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THE KIND OF CHURCH GOD USES
Intro: Of our Lord’s seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor, only two did not receive any sort of correction or rebuke. One was the letter to the church in Smyrna, Rev. 2:8-11, and the other is this letter to the church in Philadelphia. While the letter to the church in Smyrna is a challenge for them to remain faithful unto death, this letter is filled with compliments and praise. The other five letters all contain words of complaint and correction, but this church receives nothing but praise from the Lord Jesus Christ.
As you read this letter, you become quickly aware that this is a church that the Lord is using for His glory. In fact, down through history, the kind of churches God has used most often, fit into the Philadelphia mold. I want this church to be a church that God can use, don’t you? I want the Lord to look down at us and say, “There is a church that I can do something with for my glory.” I would like for us to fit into this Philadelphia mold. I believe it would be worth our time this evening to look into this passage and examine for ourselves the characteristics of a church that God uses. Then let’s see whether or not Gilead Baptist fits the mold. If it does, then praise God! Let’s go forward! If it doesn’t then let’s not waste our time trying to change the mold, let’s change the church to fit the mold!
I. V. 7-8a THE CHRIST OF THIS CHURCH
A. His Attributes - This verse points out what the Captain of this kind of church is like.
1. He Is Holy - That is, He is without blemish! He is absolutely perfect and sinless. That is the Lord we serve, 1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15! (Note: Those who wish to walk with Him must learn to walk in holiness as well - Amos 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:16.)
2. He Is Honest - The word true means “Genuine, that which is real”. In other words, He is the only One worthy of faith, trust and obedience! He is the One to follow! The church God uses will always be a church that makes much of the Lord Jesus Christ, John 12:32; Col. 1:18!
B. His Activity - Here is what the Captain of this kind of church is doing.
1. His Work In The Doors Of Life - He is busy opening and closing doors. When it says that Jesus has the key of David, it is a reference to Isa. 22:22. This was a prophecy concerning a servant of David named Eliakim, but it was a picture of the coming Messiah Who would die on the cross! The idea of keys conveys two thoughts: Access and Authority. The person who has the keys can let you in or he can keep you out. He has the keys and with the keys comes authority to let people in or to keep them out at His discretion. (Ill. Your car keys and your house keys.) Jesus is described here at the Key Man! He holds the keys of access and authority for all of life!
a. He Holds The Keys Of Salvation - Rev. 1:18 - He alone can unlock Heaven and lock Hell and He alone can lock Heaven and unlock Hell for you! (Ill. You cannot die until He unlocks the door of death for you and you cannot live once that door is unlocked!)
b. He Holds The Keys Of Service - Rev. 3:8 - Jesus alone unlocks the doors of ministry! It is He Who decides what churches and ministries prosper and to what extent! When He has opened a door of service, you can expect Him to bless you greatly if you go through it. When He has closed a door of service, you would do just as well to accept it and move on. No amount of pleading, pushing or pounding will reopen the door!
2. His Watchfulness In The Deeds Of Life - The Lord is constantly watching the lives of His people, Pro. 15:3, Heb. 4:13. He knows what we do with the opportunities He gives us. He watches our works and He sees our successes and our failures. (Note: The idea here is that Jesus is in the midst of His church - Rev. 1:13, 20. He is in the midst of His church to create opportunities for blessing and usefulness. He is in the midst of His church to judge our motives and our ministries. Yet, His Own people often do not recognize the Creator in the midst! I believe that many churches would come to new life if they learned to recognize, worship and honor the Christ Who moves among them!)
II. V. 8b THE CONDITION OF THIS CHURCH
A. The Privilege They Enjoyed - This was a church blessed by the Lord. He had given them an open door for ministry and He promised to keep that door open for them in spite of all others might do to shut it! (Ill. The city of Philadelphia was founded as a missionary city. It was founded as a door way to Asia so that the Greek culture could be spread to the peoples of the East. They were, therefore, familiar with the idea of open doors.) (Note: There are times when the Lord will place open doors before a church or ministry. The wise thing to do is to step through those doors because, when the Lord has determined to bless a church, no one can stop it from happening!) (Note: Sometimes, God will allow a church or a ministry to face closed doors. What do you do? You wait before Him patiently until He opens the doors that need to be opened! Not easy! Ill Elijah by the dry brook - 1 Kings 17.) (Note: All of God’s doors, both the open ones and the closed ones are blessings! What we do with the doors of life, however, determine the course of our ministry!)
B. The Power They Exhibited - Jesus says “you have a little strength”. This probably means that they were a small church with limited resources and few workers. However, what they probably saw as weaknesses, Jesus saw as strength! (Note: We are often guilty of the same comparisons. Far too often we are guilty of looking at what we cannot do instead of what God has called us to do. If we could ever learn to take Him at His Word, trust Him by faith and just go forward for His glory, regardless of what we think, feel or see, we would experience God’s work in new, deep and profound ways! Remember what God told Paul, 2 Cor 12:9? Remember what Paul told the Romans - Rom. 8:31?)
C. The Proof They Embodied - The latter part of verse 8 tells us why the Lord blessed this church and used them like He did. They had their priorities right! They gave proof positive that they were His and that they were committed to serving Him!
