Greg Laurie - What If Jesus Sent You An Email?
Let me start with a question: Have you ever wondered about what is gonna happen in the future? Have you ever wished you could just peer over time and see what is gonna take place? I have to be honest with you, in some ways I'm glad I don't know the future. Bottom line, God knows the future, and I know him, and that's enough. But, in fact, the Book of Revelation does give us a glimpse into the future. Not only does Revelation reveal the future, it reveals us. It reveals us to us. You know, when we think of Revelation, we think of Armageddon and antichrist, and 144.000 and the mark of the beast, and all those things. And that's all in this book of course, but there's more than that in this book.
And as we're gonna see, from Revelation 2 to 3, Jesus has a lot to say to the church. But before we get into all the prophetic things, Jesus has a lot to say to his followers. He has a lot to say to you and he has a lot to say to me. So, in effect, before the Lord addresses our future, he says, "There's some things I wanna say to you, my children, right now". And that's very important 'cause we're gonna look at the words of Jesus to the seven churches. You can think of this as God's letter to you or you could think of it as God's email to you. Imagine if you got an email from God or if you got a text from Jesus, would you read it? I think you would. Think of this as a personal email, a personal text, a letter, a card from the Lord directly to you.
Now, as we look at what Jesus says to the seven churches, there's three things we need to know. Number one, this speaks to us practically. In other words, these are actual churches. We're gonna read about the church of Ephesus, their church of Smyrna, the church of Pergamon, Thyatira, Laodicea, Laodicea, Philadelphia, and so forth. So they were actual churches, and in fact, they followed a postal route of that day. So Jesus is speaking specifically to these existing churches and their pastor. So we don't wanna miss that. Secondly, the words of Jesus to the seven churches speak to us prophetically. We have sort of a flyover of church history starting with the church of Ephesus and concluding with the church of Laodicea.
So we start with an apostolic church and we end up with an apostate church. We start with a church that is in danger of leaving its first love and we end up with a church that Jesus says, "You make me sick to my stomach". Well, you know things are messed up when someone says, "You make me sick to my stomach". Guy, if you ask a girl or guys if you ask a girl on a date and she says, "You make me wanna throw up". That's not a good sign. And that's exactly what Jesus says to the final church we'll be looking at. So we start with a church that's losing its passion and we end with a church that Jesus is on the outside of trying to get into. And one final thing as we look at the words of Jesus to these churches, they speak to us personally. Again, I want you to think of this as God's email to you.
So let's look together now at Revelation 2, I'm reading verses one to five. "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write: These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your labor, your patience, you can't bear those who are evil. And you've tested those who say they are apostles and are not, you found them liars; you persevered, you've had patience, and you've labored for My name's sake and you have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, you have left your first love. Remember from where you have fallen and repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent".
Wow. Powerful words. I want you to notice how aware Jesus is of what is going on in his church. Look at verse one. "These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands". Now, when you think of a lampstand, think of a menorah holding candles. These are symbols of the church. So effectively, Jesus is saying, "I am walking in the midst of my church". Let me put it another way. Jesus is saying, "I know what's going on in my church" And he's also saying, "I know what's going on in your life, as one of my followers". You know, it's very popular today to critique the church, but remember, Jesus himself walks in the midst of it. He only started one organization when he walked this earth and it's called the church. And he said, "The gates of hell will not prevail against it".
Listen, the church has many critics, but it has no equal. And a true child of God should want to be a part of the church. So Jesus is saying to these seven churches, "I know. I know it's happening". And he would say that to you as an individual right now. Wherever you are, he'd say, "I know what you're facing. I know how hard it is. I know how challenging it is. I know what your dreams are. I know what your aspirations are. I am aware of what is happening in your life right now". Remember, this church that Jesus was speaking to was a literal church. Both the apostle Paul and possibly the apostle John were pastors of the church of Ephesus.
Now, think about that for a moment. The apostle Paul as your pastor and then the apostle John. It doesn't get much better than that. Two living apostles opening the Word of God for you. But here's what was going on. When this church was in existence, they were in the second generation of faith. In other words, the people in this church were born to the parents that came to Jesus right after his earthly ministry. So this church is in the aftermath of the first Jesus movement. But, as it often happens, sometimes that wonderful truth is not passed on to the next generation. There were losing it, they were missing it. So Jesus comes to tell them how to get things right. And he starts with a commendation. He starts with a compliment.
