SermonsDiscover the Joy of Leaving Laodicea Behind
The first of Jesus’ seven letters to the churches in the Revelation reveal more about each of us than we often care to admit. The letter to Ephesus has this chilling assessment from the Lord:
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
Ouch. In spite of this church standing firm against heresy and faithfully persevering under great trials, the Lord holds something against them. He is hurt, angry, almost unforgiving. He must feel rejected and forgotten. Why? Because the church in Ephesus, the early church, the church that still had members that knew the Lord personally had left and forsaken the very one they claimed to love. He said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, (what) that you have left your first love.” And that first love was Jesus.
Do you remember what it was like when you first came to Christ? Do you remember the joy, the exuberance, the passion and full commitment you felt towards Him? Do you remember the promises you made in sheer gratitude for what He had done for you? Do you remember any of this?
Now look at your life. Are you still as passionate? Are you still giddy in love with Him? Are you closer to the Lord today than in any other time in your life? If not, you’ve done more than simply plateaued. You’ve left and forsaken your first love. And in doing so, the Lord now has something “against” you.
If I were you, I’d not rest until I made this right with Him. Do you know how? If not, then keep listening.
We will not all be equal in heaven. Now we’re not talking about salvation, but of rewards. All of us are equal in regards to salvation because it is a gift given freely to those who believe. In this, there is no question. But what we do with our salvation is another matter. And we will be rewarded for our faithfulness to Him in this life. Consider the following:
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with (1) gold, silver, precious stones, (2) wood, hay, straw, each one’s (personal) work will become clear; (how) for the Day will declare it, (how) because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s (personal) work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures (gold, silver, precious stones), he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned (wood, hay, straw), he will suffer loss (of reward); but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Charles Stanley also spoke of this in his book, Eternal Security. He said, “Some believers will be entrusted with certain privileges; others will not. Some will reign with Christ; others will not (2 Timothy 2:12). Some will be rich in the kingdom of God; others will be poor (Luke 12:21, 33). Some will be given true riches; others will not. Some will be given heavenly treasures of their own; others will not. Some will rule and reign with Christ; others will not. Privilege in the kingdom of God is determined by one’s faithfulness in this life. It is true that there will be equality in terms of our inclusion in the kingdom of God, but not in our rank and privilege.”
Does this sound troubling to you? Maybe confusing? If so, keep listening to learn more.
The following is a study on the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Marriage Ceremony of the Lamb.
The Judgement Seat of Christ is the first of seven great judgments that will occur. And for the believer, it’s the most important. Why? Because at this judgment all church-age believers will appear before Christ to give an account of their lives for reward. Or, in the case of many, no reward. Consider the following:
2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we (Paul includes himself) must (not optional) all appear before the judgment seat (bḗma) of Christ, (why) that each one (personal and individual) may receive (review and reward) the things done in the body, (review) according to what he has done, (reward) whether good or bad.
These are some of the main areas that will be examined when we stand before the Lord:
- How we treat other believers (Matthew 10:41-42; Hebrews 6:10)
- How we employ our God-given talents and abilities (Matthew 25:14-29; Luke 19:11-26; 1 Corinthians 12:4, 7; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1 Peter 4:10)
- How we use our money (Matthew 6:1-4; 1 Timothy 6:17-19)
- How well we endure personal injustice and being mistreated (Matthew 5:11-12; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 6:27-28, 35; Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 4:12-13)
- How we endure suffering and trials (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10)
- How we spend our time (Psalm 90:9-12; Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5; 1 Peter 1:17)
- How we run the particular race God has given us (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 2:16; 3:12-14; Hebrews 12:1)
- How effectively we control our fleshly appetites (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)
- How many souls we witness to and win for Christ (Daniel 12:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)
- How much the Rapture means to us and shapes our lives (2 Timothy 4:8)
- How faithful we are to God’s Word and God’s people (Acts 20:26-28; 2 Timothy 4:1-2; Hebrews 13:17; James 3:1; 1 Peter 5:1-2; 2 John 1:7-8)
- How hospitable we are to strangers (Matthew 25:35-36; Luke 14:12-14)
- How faithful we are in our vocations (Colossians 3:22-24)
- How we support others in ministry (Matthew 10:40-42)
- How we use our tongues (Matthew 12:36; James 3:1-12)
Are you ready to stand before the Lord and have your life judged by His standards? Because it will happen. There is no escape. And if not, what are you prepared to do about it? What changes are you willing to make in this life to be rewarded for in the next? But be warned, time is running out.
