daily Broadcast

Will You be Ready When He Comes Again?

From the series The Revelation

Jesus said He would return to earth again. Is there a way to know when that's going to happen? Chip gives us an overview of the timeline laid out in scripture of Jesus' first and second comings. He then outlines Jesus' warnings to the seven churches, from Revelation, chapters 2 and 3.

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The Revelation: Living Daily with the End in Mind
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Message Transcript

Let’s start: To the church in Ephesus. “To the angel of the church in Ephesus,” or messengers, “these are words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work, your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered, you’ve endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary.” Do you get it?

Introduction: Who is it? The one who holds the seven stars. He walks in the midst of the church and the lampstands, He’s the one who is in control. And He lists all these wonderful, this is a hot church. I mean, this is a church that’s doing tons of things right.

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen; repent, and do the things that you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” You’re a source of light in this city. Here’s Ephesus. It is the city of fertility, it is a major, awesome city and port. I mean, this is like the New York City of its day.

And they, “Oh, this Temple of Diana! It is awesome.” And it is an evil, evil place. “You have persevered and you’ve been truthful and, man, you’ve got great programs, and you are doing what God wants you to do, and you won’t tolerate wicked people, and you were feeding the poor. You are doing all the right stuff. But! I have this against you.”

He says, “You’ve lost your first love.” He says, “But you have this to your favor: You hate the practice of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” It was a cult and a group at the time, some think they were Gnostics, but here’s the general idea of the Nicolaitans because it comes up three different times, in three different churches.

The basic idea was a group of people that, it was a heresy that came into the Church that basically said, “You know something? The only way, we have deep insight into demonic activity and we have deep insight into the things of God, and this grace is so overwhelming we have found that what we can do is we can get involved in these practices so we could understand the depths of sin and when we understand the depths of sin by these sexual practices, then it allows us to really experience God’s grace in a more powerful way.”

And that’s not biblical. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says. To him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

The paradise of God, it’s a Persian word carried over, it just means a garden or a park, it’s this idea that God is going to restore when Jesus comes back in His Second Advent everything that was lost in the Garden with Adam and Eve is going to be restored.

And so, my summary here is the Ephesian church lost its first love and the action is, “Remember, repent, and then repeat.” Remember what it was like; remember what it was like when it was about intimacy.

And then you repent. And you’re going to hear this a lot. Repentance: A compound word. Meta: To Change. Noia: Mind. Change your mind. Think, you’re thinking about it like this, you need to change how you think about it, which leads to a total change of action.

The best illustration of repentance, I love one… of my favorite preachers is Tony Evans. And Tony Evans has a word picture of repentance. He says, “You’re going down the freeway and you realize you’re going south but you’re supposed to be going north. So you have a change of mind. ‘Hey, I’m on the wrong road, I’m going in the wrong direction, I gotta turn around.’ So you get off the off-ramp, decision, and you go over the overpass, and you get back on the on-ramp and you come back this direction.” That’s what repentance is.

Change of mind, “Oh, I’m going to the wrong direction, leads to an action that then begins a total new direction of your life. So He says, “I want you to repent.” And then the question I have for you and for me is, “Have you lost your first love?”

Matthew 22:37 - God says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first and great commandment.”

And so I put a little chart, and I did this for each one, and I was trying to figure out how to, how can we condense this to get our arms around it? There’s so much information. And there’s so much cultural stuff going on.

On a scale of one to five, how are you doing on your first love? And for me a one is: You’re loving God out of duty. You love God out of ought-tos and got-tos. You show up to church, you write out your tithe check like, you write out the power, you write out the electricity, you write out the house payment or the rent because you’re supposed to. You got to.

Your relationship with God somehow, over time, slipped into being a soldier. You’re a, “Gotta be faithful.” This is a faithful church. You do the right thing but somewhere along the line the intimacy, and the joy, and the tenderness; the picture of your relationship with God is more of a soldier than a son or a daughter. And so it’s about duty instead of delight and want to.

Recently, Theresa and I celebrated our anniversary in December. And we went to church and then we went out to lunch afterwards. And she did something I didn’t expect; it was really, pretty cool. My daughter, Annie, she’s the youngest, only one left home.

And so we went out to lunch together and Theresa came in and she had our wedding pictures. And we sat down, and she opened up, and we were kind of reliving, we remembered.

And I just had all these thoughts and pictures, I started to remember – remember what it was like when I was single and when I was dreaming about Theresa and there’s the picture and, “Oh, that’s right, and your sister did that and we cut the boys’ hair and it looks like someone put a bowl on them and they do look cute and you know?”

And all this different kind of stuff. And all that delight… a lot of marriages can get like… you gotta pay the bills, you know? And a lot of marriages - “We gotta get this knocked out.” And a lot of marriages - people just start to co-exist with one another.

