Lessons from the seven churches of Revelation: Part 2
Are you awake in your relationship with God? Are you listening to the right people?
In Part One of this series, we looked at the letters Jesus sent to the churches in Ephesus and Smyrna, which are recorded for us in Revelation 2. In this article, we're going to look at what Jesus had to say to believers in the towns of Pergamum, Thyatira and Sardis. So grab your Bibles or open up http://www.biblegateway.com, and let's get started.
Letter Three: To the Church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17)
Jesus refers to Pergamum as "where Satan as his throne" (v.13). Pergamum in the late first century was not an easy place to live for Christians. Looming up above them on the mountain was a huge altar, dedicated to the Greek god Zeus. The city was also the area's centre of worship for the Roman Emperor as a god. But still people met together as followers of Jesus, and he commends them for remaining true to him.
However, they weren't getting it completely right. They had permitted false teachers into their church, who directly taught against the gospel. Jesus calls them to repent before it's too late.
What we can learn: Jesus makes it pretty clear that we're to be discerning about people who come and preach the gospel, and not get whisked away by those who seem to have answers but aren't of him. Although we may feel that we're trusting in him, we need to make sure that it's him that we're really listening to.
Letter Four: To the Church at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29)
Like the church in Pergamum, Jesus speaks of the Thyatira believers' perseverance and faith, but they've got one big problem - false teachers. He refers to a "Jezebel". Jezebel in the Old Testament was a pagan power-hungry, murderous, God-hating Queen, and the prophetess in Thyatira sounds rather similar.
By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. (v.20b)
Somehow she's managed to infiltrate the church and lead many of them into living lives contrary to the those God has called them to. And again, Jesus promises judgment unless they repent of their ways.
What we can learn: Again, I find this scarily accurate to us today. We're all faced with a constant temptation to live just like those around us - lives of idolatry and sexual immorality. But as the servants of Jesus, we are to live for him, leading lives worthy of his calling.
Letter Five: To the church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6)
When I was visited the city of Sardis, our tour guide told us a story. Years before Revelation was written, an invading army sent scouts to check out the situation of the city of Sardis. Every night, they noticed a particular weakness in the city's defences - the city guard would fall asleep, slump in his seat, and his hat would drop from the tower to the ground! This was then used as a signal and the invading army was successful in capturing the city.
Just like the Sardis sentry at that time, the Christians of the city needed to wake up! They are accused of being dead in their faith; they're not completing the work of God. Like Ephesus, Sardis would have been quite a spectacular city - the huge reconstructed gymnasium facade which I saw when I went gives just a glimpse in to the city's splendour. Perhaps they also got distracted by the things of this world, and strayed away from the importance of their faith. But Jesus calls them to be alive in their faith.
What we can learn: What about you? Would you describe yourself as being "awake" in your walk with God, or closer to asleep? Like the church at Sardis, I think sometimes although I have this reputation or facade of being alive in my faith, in actual fact, I'm not going so well - sometimes I barely focus on God from one Sunday to the next. But when this happens, I need to repent of it, and wake up.
It's very challenging, but as Jesus tells us that judgement awaits those who remain asleep, or dead in their faith, it's pretty obvious what we should be striving for.
The Church Today
So from these letters, we see that we have are not to tolerate false teachers who lead us astray and make us give into the things of this world, and we are to be awake and alive in our faith.
Again throughout these letters, Jesus says "He who has an ear, let me him hear what the spirit says to the seven churches."
Are you listening?