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This series provides insight into Jesus' master plan for the church today. We cannot afford to ignore what Jesus thinks of the church. You've Got Mail will help deepen your understanding of the church and the essential elements necessary to remain healthy, holy, and faithful in today's society.
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Turn to Revelation chapter two. Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Revelation chapter two and verse one. Have been under the pulpit for a couple of weeks and we’re returning to our series in the seven churches in the Book of the Revelation. We’ve entitled the series, You’ve Got Mail. And we want to begin this morning and we’ll let this spill over in the next Sunday morning to look at the first of these letters, the letter to the church at Ephesus. We’ve only got so much time this morning with the communion service, but here we are again before the word of God. And let us not come with a trite or trivial attitude towards the word of God. This is the word that spoke the world into existence. This is the word before whom devils and demons tremble. This is the word that brought Lazarus back to life. This is the word that the wind and the waves obeyed. This is the word that, in the end of time, will judge man eternally. Let us come with sober minds and open hearts to the living inherent sufficient Word of God.
To the angel of the church at Ephesus write, these things says He who holds the stars in his right hand who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars. And you have persevered and have patience and have labored for my namesake and have not become weary. Nevertheless, I have this against you. That you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen. Repent and do the first works or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent. But this you have that you hit the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hit. He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
We trust God will open our minds to understand and give us grace in our hearts to obey his truth. Every married couple here this morning knows that love found once can be lost if not worked out and watched over. It’s one thing to fall in love, it’s quite another thing to stay in love. In fact, we can fall in love very quickly in a matter of months. But to stay in love is the work of a lifetime, and it’s hard work and it needs constant attention. You may have heard the story of the older couple who went to the Angel’s game. It was jampacked. And as they pushed their way through the crowd in the concourse, the husband reached out to his wife to take her hand. And she says with a twinkling in her eye, “You don’t want to lose me, right?” To which he replied, “Wrong. I don’t want to look for you.”
Love found can lead to love lost. Love requires tending much like a fire. Fires need to be tended and kindled. And love can die just like a fire if it’s not oxygenated by words of affirmation, deeds of kindness, works of repentance, moments of undivided affection, and great dollops of selfless giving. And what is true of a man’s relationship with a woman is also true of a Christian’s relationship with Christ. If we’re not careful, our love for Christ can grow cold, can wind, and can wither. And you and I can settle down into spiritual mediocrity. And just like a married couple, we can still be together with Christ, but separate. Our walk with Christ, just like many marriages, can be marked by length of days, but not necessarily depth of love. So you and I want to remind ourselves that just like a marriage relationship, our relationship with Christ needs constant attention and constant affection. And that’s why I want to come into Revelation chapter two in verses one through seven because here we find a church that has lost its loving feeling.
Here’s a church that needs to restore the priority of love for Christ within their Christianity. There was motion, but not a lot of emotion. There was duty without the light, there was serving without seeking, there was living without loving. That’s Jesus’ condemnation of them, isn’t it? In Revelation two verse four, nevertheless, I have this against you that you have left your first love. Our relationship has seen better days and I think you and I will find that rather challenging. And so we want to begin to make a start this morning on the exposition of this first letter. By way of introduction, let’s just quickly talk about this outstanding city and this outstanding church. These are historical letters written to particular people at a particular time in a particular place, and this is the church at the city of Ephesus. The city of Ephesus could be referred to as the New York City or the Boston of the Mediterranean world.
It was the gateway to Asia. It was noted for its culture. It was noted for its commerce. It was noticed for its cult worship. Ephesus, our research tells us, was the fourth-largest city in the Roman Empire. The largest was Rome. The second largest was Alexandria in North Africa. The third-largest, Antioch in Syria, and then Ephesus. This was an urban center. This was a cosmopolitan city. This was a world-class city. And you need to keep that in your mind as we read this letter. You need to imagine this scene, walking the streets of a world-class city marked by commerce and culture. But paganism and godlessness and immorality wreaked around that city of 225,000 people. It was a major financial center. It had one of the largest banks of its day. It was an important commercial center because it was the gateway to Asia. It was an important seaport on the western coast of Asia.