And you know what? That can happen in your relationship with God. And the way you change it is first you remember. You gotta remember. And then He says, He doesn’t actually - these little alliterations help sometimes but: do the deeds you did at first.

I don’t know how many couples I’ve counseled over the years, “I don’t know how to love, I don’t love my wife anymore.” Well… “So you guys still going out on dates?” “No.” “So do you still jot her a note now and then or, do you call him at the office just to tell him you love him?” “No.”

In other words, all the things that produced all those ooey-gooey, wonderful feelings of romance, when you were dating and early in your marriage, you don’t do anymore and now you can’t figure out why the emotions are gone.

Guess what? You start doing those things again, the emotions will come back. And what He’s saying here is, “Go back.”

I remember as a young Christian and I was lonely and … my dad was a good guy, ex-Marine, tough guy, and we went through a season, a real hard time because he was an alcoholic for a big season of his life.

And I was just so thirsty for a dad and when I met God I would whistle spontaneously in the lunch line. You know? As a brand new Christian. I didn’t know any better and I just found myself singing. I didn’t know I was filled with the Spirit and that’s what you do when you’re filled with the Spirit and no one told me, “You have to do this and you have to do that.”

And then the more and more I got around these groups where you’re supposed to read so much, and pray so much, and do this and do this, and on this night, do this, and this night do this, and that night you’re supposed to do this.

And then pretty soon it was just like, “This Christian life is a drag, man, it’s like a full-time job.” And when I didn’t know anything I used to just whistle and read the Bible and no one said you had to do something. And I’d go, I just - real literally - go into your prayer closet.

And in my dorm room there was … you know where the heaters are? Arrrggghhhh! And I’d go in the prayer closet and shut the door and I just, “Oh, God, thank You, You love me and someone cares about me and You know everything.” And I’d just talk to Him and have a blast!

And I’m not going, “Did I pray eleven minutes, thirty-seven minutes, fourteen minutes, seventeen point five? Did I get through the whole list?” I didn’t even have a list! I didn’t know you’re supposed to have a list! I just loved God.

Do you enjoy Him? Do you have unhurried times of prayer, do you read the Bible to refresh your soul? I remember, I’d get lonely when I would go to, back then it was called Ponderosa. I was single, I was a terrible cook, and the only two things I could make was eggs and cold cereal. So I’d have eggs one night, cold cereal, eggs one night, cold cereal.

And then, once a week I just couldn’t take it any longer and for, like, $4.93 you could go to Ponderosa and get a little salad and get a tiny, little, steak.

And then I would go in a corner and I would read I Timothy. And I felt like Paul was my dad. “Son,” and then I’d read II Timothy. And then I’d get more coffee because you got refills. And as a teacher and wasn’t making any money you gotta get the refills free.

And so I’d read I Timothy again and then II Timothy. And it was just like God putting His arms around me saying, “Hey, you know, hey, you got a dad. I’m your dad.”

Question: Have you lost your first love?

Second church is the Smyrna church. They’re faithful in suffering. We pick it up, “To the angel in the church in Smyrna: These are the words of Him who is the first and the last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty (yet you are rich).”

In your Bibles underline that word, “I know.” That’s not, like, intellectual “know.” “Hey! On the scoreboard of heaven I know, angel, ah, um, could you mark that? Uh, that lady is going through a hard…”

This is from the heart. I know. I feel. I understand your afflictions and your poverty. He says, “Yet you are rich.”

“I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are synagogues of Satan. 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 the crown of life. He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”

This city is interesting, it had a time in its history where it died and there was a big earthquake and they got some help from Rome and it got built up. This is Jesus referring to Himself as what? The one who died and came to life.

The synagogue of Satan basically He’s saying is the persecution came from the Jewish people who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah and this new, itinerant sect, they were the object now after sixty years, “Man, let’s get rid of these Christians.”

And so they persecuted them like crazy. So you’re persecuted by the Jews over here and then you’re persecuted by Domitian and the government over here. And they’re dying for their faith.

He doesn’t have anything negative to say about them. What He says is, “I understand, I know what you’re going through.” And He introduces Himself as what? “I was dead, now I am alive.” And He finishes with the reward is, “You know what? You remain faithful. The second death, the eternal death, it can’t touch you because you’re Mine. And you may die physically. But I got news for you. This is not… now is not all there is.”

I remember a guy, a pastor from Iraq and, I mean, so humbling. And we did a training in the Middle East and taught on the Invisible War and this guy taught it to, within a week, to a hundred pastors and there’s a book I had a chance to write on overcoming problems and struggles and it was a book out of the Psalms.

And he got it from me and he said, “Could I translate this?” I said, “Sure, go ahead.” I mean, an email thirty days later, “I got half of it done, can I use it?” I said, “Just do whatever you want. Man, it’s Iraq, are you kidding me? Do whatever, you know?” If anybody needs the Psalms, Iraq needs the Psalms and the Church.

