February 27, 2009
The Doors No Man Can Shut
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. (Revelation 3: 7-12)
There are so many overwhelming truths and heavy realities that are shouting at me from this passage. First, you should know that there are seven churches mentioned in the first couple of chapters in the book of Revelation. Those churches and God's instruction/reprimand to them:
1. The Loveless Church - repent, turn to your first love
2. The Persecuted Church - be faithful until death
3. The Compromising Church - repent from false doctrine
4. The Corrupt Church - repent of sexual immorality & corruption
5. The Dead Church - hold fast and repent from dead works
6. The Faithful Church - continue in faithfulness
7. The Lukewarm Church - be zealous and repent
"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent".
With titles like "loveless, compromising, corrupt, dead, and lukewarm, you would hardly believe these were churches at all. In God's mercy each church was given a direct instruction, though. Five of them were told to repent. Two (Persecuted & Faithful) churches were told not to fear, to be faithful and hold fast.
What is it that we, as individuals, are in need of repenting of before God and others? As I look at the list of these churches I have to ask myself two questions: 1. Which one of these churches most accurately illustrates where I'm at spiritually, and 2. Which church best describes the condition of our own country?
Both questions are loaded and dangerous. That's because they require me to be really honest about my condition. It's so easy to become a finger-pointing judge that declares our country to be spiritually bankrupt, which probably isn't too far from the truth, but either way we're warned not to judge lest we also be judged. On the flip-side of the coin is the truth that every branch that doesn't bear fruit is cut off and thrown into the fire (John 15:6). In this case (self vs. country) I can do little to change the condition of an entire country (not that I shouldn't be in constant prayer that God would), but there's a lot more I can focus on when it comes to my own walk. Regardless of which church in Revelation might best depict my state of existence, the instructions to repent, stop being owned by fear, continue in faithfulness, and holding fast, are all universal to every single believer everywhere in the world. Our heart response must be to apply each of these (easier said than done), pray into them, and invite God to work a wonder in us (our only hope for genuine and long-lasting change).
This passage gives us a glimpse into the character of Jesus Christ: He is Holy, He is True, He holds the Key of David, He opens where no one can shut, He shuts where no one can open, He knows our works. Although I'm sure multiple pages could be filled on detailing each of these qualities, the one I want to focus on is the open/shut door.
First of all, Jesus "set before them an open door", so it wasn't their work or deeds that established the door, it was already set up for them by the Son of God. No one can shut the door that Jesus sets, and opens, before them. I'm not sure about anyone else, but this is so massively encouraging to me. It depicts the power of God to accomplish what no one or where nothing else could. It gets even better as the next phrase is incredibly powerful; "I know that you have little strength"! Obviously, none of us are catching God off-guard with the reality that we all have little strength and are essentially worthless apart from God's empowering hand on our lives. Even on a great day, our strength is still worthless. What they did do with their "little strength" was keep His Word and not deny His name. In some countries, that's still enough to land you in prison or better yet, a free ride home. Regardless of the outcome, two things we can't take our eyes and hearts off are "His Word" and "remaining faithful to His name". For the church of Philadelphia, the end result of operating on little strength, but continuing to keep His Word and not denying His name produced several promises:
1. Liars worshiping at their feet, proving God's great love towards His church.
2. Because of their perseverance, He is keeping them from the hour of trial coming upon the whole world.
3. Holding fast translates into retaining our crowns (or not loosing them).
4. Being made a pillar in God's temple, through overcoming.
5. Given a new name, the name of God written on them.
Stunning that although the church had such little strength, but remained faithful and held fast to God's word and His name, they received so much in return. They first received an open door that no man could shut and then God just lavished His promises all over them, simply for remaining obedient.
If you are struggling with the impulse of disobedience, consider what Jesus told this church and repent from those areas in your life that do not exist to make great the ways of God. I publicly repent from years not having focused my time and energy on His word and on remaining faithful to His name. There's only one name that has the power to open and only one name that has the power to shut. Lay down burdens at the feet of the name that pours forth blessing after blessing, even on those of us who have "little strength".
May God gives us an increase in the areas of humility (which always spurs repentance), in turning back to our first love, faithfulness even to death, holding fast, giving up sexual immorality, a hatred for corruption (I could go on for hours about the significance of this one in modern day Christian culture) false doctrine and dead works, the ability to continue in faithfulness, and possibly the one that excites me the most, a zealous love for the one true God.
Bless you guys as you strive towards perfection this week.
Broken down but not destroyed.....