Vol. 12 No. 4 April 2010
Jesus said, to the congregation at Philadelphia, “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it, for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:8). Some thoughts from this passage follow.
1. The church at Philadelphia had a “little strength.” That is all that it takes if we are on God’s side and willing to work for God. God did not judge them based on what their assets were, financially and numerically. God judged them on their willingness to use those things for Him. We need to realize that it is not our list of abilities, but our use of those abilities that matters. Small congregations and large ones have the same responsibility in the eyes of God–to spend themselves in His service.
2. The church at Philadelphia kept His Word. In a time when many were denying the Word of God, even among some of the other six churches to whom Jesus speaks through John in Revelation 2-3, this congregation stood firmly in the Word of God. There is no strength for God at all, no matter what assets a church may claim, if its members do not stand with the Word of God. There was no doubt where these brethren stood, they stood with God. Too many today are going out from God’s Word, because they think they are “strong” enough to ignore God’s will, and think they are “smart” enough to know what is best better than God. I would rather be part of a church like Philadelphia, who put God’s Word first.
3. The church at Philadelphia had not denied His name. Despite tremendous pressure all around, the members of this church had consistently confessed the name of Jesus, both with their mouths and their lives. I am afraid that many who will not deny Jesus verbally are doing so with their lives. When one who claims to be Christ’s profanes his mouth with dirty, obscene, and/or profane words, he or she is denying Jesus’ name. When any “Christian” loses himself or herself in alcohol, immorality, etc., then he or she has without doubt denied Jesus. The members at Philadelphia stood firm for the most precious name on earth and in heaven.
4. The church at Philadelphia was given an open door that no one could shut. Based on its faithfulness to Him, Jesus said that this group of people was being given an open door. I pray that we will look for the open door for our congregations, no matter how small and seemingly weak they may be. If we serve God faithfully by keeping His Word, and never denying His name, I believe that we can receive the same kind of open door. We must, however, put all of our “little strength” into it, and we must be actively aware of our opportunities to serve God. May we find many more “Philadelphias” in the church today. The more there are, the greater our success will be.
There is a common illustration you have probably heard that is often called The Snowball Effect. The premise behind it is simple: Even the smallest snowball, when allowed to roll down a snowy hill, will collect more and more snow, and eventually, if allowed to roll long enough, will become a very large snowball. We can apply the illustration to many things, but think about it today in regard to sin.
Sin often starts small. An addict doesn’t just wake up one morning an addict. There is a process involved, which began, at one point, with one first sample. The same is true for many situations. Take the example of the Gentiles of whom Paul spoke in Romans 1:18-32.
We are aware that these people ended up in a vile state of living. In verses 22-32, Paul recorded their complete abandonment of God. They had forgotten about Him, and replaced His worship with worship of idols and the like. Romans 1:24 tells us God gave them up to uncleanness, and the “lusts of their hearts.” What a shameful situation in which to be involved!
How did they get there? In verses 20-21, we are told that they at one time knew God, but simply refused to glorify Him as God. They knew that He was there, and knew all that He had done; they just simply turned a deaf ear. In familiar terms, we might say they didn’t “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). How many can say they have never violated the Lord’s principle for priorities?
However, hitting closer to home is the beginning point of their sin: the little snowball, if you will. Notice verse 18. God’s wrath was revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” That is where it all began! They suppressed the truth. In simple terms, we might say, they ceased to allow the Truth to have an effect on their lives. This principle is very familiar. How often do we read or hear the Truth and let it go in one ear and out the other? How often does the world have more of an influence on our lives than the Word of God? If the truth does not control our lives—every aspect of our lives—are we not doing as those Gentiles did? Are we not suppressing the Truth?
Remember, the vile state in which those Gentiles found themselves, and the simple beginning it had. If we participate in the same simple beginning, who is to say we won’t have the same end? If the Truth doesn’t control our lives, what will?