Number one, and if you're taking notes, here's my first point, as followers of Jesus, we should be busy and be about our father's business. As followers of Jesus, we should be busy and be about our Father's business. Look at Revelation 2:2, Jesus says to the church of Ephesus, "I know your works, your labor, and your patience". They were a very active church. This could be literally translated, "You've labored to the point of weariness". They didn't just work. They worked really hard to the point of exhaustion. It's even implied in the original language. They worked even at the cost of pain. Could Jesus say that to you? Man, thank you for working so hard for me. Thank you for all that you do for my glory. I appreciate all that you do behind the scenes.
You know, a lot of times you don't get a lot of back pats or attaboys and you get a little bit discouraged, but here's what Jesus is saying, "I know what you're doing for me. I am aware of it and I appreciate it". I love what he says in Matthew 6:3. He says, "When you give to the needy, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing So you're giving may be in secret. Then your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you". So whatever you've done in the name of the Lord, however you've served faithfully behind the scenes, be aware of this. God is aware of it, God knows about it, and God will bless you for it.
Point number two, as followers of Jesus, we need to hang in there through thick and thin. As followers of Jesus, we need to hang in there through thick and thin. Jesus says, "I know your works, your labor, and your patience". The word that is used here for patience is a word that means to bear up under a load. It wasn't easy to be a Christian in the city of Ephesus. Ephesus was sort of a center of pagan idolatry. They worshiped a goddess there. In their minds, a goddess, a deity and she was known as Diana. And they would chant, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians". And in fact, when Paul went there to preach the gospel, a riot broke out because of it. So it was a very pagan place to be. It's not always easy to be a Christian in a godless city or a state that isn't as spiritual as you wish it was. But it was hard to be a Christian in Ephesus. But they were very discerning.
That's point number three. We need to be more discerning as Christians. Look at verse two, "You cannot bear them which are evil". You see, they didn't just believe someone because they said they had a word from the Lord or they claimed to speak for God or they claimed to be an apostle or a prophet. The Bible actually warns that one of the signs of the last days will be false prophets telling us certain things are gonna happen and then those things don't happen and they lead people astray. We need more discernment in the church today.
In verse John 4:1, he writes, "Dear friends, don't believe everyone who claimed to speak by the Spirit. Test them to see if this spirit they have comes from God for there's false prophets in the world". We need to be more discerning. And I bring this up because there's a lotta crazy conspiracy theories floating around out there that sometimes I see Christians believing. And a lot of these theories have to do with end times events. We have to be very careful and look to the scripture for direction. But Jesus says, "There's a problem. You guys are doing awesome. You're hard working, you're discerning, you do so much for me, and I appreciate it, but there is a problem developing. And I have to tell you what this problem is. You no longer love me as you did at the beginning. You have left your first love". Or one translation puts it this way, "You no longer love me as you did at first".
What does that mean? It means these Christians had traded their devotion and put duty in its place. They had motion, but they lost the emotion. They had labor, but they lost the love. They had perspiration, but they didn't seem to have inspiration. And you might say, "Well, but is it really that big of a deal to just leave your first love? I mean, in a marriage, you can't always have butterflies in your stomach and all that". No, I understand that. That, you know, there's sort of the spark that sets marriage into motion, but then you settle down into a deeper love. But when you see a married couple who've been together for years holding hands and walking together and still in love, that's because they've cultivated that. If you take your hand off the wheel, so to speak, your marriage is gonna go the wrong way. If you wanna keep a marriage strong, you have to do things to strengthen it. And in the same way in your relationship with God, if you take your hand off the wheel, if you stop moving forward, you will begin to start moving backwards. You've left your first love.
See, it was a heart problem. Notice that Jesus says, "You've left your first love" And he talks about how they have fallen. Remember from where you have fallen. See, this is the first step to falling away. When someone backslides or turns away from God, it's not something they generally do overnight. You don't call up your Christian buddy... By the way, why is this the phone? Why you make this the phones like this? I don't know. But anyway, you call it be a Christian buddy, "Hey dude, wanna backslide tonight"? "Oh yeah, let's do it. Pick me up at 7:00". No, no one plans to backslide generally, but it's a little compromise here. Lowering your guard there. And next thing you know, you're slipping. And so if you're not moving forward and cultivating that relationship with the Lord, you're spiritual life is going to come to a standstil. That's what's happening.
