Robert Jeffress - The Church That Couldn't Do Anything Right And The Church That Couldn't Do Anything Wrong
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". These days, people rarely order a product online or choose a restaurant for dinner without consulting the reviews first. A slew of five star ratings is practically a satisfaction guaranteed. And today, we're going to look at how Jesus rated two early churches. My message is titled "The Church That Couldn't Do Anything Right and The Church That Couldn't Do Anything Wrong" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
You know when talking about a dead church, my friend, Steve Lawson in his book "Final call," gives this description of so many churches around today. "Their sanctuary is a morgue with a steeple. They are a congregation of corpses. They have undertakers for ushers, embalmers for elders, and morticians for ministers. Their pastor graduated from the cemetery. The choir director is the local coroner. They sing 'Embalmed in Gilead'. You may say that their worship is a bit stiff. They drive to church in one long line with their headlights on. Whenever somebody joins their membership, the church office immediately notifies the next of kin. The church van is a black hearse. Their church sign is a tombstone. The divine coroner pronounces such churches dead".
Have you ever a part of a church like that? That was the church at Sardis, the church that couldn't do anything right. A polar opposite of that church was the church at Philadelphia. I called it the church that couldn't do anything wrong. Let me just say this about the city of Philadelphia. You know, phileo, love, adelphos, means from the same womb, a brother. We call Philadelphia the city of brotherly love. But what's most important about the city of Philadelphia is it served as a gateway into Asia and it became a missionary center, not for spreading the Gospel, but for spreading Hellenism, the Greek culture. That's what Philadelphia was known for, its commitment to spreading the Greek culture all throughout Asia. The other thing to note about Philadelphia is they had severe problems with earthquakes. The city had to be rebuilt many, many times and you'll see why that's important in just a moment.
Notice the description of Jesus in verse seven, again, coming from chapter 1. "And to the pastor of the church in Philadelphia write: he," that is Jesus, "Who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens, says this". I want you to notice three descriptions of Jesus. First of all, he's called the holy one. That word, holy, hagios in Greek, means separate, different, apart from. It doesn't mean religious. We think of holy as meaning religious: no, it means different, separate, a cut above, if you will. Jesus is unlike anyone or anything. He is wholly different. We're gonna sing that song in a few weeks, "Holy, holy, holy". That is Jesus. And then he is called the true one, the true one. Remember what Jesus said in John 14:6? "I am the way, the" what? "The truth". Jesus is truth.
Now this is interesting to me. There are two Greek words for truth. One is alethes, alethes. Alethes means the difference between what is true and what is false. True versus false. But then there's a second word, alethinos, alethinos. And that's the difference between what is real and what is unreal. And that's the word that's used here. When he's called the true one, it's not he's make-believe, he's not fantasy. He is absolutely real, the true one. And then he's referred to as the authoritative one. He is the one who holds the key of David, who opens and closes.
I had to do a little bit of work to figure out exactly what he was referring to here. We don't have time to look at the reference, but it's Isaiah 22. The story, when God took away the key of David, the key to the treasury of the temple, he took it away from Shebna and gave it to Eliakim. The key of David was literally the authority to open and close the door of the treasury. That was a lot of authority in the Old Testament times. Well, Jesus is the one who holds the key of David: entrance not into the treasury, but the entrance into heaven. He opens the door to heaven to some and closes it to others.
Have you ever had this experience? You've tried to explain to somebody how Jesus, faith in Jesus, is the only way to be assured of heaven and people rebel against that idea? And they'll say things like, "Well, just don't think we have any authority to say who goes to heaven and who doesn't". Well that's right. God only is the one. God is the only one who decides who goes to heaven. But guess what? He's already decided. He's already made that determination. And again, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the father except through me". When we tell people, without hesitation, that Jesus is the only way to heaven, we are not the ones who are making that decision, we are announcing that decision that has already been made. And the best thing you can do for somebody is to show them that only way to heaven. That's Jesus, he is the authoritative one.
Now, I want you to notice the commendation of the church at Philadelphia. What he commended them for. He said, "I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut because you have a little power, and have kept my word and have not denied my name". He said, "I'm commending you because you're in a city that has an open door. You can influence all of Asia, not for Hellenism, not the spread of the Greek culture, but for the spread of the Gospel: and you are taking advantage of it". Now, just in the verse earlier, opening and shutting had to do with opening the way to heaven and shutting the way to heaven. But here, Jesus is using the concept of the open door to describe the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Have you heard people, Christians, talk about, "Well, you know, God opened a door for me to take advantage of a new business opportunity". Or "God closed this door for me. You know, I wanted to date so and so, but she didn't want to go out me so I guess God closed that door". We, a lot of times, use open and closed doors to refer to opportunities in our life. When the Bible talks about open doors and closed doors, always, always, always it refers to opportunities to share the Gospel with people. It never refers to personal decisions. I do believe God's involved in the circumstances of our life and leads us, but when God talks about the open door, it's an open door to what he's interested in, not what we're interested in. You know, our life doesn't revolve around us. It revolves around God. And there's only one reason God left you and me here on this earth instead of taking us to heaven when we were saved. He left us here to spread the Gospel to as many people as possible. And we're to take advantage of every open door that God puts before us for the spread of the Gospel.
