What would He say about your worship and the depth of your prayer? What about the commitment to teach all of His truth, not the politically correct version? What would He say about our personal lives beyond Sunday? Fortunately, we have a gauge to measure the spiritual condition of our churches in the book of Revelation.
Jesus' words to the persecuted church in Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11) holds encouragement for us today: "I know your works and tribulation and poverty (but you are rich). And I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2:9).
Why were these "works" different than the works in the church in Ephesus who was scolded instead of praised? Because their heart was right: humble, broken and truly seeking Christ, their first love. They were impoverished financially but not spiritually. Granted, poverty is not a gauge for spirituality; being thankful in all situations is the biblical answer to the difficult seasons of life. But on the other hand, poverty can be the result of sin and bad decisions. Seek God. He will show you.
A synagogue of Satan was in their midst. We are called to be fruit inspectors so we know who is opposing God's work. People were saying that they were believers but they were not. Not much has changed in our churches today: "For such are false apostles and deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
In Revelation 2:10, Jesus said, "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tried, and you will have tribulation for ten days ..."
Why is there persecution coming to the church in Smyrna, but not the dead church in Ephesus that is approximately 35 miles north? We can only speculate based on the context, but it appears that dead teaching, dead services and dead worship lack spiritual life. They are no threat to Satan's kingdom. A church that is alive and vibrant is a magnet for spiritual conflict; a dead church is not. Most problems in a dead church come from internal quarreling and jockeying for positions, not spiritual battles.
Persecution can bring out the best in us: When a vessel is struck, what's inside spills out. In times of persecution there are benefits: God becomes the only solution; we seek Him more fervently. Persecution is also a purifying agent.
Jesus adds, "He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death" (Rev. 2:11b). The first death is the physical death of our body; the second death is spiritual death, or separation from God.
An aspect of overcoming is to submit yourself to God and resist the devil. Endure temptation as a good soldier. Deny the flesh and be filled with the Spirit. Do not yield to temptation or make provision for it; crucify it. Don't be brought under the power of temptation: "Dearly beloved, I implore you as aliens and refugees, abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:11). He who does these things is a warrior in God's army; though they fall, they will not fail.
If you do not have hope and peace, could it be that you are trusting in all the wrong things? Again, those who are not ready for the first death, will not be ready for the second death.
In Revelation 2:11, Jesus said, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Are you open and teachable? Do you need to return to your first love? If we are to see a genuine move of God (which is our only hope) then we must humble ourselves and confess our pride, confess our sins. Pride is the soil in which all other sins grow.
Please don't misunderstand, I have not mastered this area. I'm a prideful person working on humility every day. All of us must repent of pride and return to God with a broken, teachable heart if we are to experience healing in our land.
Have you blasphemed God? Do you speak with contempt about Him? Are you defiant and irreverent toward Him? Is He beneath your consideration? There still is hope. He's not rejecting you; He's waiting for you. Turn to Him today.
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