This sermon is from the series SEVEN KINDS OF CHURCHES and was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia by Pastor Paul Mims on June 15, 2014. You can hear this sermon at www.csbccl.org
Revelation 3: 7-13In how many churches have you enjoyed membership? Perhaps there is one church that you especially love. I was thinking about this question as I prepared this sermon. I was saved and baptized in the First Baptist Church of Quitman, Georgia at the age of 14. Other churches across 63 years in which I have been a member include: Central – Oak Ridge Tennessee; Travis Avenue – Fort Worth, Texas; Temple – Pisgah Forrest, North Carolina; Seaford – Seaford, Virginia; First – Norfolk, Virginia; Druid Hills – Atlanta; Ocean View – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; First – Ellijay; and Cornerstone – Cherry Log. I have loved and still love all of these churches. In each one I have found fellowship, experienced personal growth, and worshipped the Lord in the beauty of holiness. These congregations have been about the Lord’s business and have sought to build the Kingdom of our Savior. They were not perfect and each had their ups and downs.
These seven churches of Revelation that Jesus addressed through the Apostle John are all very interesting. However, you might not have wanted to be a member of some of them. Ephesus was orthodox, but cold. Smyrna was faithful, but persecuted. Pergamum was filled with theological error. Thyatira was loving, but was also compromising the truth. Sardis was dead. Laodicea was lukewarm.
Today, we come to the church at Philadelphia. It is the only one of the seven that received no corrective admonitions from Jesus and the only one for whom he stated his love. This does not mean that he loved this one more than the others. It does mean that he felt that the fellowship between him and them was rich and true. Therefore, he could bless them and use them more than the others.
I. THE APPROVAL.
“These are the words of him who is holy and true, and who holds the key of David.” (v.7)
It matters a great deal who approves of us. Jesus gives the description of himself. “He is holy.” This was the way God was looked upon in the Old Testament. Isaiah said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” (6:3) “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.” (43:15) Now, Jesus claims this title for himself for he and the Father are One. To be holy is to be transcendent of man.
He is also “true.” In reality truth abides in him. He is the embodiment of truth. He “holds the key of David.” He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David. He is the Messiah who was descendant of David and holds the key to the Messianic Kingdom. He opens the way into the presence of God. This indicates his authority to open doors for his church.
In Philadelphia there were a strong group of Jews who claimed that they were the true people of God. They persecuted the Christians and resisted their presentation of Jesus as Messiah. Jesus called these synagogues who denied him “a synagogue of Satan. They claim they are Jews and are not.” That is, they are Jews by race and religion, but the true Jews from the standpoint of Jesus are those who see him as the fulfillment of the Jewish prophecies. Jesus said, “I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.” (v.9)
Someone has said, “I really cannot give you the formula for success. But I can give you the formula for failure. It’s this: Try to please everyone.”
The church that tries to please everyone with different social and theological views ends up not pleasing the Lord. We should always desire to please God above all else.
“One stormy night an elderly couple entered the lobby of a small hotel and asked for a room. The clerk said they were filled, as were all the hotels in town. “But I can’t send a fine couple like you out in the rain,” he said. “Would you be willing to sleep in my room?” The couple hesitated, but the clerk insisted. The next morning when the man paid his bill, he said, “You’re the kind of man who should be managing the best hotel in the United States. Someday I’ll build you one.” The clerk smiled politely. A few years later the clerk received a letter from the elderly man, recalling that stormy night and asking him to come to New York. A round-trip ticket was enclosed. When the clerk arrived, his host took him to the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street, where stood a magnificent new building. “That,” explained the man, “is the hotel I have built for you to manage.” The man was William Waldorf Astor, and the hotel was the original Waldorf-Astoria. The young clerk, George C. Boldt, became its first manager.” (Selected)
Does the Lord approve of your service?
II. THE BLESSING
“See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” (v.8)
What was the open door?
It was an open door of WITNESS. Philadelphia was situated where the borders of Lydia, Mysia, and Phrygia met and was used by the Greeks to spread the Greek language and culture to the other regions. In the same way, Jesus is saying that the gospel can follow the Greek language and culture to all of the area. The main roads were travelled by Caesar’s soldiers and merchants. Let your missionaries follow them. We are doing the same thing today. We are using all of the ways available to get the gospel out to the world. We (the Christian world) is using print, television, technology of many kinds of which we can imagine to get through the open doors.
“In 1269, Kublai Khan sent a request from Peking, China to Rome for “a hundred wise men of the Christian religion…And so I shall be baptized, and when I shall be baptized all my baron and great men will be baptized, and their subjects baptized, and so there will be more Christian here than there are in your parts.” The Mongols were then wavering in the choice of a religion. It might have been, as Kublai forecast, the greatest mass religious movement the world has ever seen. The history of all Asia would have been changed.
