Robert Morris - Remember God's Faithfulness
To the angel of the church of Ephesus, return to your first love. God did not design us to be reservoirs. He designed us to be rivers. For a reservoir to not become stagnant, it must have two things. It must have water flowing in and water flowing out. Worship and the Word, and witnessing. That's the only way you're going to return to your first love.
Hey everybody, how are you? Well, we had a great weekend, I just want to comment on it, last weekend. I thought Michael Jr. did such a great job just sharing the Word with us in his way. And I was watching online, and when he said, "1, 2, 3, stand up," I couldn't believe how many people stood up. And I just want to tell you just like he said, I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you. I would like to encourage you to get water baptized this weekend. Now, I heard your thoughts when I said that, "Well, I didn't bring a change of clothes". We have a change of clothes. "Well, I didn't bring a towel". We have towels. "Well, I didn't bring a hairdryer". We bought hairdryers. So we've got everything you could possibly need. Please don't leave. If you made, especially if you made a commitment to Christ last weekend, then get water baptized this weekend. Every campus, you know, and so. And I want to just, I could just say to all the Gateway Gatherings, find a swimming pool in your neighborhood. Heat it, please, for those that are getting baptized. And let's do some baptisms, alright?
By the way, I told you this before Michael Jr. came that this was a possibility, and I want to give you the report: over a thousand people accepted Christ last weekend. So that's just wonderful. I'm just going to give you a brief update on my hamstring and leg, 'cause a lot of people have been asking online, so I need to really put something on social media. But the hamstring is doing much, much better. The nerve disorder though is still, I still have numbness from my knee down some, but it's much better. But if you want to just say a prayer, you know, to heal that nerve disorder, then that's fine with me. If you want to just say it right now, "Heal that nerve disorder in Jesus' name". Okay. That'd be great. Thank you. Alright. So when you're the pastor, you can get a lot of people praying for you. It's fantastic.
Alright, so we're in a series called The Seven Churches of Revelation, and when I started this, we did the first church and we called it Return to Your First Love. The letter to the church at Ephesus. This week is, I just lost it 'cause I was going to say something else. And I thought well I don't want to say that first. I want to say this. Alright. This week is Remember God's Faithfulness. This is the second letter to the church of Smyrna. Remember God's Faithfulness. And let me just show you the map again, just so you can remember where the island of Patmos was, and then it starts at Ephasus, and this is the order, if you go clockwise Smyrna is the next letter. Next week will be Pergamum, then Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Alright?
So let me read it to you. Revelation 2:8. "And to the angel", which is the messenger, most, again, believe it's the pastor and I believe that, "of the church of Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 'I know your works, tribulation, and poverty, (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.'" Now, this is very strong language, but we'll define all of it. "'Do not fear any of those things which you're about to suffer. Indeed, the devil's about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'" That's in all seven of the letters, that statement. "He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death".
Now, let me just tell you something. You might even be thinking it. When I read that, I thought, "I have no clue where I'm going to go with that". I didn't see my commendation, the correction, the counsel. I didn't see the normal outline, but one thing that struck me, I feel like God is just, with every letter he's going to zero in on one thing. And that was, these people were going through a trial. This is the, Smyrna is called the persecuted church. And they were the most persecuted of the seven cities. One thing that just stood out to me, he was trying to say from the beginning is, "I'm faithful. I'm going to be faithful". And I'll show you that. Alright? So I'm going to go ahead and tell you my first point, and then it'll take me a moment for you to see where I'm getting this point from. Alright?
So number one: Remember God has been faithful. If you're going through a trial, maybe even right now, to remember God's faithfulness, you need to remember God has been faithful. Now, I have a little thing that I've said several times. I don't know if I could prove it or not. I don't. So don't write me an email with one little thing and ask me to prove it to you, but I just, I love the Old Testament, and I see the Bible as one book, and I think we've missed that. And so I've made this statement before. If you show me something of the New, I can show it to you in the Old. And I really, I haven't found anything yet in the New Testament I can't show you a type of it in the Old Testament, but notice he starts this letter reminding them of his eternalness. I am the First and the Last.
By the way, there are all these counters in the first part. He says First and Last; dead, but was alive; poverty, but rich. It's kind of amazing how he says this, but the First and the Last, let me just show you. And I had more scripture. I had so many scriptures I just couldn't cover in our short three hours that we have here today. But Isaiah 44:6, "Thus says the Lord", This is Isaiah, 740 years before Christ, "The king of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.'" Isaiah 48:12, "Listen to me, O Jacob, And Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last". And then the last book of the Bible, about eight verses from the end of the Bible, Revelation 22:13, "I am the Alpha and the Omega", That's the first letter and the last letter of the Greek alphabet. For English, it'd be like saying, "I am the A and the Z". "The Beginning and the End, the First and the Last". And then in Revelation 1, when he first appears to John in verse eight, he says, "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,' says the Lord".
