Christ and the Churches: Part 4 (Revelation 3:7-13)

Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

We are still listening to what the Holy Spirit has to say to the churches. This message from Christ certainly applies to the church today!

Philadelphia, the Faithful Church (Rev. 3:7–13)

As most people know, Philadelphia means “love of the brethren.” Certainly, brotherly love is an important mark of the Christian. We are “taught of God to love one another” (1 Thes. 4:9), but it is not enough to love God and our fellow believers; we must also love a lost world and seek to reach unbelievers with the Good News of the Cross. This church had a vision to reach a lost world and God set before them an open door.

Jesus Christ presented Himself to the church as “He that is holy.” Jesus Christ is holy in His character, His words, His actions, and His purposes. As the Holy One, He is uniquely set apart from everything else and nothing can be compared to Him. He is also the One who is “true”—that is, genuine. He is the original, not a copy; the authentic God and not a manufactured one. There were hundreds of false gods and goddesses in those days (1 Cor. 8:5–6), but only Jesus Christ could rightfully claim to be the true God. It is worth noting that when the martyrs in heaven addressed the Lord, they called Him “holy and true” (Rev. 6:10). Their argument was because He was holy, He had to judge sin and because He was true, He had to vindicate His people who had been wickedly slain.

Not only is He holy and true, but He has the authority to open and close doors. The background of this imagery is Isaiah 22:15–25. Assyria had invaded Judah (as Isaiah had warned), but the Jewish leaders were trusting Egypt, not God, to deliver the nation. One of the treacherous leaders was a man named Shebna who had used his office, not for the good of the people, but for his own private gain. God saw to it that Shebna was removed from office and that a faithful man, Eliakim, was put in his place and given the keys of authority. Eliakim was a picture of Jesus Christ, a dependable administrator of the affairs of God’s people.

In the New Testament, an “open door” speaks of opportunity for ministry (Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3). Christ is the Lord of the harvest and the Head of the church, and it is He who determines where and when His people will serve (Acts 16:6–10). He gave the church at Philadelphia a great opportunity for ministry. But could they take advantage of it? There were at least two obstacles to overcome.

The first was their own lack of strength (Rev. 3:8). Apparently, this was not a large or a strong church; however, it was a faithful one. They were true to God’s Word and unafraid to bear His name. Revelation 3:10 suggests they had endured some special testing and had proved faithful. It is not the size or strength of a church that determines its ministry, but faith in the call and command of the Lord. God’s commandments are God’s enablements. If Jesus Christ gave them an open door, then He would see to it that they were able to walk through it!

The second obstacle they had to overcome was the opposition of the Jews in the city (Rev. 3:9). Of course, this was really the opposition of Satan, for we do not battle against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). These people may have been Jews in the flesh, but they were not “true Israel” in the New Testament sense (Rom. 2:17–29). Jewish people certainly have a great heritage, but it is no guarantee of salvation (Matt. 3:7–12; John 8:33).

How were these Jews opposing the church at Philadelphia? For one thing, by excluding Jewish believers from the synagogue. Another weapon was probably false accusation, for this is the way the unbelieving Jews often attacked Paul. Satan is the accuser and he uses even religious people to assist him (Rev. 12:10). It is not easy to witness for Christ when the leading people in the community are spreading lies about you. The church at Smyrna faced the same kind of opposition (Rev. 2:9).

The believers in Philadelphia were in a similar situation to that of Paul when he wrote 1 Corinthians 16:9—there were both opportunities and obstacles! Unbelief sees the obstacles; faith sees the opportunities! Since the Lord holds the keys, He is in control of the outcome! Nobody can close the doors as long as He keeps them open. Fear, unbelief, and delay have caused the church to miss many God-given opportunities.

The Savior gave three wonderful and encouraging promises to this church. First, He would take care of their enemies (Rev. 3:9). One day, these people would have to acknowledge the Christians were right! (Isa. 60:14; Phil. 2:10–11) If we take care of God’s work, He will take care of our battles.