And then I got an email and he apologized and said, “I just want to tell you, I’m so sorry. I should have had this report in earlier.” And he said, “Yesterday the gunfire went off ten minutes after we got back from the store, my wife and my three kids were under the bed, bullets went for thirty minutes straight, I came out, there were six bodies at our door in the little area where all the little shops are, bullet ridden everywhere.”

He said, “My kids have been shaking for two or three days.” He says, “But it’s Saturday and I teach a Bible study and we gotta go to Bible study.” And he said, “I’m sorry, I only have one hour of electricity right now and then I can only email when I have electricity because the power is up or I would have had my report in on time. And tomorrow this is what I’m preaching on.”

You know what? Jesus says to that guy, “I know your affliction, I know your pain.” And whether it’s in Iraq and it’s physical death or whether it’s physical death here with cancer or some health issue.

What’s the Word? “Be faithful in suffering. Fear not, there is a crown coming.” The question is: are you willing to stand up and stand alone for Jesus when it means rejection, loss, or suffering?

The apostle Paul would say in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation.” When you get persecuted, when people think less of you, when they hear you’re a Christian, when a moral issue comes up and you actually say something like, “I think it’s wrong to kill babies before they’re born. Hey, I love people that involved in homosexual activity, I care for them, but the Bible is clear that’s going to kill them.”

I remember in San Francisco I did a series on homosexuality and from all their own research I found the average lifespan of a gay man in San Francisco, the death… is forty-three years old. And they a hundred and eighty times the probability of sexually transmitted diseases.

Now, is it loving to say to him, “What you’re doing is okay. It doesn’t hurt anybody.” What I know he’s going to die thirty years earlier. I can love that man and yet tell him the truth about his lifestyle.

When you stand up and do that, guess what, it’s not very politically correct at work, or in your neighborhood, or at a little party. Do you stand up? Are you willing to stand alone? We got a all generations of Christians and we want to fit in. To who? A bunch of people, they don’t care about you!

But we feel this incredible peer pressure. I got news for you, peer pressure doesn’t end when you get out of high school, right? Are you willing to stand up and stand alone for Jesus when it means rejection, loss, or suffering?

And persecution, on a scale of one to five, a one is compromise. A five is faithful. See, all of these are answering the question, “Are you ready for the Lord’s return?” I’m going to get evaluated on that. Have I backed down? Of course! I mean, you get up here and talk about it, this is easy to talk about, I mean this is like, the musician speaking to the choir … we’re all on the same team.

I’ve been on airplanes where people say something to me and I had an opportunity to walk right through the door and got off the plane realizing, you know, I didn’t, I just wimped out.

I think we go through seasons. I think there are times I’m really bold and then you sort of drift, don’t you? You just kind of drift off and I gotta re-up.

The third church is the Pergamum church. This is a church that has problems with sexual immorality. “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of Him who has the sharp-edged sword,” remember Jesus’ sharp-edged sword coming out of His mouth?

“I know where you live, where Satan has his throne.” In other words, they got a tough environment, you think you got it bad. “Yet you remain true to My name, you did not renounce your faith in Me, even in the days of Antipas My faithful witness, who was put to death in your city where Satan lives.”

So He basically said, “Man, you guys, I am so proud of you. You talk about stepping up. One of your own members was martyred.” Nevertheless, I have a few things against you.” It’s a report card. You get some As, you get some Fs.

“You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise, you have those who hold to the teachings of the Nicolaitans. Repent, therefore, otherwise I will soon come to you and I will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna, I will also give him a white stone, with a new name written on it known only to him who receives it.”

In this church what you have is sexual immorality is tolerated and notice, by the way, it’s deceptive. You know, the people that are doing this, there’s someone that’s getting up in the local assembly that’s telling them that this is really okay.

“I mean, you can do this and still be a follower of Christ. Who’s  to say… I mean, we know it’s the twenty-first century! Give me a break. You think God really expects you to be sexually pure if you’re single? I mean, there’s MTV, there are the videos, there are a hundred and fifty cable channels, you got all this stuff coming over the web. I mean, God understands!”

It’s what they were hearing. I’m not sure about the web stuff, I don’t think it was really working that well back then.

But notice He says, “Repent or I’ll make war on you.” See, the problem when you’re deceived too is it’s not like in this case, it’s not like, “Oh, this is really wrong, I shouldn’t be doing this.” They have bought into it.

I have a friend that I recently had the chance to marry on his seventieth birthday. A great, great friend and his wife suddenly, tragically died about seven years ago. Great marriage of forty-six years. And he’s been praying ever since and so can you imagine being about sixty-four? Some of you don’t have to imagine.  He’s sixty-four to seventy - he’s single.

