““And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’”
Revelation 3:7-13 NKJV
There is great struggle in being a follower of Jesus. All of the fleshly instincts that govern behavior in this world, are counter to the kingdom of God, and not what a Spirit filled believer should have.
This is especially true in the daily, moment by moment interactions with the world. The world has the tendency too press against its inhabitants, forcing adherence to its local rules, set by the given local culture. Over the last few centuries, the values of those who have called to salvation, having been washed by the word of God, have been placed in severe opposition to the values of the earth dwellers. Some of these values have crept into the church.
The church triumphant has become the church surrendered.
In the resulting struggle, the ability to have fulfilled the great commission has been made all the more difficult. Few people seem to have the courage to go into the public square and preach the Good News. Most of us have opted to be quiet, denying the word of God and the Name of Jesus.
This morning, I read about the “faithful church,” the church at Philadelphia, having no name, no reputation and little power. Unlike all the other churches, there is no accommodation in light of the worlds values, but the highest in the economy of God: they have kept His word and not denied His name.
All the other churches were known by what they had done, and what they had lost. But this church had put first things first, persevering in the faith, even while being reviled and pursued by those who called themselves Jews, but were not.
As I write this, I am in tears, as I consider all the little churches, in all little towns faithfully doing the work they were called to do. I think of all the bi-vocational pastors, holding down multiple jobs in addition to feeding their flocks. There are churches with little resource: no programs, no huge staff, no vast endowment of money or land, but just a few faithful believers meeting on Sunday.
I think of the single believers, the lone Christians in far off villages, and towns, often under threat. They may be the only one to believe, keeping the faith and persevering. I think of the shut in, debilitated, and those reduced by disability to offering only heartfelt prayer. These are all Philadelphians.
They have no resource, no reserves, no regrets. They are all in for the Gospel.
As I stated, many of those who have put first things first are under threat even now, much like those who have come before us. But like them, we can rely on the the same power that shook the early church, to shake us, as the Lord rocks His beloved in His loving arms.
““For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
Acts 4:27-31 NKJV
The letter to the church at Philadelphia reads like a love letter, from a lover to His beloved, far away. a love letter to the weakest of follower, in the most dire of circumstance. They have kept Jesus’ command to persevere and will be kept from the hour of trial to come upon the whole earth.
Brothers and sisters, let us be called out as those who have made the first things first, keeping the word of our Lord and making His Name, Jesus known our priority. It is all about Him.
God’s love and promises for Israel, are the same for the follower of Jesus. Let us go boldly. ALL IN!
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13 NKJV