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2021 online sermons » Greg Laurie » Greg Laurie - The 7 Love Letters of Jesus To His Church

Greg Laurie - The 7 Love Letters of Jesus To His Church

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    Greg Laurie - The 7 Love Letters of Jesus To His Church

What exactly is love? I think you're in trouble if you define love by what you've learned by listening to pop and rock songs over the years. For instance, there's a song that says, "What the world needs now is love, sweet love". Then Foreigner sang, "I want to know what love is". And then there's a very weird song. Some of you might remember this, "Yummy, yummy, yummy. I've got love in my tummy". But what is love? We talk about this love, it's in our tummy, we need it. But what is this love we're talking about? Well, another song answers that question by saying, "Love is a many splendored thing". Another song says, "Love is the answer". Led Zeppelin reminded we need a whole lot of love. And then Meatloaf sang, "I would do anything for love". Personally, I'd do anything for meatloaf, not the singer, but the actual food. And then, of course, Whitney Houston said, "I will always love you". But then Phil Collins gives us a warning saying, "You can't hurry love," but, but why? Well, another song gives the answer. It says, "That's the way love goes".

Okay, let's review, try to figure this all out. Love is a many splendored. It's in our tummy. We need a whole lot of it, but we can't hurry it because that's the way it goes, and it's what the world needs. Well, maybe the answer is found in this song title, "I said I love you, but I lied". Maybe that's why the Black Eyed Peas sang, "Where is the love"? I think I have the answer 'cause Adele has a song with a title, "Send my love to your new lover". Okay, now we see where the problem really is. And then Lady Gaga sang, "Stupid love". The Beatles sang, "All you need is love". And then they broke up and sued each other. Another song warns, "Too much love will kill you". And maybe that's why Dionne Warwick sang, "I'll never love this way again". And Tina Turner sang, "What's love got to do with it"? Concluding with The J. Geils Band who sang, "Love stinks".

Yeah, so if you got your definition of love from songs, you're in trouble. Let me tell you what the Bible says about love. The Bible says God is love. Is there any better definition of love than that? God is love. And guess what? God loves you, so God loves you, he chose you. He wants a relationship with you, and he doesn't want anything to break that relationship. And sometimes in his love, he has to correct us. And that's what we see in these love letters of Jesus to the seven churches. Enter the devil. Just as surely as there is a God in heaven who loves you, there is a devil who hates you and wants to destroy you. Satan wants to entice you and get you to break your fellowship with God. In fact, that is the devil's goal each and every day. He wants to get you distracted, defeated, and ultimately destroyed, listen to this. Even if some Christians don't necessarily believe it, the devil believes that Jesus is coming back.

Now, that should motivate us to live a godly life. But knowing his time is limited, knowing his days are numbered, Satan is trying to wreak as much havoc as he possibly can. But don't let that scare you because the Bible reminds us, "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world". We need to be aware, and we need to be prepared. So, we're looking together at the book of Revelation. Now, seven churches are what we're looking at. That's four, five, six, seven, there we go, seven. Seven churches are addressed by Jesus. He sends these love letters, if you will. We already looked at two of them. We looked at the church of Ephesus and the church of Smyrna. Remember, in Revelation 2, the church of Ephesus was a church leaving its first love, not losing it, because they knew where it was so they could return to it again. But then we come to the church of Smyrna, which is a suffering church, this time of church history when millions of believers gave their lives for the Lord because they would not say Caesar is Lord but instead said, "Jesus is Lord".

So, now we come to a different kind of problem in the church. Satan realizes that he can't destroy the church through persecution. Instead of weakening them, they've turned into this lean, mean, preaching machine. So, he changes his tactics, and he decides to infiltrate the church. You've heard of the old expression, "If you can't beat them, join them". As we come now to our next church called the church of Pergamos, the devil effectively joins the church. Revelation chapter 2, verse 12, read with me if you would. "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write 'These things says He that has the sharp two-edged sword: I know your works, where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and you did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas, My faithful martyr, was killed among you, where Satan dwells.'"

