If to have seen Jesus was to have seen the Father, the clearest, radiant and beautiful picture of what the Father is really like (John 14:8-9), then to see the church should be to see a clear and precious picture of what Christ is truly like. After all, the church is His body (Eph. 1:21-23); surely the body should honor and reflect the head, the saved should glorify the Savior (Eph. 3:21; 5:23). Because the church has been purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28), we seek to worship and to serve Him according to His holy will. There always is a great need for strong churches! We dare not lose sight of who we are and to Whom we belong. But what does it really mean to be a strong church?
The letters of our Lord to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 help answer that question. Please do not fail to note the Christocentric nature of these letters; if a church is not truly focused on Jesus, it is going off course, and the result can be disastrous! Our Lord says strikingly little about numbers and size, budgets and programs, social influence and cultural relevance, even though all of these matters have their proper place. What Jesus does emphasize is if the church loves Him, if it holds forth His name, if it proclaims His message and keeps His word. From each of the seven churches, consider one quality that Jesus wants every church to have to truly be strong.
The church at Ephesus reminds us of the necessity of LOVE (Rev. 2:1-7). Without love for God and souls, anything we do amounts to nothing (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Sadly as has been well said, it is possible to be as straight as a gun barrel doctrinally, but just as empty inside. For whatever reason, too many people fail to see the seriousness of leaving one’s first love. Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11) reminds us of the necessity of DEPENDENCE UPON GOD. Apart from the Lord, we accomplish nothing (John 15:4-5; Eph. 6:10-16). Our sufficiency comes from Him (2 Cor. 3:5). Too many churches are like too many individuals – proud, self-reliant and self-indulgent. We dare not take one step without love and respect for God and His holy will.
The church at Pergamum (Rev. 2:12-17) encourages us to remember the necessity of SOUND TEACHING. Pergamum was located “where Satan’s seat” was, and it was imperative that healthy teaching be emphasized. Scripture repeatedly reminds the people of God that we must stress sound doctrine (2 Tim. 1:13; 4:2-4). We must not allow others to speak disparagingly of Jesus and healthy teaching. Thyatira (2:18-29) reminds us that God wants the church to be HOLY AND PURE. Many congregations would do well to have an ongoing class on “perfecting holiness in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). Do we truly seek to love what God loves and to hate what He hates?
The church at Sardis (3:1-6) needed to manifest GREATER GROWTH TO CHRISTLIKENESS. They had a “reputation,” but their reputation did not correspond to the reality the Savior saw. They were in many ways dead and had failed to bring works to their completion. Are we encouraging our congregations to greater Christlikeness? (Col. 1:24-29). The church at Philadelphia (3:7-13) reminds us of the necessity of PERSEVERANCE IN MISSION. Things would not be easy, but God’s will does not lack for God’s supply when it truly is for God’s glory. Finally, the church at Laodicea (3:14-22) emphasizes the priority of ZEALOUS, WHOLEHEARTED COMMITMENT. They lacked it, and they needed it desperately and did not even realize it. This is a church that had Jesus on the outside saying, “Please let Me in” (cf. Romans 12:9-2).
What might Jesus say to the church of which you are a member? What are you personally doing to contribute to love and dependence upon God in your home congregation? What are you doing to encourage sound teaching and greater holiness and purity? Are you growing to greater Christlikeness and humbly encouraging others to do the same? Are we persevering in the Lord and His cause with great zeal, enthusiasm and commitment? Let’s help our churches be what Jesus wants them to be. Let’s help our churches be strong in the eyes of God! – Mike Vestal