Letter to the 7 churches..Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea
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|Dr Lee Fook Sin
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|Moh Ee Lin
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|Ng Cho Hoo
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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS – STUDY 4
Please look at the questions and discuss the answers. The case histories are designed to let you apply what theoretical knowledge you have gleaned from the study. There are intentionally many more questions and case histories than you can manage in one session but this is designed to cover the many and varied needs of the individuals in the church hence please pick and choose which ones to discuss as long as it gets people sharing and applying the Word to real life situations. Never feel obligated to finish all the questions The answers will be posted on the web the next day.
Revelations 3: 1b I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up.
Jesus meant that although this church had a reputation for vibrancy, activity and lots of good works which on the out side gave the impression of your ideal church but spiritually they were dead of far from God. Good works are always good when they are done as an expression of one’s faith in God and one’s love for Him which is a response to His death on the cross for us. The core of the gospel preached to them was how God saved them from their sins by the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. There would be salvation in no other means. If one were to alter the message or modify it in anyway it would effectively render the message useless for salvation and the recipients still left dead in their sins.
One of the earliest ways of gospel distortion was encountered in the book of Galatians where adherence to the outward signs of the covenant and Jewish laws are included as a pre-requisite to salvation instead of relying on Jesus and what He had done exclusively. In this church it was works and for many of us this is the default error when we rely on our activities and works as a surrogate for spirituality and authenticity. This is why their works were not consider complete they were probably used as the means to salvation instead of relying entirely on Jesus hence they were spiritually dead not alive.
They are to remember what they have received and heard before and to keep it and repent. This obviously refers to the gospel which is the good news of what God had done for them in Jesus which was preached to them in the first place. It is a historical message and what was preached which established the church was the gospel but somehow through human sin and compromise it had been diluted and substituted with all sorts of other elements and teachings and in the end they were left with some moralistic religious principles which had no semblance of the true gospel. The true gospel is not about good living or moralistic teaching it is a bout sin and eternal death as its penalty and the need for Jesus death and life in our lives.
There are three common errors that often lead to spiritual decay and death in church.
A. They are when reputation replaces repentance.
B. Performance is valued above perseverance.
C. Compromise is preferred to commitment.
Can the group share how some of these errors can trip us up in our work with Christ and how we too struggle with them?
Are they other ways in which we can be unknowingly lulled into a false sense of confidence too?
There is a current false teaching in the understanding of the key of David. Some preachers have re-interpretered the Key of David as a tool to unlock prosperity and blessing from God. They say all we have to do is to claim the Key of David for our selves in adverse situations to turn things around.
The understanding of the Key of David needs to be based on the Old Testament back ground of the key of David taken from Isaiah 22:20-22 which refers to God choosing as His steward to administer the government under King Hezekiah when they were besieged by the Assyrians. The previous steward Shebna was let go and God chose instead Eliakim.
Isaiah 22: 20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
Hence in the Old Testament the Key of David referred to not an actual physical key but a symbolic one in which authority was given to a servant of God to unlock the processes of government under the administration of the Davidic king at the time King Hezekiah.
Jesus was also described as holding a metaphorical key which is the key to eternal life when He declared in Rev 1: 17 Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
The other symbol used in this verse is the “door” to which the key of David opens and closes and in the New Testament the idea of the open door refers to the opportunity for the witnessing of the gospel especially to the Gentiles in Acts 14:27 and also Paul who uses it in 2 Cor 2: 12 to mean preaching opportunities for the gospel.
The situation in the Philadelphian which was they were poor and small and oppressed by the Roman authorities and shut out by the Jews who no longer wanted the Christians to be registered as worshippers with them which had been in the past an effective shield from persecution. The Jews effectively shut the door on them. It would therefore seem that this band of beleaguered helpless Christians were locked out of all opportunisties for survival and ministry.
It is when we take all these three elements together that what Jesus meant by the Key of David was that Jesus is the one holding the key to their survival and prospering in ministry. He is the Davidic Son and Davidic King who holds the authority of His Father’s kingdom the authority over life and death over opportunities for the gospel hence He is the one they need to rely upon not the Jews.
Hence we can see how people again misuse Scripture to suit their own selfish needs. Perhaps the church member should just the transfer to reflect on his own efforts at work as a hardworking employee who aim as to please Jesus and not sponge of the efforts of others and recast all his personal inadequacies as spiritual opposition.
The sin of the Laodiceans was forgetting God and relying and focussing on their own personal power, health and wealth. They thought they were spiritually as rich as their gold had reflected and their focus in life was to be caught up in the activities of their very prosperous city. Here we have the beginnings of what we now see in our own society of the prosperity gospel where the overwhelming pre-occupation was on keeping up with the Joneses , promotion at work, upward progression in society and the result was Christ and His desires and mission being marginalised to be little to no influence in their lives. They are too comfortable in their big houses and too busy for Jesus. Their sense of value had been distorted as what was important to God was unimportant to them.
