I found the Word of the New Living Translation helpful to my thoughts about this last, third chapter. The verses about each of the three churches of Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea are arranged in that same sequence under each of my headings, what Jesus knows, what Jesus asks and what Jesus vows. It is one way to understand how this revelation of their history impacts our future and confirms Scripture is still living Word that challenges the church of Jesus Christ and His people today.
What Jesus knows:
• 1 “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead… your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.
• 8 “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.
• 15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!
What Jesus asks:
• 3 Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again.
• 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.
• 19 So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
What Jesus vows:
• 5 All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.
• 12 All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.
• 20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.
2 Corinthians 1:3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. [NLT]
This passage is remarkable for the number of times some form of the word “comfort” is used in just five verses. Certainly that’s repeated for emphasis. The need for comfort is more frequent that we realize and that need doesn’t always look the same. Sometimes what comfort looks like turns out to be a surprise too. We know “God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort” but when faced with a heart in need it “takes one to know one.”
Comfort is the presence of one needy heart’s response in humility to the need of another. It may take the more familiar form of shared scars of experience, love, grace, compassion, Scripture and prayer…OR sometimes it may just take a plate of cookies
Let your heart respond…”when they are troubled…give them the same comfort God has given us.” Comfort is not meant to be the solution. Comfort is the revelation of Jesus from one heart to another and He’s the solution.
Jesus was a revolutionary, who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but Himself.” Henri Nouwen from The Wounded Healer
Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
I know my heavenly master but I haven’t paid enough attention to the awareness that while I don’t have a job and a boss, real life is my earthly master. I spend many hours each week in the Word and in thought dedicated to learning to live in this world “with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” That’s where “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you” comes into play for me.
I struggle to string together a coherent prayer built on God’s perspective for the dismal realities of that earthly master. Those are situations so far removed from my own life; serious world situations and leaders that I have absolutely no control over. I’m startled by the realization that I’ve let what I work at with all my heart, my dedicated preparation to know my heavenly master, insulate my mind from the only possible option I have to obey that earthly master. It’s a revelation for me to accept the only frame of reference I have for those dismal situations I can’t control is prayer. May that new “sincerity of heart” continue to be so!
Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord…15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about… 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
These shepherds weren’t wise men. They were barely even acceptable. They couldn’t possibly observe the rules of cleanliness living as they did. They lived on the edge of religious society because they were unfit. They lived on the edge of danger because of the predators that threatened them and the flocks they were protecting and they lived isolated lives on the edge of town. It’s no wonder they were terrified when suddenly all around them there was inexplicable light and sound.
The revelation of the centerpiece of God’s plan was given to those who were unfit, at risk and isolated. That’s how God still works today. Do you remember how God first got your attention? You will certainly have a much less dramatic story than this revelation to the shepherds but the fact is their story is ours. Our heritage was not the intimacy God intended at creation but of our descent from Adam. God determined he would pull his creation back from the edge of life’s circumstances to that first-love intimacy with him and give them “good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
God chose to reveal the centerpiece of his plan, a Savior, to YOU…of “all people!…” to give YOU the joy of intimacy with him so YOU might desire to …”go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about,”…again this year. God really meant Jesus, the Big Event, to be all about YOU. God bless YOU + Jesus.