So he’s going to singles groups and after the first couple years he says, “I tried e-Harmony, I tried it all, you know?” And he said, “I realize I don’t have the gift of singleness and no one will ever be like my wife Judy but, God, if there’s someone I’m, you know…”

And he said, “I’d be in Bible studies with men and I, these are strong, Bible teaching, Evangelical churches. So I’d be in a Bible study with a group of guys, I’m the only celibate guy in the Bible study. I’d be in mixed groups and maybe two out of twelve or fifteen of us were celibate. And they’d just look at you like, ‘You know, we’ve all been… most of us have been married before, we’ve been divorced and, we’ve had sex. I mean, God understands.’”

Actually, there was a cult back in the ‘70s was very big. It’s called “The Children of God.” And the Children of God, if you think this is weird, like this could never happen, there was a cult called The Children of God and they did sexual evangelism. And they literally taught the young girls that the way we’re going to win converts is you go out and you tell people about Christ and you sleep with them to get them in the church.

So, all I’m saying is this is nothing new. But I will tell you, in good, Bible teaching churches in America and around the world…

Sexual purity on a scale of one to five: Is it according to God’s Word? Ephesians 5:3 says, “Let there not even be a hint of sexual immorality,” and then it gives six different words that goes from speaking, thinking thoughts, of course jesting all the way to physical activity.

God says, “Don’t let there be a hint in My Church.” And we’re living in day where I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago in a very significant and very positive church here in town that ministers to a lot of singles and they’re finding the great majority of the singles when they come to get married, they’re already living together.

In California, I figured that was kind of true, we had all these pagans coming to Christ, which was wonderful and we had to put on our form when you get married, “Are you presently living together?” This was five, six, seven, eight years ago and half the people who came to get married were already living together.

I’m telling you, in the church today there are a great many people who look at you and just say, “So?” I got news for you, the sword coming out of His mouth is a weapon. And there are consequences and He says, “I will make war on you.” There are devastating consequences, consequences in your body, consequences in relationships, and consequences for the gospel.

I didn’t grow up in the Church and lost people know. “I don’t know much about Christians but I know they’re not supposed to sleep together before they get married. And when you do, what I know is you’re no different than me.” Guess what? Your gospel? Powerless.

Are you above reproach in thought, word, and deed with regard to sexual purity? Scale of one to five. What goes into your mind? What do you think about? What shows? What movies? What novels? How you doing?

Church number four is the Thyatira church. We pick it up, “To the messenger of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are a blazing fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.”

And it’s very interesting here that they had a lot of guilds, and they had a bronze working group, and they had all these, like, unions. And so they did all kind of stuff here. It’s interesting in this church that He identifies Himself as, “This is the One who sees through stuff.” The burning eyes, the picture of Christ coming as Judge.

“I know your deeds, your love, your faith, your service, your perseverance, and that you’re now doing more than you did at first.” This church is growing. You’re loving more people, there are more good works, there are more poor being fed, people with HIV are being accepted and loved and being brought into the church and coming to Christ. I mean, sort of the equivalent of that day - probably lepers.

I know what you’re doing. “Nevertheless, I have this against you, you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who, as a prophetess and by her teaching, misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I’ve given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of their ways.

“I will strike her children dead. Then all the church will know that I am He who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” This is not Jesus: meek and mild, is it? This is the righteous King of the earth. This is the one who laid down His body to purchase you and purchase me and says that your body is the temple of God.

This is the God who says, “You know, I have zeal for My house.” This is the God who says, “Teachers need to handle My word carefully and people need to have the kind of ears, that they will not listen to people that tickle their ears, that want to hear the truth.”

And He says, “The problem is often when they’re deceived,” it’s not that there was an actual Jezebel or Balaam. What He’s doing is He’s using these Old Testament images that they would be familiar with, to bring to light, “Oh! You mean that’s happening to us now?”

And so they have a prophetess and she’s teaching and in this particular city, as one commentator said, “It was tough to be a Christian.” If you didn’t worship the emperor, and if you’re in one of the unions and if you didn’t worship the emperor - then the way you worshiped the emperor is you’d go and to these idols and there were sexual practices and if you didn’t do that you were ostracized. Well, how are you going to make a living?

And so some of the compromise is you have this teacher named Jezebel who says, “Hey! Here’s how you do it.” And she has a new teaching. And so she leads people into both idol worship and sexual immorality, and the text says, “I have warned her, I have been convicting her, and you know what? She’s not repenting and her followers…”

I mean, aren’t most of us looking for a little bit of a teaching that says something like, “Without any penalty, here’s how to have all the sex you want, really get rich, be really be famous, and have everything go your way?” I mean, in your really dark moments, in the secrets, when you’re not thinking your most holy thoughts.