The Lord is not against prosperity and in fact as we look at the Old Testament and in particular the passage in Deuteronomy , God saved the people of Israel from the poverty of enslavement and brought them to the rich lands of Canaan and this was meant to display His love and care for
them and his loyalty based on the promise or covenant He made with their fore fathers. Instead they interpreted His gracious provisions as their God given rights obtained under their own strengths and abilities and because they considered their wealth as a function of their own efforts
it therefore became easy for them to disregard God. In their disregard for Him they no longer felt obligated to serve Him nor be obedient to Him and hence their fall in to sin.
So God is not against prosperity but in the history of Israel provided it as an expression of His love and fidelity to be reciprocated by love and obedience but time and time again Israel proved that the prosperity became a snare that drew them away from God instead of towards Him.
We too are in danger of the same sin. It is a double edged sword used appropriately it will leave us on our knees in thankfulness and worship of Him and inappropriately it will lead us away. The danger of the prosperity gospel is that it feeds in to our own selfish desires. If God’s blessings are only cast as physical prosperity and health then believers will desire these blessings as a means in them selves and not see them as an extension of His love to be reciprocated. In order words we will encourage a whole generation of believers who are in it for themselves. Their love and worship of God are a means to an end. To their own selfish ends and this is the delusion of the Laodiceans church and our own delusion
This verse is a challenge to Christians because the letter was to the Laodicean believers not unbelievers which is why Jesus says those whom He loves he reprove and disciplines. It is the believers which Jesus specially loves as God’s adopted sons and as sons they are subject to discipline and required to repent and renew fellowship as we read in the passage of Hebrews 12:5-6
How do we practically express the value of our relationship with Christ? Here Christ is pictured as longing to enter into hearts that are insensitive to Him. How can we each practically open the doors of our hearts to let him in?
Daniel is like many of us because our default mode is to read scripture and interpret it according to our own situation and apply it directly to our problems. All Scripture needs to be interpreted historically first to extract the meaning which was intended to its first recipients and then only can be extract principles to apply to our own lives.
This verse Rev 3: 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The context of this verse is that concludes Christs admonishments and encouragements to the 7 churches undergoing many spiritual challenges. Some were tempted to compromise their witness or shrink back from the stiff opposition and persecution and others were blindly accommodating to the prevailing culture and diluting their witness for Him.
The Laodiceans had depended on their own prosperity and abilities so much so that they were not depending on Him. They were blinded by their own wealth and had marginalised Jesus to almost irrelevance. Jesus challenged them to come back to Him and rely on His strength and see their own true spiritual state through His eyes rather than through the lens of their own abilities. It is Jesus who is the only one who can supply them what they need for a fulfilling life. It is He who can bring them the purity of faith as symbolised by the refining of gold, it is only He that can cover our nakedness exposed by our idolatry. He can give us His righteousness which we had foolishly cast aside for the lure of idolatry for the things of the world that we thought will give our lives cover but instead left us naked and ashamed. It is only He with the piercing flaming eyes that can see though the devils deceptions and appreciate true value in life. So the Laodiceans are loving coaxed to renew fellowship with Jesus. Only by opening the doors of our hearts to Jesus will we truly overcome our spiritual problems.
So we conquer or overcome our spiritual problems by inviting Jesus in to our lives in ongoing deeper fellowship and trusting Him and surrendering our own evil desires are his b and perceptions and accepting His. We conquer like Jesus conquered … look at the verse ……”will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered”.
The best verse to described how Jesus conquered is how Jesus is introduced to us in Revelations 1: (ESV) 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
Jesus was the faithful witness of God…there is a play on the words as the Greek for witness is Martus which is also the meaning of martyr as one who died for being witness. Then he rose from the dead and because of this He is the ruler of the kings of the earth.
As Christians we die to self and our desires for power and control and riches and we find all our power and riches and strength and value in Jesus and through Him we will overcome and rule with Him one day. Now this is a far cry from the simplistic interpretation by Daniel. He has ripped out God’s promise to His people from its proper context. What was intended to be used as a promise to reassure. God’s people of ultimate spiritual victory in eternal life by living and dying as Christ lived and rising and ruling with Christ is now interpreted as God guaranteeing Daniel business success which really has nothing to do with God’s purposes for us which are far greater and more consequential.
What Daniel is doing is putting words and promises in God’s mouth when Jesus is intending a radically different message and when Daniel does this he is opening him self to delusions based on a wrong reading of the bible. When and if his business falls apart because he had not taken prudent financial actions to restructure his loans of close his businesses then he would have falsely blamed God and either become bitter at God or loose trust in Him completely.
At times God in his infinite grace might on the other hand allow some miraculous financial relief for his businesses and Daniel will then have been unfortunately reinforced in his false beliefs and will be either setting himself up for a bigger fall later on or will feel so emboldened that he will share his beliefs with others with devastating consequences ultimately. If indeed God had been gracious and saved Daniel’s business it would have been an act of grace which God often grants in order that Daniel repent and learn and grow. Hopefully he will not have this act of grace misinterpreted as a vindication of his false beliefs.
It installs discipline to regularly witness
It teaches the skill to present the gospel clearly
It keeps the mission of witnessing as a priority
It puts evangelism in such a way that it might discourages some of us from stepping out in it. It makes evangelism unnatural and a duty rather than an act borne out of genuine love for Jesus and others.
Answers will be available on 29th October 2020.