Okay, but Jesus doesn't just tell him what's wrong. He tells him what to do to make it right. There's three R's to get right with God. Three R's to get right with God. You need to remember, you need to repent, and you need to repeat. So if you wanna right with God, listen very carefully. First, you need to remember. He says, "Remember from where you have fallen". This could be translated, "Keep on remembering". Remember where you were when you at your, you were at your highest point of commitment to Christ and go back to that place. It's sort of a marker so you have a point of reference. You know, let's say you're trying to lose weight. And you're saying, "How did I get so overweight? Why do I have two wardrobes now? One for skinny me and one for fatter me". Right? And you keep both wardrobes 'cause you fluctuate between the two.
Well, that's not a good thing. There's telltale signs you're gaining weight. You know you're gaining weight when you take a shower and nothing below your waist gets wet. You know you're gaining weight when the couch gets up when you do, right? You know you're gaining weight when you get your shoes shined and you have to take the guy's word for it. So that's not good. So remember, remember when your pants fit, remember when you didn't have to punch holes in a belt that shouldn't really be there. You shouldn't have a hole in your belt right to the very edge of it, right? So remember, it's a point of reference. I was in better shape before. And repent. Change your behavior. Stop eating doughnuts all the time. Stop your late night eating. Stop the things that you're doing. Stop being complacent and lazy, and get out there and exercise. So you need to repent and then you need to repeat two of the first works quickly.
All right, so go out there and think about what you're eating, exercise more, et cetera. Okay, so now let's apply this to the spiritual life. Remember, was there a time when you were closer to God than you are right now? We'll make that a point of reference. If the answer is yes, now repent. Admit that you're not as close to the Lord as you wanna be. Now repeat. Go back and do the first works quickly. So let me ask you a question. What did you used to do when your relationship with Jesus was stronger? Well, you say, "I used to read my Bible every day and I would listen to Bible teaching on podcasts and praise music". Go back and do that again. "Yeah, well, I used to share the gospel whenever I could". Go back and do that again as well. Do the first works quickly.
Someone once asked the great evangelist Billy Sunday. you know, how to stay strong spiritually. And Sunday responded, "You know, there was a man that said to me, when I was a young Christian, this statement and I've always tried to follow it. This man said to me, 'Billy, if you do these three things, you will never have the word backslider written after your name. Number one, spend every day talking to God for 15 minutes.' Then he said, 'Number two, spend every day having God speak to you through the Bible for 15 minutes. And finally, spend every day telling someone else about the Lord for 15 minutes.'" Billy Sunday said, "If you do these three things, you will never be a backslider". That's good advice. Go back and do the first works quickly and return to your first love.
And if you do that, if you're walking closely with the Lord, guess what will happen? In fact, this is a confirmation you're doing the right thing. Ready for it? You're thinking, "What? I'll be blessed"? Well, in a way, yes, but maybe not the kind of blessing you're hoping for. You will be persecuted. That's right. The Bible says, "All that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution". When someone harasses, you makes fun of you, gives you a hard time or even outright attacks you because of your faith, that's an indication you're on the right track. If you're never persecuted, if you're never criticized, if you're never hassled for your faith in any way, shape or form, I wonder if you're actually living a godly life.
And that brings us to the second of seven churches that Jesus sends a message to. They're are called the church of Smyrna. And in Revelation 2:8, he says, "Don't fear those things that you're about to suffer. The devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested and you will have tribulation for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the Crown of Life. He that has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He that overcomes will not be hurt by the second death". You know, it's interesting to note that this message of Jesus to our second of seven churches, Smyrna, is the briefest of all the messages he gave and there's not a single critical word said to them. He had some criticism for the first church, he had lots of criticism for the last one, he had none for this particular body of believers.
Now, again, this was an actual, historical church. And as Smyrna was like Ephesus, a capital of paganism, but instead of worshiping this goddess has called Dian, they actually worshiped Caesar. Around 25 A.D., many Asian cities were competing with each other for the privilege of building a temple to the emperor Tiberius. Smyrna had the dubious distinction of winning the contest so they prided themselves in their worship of Caesar as lord and they erected a giant temple to him. And people were expected to say, "Caesar is lord". So if you were a Christian and you said, "Jesus is Lord," they would say, "But you have to say Caesar is lord". And many Christians would not. And they lost their lives as a result. It was a hard place to be a Christian. Jesus says in verse nine, "I know your works, your tribulation, and your poverty".
