What the Savior Saw in the Seven Churches
The Apostle John saw Jesus walking among the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 1:12-20; 2:1). With His piercing eyes of fire, Jesus saw the good and the bad of every congregation. Let’s see what He saw when He visited each of them.
The first church that Jesus visited was emotionless Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7). They were strong against error (Rev. 2:2, 6), but they were lacking in love. They had left the love they had for Christ at the first(Rev. 2:4). Their love needed to be rekindled.
The second church that Jesus visited was suffering Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11). This church was facing tribulation, poverty, blasphemy, prison, trial, and death. Jesus spoke words of comfort and hope to them. He told them not to be afraid and to remain faithful (Rev. 2:10).
The third church that Jesus visited was permissive Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17). This church was lax with members holding certain false doctrines (Rev. 2:14-15) . It was just a matter of time before what they permitted was preached.
The fourth church that Jesus visited was tolerant Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29). They were not just allowing certain false doctrines to be held by members, they were allowing them to be taught (Rev. 2:20; Gal. 2:4-5; Eph. 5:11; 2 John 9-11; Rom. 16:17-18). They had taken the next step toward full blown apostasy.
The fifth church that Jesus visited was spiritless Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6). As you know, death occurs when the spirit leaves the body (Jam. 2:26). The church at Sardis was dead by this definition. There was no spirit or life in them.
The sixth church that Jesus visited was patient Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13). In the midst of great persecution, they had not denied Christ’s name. They had held fast to the word of His patience (Rev. 3:8; 10-11).
The seventh and final church that Jesus visited was lukewarm Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22). This church had lost its zeal, enthusiasm, and fervor. It was poor, wretched, miserable, and blind, but didn’t know it.
I am convinced that Jesus remains concerned about His church. As we get ready to worship this week, let’s give serious consideration to what He would see among us. Would he find us patiently persevering? Would he find us doctrinally pure in the pulpit and in the pew? Would he find us lacking in love or zeal? Would he find us dead? Would he call for us to repent?
The greatest conversation ever recorded on the subject of worship took place in Samaria and not in Jerusalem. It took place on the side of a well, and not in the temple or a synagogue. It took place with a worldly woman and not with a holy man. Through the conversation that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman, we learn the meaning of true worship.
True Worship Is That Which God Desires
“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the father seeketh such to worship Him” (John 4:23). While God doesn’t need anything (Psa. 50:10), He does want something. He wants man to worship Him (Psa. 45:11; Prov. 15:8; Lk. 22:15). What a great privilege it is for us to be able to give God what He desires.
True Worship Is That Which God Deserves
“Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father…But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” (John 4:21, 23). Please note the repeated use of the designation “Father.” As you know, fathers are deserving of honor (Ex. 20:12). As the “one God and Father of all” (Eph. 4:6), there is surely honor due Him (1 Chron. 16:29). It is from this standpoint that God condemned the worship of some in Malachi’s day. We read, “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you” (Mal. 1:6).
True Worship Is That Which God Demands
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Please notice the little word “must.” As you know, the word “must” is used to refer to that which is required. Worship is a requirement. It is a part of man’s duty to fear God and to keep His commandments. In the long ago, Solomon wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).
True Worship Is That Which God Defines
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). To define something is to outline it clearly. Jesus made clear that worship must consist of the right attitude (in spirit) and the right action (in truth) in order to be acceptable. One without the other is insufficient, no matter which one is present.
All that the Samaritan woman ever needed to know about worship, she learned on the side of a well. Thanks to the inspired record of John, we can say the same.
Praying For Those In Power
To the young evangelist Timothy, Paul wrote, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim. 2:1-8).
Based on Paul’s inspired instructions, we need to pray for our President, those in Congress, and those on the Supreme Court, our governor, our mayor, and all other political leaders. In Paul’s inspired words to Timothy, we find four reasons to pray for those in power:
It is PRESCRIBED: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority…” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). The word “exhort” means “to call for” (3870). By inspiration, Paul was calling saints to prayer; especially, for those in authority. He knew that government was ordained of God and was intended to be a minister unto us for good (Rom. 13). However, he knew that government was dependent upon the prayers of Christians (Ezra 6:10; 7:23).
