Sunday, September 22, 2013

To Judge Ourselves Part 4 – Admonish: You Are Rich

To Judge Ourselves
Part 4 – Admonish: You Are Rich
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |

We spent the last year looking at what the Book of Acts had to say about the founding, operation and behavior that the Lord expects from us as individuals, and as a church, or congregation of believers.

We then spent a few weeks looking at the letters that Jesus sent to the seven churches in Revelation, telling them where they were going right, and wrong, as well as what the punishments and rewards would be.

A few weeks ago, I took all of those letters, and compiled them into one letter from the Lord, to us.

Our new series will take a look at each of the points Jesus made in that letter, and we will not only examine our church as a whole, but ourselves as individuals.

2 Corinthians 13:5 "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"

1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

2 Peter 2:4-10 "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell[a] and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;[c] and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge[e] in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority."

We have already looked at Jesus speaking to us about hard work, not tolerating wicked people in the church, and testing those who claim to be apostles, but are nothing more than false prophets, and last week we spoke on perseverance, and enduring hardships for His name.

This week we will look at afflictions and poverty.

Revelation 2:9a
"I know your works, tribulation and your poverty—yet you are rich!"

a.      Smyrna's works
                                                             i.       It was not easy for Christians in Smyrna, but Jesus let them know that He knew what they are going through
1.      Hebrews 4:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin."

2.      This shows Jesus' care and concern for His people. No matter what you may be facing right now, Jesus knows about it. He is concerned about it. What a source of comfort and assurance this is for Christians.

                                                          ii.      He knew their "works." This refers to their way of life - their faithfulness in serving God.
1.      Matthew 5:16 Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
a.      This is NOT doing "works" for the praise of men, rather, doing good works which glorify God in the presence of men!

2.      The works of the Christians in Smyrna were evidently good works. Their lives glorified the Father. Their persecution was brought about because of their faithful works. On one occasion the Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus and "Jesus answered them, 'Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?'" John 10:32

3.      Every work that Jesus did was a good work. And, although the Jews denied it John 10:33, Jesus was persecuted because of His teaching and good works.

4.      The sins of the apostate Jews and the pagan Romans were clearly evident. Likewise, the good works of the Christians were clearly evident.  These good works were one of the reasons they were being persecuted. Jesus knew their works.

5.      Galatians 5 tells us that the evidence for good works (works of the Spirit glorifying God), and the evil works (works of the flesh glorifying sin) are plain to see in man. You will know what tree they are by the fruit they bare.
a.      Scriptures go on to say, all trees baring bad fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

b.     Smyrna's tribulation
                                                             i.      Jesus also knew of their tribulation. He knew the persecution they were facing and would face in the future. Jesus promised His apostles that they would have tribulation John 16:33.

                                                          ii.      He told them, "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." John 15:20.

                                                       iii.      When Paul and Barnabas returned to some of the places where they had planted churches they told them, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22; see also 2 Timothy 3:12). 

                                                         iv.      We need to realize that the Jews and Romans persecuted Jesus. They hated Jesus and so they hated His disciples. We can expect nothing less. We must have the attitude that the apostles had when they were beaten by the Jewish council: "So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:41).

1.      This persecution did not stop the apostles from teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:42) and we must not let it stop us.

c.      Today in Peshawar, Pakistan
                                                             i.      There is a small Christian church, run by a Pakistani Pastor, who is a friend of mine named Robin Raz.

                                                          ii.      At 5:50am this morning (our time), a bomb was detonated there, killing 43 Christians, and wounding 80 others, including women and children.

                                                       iii.      Officials say that two bombers exploded themselves among worshippers coming out of Sunday services at the historic Pakistan Church.

                                                         iv.      Are you facing tribulation because of your faith?
1.      Do we even have an excuse?

d.     Smyrna's poverty
                                                             i.      He knew their poverty. The Christians in Smyrna were poverty stricken because of their stand for the faith. This means they had few material possessions.  It may be that their property had been confiscated (Hebrews 10:34). 
1.      It is also likely that they were robbed of the ability to work and support their families because they refused to align themselves with either the pagan emperor worshippers or the apostate Jews (Revelation 13:16-17). 

                                                          ii.      Yet, in their poverty Jesus says they were rich. 

a.      They were "rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him..." (James 2:5) 

b.     They had nothing, but possessed all things 2 Corinthians 6:10

c.      They were rich spiritually. They enjoyed blessings beyond what it was possible for the pagan Romans and apostate Jews to even imagine Proverbs 10:22; 11:25; 13:7; 28:6.

d.     By the way, there was no sin in the congregation...
                                                             i.      Smyrna and Philadelphia were the only two churches not condemned for having sin in the congregation.

e.      The Christians of Smyrna were "rich toward GodLuke 12:21
                                                             i.      Jesus had become poor so that they could become rich 2 Corinthians 8:9.

                                                          ii.      They had the hope and promise of eternal life 1 John 2:25

                                                       iii.      If we remain faithful, the trials we face will help us experience the greatest wealth that anyone can experience - spiritual wealth. We will lack nothing James 1:2-5.

a.      Jesus knows your works, and whether they are good or not.
b.     He knows your tribulations, the troubles you face in this life.
c.      And He knows whether or not you Spirit is RICH in faith, or poor.

I sometimes wonder how I would bear up under the kind of persecution that the Christians in Smyrna faced.
Would I be able to stand strong as they did? Would I be willing to die instead of renouncing Christ?
 I'm not sure any of us can answer these questions until we face the same kind of circumstances. Unfortunately, and to my shame, I know I have sinned under far less severe circumstances.
Let us follow the example of the Christians in Smyrna. Let us do all we can for the cause of Christ and when we face persecution because of it, let us endure to the end and receive the crown of life promised to those who love Jesus.

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