#12 Philadelphia Part 1
We have come today to worship the Lord through the singing of Hymns, the study of His Holy Word and in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper! My prayer is that you have come because you love Jesus and His word and because your hearts desire is to be faithful to Him.
As Christians we are disciples of Jesus Christ. We follow Him through the words He has written for us. Our goal, our final goal is to be with Him when this life is over. We truly want to hear Him say, “Enter into the joy of your Master”. We want to be found faithful in every aspect of our lives. This is our hearts desire.
And this is a full time job. We must be ever vigilant. We must watch over our lives and be clothed with the armor of God. If we relax our guard even for a moment we will fall. Our sinful nature seeks to drag us down, Satan prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
That is why Jesus said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Now think with me for a moment. How many times do we take our eyes off Jesus and look to the world around us? How many times do we take on the mindset of the world concerning the future? And what happens when we do? We fall!
Now when we were younger we thought that life would never end. We thought that we were indestructible. We thought, “That could never happen to me.” But now as we get older the truth of the matter is that each day is shorter than the last! And we see how vulnerable we are. We see how much we need to cling to Jesus.
The scriptures speak of this life as something fleeting. Do you not see the truth of the word which speaks of life being like a vapor! When we forsake Jesus Christ we get caught up in plots plans and schemes concerning what we will do today, tomorrow and even months into the future all the while knowing the word of God through His apostle James who said, (Jas 4:14) Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (Job 14:1-2) “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil. 2 “Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and does not remain.
Understanding this truth, our lives should and must be spent in service to our Lord Jesus Christ. We must give Him more than lip service: we must give Him life service. It is not enough to say, I love Jesus, or, I know God. These statements must be backed up by life-evidence in order for them to hold any weight.
There must be fruit in your life, the fruit of holiness of life, of conformity to the example of Jesus Christ. Remember His testimony: that He was always about His Father’s business, that He always did that which was pleasing to His Father. And recall the words of (1Jo 2:6) “the one who says he abides in Him (Jesus) ought himself to walk in the same manner as He (Jesus) walked.” We must walk through this world as strangers and aliens to its deceitful schemes, demonstrating our claim of faith, trust in Jesus by our deeds. He must be our all in all! Now these are hard words to the one who merely plays at being a Christian. Such people have never known Jesus; their claim of Christianity is false. They are worldlings who have no concept of faithfulness, of devotion to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Theirs is merely a surface knowledge, an acknowledgement of some facts. They “say” but they don’t “do”. They are like Simon the sorcerer who “claimed faith in Jesus” but in reality he was just trying to learn some new tricks. There was no fruit, no proof that he ever truly trusted Jesus.
Such religion is worthless for it is not the hearers of the Law it is not those who merely read the word or hear it preached but who don’t obey it, who are just before God, but it is those who hear and obey, who say like Samuel, “speak Lord for your servant is listening, or like Paul who said, “Lord what do you want me to do?! These two are examples of faithful believers. They knew God, trusted Him and did exploits in His Name!
And the scriptures tell us that it is the doers of the Law (it is those who obey Him who) will be justified. Why? They have demonstrated that they truly love Jesus by their obedience to His word. (Ro 2:13) They have proved themselves to be faithful. This is what James is telling us in (Jas 1:22) when he says, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Prove the authenticity of your claim of faithfulness to Jesus Christ. You call yourselves Christians, PROVE IT! Let there be fruit, demonstrable evidence of your claim. Jesus spoke of true servant-hood in (Joh 14:15) when He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
And in (Lu 6:46) He said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? And I say, why do you do this if you really don’t love Jesus! Why do you call yourselves Christians if you don’t want to follow Him! Because if we truly love Jesus Christ we will search our hearts to see whether we are being faithful to His word.