There is a reason that there’s a gospel preached that says, “God wants you to be healthy, wealthy, you send me ten dollars, God will send you a hundred. You send me a thousand, God will send you ten thousand.”

I’m thinking if that were really true, those guys ought to send money to people because they’d be a lot richer! They could give ten thousand and twenty thousand and forty thousand and God would give them all that money back! See, that doesn’t work. But, see, it happens. There’s false teaching in the Church.

And, boy, I’ll tell you what. You know, teachers, it’s a scary thing - you stand up here. James says there will be a stricter judgment. Notice verse 24, “Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to those 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. Only hold on to what you have until I come.

“To him whoever comes and does My will to the end I will give authority over the nations, he will rule with them with an iron scepter, he’ll dash them to pieces like pottery, just as I have received authority from my Father I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the church.”

The action here is repent or receive dire consequences. The question here is: Are you a regular student of God’s Word, able to discern truth from error? See, the issue, the presenting issue is food offered to idols and sexual immorality.

But what’s the problem? What’s behind that? It’s a teacher in the church that people are tolerating. Her name is Jezebel and she’s teaching it and she’s been confronted. And so the real issue behind this is sound doctrine.

And some people are devoted to God’s Word like I put the verse there, Acts 17:11. It says, “The Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonicans because they heard the Word gladly, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether whatever that person up there is saying was really true.” And if it didn’t line up they said, “Eh, out, don’t buy that. I don’t care who he is, how famous they are, how big the ministry is, how ooey-gooey it makes me feel, or how wonderful she appears to be, or what people say about it. If it doesn’t line up with God’s Word, out.”

And we’re living in a biblically illiterate society inside the church of Jesus Christ. The average young person and average old person in our church knows way more about Brad and Jolie and Britney than they know about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And the average believer spends more time in the gym trying to get their body well, and I’m all for it, and I do it too but let me ask you this: Do you spend as much time in God’s word as you do for your soul as you do for your body doing other stuff?

Do you spend as much time and energy and passion saying, “I need to know this for me. Not what someone says about this.” I mean, I’m all for devotionals and I’m all for helps but I got news for you. Life-change and conviction comes when God speaks through His Word, by His Spirit to your heart, and you have an “ah-ha” moment and He speaks to you and it becomes real to you and you do what God wants you to do not because you ought to, not because you got to, not because of peer pressure, not because of what other people think. It’s because it’s real. You have a conviction.

A lot of people agree with Scripture but, under pressure, they don’t have any convictions. You won’t get convictions listening to me preach. You won’t get convictions listening to anybody preach. You can be inspired, you can be motivated, you can be instructed.

You get convictions when God speaks to you.
We’re living in a biblically illiterate society inside the church of Jesus Christ. The average young person and average old person in our church knows way more about Brad and Jolie and Britney than they know about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And the average believer spends more time in the gym trying to get their body well, and I’m all for it, and I do it too but let me ask you this: Do you spend as much time in God’s word as you do for your soul as you do for your body doing other stuff?

Do you spend as much time and energy and passion saying, “I need to know this for me. Not what someone says about this.” I mean, I’m all for devotionals and I’m all for helps but I got news for you. Life-change and conviction comes when God speaks through His Word, by His Spirit to your heart, and you have an “ah-ha” moment and He speaks to you and it becomes real to you and you do what God wants you to do not because you ought to, not because you got to, not because of peer pressure, not because of what other people think. It’s because it’s real. You have a conviction.

A lot of people agree with Scripture but, under pressure, they don’t have any convictions. You won’t get convictions listening to me preach. You won’t get convictions listening to anybody preach. You can be inspired, you can be motivated, you can be instructed.

You get convictions when God speaks to you. So on a scale of one to five are you someone who is devoted to studying the Scripture, reading the Scripture on your own, or are you ignorant?

And, by the way, so much of the false teaching in our day is just because people… I mean, by ignorant I don’t mean that as a negative word. I mean not knowing. You don’t know.

The average cult member, and I’ve watched this happen, the average cult member can tie the average Christian in a spiritual pretzel in about five minutes, and ask them four or five questions that they cannot answer.

“Well, how can Jesus be God if this and this is true and this verse says this? Well, what about this, what about that, what about that?” “I gotta find my pastor, I gotta ….”

Hey, you know what? You know how you learn? You figure it out! So, the next time you say, “You know what? Here’s what it says, did you notice that God the Father, in the first chapters, is called the Alpha and the Omega.

Later, in chapter 1, Jesus says, ‘I am the first and the last,’ same thing. Did you realize that Jesus calls himself the Alpha and the Omega? The Father and the Son are both worshipped. He’s worshipped on the throne in chapter 4, the Son is worshipped by the same people.