It is PROFITABLE: “…that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Tim. 2:2). “Quiet” means “stillness, tranquil” (2263) and “peaceable” means “undisturbed” (2272). To the captives, Jeremiah wrote, “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace” (Jer. 29:7). Those in positions of authority have a great effect upon the lives of God’s children. Some bless, while others curse. Cyrus allowed captives to return home and the king under whom Nehemiah served allowed him and others to rebuild Jerusalem. Furthermore, at Nehemiah’s requested, he furnished supplies to be used in the rebuilding. Sadly, more kings fell in the category of cursing God’s people – Pharaoh (Ex. 1), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 3), Darius (Dan. 6), Herod (Mt. 2), the Jewish authorities (Acts 4:18; 5:42), and Nero (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
It is PLEASING: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). The word “acceptable” means “agreeable” (587). Praying for those in authority is in agreement with God’s will. It is consistent with God’s desire for all men to be saved and to come to truth. He doesn’t want any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9; John 3:16). As you know, some governments enact policies that aid the spread of the gospel while others enact policies that hinder its spread. God wants us to pray for the king to do the right thing.
It is POWERFUL: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time…I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim. 2:5-8). Notice that Paul spoke of “one God, and one mediator.” The prayers of saints are powerful because they are on speaking terms with the only God and mediator (Mt. 19:26; 1 John 5:14-15; Phil. 4:12). No one else in the nation has this privilege and source of power. The prayer of a righteous or holy man avails much. James wrote, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jam. 5:16).
May each of us commit to praying daily for those in positions of power; especially, as a new Supreme Court justice is selected and appointed. Millions of unborn babies, religious freedom, marriage, and America’s future hang in the balance.
Jesus the Farmer
Probably, when you think of the occupations used by the Bible to describe Jesus, you think of carpenter, teacher, physician, or shepherd. You probably don’t think of him as a farmer. Yet, He once described Himself in this way. Matthew records, “He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man” (Mt. 13:37). Two of His parables, the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Tares, reveal that He had a great knowledge of farming (Mt. 13).
He Understood the Soil: A good farmer recognizes the difference in soils. Farmers prefer rich bottom land to rocky hillsides. They prefer well-watered land to arid land. Our Lord knew that there were differences in soils. In the Parable of the Sower, He spoke of four different types of soil (Mt. 13). As you know, the four soils represent different hearts (Mt. 13:19). As farmers today, we must also recognize the difference in soils. Since we are not able to see the hearts of men, we must sow the seed whenever and wherever we are given the opportunity. We must not become discouraged when the seed falls into unfruitful ground. We must keep sowing.
Farmers understand that even among good ground, there are different amounts produced. Sometimes one acre will produce more than the next acre. Jesus understood that some good soil will produce thirty, some sixty, and some an hundredfold (Mt. 13:23). Jesus clearly knew that there are differences in people. In the Parable of the Talents, we have talents distributed to men according to their ability. As you recall, one man received five talents, another two, and another one (Mt. 25). As farmers today, we must understand that different soils have different abilities and will produce different amounts (Rom. 12:4-8; I Cor. 12:14-27).
He Understood the Seed: All farmers understand that the seed must be planted to grow. Seed which is still in the barn won't produce anything. Farmers have to get their seed into the ground. As a farmer, Jesus understood that the seed had to be planted. He often talked about men who "sowed" seed (Mt. 13:24, 31; Mk. 4:14, 26, 31; Lk. 8:5; 13:19). No doubt, He understood that there are a number of different ways to plant seeds. Some seeds like wheat are broadcasted over a large area. As you recall, he often employed this method by teaching great multitudes (Mt. 13:2; 15:33). Other seeds like watermelons are planted in small hills or groups. In the gospel accounts, we often see Jesus talking to small groups of people (John 3, 4). Some seeds like corn are sown in rows. Jesus employed this method by being very systematic in His teaching. Other seeds are sown by accident (Mk. 4:27).