Our hearts desire will be to obey His commandments. Our motivation for wanting to serve Him will be a heart filled with love, gratitude, and devotion to Jesus as Lord! And we will long to demonstrate our faith by our deeds, to show Him how much we really do love Him! This is not the hearts desire of the one who merely says, “Lord, Lord”, but does not keep His commandments. Theirs is a mere empty boast. Because their actions demonstrate another allegiance. They love sin, self and the devil. Their “faithfulness is a shame, a mere outward show with no inward fervor of love to God. They have all the devotion of a Pharisee they are merely deluding themselves.
Then there is the lazy believer, the one who somehow has gotten off the track and has backslidden. They may still go to church. They may still read the scriptures. They may still pray. But their hearts are cold. What a sad state of affairs. I don’t want to be one who says, I love God and don’t do the things that He says. I don’t want to find my heart growing cold toward the things of God. I don’t want my service to Him to be half-hearted for “As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.” (Pr 10:26) I want to please Him with my faithfulness. I want to serve Him because I love Him. I want to be found faithful. Such was the desire of the church at Philadelphia. This letter is unlike any of the other letters to the other churches that we’ve seen thus far. They were faithful! These Christians were devoted to Jesus! In speaking of His return in Luke’s Gospel Jesus asked “will I find faith on the earth?” and I ask, will He find us faithful: will He find us about our Father’s business? Will He say to us the things that he says to this church in Philadelphia?
As you listen this morning, consider yourselves as addressed directly by God. Examine yourselves in the light of His Holy Word and ask yourselves hard questions! Let these words sink into your heart. Let them burn through all the dross and break through the fallow ground of your heart.
Concerning the Church at Philadelphia Jesus has nothing bad to say: no condemnation, nothing against them. They have been found faithful in His sight. What a church this must have been! I have been in a few churches which I consider to be oases of true Christianity. These times have been wonderful. The members loved one another, instead of biting and devouring one another!
These were times of true worshipful experiences where those who loved Jesus met to worship Him and to encourage one another. And the question that we must ask ourselves as we read this letter is: can this be said of me? Am I faithful to Jesus? Is this my testimony before the Lord? Do I love Jesus? Do I love His people, His word, His worship? Would our Father say to the devil, behold My faithful servant, (put your name here) for there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
Is this your hearts desire? Do you prefer a testimony such as God gave Job, as He gave the church of Philadelphia? Or do you prefer mediocrity, a kind of “Christianity” which just gets by: where there is little or no heat, devotion or love for Jesus. Do you prefer to be a Pharisee?
Lets listen to what Jesus has to say to this church! Our text is (Revelation 3:7-13) where we read, “And to the angel (messenger, pastor) of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, This is a characteristic unique to our God. He alone is Holy. By Holy I mean pure, perfect, absolutely without sin, stain, blot or blemish. He is Holy, Holy, Holy!
Turn with me to (Isaiah 6:1-4) and see an awesome sight. In the year of King Uzziah’s (for most of Uzziah’s reign he was a godly man. But one day he thought that he could go into the temple and burn incense on the altar, a duty that was the sole responsibility of the priests. The priests told him he couldn’t do it and he got angry and then God smote him with leprosy.) His life is an example of faithfulness and unfaithfulness. He was blessed by God while he remained faithful and punished when he failed to regard God as Holy! He died a leper. In the year of Uzziah’s death Isaiah was given a vision of God and a calling from Him to proclaim His truth to the nation of Israel. He describes the vision saying, “I saw the Lord… That in itself is so stunning as to leave us groping for words. He was given a vision of God sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another in what is called the trishagion which means “The Three Times Holy”
What an awesome, Holy scene this must have been… What a glorious privilege to be granted access into the throne room of God to see Him on His throne and to hear the song of the Angel as he said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.
Ponder the words of R.C. Sproul concerning this passage. “A recent survey of ex church members revealed that the main reason they stopped going to church was that they found it boring. It is difficult for many people to find worship a thrilling and moving experience.” I ask, what was their purpose for attending worship in the first place? Were they looking for a show, to be entertained? Then they were there for the wrong reasons. Either you come to worship or you have other motivations. And if you have other reasons than the worship of God, it is no wonder you become bored!