Second, He would keep them from Tribulation (Rev. 3:10). This is surely a reference to the time of Tribulation John described in Revelation 6–19, “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” This is not speaking about some local trial because it involves “them that dwell on the earth” (Rev. 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 12:12; 13:8, 12, 14; 14:6; 17:2, 8). The immediate reference would be to the official Roman persecutions that would come, but the ultimate reference is to the Tribulation that will encompass the earth before Jesus Christ returns to establish His kingdom. In many Bible scholars’ understanding, Revelation 3:10 is a promise that the church will not go through the Tribulation, but will be taken to heaven before it begins (1 Thes. 4:13–5:11).

The third promise to the Philadelphians is God would honor them (Rev. 3:12). The symbolism in this verse would be especially meaningful to people who lived in constant danger of earthquakes: the stability of the pillar, no need to go out or to flee, a heavenly city that nothing could destroy. Ancient cities often honored great leaders by erecting pillars with their names inscribed on them. God’s pillars are not made of stone because there is no temple in the heavenly city (Rev. 21:22). His pillars are faithful people who bear His name for His glory (Gal. 2:9).

In a very real sense the church today is like the Philadelphian church. God has set before us many open doors of opportunity. If He opens the doors, we must work; if He shuts the doors, we must wait. Above all, we must be faithful to Him and see the opportunities, not the obstacles. If we miss our opportunities, we lose our rewards (crowns) and this means being ashamed before Him when He comes (1 John 2:28).

In Part 5, we will look at Christ’s message to the church at Laodicea, the lukewarm church.

https://joequatronejr.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/christ-and-the-churches-part-4-revelation-37-13/

If You Build It: Growing A Business God’s Way

Benham Brothers

Value Creators

One thing we learned from our time in professional baseball was that if you were good, scouts would find you. You don’t have to sell yourself. Your game would do all the selling for you. Consistently gunning down runners at second as a catcher or smashing doubles off the wall would eventually catch the eyes of the scouts.

We quickly discovered that business is the same. You shouldn’t worry about begging to get eyes on what you’re doing. In fact, when we started franchising our business, we spent a grand total of 0 dollars on marketing. We just committed it to the Lord and created value. We lead with value, and opportunities chased us down. Or, in the words of one of our favorite baseball movies, “If you build it, they will come.” If you build an excellent business and put the needs of the client ahead of your own, profit will come, eventually.

If you speak to a dozen experts you’ll get a dozen opinions on the latest marketing tactics. We discovered that the best marketing is simply excellent work..and let marketing fall in behind that.

Throughout our years as business owners, we’ve boiled down excellent work into five core principles.

Be Faithful in Little
If you can’t make your bed in the morning and get to a meeting on time (little things), then it’s not likely that you’ll be able to scale a massively successful business (big things).

Be a Fountain and not a Drain
John 7:38 – “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Christians in the marketplace should have a refreshing effect on those around them.

Breathe Life
Wherever we go, we live, speak, and support life, both spiritually and physically.

Be a Producer and Not a Consumer
The world doesn’t need more passive consumers. We need proactive producers who not only fulfill their duty but go above and beyond.

Give More in Value than You Take in Pay
Create true value in the lives of others, and opportunities will continue to present themselves.

© 2021 BENHAM BROTHERS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

How To Be An Ambassador Of God?

December 15, 2020Author: Nehemiah Zion

An Ambassador Of God is anyone who lives an exemplary lifestyle. Family, Education Institutions, Workplace, etc. How many believers live everyday in the understanding that they are called to be Jesus to the world around them? Whatever we do, we do to God. The only way to please God is by walking in the faith of the son of God.

Who do you represent? An earthly community or heaven’s ambassador on earth?

An Ambassador in bonds

Paul says, I’m an ambassador in bonds (Ephesians 6:20). What’s binding him? Cords of love (Hosea 11:4). He was full of love for God which enabled him to minister to the world around him. Love helped him speak boldly, by faith.

