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'A Year with Jesus' for 11/22/2014

My Message for My Churches


Note from Jesus

Dear Disciple,

The apostle Paul talked about My church as My body, with Me as its head (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18). His point was that the church is an organism, a living being getting its life-giving direction and coordination from Me. John used the image of sheep and a Shepherd (John 10:11-16) to make the same point. I AM alive forever and live to bless, lead, protect, empower, and direct the work of My people. What happens to My church, My people, happens to Me. In today's verses, you will read about seven churches in Asia and about a unique message I sent to each church. Even though these churches were in close proximity to each other, each had its own situation with specific circumstances, problems, and opportunities.

Over the years, My disciples have debated about the meaning of the seven churches. Most Bible students know the number seven represents perfection or completeness. So yes, these seven churches stand for My church and her needs. Some have talked about seven different eras and that each of these seven churches represents a different era in church history. Others point to the seven churches as the seven types of churches that are always in existence in the world at any given time.

I want you to realize that these were seven actual congregations that existed at the end of the first century in Asia Minor, each facing very challenging circumstances. So My words gave first and foremost a message the churches needed to hear for their circumstances. My message to them was urgent and important. My chosen means of revealing this message to them through the vision John saw of Me emphasizes that urgency. The commands to these churches are emphatic and urgent. They needed to respond to My message or they would cease to be My churches. You need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to understand how you and your congregation should apply these messages.

In the Apocalypse, the book of Revelation, I gave John a series of different sights and sounds revealing Who I AM and what I do for My church. While I will identify Myself with a different image to each of these seven churches, the key image that stands over all seven churches and all seven letters is this one:

When I [John] turned around to see what sort of voice this was that was addressing me, I saw seven golden lampstands. And among the lampstands, I saw One like the Son of Man...
(Revelation 1:12-13)
I revealed what I meant by seven lampstands with these words:
...the seven lampstands are the seven churches themselves.
(Revelation 1:20)
I AM alive and move among My churches.

I know what My churches do. I know how they are doing with their mission. I know who they are. I know what they need. I know if they are faithful, disloyal, persecuted, bordering on heresy, lukewarm, weak, arrogant, or passionate for Me and the work I have for them to do. You can pick up a commentary or study the Bible and find out how each letter is connected to the life and location of each congregation. So rather than go over that with you, I want you to read these seven letters several times. Ask the Spirit to help you hear My message for you in My letters to these seven churches.

Verses to Live

As you read these seven letters, notice how they are alike. Notice how they are different. Notice how I know all about each congregation and the circumstances that congregation faces. Notice how I emphasize a different characteristic of My identity to each church and how this is tied to the message I share with them. Then realize this: I know about you and your church — house church, missional community, congregation, or group of believers with whom you meet. I care about what you do and how you live. The decisions you make and how you live My will before your neighbors matter. So find one or two churches in the verses below that seem to have similar problems and opportunities to your congregation. Then ask the Holy Spirit to help you apply My words of warning, encouragement, and comfort to your situation — both as an individual disciple and also as a part of the congregation.

Letter to Ephesus

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:
Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Ephesus.

"These are the words of the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks and moves among the golden lampstands:

"I know your deeds, your tireless labor, and your patient endurance. I know you do not tolerate those who do evil. Furthermore, you have diligently tested those who claim to be emissaries, and you have found that they are not true witnesses. You have correctly found them to be false. I know you are patiently enduring and holding firm on behalf of My name. You have not become faint.

"However, I have this against you: you have abandoned your first love. Do you remember what it was like before you fell? It's time to rethink and change your ways; go back to how you first acted. However, if you do not return, I will come quickly and personally remove your lampstand from its place. But you do have this to your credit: you despise the deeds of the Nicolaitans and how they concede to evil. I also hate what they do.

"Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches. I will allow the one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death to eat from the tree of life found in God's lush paradise."
Letter to Smyrna

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:
Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Smyrna.

"These are the words of the First and the Last, the One who was dead and returned to life:

"I know your deeds and the difficult ordeal you are enduring and your poverty, although you are actually rich. I am aware of the offensive accusations preached by those who call themselves 'Jews.' But these people are not the Jews they pretend to be; they are actually the congregation of Satan. In the face of suffering, do not fear. Watch; the devil will throw some of you into prison shortly so that you might be tested, and you will endure great affliction for 10 days. Be faithful throughout your life, until the day you die, and I will give you the victor's wreath of life.

"Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches. The one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death will escape the second death."
Letter to Pergamum

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:
Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Pergamum.

"These are the words of the One with the sharp double-edged sword:

"I know your deeds and where you live. It is where Satan, the adversary, has established his throne. You have stayed true to My name, and you did not deny your trust in Me even in the eventful days of My faithful witness, Antipas. He was killed among you in that place where Satan dwells.

"However, I have a few matters against you: some who live among you hold to the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak to set up a stumbling block before the people of Israel. As a result, some among you are eating food prepared for idol worship and committing immoral sexual acts. You have others who are holding firm to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore, change your ways and turn to Me. If you do not, I will quickly come to where you live and will battle them with the sword of My mouth.

"Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches. To the one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death, I will feed you with hidden manna and give you a white stone. Upon this stone, a new name is engraved. No one knows this name except for its recipient."
Letter to Thyatira

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:
Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Thyatira.

"These are the words of the Son of God, the One whose eyes blaze like flames of fire and whose feet gleam like brightly polished bronze:

"I know your deeds, love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your labors greatly increase in quality as you travel along this journey.

"However, I have this against you: you have tolerated that woman Jezebel, who is a self-anointed prophetess and who misleads My followers to commit immoral sexual acts and to eat food prepared for idol worship. I have provided her enough time to turn away from her indecency, but she refuses to turn from these immoral acts. Watch; I will throw her back into her sickbed with those who committed adultery with her, and I will make them a bed of great affliction if they do not abandon her indiscretions and turn to follow Me. I will punish her by striking her children dead. Through this all the churches will know I am the One who relentlessly explores the mind and heart, and I will deal with each of you as you deserve according to your acts.

"I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, those who have not held to the teachings of Jezebel and who remain ignorant of the real meaning of what is called the deep things of Satan, I will not burden you with anything more. Just keep on task, and keep the faith until I return.

"And as for those who conquer through faithfulness even unto death and continue to labor with Me until the close of the final curtain,
I will give them authority over the nations.
And they will rule the nations with an iron scepter,
as fragile clay jars are shattered to pieces.
As I received this authority from My Father, I will bestow the morning star to the victor.

"Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches."
Letter to Sardis

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:
Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Sardis.

"These are the words of the One who has the seven Spirits of God, the Perfect Spirit, and the One who holds the seven stars:

"I know the things you do — you've claimed a reputation of life, but you are actually dead. Wake up from your death-sleep, and strengthen what remains of the life you have been given that is in danger of death. I have judged your deeds as far from complete in the sight of My God. Therefore, remember what you have received and heard; it's time to keep these instructions and turn back from your ways. If you do not wake up from this sleep, I will come in judgment. I will creep up on you like a thief — you will have no way of knowing when I will come. But there are a few in Sardis who don't have the stain of evil works on their clothes. They will walk alongside Me in white, spotless garments because they have been proven worthy.

"The one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death will be clothed in white garments, and I will certainly not erase that person's name from the book of life. I will acknowledge this person's name before My Father and before His heavenly messengers.

"Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches."
Letter to Philadelphia

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:
Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Philadelphia.

"These are the words of the holy One, the true One, and the One who possesses the key of David, which opens the possibilities so that no one can shut them. The One who closes all options so that no one can open:

"I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door, which no one can shut. I have done this because you have limited strength, yet you have obeyed My word and have not denied My name. Watch, and I will make those of the congregation of Satan — those who call themselves 'Jews' but are not because they lie — come before you penitent, falling at your feet. Then they will know how much I have loved you. Because you have obeyed My instructions to endure and be patient, I will protect you from the time of trial which will come upon the whole earth and put everyone in it to the test. I will soon return. Hold tight to what you have so that no one can take away your victor's wreath.

"As for the one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death, I will plant that person as a pillar in the temple of My God, and that person will never have to leave the presence of God. Moreover, I will inscribe this person with the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, New Jerusalem — which descends out of heaven from My God — and My own new name.

"Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches."
Letter to Laodicea

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:
Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Laodicea.

"These are the words of the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of God's creation:

"I know your works. You are neither cold with apathy nor hot with passion. It would be better if you were one or the other, but you are neither. So because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. You claim, 'I am rich, I have accumulated riches, and I need nothing'; but you do not realize that you are miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked. So here is what I suggest you do: buy true gold from Me (gold refined by fire so that you can be truly rich), white garments (to cover you so that you can keep the shame of your nakedness from showing), and eye ointment (to treat your eyes so that you may see clearly).

"Those I love I also correct and discipline. Therefore, be shamelessly committed to Me, and turn back. Now pay attention; I am standing at the door and knocking. If any of you hear My voice and open the door, then I will come in to visit with you and to share a meal at your table, and you will be with Me.

"The one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death I will place next to Me on My throne, just as I Myself conquered and took a place of honor with My Father on His throne.

"Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches."
(Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22)

Response in Prayer

Lord Jesus, I know You are alive and move among Your churches. I know that You know all about my heart and the fruit of my life. We need Your help. I need Your help. I want us, your people, to live faithfully and vibrantly for You. I am sorry for our compromises with culture and I commit to follow you whole-heartedly. I want to see our open doors — our opportunities to reach our neighbors and all with whom we interact — so please open my eyes to these opportunities. Most of all, I want the Father to be pleased with us — to recognize our work as reflecting Your work on earth. I want the Holy Spirit to lead us and empower us. Lord Jesus, please find us faithful and use us to bring Your glory and grace to the situation in which we find ourselves. Amen.



For more information about this devotional as well as archives of the material please visit the 'A Year with Jesus' website.




Comments:

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



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