven to live in a sin-contaminated, stench-filled environment
  • if you remember how intensely God hates sin, you understand how hard it must have been for Christ to leave heaven for an environment filled with unrighteousness
  • he lived a perfect life, and submitted to, without exaggeration, the most awful death you could imagine
  • his back was scourged with whips of metal and bone that ripped his flesh right off
  • they drove spikes through his wrists and nailed him to a cross
  • the placed his feet one on top of the other, and a third spike was driven through the two feet and into the wood
  • he suffered unbearable pain
  • as the saying goes, "I asked Jesus how much he loved me. He stretched out his arms and said, ‘This much" - and died"
  • that's how much Jesus loves you
  • the cross is the ultimate symbol of God's love for you and for me
  • while you were still a sinner, without even the smallest amount of interest in God, he loved you with a perfect love
  • you don't deserve it, but God loves you anyway

  • a father was tucking in his six-year-old son for the night
  • the father asked him, "Son, when does Daddy love you the most? When you've been fighting with your sister and getting into a lot of trouble? Or when you're been really helpful to Mommy and real nice to everyone?"
  • the son thought for a minute and said, "Both times!"
  • "Right," the father said, "and do you know why?"
  • "Cause I'm your special guy," replied the boy
  • that was his dad's pet name for him - "Daddy's Special Guy"
  • the boy knew that his father loved him, no matter what, because he was "Daddy's Special Guy"
  • and friends, God loves us the same way
  • he loves us unconditionally because we're his "special guys"

  • you might feel like you don't deserve God's love
  • I'll tell you something - you're right
  • you don't deserve God's love
  • but he has decided to love you anyway, with a love that doesn't depend on your goodness
  • God's love does not need to be earned
  • if it did, he would have stopped loving us long ago

  • fact number four about God's love:
  • GOD'S LOVE WILL NEVER GIVE UP
  • have you ever invented a word because the right word just doesn't exist?
  • when translators gathered in 1611, they had to invent a new word to translate one of the most beautiful words in Hebrew
  • the original word, hesed, had many meanings: not only love, kindness, mercy, and loyalty, although those are alright
  • the word has a sort of stubbornness about it
  • a love that will endure through good and bad; a covenant sort of love; a promise to remain loyal to a friend
  • they created a word, "lovingkindness"
  • other translations have used the words "steadfast love" or "unfailing love"
  • a love that never gives up
  • (Psalms 63:3 KJV) Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
  • (Exodus 34:6 NLT) I am the LORD, I am the LORD, the merciful and gracious God. I am slow to anger and rich in unfailing love and faithfulness.

  • that's what God's love is like
  • it's the long, stubborn love of God
  • in hesed, God stays faithful to us long after we have forfeited the right to remain in covenant with him
  • it's God bonding with his people, and refusing to give up on them
  • it's the sort of love that causes Paul to say:
  • (Romans 8:38) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
  • (Romans 8:39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • God's love is a love that will not separate
  • God may discipline us, but he will never leave us
  • his love is so stubborn that it will never let us go

  • one last fact about God's love:
  • GOD WANTS YOU TO LOVE HIM BACK
  • one of the most amazing facts in Scripture is the idea that just as God gives of himself to love us, so God desires us to return that love and bring joy to God's heart
  • (Isaiah 62:5) As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.
  • the God of the universe, who created all things and needs nothing, actually rejoices when we love him back

  • what's more, God desires a relationship with us, not in a slave/master relationship, or an employee/employer relationship, but as friends!
  • Jesus said:
  • (John 15:14) You are my friends if you do what I command.
  • (John 15:15) I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
  • in just nine verses in John 15, Jesus uses the word love in either noun or verb form nine times
  • that's the sort of relationship God desires with you

  • the command to love God and love others is the summary of all other commands in the Bible
  • (Matthew 22:37) 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
  • (Matthew 22:38) This is the first and greatest commandment.
  • (Matthew 22:39) And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
  • (Matthew 22:40) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
  • God wants you to love him

  • friends, what an amazing doctrine!
  • God takes the initiative to pursue a continuing relationship with you
  • more than anything else that you might do, God wants you to love him with your entire being
  • that's why you were created
  • he loves you with a stubborn, steadfast love that will never let you go