One of its significant aspects was it was the home of the worship of the mother of the goddess Artemis. The Greeks called her Diana. She was the fertility goddess. She was the embodiment of sexuality. She was the embodiment of sexual lust as manifested in the figures that were made of her and her many exposed breasts. Her temple was in Ephesus. It was one of the seven wonders of the world at that time. It was built on a platform measuring a hundred thousand square feet, twice the size of a football field. It had a hundred stone columns made of marble, each 55 feet high. And it was serviced by a plethora of priests and eunuchs and basically prostitutes, upwards of a thousand who serviced those who came to worship and offer homage to Diana, the goddess of love. You get something of this city, it’s feel, it’s form?
It was a commercial jewel. It was an imperial hub, it was a cultural center, and it was a religious Mecca. And nestling amidst all of that was a church, the church at Ephesus. Into this spiritual black hole, God placed a lampstand of gospel witness, a church that sought to be a light in this crowded corner of the world. They saw it, as Paul would say to the Philippians, the whole forth, the word of truth or the word of light in the midst of a perverse and wicked generation. Our history tells us that the beginnings of this church can be pinpointed around AD 50, probably with the work of Priscilla and Aquila. You’ll read about that in Acts chapter 18 in verse 18. Two years later, they’re joined by Paul in AD 52. And most of the finding of this church took place during those years when the apostle Paul, with this dynamic jewel of Aquila and Priscilla, did a work for God.
It was later pastored by Timothy. It was later pastored by the apostle John who’s now banished on the isle of Patmos. We believe that Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, probably worshiped there in her later years. Remember, Christ gives Mary into John’s keeping during those last moments on the cross. Can you imagine going to Christmas Eve service at the church at Ephesus with Mary in attendance? This was a church strategically placed within God’s kingdom. It was developed by a galaxy of choice Christian leaders. And by this stage, it’s about 40 years into its history. It’s now experiencing second generation syndrome. The love is beginning to cool off. That first love that marked that first generation is now beginning to wither and in peter away. But, nevertheless, at this time, we have a wonderful church in the midst of this vast, vast city.
Now a couple of things by way of introduction. I think it’s a great encouragement to see that the gospel prospered to such an extent in the context of a pagan wasteland. This was the seed of Roman power. This was a culture marked by paganism and idolatry and adultery. And yet in the midst of this, a church grows. We talked today about our post-Christian culture and the challenges that that presents to evangelism, but we must remember that the church emerged in a pre-Christian culture. They had no rights under the law. They had no political advocates in the Roman Senate. They were discriminated against in terms of their jobs. Some of them were even put to death as we’ll see in the church at Smyrna. They were viewed as the offscouring of the world. They were basically a wart on the face of society. Yet the more they were mowed down, the more they grew.
And I think that what holds true then holds true now. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, what? I will build my church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against that. When Jesus sets out to do something, nothing will stop him. And through the risen and reigning Christ, the church will always outlive its pallbearers. The church will prevail throughout history come hell or high water. And I think that’s an encouragement. And that’s certainly not a justification not to be concerned for the change in our society, for the whittling away of rights to express one’s faith in the public square. We need to raise our voice, but I’m just saying we don’t need to get into a whole sea of panic either. We need to do what we can do. But whatever way our society goes, and we know it’s going in the wrong direction, we need to take heart that this church, and we’ll see these other churches, they nestled in the midst of paganism.
And against this kind of backdrop, we see a church that’s serving the Lord enthusiastically and effectively. In fact, I’ll go one step further as I look at the text. In fact, according to this letter, if the church at Ephesus is to be destroyed at all, they will die due to the result of a self-inflicted wound. You say, Pastor, what do you mean? What are you talking about? Well, this letter informs us if they die at all, it will be because of their lack of love for Christ. What has Jesus warned them about in verse five? Remember therefore from where you have fallen, they have fallen out of love with Christ. They need to repent and get back to their first works or else Jesus says, I’m going to come quickly and remove your lampstand from its place.
What’s the lampstand? It’s the church at Ephesus. Caesar won’t close the doors to the church at Ephesus. Christ will. And I think that’s very striking and very challenging. The sins of the church and not the sins of society is the real threat. We mourn over a decaying culture. I think we need to mourn just as equally over a decaying church. The greatest threat to the church said Vance Havner is not woodpeckers on the outside, but termites on the inside. The church today is fixated on what is happening outside, and yet the dangers posed by prayerlessness and false doctrine and formalism and immorality is sometimes ignored to our peril. Listen, the greatest threat to the church at Ephesus wasn’t on the outside. It was on the inside.
