AGCC Sun. a.m. 11/10/91
#6 (Book of Revelation Series-Addition messages on the 7 Churches)
"A POWERFUL CHURCH!"
TEXT: Rev. 3:7-13
INTRO:What is it that determines the power of a Church?
a. The size of the congregation, the bigger the more powerful? NO!
b. The magnificence of the building. There are many beautiful structures we call Churches, some costing millions of dollars but without the testimony of Christ in them!
c. The variety of the programs offered? Activity doesn't prove anything.
d. Large amounts of cash ...? No!
e. Important people who are members?
In every one of the categories above you could probably find both strong and weak Churches, it must be something else that determines the power of a Church!
The Church in Philadelphia was small, the meaning of the phrase "little strength." They were not wealthy, they did not have important people of the community as members, they are not mentioned for their many programs, or beautiful white steeple building.
WHAT IS MENTIONED is that they had done 2 things: "YOU HAVE KEPT MY WORD" (God's Word) and "HAVE NOT DENIED MY NAME" ... they had lived up to what a Christian should be.
This is what makes a powerful Church! They truly loved the Lord and each other!
PROP. SENT: God's Word will teach us that to be a powerful Church we must do 2 things: Hold to God's Word without compromise, and to demonstrate God's love.
I. THE CHURCH'S DOMINATION 3:7-9
A. Possibilities! 3:7
1. This small Church's love for God and for His Word had caught the attention of the community, this had opened up many doors of opportunity for witnessing!
a. It isn't always the large Churches that draw people's attention to Christ!
b. The vast majority of Churches in the world are small!
2. THE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD: (2006 figures)
a. 34.4% Churches in the A/G average 49 people or less in morning worship! (4,240 churches! Thus more than 1/3rd of all our Churches average less than 49 nationwide!)
b. 28.7% average 50-99! (3,533 Churches. Thus more than 1/4th of all our Church are from 50-100 nationwide!
c. 63.1% thus average less than 99! (7,973 Churches. Thus nearly 2/3ths of all our Churches average less than 100 nationwide!
d. 83.1% of our Churches average less than 199! (Total churches in 2006: 12,311)
3. Power comes from God's presence, not property, nor programs, nor prestige, nor personalities, nor provisions!
4. The Church must not see its size ... it must see the open doors God has given and walk through them. A door means nothing if it isn't used!
ILLUS:There were 2 shoe salesmen who were being sent to another country to try and establish a new territory for their product. They were both sent to the same general area, but did not have contact with each other: One man finally wrote back this discouraging note to the company headquarters: "Don't send any shoes, the natives don't wear any footwear!" The other guy sent back a very different note about the same time: "Send all the shoes you've got, nobody here has any!"
B. Power 3:8
1. Though this Church is said to have "little strength" it was also told it had an "OPEN DOOR that no one could shut!"
2. This was because they had:
a. "kept God's Word"
b. "not denied His name!" 3: 8
3. This Church had learned the secret to having God's power ... holding up His Word and really living it out in their daily walk!
4. They had learned how to help each other, this had to be a very "UPLIFTING" Church! A few people helping one another can really accomplish a great deal!
ILLUS:Geese migrating always stand out in the sky ... the familiar "V-shape" pattern sets them apart from other birds. While the pattern is beautiful to us observers it is essential literally to the geese's survival! If you watch you will notice that at certain intervals the head will fall back at the end of one side while another takes the lead. The reason geese do this is that by flying a "V" formation the work required by all the geese is about 60% less effort ... except of course the lead bird which takes greater effort to cut the air. At the tip of each bird the up-lift effect of their flight makes it easier and easier on each succeeding bird in formation ... the back birds have the easiest time! They quite literally are UPLIFTING one another! (This is why jets will sometimes fly in this V-pattern!) They take turns sharing the great efforts required to lead and thus they can by shifting around fly long flights to safety. Alone they could never make the trip (so much for those who say they don't need Church!)
5. It was much easier living for Christ by "UPLIFTING" one another in their faith and the Word! This gave them power beyond their numbers!
a. This gave them unusual endurance capabilities!
b. I couldn't make it spiritually without my brothers & sisters in Christ! We were never meant to go it alone!
C. Patience 3:9
1. God tells this Church that in time things will reverse, now they might be made fun of or persecuted but a day would come when they would be acknowledged as the focus of God's love!
a. this would require great patience however on their part, not to quit in the face of adversity!
b. With patience, time would balance the scales of justice!
ILLUS:Look at the Apostle Paul and the Ruler Nero. In the first century everyone knew the name of NERO! Paul however, was an obscure Jew, totally unimpressive as to his physical appearance! Paul was a leader of a small religious movement unknown by most in a tiny corner of the huge Roman Empire! Virtually few had heard of Paul while everyone in the world knew the name NERO! However, today, how often do you hear people talk about NERO and how many know about the Apostle Paul!? Today people will name their sons PAUL, and maybe their dogs NERO!
2. Their patienct waiting for God's justice would pay off great dividends ... NOW as well as THEN!
a. NOW: it will give them great strength and opportunities for witnessing.
b. THEN: God promises in the next verse to keep them from the terrible Tribulation that will come upon the whole world!
c. They will win in both time slots!