Now this is where I'm taking the outline for the message: "Who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty". Here's what he's saying. I've always been faithful. He's saying this to the persecuted church. I've always been faithful, I am faithful, and I will always be faithful. You need to know, even though you're going through a trial and you're about to go through some more trials. Let me to use the double negative. This is really fun to me to do this. God is saying, I have never not been faithful. I have always been faithful. I've always been faithful. I am faithful. And I will be. I was, I am, and I will be. So that's where I'm getting this from. And here's a really good scripture. We sometimes don't think of the meaning of words because we don't break them down. But have you ever felt like you had less faith and you needed more faith. Have you ever felt that?
Okay, so I'm going to show you a word with the word that's made up of two words, less than faith. And then I'm going to show you a word this made up of two words, full and faith, and I want you to think about them differently because I'm going to read them a little differently. Okay? 2 Timothy 2:13, here's what Jesus said. "If you ever have less faith". If we're faith less, he remains full of faith. You see what I'm saying? Sometimes we don't think about the meaning of words. If we're ever faith less... This really gets, I just love this. You've got to let this dawn on you. If you ever run out of faith, it's okay 'cause he's still got faith. He's full of faith. So he also says, I was dead and came back to life. You need to know that Smyrna was a city that boasted that they were dead and came back to life. And in history, they really did almost become a ghost town, we call them, and they brought their economy back to life and came back. And they're a port city like Ephasus was. But they boasted that we were dead and came back to life.
I just think it was funny when Jesus writes a letter, he says, "No, I was actually dead, and I'm the one that came back to life, and I'm still living by the way, and I'm still speaking 65 years after the resurrection, and I'm still"... That's what the time of John and Revelation was. And I'm still guiding and I'm still protecting. I'm still alive in case y'all are wondering. So he starts with that, but then he makes this statement. I know your poverty, but you're rich. Now this word poverty comes from, the root of the word would be poor. And there are two Greek words primarily used in the New Testament for poor, but one is very common. Let me first of all just to remind you of the first beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit", Matthew 5, "for their's is the kingdom of heaven". I just want you to know it did not say, "Blessed are the poor". It said, "poor in spirit".
Now I'm not preaching a financial prosperity type gospel, but I would just like to say just that he didn't say, "Blessed are the financially poor", but the poor in spirit. Because if you're blessed to be financially poor, if we help the poor, then aren't we taking away their blessing? Some of you it's taking you a while to laugh. You're, like a Michael Jr. joke. "Huh? Do I laugh at that or not"? Okay. I'm just saying he didn't say that, 'cause I've been financially poor and I didn't feel that blessed from being financially poor. Now I'm not preaching a rich gospel. I'm just simply saying it's wonderful to live in a provision gospel where God provides for you so that when you turn the key, your car actually starts and you get to work on time. That's not bad. Okay. But he said poor in spirit, but he uses a Greek word here that's very rarely used. It's the Greek word ptóchos.
I'm going to tell you what it means in a moment, but it's the same root word that he uses in Revelation 2 when he says, "I know your poverty". Your ptócheia is what he says at that point. Okay. But ptóchos. The other Greek word is penes. It is used more through the New Testament for poor. It means the working poor. In other words, what we would call paycheck to paycheck. Penes means you got a job, but you're just barely getting by. Some of youn are thinking, "Oh, I know what I am now. I'm penes, in the Bible. I'm the working poor". Okay. That's penes, the working poor. It means you're poor, but you can work. Ptóchos means the begging poor, the disabled, maimed, lame, disfigured, and the only way they get by is begging. They literally cannot work, and there was no like welfare or social security or charitable services.
Some of these people would sit in darkness because of the way they were disfigured and put a cup out, and if someone didn't put something in the cup, they didn't eat. This is the word he uses, and he says, "Blessed are those who are poor in spirit". Let me tell you what he's saying. When it comes to salvation, you are not the working poor. You can't earn one day in heaven. You are spiritually crippled, maimed, lame, and disfigured, and you can just barely put a cup out and if Jesus doesn't have mercy on you, you will not make it to heaven. That's the type of poor he's talking about. And here's what he says to those in Smyrna. I know your poverty spiritually. Then he says, but you are rich. He is not talking about finances. He is saying, I know you're nothing without me, but I want to remind you that all things are possible through me. I just want to remind you of your spiritual condition here.
