|Messiah Lutheran Church||
6201 W Patterson Av
Chicago IL 60634
Among the seven churches addressed in Revelation, our Lord had encouraging words to the Christians living in Smyrna as well as the Christian living in Philadelphia in His letters. These same words can bring us encouragement, as well, as Christians living in 21st century America.
To the Christians living in Smyrna (and to us) He writes, "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev 2:10).
To the Christians living in Philadelphia (and to us) He writes, "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. 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 out of heave from my God; and I will also write on him my new name." (Rev 3:10-12)
While the conditions of the Christians living in these two cities were unique (just as the conditions of our current context are unique), we also find some similarities.
First, both were threatened by Jews that did not believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah - and so they were referred to as being the "synagogue of Satan". And similarly we can find ourselves threatened by those who do not believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah, who appear to be acting as agents of Satan.
In order for the Jewish people to be considered the true children of Abraham, they would have to believe as Abraham did in the promised Messiah in Jesus, the One who fulfilled all the prophecies concerning the Savior of the nations.
As Galatians 3:26-29 points out, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Ghrist. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise".
We give thanks that God chose the Jewish people to reveal His plan of salvation to the nations and through whom the promised Messiah would be born. At the same time, we also acknowledge that those who reject Jesus as their Savior (whether Jew or Gentile) are under a curse due to their sins. As the Jews declared to Pilate, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"
Only by allowing the blood of Jesus to be applied to their heart, can a person have the curse of sin be removed and be counted among the blessed redeemed, a member of the New Israel, that is the Christian Church ("Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God" Gal 6:15-16).
Second, we discover that these churches were not that big or rich, similar to the relatively small congregation we have at Messiah.
Scripture tells us that God's people will always remain a small remnant on this earth. While, we certainly pray for more people to join us as members of Messiah, our growth as a church is to be based upon the sure foundation of God's Holy Word without compromise!
Just as Abraham suffered disastrous consequences by "helping the Good Lord along a little bit" in having a child with Hagar, so the errors of Church Growth Movement have only contributed to a weakened state of the Christianity in America, leaving many churches and their members without a sure foundation.
For when we replace the faithful proclamation of God's Word and the rightful administration of the Sacraments with human pragmatism and techniques that can be applied to any secular business we lose our whole reason for being as a church and become much like salt that has lost its saltiness (ref. Mt 5:13, Lk 14:34).
Therefore, God has established the office of the pastoral ministry, "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will not longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work". (Eph 4:12-15).
In these challenging times that we are facing as a nation and as a church, I especially covet your prayers that I might be faithful to my calling as your pastor!
The third thing these churches had in common is that Jesus makes it very clear that they will suffer, just as He told His followers in John 16:33 " ... In this world you will have trouble ... "
Jesus never promised an easy life to His followers, while we are in this world.
This is especially applicable to us in our current context, as we find ourselves living in a culture that is becoming increasingly more and more hostile to biblical Christianity!
In spite of the troubles, however, Jesus goes on to say, "But take heart! I have overcome the world (Jn16:33).
Through His sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, Jesus overcame sin, death and the devil, thus making it possible for all who are Him to be more than conquerors (ref. Rom 8:37).
Regardless of how things may appear, as a Christian you are guaranteed by God Himself" who cannot lie, that you are more than a conqueror through Christ!
And. so Jesus says to the Christians in Smyrna (and to us), " ... Be faithful, even the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Rev 2: 10).
And to the Christians in Philadelphia (and to us), Jesus says, "I know your deeds.
I have opened the door and no one can shut it! I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name" (Rev 3:8) "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown" (Rev. 3:11).
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Be faithful! Cling to the cross of Jesus and don't let go!
For our Savior wore a crown of thorns in order that you might wear a crown of life!
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to Messiah Lutheran Church in Chicago"
Copyright © 2015 Messiah Lutheran Church All Rights Reserved