  • we're going to conclude this message in the only way I can imagine: by responding to this amazing truth by worshiping God
  • let's pray, and then join ourselves together in a period of worship to praise God for his great love

The Coasting Church (Revelation 3:1-6)

  • in November 1995, days after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in Israel, our own prime minister, Jean Chretien, faced danger of his own
  • a knife-wielding man made his way past the sleeping R.C.M.P. guards and into 24 Sussex Drive, the official residence of the prime minister
  • and this man made it all the way to the Chretien's bedroom when Mrs. Chretien, armed with an Inuit carving, slammed the door on him, and waited with the prime minister until the man was apprehended over half an hour later
  • it's the Canadian version of the Keystone Cops
  • you can be sure that security is a lot tighter at 24 Sussex Drive these days

  • it is safe to say that communist Russia had developed and positioned the finest anti-aircraft system in the world
  • powerful radar probed the air above major Soviet cities, and missiles were poised to bring down enemy aircraft at any altitude
  • and no city in communist Russia was more heavily defended than Moscow and its famous Red Square, just outside the Kremlin
  • which explains why the world was shocked when a young man rented a small, single-engine airplane from Denmark and buzzed the Kremlin before landing in Red Square
  • before being taken away, he greeted some surprised Muscovites and even managed to sign a few autographs
  • and when the incident was over, a couple of top generals were promptly fired

  • we call these lapses in security, and they're all over
  • from the man who successfully broke into Queen Elizabeth's bedroom in Buckingham Palace, to the lapses in security at the White House, 24 Sussex Drive, and so on - people who provide security sometimes make mistakes
  • they are caught unprepared or even asleep, and danger is the outcome

  • the city of Sardis, in Revelation 3:1-6, was an impregnable city
  • the ancient site of the city was situated on a nearly inaccessible hill that rose fifteen hundred feet above the roads
  • it had rock walls which were nearly vertical on all sides, except the south side
  • the city was attacked frequently, but without success
  • and as a result the people of Sardis became arrogant and self-confident that no one could ever scale their hill and conquer them

  • until one day a Sardian soldier dropped his helmet
  • and he took the one path - the one weak point in the defense - out to retrieve his helmet
  • a Persian soldier watched, and later the entire Persian army followed his path back up to the summit and captured the entire city, quite by surprise
  • a similar attack happened two hundred years later
  • one unobserved and unguarded weak point; one chance in a thousand, was all that was necessary to deliver a crushing blow to the arrogant citizens of Sardis

  • by the time that Jesus wrote to the church in Sardis, the city was a shadow of its former splendor
  • it was a city in decline
  • a century before the Sardian church received this letter from Jesus, Sardis was partially destroyed by an earthquake
  • the once brilliant city now showed decay
  • ironically, one of the most prominent features of the city was its cemetery
  • the attacks on this city were history, and it became a city of peace - not the type of peace won through battle, but "the peace of the man whose dreams are dead and whose mind is asleep, the peace of lethargy and evasion" (William Barclay)
  • it enjoyed peace, but it was the peace of the cemetery

  • as we read about the church of Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6, a number of things stand out
  • this church should have it better than some of the others we've looked at
  • there are no doctrinal problems that need correction
  • there is no mention of opposition or persecution
  • neither Jews nor the Gentiles seem to have troubled the people of Sardis
  • in fact, it was well known as an active, vigorous Christian congregation, characterized by good works and charitable activities
  • Jesus says in Revelation 3:1
  • (Revelation 3:1) I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive...