So he's talking about being poor and then understanding what it really means. The other thing where it says, what I'm trying to get us to remember here is that God has been faithful. If you're going through a trial right now, and you're trying to remember times that God has been faithful, let me tell you one time for sure that God's been faithful in your life and that's when he saved you, when the only way you could've gotten saved was by the mercy of God. So you can always remember God's faithfulness in salvation. There are many people going through difficulty right now with COVID. COVID has gone through our family as welll. And we just, each time it's not been serious enough that we felt like we needed to put it on social media, but we do a Christmas card every year. Our Christmas card this year will have each family, but never one of us together, because every time we tried to get together, someone in our family had COVID or was quarantined. Isn't that amazing?
But again, it never hit us like it's hit some of you. I've got a good friend in the hospital, been a member of our church for years, who went on a ventilator this last week. And a few weeks ago, I lost a friend to COVID who did the music in the first revival that I ever did, ever. So I've known this guy for over 40 years, you know, and right before he went on the ventilator, let me show you about God's faithfulness. Right before he goes on the ventilator he said to his wife, "I'll see you on the other side". I'm telling you, God is faithful, no matter what you go through and even if you pass away or you've had a family member pass away, or a friend, you can remember, God is faithful because Jesus died on the cross and he was dead and he's alive, so we have resurrection life. So God has been faithful.
Here's number two: Remember God is faithful. Now remember that this letter was written to the pastor, to the angel, to the messenger, the pastor of the church of Smyrna. So the pastor got up and said, "Hey, I have a letter that's straight from Jesus. Paul, I mean, John was on the island of Patmos, and Jesus dictated seven letters and one of them is to our church. And I want to read this to encourage everybody". I just want y'all to think about that as read verse 10, Revelation 2:10, "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer". This is so encouraging, isn't it? I have a letter directly from Jesus for our church. "Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison", it just gets better, doesn't it, "that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation 10 days". And then this one will really get you encouraged. "Be faithful until death".
Now, some of you might say, "Well, the 10 days would have encouraged me". No it wouldn't have, because in those days, they threw Christians into prison 10 days, they tortured them 10 days to get them to deny Christ and swear allegiance to the emperor, and if they did not deny Christ after 10 days, they killed them. So Jesus is not trying to be mean. He's trying to prepare some of them. If you're about to go through the greatest testing of your life. Now, this is a sad part in church history, but I need to talk about it for a moment. The first century church was mainly Jewish, and it was definitely Jewish led. The disciples were Jewish; the apostles, Jewish. And they led the church. The church in Smyrna was very heavily Jewish, and there were believing Jews, in other words, they believed that Jesus was the Messiah, and there were Jews that didn't believe he was the Messiah. But up until about 80 AD, they were cordial.
81 AD there began to be some stirrings in the government as to whether Judaism was a recognized religion or not because Judaism as a monotheistic religion believes in one God, and so they were beginning to have some stirrings about, what about the gods of Rome? They don't believe in (I mean of Greece), they don't believe in the gods, plural, of Greece. And so they began to go through some persecution. In 90 AD, they passed an edict that the emperor was God, and when I say they, he, the emperor passed an edict, that's convenient, isn't it, "I am God". And you had to literally at any point in time, a Roman soldier could tell you to get down on your knees and confess that the emperor was God. Judaism though, was exempt because they were a recognized religion. Christianity was not. The divide got greater and Christians were being slandered, or spoken rumors against, for all sorts of things.
I don't have time to go into all of them, but it was spoken that they were cannibals because they talked about eating the body and drinking the blood. It was spoken that they were arsonists because when Rome burned, which Nero himself did, he blamed the Christians because they talked about the fire of the Spirit. They were criticized for separating, dividing families because when a Jewish person accepted Jesus as the Messiah, many times he'd be disowned by his family. And families would say, this is separating families. And the family unit was much more important at that time. So there was a lot going on at that time that you need to understand. And then Jesus makes an extremely strong statement about these Jews who say they're Jews, but they're actually not, because they're not living it. They're ethnically Jews, but spiritually they're not Jews.
