If Jesus rebuked many of the early churches for straying, leaving their first love, putting up with false doctrine, or for being lukewarm, how could we, American Christians, think He wouldn’t harshly warn and correct many of our churches today?
Some might claim the Church is thriving here in the United States of Entertainment. I would ask them why then doesn’t it translate out into society. Why is the gospel not being proclaimed and more true disciples being made today? Who is influencing and driving culture, Christians or atheists and secular progressives? Biblical morality or godlessness?
The truth is too many professing believers have generally conformed to the world and have failed to defend and preserve culture through Judeo-Christian values. We are to be salt in society: to not only flavor and enhance culture but to influence it as well. Salt is a preservative, but it can also irritate, especially if it touches an exposed wound. Paul told believers at Ephesus to walk as children of light and,
Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; (Eph. 5:11)
Too many in American churches do just the opposite! We accommodate popular sins (abortion and homosexuality). Why? Because the Supreme Court ruled they are legal, of course. But just because something is legal does not make it moral. Has the Supreme Ruler and Judge changed His mind on certain sins? Not at all!
We have watered down the Word of God and have lost our saltiness and power to transform society for good. Some larger churches have a reputation for being alive, but their discipleship and doctrine is rather ineffective. I attended a megachurch for several years and kept running into unregenerate and unconverted people, many of whom thought they were saved.
God woke me up at 3 AM recently and this message is the result. My heart was heavy; we were wrapping up our Bible study on the book of Colossians – a church Paul commended for their faith and love, by the way – and we were examining the geography of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and many cities that had Christian churches in the first several centuries.
*The following is a partial transcript to the sermon from video:
In Revelation chapter two and three, Jesus harshly rebuked five out the seven churches within the same area. I couldn’t help but wonder what He would think of churches in America today. It’s a sobering thought.
Would Jesus rebuke us, Christians in the United States of Entertainment, the way He did several churches in Asia Minor?
Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3 So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. Revelation 3:2-3
This quote has been attributed to several people, one of whom is Dwight L. Moody:
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.”
We will all stand before the Lord one day and be judged for how we spent our time. Your husband or wife won’t be there, neither will your children, coworkers, or friends on social media. It will be you alone before Jesus. And that should sober up every one of us in this room.
Here are some important QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- Is your life bearing fruit for the Lord Jesus Christ? JN 15:8
- Are we passionate about God, spiritual things? COL 3:2
- Who or what is our first love? What’s our main focus? MATT 6:33
- Have you conformed to our culture – or to Christ? ROM 12:2
- Do we love this world more than we love Gods Word? 1 JN 2:15-17
- Are you prepared for persecution when it comes? MATT5:11-12
Are we, individual believers in Jesus who make up the church in America, succeeding at what’s most important? Are we loving the Lord God, loving our neighbors, preaching the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone, making disciples, raising godly children, impacting culture, and encouraging the faith of other believers?
Or are we just giving God lip service?
American churches, especially many of the larger, higher profile mega-churches, often have a good reputation simply due to their popularity, numbers or size (quantity). But this is often a very inaccurate picture of the overall health, discipleship, and maturity (quality) of a church. Is the body of Christ being built up in faith and equipped for ministry? (Eph. 4:11-12)
According to Barna research and several other studies and surveys, it appears American Christianity is producing the most shallow, biblically illiterate church members in history, confused about what the Bible teaches, unable to fully understand let alone explain and defend the essentials of the faith. What ever happened to discipleship? We can learn from the earliest Christian churches that it doesn’t take long to stray from truth.
Revelation 3:1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
Wake-up! Repent! Notice what Jesus also says to the church in Sardis:
5 He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
*We all have ears – but – are we listening? What is Jesus saying to the churches in America who have grown comfortable and complacent? What is He saying to individual believers? Do YOU have ears to hear from God?
Is your life bearing fruit for the Lord Jesus Christ?
