Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, begin with Jesus dictating letters to John - letters to be sent to seven churches in Asia Minor (now western Turkey). In His messages to each church, Jesus complimented the church for the good that it was doing. However, He also instructed them as to what needed to be changed or improved. We can apply these directions to our own churches - even to our biggest and most popular churches that appear to have it all together.
Grow in Love
The church of Ephesus was praised for - it's hard work, patient endurance, not tolerating evil people and false apostles, suffering for Jesus without quitting, and hating the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans. Nevertheless, they were also told by Jesus
Some of our churches look so great with their growing congregations, numerous activities and expanding outreaches. But, how much more the church could please the Lord if we grew and ministered in love also.
We can grow in love with Jesus as we get alone with Him daily - studying the Bible, praying to Him, and singing praises to Him. It's unbelievable how many Christians don't even read the Bible - the word of God. How can we be used by the Lord if we won't even spend time with Him improving our relationship?
We can grow in love with each other as we pray for and with other church members, console, mentor, help, encourage, show concern, include those that are less outgoing. Instead of gossiping, complaining, and judging each other we should work at loving each other. Out of a growing love we should be praying for and encouraging the salvation and spiritual growth of others. The best way to grow in love is to ask Jesus how. He will be faithful to show us.
Don't Fear Suffering
The church of Smyrna was praised for their good works and being spiritually rich despite their suffering and poverty due to being Christians. They were also commended for persevering the blasphemy of those who opposed them. Nevertheless, Jesus also had this message for them. "
Some of us suffer - social rejection, being fired from jobs and other economic hardships due to our Christian beliefs. There are even many Christian believers through out the world who experience persecution on a much more serious level. But, God can use suffering and Satan's attacks. For example: True Christianity is growing rapidly in the countries that have terrible persecution against believers. We need to remember to pray for and support our fellow Christians that are experiencing persecution. Ministries like Voice of the Martyrs gets the news about the Christians who are suffering for Christ. People are killed for converting to Christianity, pastors are imprisoned, Bibles are confiscated, Churches and Bible Colleges are destroyed, and missionaries killed.
It is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ. He can use suffering to strengthen our spirits, glorify Himself, help others, prepare us for eternity, fulfill the plans for His will. We may not understand what He is doing, but He uses suffering for good. We need to get our eyes off our problems and focus on trusting Jesus.
Do Not Compromise
The church of Pergamum was praised for staying loyal to Jesus' name and for not denying the Christian faith despite living in such a difficult city. Nevertheless, they were also told by Jesus "You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin." (Revelation 2:14)
We still have to deal with the sin of idolatry and sexual immorality today. Some in the church are doing this and we're allowing it, we're compromising and allowing immoral conduct of our fellow believers. Sin keeps people from growing closer to the Lord. Our keeping silent excuses their behavior and doesn't encourage their growth. Our churches need to preach the truth straight from the Word of God, even if it isn't a popular modern message.
The Lord doesn't change and his biblical instructions don't change. Idolatry, sexually immorality, and all other sins are just as wrong and wicked as they were many years ago.
Do Not Become Corrupt
The church of Thyatira was praised for their love, their faith, their service, their patient endurance, and how they were improving in all these things. Nevertheless, they were told by Jesus "You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols.
Do we allow people to be in Christian leadership, knowing that they can lead others astray? I remember going to a church in which workers in the children's church were going through a divorce. What a terrible example that was for the children. I've also heard about an unmarried couple that wanted to start a new ministry at church. But they wanted to remain living together. Do we justify when we see this type of thing happening? I've heard other Christians say - "Well, we're living in a different time. That's just the way things are now."
The Lord wants us to be good witnesses to those in the church and to unbelievers. We are not to lead or follow others into sin. He wants us to stand strong against all the immorality around us.
Jesus promises us - "To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,
Be a Church That is Alive
The church of Sardis was only praised for having a few believers that hadn't defiled themselves with evil. Jesus told them -
When we do good things for the Lord, we need to do them with the right heart. Good works isn't enough.We need to do them out of a love for Jesus. Doing good things for God without drawing close to Him or being in the Bible won't measure up to His standards. Though our church may appear to be alive and active, it is really dead without a closeness to Jesus. Improving our relationship with Jesus should be more important than volunteering at church.
We need to guard ourselves and avoid temptation. Pursuing holiness and getting the sin out of our lives, will help our churches become alive. God can work through holy believers to create wonderful ministries in our churches - ones that will honor Him and will help others grow spiritually. And ones that will draw non Christians to the church.
Be Faithful in Evangelism
The church of Philadelphia was praised for having strength in the Lord, obeying Jesus' word, not denying Him, and for obeying His command to persevere. Jesus informed them - See, I have set before you an open door (of evangelistic opportunity), and no one can shut it. (Revelation 3:8)
Jesus opens evangelistic doors for us, too. But many times we don't even realize it. Many of us want to leave the evangelizing up to the "Called" - the missionaries. But, I don't think that is what Jesus intended for us to do. If we are Christians, it is our responsibility to evangelize and lead others to Christ, too. If you aren't ready yet to talk to someone about your faith - you can still evangelize. Invite someone to church or do one of the many ideas at EasyToEvangelize.com
Be Passionate for Jesus
The church of Laodicea was praised for nothing. Jesus just reprimanded them -
They had a poor water supply in Laodicea. So, they used an aqueduct to pipe in water from hot springs, from outside of the city. The water went into the aqueduct hot, but by the time it got to Laodicea it was lukewarm. When enemies planned to cut off the city's water supply, the Laodiceans were quick to compromise for fear of losing their water.
They also compromised and tried to play the middle ground spiritually. It was really an empty religion that they had. They appeared to be fine Christians, but they weren't really followers of Jesus at all. If they had been like hot water (on fire spiritually), Jesus could have used them to do His work. If they had been like cold water (didn't know Jesus yet), He could have sent people to witness to them. But because they thought that they were just fine spiritually (but really in the middle like lukewarm water), He couldn't reach them or use them to do His will.
Being in the middle is an insult to God. It is terrible if we give the appearance to others that we are more spiritual than we really are. Those who call themselves Christians need to take following Jesus seriously. Many who think that they are Christians will be surprised on Judgment day when they are sent to Hell.
Is your church lukewarm? Is everything pleasant, good feeling, organized, and appears to be good, but there is no zeal or passion for Jesus and growing holy? Does your church focus on what the people can do and what the people can get? There are some huge, successful churches out there preaching how to get financial prosperity and that you alone have the power to make positive changes in the world. They've taken the focus off of Jesus, the Bible, and God's will for us, and have made their churches humanistic.
Jesus loves us and He wants us to get things right. He says in Revelation 3:19-20 "I correct and discipline everyone I love. Be diligent and turn from your indifference.