Tony Evans - A Challenge of Obedience
We're now at the sixth church that the Apostle John has written, the church at Philadelphia. This is the first Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. This Philadelphia in verse 7 of Revelation 3 is located some 30 miles southeast of Sardis, a great commercial city with a major trade route plagued often with earthquakes. That was the nature of this city. Inside this city was a small church, a small gathering of believers, Philadelphia Bible Fellowship. Verse 7: "He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens says this".
So, before we get into all the idiosyncrasies of what he has to say to this church, he wants to give another description of himself, which he has done in each of these churches. And he describes himself as he who is holy and true. Holy means to be sat apart as unique, special, or one of a kind. Holy means you're not to be put in a class with anything else. I'm not just a good person, I'm not just a great prophet, I am holy. I am separate, I am one of a kind, I am unique, I'm in a class by myself. In Isaiah 40, verse 25, the Bible says, "God is holy". So, when Jesus declares himself to be holy, he declares himself to be God.
So, we're not just talking about another name or one of the crowd. He says, "I am unique, and therefore must be viewed and treated uniquely. I am not only holy, I am also true". Truth has to do with ultimate reality, I'm the real deal. Anything that contradicts me is false and is a lie and cannot be trusted. So, you are to measure everything by the truth. I am the way, the truth, and the life, so everything is to be measured by its inconsistency and compatibility to me. And if it's incompatible and inconsistent with me, it's wrong no matter who told it to you, how long you believed it, and how well you know it. I am truth. I am holy and true. Not only am I unique and set apart, not only am I ultimate reality, but now he gets to the nitty gritty. He says, "I have the key of David. I have the key of David".
Now, to appreciate what he's talking about, this is drawn from Isaiah chapter 22, verses 15 to 25. In Isaiah chapter 22, verses 15 to 25, the steward of the house of David, the kingdom, house of David, David was the king of Israel, it uses that to speak of the kingdom, the key belonged to this steward. But the steward did not do the right job, so he was fired. And when he was fired, a new steward replaced him. This new steward was Eliakim, and Eliakim was given the key to the kingdom. Not given a key, he was given the key. Jesus says, "I possess the key of the king of David, of the kingdom of David. That is, I have the kingdom key".
Notice it's a single key 'cause it's a master key. Anybody who possesses the master key can get in any door. All the doors are available to him because he has a master key. So, when the Bible speaks of the key, it speaks of two things: access and authority. So, Jesus claims access to any door and authority over every door. Let me say that again, Jesus, the one with the key, the master key, has access to every door, which is what a master key gives you, and authority over every door. Which is why he says he can open the doors he wants to open, and lock the doors he wants to stay locked because he is in charge.
Now, if you and I don't get that, we're going to think people are in charge. We're going to think power brokers are in charge. We're going to think folk with money are in charge. We're going to think folk with clout are in charge. They may have our key, they don't have the master key. They may have a key to a door, they don't have a key to every door. Jesus says, "I control the kingdom because I have control of the master key". Or as he says in Matthew 28, verse 19, he says, "All authority has been given to me not only in the sweet by and by, but in the nasty here and now". He says, "All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth". Or to put it in everyday language, "I got the key, so I'm in charge. I run the show".
Now, in Matthew chapter 16, he says, "I'm going to build my church, and I will give my church the keys to the kingdom". Watch this now. Jesus says, "I have the master key", that's one key that can lock any door. "But I'm going to give to my people, the church, I'm going to give them the keys", plural, "to the kingdom". So, what he's given us is multiple keys to multiple doors, while he possesses the master key to every door. So, he has the key, we have the keys. How does it work? When you use the right key, he'll back it up with the master key. But when you use the wrong key, the master key can't back you up because the master key can only be consistent with the keys that he's given us.