II. THE CHURCH'S DELIVERANCE 3:10-11
A. Protection! 3:10
1. If we are patient God really does protect His saints from Tribulation, or at least through tribulation! (the Greek preposition "EK" can mean either "Out of" or "Through")
ILLUS:In Billy Graham's book, "Angels: God's Secret Agents" he tells the story of a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands by the name of John Paton. Hostile natives had surrounded his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning out the Patons and killing them as they fled. All night long the Patons prayed, when daylight finally came they were amazed to see the attackers unaccountably leave. A year later the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ, and Paton remembering what happened asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, "who were all those men you had there with you?" Rev. Paton said, "There were no men, just my wife and I." The chief argued that that they had seen many men standing guard -- hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands! They had the compound circled and so the chief and his men were afraid to attack! God had protected His faithful servants!
2. When the heat of God's wrath came upon the world they would be protected by God for their faithful witness!
3. Many see in this a promise of the rapture of the Church.
B. Prepared! 3:11
1. Jesus now states clearly, "I am coming soon" History is marching toward an end that God Himself controls!
2. For those who patiently live out the Word of God He promises that they will be prepared for that moment!
3. They are instructed to "HOLD ON to what you have" lest they fail to have God's protection!
a. It is not enough to have been saved, we must be holding on!
b. this implies an active participation in the waiting for Christ coming ... to keep doing the right things until He comes!
c. One of the signs of the last days will be those who will slide away from God and His Word, they will tire of being obedient and instead will choose to fulfill their own desires! ("lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God")
d. The term "overcomer" is important to the concept of being "prepared."
Ill. THE CHURCH'S DESTINY 3:12-13
A. "Pillars" 3:12a
1. To those who don't quit, to those who continue to "overcome" God promises to make them "Pillars in His Temple!"
a. This was a powerful statement to someone from Philadelphia!
b. Philadelphia was the city of many earthquakes! They had frequent earth-quakes and occasionally they were big ones that nearly destroyed everything!
c. In fact a terrible one hit in 17 A.D. -- many were afraid to return and build, about the only thing left standing after a hard earthquake were the pillars of some of the temples and buildings! It was not an uncommon sight!
d. What this demonstrated was that pillars were the only things that were left standing during an earthquake! The symbol then stood for stability and durability!
2. They would stick out in the community as the real "PILLARS" no matter how few in number they might be or how limited their resources for spreading the Gospel!
ILLUS:In 1979 in a refugee camp in KHAM PUT, THAILAND a 19 year old girl arrived that had escaped the Khmer Rouge terror with about 100 others. They had fled Cambodia through jungles, canals, and mountains. Standing between them and freedom at one point were a large number of communist soldiers and the elements. There was a large field of thorns they couldn't cross because most did not have foot wear, so they went through a valley between 2 large mountains. The darkness was so bad they couldn't see, they didn't know where to step, suddenly she told how hundreds of fireflies swarmed into view, their glow was enough to get through the dark path. When they finally arrived at the refugee camp they were ministered to by a small number of Christians with very limited resources. She was invited that night to one of their meetings and when she entered the room she looked up at a picture and said, "I know that old man. He is the one who led us out of Cambodia and into Thailand to our freedom." She was pointing to a picture of Jesus hung on the wall by this small group of Christians!
3. God was promising them a city from heaven, one not prone to destruction like the cities of Earth!
4. The whole picture here is that of PERMANENCE and STABILITY! This is God's promise to those who are prepared and overcoming!
5. We need not fear the future, whatever comes, if we are walking with God!
B. Position! 3:12b-13
1. We belong to Christ, His name, His city, His Kingdom ... as overcomers we are secure in our position in His kingdom!
2. No one else can lay claim to those who belong to Christ, we know who we are, and if we are walking with God the world knows who we are!
ILLUS:The story is told about an orphan boy who was living with his grandmother when their house caught fire. The grandmother, trying to get upstairs to save the boy died in the flames on the stairs. The boy's cries could be heard but no one could reach him on the second floor. Finally a stranger passing by climbed up the drain pipe and came down again with the boy hanging tightly around his neck. Several weeks passed, a public hearing was held to determine who would receive custody of the child. A local farmer, a teacher from the school, and the town's wealthiest citizen showed up to give reasons why each of them felt they should have custody of the boy. As they talked the boy stared at the floor, then a stranger walked through the doors of the court and down the aisle. Approaching the boy he took his hands from his pockets and as everyone gasped at the scars from fire burns the boy cried out in recognition and jumped from his chair upon the neck of the man, clinging for dear life. The others walked away slowly as the judge left the boy with his rescuer alone ... those marred hands had settled the issue and the man was granted custody! This is the story of those who have been rescued by Jesus ... we only recognize those marred hands, it is He only that can own us!
3. To those who overcome He writes a NEW NAME on them ... HIS OWN NAME, we belong to Him!
a. Therefore our position is safe.
b. We therefore will not be left to experience his WRATH.
c. We are His Pillars even now!
4. This small Church with its "little strength" (physically and perhaps financially) still had a powerful testimony and because of this they will be standing when everything else falls!
a. it wasn't their size
b. it wasn't their finances
c. it wasn't their prestige
d. it wasn't their degrees
e. it wasn't their programs
f. IT WAS THEIR EXAMPLE & THEIR LOVE! This was a POWERFUL CHURCH! ARE WE?????
CONCLUSION: This was a small Church with a big heart! Their commitment to God was unbreakable and uncompromising. God's promise to them was for great opportunities and spiritual stability. Their witness one day would be acknowledged by even their enemies! God's final promise to them was to keep them from the tribulation coming upon the whole world!