And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:19, 20)

Declare God’s wonderful works

All those who love God will sing and declare His wonderful works.

Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works. (Psalms 105:2)

An Ambassador is Faithful

An ambassador is faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2) and health to all those he encounters (Proverbs 13:17).

Willing to serve

He is willing to do what he has been called for, not out of compulsion. Jesus did the Fathers will (Luke 22:42), we too make that choice as ambassadors of God.

Reconciliation ministry

An ambassador for Christ reconciles man with God (2 Corinthians 5:20). He is a peaceful man and is a peace maker. He believes in the power of fellowship, the peaceful union of believers in Spirit and in Truth, and approaching the world in love.

May God help us exhibit these natures as we present ourselves to the world around us. Jesus is coming soon, praise God and amen!

Abigail’s Story

Back in 2010 when I was in university in Ghana, I made a friend who was two years ahead of me. Even though he was troublesome (he wasn’t always very honest and often caused problems) he still remained my friend. One day he visited and asked if we could watch a preaching video by a local pastor. The sermon was titled “Understanding the power of your opportunity”. The point of the message was basically about treating people right, because you never know who you might need to help you one day.

Fast forward a few years and my friend completed university and went off somewhere else to do a second degree. I completed my course two years later. Little did I know that God was going to use him to affect my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

I’d been working for about two and half years when my employer told me the company wasn’t making a profit and so they’d be scaling down. Within that period I had been applying to schools outside of Ghana to be able to do my second degree. So I told my old university friend about it, who was in a better position to help secure me a scholarship.

Just like in a bad dream, many of us at my workplace were told we no longer had jobs. The amazing thing is that two days after we were sacked, my scholarship to study in the UK (worth almost £30,000) was approved.

But a short while later I was told that I was not selected to be part of the beneficiaries of the scholarship. However my belief was that God still loved me anyway and that the time was just not right, according to His good wisdom.

Now I’m in the UK to pursue my masters in International Relations. I got here later than I thought I would, but it means I can carry on with my studies. I didn’t know how this was going to be possible without my friend going all out for me. All I knew was that God was going to come through for me and that He knew my name.

I just want to encourage someone out there that God is faithful. He really does know us, even from when He made us in the womb (Psalm 139:13). If you’re trusting in Him and waiting for Him to answer you, He will! Just delight yourself in the Lord and He shall provide what you need. Whilst you do that, treat people that come your way well. God loves and blesses us, and He often does that through people. In my case, He provided through my friend from university eight years ago. —Abigail

https://ourdailybread.org/story/abigails-story/

Sometimes, God Wants You to Go with Your Gut

Our intuitions aren’t infallible. That doesn’t mean we should ignore them.
JOHN KOESSLER| JUNE 21, 2019

Sometimes, God Wants You to Go with Your Gut

Watson Thornton was already serving as a missionary in Japan when he decided to join the Japan Evangelistic Band, an evangelistic mission founded in England in 1903. He decided to travel to the town where the organization’s headquarters were located and to introduce himself to its leader. But just as he was about to get on the train, he felt a tug in his spirit that he took to be the leading of the Lord telling him to wait. He was puzzled but thought he should obey.

When the next train rolled into the station, Watson started to board but again felt he should wait. When the same thing happened with the third train, Watson began to feel foolish. Finally, the last train arrived, and once more Watson felt a check. “Don’t get on the train,” it seemed to say. Shaking his head, he thought, I guess I was wrong about this. Watson thought he had wasted most of the day for no apparent reason. Yet as he turned to go, he heard a voice call out his name. It was the mission leader he had intended to see. He came to ask whether Watson would consider joining the Japan Evangelistic Band. If Watson had ignored the impulse and boarded the train, he would have missed the meeting.

What was this impulse? Watson believed it was the voice of the Lord. Despite this, he felt unsure of himself. His actions didn’t seem to make sense at the time. It felt more like a matter of intuition than anything else.