But what actually happened? Pope Gregory X answered by sending two Dominican friars. They got as far as Armenia, could endure no longer and returned home. So passed the greatest missionary opportunity in the history of the church.” (R. Dunkerly, in Resource, No. 2.)
Do you see open doors that we need to walk through today?
Jesus said, “I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” That is a way of saying, “You are weak, but I can make you strong. You may be small in numbers, but I can make you a mighty force for good.” The size of a church does not really matter. What is of utmost importance to Jesus is faithfulness. If a church is faithful, he will add to their numbers and they will not be weak and small for long.
Norman Geisler, as a child, went to a Vacation Bible School because he was invited by some neighbor children. He went back to the same church for Sunday School classes for 400 Sundays. Each week he was faithfully picked up by a bus driver. Week after week he attended church, but never made a commitment to Christ. Finally, during his senior year in High School, after being picked up for church over 400 times, he did commit his life to Christ. What if that bus driver had given up on Geisler at 395? What if the bus driver had said, “This kid is going nowhere spiritually, why waste any more time on him?” What did this kid become?
Dr. Norman Geisler, PhD, is a prolific author, veteran professor, speaker, lecturer, traveler, philosopher, apologist, evangelist, and theologian. To those who ask, “Who is Norm Geisler?” some have suggested,”Well, imagine a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham and you’re not too far off.”
Norm has authored/coauthored over 80 books and hundreds of articles. He has taught theology, philosophy, and apologetics on the college or graduate level for over 50 years. He has served as a professor at some of the finest Seminaries in the United States, including Trinity Evangelical Seminary, Dallas Seminary, and Southern Evangelical Seminary. He now lends his talents to Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Murrieta, California, as the Distinguished Professor of Apologetics.
III. THE PROMISE
“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.” (v.10)
This is a reference to the future judgment of God upon the earth. In Revelation chapters 6-19, the seven year period of the tribulation that will come upon the whole earth is described. The seven seals, the seven bowls, and the seven trumpets, contain the revelation of how God will judge the people and destroy the earth so that he can recreate a new heaven and a new earth.
The promise is that God’s faithful people will be kept from that time of severe trial. In future weeks we will look at a description of those events that will be world-wide. That is the long term promise. There was also a short term promise for the local congregation at Philadelphia. The persecutions of the first century were difficult and the promise was that the Lord would see them through those times, but a more difficult time would arise that would be world –wide.
“You will have no test of faith that will not fit you to be a blessing if you are obedient to the Lord. I never had a trial but when I got out of the deep river I found some poor pilgrim on the bank that I was able to help by that very experience.” (A.B. Simpson)
Dr. Fred Craddock, in an address to ministers, caught the practical implications of faithfulness. “To give my life for Christ appears glorious,” he said. “To pour myself out for others. . . to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom — I’ll do it. I’m ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory. “We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking $l,000 bill and laying it on the table– ‘Here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all.’ But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $l,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid’s troubles instead of saying, ‘Get lost.’ Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glorious. It’s done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it’s harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul.”
IV. THE REWARD
“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown. 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (vv.11-13).
Always, the church must anticipate the imminent return of our Lord. Those who are found faithful when he returns will be a part of the redeemed of the ages. The metaphors that are used here assure the believers that we will have a place in the heavenly kingdom with a kingdom name given to us. He has already allowed us to adopt his name when we believed in him – we now call ourselves “Christians.”
Our daughter, Jenny, is researching a book on the events of D-Day and has spent the last few days in Normandy, France. This past week-end, she and her sister-in-law, Cindy, drove to the south of France. The following experience happened just across from their hotel.
“It’s 1:00 am in Arles, and I just shut down Van Gogh’s famous cafe, being the last to leave…but listen to what happened. If I ever had a God appointment, tonight was it. Cindy and I strolled across the square for dinner and got sucked into this tourist trap place for dinner. It’s lovely and was the scene for Van Gogh’s painting. I’ve eaten here before and actually felt like a tourist when we sat down under the yellow canopy. But an amazing thing happened. The owner struck up a conversation with us about Normandy, which led to WWII and the Jews (he’s Jewish) which led to faith, which led to Jesus as Messiah and why he had to come. Cindy left at 11:00 while I sat and talked about the core of my faith with a very hungry soul for two hours. The cafe shut down, he wanted to know more and more and now is eager to understand this divine appointment that happened. He told me he didn’t expect this today and has been searching for truth and meaning in life, but hasn’t found it. So I simply shared what I know and what I live. What he does next with God is of course his choice, but it was an incredible encounter on this night under the yellow awning. I see another masterpiece in the works for a searching soul, and of course, a new friend in Arles.”
May he come to know the Messiah! PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!