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1 July 2007 Strength in weakness (2) PHILADELPHIA pm

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STRENGTH MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS (2)

Philadelphia – “you have a little strength”

7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no-one can shut, and what he shuts no-one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 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.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no-one will take your crown. 12 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 heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

                                                                                Revelation 3

The letters to the seven churches of Asia represent an amazing collection of official assessments of seven assemblies.  Each letter represents the views of the Lord of the Church of His people worshipping in those seven locations.  In today’s language we might compare them with OFSTED reports – or Government reports into matters of supreme importance.   Dictated to John, they were recorded so that long after those churches ceased to exist Christians – and others – could read them.

This one is unique – it contains no criticism.  For that reason some have regarded it as a pattern for the perfect church – but that isn’t the case. It is an inspired example of the Lord’s understanding of how His people differ – and how they need His rebuke or His encouragement.

It may help us as we look at this report to apply some of the modern conventions of assessment.

We examine tonight the SITUATION, the PERFORMANCE and the OPPORTUNITIES FOR ADVANCEMENT that the letter contains.   In so doing I hope you will find the encouragement that you need – for we have much in common with Philadelphia, and besides there are lessons here not only for churches but for individuals.  (I have provided Group Study Notes so that, during the week, you can explore some of the issues raised by this letter.)

When you read through the letter you can establish certain things about the SITUATION at Philadelphia – the kind of challenges they faced, the way they felt about themselves, and the criticism they had to confront.

Philadelphia – The Situation          8, 9 and 10

This church was facing criticism from outside, a sense of weakness inside and the ever present reality of persecution.

1.   LIES

 

9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 

The abiding image of the Church at Philadelphia is of AN OPEN DOOR – and that probably reflects the sense of exclusion that the church felt – as if in its time a door had been closed.

There were those who claimed to be Jews but were not – and these liars denied to the believers at Philadelphia the love of their Master.

The Lord of the Church knows the problems His people face. 

In our day and age it is secularism and multi-faith. The erosion of Christian values and great doubts raised about whether God matters at all.

The synagogue door had been shut on the Christians at Philadelphia – perhaps they had even been excommunicated by lying religious people.

LIES are ever the Enemy’s weapons.

Christ knows these lies – and He promises that one day those liars will acknowledge how much – how very much – Jesus loves His people at Philadelphia.

2.   A sense of weakness                   v 8  you have a little strength

The important word in this part of the report is “YET”  “yet you have kept my word”

They had learned the lesson Gideon was given – to use the strength they had. Nevertheless this was the abiding statement of their situation – they had a little strength.

If that was a public appraisal document – I doubt many would be flocking to this church.  But there are small fellowships – and being small is not a denial of usefulness to the Lord – nor any diminution of His love.

3.   They were facing persecution               10

 

10 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.

In the time when these words were written persecution of the church was growing. It was not unusual for Jews to claim exemption – and that might be behind the criticism of the false Jews in this letter.

This is their situation – and it raises many questions about whether the work will survive – humanly speaking.

But that goes without the Master Himself – who holds the key!

Philadelphia – the performance indicators   8 and 10

V 8  yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name…

 

V 10 You have kept my command to endure patiently…

1.   You have kept my word

 

Faithfulness to the Word of God is crucial as a performance indicator in the Church.

There will always be alternatives – alternative gospels, luke warm gospels, gospels that are the evidence of compromise.

Philadelphia had opposed the LIES that surrounded it – and despite its little strength kept the faith!

2.   You have not denied my name

In the face of persecution the temptation was always to deny Him.  That was the formula for survival in the persecuted churches.  Like Peter so many years before – these believers might have succumbed to expediency and fear.

But they didn’t – they had a little strength YET…they have not denied His name!

Our cultural situation ignores or mocks – and sometimes we keep silent.  The Philadelphia Christians know better.

3.   you have kept my command to endure patiently

 

All credit to them in their smallness and weakness they knew that he that endures to the end will be saved – they endured.

And they did so patiently.

What would remain for such a church?  What prospects – and what specific DEVELOPMENT PLAN would such a Church have?

Philadelphia – The opportunities for advancement 8,10,12

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no-one can shut, and what he shuts no-one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut.

10 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.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no-one will take your crown. 12 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 heaven from my

God; and I will also write on him my new name. 

AN OPEN DOOR

At least a twofold meaning – access into the presence of the Lord for those who may well have been excluded,   and an opportunity to move on in service and mission.

A PROTECTION FROM TRIAL

The Lord rewards His people with a promise of protection. He marks His people out not only for witness – but for assistance.  The ones with little strength have a strong fortress against the attacks.

“you kept… I will keep”

A PERMANENT PLACE IN HIS PRESENCE

12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it.

The Psalmist had said:

4 One thing I ask of the Lord,

this is what I seek:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

and to seek him in his temple.

5 For in the day of trouble

he will keep me safe in his dwelling;

he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle

and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted

above the enemies who surround me;

at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;

I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Psa 27

AN ETERNAL ENDORSEMENT

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 heaven from my

God; and I will also write on him my new name. 

In the modern world we might call it “badging”  - like a Royal Warrant – the threefold endorsement of the Living Lord

The name of my God

The name of the city of my God                      community

My new name

 

And, finally:

A MOTTO

Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown

Although the Philadelphia church might be tempted to frame its report and fix it to the wall as evidence of its remarkable results – it has something to DO

HOLD ON TO WHAT YOU HAVE

And what did they have?

    A little strength

    The master’s Love

    Patient endurance

And above all else:

AN OPEN DOOR.

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