You know, it's interesting that's mentioned twice, "where Satan dwells". Listen, the devil is not the equal of God. God is omniscient, which means he knows everything. The devil is limited in his knowledge. God is omnipotent, which means all powerful. The devil has limitations to his power. And God is omnipresent, which means present everywhere. But the devil can only be in one place at one time. So, if the devil's in San Francisco, he can't be in Moscow. And if he's in Moscow, he can't be in wherever. So, the point is, he seemed to have set his seat up in this city where the church was. And what's happening here with this church is they're starting to compromise. It starts with little things, and it ends up in big things. That's the way sin works. This is the problem with the church of Pergamos is they were tolerant of sin, look at verse 14. "I have a few things against you, because you have those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality".

Okay, so who's Balaam and who's Balak? Balak was the king of the Moabites, the enemies of Israel. He wanted to destroy the nation Israel, so he hired Balaam the prophet. Now, I don't know where he found Balaam the prophet. I think you could have spelled prophet, P-R-O-F-I-T instead of the biblical spelling. Balaam seemed to be a prophet for hire. So Balak says, "Look, man, I want you to curse these Israelites, curse them in the name of God so we don't have to deal with them on the battlefield". Incredibly Balaam the prophet agrees. "Yes, I will do that". Well, the Lord comes to Balaam and says, "I don't want you to do that," but Balaam decides to do it anyway. So, the next day he gets his donkey and he's riding along. And all of a sudden, his donkey just stops in its steps. Balaam is like, "Come on, let's go, let's go". And the donkey stops and then the donkey walks a little further. And they're in between two rock walls, and the donkey slams up against the wall, hitting Balaam's leg, now he's angry. Balaam pulls out a stick and he's beating his donkey, he's so angry.

And the Bible says the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey who said, "Why are you beating me"? That's amazing, what's more amazing to me is, without missing a beat, Balaam says, "Because you're not doing what I want you to do". Then the donkey says, "Haven't I been a good donkey? Haven't I always done what you wanted me to do"? Balaam said, "Yeah, you know, I have to agree. You've been a very good donkey". They're having this conversation. Well, here's what Balaam didn't know. The donkey seemed to have more sense than Balaam did because the donkey saw an angel of the Lord with sword drawn. The angel's probably thinking, "Oy vey, I mean, this guy's talking to his donkey".

Finally, the angel makes himself visible, and Balaam sees what's going on. But the angel was trying to stop him. So, Balaam didn't do exactly what Balak wanted him to do, but he came up with a little plan. He said, "Listen, Balak, here's what you need to do. Get your really foxy babes from Moab to go sexually entice those young Israeli boys to come into their tents and make them worship at your little altars and worship your false gods. And they'll go for it, and God will judge them". And that's exactly what happened. So, what is this saying to us? Well, Balaam, the sin of Balaam is compromise. He wanted to do something, even when God told him not to do it. And there are people like this today. They say, "Well, I'm a Christian. I want to go to heaven, but I kinda want to live like hell. I still want to party. I still want to cheat. I still want to lie. I still want to do whatever I need to do or whatever I want to do". And God's saying, "No, that's compromise. That is the doctrine of Balaam. Don't live that way".

So, we need to follow the advice Jesus gives here to Pergamos. Verse 16, "Repent, or I'll come to you quickly and fight against those with the sword of My mouth. He that has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying". This is God's wake-up call. Let me just say this. Am I talking to somebody right now that says they're a Christian, but you're sleeping with your boyfriend or your girlfriend? You say you're a Christian, but you're having an affair on your spouse. You say you're a Christian, but you're lying on your tax returns. You say you're a Christian, and you regularly tear others down and denigrate them and slander them. Hold on now, you're like the people in the church of Pergamos and you're like Balaam, you're compromising and that is not what God wants. Bringing us to our fourth church identified as Thyatira. So, they go from compromise with Pergamos to full blown acceptance of sin in the church of Thyatira.

Revelation 2, verse 19, God or Jesus says, "I know your works, your love, your service, your faith, and your patience; and as for your works, your last are more than your first," so he commends them. "You know, there's some of you doing pretty well". "Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent," so who's Jezebel? Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab. She was a wicked woman who was a queen of Israel. And she believed in the worship of the false god of Baal. Jezebel was the one that put the contract out on the Prophet Elijah and said, "I'm gonna put that man to death". And she actually influenced the whole nation. So, the church of Thyatira had grown tolerant of sin.