If you want to find out more about how to prepare yourself to face the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ, then keep listening.
One of the major reasons we study prophecy is called the Law of Proportions. This law states the more ink the Lord uses in His Word to communicate a message, the more important that message must be. Consider the following regarding the Old Testament:
Number of Verses in the Bible: 31,124
Number of Predictions in the Old Testament: 1,239
Number of Old Testament Verses that Contain Predictions: 6,641 out of 23,210
Percent of the Old Testament that is Prophecy: 28.5%
What about the New Testament?
Number of Predictions in the New Testament: 578
Number of New Testament Verses that Contain Predictions: 1,711 out of 7,914
Percent of the New Testament that is Prophecy: 21.5%
And the Bible as a whole?
Percent of the Whole Bible that is Prophecy: 27%
Number of Separate Prophetic Topics in the Bible: 737
Just a few more facts:
Of the 333 prophecies concerning Christ, only 109 were fulfilled by His first coming, leaving 224 yet to be fulfilled in the Second Coming.
There are over 300 references to the Lord’s coming in the 260 chapters of the New Testament— one out of every 30 verses.
Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books mention the Lord’s coming.
Jesus refers to His second coming at least twenty-one times.
There are 1,527 Old Testament passages that refer to the Second Coming.
For every time the Bible mentions the first coming, the Second Coming is mentioned eight times.
People are exhorted to be ready for the return of Jesus Christ over fifty times.
Need we say more? If you’re interested in the study of prophecy, then keep listening.
Jesus said, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” (Matt. 16:1-2). In essence, He was paraphrasing an ancient maritime proverb that went something like this: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailor’s warning.”
But the point of HIs words was to shame those of us who fail to see the signs of the times of His coming— even as they are portrayed right before our eyes.
Open Your Eyes
Take a look around. Read your Bible. Look at the nation of Israel. Do they mean nothing to you regarding the soon coming of our Lord? “Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” (Matt. 16:2).
The study of the end times, that discipline known as eschatology, is a minefield of confusion and disagreement. And because it’s so divisive and controversial many shy away from it. But not so with us. We are going to take a look at the Lord’s prophetic calendar to see exactly what the Scriptures tell us is right around the corner.
Are you ready? Good. Then keep listening.
One of the pressing questions today, as we take an honest look at the church, is what does worship look like? Is it what we see manifested on Sunday mornings? Is it music, a light show, an engaging speaker telling interesting and affirming stories? Or is it something more?
The greatest verse regarding the mechanics of true worship is found in the book of Romans. Consider the following:
Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech (parakaléō – to beg, exhort, desire, call for, encourage) you (personal) therefore (based on what was previously written), brethren (to believers), by the mercies (compassion and pity one shows for the suffering of others) of God, that you (personal) present (to place, offer) your (personal) bodies (whole person) a living (constant, enduring) sacrifice (offering, something slaughtered on the altar of God), holy (hágios – set apart, sanctified, consecrated, devoted, sharing in God’s purity and abstaining from earth’s defilement), acceptable (good, well-pleasing, that which God wills and recognizes) to (whom) God, which is your (personal) reasonable (implies intelligent meditation and reflection as pertaining to the soul) service (voluntary worship or service which conforms to human reason). And (you) do not be conformed (syschēmatizō – to fashion alike, to conform to the same pattern outwardly) to this world (generation, culture, referring to an age or time in contrast to kósmos), but (you) be transformed (metamorphóō – to transfigure, to change one’s form) by the renewing (a qualitative renewal, a restoration or renovation which makes a person different than in the past) of your mind (intelligent understanding, perception), that you (personal) may prove (try, test, discern, distinguish, to determine whether a thing is worthy or not) what is that good (excellent, best, distinguished) and acceptable (good, well-pleasing, that which God wills and recognizes), and perfect (complete, having achieved its goal and purpose, full, wanting for nothing) will (desire, God’s gracious disposition done out of His own good pleasure) of God.
