To Test You

Saturday, June 14, 2014, 7:55 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put the song “Arise and Shine” in my mind. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Revelation 2:8-11 (NIV).

The First and Last

“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.

These are the words of Jesus Christ to the church (as is applicable then and now). He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. He was with God in the beginning, and he is God. All things were made by him. And he is the judge of all. He came to earth, took on human flesh, suffered as we suffer and was tempted as we are tempted, yet without sin. He was despised and rejected of humans – a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. People hid their faces from him. They did not esteem him for who he was and is. Some spat upon him. Others mocked him. Some called him crazy and of the devil. His own brothers made fun of him. His own people rejected him. His closest companions all deserted him when he was arrested and put on trial. One of them betrayed him. Another denied him strongly three times. And, then his own people and the religious leaders of his own faith put him to death on the cross, although he had done no wrong.

Yet, his death was in the Father’s plan for his life, and for you and for me. He was to be our sacrificial Lamb to take away the sins of the world. So, when he died, our sins died with him, and when he was resurrected, he conquered death, hell, sin and Satan. He died, though, so that you and I could be free from the penalty of sin (eternal damnation), free from the control of sin over our everyday lives, and free to walk in his righteousness and holiness, all in the power and working of the Spirit within us. He also died so that we would no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. So, when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, it means we die with Christ to our old lives of sin, we are born again of the Spirit of God, and we are given new lives in Christ to be lived in his righteousness and holiness (See Ro. 6-8; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14 & 1 Jn. 1-5).

The Slander of Those

I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

The afflictions and poverty of the saints in Smyrna apparently came through the hands of these “Jews” who were not Jews. In other words, there were those among them who professed Christ as Savior and as Lord of their lives, but they were so in name only, for truly they were Christ’s enemies, his opponents, and not his true worshipers. They mouthed empty and boastful words, but by their lifestyles they denied Jesus Christ.

They were not people of honor, integrity, honesty and morality, but rather they were immoral, greedy, and paganistic. Some of them were also heretical teachers of the faith who taught humanistic reasoning, encouraged idolatry, and gave a free license for immorality in the name of “grace,” et al. These false professors of the faith in Christ were enemies of the cross, and so they persecuted and slandered those who held to the testimony of Jesus Christ and who did not deny his name. Although they claimed to be part of the Body of Christ, the church, they were truly of Satan and were influenced by him.

These same types of individuals exist within the church today. They come in various forms, but what they have in common is that they give false confessions of Christ when truly they are his opponents, working to destroy the church from within, and working, as well, to destroy the true gospel of salvation through manipulation of truth, deception, lies and trickery. Some of them are in leadership positions within the church. Many are pastors of churches, who have been trained by humans through humanistic teaching and methods, and who follow the ways of humankind over and above or even in place of God’s holy word. Many of them are being taught to avoid or to “filter out” those who hold firm to the teachings of Christ and of the apostles, and to bring in those who are far from God, and so the “strong in the Lord” get booted while the sinful, unbelieving and vile often get honored.

Suffering and Persecution

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

Yet, we are not to be afraid of what we are suffering or are about to suffer for the name of Christ and for the sake of the true gospel of salvation. Some of us will literally be put in prison for our faith and testimony for Christ. Some of us will be put to death because we hold to the teachings of the apostles. Yet, others may suffer physical hardships, verbal opposition, pressure to conform to the ways of humans, rejection of family, friends and church, slander and false accusations, isolation, and/or misunderstandings and misinterpretation of motives and/or actions. All these have come to test our faith, and God will use this time of testing in our lives to grow and mature us, to strengthen us, to teach us perseverance and to draw us closer to him, as well as to strengthen our resolve to continue in him, steadfast in faith, and determined to keep preaching the true gospel of salvation so that many can come to faith in Jesus Christ. Our end reward is eternal life in glory with God.

The Victorious Ones

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.”

We will all die a physical death one day, unless Jesus comes back and takes us to himself first. Our physical death is the first death. The second death is the fires of hell or the lake of fire, which is where all those who have not trusted Christ as Savior of their lives are destined to go into eternal punishment. Those of us who are victorious over sin and Satan by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our sins, and through faith in him who gave his life up for us so we could go free, we will not be hurt by the second death. We will escape the burning flames of hell and eternal punishment, and we will live forever with God in glory. Amen!

Many of our loved ones, family members, friends, neighbors and even fellow church members do not truly know the Lord Jesus, though. So, they are destined for hell unless they turn their lives over to Christ. We need to be fervent in prayer for their salvation. We should be living for Christ, too, so that we set an example of what the Christian life should look like, not that we will do so perfectly, but that our overall lifestyle and practices should reflect our faith in Christ, and in his word, consistently and with integrity. In this way we let our lights shine before others. As well, it is of necessity that we are purposeful and intentional about sharing the gospel of salvation with the world around us so that many will hear the truth, and so many have the opportunity to receive Christ as Savior of their lives. We should never let their lack of faith discourage us, though, but we should believe the Lord Jesus for their salvation, and trust that they will one day come to know him, too.

Arise and Shine / An Original Work
March 6, 2014 / Based off Isaiah 60

Arise and shine; your Lord has come.
Allow His light to flow through you,
For many walk in wickedness.
Show them the way to life anew.
Arise and shine. Your Lord loves you.

Lift up your eyes, and look about.
Some do believe, while others doubt.
Believe in all God’s promises.
The many will, In Christ, find rest.
Lift up your eyes, and you’ll be blessed.

Arise and shine; salvation comes
To all who trust in Christ, God’s Son.
Forgiven of their sins, they’ll be,
When they repent on bended knee.
Arise and shine, so all will see.

Lift up your eyes, and see your Lord.
He will revive his church, forlorn.
Though humans have forsaken you,
They will find Christ, and walk in truth.
Lift up your eyes; God honors you.