I was interested a while back when I was reading the book to learn something of that tragedy in January 1967, when the crew of Apollo 1 were trapped inside their capsule. Remember that? Three American heroes perished in that first great tragedy of the fledgling American space program. They were conducting some pre-flight tests of their spacecraft when a fire swept through the capsule killing all three crew members. And the sad thing was that the tragedy was preventable. It was an electrical spark that ignited a flash fire in the oxygen-rich environment of a space capsule. And the reason they couldn’t get out was that they were sealed in by a complex series of latches that took 90 seconds on a good day to unlock under ideal circumstances, and certainly impossible to open in the emergency that demanded action at that moment.
In fact, following that tragedy and the loss of Gus and Ed and Roger, the Congress had some hearings and Colonel Frank Borman took the stand to testify. And basically here’s what he said. Quote. It was a failure of imagination. The space capsule could withstand both the fires of reentry and the cold of outer space, but no one had ever envisioned that among the electrical fire before takeoff would take the lives of those three astronauts. What’s he admitting? They spent all their time thinking about the threat that was on the outside. Reentry, the cold, frigid and lonely atmosphere of space. But no one thought, you know what? How do we get these guys out in a hurry if something happens on the inside?
Seems to me at times is that not the mistake the church makes? We can get so concerned about the threat on the outside that we fail to appreciate the threat on the inside. This church will die of a self-inflicted wound. They will die for lack of love of Christ. Not because of paganism or political bias. They will die because they’re prayerless, and they’re loveless, and they’re not focused where they need to be. So we need to get into this letter. Why is it first by the way of the seven? Well, number one, because it’s the fourth-largest city in the Roman Empire. It’s certainly, of all the seven cities and churches addressed in these letters, it’s the most important. But I think, more importantly, it’s the gateway to Asia.
If you were a messenger or a postman, you would go to Ephesus and work your way in a anti-clockwise circle around the seven cities that are mentioned in this book. Well, there’s a number of things I want to say. You’ve got your outline. Let’s see how far we can get in the few minutes that remain. I want us to look at, first of all, Christ’s comprehension. Christ’s comprehension. This is where the letter begins. It begins with a recycling of a portion of the portrait that we find in chapter one. To the angel of the church at Ephesus write, these things says he who holds the seven stars in his right hand and he walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. We find this image back in chapter one in verse 12. Then I turned to see the voice and spoke with me and having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, one like the son of man.
Look at verse 16. He had, in his right hand, seven stars. Out of his mouth went a sharp two-edge sword. Look at verse 20, The mystery of the seven stars, which you saw in his right hand, and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. And the seven lampstands, which you saw, are the seven churches. The point here is that we are being reminded of exactly who it is that’s walking the aisles of these churches. Although they had their own pastor, may well be the meaning of the angel of the church or the messenger of the church. They were also pastored by the chief shepherd himself. In first Peter five verses one through four, elders are encouraged to live a life of honor and humility and holiness, and they are encouraged to do that in the light of the return of the chief shepherd to whom they will give an account for their shepherding.
And so while this church has got its own angel, its own messenger, its own pastor, walking amidst the lampstands is the chief shepherd himself. And he’s here this morning. And he’s doing the same thing that he did there and he did then. What’s the image conveying? It says he holds the seven stars in his right hand. I think that’s simply conveying that he indeed seeks to protect those under his charge and over the charge of his church. It’s a message of reassurance signaling Christ’s strong protection over his people. John 10 verse 29, we’re told that when we, by faith, trust him, we are placed into his hand that no one will pluck us out of his hand. And so this image is one of security and protection. And the church and its leaders here are in the grip of his grace and in the grip of his government.
He has said to walk in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. The initial vision of Christ shows him standing amidst the candlesticks, but here he is presented as walking his lordship and his leadership over the church. It’s not static, it’s not stoic. It’s active and it’s emotive. Our Lord loves the church intensely. And so much the church love him intensely. And that’s the very problem here. But you and I just want to grasp the fact that the Lord Jesus is shown here to be walking amidst the golden lampstands. And this may be the image of the Old Testament priest whose job it was was to go about the tabernacle or the temple and to remove the wick and the old oil and refill the lamps with fresh oil and relight them before they go out, so that the place of God’s service and the testimony of God’s word continues unabated.