In Revelation 2:9 he says, "I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan". Now I was thinking to myself, any of you want to explain that? Well, it's not that hard to explain. The word synagogue doesn't mean what you think it means? Let me just say that. It doesn't mean a building. You've probably said, "There's a synagogue not far from my house. I passed this synagogue". You're talking about a building. It doesn't mean a building. In the very same way, church doesn't mean a building. The building is not the church. The people are. But synagogue is a word that's not even in the Old Testament. It's a New Testament word. Like synagogue, demagogue, it's a Greek word. What it means is the coming together or the gathering, the assembling. That's what ekklesia means by the way. Ekklesia is the Greek word for church. It means coming together. It means the gathering.
Do you know when you go to Israel to today, if you go to a congregation of messianic Jews, you don't want to say, "I'm glad to be in church with you today". You want to say, "I glad to be at congregation with you". Congregation comes from the word congregate, so it means the gathering. By the way, if you want me to just rattle you a little bit more, it's fun to do this, but you are not the church, individually. The church is when we gather. And I want to say to everyone gathering online and all the, listen to this, all the Gateway Gatherings. I like that we decided to use the word "gatherings". Even if you're not coming in person because of COVID or where you live, we're still gathering. When we gather, we're the church. The church is made up of people. In the same way, the synagogue.
So what he's saying is, there are those of you who ethnically are Jews, but because of the way you're acting, see they were turning in the Christians because they were afraid they might be tortured too. They were turning them in to the Roman government. They were tested for 10 days and then either burned at the stake or put in the arena of the gladiators to be killed. And he said, I know these people that they're really not Jews, but he said they're of the synagogue of Satan. Here's what he's trying to say, They're aligning themselves with Satan, who wants to steal, kill and destroy. That's what he's saying. And I want to just take this a little further with you. So for a while, the church was Jewish led and, yes, there were some ethnic Jews that persecuted messianic Jews. Yes, it's true. But you can't take the actions of a few and judge an entire race. So don't you dare think that I'm speaking against all Jewish people. And don't you do that when you read in the Bible something about the Jews?
I had a scripture. I told them I didn't know if I'd be able to get to it, but I think I will. I want to do the second one. Well, we can do them both. Acts 14:2, "But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren". And then Acts 17:5, "But the Jews who were not persuaded becoming envious, they took some evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, they set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jacob". Which is where Paul and Silas were staying. Okay. So it was the actions of a few. So in the very same way, you don't take the actions of a few white people, a few black people, or a few brown people, and judge the whole ethnicity. In the same way, because we're reading something like this, don't take the actions of a few Jewish people and judge the whole nation. Has everyone got that? That's racism.
Okay. But here's what I want to tell you. The church went from Jewish led to Gentile led. In 380 AD, Christianity became the state religion of Rome, the church of Rome, and it was the illegal then to not be a Christian. Jews were given the choice, and it really got worse in the seventh century, of baptism or slavery. In the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, or the crusades, and many, many Jews were raped and murdered and gone into, and beaten, but many murdered. And this, I don't have time to do the whole history lesson with you. This goes all the way to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. This is ethnic division, and I would like to say to you that all ethnic division is of the synagogue of Satan. It comes from the womb of Satan. That's where it comes from. And that's what he is addressing here. Okay?
So let me hit that. So God has always been, he will be no matter what, he is no matter what you're going through. By the way, when, I just want you to know if you're going through a trial right now, I'd like to give you my father's favorite scripture, that'll help you, okay. My father said to me one time, he said, "Do you know what, my favorite scripture is"? I said,"No". I thought, "Well, this'll be interesting". I said, "What's your favorite scripture"? He said, "And it came to pass". And I thought, I said, "Well, did you forget the second part"? He said, "No. That's my favorite scripture. And it came to pass", he said, "Whatever I'm going through right now, it's gonna pass. It's my favorite scripture". Okay. So if you're in a trial right now, it's going to come to pass. Alright.
So number three: Remember God will be faithful. So God has always been, he is, and he will always be. But it might not be like you think. In Acts chapter 12, you can read it later, James who's the pastor of the church at Jerusalem is executed, and just a few verses later, Peter is miraculously released from prison. Was God faithful to one and not the other? Corrie ten Boom escaped the Nazi camp, but her sister was killed in the Nazi camp. Was God faithful to one, but not the other? You have to remember how God starts this letter. I'm the First and the Last. Let me tell you what he's saying. I'm eternal. So if Christ doesn't return in your lifetime, in my lifetime, we're going to die physically, but even when we die, he's faithful. God is and will always be faithful.