All farmers know that you have to use good seed. Some farmers have one seed company which they prefer above all others. Others save their own seed to guarantee that they have good seed. If a farmer plants bad seed, he has to replant. Jesus knew that good seed had to be planted (Mt. 13:37). In the Parable of the Tares, Jesus spoke of sowing good seed (Mt. 13:24, 27, 37). Of course, the good seed which Jesus sowed was the word of God (Lk. 8:11). You may recall that the seed which the children of Israel were to plant was to be unmingled seed (Lev. 19:19). Jesus and the apostles planted unmingled seed. They taught the unadulterated truth (John 17:17; Gal. 1:6-8; I Thess. 2:13). Sadlu, while Jesus and His servants were sowing good seeds, others were sowing bad seeds. As the Parable of the Tares reveals, the devil does his own planting (Mt. 13:38-40; cf. II Cor. 11:15). Like Jesus, we must sow the precious seed of God (Psa. 126:6). We must plant seed which is unmingled with denominationalism, liberalism, or modernism (Rev. 22:18-19). We must plant the uncorrupted seed of the gospel (I Pet. 1:23).
All farmers know that seeds produce after their kind. If they want corn, they plant corn seed. If they want an apple tree, they plant apple seeds. Jesus knew that every seed produces after its kind. As Creator, He set this law up from creation (Gen. 1:11-12; Eph. 3:9). He knew that the word of God would produce a child of God (Lk. 8:11; John 17:17). Today, we need to learn that every seed produces after its kind. It is true in physical creation and in spiritual creation. The pure, unadulterated seed of the gospel will produce a Christian. If you end up with something other than a Christian, then a seed other than the gospel was planted.
He Understood the Sower: Farmers know that in plowing they have to keep their eyes fixed on the end of the row. No doubt, you recall the words of Jesus when he warned about looking back once you have put your hand to the plow (Lk. 9:62). The Hebrew writer pictures Jesus as fixing His eyes on the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:1-2). Like Jesus, we must keep our eyes fixed on heaven (Phil. 3:13-14; Heb. 11:14-16).
All farmers know that there are threats to their seeds and plants. They understand that insects like beetles, cutworms, and weevils, animals like birds, deer, groundhogs, and raccoons, and weeds all pose a threat. As a farmer, Jesus understood that there were things which threatened seeds and plants. In the Parable of the Sower, He warned of the birds and thorns (Mt. 13:4, 7). In the Parable of the Tares, He warned of the tares which often grew among the wheat (Mt. 13:25-26).
The farmer has to plant hoping to reap a harvest. He is dependent upon the right soil and the right weather. He plants in good faith. Jesus understood that the farmer must sow the seed in good faith. He knew that some seeds would not sprout because the ground was too hard (Mt. 13:4). He knew that some plants would not make it to harvest because of rocks and thorns (Mt. 13:5-7). As farmers today, we must sow the seed in good faith. We don't always know whether or not the seed which we have sown will prosper (Eccl. 11:6). We must plant and water confidently knowing that God will give the increase (I Cor. 3:6).
All farmers understand that it takes time for the seed to produce a harvest. You don't plant one day and pick the next day (Jam. 5:7). As a farmer, Jesus understood that it takes time for a plant to grow. In one of His parables, He discussed how the seed springs up and then grows up (Mk. 4:27). He knew that the blade comes first, then the ear, and then the full ear in the corn (Mk. 4:28-29). Today, we must understand that it takes time for the seeds which we have sown to reach maturity. Sometimes, it takes months or years for the seeds which we have sown to produce. Often, it takes sermon after sermon and invitation after invitation to lead one to obedience. We must not be discouraged when we teach a person the truth and they do not obey immediately.
In order to follow in Christ's footsteps (I Pet. 2:21), we must go to the field and work (I Cor. 3:6, 9). Jesus was a farmer! How about you?