And we have this beautiful picture of Christ carrying on this priestly ministry among his churches, tending to them, watching over them. And it’s a beautiful image too of the church, isn’t it? That the church is a lampstand. The church is to be light to the world. That’s our role. We’re not to add to the darkness. We’re not to be indistinct in our living, so that we present some kind of moral twilight. You and I are to live distinctly and Christianly, and we are to be light in the way we run our businesses, and our viewing habits, in the way we act and react towards others. It’s our job to share the gospel with people in word and in deed.
Some years ago, June and I and the girls had gone out into the Sandusky area of Ohio. Angela was running for our school at the time and she was out there for a track meet. After it, we decided to stay in that area and we went to visit the Marblehead Lighthouse, which lies between Toledo and Cleveland. And it serves the great ships that sail the treacherous waters of the great lakes, especially around wintertime. It was built in 1815, and since then it’s been manned by 15 different lighthouse keepers. Today, it’s automated and it’s under the control of the United States Coast Guard. But what was striking about that whole adventure and encounter was, as we stood outside that lighthouse, they had a list of all the names of those 15 lighthouse keepers, number of women and a number of men. But what struck me, and that’s why I wrote it down to use as an illustration someday, was above all those names were simply these words, the keepers of the light.
And remember, for a moment, just standing at this lighthouse and overlooking the great Lake Erie, which feeds into the other great lakes of that area, and ask myself, you know what God has called me to be, a keeper of the light. He’s called us to be keepers of the light. And here, Christ is amidst the candlesticks, trimming their lamp, wanting to fill in with new oils so that they may burn more brightly. And the point coming back to it is that Christ is constantly inspecting a church’s creeds and a church’s deeds. That’s the point here. This is Christ’s comprehension. These things says, he who holds the seven stars in his right hand who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, I know your work. Why would he know their work? Why would he know their labor? Because he stands and walks midst the lampstands. He’s intimately aware. He’s intensely interested in a church’s behavior, in a church’s belief. That’s why almost every one of these letters begins with the ominous words, I know your works. You can read the letters for yourself. Christ is a kind of divine quality control inspector.
He’s looking at what we are doing. He’s weighing it up. As Sam Storms says, “There’s no sermon preached that he does not evaluate, no sin committed he does not be aware of, no individual enters an auditorium of whom he fails to take notice, no tear is shed that escapes his eye, no pain is felt that his heart does not share, no decision is made that he does not judge. No song has sung that he does not hear.” And that’s challenging and convicting. What a sobering thought. And I’m spending little time here because we’ll not spend as much time as we work through the other letters. Christ’s comprehension of this church and all these churches, it’s a sobering thought. And it challenges us to think more about what God is thinking.
I know your works and I know your patience. I know you inside and out. We need to think more about what God is thinking because we live under the piercing gaze of Christ. We must not fall foul of the illusion that there’s such a thing as secrecy or privacy. Sin is often strengthened by the illusion of secrecy. We think we can get away with something, we think behind a closed door where the curtains closed are a way beyond the boundaries of personal accountability. We can get away with something, we can do something. But that’s an illusion. And sin is often strengthened by the illusion of secrecy, which is a pure fantasy. I know your works. I know your labor and your patience. Whatever we do, whether good or bad, we do with God’s full knowledge. In Proverbs 15 verse three, what do we read? That the eyes of the Lord go through the earth, taking account of all that is happening. The eyes of the Lord are in every place keeping watch on the evil and the good.
Psalm 139 verses one through four. The Lord knows you’re downsitting and your uprising. He knows your thoughts of far off. He knows the very words you’re about to form and express. God knows all matters and knows all matter. This is what we call, what, the Doctrine of Omniscience. That God knows everything about everything and about everybody. He knows the future no less than the past and the present, says Packer, and possible events that have never happened, no less the actual events that do. Nor does he have to access information about things as a computer might retrieve a file. All his knowledge is always immediate and direct before his mind. This is the one who walks among the churches. This is the one who sees our works, listens to our songs, evaluates our sermons, and checks our decisions.
The church I grew up in, Rathcoole Baptist Church, I had the privilege of preaching there a number of times while I was part of that congregation and since leaving it. And in the Pastor’s office in Rathcoole Baptist Church, there hangs a text. It’s from Genesis 16 verse 13. Thou God sees me. It’s the words of Hagar, as God tells her to fear not. And I think it’s there as a reminder to every preacher who’s about to leave that office that they’re not just going out to stand before a congregation of people, but they’re actually standing before an audience of one. Thou God sees me. And therefore, the pulpit is not a place for pretense and it is not a place for pantomime. You stand before the living God who sees through you. That’s Christ’s comprehension.