We just finished the book of Colossians in our weekly Bible study and looking at the geography at that time, we talked about the many early Christian churches in Asia Minor which is modern day Turkey.
The Colossian church was just 12 miles from the church of Laodicea and about 95 miles from Ephesus, a booming city at the time. Laodicea was also prospering and growing, located next to a new trade route, they had it made.
But that’s what lots of people would say about America, which is why we’re making this comparison today. We are prosperous, proud, and self-sufficient. Look at our big and many churches!
May we take to heart the warnings to the early churches:
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked; …19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
Jesus would rather have us be cold or turn our back on Him than to say we love Him and be indifferent or lukewarm about spiritual things. He despises apathy and says He will spit (another translation, “vomit”) you out of his mouth!
For a little insight on this, apparently, nearby Hierapolis was known for its underground hot springs while Colossae was known for cool, refreshing springs. But Laodicea had an aqueduct system containing tepid and somewhat dirty water, and when visitors to the city took a drink of that water for the first time, they would literally spit it out of their mouths!
Moreover, this next verse has been inaccurately used as an evangelical verse. It’s a nice concept, Jesus knocking on the door of our hearts, but that’s not the context.
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Revelation 3:14-22
Notice Jesus, who once may have had a more intimate relationship with His church, is now standing outside the door knocking! This is not a verse about unbelievers; Through the Apostle John, the Lord is speaking to Christians!
Spiritually, we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked! Church leaders are either in denial or do not even realize their low estate. In the same way the church of Laodicea was warned about being comfortable and lukewarm, churches in America should take heed!
In the same way the Colossian church was threatened by heresy in the forms of legalism, Gnosticism, Judaism, and mysticism, today’s denominations and Evangelical churches are infested with false teachings, liberal theology, and leaders who seek to please man.
You’d think the church would be a safe place for believers, but we must be discerning and on guard; apostasy is rampant and many have gone astray.
Remember, the Colossians were commended for their faith and love, but that city didn’t last very long either. In the same vicinity, only two of the seven churches in Revelation did not receive a rebuke from Jesus: Philadelphia and Smyrna.
How about the Ephesians?
Revelation 2:1-5 states: “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
The One who holds the seven stars (messengers) in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.
Guess what? The lampstand at Ephesus (their influence and “place”) was removed by the Lord.
Why is it important to have a lampstand? The true church needs to be visible to have effect, and the body of Christ is made up of individual believers.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
Who or what is our first love and main focus?
Since all we have is from God, what are we doing with our time, talents, and treasure?
I’ve traveled across the country and have visited over a hundred different churches so I can make this observation: Too many Christian churches have lost their focus and have gotten off track, to the point of looking like the world and watering down the Word of God. Some churches rely on entertaining concepts or worldly worship to draw people to their services, but in order to keep them there you cannot say anything that will offend them, of course.
We have also lost our reverence for a holy God, and have practically abandoned the once-solid foundation of the teaching of Scripture which is the main purpose of the church!
Many conferences and church services today barely resemble the early church and what the Bible teaches, let alone point to Jesus Christ. Some people create gods in their own image to suit their own interests while others ignore or rewrite Scriptures to justify their lifestyles and marriage preferences.
False teachers and man-pleasers are producing false converts and worldly believers today. Large numbers of church leaders in the West have been preaching a gospel of life enhancement rather than repentance and sanctification. In fact, Ray Comfort states:
“We’ve preached the cure without explaining the disease and warning about sin and God’s judgment to come.”
It’s a half-gospel to preach the benefits of Heaven without the reality and horrors of Hell. We need to get back to the basics.
True disciples of Christ in the early church focused on four primary things:
- teaching the word of God with a focus on Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection,
- communion, and
- fellowship with other Christians (Acts 2:42).
They made disciples and they went out and shared the good news. They didn’t care about the approval of people – they sought to obey God. Their faith in Christ cost most of them their lives.
What has your faith cost you?
Do people outside these walls know you’re a Christian?