Now I told you when we talked about Ephasus that the pastor of the church at Ephesus was Timothy. Timothy was Paul's spiritual son. Do you know who the pastor of the church of Smyrna was? A guy named Polycarp. Polycarp. It means many fishes. I'm just kidding. I just... Carp is a fish. And so I didn't know if you would go for that or not. Carp is a fish, by the way, that most people don't eat because it's very bony. It doesn't taste good. When I grew up in East Texas and this guy in East Texas said to me, he said, "There is a way you can fix carp and it's good". And I said, "Well, how do you do that"? He said, "Well, you gut it, and then you open up and you put a brick in it. And then you bake it for 350 degrees for three hours. Then you pull it out, throw the carp away, and eat the brick". He said, "That's the only way carp's good".
Okay so, Polycarp though doesn't mean many fish. It means much fruit. Okay. Much fruit. That's what it means. But Polycarp was the pastor of the church of Smyrna, and he was John's spiritual son. And he said some of you're about to be thrown into prison. You're going to be tested 10 days. Be faithful unto death. Polycarp, not many years after this was written, was arrested, tortured for 10 days, but would not deny Christ and was burned at the stake. But three historians of the day wrote that he would not burn, that it was as if the fire would not touch him, and he continued to preach. So someone took a spear and ran up and stabbed him in the heart. And that's how he was martyred, not from the fire, but from bleeding out. And it kind of went around that he shed his blood as Christ did for the gospel. So it says be faithful unto death.
There's one more thing I want to touch on, and that is Revelation 2:10, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life". This is spoken of several times in scripture, the crown of life. I just want to tell you what it is and what it is not, okay. There are two Greek words for crown. I've told you before that many Greek words have a military background, many Greek words have an athletic background. This has an athletic background. This is not the Greek word you're probably thinking of for crown, which is diadem. Diadem is the way we would pronounce it. Some of you grew up singing hymns, like I did. "Bring forth the royal diadem and crown him Lord of all". Okay, a diadem is a crown made for royalty. This is not that. This is the Greek word, stephanos, which is a wreath given to the athlete who's won the race.
I really want you to catch this. Jesus says be faithful unto the end. You're going to get the wreath. In other words, not, you're just not going to get a diadem crown because you're the son of a royalty, but you're going to get a crown saying that you finished the race, that you made it to the end. And just to remind you, Paul uses the same Greek word in this passage. 2 Timothy 4, "I fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I've kept the faith. Finally, there's laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will give me on that day". Now here's where you need to think. You think, "Well sure, Paul's going to get one", listen this though, "and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing".
So you all get a crown one day, if you just finish the race. Just finish the race. Now we're talking about that God has been, is, and always will be faithful. This spring will be three years, no, four years since I almost died in the helicopter. And I thought I was dying. I recorded a goodbye to kids and grandkids. Debbie thought I was dying. The paramedic said, "I think you should get in and talk to him and spend some time with him until the helicopter gets here. It might be the last time you talk to him". And that's a tough thing. So you're saying goodbye, you know. She didn't know when she was driving the to the hospital whether when she got there, they'd say he died in flight. I didn't know.
I thought I was dying on the helicopter, but one thing I knew I've told you before I had peace and I even had joy, but I also knew that God would be faithful to Debbie, to the grown, we have grown sons and daughters, and to our grandchildren, and to you. I knew he had called me to lead Gateway Church. Nothing special about me, but it was a function that I do. But I knew he'd be faithful to Gateway. I knew God would be faithful. And when Debbie and I talked about it later, I said, "What did you feel when you were driving"? She said, "Well, I had this supernatural peace, but I knew no matter what happened that God would be faithful to our family. I knew that".
I want you to know in your heart that God can never not be faithful. He is a faithful God. I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes. And I want you to just ask the Holy Spirit, "Holy Spirit, what are you saying to me"? And it's very possible many of you here are going through tribulation right now, a trial, and it could be COVID in your family. It could be with the family or a friend. It could be a child, a grown son or daughter that's away from God. I don't know. It could be a marriage thing. It could be relational. It could be work, could be a financial difficulty, could be a health problem.
I just, I want you to leave church today knowing that God's faithful. Jesus addresses the whole book of Revelation in the very first chapter with, "Who was, who is, and who is to come". Hebrews says Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He was faithful yesterday, he's faithful today, and he'll be faithful tomorrow. So I just want you to leave knowing that in your heart and let God impart that to your spirit. Lord, we want to tell you today, we want to thank you. We want to, as we took this letter from Smyrna, we want to remember God's faithfulness. And Lord, we declare as Abraham and Sarah did, we declare that God is faithful who promised, and so Lord, I bless my brothers and sisters with your faithfulness. In Jesus' name. Amen.