  • but despite the lack of doctrinal problems, and despite the lack of opposition, there is something striking about Christ's letter to the church at Sardis
  • there are no words of commendation
  • I don't know if you've noticed in studying these letters in Revelation 2 and 3, but Jesus always began by introducing himself
  • and then, in five of the seven letters, he gave some words of commendation or encouragement to the churches about what they were doing right
  • and then, in every case but two, some words of warning or correction

  • but look how Christ begins addressing the church in Sardis:
  • (Revelation 3:1) "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
  • there are no "ad-a-boy's" to this church

  • because this church as two similarities to the city of Sardis
  • FIRST, IT'S A CHURCH IN DECAY
  • verse 1 says, "You have a reputation of being alive, but you are all dead"
  • you're open for business, but none of the right type of business is going on
  • even though they look and smell like a healthy Christian church, in reality they're dead
  • it's a church, as one person says, that's outwardly prosperous, busy with the externals of religious activity, but devoid of spiritual life and power

  • how does a church die?
  • why does Christ use this expression for Sardis, even though the churches in Thyatira and Laodicea also had serious problems?
  • we're told in verse 3 that their deeds are lacking
  • and we can figure out in verse 4 that some in the church had soiled their clothes
  • this probably refers to the fact that some in the church had begun to compromise with the pagan environment around them

  • what accounts for the fact that without any doctrinal problems or persecution, this was a dying church?
  • why, out of all the churches listed, is this one considered the dying church?
  • and what, if anything, does this church have to do with Richview Baptist Church?

  • this morning is Richview's fortieth anniversary - did you know that?
  • the recognition service for Richview took place on February 9th, 1959 - forty years ago this coming Tuesday
  • the church grew out of a vision conceived in prayer and out of a vision to reach the local community for Jesus Christ
  • at that recognition service, 25 members received a charge based on the Great Commission - to go into all the world to preach the Gospel
  • those 25 charter members grew to 185 members within five years
  • there were an average of seven baptisms a year
  • there was a vision - a God-given belief that God had placed Richview in that community, and that he had a specific purpose for the church that would propel them into the future
  • the vision was demonstrated in very practical ways - even the size of the property purchased, and the construction of a gymnatorium that would allow for future growth

  • there were many highlights in the growth of the church
  • 28 baptisms in 1971 - twenty alone on one Sunday
  • lives touched for Jesus Christ
  • the birth of a vision for a seniors' ministry on the church's property
  • the building of a new sanctuary
  • the time of great blessing as the church sacrificed to furnish the new building in a program called "Join Our Blessing" - raising $300,000 in three years
  • this was a church on the move - not to build an edifice for itself; but to use its resources to reach the neighborhood for Jesus Christ

  • the first song taught to the young Richview congregation was Teach Us to Pray, Lord; Teach Us to Pray
  • the record s of the church show that Richview was begun by "a small group of people whose hearts were burdened for the ministry in central Etobicoke. They were...a people of prayer. They were smitten with the concept that nothing should be undertaken without a strong and ongoing prayer base."
  • if you were present during this time - and many of you were - you would know that there was a sense of dependence on God, and a belief that God would use the church for his glory
  • Richview was a church with a future

  • but friends, the vision of the past is not sufficient for the church of today
  • somebody has wisely observed that churches go through four stages:
  • the birth stage, in which a newly planted church is bursting with energy and enthusiasm
  • the developmental stage, in which a church begins to get set in its ways and begins to develop programs and policies
  • the mature stage, in which the people, practices, policies, perspectives, and places are firmly established
  • very often this stage could be called the plateau stage
  • and finally the decaying stage - the stage in which the zealous people who initially carried the church lose their aggressiveness
  • in which structures in place inhibit rather than encourage ministry intensity
  • in which fewer visitors come and even fewer stay
  • in which the church begins a long, slow slide to death

  • in other words, all churches eventually reach the point of the church in Sardis: a church that is a shadow of its former splendor; a church that is living on its past glory; a church that begins to coast
  • churches that are open for business, but with all the wrong type of business going on
  • one person writes,

    Thousands of churches...have deteriorated to the point where they are a ministry in theory only, a shell of what they had been. In these churches, little, if any, outreach takes place. The name and buildings may insinuate a church is present, but lives are not touched in a significant, spiritual way by such artifacts. As long as these churches have a handful of faithful attenders and can afford some meeting space and a speaker, they remain in existence. They have, however, essentially completed their life as a church (George Barna)


  • I want to ask you this morning, what stage is Richview in?
  • is there any danger at all that we're drifting toward the state of the church in Sardis - a church living on past glory; a church that lost its vision
  • are we in the mature stage, in which the vision has been lost, and structures inhibit ministry
  • or is it even possible we've slipped to the decaying stage?
  • a stage in which everything looks fine on the outside, and in which we have a reputation of being alive, but in which we're really dead, and our deeds are found lacking before God

