Friday, October 29, 2010

Hold Tightly to Your Faith

Rev. 2:18-29 NLT  
  18 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze.
   19 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things. 20 “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality. 22 “Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve. 24  “But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you 25 except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26 To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,  To them I will give authority over all the nations. 27 They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.
   28 They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star! 29 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

Church number three, the letter begins with commendations for "love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. . . and your constant improvement. . ." How wonderful when our most precious Lord commends us and indicates He is aware of what we are trying to do in His name and by His strength!

Then comes the rest of the Story. Even though many in the church were solid committed, evangelizing believers, the body as a whole had a problem. There were some in the church, including ta type of leader-- a prophetess named "Jezebel" after the Old Testament evil queen of Israel. The sin was the one already discussed with other churches-- tolerating in their midst those who embraced evil--as illustrated by sexual sin.

There is more sin than just sexual sin, but sexual sin is the most commonly cited one. There are even more common sins, however, gossip for one. And those who gossip about the sexual sinner are sinning equally as bad. The Thyatiran Christians were simply looking the other way and not correcting their fellow church members who were affronting God with their blatant disregard for sexual purity according to God's standards. Even though the 'good things' were present in the church, the whole body was being poisoned because they did not correct the evil in their midst. Therein is the challenge. Finding how to correct evil in our church and yet not join evil by abusive gossip and condemnation. We need not add any of our own condemnation to those sinners in our midst- they are condemned already by their behavior. All we must do is pray a lot and then correct them in love according to God's words alone and none of our own.

There would be severe consequence for Jezebel and her fellow revelers, 'unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds.'  But there was a conciliatory message for the rest. Christ told them to just hand on. Just hold tight to the faith they had 'until I come.'  Christ tells the faithful in our own churches this as well. Just hang on until he comes. Hold tightly to our faith until He comes. Do not relinquish any part of our faith. Do not compromise with sin in any way. Once when I was learning how to be a scuba diver, I was strapped with heavy weights. Then I was fitted with an air vest to hold in my arms. I was tossed into the ocean while fellow divers tried to pull me apart from my vest. As long as I held tightly to it my head stayed above the waives and I could breathe. You can bet my arms gripped around that vest like iron clamps. That is how I picture the meaning of 'hold tightly to your faith.'  Grip it so that it cannot be wrenched out of your arms. Grip it with single minded focus to do so. This leads us to victory. And, as Jesus said, "all who are victorious. . .I will give authority over all the nations. . ." Do you hear and understand what The Spirit says to the churches, and to you?

Your servant,

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