Coincidence or Guidance?

Jonas Salk called intuition the inner voice that tells the thinking mind where to look next. Intuition is that flash of insight that prompts us to act in the moment. We all have had some experience with this. You feel a strong urge to call someone you haven’t talked to in ages. When they answer the phone, they say, “I was just thinking about you.” Or you are planning to depart for your road trip at a certain time but decide to leave two hours early. Later you learn that you missed a major traffic jam. Was it coincidence or guidance?

We can’t just live by our intuition, can we? Scripture warns that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9). How can we trust it? And the mind does not seem to fare much better. Proverbs 3:5–6 advises, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” We can’t trust our heart or our mind. What is left to guide us?

There is the Bible, of course. But it often does not speak to us with the specificity we might desire. It certainly works well enough on the big things. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t murder. Make disciples of all nations. Yet it doesn’t speak about the fine details. To which church should I accept a call as pastor? What week should we schedule Vacation Bible School this year? Should our short-term missions team go to Mexico or Uganda? There are all kinds of decisions I have to make that cannot be made by turning to a specific chapter and verse.

We do see something like intuition at work in the lives of God’s people in the Bible. Paul tries to enter Asia but is “kept by the Holy Spirit” from doing so (Acts 16:6). He tries to enter Bithynia but his progress is checked by “the Spirit of Jesus” (v. 7). He passes Mysia and goes down to Troas, where he has a vision of a Macedonian man begging him to come and help them (v. 9). Paul took this as a call from God and got ready at once to leave.

Whole-Self Decisions

Acting on intuition seems as if it is relying on the irrational, or at least something non-rational in us. However, it might be better to describe it as supra-rational. It involves thinking, but there is more to it than that. An intuitive act does not entirely skirt the rational processes since it often involves a decision. But it is one that is made based on different criteria than we usually rely upon when deciding or acting. Intuitive acts seem non-conscious because they don’t involve long deliberation, exhaustive research, or lists of pros and cons. Instead, the decision is made or the action taken in a moment.

Intuitive acts are more holistic than those that are purely rational. They seem to come from some place deep within. They are decisions made by the whole self rather than just the mind. Those who act on intuition often say that they are acting on the gut or their instinct. They cannot explain how they know what they should do; they just know that it is the right thing to do. It is still rational in the sense that the mind is engaged.

There is an additional factor involved where God’s people are concerned. Believers often act based on what might be called “inspired” intuition. They are moved not only by the unseen processes that affect everyone else but also by the Holy Spirit. That was how Paul understood his decision not to enter Asia, Bithynia, or Mysia. The influence of the Spirit was what compelled Watson Thornton not to get on the train, even though that was what he had come to the station to do. We usually describe this as following the “leading” of the Holy Spirit.

This is a sensitive subject for some Christians. One reason is we are not exactly sure how this guidance works. Even though there are clear instances in the Scriptures, the exact details are not always included nor do they necessarily fit our experience. For example, we are told in Acts 13:2 that the church of Antioch was prompted by the Spirit to commission Paul and Barnabas and send them out on mission. In that case, the call did not come through some inner intuition but when the Holy Spirit spoke as the church was fasting and worshiping. But how did the Spirit speak? The explicit mention of prophets and teachers could suggest that there was some kind of prophetic directive. Yet the text does not actually say this.

The same is true of the directions Paul received while he was on his missionary journey. We know the Spirit directed him not to enter some regions and allowed him to enter others. But apart from the one vision, we really don’t know what form this direction took. Was it a “feeling” on Paul’s part that some destinations were just not right? Did God use obstacles and circumstances to nip at Paul’s heels like a sheepdog in order to guarantee that he ended up in the right place at the right time?

In the end, Paul was directed to his destination by a vision. In our case, the Spirit seems to carry out his ministry of guidance by employing more ordinary means. Instead of being visited by a prophet, we receive an email or a phone call inviting us to apply for a pastoral position. When trying to decide which youth pastor to hire, the choice is made when one them turns us down. The processes we use are not at all extraordinary, but that does not mean that God is not in them.