You know what? There is a triunity of the Godhead. Jesus is fully God. That’s what the Bible teaches. Now, brother, let’s talk about how you’re doing in your life and I know for certain because…”

And it’s a journey. This isn’t like cram for a final exam. The greatest gift my bricklayer friend ever gave me, he’s the man who discipled me - high school education. And if I had to trade my seminary training, my knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, over my six or seven years with my bricklayer, I wouldn’t even have to flip a coin. You can have that, it was very helpful, I’m glad it’s…

It was my six or seven years with my bricklayer. You know why? He came down on Tuesday morning and taught me how to open the Bible for myself and I didn’t know who Mark, Matthew, Luke, or John were. I’d never opened it before.

He taught me how to meet with God and for me, six minutes was like an eternity. And I prayed for three and I thought, “Man, now what do you say?”

My prayers growing up were, “Now I lay me down to sleep…I just can’t remember the next line.” And we had this big Bible on the coffee table. I remember, in junior high I opened it once, probably in the Old Testament. “Hitherto saith to Thee, the Jedediah, the buudoo-buudoo.” And I thought, “Psh, man, I don’t know what that says.”

And that bricklayer… and I didn’t want to get up. Sometimes he’d knock on the door and I’d pretend I’m asleep. And then little by little I’d get up, even when he didn’t come. And it took me… don’t be down on yourself. If you start with two or three mornings, it’s not that you have to do it in the morning, I’m just telling you unless you’re a lot better man than I am, once a day starts the day is gone. Right?

Now some of you can do lunch hour, or there are some other times that…, and I’ve tried it at night a few times and if it works for you at night and you’re having a great time, do not let me influence you. Whatever works for you.

But what I found was no Bible, no breakfast. And then for some of you that will not work. You don’t eat breakfast now and we’ll, that’s another talk for another time. Okay? But for me I like breakfast.

And it was a discipline and there was a duty part of it. For, like, a couple years. And, you know, every third or fifth morning, God would really speak and then there would be times in, like, Leviticus and I’m going, “Why am I reading this? I mean it’s so… and where someone got, begot, begot, who begot, who begot…” And I’m thinking…

And little, by little, by little, by little, over time, I began to get to know Jesus and He began to speak to me. And pretty soon I wanted to meet with Him, and pretty soon it was the best part of my day, and then it was like a real relationship, so when I talk to Theresa and, by the way, I do drink a lot of decaf. Some of you get concerned about me.

But when I was a little boy my parents weren’t believers growing up but my mom was a guidance counselor. We had great family times. We ate breakfast and dinner together every day.

And after dinner, you couldn’t even clear the table, you’d push all of them in the middle and then everyone would get a cup of coffee. And if you were three or four like me, and didn’t like milk, if you drank half your milk they would pour coffee in it, with tons of sugar. And you sat around and talked for a half hour.

My best times talking, when Theresa and I were dating I was extraordinarily wealthy, and so our only dates were a two dollar, thirty-eight cents: we could get two cups of coffee and a hot dog each, at a little Italian place.

And then we couldn’t afford the hot dog, so for a dollar we could each get a cup of coffee.

But I actually got to where I get up in the morning, I make a cup of coffee because I’m meeting with God. I love Him. I enjoy Him. I don’t… you know what? If I don’t read the Bible all next week, He doesn’t love me any less. But you know what? I don’t have to go on a date with my wife, and I don’t have to kiss her, and I don’t have to go out to dinner, and I don’t have to go have fun either, and she still loves me, it’s just not near as good.

So, it’s not about Him loving you. He wants us to enjoy Him. He wants us to become personally devoted to His Word. And so I get up in the morning and I get a cup of coffee and I got a little plan and some mornings are better than others.

But I will just tell you, you ask Him before you go to bed, “Lord, wake me up. Lord, wake me up with a passion for You. Lord, I don’t want to do it as a soldier, I want to do it as a son or a daughter.”

And, you know, sometimes too, some of you that are a little… I don’t want to use a label but more rigid in your thinking about life. You know? “I started this book and I have to finish it. You know? I don’t know very much about this and I’m supposed to read two paragraphs and I’m now in my third month in Leviticus and I know God’s not speaking to me and I’m not having any fun and I’m going through this very big trauma in my life but until I get done with…”

You know, just can it and go to Psalms. And if God’s not speaking, have a regular plan and if it ain’t working find a different plan. But God wants to speak to you. You know what? I’m spending a little too much time on this but I think it’s the key to long-term life-change. Okay, gotta pick up the pace here.

The Sardis church, number five. “To the angel in the church of Sardis write: These are the words of Him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation for being alive, but you’re dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains for what is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard and obey it and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time that I will come to you.

“Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with Me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will be with them, be dressed in white and I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and His angels. He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the church.”