What about, secondly, Christ’s commendation? Just for a few minutes, Christ’s commendation. Christ is swimming in knowledge of this church’s life and labor and it spills over into his commendation. There’s things Christ likes about this church before he gets to verse four, and the things that peeve him. He tells them, look, I know your works, your labor, your patience, and you cannot bear those who are evil, and you’ve tested those who say they’re apostles and are not, and have find them liars. And you’ve persevered and you’ve labored in my name and have not become weary. And then in verse six, and this you have. This is in your favor, that you hit the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hit.
There’s much to commend this church. They are exemplary in a number of areas. Let’s begin to look at a couple of those. I want you to see their dynamism, their durability, and their discernment. Look at their dynamism. Verse two. Christ knows their works and their labor. This church was an anthill of activity. They were winning the loss. They were visiting the widow. They were feeding the poor around the clock. This was the church busy in the service of man and this was the church busy in the service of God. In fact, this second word, labor, is a word [inaudible] and it carries the idea of laboring to the point of exhaustion.
They just didn’t do a little bit. This was wholehearted effort and endeavor. In fact, this word is used in Luke 18 verse five, of the widow who bugs the judge, and bothers the judge, and badgers the judge until the judge gives her justice. So this speaks of resolve and diligence. And you and I can read into this Christ’s condemnation of their exhausting and exacting ministry for the kingdom’s sake. No loafers in the church at Ephesus. I think they would agree with the words of George Whitefield, the great evangelist of the 18th century, who was once noted to have said, I get tired in the work, but never tired of the work. That’s the church at Ephesus. Someone has said that there are a number of different bones in the body of Christ.
There’s wish bones. They’re the kind of people who live their lives in the hairs of what might be, but they never affect what is. There’s the jaw bones who talk about what needs to be done by other people. There’s the knuckle bones who just knock everything never to their pleasing. But there’s the backbones who carry on the brunt of the work. And in this body of Christ at Ephesus, there were a lot of backbones, not a lot of wishbones, jawbones or knuckle bones. I know your labor. I know your works.
Secondly, and this is where we’ll stop. You see their durability? Their durability? He commends them for their patience. I know your works, your labor, your patience, that you cannot bear those who are evil. Look at verse three. And you have persevered and have patience and have labored for my namesake and have not become weary. This is a very attractive church. There’s things you can commend about this church. They’re resolute, they’re resilient, they’re rock solid in their commitments.
They weren’t easily swayed. They certainly weren’t easily discouraged. And you’ve got, again, to understand the background. Here they are, amidst this bustling city, where they were often boycotted in terms of commerce because of their Christian faith. They were often badgered and bullied. And just like some of the other churches in Asia, some of them lived under the threat of death. But here they are not growing weary, persevering. In fact, this word patience in verse two is a word that means to hold up steadfastly under stress. In fact, it’s used more often for steadfastness in trying circumstances. It’s not so much patience with people as it is steadfastness in circumstances. And Christ commends them for that.
And by the way, that’s not simply human grit. It’s not like you know what? They hunkered down and they dug deep. This isn’t some form of the stiff British upper lip syndrome. This isn’t worldly stoicism like you grit your teeth and you just pile your way through the problem. No. What do we read in verse nine of chapter one? I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. They’re patient because of Jesus Christ and his example he, himself, endured. Didn’t he according to Hebrews chapter two? And they were patient not only because of his example, but they were patient through his strength. It could very well mean that they were indeed able to stand through the patience or the endurance or the strength that Christ gives his people. They could do the things that God had called them to do because Christ was pouring his strength in them.
So please don’t see this as some human expression of what we hear in America called grit. It’s more than that. This is divine and origin. These people survive because Christ was living out through them and his strength was being poured into them. And when you and I find ourselves exhausted, it’s because we’re drawing strength from ourself rather than leaning on Christ. And I also think they endured because they also lived in the light of his return and his reward. What did we read in Revelation 22:12? Behold, I come quickly and my reward is with me. And again and again, even at the end of this chapter, you’ll see, to him who overcomes, I will give to eat from the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God, the garden of God, heaven. They persevered through the strength that Christ gave and they find strength in the incentive of knowing that if they endured, they would win the crown. They would hear his well done. They kept going because they knew he was coming and it would be worth it all when they see Jesus.