Take a few minutes and reflect on these two verses. Have you done this? Do you worship Him this way? Is it even close? If not, then keep listening.
Over and over again we see the commands in Scripture to “remember” something. Often we are to remember the commands of God (Num. 15:39-40). Other times we are to remember what God has done for us (Deut. 5:15). Then God Himself is said to remember His covenant with us and all living creatures (Gen. 9:15) or to not remember our sins anymore (Heb. 8:12). Jesus told His disciples to “remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32) and in the Revelation the church at Ephesus is commanded to “remember therefore from where you have fallen” (Rev. 2:5). We see sinful man asking God to “remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42) and the Lord asking us to “do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24). And we are told, not to “keep” the Sabbath as a command, but to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). Why? Because remembering who we are and what God has done for us will bring a desire to “keep” His command and make His day holy.
But did you know that one of the key prerequisites of true worship is the ability to remember who God is and what He has done for us? Remembrance brings past realities into the present. It makes yesterday alive today. And it gives us courage to face tomorrow, no matter what, come what may.
Do You Remember?
Let me ask you a couple of questions:
What do you forget in the dark that you remember in the light?
What about the Lord’s Word and character do you fail to remember daily?
How has He shown Himself faithful to you?
Do you remember?
If you want to discover more about true worship through remembering, then keep listening.
In his classic book, the Costs of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up the teaching of Jesus in this one phrase: “When Christ calls a man, he calls him to come and die.” That’s die to self. Die to our dreams. Die to our reputation. Die to our wants and rights. Die to our families, friends, and future. And die to our very lives.
We see Jesus continually calling men “to forsake all and follow Him” (Luke 5:11) Consider the following.
Matthew 16:24-26 – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him (1) deny himself, and (2) take up his cross, and (3) follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Note the order. First, there is the desire to “come after” Jesus. This is followed by the list of conditions to “deny” yourself and then visibly and publicly show others your self denial by taking up your cross. And finally, after the conditions are met, the desire is fulfilled. Only then does Jesus say, “follow Me.”
Which raises a few questions. Do you follow Jesus? Have you died to yourself? If so, in what way? Can others tell? Are there areas in your life you have refused to die to? And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?
When it comes to worship, some of the most profound words are those of Jesus to the Samarian woman He met at Jacob’s well in the city of Sychar (John 4:5). It was here that Jesus gave us clear instructions on the type of worship the Father seeks.
John 4:23-24 – “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true (one who cannot lie, real, genuine, sincere) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit (human) and truth (reality, the essence of a matter); for the Father is seeking (to look for, search, strive to find) such to worship (to kiss, adore, fall or prostrate before, pay reverence) Him. God is Spirit (Holy Spirit), and those who worship Him must (what must be done from duty) worship in spirit (human) and truth.”
Which, as usual, raises a few questions.
What is worship?
What’s the difference between worship and true worship?
What is true worship like internally?
What is true worship like externally?
And what does true worship look like today?
One last thought, in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the first question goes like this:
Question: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.
Did you catch that? We glorify by enjoying Him forever. So, do you enjoy God? Do you love your time with Him? Is that time the highlight of your day? Do you know how to worship Him in spirit and truth? If not, then keep listening.
God never wastes an experience in our life, good or bad. When we sin, for example, God uses our failure as a ministry to help others struggling with the same sin. He allows us to share the times we fell flat on our face to encourage others who are doing the same. It seems that’s what Jesus was teaching Peter.
In the upper room, during the last supper, Jesus told Peter He was praying for him. But His prayer was not to remove the temptation and inevitable fall from Peter. No, His prayer was that when Peter fell and suffered the consequences of that fall, that once he repented and returned to Jesus, he was to strengthen his brothers by that experience. Consider the following:
Luke 22:31-32 – And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
Jesus didn’t tell Peter he would deliver him from the temptation, the sifting. He promised Peter that after he fell and recovered and returned to his faith, Jesus would use that experience to encourage and strengthen others who were struggling in the same way. That’s why, in John 21, we see Jesus restoring Peter by saying, “Feed My lambs” (John 21:15). Even after Peter’s epic denial of Jesus, his ministry was not finished. In fact, it was just beginning. And so it is with us.
Does this thought encourage you? It does me. If you want to learn more about your usefulness after your failure, then keep listening.