Remember, we are more likely to defend and pursue what we love, and too many professing Christians today are biblically illiterate because they love the things of this world! (1 John 2:15-17)
You cannot grow in Christ and mature in the faith if you do not read and study His Word. I challenge you to ask yourself this question: “Am I passionate about God’s Word and spiritual things or do I need to search my heart?
Bible commentator, Matthew Henry said,
On the wings of affection, the heart soars upwards. Heaven and earth are contrary to one another, and the prevalence of our affection for one will proportionately weaken our affection for the other.
Pastor John MacArthur said,
“Scripture should permeate every aspect of the believer’s life.”
An excellent chapter from the Bible about the perfection, majesty, and greatness of God’s word and law is PSALM 119, the longest in the Bible. Get to know this wonderful Psalm!
[Key Passages: Psalm 119:11-12, 18, 24, 46-48, 73, 89, 97, 104-105, 113, 130-131, 139-140, 148, 159-160, 163, 167, 174]
*Do you love the Word of God? Are you seeking Him with all your heart? Are you pursuing a deeper relationship with Christ in prayer, worship, fellowship, and study of His Word? The Bible says we are to grow and increase in the knowledge of God.
How can we grow if we don’t KNOW what Scripture teaches?
It’s easy to fall away and go after the things of this world rather than God.
Maybe you know someone who has departed the faith; even pastors and others in leadership have fallen away. Don’t think you’re immune. Some are mentioned in the pages of the Bible. In Colossians, Paul refers to a man who was once a fellow worker in ministry but left his first love.
His name was Demas.
This is from our study in Colossians as Demas was mentioned in chapter 4:
Apparently, Demas was once committed to the Lord’s work, but nothing positive is said about him in Col. 4, only that he greets the Colossian Christians and therefore must have been known to them. In Philemon, he is among Paul’s fellow laborers. Yet in the last mention of Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), Paul said,
Demas abandoned him and the ministry, “having loved this present world…” and the three New Testament references to Demas tell a sad but sobering story!
Warren Wiersbe stated:
The word “world” refers to “society without God,” …we do know that Christians today can succumb to the world just as Demas did. How easy is it to maintain a religious veneer, while all the time we are living for the things of this world.
*Do we love this world more than we love God and His Word?
We are warned many times in Scripture not to conform to this world (Romans 12:2), not to love the things of this world.
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:5-17
Jesus told his disciples to “Watch!” Wake up. Be on the alert. Paul warned that our very real fight is not against flesh and blood, and Peter writes:
“Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith…” 1 Peter 5:8-9
Are you a contender or a pretender?
Two of Jesus’ half-brothers wrote books in the Bible, James – a pillar in the early church and leader of the Jerusalem Council – and Jude wrote to believers warning them about apostasy and encouraging them to defend the faith:
I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Jude 1:3
It is believed by the time Jude wrote this, all of the other apostles except John had already been martyred. And yet, he did not tell others to lay low. He didn’t tell Christians, ‘don’t ruffle any feathers,’ nor did he warn them not to offend anyone with the gospel. Jude said “contend for the faith!”
This is quite a strong stance for a man who was a skeptic right before the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. Matthew 10:22
*Are you prepared for persecution? Is your faith strong enough?
Things will get worse. The GOOD NEWS is this earth is not our home and our true citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20). Jesus also said that in this world we will have trouble, but He also said to take heart because He overcame this world (John 16:33) by His death and resurrection. Only in Him alone can we have real peace.
We are warned about difficult times in these last days, and even Christians will grow cold and be lovers of pleasures and meaninglessness. Do you want comfort, leisure, and entertainment – or do you want more of God; to bear fruit that will last?
Please be still right now. Sit and do business with the Lord Jesus. Let the Holy Spirit convict, correct, and then comfort you in the Lord. What is He saying to the church? What is He saying to you, personally?
Do this before it’s too late.
But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:7-13
Jude: Defend the Faith, Warn the Church – Bible Study