Here’s the point as we wrap up. They expressed a present gallantry in the light of a future glory. And you and I always must be living with the end in view. But this quality is challenging and it’s encouraging. Determination and perseverance is in short supply today, isn’t it? We like it easy and we like it quick. We’ve been weaned on that. The culture tells us we deserve that. And so convenience is the name of the game in America. But that won’t do for your Christian life. We don’t like to be put out. If we’re going to make a commitment, it’ll be short term rather than long term. We have little enthusiasm for anything that takes a long time to acquire or to achieve. But Christianity is a matter of long obedience in the same direction against prevailing winds, against the world in rebellion to God, against the dead weight of her own flesh.
David Roper says, real Christianity means giving ourselves to everyday low profile obedience. An activity for which we get the least encouragement. Other people initially have more flash. They are euphoric whirlwinds of activity as long as things go well. But then they encounter pain and resistance and they fold. They’re a sensual people governed by feelings rather than by the word. Are we governed this morning by feelings or by the word? Do we find enthusiasm in the example of Christ? Do we find strength in the power that he’s willing to give us through the indwelling spread? Do we find a reason to take the next step because we know that heaven’s just around the corner?
Closing illustration. Leroy “Satchel” Paige, anybody remember him? One of the greatest, most famous baseball players ever? He was the first black player to pitch in the World Series. He was the first player from the old Negro League to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a legend. It is said that he won 2,100 games, 60 in one season, 55 without giving up a hit. He was 42 years old when he joined the Major Leagues as a rookie. We don’t know how old he was because his mother had written his birthday in a Bible that was burned. But it is believed that in 1948 when he began his career in the Major Leagues, he was 42 when he threw his first pitch for the Cleveland Indians. And he went on to lead that team to an American League Pennant.
In fact, he retired, and then many years later, some dozen years later after he had retired, the Kansas City Chiefs brought him back. And, again, he pitched three shutouts in quick succession in those early days. But here’s what’s interesting beyond all of that. He was known for some of his statements, much like Yogi Berra. He once said, age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. He also asked a question, how old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? This is the one I like where we close. And he said this. You win a few, you lose a few, and some get re-indict, but you got to dress for them all. And that’s true of life, that’s true of baseball, and that’s true of ministry in our walk with God.
You and I must dress for them all. Every day that God sends us, we’ve got to endure. We’ve got to hold on a little longer. We’ve got to make sure that our light is shining and our life is in order. We’ve got to be working on our love for Christ on a constant basis. And all of that can be very trying and all of that can be very tiring, but it will be worth it all when we see Jesus, when we get to eat of the tree of life and walk in the garden of God. Jesus has got some things he likes about this church. He likes their dynamism and he likes their durability.
We’ll pick it up next week. Let’s pray. Oh God, this morning, as we’ve begun to turn the pages of these seven letters from the hand of John to the churches of Asia Minor, God, we believe we’re leading our own lives. We can identify with the problems. We can see ourselves in them. Oh God, as we look around us, we see our culture becoming more pagan and godless and post-Christian. And we mourn that and we pray, oh God, that if it would be your mind and will that you might send the winds of revival and reaffirmation sweeping across our nation yet again. Help us to get on our knees and pray. Help us to stand on our feet and speak up. Yet, at the same time, oh God, we realize that your church can survive anywhere and at any time. And the greatest danger, the greatest threat to a kindred community church is us being prayerless and worldly and lacking in love for Christ. The danger is on the inside. Christ can take care of that, which is on the outside.
And though, God, as we come this morning, we realize that we have spent an hour or more already together in your company. You have walked the aisles of this building this morning. You’re visiting our children’s ministry. You’ve sat with our choir. You have played with our musicians. You’ve listened to the sermon. You’re weighing our hearts and our responses. Is this just going to be another Sunday where the word of God is lost amidst the busyness of life and we allow it to just fall away like water off a duck’s back? Oh God, you’re wanting responses, you’re wanting repentance, you’re wanting renewal. And, oh God, may we be marked by dynamism and durability. Make us busy and make us enduring and persevering as a congregation. For we ask and pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.