1. They Possessed The Right Standard Of Faith - This was a church that was walking in obedience to the Word of God! The Bible was their standard of faith and they refused to deviate from it! My friends, the Lord will bless a church that is faithful to the Word of God! Why? Obedience to the Word of God is proof of our love for God, John 14:15. Because we love Him, we hold His Word in high regard and that honors Him and He, in turn, honors that! In His time, the Lord will open all the right doors for the church that has the right standard of faith!
2. They Possessed The Right Statement Of Faith - They had not denied His Name. That is, they were a people who were all about Jesus! He was the centerpiece of their worship and their praise. He was why they gathered and He was all important. His statement carries the idea that this church was not ashamed of Christ’s death on the cross. They were not ashamed to preach salvation by faith through grace. They wanted the world to know about their glorious Lord. Because they mode much of Jesus, He made much of them! (Ill. This is the kind of church we ought to strive to be!)
III. V. 9-11 THE CHALLENGES OF THIS CHURCH
(Ill. This church wasn’t without its challenges! While Jesus commends them for their standards, He also challenges them to continue to go forward for His glory!)
A. V. 9 The Challenge Of Persecution - Not everyone was happy with this church. In fact, they had some powerful enemies from some who claimed to know Jesus, but were unsaved. My friends, the true church will always be the target of those who do not know the Lord! When folks who are not walking with Jesus Christ start to criticize the church, we ought to praise the Lord because it is proof that we are His! (Ill. The early days of this ministry and the criticisms we endured! Praise God!) The Lord’s promise to this church is that time will prove who the Lord was really blessing! The challenge is to remain faithful in spite of all people are saying about you! Just keep serving, keep living, keep preaching, keep worshiping! When the dust settles at the end of the trail, everyone will know where everyone else was standing in relationship to Jesus Christ!
B. V. 10-11a The Challenge Of Perseverance - Here, this church receives the glorious promise that they will be removed from the world before some great disaster. I personally believe that this is a reference to the rapture of the church, 1 Thes. 4:16-17. This is a challenge for these people to carry on for the Lord, knowing that one day He is returning to take them out of this world. Obviously, the Lord didn’t return in their life times, but that does not change the fact that He is coming! Our duty to Him is to live every day like He will return at any moment and to work every day like He is never coming back. We are to stand for Him until He comes, whether we go through the grave or through the clouds we are called upon to persevere! (Note: Those who genuinely belong to Him will persevere! Those who don’t will fall by the wayside along the way!)
C. V. 11b The Challenge Of Protection - The Lord also cautions them regarding their future rewards. They are to keep their guard up so that they are not pulled from the right path, and as a result, lose their rewards. He is not talking about salvation! He is talking about rewards in Heaven, 1 Cor. 3:10-15. You cannot lose your salvation, but you can go to Heaven smelling as if your were purchased at a fire sale! Don’t let the devil’s crowd or the worldly church crowd cause you to get your eyes off the prize to be won at the end of the race. Run with your eyes upon the Lord Jesus, Heb. 12:1-2.
IV. V. 12-13 THE COMFORT OF THIS CHURCH
(Ill. The Lord closes this passage with a wonderful word of promise to the people in the church at Philadelphia.
A. The Comfort Of His Stability - They are promised that they will stand as pillars in the Temple of God in Heaven. History records that influential citizens of Philadelphia would often be honored the city with a pillar placed in their name in one of the pagan temples. It isn’t very likely that any members of the Philadelphian church were ever recognized as outstanding citizens in this pagan city. However, the Lord tells them that He is watching and that He will set them in His Father’s Temple in glory! (Ill. Of all the pagan temples that stood in Philadelphia, with all their thousands of pillars, exactly none are still standing today! You see, the honor of men is fleeting, but the honor the Lord promises these people in Heaven is eternal!) (Note: What would you rather have: temporary recognition here, or eternal stability over there?)
B. The Comfort Of His Safety - they are promised that they will “go no more out”. This is a reference to the fact that Philadelphia was built near an active volcano. When that mountain would begin to rumble, the citizens of the city would be forced to flee. In many ways it was a very unsafe place to live. Jesus reminds them that they are headed to a place of safety in Heaven. This world may be changing and there may be dangers on every hand, but those who have the door of Heaven opened to them find a place of eternal safety, peace and rest!
C. The Comfort Of His Security - These people receive the wonderful promise that they will be identified as the people of God forever. They will have His Name upon them. They will be identified as citizens of Heaven. They even have the precious promise that they will bear the Name of the Savior. What He is talking about here is their security. Those who trust the Lord are claimed by Him, Heb. 2:11; Heb. 11:16! They are guaranteed citizenship in His Heaven, Phil. 3:20. They possess the comfort of His security as they pass through this world.
Conc: Friends, this is the kind of church God uses! Look once more at verse 8. The Philadelphian church demonstrated the attributes of dependability, dedication and devotion. As a result, the Lord blessed them and used them for His glory. Would you join me this evening in asking the Lord to help us be a church He can use? Would you join me in asking God to clean us out, fill us up and set before us the open doors the please Him? Would you join me in praying for Gilead Baptist Church this evening? Friends, I want Him to use us greatly, and He will, if we meet His conditions. We need to work on our walk with God as individuals and as a church. Will you join with me as I seek the Lord for the future of this church? I realize that our future in Heaven is bright, but I want our days down here to be bountiful with God’s blessings as well. Don’t you?