He Who Has Ears to Hear! Pt. 3
This church was impoverished and suffered greatly, but Christ said they were rich! Interestingly, He identifies Himself to this body as "The First and the Last, the One who was dead and came to life" (Rev. 2:8). By identifying Himself in this manner, Christ reminds this church who lives in suffering that not only is He their beginning, He is their end, and He has the final say. Period. This is of paramount importance when considering what Christ told them next.
Christ warns His church that the enemy is deceiving people by pretending to be of Israel but that they were of Satan. He then speaks of coming persecution. It seems that He is indicating that trouble will arise from those that claim one thing but act another. Indeed, persecution is the defining characteristic of a hypocrite. They know they aren't right with God, and so, to ease their conscience, they cause those who know their God to suffer unnecessarily. However, Christ tells us we aren't to fear. After all, He will be the final judge of everything that concerns us. That although times of testing are coming, if we will remain faithful until death, there will be a crown of life.
Notice, He doesn't say faithful until it gets too hard, until you're fearful for your reputation, or until it is no longer politically expedient to trust in Jesus. No, He says to be faithful until death. That is the hallmark of a Christian - to stand victorious and devoted to the very end. If you're faithful to physical death, you'll never experience it spiritually.
I doubt we in the western Church know very much what it means to be imprisoned, tortured, and die for His Name. To what extent will you go to for His Name? Is Jesus worth it all? These are questions worthy of contemplation. Who knows but that our time is coming, and Church, we must be prepared.
This church was established in the heart of evil. Christ called it Satan's throne, and they refused to deny Him. Their secret to a sustained relationship with Christ amid corruption was that they held onto Jesus. They refused to let go. Have we let go when confronted with evil? Have we compromised with the enemy for any reason – family, friends, work? Remember, Paul tells us that where sin abounds, grace abounds much more, so if you are flailing in the dark, take a moment and ask yourself, "Am I clinging to Him?"
However, Jesus took issue with this church who was holding fast to Him. Sometimes amid persecution, we are so busy surviving that we fail to thrive and allow sin to remain in and with us. It's similar to comfort food, only they are our comfort sins, and in this church's case, Christ took issue with those who participated in idolatry and sexual immorality. In a world where we think we can get away with anything, Jesus makes it clear that He will not tolerate such things. Remember, He is returning for a glorious, holy Church (yes, with a capital "C"). To accept or turn a blind eye is sinful, and Jesus says if repentance isn't made, He will fight against those with the sword of His mouth. I, for one, wouldn't want to be around for that tongue lashing!
Sin is nothing to toy with, and love does not give in on this issue! We do ourselves a great disservice, as well as the ones we love when we close our eyes to what God has to say about sin. That doesn't mean we don't love and pray for those entrapped by it, but by refusing to call a spade a spade, we have inadvertently handed them the very tool by which our loved ones dig their own graves. May we never fail to fully love by speaking the truth of the redemptive power of the cross to all we come across!
Sometimes, we try to keep sin a secret. As we've discovered in the past couple of years, sin will be exposed. If the Church will repent, Christ promises a new name that only that person knows. I plead with you, as I do with myself, to allow the Holy Spirit to shine His light upon your life to see, as David prayed, "if there be any wicked way in me." There is no sin on earth powerful enough to define you. Only God gets that privilege, and for those who allow Jesus to cover their sin with His blood and turn from it, Christ promises to name us Himself. We must choose to be overcomers.
Summation of what the Spirit is saying:
Persecution is coming. Remain faithful unto death. Cling to Christ AND refuse to tolerate sin in the Church. He's not going to do so. He is at war with it. Don't find yourself on the losing side. Choose holiness.