They suffered greatly. They suffered in their businesses because of their faith. People would not wanna trade with these people that would not say, "Caesar is Lord". but instead said, "Jesus is Lord". And they were mistreated and many of them were even put to death. But Jesus says in verse 10, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life". When we get to heaven someday, God has some rewards waiting for us. And among those rewards will be the Crown of Life. You know, the Bible mentions that there is a Crown of Rejoicing, which is a crown for winning people to Christ in 2 Thessalonians 2:19. Then there's a Crown of Righteousness that will be given to those who love his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8. And here we have the Crown of Life. Interestingly, this is the same crown promised to those who resist temptation. In James 1:12, it says, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation and perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him".
So if you wanna receive the Crown of Life, you must persevere under trial. You must hang in there when you're persecuted. You must resist temptation. And if you're living a godly life, this persecution will come into it. But sometimes God allows persecution to wake us up, to keep us on our toes spiritually. I read about how they were having problems shipping codfish from the East Coast to the West Coast because when it arrived, it was spoiled. So they froze it. But when it arrived, it was mushy to the taste. So they send it live, but it would arrive dead. So they send it alive again, but with one difference. They included in the tank of the live codfish the mortal enemy of the codfish which is the catfish.
So when the fish arrived, people said they'd never had better codfish in their life 'cause they had spent the entire journey running from a catfish. And sometimes God will put a catfish in our tank, so to speak. One person that gives you a hard time. You might be married to them. Somebody that makes life difficult for you. Someone who's always peppering you with hard questions. Someone who is attacking you for your faith. And you're saying, "Why is this person in my life"? Maybe they're the catfish God has allowed to keep you stronger, to keep you dependent on God. Be faithful and you will receive the Crown of Life.
Let me close with this. If you've trusted in Jesus Christ, you don't have to fear the second death. Look at Revelation 2:11. "He that has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death". What is the second death? The second death is dying without Christ and going to hell. Yes, hell is real. We'll talk about that as we get deeper into the Book of Revelation. Just as surely is there is a heaven, there also is a hell. Hell was not created for people. According to Jesus, hell was created for the Devil and his angels. And the last thing that God wants us or any person made in his image to spend eternity separated from him in this place called hell or also known as the second death.
The first death is when we die physically. The second death is when we face judgment if we have not put our faith in Christ. So I could simplify it this way. If you're born once, you will die twice, but if you're born twice, you will die once. Does that make sense? If you're born one, you'll die twice. You'll be born physically and then you'll die physically and die spiritually in the second death facing judgment. But if you're born twice, you'll die once. And by being born twice, I mean, you've been born again. Yes, you're born physically, but then you put your faith in Christ and you're born again spiritually.
Remember Jesus said to that religious leader named Nicodemus, "You must be born again," or literally born from above. Yes, this is the promise God has and we won't be hurt by the second death. You know, when you don't know Christ, you're spiritually dead. You're like a zombie. Oh, you're alive, but you're dead in the inside. The Bible says, "She that lives for pleasure is dead while she is living". Don't live that way. God has something better for you. Listen to this. This Earth is as good as it ever will be for the non-believer, but for the believer, this Earth is bad as it gets because for those who have trusted Christ, the best is yet to come.
Maybe God has spoken to your heart and you have seen your need for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the son of God who came from heaven to this earth. He was born in a manger, he died on a cross, he rose again from the dead. Why? Because he loves you. And he wants a relationship with you. Listen, I'm not talking about religion. I don't wanna be a religious person. I don't think you wanna be one either. I'm talking about relationship with God. Jesus who died and rose again stands at the door of your life and he knocks. And he says if you'll hear his voice and open the door, he will come in.
Question. Have you asked Jesus Christ o come and live inside of you? You might say, "Well, I think so. I'm not sure". Hey, if someone moved into your house in the middle of the night, do you think you would be aware of it? I'm sure you would. And in the same way, if Christ has come to live inside of you, you will know. And if you don't know, maybe he has not come in yet. He's just a prayer away. All you need to do is say, "Jesus, I want this relationship with you. I want you to forgive me of my sin. I wanna go to heaven when I die". Would you like to do that? Would you like Christ to come into your life? If so, why don't you just pry this simple prayer with me? You can pray it out loud or you can pray it in the quietness of your heart. But this is a prayer where you're asking Jesus Christ to be your savior and Lord, pray this with me now.
Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I know that you're the Savior, who died on the cross for my sin, and rose again from the dead. Now come into my life. I choose to follow You from this moment forward. Thank you for hearing this prayer and answering this prayer. In Jesus name, Amen.
Did you just pray that prayer with me? If so, I want you to know in the authority of scripture that Christ himself has come to live inside of you. And let me be the first to say to you, congratulations and welcome to the family of God.