A Measure of Risk

Just as we do not entirely understand the natural processes involved when we act intuitively, we do not always know the spiritual processes involved when God directs us as believers. We often talk about being “led” by the Lord, but when Paul employs this language in Galatians 5:18, he is talking about morality, not decision-making. Those who are led by the Spirit are empowered by him to obey. They “walk”—that is, live—by the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh, the sinful nature. Being led by the Spirit in a biblical sense is not the art of spontaneous direction or action but the power of God to obey. As New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce once explained, “To be ‘led by the Spirit’ is to walk by the Spirit—to have the power to rebut the desire of the flesh, to be increasingly conformed to the likeness of Christ” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Here, then, is the first principle when it comes to guidance. You already know most of what you need to know to be where you are supposed to be. The art of being led by the Spirit is not a matter of waiting each moment for some mystical experience of divine direction. It is a matter of trusting God for the power to obey what he has already told you to do.

The trouble with living by natural intuition is that it sometimes leads us astray. Some will say that our instincts are never wrong, that we should always lead with our gut. But our actual experience proves otherwise. And research confirms what our own experience tells us: Intuition is real but not infallible. “Psychology,” says Hope College psychologist David Myers, “is replete with compelling examples of how people fool themselves. Even the most intelligent people make predictable and costly intuitive errors; coaches, athletes, investors, interviewers, gamblers, and psychics fall prey to well-documented illusory intuitions.”

This raises an important question. If Christians can err just like anyone else when they act intuitively, then why should we listen to intuition at all? We must admit that there is a measure of risk. The intuitive choices made by Christians are not automatically better than those made by unbelievers. Like everyone else, our hunches can and do go wrong. That investment that our gut told us would be good suddenly tanks. The employee we hired and with whom we seemed to have an instant connection turns out to be lazy. Our sudden impulse to call a friend results in a pleasant but insignificant conversation. We do not always get it right.

Yet the same is sometimes true of the decisions we make after long thought and careful deliberation. The fact that we sometimes get it wrong after doing our research and weighing all the pros and cons does not cause us to conclude that we should throw reason and deliberation out the window. Why would we do the same with intuition? Believers who trust in Spirit-guided intuition are not afraid to make a decision in the moment when they sense God’s prompting. It is worth the risk.

Why didn’t God use the Holy Spirit to give us an infallible understanding of the choices we have to make? I don’t know. I know that if he had, it would not have guaranteed our obedience. The Bible is full of instances in which God’s people know without a doubt what he wants them to do, and yet they often do otherwise. When Israel was poised on the border of Canaan, they did not need intuition to tell them where to go from there. Their problem was that their intuition sent them the wrong message. When they saw the size of the enemy, their gut reaction was: “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” (Num. 13:31). Notice that this wasn’t just intuition. It was also the result of their research. Yet Caleb’s intuition sent the opposite message: “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (v. 30). What made the difference? Caleb’s intuitive sense was shaped by God’s promise.

God uses both careful deliberation and intuition to guide us. There is an element of risk in each. Our confidence is not in our own infallibility but in God’s sovereignty. We know that if we belong to Jesus Christ, even when we get things wrong, all things work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). God’s ultimate plan for our lives—to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ—cannot be thwarted, not even by our own missteps.

God’s Familiar Voice

In the summer of 1988, Watson Thornton stopped at a post office in the small town of Green Valley, Illinois, to mail a package. By then, he was in his 80s and had retired after a long career in the ministry. He had moved to a nearby town to live with his daughter after his wife’s death.

Watson’s first visit to Green Valley did not especially impress him. “The town does not even have a filling station for gasoline,” he later observed. “I parked across the road from an old dingy store-front, with the title ‘Valley Chapel’ on it, and some children running out from their [Vacation Bible School].”