The Sardis church is, “Wake up!” It’s spiritually dead. It’s steeped in tradition. This is the church that is on autopilot. This is the church that has outward form. They have the sign out, they do the stuff, it looks religious, but they’re dead.

Question: Are you experiencing supernatural life change or simply going through religious motions?

See, no one can live the Christian life. And the Christian life is not, I repeat, is not being a nice person, “Hi, that’s good. No, you can go first. Oh, man, that’s alright. Oh, you know what? You gave me a little too much change, could I give that back to you? Aw, isn’t he nice?”

And it’s not about having your morals a little cleaner than other people. “You know, I never watch those, um, rated movies and, you know what? I used to do this but I don’t do that any more, in fact, I don’t swear very often except for when the hammer hits my thumb and I’m nice and I’m pretty moral and, ha, ha! I go to church regularly. Very regularly. Regularly. I go, I go, I go to church.”

The Christian life is Jesus living His life through you and it’s supernatural. And Jesus said the traditions of men nullify the truth of God. The issue is: are you experiencing supernatural power? On a scale of one to five, a one is you’re steeped in tradition, you’re doing religious things. A five is there is transformation, there is power, there is life-change, there’s answers to prayer, you’re excited, God is doing things in you and through you, things you can’t explain.

Jesus said in John 8:32, “Those believers who had believed on Him, you’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free.” New behavior patterns, the old is gone progressively, and you are changing. And you’re excited about what is happening in your life.

That’s what God says. Are you experiencing supernatural life-change or are you going through religious motions? And this church, here’s the scary part, they didn’t know they were dead. They didn’t know they were dead.

Part of life is you’re breathing, part of life is there’s energy, living things grow, dead things remain the same or decay. Where there is life there is passion. Where there is life there is concern for others. Where there is life there is appetite for good food. Where there is life there is a progressive breaking away from sinful patterns and the life of Christ, you’re more loving, you’re more kind this year than last year.

Your concern for people that you don’t understand, some of them you don’t like, in fact, some of them you can’t stand to be around and something in you wants to care for them, you can’t explain it, it’s the life of Christ manifesting His life through you. That’s an alive Christian.

The Philadelphia church is one that has nothing, He says nothing negative about it. “To the messenger, the angel of Philadelphia: These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength,” you might circle that. This is very important.

“I know you have little strength, you can’t do it on your own.” But notice what?, “Yet you have kept My Word and have not denied My name. I will make those who are the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews, they are not, but they are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole earth to test those who live on the earth.

“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of My God. Never again will He leave. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from My God; and I will also write on him My new name. He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the church says to the Spirit.”

There are a lot of interesting things in there about earthquakes and they had them there, and there would be columns -  that the only thing left after the earthquake would be the pillars, and there was also a pattern in those days where people’s names or inscription would be on those pillars.

He’s using a lot of imagery out of their day to say, “When everything else falls apart, when everything else falls apart, I want you to know you have stayed with Me and I will make it worth your while.”

They are dependent, they are faithful, they are loving. His reward for love and purity He says, “And I’m going to protect you.”

Did you notice that little phrase, “Patient endurance.” You know, sometimes the greatest thing you can do in your life is not give up. And did you hear the heart behind this? The compassion of Christ?

The question is: Are you desperately dependent on Christ and seeing open doors to minister for Him? You know, on a scale of one to five … what this church is having is impact, isn’t it?

There’s spiritual fruit; God is using them. “I’m opening a door that no one can shut, I’m using you though you have a little strength. So you didn’t do it in your own power.” Are there specific answers to prayer? Is there spiritual fruit occurring? Are you seeing God use you for changing the lives of other people? Doors are opening, things you can’t explain are happening. That’s what He’s talking about.

Is that happening greatly or just a little? And are you desperately dependent? And my barometer in my own life for that is my prayer life. I don’t know anything that tells me where I’m really at with God, in terms of dependency, more than my prayer life because it tells me, “God, I can’t do this. I need You. I’m getting before You and I’m asking for Your help.”

And when I’m not asking, I’m saying, “I can handle this.” Lack of prayer is probably the greatest evidence of arrogance and self-sufficiency. And I hope you’re doing well. It is the most rigorous, difficult thing in my whole life. And I think heaven applauds when we really pray.

The prayer of the righteous is God’s delight and I think all hell shakes when a man or a woman who really prays and believes begins to pray.

As one of the old saints said, “The enemy is concerned when people get in the Bible. He trembles when they really start to pray.” And so, are you desperately dependent on Christ? The prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much,  righteous woman accomplishes much.

The final is the church of Laodicea. This is not good. This is a church with lots of struggles. “To the messenger of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and the true witness, the Ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit,” or literally the word is, “vomit you out of My mouth.”