Let me put it another way. If you skip God's way to get it done, whatever it is you're trying to get done, then don't just call on God to use his master key when you've ignored the key he gave you. He does not want you to skip the responsibility he's given you and simply call on him 'cause he got the master key. He wants to know your keys are consistent with his key. I will give you the keys to the kingdom. Well, what is that? It's authority. I'm going to share my authority with you when you are consistent with me. Authority, kingdom means to rule. So, God wants to rule not only in heaven, but in history through the person of Jesus Christ, and he possesses the key.
See, the reason why we are not seeing more of the master key is 'cause God is not seeing more of the use of us using the right key. See, we go and use the world's key to unlock heaven. Those keys don't fit in that lock. We get all shook up about people, "Oh, he got the power to let me in or to lock me out. He got the power to raise me or to put me down. He's got the power or she's got the power to fire me or hire me. They got the power, they got all the power". Jesus said, "But I got the master key. And when I open the door, I don't care who they are, where they come from, how much they have, what degrees they possess. When I have the key, if I decide to open that door, nobody going to shut a door I open. And if I decide to lock them up, they're not going to be able to get back in 'cause I'm in charge here. I've got the key to the kingdom".
See, we fear the wrong folk. We fear folk 'cause they got a name. We fear folk 'cause they got some money. We fear folk 'cause they got some power. But you are related to the one who's got the key of David, ultimate authority, final say so. So, what's the problem? He says in verse 8, "I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door, which no one can shut, because you have little power and have kept my word and have not denied my name". Oh, watch it. In order for his key to work for you, for me, and for his church, he says you must have kept my Word, obeyed me, and not denied my name.
So, one of the reasons many believers are not seeing God come through is because they do not keep his Word. They come to church and hear it, but they do not keep his Word, and/or they deny his name. They don't want to be publicly associated with him. He says to them, "You have little power". He says, "I have set before you an open door". Even though folks say you are a nothing and a nobody, "I have set before you an open door. And when I open this bad boy up for you, the folk with the name, with the money, or with the power will not be able to shut it. But the way I will open the door and the reason I will open the door for you, your life, your world, and your ministry is because you have obeyed my Word and have not denied my name".
See, we got folk wanting God to open doors while they disobey him. We got folk wanting God to open doors while they are ashamed to bear his name. Notice you can't deny his name. You can talk about God all you want. You can talk about God this and God that, that's not his name. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, not this generic God. No, no, no, yeah, God is there, but God has bequeathed or delegated everything to his Son. It is at the name of Jesus every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.
So, if folk don't know your relationship to Jesus, you have denied his name even though you may be talking about God blessing you all day long. You haven't denied my name. Jesus says, "When you deny me on earth, I will deny you before my Father who is in heaven. When you confess me on earth, I will confess you before my Father who is in heaven". So, if you are ashamed of Jesus Christ and don't want to be publicly associated with him, forget open doors. You can open your own door. Jesus says, "Folk may not know who you are, but you know him. You confess him. You obey him".
He got a master key. And nothing will make the Lord more real to you than when he opens things up you are too powerfulness to open up on your own 'cause you have little power, little notoriety, little name recognition. Jesus says, "Even though you have little power, I'm going to open up a door for you. Because you have obeyed me and you have not denied my name". If God has blessed you, praise God. If God has given you a great job, bless God. If God has given you a big house, bless God. If God has given you a nice car, bless God. If God has given you great clothes, bless God. Just so long as you know, you know better than the widow on fixed income because God will open doors for those with little power.
He says in verse 9, "Behold, you have kept the word of my perseverance. And I will also keep you from the hour of testing, the hour that is about to come upon the whole world". He told them in verse 9, "Behold, I have caused those in the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not, but lie, I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you". Whoa. He said, "All those false folk out there, synagogue of Satan, they go to church, synagogue, but they're of the devil". Just 'cause you're in church, synagogue, doesn't mean you of the Lord. There is a synagogue of Satan, all right? So, the religious talk doesn't mean a thing. He says, "But I'm going to let them know that I have loved you. Even though you've got little power, I'm going to let them know you got more power than you look like you have". He says, "And the synagogue of Satan is making it tough for you, but I can keep you from the hour of testing". He calls it you're in a test, watch this.
