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Tony Evans — A Challenge of Obedience


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You're gon' get tackled a little bit on the field, but when they start handin' out Super Bowl rings, you're gon' get a Super Bowl ring 'cause you were 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!

Well, welcome, friends, as we continue "The Jesus Challenge." Today he wants to challenge you and me, as well as the church, to obedience. He's gonna use the church of Philadelphia, or "brotherly love," the church that's called to continue their obedience to the Lord. Obedience can be a tough thing, can't it?

We all struggle with following through on what God wants, particularly if what he wants and what we want aren't quite the same thing, but he encourages this church, that they will experience the great blessing of obedience if they will continue in the way of obedience, and that's his challenge to me, to you, and to all of his people. So let's investigate this challenge. Go deeper in this challenge as we study this truth together.

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.

This small gathering of believers found themselves in this pagan realm, and Jesus, who is the spokesperson, through the shepherd of each one of these churches, speaks through this leader to the saints at Philadelphia Bible Fellowship at the church in Philadelphia, and notice what he says, 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. (Revelation 3:7)


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."

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 talkin' 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 ya, 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 15-25. In Isaiah chapter 22, verses 15-25, the steward of the house of David. David was the king of Israel. It uses that to speak of the kingdom. The key belonged to the 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 a 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 gon' think people are in charge. We're gon' think power brokers are in charge. We're gon' think folk with money are in charge. We're gon' think folk with clout are in charge. They may have a 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 keys, so I'm in charge. I run the show."

Now, in Matthew chapter 16, he says, "I'm gonna build my church, and I'm gon' 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 gonna give to my people, the church, I'm gonna 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.

What this means is, when you're using God's keys, people do not have the last say-so. Mm, see that? See, 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 gon' shut a door I open, and if I decide to lock them up, they not gon' 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."

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 wanna be publicly associated with him.

He says to them, "You have little power." That means, this is a small church that doesn't have big names, doesn't have notoriety people, doesn't have highly educated folk, doesn't have a bunch of rich, rich saints sittin' in the sanctuary.

He says, "You have little power. You not all that and a bag of chips. People don't know who you are. They don't appreciate who you are. They don't respect who you are. You don't have what people view as substantive, significant and worth applauding".

But He says, "I have set before you an open door. Even though folks say you are a nothin' 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 wantin' God to open doors while they disobey him. We got folk wantin' 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.

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 talkin' about "God bless you," all day long. "You have 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 wanna be publicly associated with him, forget open doors. You can open your own door. And that's why we get so messed up 'cause we around here, tryin' to get folk to open up the door, create the opportunity, make their connection, give us the money, and we doin' all this to open up doors, and Jesus is sittin' there with a master key.

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 were too powerless to open up on your own 'cause you have little power, little notoriety, little name recognition.

No matter what position you hold, money you have, or influence you will, keep yourself small, hear? 'Cause Jesus says, "Even though you have little power, I'm gon' 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're no better than the widow on fixed income because God will open doors for those with little power.

So it's okay if we're blessed, just don't become elite. Don't become big-headed and think you're all that. No, uh-uh, uh-uh, uh-uh. On our best day, when we've been blessed the best, you're a sinner, saved by grace. That's on your best day. I'm a sinner saved by grace on my best day.

Don't you ever forget that because, if you never forget that, then you don't look down on people who don't have your education, your money, your job, your career, your house. You don't look down on anybody 'cause you may be lookin' down on somebody who has access to a master key.

Since you have little power, "but I have opened up a door, and I've opened up a door for two reasons: You obey me, and you don't deny me."
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