Despite its dingy appearance, Watson was interested in the tiny church. Two hours earlier, he had prayed, asking God if there might be a small country church nearby where he would feel comfortable. On an impulse, Watson crossed the street and walked in the door. “I stopped in and introduced myself to the young pastor, his wife, and some of the teachers,” he later wrote. “They took me right in and I have felt very much at home.”

I know that this is true. I was the young pastor at the time.

If this was a miracle, it was a small one. Most people would probably write it off as a coincidence. What are the odds of finding a small country church in a town like Green Valley? Pretty good, I suppose. But to someone like Watson, who had spent his life listening for the gentle whisper of the Spirit, it was much more. It was a moment of inspired intuition. This was no coincidence; it was God’s familiar voice—faithful in directing Watson in the small decisions, just as he had always been in the large ones.

John Koessler is chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute. This article was adapted from his book, Practicing the Present: The Neglected Art of Living in the Now (Moody).

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-august/john-koessler-practicing-present-intuition.html

The church in Philadelphia is unique among the seven churches

Christ’s message to Philadelphia in Revelation 3 was quite different from the messages to the other churches.

This church in Philadelphia is unique among the seven churches because it is the only church the Lord registers no complaint against. This is the church that delights Christ!

The cornice from a building in ancient Philadelphia (photo by Joel Meeker).

The cornice from a building in ancient Philadelphia (photo by Joel Meeker)

Question: “What was Jesus’ message to the church in Philadelphia in Revelation?”

Answer: Revelation 3:7-13 records Christ’s message to the sixth of the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2–3. The Philadelphian church is the recipient of this letter. Philadelphia was a city in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) on the Imperial Post Road, an important trade route.

The message is from the Lord Jesus Christ through an angel or “messenger” (likely a reference to the pastor): “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write . . .” (Revelation 3:7). This was not John’s personal message to these believers; it was a message from the Lord, who identifies Himself as “him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” This description of Jesus emphasizes His holiness, His sovereignty, and His authority. The reference to the key of David is an allusion to the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 22:22. Jesus is the one who opens and shuts, and no one can say Him nay.

Jesus affirms the church’s positive actions: “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8). The church of Philadelphia was weak in some respects, yet they had remained faithful in the face of trial. Because of this, the Lord promises them an “open door” of blessing.

Jesus’ letter then condemns the enemies of the Philadelphian believers: “I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you” (Revelation 3:9). Those who persecuted the believers (the persecutors were religious hypocrites in this case) would one day realize Christ loves His children. The church of Philadelphia would be victorious over its enemies.

Jesus encourages the Philadelphian believers regarding His future coming: “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. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Revelation 3:10-11). The church’s faithful endurance would serve as a blessing. Jesus would take them to be with Him before the coming tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). He also exhorts them to remain faithful, because this would lead to rewards in the afterlife. Based on this and other passages, many Bible interpreters conclude that the rapture is an event distinct from the second coming of Christ. The fact that the Philadelphians are promised to be preserved from the time of the tribulation corresponds with the pretribulational view of the rapture.

Jesus provides a final promise to the believers in Philadelphia and to all believers: “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 from out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name” (Revelation 3:12). Professor Thomas Constable notes, “God promised that He will not just honor overcomers by erecting a pillar in their name in heaven, as was the custom in Philadelphia. He will make them pillars in the spiritual temple of God, the New Jerusalem (21:22; cf. Gal. 2:91 Cor. 3:16-172 Cor. 6:16Eph. 2:19-221 Pet. 2:4-10).” (Source: Thomas Constable, Notes on Revelation at http://soniclight.org/constable/notes/pdf/revelation.pdf.)

So, those who struggled with weakness Jesus makes everlasting pillars in the house of God. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Jesus’ words of comfort certainly would have been a blessing to the Philadelphians who had faithfully stood for Christ in their pagan culture. His words continue to serve as an encouragement to faithful believers today.

https://www.gotquestions.org/church-in-Philadelphia.html