So, if you're in a situation and the door has not yet opened, he says, "Consider it a test". And he says, "And I'm going to walk you through the test until I reverse it". He says, "I'm going to make your enemies your footstool". Ooh, nothing makes God real than when he reverses the irreversible. Nothing makes God more real than when he flips something that looked unflippable. Nothing makes God so powerful to you when there was no way out, you were trapped. The devil, looked like he was running the whole show, and then he reverses it. But you may say, "But I don't see him doing anything". Oh yeah, well, look at the next verse. He says, "You're going through this test and I'm going to keep you through this hour, but I am coming quickly. Hold fast what you have so that no one will take your crown".
Oh, I love this word, "I am coming quickly". That means suddenly, that means unexpectedly, that means out of nowhere. See, when God is silent, that doesn't mean he's still. I know you don't see him doing anything. I know it looks like you're just waiting for nothing, but God likes to come in suddenly. He likes to break in when you didn't expect it, when you didn't think there was any way that this thing could ever get better, that this trial could ever end. He loves to do something suddenly. And the reason why he likes to do things quickly or suddenly is so that when it happens, there is no debate on who caused it to take place. 'Cause it came out of nowhere. Quickly.
You wonder, "Whew, where did that come from"? And if it comes inextricably clear that this was heaven invading history. Just obey him, don't deny his name, and then wait for the Lord. I say wait upon the Lord 'cause he comes suddenly. And once you have this perspective, you're free 'cause you know them people don't have the last say. They have a say, they don't have the say. They look like they're running the show until God swoops in on them, and changes them or changes their mind or changes you or changes the circumstances. See, it all depends on your perspective, it all depends on how you see things. I know the devil may be nipping at you, the synagogue of Satan may be nipping at you. But when you've got God's perspective, it changes what you're looking at. So, I'm coming quickly, I'm going to come suddenly.
So, what does he tell you to do in verse 11? Hold fast. I know you want to give up, I know you want to quit, and I know you're tired. He says, "Hold fast". Make sure you're obeying and not denying. You hold fast to your obedience and non-denial, and at his time, suddenly. Don't let them take your crown, that's the right to rule. Even small folk have been called to rule. And now, he gives us his final statement. He who overcomes, overcomes what? The tendency to give up. He who overcomes the tendencies to stop obeying and to stop denying.
He who overcomes that and says, "God, as the old folks say, I'm going to hold on till my change come. You know, it's rough, it's tough, but I believe you and not my circumstances as the final arbiter of my situation". He says, "You hold on. He who overcomes", look at this, "I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. He will not go out from it anymore. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my new name".
You see the word there, name, name, name, name, name. First of all, he says, "I'm going to make you a pillar". A pillar, it holds a building up. "I'm going to make you a pillar in my temple". A temple is God's house. The pillars are located in God's house. Galatians 2:9 says that Peter, James, and John were the pillar of the church, they were holding up the church. In other words, he speaks of these people who overcome the propensity to give up as being in closest proximity to God. And he says, "For these folk who are overcomers and who are in close proximity to God, they will have a name". And he keeps saying name, name, name, name, name, name, name, name in verse 12 over and over again. He keeps talking about name of this and name of that, name of this and name of that. He says, "You'll have a name in the new Jerusalem".
Let's get something straight. Everybody is not equal in heaven, okay? Let's get this straight. Okay, they don't exude the same experience because they don't have the same relationship. Jesus said in Saint John chapter 2, verses 23 to 25, it says, "Many believed on him. Many believed on him, but he would not commit himself to them because he knew what was in them". They got saved, but they had not yet got committed. They were on their way to heaven, but he couldn't use them on earth. They were forgiven for their sins, but they didn't want folks to know that they were Christians. They went to church, but they wouldn't obey the Word.