“And yet note here that when these Seraphim sang praise to God on His throne, the doors and the thresholds were moved! These doorposts were moved, they were shaken at the sound of the high praises of God.” What about you! Think of the words of Jesus to the legalistic Pharisees who told Him to quiet the people down who were praising His Name. He said, “If these hold there peace the very stones would cry out.” Inanimate matter would do what sinful man would withhold. And if inanimate matter is moved by the worship of God, why aren’t you!
Here is the Holy One, the Perfect One, the Just One, the God of the Universe, the Creator of all things, and the re-creator of your sinful dead soul. He has raised you up from the dunghill of sin, has delivered you from His fierce wrath and has seated you with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. How can you be silent! How can you keep still when you contemplate the glory of God and the grace that He has lavished upon you? Stir up your hearts and praise the Lord from Whom all blessings flow!
Rejoice in the God of your salvation. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Sing psalms to one another and together make a joyful noise to the Lord who from everlasting to everlasting, is God. Everything in His Holy Temple says, GLORY! Go thou and do likewise. The Philadelphian Church knew their God! They loved Him and worshiped Him from a heart of love and devotion that is seldom seen in the church today. “We don’t do things like that around here.” “That was fer them back then.” “We’re too sophisticated to just let ourselves go and act so unbecoming.” “We’re too dignified for that.” I ask you to cast your mind back to the days of King David. Recall when the Ark of the Covenant was being brought to Jerusalem to be placed into the Tabernacle there. (1st Samuel 6:14-22) 14 “And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. 16 Then it happened as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. 17 So they brought in the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. 18 When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts. 19 Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house. 20 ¶ But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 So David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 “I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished.”
What was David doing here? He wasn’t one of those crazy Pentecostal types was he? You don’t expect us to start dancing before the Lord do you? No that’s not what I’m saying. What I want you to see here is a man who truly loved God and worshiped Him WITH ALL OF HIS MIGHT! And I say to you, “Go thou and do likewise!” Demonstrate your claim of faith by worshiping our great Father with all of your might!
Worship Him who is true… Here is another attribute that is characteristic only of God. He alone is Faithful and True. He alone can be said to always be true. He speaks and it comes to pass. He declares the end from the beginning and never changes! We rest in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, (Tit 1:2)
Unlike sinful men, even our closest friends, God will never fail us. He specifically said that He would never leave us nor forsake us. Jesus gave the illustration of a true shepherd in contrast to a hireling. The hireling will stay with the sheep as long as it is convenient for them, as long as there is something in it for them. When danger rears its ugly head they’ll bravely turn and run instead of staying and protecting the sheep!
Now a true shepherd actually cares for the sheep. He nurtures them and protects them, laying his life on the line for them. I remember reading of how a shepherd dealt with a sheep that was prone to wander. He would break its legs and then carry it wherever he went. He would hand feed it and water it: demonstrating real love to it. Then, when the legs healed and the sheep was able to walk again it would never stray far from the shepherd again. Now the breaking of the legs sounds harsh but the benefit to the sheep was immeasurable! Now think of our Great Shepherd. He demonstrated His love for us in that He laid down His life for us! He is the door of the sheepfold and no one can get through Him to harm us. He leads us into green pastures and beside still water. He nourishes us with our daily bread, indeed He lavishes upon us great and wonderful blessings that we cannot count. Our cups run over because we are not able to contain the blessings He bestows upon us. Sometimes He disciplines us, sometimes breaking our legs so that we will learn to depend upon Him ALONE!
(1st John 3:1-3) “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Instead of laying your weapons down and surrendering to the enemy I tell you, FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH! You started in the Spirit. Now walk with the Spirit and when the day comes for you to say goodbye to this world, go in the Spirit of God. Let it be said of you that you were faithful to follow your Lord: that you began in the Spirit and you finished in the Spirit too! Let your testimony to the world be, I WALKED WITH JESUS!