Have you grown tolerant of sin in your life? Are there things you know you should not be doing, but your conscience doesn't seem to be kicking in anymore? Maybe you have a very tender heart, a sensitive conscience. And when you do something wrong, when you think something wrong, you feel guilt and remorse over it. Rejoice, that means your conscience is working. But if you can go and sin, if you can go and do things that the Bible says are wrong before God and not feel any ping of guilt or any remorse, something isn't working. Pray that God will re-sensitize your conscience. Jesus tells them to repent. Now we come to the church of Sardis in Revelation chapter 3, verse 1. "To the angel of the church in Sardis write 'These things says He that has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: 'I know your works, you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.'"

Here with these churches we've looked on, we see the natural regression of sin. Sin always pulls you down, so you begin to lose your passion like the believers in the church of Ephesus. Instead of moving forward, you're starting to move backwards. Then you start compromising like the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira, and you end up dead like Sardis. As I've said before, no one generally plans on backsliding. But one day you wake up and you say, "What happened? What happened to my life? What happened to my marriage, or what happened to my health? I've made all these bad decisions, how did I get here? I never wanted to go to this place, but here I am". It started through little compromises that led to this slippery slope of sin.

Hey, everybody, Greg Laurie here with some thoughts about anxiety. Well, there's a lot of things to be anxious about right now, aren't there? All the turmoil in our country, all the fighting, which hasn't gotten better, it's actually gotten worse. Can I make a couple of recommendations? Maybe don't watch the news for hours on end. Maybe don't spend all your time on Twitter and fighting with people on social media, et cetera. Now, I'm not saying don't be uninformed 'cause we need to be aware of what's going on so we know how to pray intelligently. But take time to fill your mind with the Word of God. Take time to focus on your relationship with God. Now, we all know this verse very well that says, "Don't worry about anything, pray about everything, and the peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus". Scripture also says, "Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee". So, if you find yourself in turmoil, in anguish, and if you find yourself filled with anxiety, put your mind on the Lord. Turn your thoughts toward the Lord. Fill your life with the Word of God, with worship music, with good Bible teaching. We have a podcast, and there's a lot of great things out there, but we have a podcast you can listen to. But listen, look to Jesus right now. And let's keep praying for our nation, that God's will will be done. But let's also pray that he will give us personal peace.

Sardis is a church that looks good on the outside but they're dead on the inside. Have you ever been to a Hollywood set? You realize that, when you watch these movies and TV shows, that a lot of the times they're not real buildings, they're just the façade of a building, and behind it are pieces of wood holding it up. And so, in many ways this is a church that looked good on the outside but they were dead on the inside. Is that a description of someone I'm talking to right now? Everyone thinks you're just the greatest Christian of all time but there's a deadness inside of you. That's what was happening with this church. So what can a dead church do? Or let me personalize it. What can a believer do if they feel that they're in a deadened state? Well, the Great Physician, the Lord himself gives us prescription for recovery. Here's what he's saying, here's what you need to do if you find yourself feeling spiritually dead. It's all found in his description of himself in verse 1 of chapter 3. He says he's the one "who holds the seven Spirits of God and seven stars".

The seven Spirits are a symbol of the Holy Spirit in his fullness. What many believers need is to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Now we come to the church of the last days. As we will discover in the book of Revelation, I believe, personally, we're in the last days. I'll make a case for that. And by that, I mean I believe Jesus could come for us in our lifetime, so we want to be ready. You don't want to be a part of the church of Thyatira. You don't want to be a part of the church of Pergamos. You definitely don't want to be in the church of Sardis. But you do want to be in this church 'cause, really, you choose what church you're gonna go to. You decide what church you're gonna be. It's really up to you. This is the church now of Philadelphia that's alive. Look at Revelation 3, verse 7, "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write 'These things says He that is holy and 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. I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it; for you have a little strength, and you have kept My word, and you have not denied My name".