So, they believed in him, but he wouldn't make no commitment to them. There are a lot of Christians who Jesus is just not deeply committed to in a practical way because they want to be 40-watt Christians expecting 100-watt blessing, and it doesn't work that way. He wants to know that you're all in, that you are a full-time Christian, not a part-time saint. He wants to know that you will not deny him and that you will obey what he has commanded. And he says, "To that one, I will give him a name".
You know, when people go to the Cowboy game and they go to the Cowboy game, there are folks who are sitting in the stands, we don't know their name. Now, they're in the location, but we don't know their name. In fact, that's the majority of the folk who are in the building. The majority of the folk in the building are in the stands, and they're just part of the crowd, and we don't know their names. Now, when it comes to the players, we know their names kind of sort of. Not only do you have the folk in the crowd and the folks on the team, some more nameless than others, some with a higher name, you've got the ring of honor. In the ring of honor, those are folks who've made a name.
You see, the players come and go, but the folks in the ring of honor stay there 'cause over time, they held fast. Over time, they played the game. Over time, they didn't quit when they were injured. Over time, they stayed committed to the task. In fact, their name is not only in the ring of honor, their name is in Canton, Ohio in a bust in the Canton Hall of Fame so that generation after generation will know who their name was. God has a lot of Christians that are in the stands. They just show up to watch the game. All they want to see is what the choir is singing and what the preacher is preaching, and they just come for the show.
Now, folk in the crowd don't get dirty, don't incur responsibility, don't get knocked down, don't get blocked, don't get tackled 'cause they're not there to participate, they're just there to watch the show. But then there are some folk in the kingdom of God who don't want to just stay in the stands, they want to get on the field. They serve in ministry, they help other people, they give to the advancement of the cause of the Lord. And then you got some superstars. Those are the ring of honors. Oh, it's not just the folk who's the people who you know their name, it's folk who are the unknown folk, but you can count on them. You can depend on them because they are forever holding their row, loving the Lord, serving the saints, giving to the Lord, and giving glory in their witness for the Lord.
So, I want to challenge you today, if you want God to put you in the ring of honor, if you want when he hears you and sees you to say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant", if you want him to call you out of the crowd and let all of heaven know you're one of his choicest servants, I challenge you to leave the stands, to come on the field. Now, I want to tell you the truth, you're going to get blocked a little bit on the field. You're going to get tackled a little bit on the field. But when they start handing out Super Bowl rings, you're going to get a Super Bowl ring 'cause you are a Super Bowl saint. So, let's get busy glorifying the Lord, obeying the Lord, not denying the Lord. Because if you are an obedient saint who does not deny him, you are an overcomer.
Throughout Scripture, God has called on his people to demonstrate their commitment with their feet. That is through their obedience. He doesn't just want to hear it from our mouths, he wants to see it in our movement. He doesn't want to just hear it from our lips, he wants to see it in our life. He doesn't want to just hear it from our talk, he wants to see it in our walk. Obedience is the test of authentic commitment. Anybody can talk a good game, anybody can wrap great information. But if your performance is not in sync with your proclamation, then that is failure to the nth degree. Saying amen on Sunday is not the same as living amen on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Two different things.
That's why Jesus often said, "They affirm me with their lips. They talk a good game, but they don't follow through. They don't act on it". Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments". So, you can have butterflies all in your stomach about how much you love Jesus, but he says, "If you don't obey me, you really don't love me, you just got some, maybe you ate too much pizza, but it's not the love I'm asking for". So, in what way are we not obeying the Lord, where we know we're violating his Word and his will? Begin to make those adjustments because as 1 John 2 says, "Many believed in him, but he wouldn't commit himself to them because he knew they weren't ready to go all the way". Go all the way so you can experience what it's like when he goes all the way with you.