The Worth of Wisdom
The second chapter of Proverbs, like so many others, opens with the words, "My son..." The son that is under consideration is probably Rehoboam. Whoever is being addressed, the important thing to notice is the sage advice that is offered to the son. Throughout this chapter, Solomon tries to impress his son with the worth or the value of wisdom. Let's notice how Solomon sought to impress wisdom's worth upon his son.
First, the worth of wisdom is seen in the SECURING of it. Solomon emphasizes that intense effort is required to secure wisdom. He points out that securing wisdom requires four things: (1) Reception, (2) Attention, (3) Application, and (4) Petition. He points out that securing wisdom begins with understanding that wisdom must be received. He wrote, "My son, if thou wilt receive my words..." (2:1). This emphasizes that man has a part to play in securing wisdom. God offers it but man must receive it. Once his son has learned the importance of receiving wisdom, Solomon stresses the importance of paying attention to wisdom and of applying wisdom to one's life. He wrote, "So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, [and] apply thine heart to understanding" (2:2). Unless man is willing to listen to what wisdom has to say, and make application to his life, it will not do him any good. Once man is ready to pay attention and make application, he is then urged to petition or ask for wisdom. Solomon wrote, "Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, [and] liftest up thy voice for understanding" (2:3). Solomon wants his son to realize that wisdom is not something that automatically comes with time but rather something that comes with asking God. He encouraged his son to seek wisdom as he would seek buried treasure. He said, "If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as [for] hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God" (2:4-5). Here, Solomon emphasizes that as his son would be willing to spend great energy and effort for wealth because of its value, he should likewise spend great energy to secure wisdom which is of far greater value.
Second, the worth of wisdom is seen in the SOURCE of it. Solomon points out that the source of wisdom is God. He wrote, "For the LORD giveth wisdom..." (1:6-9). Solomon did not want his son to go to the world or to some other insufficient source trying to find wisdom. He wanted him to go to the One who is all-wise. He knew that God would give wisdom liberally unto his son if he would only ask Him (Jam. 1:5). He knew this, because God had given him wisdom in abundance when he asked for it (I Kings 3:12; 4:29). By emphasizing that God is the source of wisdom, Solomon is again impressing his son with the worth of wisdom. You see, the worth of wisdom is seen, in part, in the One who sends it. This is a principle that we all understand in everyday life. A small, inexpensive gift that comes from a person we love is worth far more than a larger, more expensive gift from a person with whom we are not very close. Surely anything that comes from God is of great value, whether it is great or small, because of the One giving it.
Third, the worth of wisdom is seen in the SECURITY of it. In case the two previous truths concerning the worth of wisdom had not convinced his son, Solomon points out a third and final truth. He points out that wisdom will provide safety and security to those who possess it and follow it. He wrote, "When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee" (2:10-11). Notice that Solomon points out that preservation and safe-keeping come from the wisdom that God gives. He goes on to point out two areas in which wisdom will provide deliverance and safety. (1) He points out that wisdom will provide deliverance from "the way of the evil man" (2:12-15). He points out that the evil man was once on the right pathway but in the course of time left "the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness" (2:13). He knows that wisdom will keep his son and others from making the same disastrous departure. (2) He points out that wisdom will provide deliverance from "the strange woman" (2:16-19). He describes the way of the "strange woman" as a pathway filled with broken covenants. She has broken the covenant that she made with her husband and with God (2:17). Solomon knows that wisdom will help his son to keep from being enticed by this covenant-breaking temptress. As the chapter closes, we are reminded of the security that comes with possessing wisdom. We read, "That thou mayest walk in the way of good [men], and keep the paths of the righteous. For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it" (Prov. 2:20-22; cf. Lev. 25:18-19; Deut. 12:10).
In this chapter we have seen the worth of wisdom in examining the seeking, the source, and the safety of wisdom. Sadly, Rehoboam, Solomon's son, failed to seek wisdom as his father encouraged him to do in this chapter. May we not make the same mammoth mistake in our own lives.