A church member came up to the great preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, after a service and said, "Pastor, I really have a heart to win people to Christ, but I don't know where to start. What should I do"? Spurgeon said, "Well, what do you do for a living? Where do you work"? He said, "Well, I worked for the railroad company". "What do you do for the railroad company"? "Well, I'm an engineer". "Well," Spurgeon said, "Is the fireman on your train, is he a Christian"? The engineer paused and said, "Well, I'm not sure". Spurgeon said, "Start there. Start there". Start with the people you know. What about the checkout person at the supermarket? What about your next door neighbor? What about the person sitting next to you in a cubicle at work? What about that student you see every day at school? Do you know whether or not they're gonna spend eternity in heaven or eternity in hell? Start there. That's what the church of Philadelphia was commended for. They took advantage of the open door.
Notice the promise here, the promise to the church at Philadelphia. Because they were faithful and taking advantage of the open door, God promised them five things. Write them down. First of all, he said Christians will be acknowledged as true followers of Messiah. Verse 9, "Behold, I will cause those of you, those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, but are not: behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet". You're accused of heresy because you're following Jesus by these people in these false synagogues. One day instead of being persecuted, you will be vindicated as having made the right choice.
Secondly, Christians will escape the coming tribulation. He said to the church at Philadelphia, "You will escape the coming tribulation". Now star this verse in your Bible. It's one of the key verses in Bible prophecy. Jesus said, "Because you have kept the word of my perseverance, I will also keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is to come upon the whole world to test those who dwell upon the earth". Jesus didn't promise the Philadelphians they would escape all testing or any persecution. He said, "You will escape the hour of testing that is coming upon the whole world".
Jesus was looking down past the first century, thousands of years in the future, and looking into that period of the Great Tribulation, that seven years of chaos in our world that will culminate in the return of Jesus Christ. And he said not only to the Philadelphians, who obviously escape the tribulation, they're dead and with Christ now, but he said to all true Christians, "I will keep you from," that little Greek word, ec, "I will keep you out of this final hour of testing that is coming upon the whole world". We'll talk about that more in several weeks. Thirdly, Christians will soon see the Lord. "I'm coming quickly: hold fast what you have in order that no one takes your crown, your reward".
You know that word soon, en tachei, quickly, means with great rapidity. We don't know when the Lord is coming, but he said, "Take care, lest when he comes, no one takes your reward". Is it possible if I'm a Christian that somebody could take my reward that God has for me away from me? Well, it's not possible that somebody else is going to steal your reward, but it is very possible that if you have not been faithful to God, God will take your reward and he will give it to somebody else. That's what he's talking about here. Remember the talents. Remember the parable of the talents in Matthew 25? The unfaithful steward had what was entrusted to him, taken from him and given to somebody else.
Think about Esau. Esau lost his birthright and it was given to Jacob instead. Saul lost his kingdom because of unfaithfulness and it was given to David. Judas lost his apostleship and it was given to a man named Mathias. It's possible, not to lose your salvation, but to lose the great rewards God has for you if you're unfaithful and to see them given to somebody else. Fourthly, the promise to Philadelphia and to all of us, Christians will be established in God's temple. Look at verse 12. "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will not go out from it anymore". What does that mean? Remember I said that Philadelphia had suffered from many earthquakes? The city would be devastated. People would have to go out from the city, live elsewhere in temporary housing until they could rebuild their homes. They went over that, over through that, over and over and over again.
God said, "There's a day coming when you'll never have to move again for your house, your residence, will be protected. You can stay where you are forever". Just imagine saying to the residents of New Orleans who went through Katrina or people who live in Houston right now and have gone through Harvey and other hurricanes as well. Just imagine what it would mean to them to hear the words, "You will never suffer another hurricane again". You can rebuild your home and know it will never be destroyed. You think that would be of comfort to those folks? I think it would. But that's what he's talking about here to the Christians in Philadelphia. There's coming a time when you will dwell with God and you will never have to leave your residence with him. And then finally, Christians will forever be identified with Christ. I love this.
Again, verse 12, "And I will write upon 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 my new name," Jesus said. What's the significance of that? Jesus said, "I'm going to write my new name on those Christians who are faithful". You know, writing your name on something, shows ownership. Have you seen the "Toy story" movies? Have you kind of misted up at the "Toy story" movies? Remember Andy, how he writes his name on the boots of buzz Lightyear and woody? When he writes his name, Andy, what does that mean? It means you belong to me. You're in my possession. I'm going to take care of you.
The Bible says one day Jesus is going to write his name on us. But what intrigued me this week about that verse was he says, "The name I write on you, my name, it's going to be a new name I have". A new name? What is Jesus' new name? As I thought about it and looked at the scripture, it became very clear to me what he was saying. When Jesus came the first time to earth, he came to be Savior. He lived a difficult life. He went through endless trials and persecutions. He was nailed to a cross. But three days later, he arose from the dead. And 40 days later, he ascended into heaven, and right now he is seated at the right hand of God, the father. He has become an overcomer. He could never have the title of overcomer until he had passed from this life until the next life. In John 16:33, Jesus said, "In this world, you too will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world". And of course what he's saying is, "And therefore, you will overcome the world just as I have".
You see, if you have trusted in Christ as Savior, if you are in Christ, as the Bible says, then that means everything that happened to Jesus is going to happen to you one day. Yes, Jesus went through difficulty. He experienced the betrayal of others. He experienced unanswered prayer. He experienced the worst form of persecution, and yet God delivered him out of that into his presence. And one day, God will give you that same experience, as well. And I think the new name that Jesus writes on us when we get into heaven is that name overcomer, overcomer. In fact, later in this chapter, Jesus promised, "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with me on my throne as I also overcame and sat down with my father on his throne". That's the future God has planned for those who follow him.