April 23, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’ To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” (Revelation 2.24-26)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
Let’s review the first three “connections”:
“Put on the belt of truth and keeping it in place” with the charge of Christ to the Ephesian faith community which said “return to your first love.”
“Put the breastplate of righteousness in place” with the call of Christ to the Smyrna faith community which we could reference with Psalm 119.11, “The word of God I will hide in my heart that I might not sin against Him.”
“Put on your feet shoes fitted with the gospel of peace” with the call of Christ to the Pergamum faith community which said “Repent of tolerating the teaching of Balaam and Nicolatius in your midst leading you to idolatry. I am coming with a double-edged sword to fight against all those who stand allow it.“
While I have adopted some issues about movies such as Star Wars and Star Trek (there are other science fiction movies I could include but those two should garner your attention), I cannot help but borrow some imagery from them when it comes to share connections with the world when it comes to that used in The Book of Revelation. In reality, Revelation isn’t a book at all but a letter to the seven churches of Asia Minor who were under the Apostle John’s leadership as presbyter. Within the overall letter were seven messages filled with imagery to garner the attention of the individual communities whose faith was in Jesus as the Christ. So, you see, I have already made a connection with the connection in my introduction to today’s reflection. Further, since it is “one” letter with messages to seven churches, individually and corporately (you will find John with each individual message apply it to all churches), we can safely allow its message to apply to all individual modern communities whose faith is in Jesus Christ as well as to the Church in total. What it is not, in particular, is a letter to every person who exists. There is a message for them if they receive it but the honus is on the communities whose faith is in Christ. It is like an accountability statement and an MBO statement, that is- a Management by Objective. What is the objective of the seven communities individually and collectively? It is a call to remain faithful and true to their identity in Christ as Christ followers regardless of the worldly circumstances in which they find themselves. In so maintaining that objective in the midst of their “trial, tribulation and testing,” they will declare to the world the value, power and benefit of having such faith. Their adherance to the faith with as little to no compromise as possible becomes their testimony to the nations by which others are convinced to become a part of their community and receive the blessing of eternal life. We can see how this objective aligns easily with what John had already received on the day when Jesus ascended into Heaven forty days after His resurrection. What he received, as did all the disciples present that day at Mount Tabor, was the Great Commission. What was and is that “commission”? Well, it isn’t a committee to study and look into the possibility of things to do in order to address issues with which they were tasked. Committees can be our bane of existence, for the most part, and even millstones around the neck of those who wish to accomplish far more than what most committees tolerate and allow. What a tragedy when the Church and its individual members as communities of similar faith become more like a committee than a community. A committee directs, although the “community” attempts to empower it to be the implementation of whatever the committee decides is critical action. The committee thus tolerates a far greater latitude of suggestion knowing the community will respond infrequently to following what is suggested as critical action. So, all kinds of discussions and ideas are fostered with the eventual result being ineffectiveness and entitlement.
One such example is given to us in the message to be delivered by John to the “church” in Thyatira. There are two distinct groups within that community of faith. One group is made of those who refuse the “committee’s” suggestions of tolerating the teaching of Jezebel. What she was teaching was as offensive and destructive in Thyatira as was the teaching of the Balaam and Nicolatias in Pergamum. It focused on pleasing the body with vile pleasures disruptive to having right relationships and one’s own righteousness before God. Some believed it was allowable because the return of Jesus to “save them from the world” was in delay and may not happen at all. In other words, the world just gets worse and becomes evidence that the truth of righteousness was a lie. What was happening was that members of the community whose roots were not in Judaism but in other pagan religions where “free love and free thinking, so to speak,” was seen again as acceptable and even encouraged. Even the Greek mindset which highlighted a gnostic ideal found even in some sects of Judaism, promoted a dualism of body and spirit to the point that the “two were never meant to be as one.” Thus, you could do with your body what you pleased as long as your “spirit” was in the right place. Sounds awfully familiar to our current culture and climate, doesn’t it. But, I have to ask how is our “spirit” in the right place with Christ before God if our bodies are polluted temples in which the carnage of sinfulness reigns and rules? Now you may begin to see the danger of what the “other” group, shall I say committee, was allowing or tolerating or enabling or promoting entitlement to? Those who followed the “committee’s” suggestion were akin to Adam in the Garden of Eden. He knew full well what the command of God was concerning the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He also was aware of the consequence, the penalty, of disobeying that command (even though he had no knowledge of the word sin.) Yet, he allowed Eve to be seduced by the Serpent and failed to make the right choice to stand for God and against the Serpent. Did he actually dare to consider “Well, let her do it; she’s entitled to do what she wants to do!” That would be a signal of today’s culture and climate, sadly. He stood idly by struck by the vitality of the debate. He was captivated by the discussion and experienced the eating of the apple so vividly and vicariously that he could do nothing else but take of the apple as well when Eve offered it to him. He let his guard down and became victim of the temptation crime itself. It immediately resulted in the next sin which was lust, followed by shame and culminating in “the lie.”
Hear the warning which the Christ gives to John to deliver to Thyatira: “Keep your guard up!” If you are busy (and here is the connection to the teaching in Ephesians 6.16…”take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.“) holding on to the “shield of faith (and faithfulness), then you cannot hold on to the teaching of Jezebel and the fruit of temptation she is offering! Along with the promise of “ruling the nations” with a iron scepter, those who held on to their faith and faithfulness and turned away the attack of the enemy would receive “the morning star.” If you read 2 Peter 1.19, you will hear of the promise of the “morning star” which comes to those who tended the lamp (knowledge of the Holy Spirit) in the darkness until the dawn comes. What do we know of “the dawn” but significantly the message of resurrection when the women came to the tomb and found it empty. They were greeted by glorious angels who declared the word of the Lord. They were the announcers of the Holy Spirit sent to remind and teach the faithful the truth which would set them free and keep them free. How we need to take up the shield of faith and hold on to it for our very lives today. Paul said that the shield will quench the fiery darts of the enemy. It is nothing if it is not the very Word of God whose defense is sure. Come, mighty ones of God, and wield the Word of God to defend the righteous and offend the unrighteous until that day when Christ returns and will judge “the quick and the dead.” Fend off and quench the fire of temptation by faith in God alone. He is our shield and our protector!
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Thank You, Father, for loving us in the Son of Man and God. Thank You for showing us so great a love as that so we, too, might walk in its light of truth and find our lives bounded as with a belt of truth, protected by the breastplate of righteousness, fitted for our walk to be peacemakers and shielded by faith. We go now into our spheres of influence girded with truth and fitted for service to bring the word to others and glory to You in Jesus’ name. AMEN.