Part 1: The church in Ephesus (http://community.livejournal.com/training_camp/24457.html)
Part 2: The church in Smyrna (http://community.livejournal.com/training_camp/24583.html)
Part 3: The church in Peragamum (http://community.livejournal.com/training_camp/25100.html)
First of all, I would like to appologise for missing last week. I was dealing with some personal issues, things that kept me away from the computer, dampened my mood, and, in general, kept me from doing it. Suffice to say that it wasn't merely a whim to not do it, there was a reason. Now, onto today's devotion.
Now this letter, fairly long, spanning from Revelation 2:18, to Revelation 2:29 (the end of the chapter)
It begins like thoe others. It praises them for what they have done. For their "love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first." Now this is a point that I failed to make with the other letters. The ordering is very important. This is the first of the letter made, after affirming the authority of the letter, by sayin it is from Jesus. The fact that it is first shows us an important fact. God looks first and foremost at what we have done. More accurately, what we have done right. It also gives us a good, breif summary of how you can recognise a good chrsitian. The first is by their faith and love. This is more than their faith in, and love for God, it also extends to others. We are called to have faith in the good that is in creation, and love what God has created. We are called to love him first and foremost, but we are also called to love the rest of the world.
Secconldy, service and perseverance. We are called to be God's hand in this world, which is where the service comes in. But it isn't always easy. Sometimes, it can cause us great amounts of pain and trouble. That can make it hard to do as we should. It is when we are following God's will that the foces of hell attack us most ferverently. And so, that is where the perseverance comes in. We must keep doing as God wishes us to, even when it gets hard.
The last commendation they get is that of doing more than they were in the beginning I believe this is an especially important part. It means we are called to grow as christians. Similar to working out to build muscle, you can't keep doing the same amount of weight. Similarly, when building ourselves up spiritually, we are called to keep doing more and more for it. If we continue to do the same as we were before, than we will not grow. Instead we will become stagnant, and, similar to water, stagnant water is not much use at all.
The letter then moves into repremands. Specifically, for allowing the false prophetess "Jezebel". Now, there are two problems here. The first is Jezebel herself. The Bible contains many warning against false prophets, and talks about how to recognize them. And one of the main messages that is given to us is to look at what someone does, and how it lines up with the Bible, and use that to determine their validity. There is more, such as through the wisdom given to us through the spirit, but I believe the main one is comparing their words, deeds, and goals, to those of the Bible. Now, very few people will come forward to proclaim themselves prophets, but that doesn't mean we can let down our guard. In this regard, I believe it applies to all people. Especially people like pastors, who teach, as well as gaining their authority from, God. But there are many out there, who really have no interest in God. This can be seen through by looking at what they teach. Places that tell you things like "The spirit compells you to give double what you were planning to." (Yes, thats an actual phrase I heard come out of a pastor's mouth). Or if they are obviously in the position for the paycheque, not because they feel it's where God wants them to be. Basically, I think this part applies to us in that we have to be cautious about who we listen to.
The seccond problem is with the actions themselves. The sexual immorality. The issue with this isn't that they were tempted, because everyone is tempted at times. The problem comes in that they followed Jezebel, not because they thought she was telling the truth, but because it was what they wanted to do. This is an example of a sin of self delusion. They knew it was wrong, and went against the Biblical teachings, but they wanted to participate, so they tricked themselves into believing that it was the truth, that Jezebel really was a prophetess, and so, they were able to indulge guilt free. This is a warnding against fooling ourselves. I thing the most important part of it is showing that we have the ability and will to do it, given certian motivations, so we must have caution for it.
And at the end of this, there is a promise for those who remained faithful. Now, I will point out here, all that is asked of them is that they continue remaining faithful. They are living in difficult times, and it is realized that making headway is beyond their ability. Like someone caught in a raging river, they are holding on to a rock, but that doesn't mean that they can swim upriver. But salvation and power is promised if they can continue to hold on. I believe we are in a similar state in our world now. We are awash in the flood of immorality and debauchery, as well as corruption and chaos in this world. We are in a position where the only way we can make any kind of ground is through God given strength, and by our own power, it's all we can do to hold on to our own current position.
Well, thats the end of this letter. Next week, the church of Sardis.