Now here’s their self-perception as a church, as individuals. They say, basically, “‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth; I don’t need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in fire,” that I Peter passage, your faith He’s talking about, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shame and nakedness;” the idea of Christ’s righteousness, “and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see,” that they would be un-blinded.

“To those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” He’s being real hard He says, “I’m telling you very hard things because I love you.” “So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me.”

Notice He’s outside the church. Jesus isn’t even in this church. He’s outside saying, “Hey! I’d like to get in.”

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” They’re deceived and they’re disgustingly self-sufficient. He has nothing good to say about them. His action is: you need to change your mind; you need to see yourself for who you are.

The real issue here is zeal. This is a church primarily of professors in Christ. They profess. They’ve got the right information, they say, “I believe in God, I believe Jesus saved me, I went forward when I was twelve, prayed a little prayer.”

Nothing has happened in their life, they’re convinced, and they think they’re in. They don’t have any passion for God’s Word, they don’t have passion for the things of God, there’s not holiness in their life, they don’t have a concern for people that don’t know Him, their lifestyles don’t match up to anything Jesus says.

“But, hey, I go to church. I prayed a prayer.” They profess but they don’t possess. This is an indifferent, complacent, materialistic, deceived – this is cultural Christianity in the first century. Cultural Christianity.

The first generation really knew the Lord, the next generation, it was a city of incredible wealth, it was a city of prestige, this is a group of people that basically, “Hey, we can run our programs, we’ve got money, we got stuff, we got buildings.” Sounds a lot like another place I know.

But their lifestyles don’t match up. They have passion but when you really look at their passion it’s the world’s passion. And God says, “I want you to have a holy passion, zeal to be like Christ, zeal for His Word, zeal to pray not because you ought to, got to – because you enjoy Me and love Me.” That you have an appetite for the things of God.

The question is: is Jesus living in you and is His Word the number one priority and passion of your life? It’s a very interesting passage. He says, “I want you to eat with Me,” and the word “eat” there is the mid-time meal, it’s a major meal in the culture. It’s, “I want to sit down, I want to spend time, I want to be close, I want to be intimate, I don’t want you to have an intellectual set of beliefs.”

I think they probably understood the right thing. “Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus paid for my sin, He rose again according to the Scriptures, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut.”

Do you realize how, I heard all that all my whole life. And I was lost as I could be. I intellectually understood this little story about Jesus, and my heart and my life was about getting what Chip wanted, to make Chip happy, and the way to get there was to be successful, and the way to be successful was do these things.

And someone finally loved me enough to say, “You know what? You are wretched, and you are poor, and you are blind, and you arrogant, and you are self-sufficient, and Christ, far from the throne on your life, He’s not in your life. You intellectually believe, you profess.”

I remember I was at a state fair, seventeen years old. And I was helping sell hearing aids for one of my buddies. His dad paid us some money to pass out these things, big state fair.

And across from us was some religious group. And they had this big sign, I’d never seen or heard this before. It said, “You must be born again.” And I’m thinking I had no idea what they were doing.

So, after two or three days, we’re selling this hearing aid stuff and this guy walks up to me. And this is a great evangelistic tactic. He goes, “Are you saved?” I said, “From what?” He said, “No, man, are you saved?” I said, “From what?” I mean, I, literally…

He said, “Well, let me ask you this: If you were to die today would you go to heaven?” And I thought about that. And then I’m just your typical, Laodicean Christian. Let me think, haven’t killed anybody, I’m an American, I believe in God in general, go to church, it’s boring, I hate it, but you know. Uhm, I think God grades on the curve. Uhhh, I don’t swear as much as some people. Uhh, I’m not doing any big, bad, evil things. I think my good deeds probably outweigh my bad deeds.

And I looked him in the eye and I said, “Yeah.” I mean, I’m thinking if God’s going to take anybody to heaven He ought to take a good guy like me. You know how many people in America and churches all over Atlanta are people deceived in thinking because they prayed a little prayer, or they intellectually believe the right set of facts, that they’re on their way to heaven?

And guess what? They’re not. Did you notice at the end of each one of these, “To him who overcomes, to him who overcomes, to him who overcomes,” did you notice that if there is not a lifestyle produced out of your relationship with Christ that results in a passion for truth, a love for others, a commitment, and a passion for holiness.

We’ll all struggle. We’re not talking perfection. But a passion to be the man or the woman that God wants you to be, not go through some religious routine. If that’s not there, then you ought to hear the apostle Paul loudly and clearly tonight, “Examine yourself to see if you’re in the faith.”

Jesus is outside this church saying, “I’m not even in it, guys. But I’m not down on you. And I’m not judgmental in terms of, will you repent? I’m standing at the door of your heart, will you please recognize what you need, that you need faith, you need My righteousness, that white robe, you need to see yourself for who you are, and see Me as your only hope, and put your trust in Me.

Pretty strong words to a lot of churches.