  • to such a church, Jesus says:
  • (Revelation 3:2) Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.
  • (Revelation 3:3) Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

  • there are three steps a church can take to recapture its vision again:
  • first, wake up
  • Christ's command in verse two could literally be translated, "Be alert - right now!"
  • this command had special significance in a city that was supposed to be impregnable, but had twice been seized because of lack of vigilance
  • this command from Christ lets us know that the church in Sardis - almost dead - was not beyond hope
  • it was not too late to awaken from their spiritual stupor
  • revival could take place
  • but first, wake up and recognize the seriousness of your situation
  • the first step toward renewal in a decaying church is that people become aware that something is wrong

  • second, strengthen what remains
  • there were some people, according to verses 4 and 5, who had not compromised their zeal
  • there were some in the church who were still working, and still praying
  • and the Lord refers to those few remaining faithful believers at Sardis who were awake and alert and leading devoted lives
  • but Jesus says, all of you ought to be awake!
  • all of you ought to be leading lives filled with the Holy Spirit so a lot of action can happen
  • rock some boats, rattle some cages, wake up some sleepy brothers and sisters and remind them that the church is engaged in a high-stakes war
  • the battle is over the souls and lives of people who matter to God
  • remind them that there is no other endeavor on earth as important or exciting as playing a vital role in what God is doing in transforming human lives through the ministry of the church
  • remind them that the only thing to be feared more than death is a tragically wasted life, a life wasted by inactivity, wasted by a lack of focus, a lack of direction or purpose, a life that muddles along in spiritual mediocrity
  • take some action!

  • and the third step, mentioned in verse 3, is to recapture your church's earlier devotion to Christ
  • (Revelation 3:3) Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.
  • recapture your church's earliest passion for Christ
  • remember the early days when you received the Gospel; when you had a vision
  • repent of the indifference into which you have fallen

  • I mentioned earlier that the church in Sardis was like the city for two reasons
  • first, because it's in decay
  • BUT THE SECOND SIMILARITY, FOUND IN VERSE 3, IS THAT IT'S A CHURCH IN DANGER OF A SURPRISE ATTACK
  • (Revelation 3:3) But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
  • just as the city had been attacked and conquered by surprise - twice - so Jesus promises to come against the church in judgment, by surprise, if the church doesn't take immediate corrective action

  • on this Sunday, forty years into the history of Richview Baptist Church, we stand at a crossroads
  • we have the buildings, the people, and a reputation for being alive
  • but we also have the very real danger of coasting on past greatness and great vision
  • or, we also have the option of doing what they did forty years ago, when "they were...a people of prayer. They were smitten with the concept that nothing should be undertaken without a strong and ongoing prayer base."
  • we have the option of coasting, or we have the option of recapturing a vision for the future
  • of being a church where the next forty years are not ones of maturity and decay, but ones of new birth and development
  • I'm going to ask us to pray that Richview will be a church of spiritual passion, a church with vision, a church of prayer
  • I'm going to pray that you would be a key player in Richview Baptist Church as we move to the future

  • Jesus Christ, we pray to you this morning - the one who holds the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars
  • you are the one with the divine power to sustain, give life, and mobilize us to do your will
  • we thank you this morning for the vision of those who have built this church over the past forty years
  • and now, as we stand on the threshold of the future, we acknowledge that we need a rekindled vision

  • I pray that you would prevent us from being comfortable or complacent, lest we find ourselves slowly dying
  • I pray that you would re-ignite within us a desire to reach our local community with the good news of Jesus Christ
  • I pray that our desires would be met with growth - growth in spirituality; in new people coming to know you; in baptisms
  • I pray that we would be people of prayer - smitten with the concept that nothing should be undertaken without a strong and ongoing prayer base
  • I pray that the first song taught to the young congregation of Richview forty years ago would be a song that captures the spirit of the current congregation - that provides the foundation necessary to move ahead - Teach Us to Pray, Lord, Teach Us to Pray
  • Amen.