Here's some takeaway truths from the church of the last days, the church we should all be a part of. Number one, Jesus has given to us an unprecedented open door. God opens doors up. Now, there might be an open door in your life right now with a neighbor. They were closed, closed to the gospel, closed to anything spiritual and suddenly they're open. Or you just met somebody, or an opportunity came up, look for open doors, they're out there, pay attention. Number two, God has given us enough strength to do what he has called us to do. God has given us enough strength to do what he has called us to do. We read that this church was making a comeback. In verse 8 Jesus says, "You have a little strength". By the way, that's not a negative criticism. It's a commendation that he is giving to this church. The picture here is of a sick person coming back to life.

As you may know, I got COVID a number of months ago, and I started with, you know, congestion and a little bit of a fever, I had a mild case, thankfully. But one thing that stayed with me for a while was fatigue. It took me a while to get my energy back. I would get up and do something, and I'd be tired and just go sit for like an hour. That's not me. I'm a very busy, active person. But thankfully, my strength has come back again. But that's a picture here of the church of Philadelphia. It's like a sick person coming back to life. They're not at full health yet, but they're getting there. They're out of the bed now. They're standing up again. They're starting to move around again. This would appear to say that the church of the end times is going to experience revival. What is revival? It's returning to original condition. What is original condition? It's the church of the 1st century, the church that changed the world, the church that turned the world upside down.

So, this last days church of Philadelphia is coming back. They're making a comeback. Their strength is returning, a church that is going through open doors of opportunity. He gives them a promise. And this shows this is a church of the last days. In verse 10, he promises to keep them, he promises to keep us from the great tribulation period. Verse 10 says, Jesus speaking, "I'll keep you from the hour of trial that will come upon the whole world to test those that dwell on the earth". Now, we're all gonna go through trials and tribulation in life as followers of Jesus. Jesus even said, "In this world, you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world". But there's a difference between personal tribulation and what we call the Great Tribulation period. The Great Tribulation period is a global event.

Look at verse 10, he says, "I'll keep you from the hour of trial that will come upon the whole world to test those that dwell on the earth". This is a global event that will affect everybody. Secondly, it's a specific period of time. Jesus calls it an hour of trial. It's not 60 minutes, it's seven years in total. So, he says, "I'll keep you from that". It is my firm belief that the Lord will call us home to heaven before the Tribulation period begins. I believe the church will not go through the Tribulation period. I don't even think the Tribulation period can begin until the church is removed. Now, we come to our final church in the book of Revelation, the seven of seven churches. Remember I said in the beginning, we start with an apostolic church and we end up with an apostate church.

Some churches make the Lord weep, other churches make the Lord angry. This church makes the Lord sick, but he loved them anyway. Look at Revelation 3, verse 14. "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write 'These things sayeth the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, you're neither cold nor hot, how I wish you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth". Now, if you have a King James Version, we have Jesus saying, "I will spew you". Well, that's a very nice way of putting it, I will spew you. You know, you're feeling nauseated. "Oh, excuse me, I think I have to go spew," I don't know why you'd have a British accent. "But I'm gonna go spew". Well, this translation says, "I'll vomit you," and that's exactly the word. I will regurgitate you. It makes me sick to my stomach. No, don't be a lukewarm person. But listen to what Jesus says. He says, "as many as I love," verse 19, "I rebuke and chasten". That can be translated, "As many as I dearly tenderly love".

I started by talking about love, and the way that God shows us he loves us, among other things, is to tell us the truth. Hebrews 12 says, "The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he chastens those he accepts as his children". If the Lord has chastened you, and by chastened, I mean he's convicted you of your sin, and by convicting you, I mean there's a sense of guilt that I alluded to earlier. "Oh, I shouldn't be doing this". That's a reminder that God loves you, you see? He chastens the one he loves. I love how David wrote in Psalm 23 of the Lord, "Your rod and your staff, they comfort me". So, what do you do if you become lukewarm? What is the answer to come out of lukewarmness? And I'll close with this. You have to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

See, you can be a religious person and have no relationship with God. You can go to church and not have Christ living inside of you. Going to a church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going into a doughnut shop makes you a cop. That's a joke, but you get what I'm saying. Some people go to church, they do the things outwardly, but Christ is not living inside of them. Now, look at the words of the Lord, a very familiar verse. Many of us have committed it to memory. Revelation 3:20. Jesus says to the church of Laodicea, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me".

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 want to be a religious person, I don't think you want to 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 to 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 want to 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 pray 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's 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.
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