Be a Church that gets Jesus’ Attention – The Faithful Church in Philadelphia – 6
“7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: 8 “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. 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.
13 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’ Revelation 3:7-13 NKJV
Revelation 3:7-13 teaches me what it takes to be a church that gets Jesus’ attention. There are not many churches that Jesus does not criticize in Revelation (actually there are only two). Philadelphia was one of them. The church in Philadelphia is one to notice because this church is one that Jesus speaks highly of. Like the church in Smyrna, the Philadelphia church is commended for their faithfulness. Here are some things to notice about the Philadelphia church.
1 – They took advantage of opportunities to share the Gospel.
“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it;” Revelation 3:8 NIV
I read recently about a man who had just been touched and saved by Jesus coming to the great preacher Charles Spurgeon and asking him how he could win others to Christ.
Spurgeon asked him, “What are you? What do you do?”
I’m an engine driver on a train.” The man replied.
“Then”, Spurgeon asked, “Is the man who shovels coal on your train a Christian?”
“I don’t know,” said the man.
“Go back,” said Spurgeon, “and find out and start on him.”
There are times that Jesus sets an open door of evangelistic opportunity before us. Jesus identifies that the Philadelphia church recognized this opportunity and grasped it. They took the risk. They walked across the room. They were willing to risk embarrassment, ridicule, and persecution in order that others would be saved. God gave them the open doors, and they walked through it. They shared with the neighbor. They did the outreach. They were brave and bold enough to use their resources to attempt to reach others for Jesus.
2 – The Word of God was not just preached, it was performed.
“… you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” Revelation 3:8 NIV
In saying “you have little strength”, Jesus is likely acknowledging that this was not a large or strong church, however, He commends them as a faithful one. Jesus acknowledged their faithfulness to God’s Word and that they were unashamed to bear His name.
This shows us that size and strength of a church does not determine the success of a ministry. Faithfulness in the call and command of the Lord do. Success in the church is based on faithfulness to do whatever Jesus says to do. It is not based on the three “b’s” – buts in seats, building, or budget size. Jesus values most when His people do what He says.
The church in Philadelphia was commended NOT because their renowned preachers or applicable messages (while I’m sure those wouldn’t hurt). They were commended by Jesus because the people of the church lived out lives that were faithful to Jesus! That is the true test of a successful church.
A Bible commentator said it this way.
“The church of Philadelphia is commended for keeping the Word of the Lord and not denying His Name. Success in Christian work is not to be measured by any other standard of achievement. It is not rise in ecclesiastical position. It is not the number of new buildings which have been built through a man’s ministry. It is not the crowds that flock to listen to any human voice. All of these things are frequently used as yardsticks of success, but they are earthly and not heavenly measures.” (Barnhouse)
I heard someone put it something like this before. “The leader must do what no one does and endure the pain that no one sees, in order to be in the place where people want to be.”
The Word of God cannot be simply preached well. It must be lived well.
3 – They had a strong reliance on God.
“10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” Revelation 3:10 NIV
Last night at Bible College the professor (Gary Lau) reminded us that if we think we can accomplish the vision that God has given us, our vision is too small. God given visions are those that sound so ridiculous that you look at it and laugh and say, “There is no way that can happen God.”
I’ve heard someone once say it this way, “If no one has laughed at your vision lately, you are not dreaming big enough.”
Too many times, I fall prey to having too small of a vision. I think more about what I can accomplish, and less about what God wants to accomplish. I think more about what my schedule can maintain rather than what God has on His agenda. I find that I am much quicker to find faults in people’s God given dreams, than I am willing to dream with them and pursue it. I tend to be too much of a “realist”, and not enough of a “super-naturalist.”
The church in Philadelphia had a strong reliance on God. They, unlike me, realized that God’s power, not their own, was their real source of strength, and they set their goals and lived as such.
While these three features don’t seem to be the most spectacular insights, nor do they appear to be anything new, Jesus shows in Revelation 3, that they should be commonplace for the church. It is important to remember that Philadelphia was one of only two churches that Jesus had NOTHING negative to say about! They got His attention, and as a result, what they did, better get my attention too. As a result of their faithfulness to seize opportunities to share the Gospel, their keeping of God’s Word, and reliance on Him, Jesus gave three encouraging promises.
1 – He would take care of their enemies – Revelation 3:9
If we take care of God’s work, He will take care of our battles.
2 – He would keep them from tribulation – Revelation 3:10
Many Bible scholars take this verse to mean the church will not endure the Tribulation, but will be taken to Heaven before it begins.
3 – He would be their security – Revelation 3:12
Since Philadelphia was known to have frequent earthquakes, Jesus’ assurance of being a pillar in His temple, was especially meaningful to these people. Since they lived in constant danger of earthquakes, they would be greatly assured by the stability of a pillar and not having the need to go out and flee.
Lord Jesus, help me to be a part of and to build our church to be like the one in Philadelphia. Lord may we be faithful to You and may we be a church that gets Your attention. Amen.
Ty Tamasaka is an author who hold a Master of Arts Degree from Pacific Rim Christian University in Christian Ministry He is a Bible teacher who loves to encourage people to enjoy Jesus’ grace and extend His Kingdom. Ty just released his new book Starting Fresh: Following Jesus on the Adventure of a Lifetime in addition to More than a Conqueror: 5 Pathways to Personal Revival.