7 Letters of Revelation: Holiness, Look Like the One You Love

pureandholyRevelation 2:18-29 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have 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 her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you 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 who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations– ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will 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, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The first four letters of Christ in Revelation remind us:

  • God is to be our first love. At it’s heart and at it’s start, faith is about relationship. Being precedes doing.
  • We are willing to suffer and sacrifice for who and what we love. This is the depth of God’s love for us. Let us strive to love God this deeply in return.
  • We remain true to who and what we love. As Christ followers, we remain true to His Name. The most ancient confession of faith is the simplest: Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus is our Lord and Savior, our Leader and Forgiver. No person or thing can take the place of Christ.
  • This relationship, this level of love, trust and devotion transforms how we think and how we live. Over time, we look more and more like the One we love, more and more like Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be holy. – Lisa Degrenia <><

Ephesians 5:25-27 NRSV
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.

Titus 2:11-14 NRSV
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Jesus Christ speaks of [the Christians in Thyatira] in words of warmest commendation. I know your deeds, he writes, your love and faith, your service and perseverance (v 19). Here are four sterling Christian qualities indeed. Thyatira not only rivaled Ephesus in busy Christian service, but exhibited the love which Ephesus lacked, preserved the faith which was imperiled at Pergamum, and shared with Smyrna the virtue of patient endurance in tribulation. … But Thyatira’s catalog of virtues is not exhausted yet. I know your deeds, Christ says, and adds: and that you are now doing more than you did at first. The church of Thyatira understood that the Christian life is a life of growth, of progress, of development… The church of Thyatira displayed love and faith, service and endurance, but holiness is not included among its qualities….Holiness of life and character is then another indispensable mark of the real Christian and true church.
– John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

Matthew 23:25-28 NRSV
Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The world is attracted by lived theology and incarnated truth. Brennan Manning believed that the main reason the church does not grow is that Christians do not live, enact, behave, incarnate the Gospel—leaving people to say, “There’s nothing to it.” I completely agree. We do not need another “church growth” conference to assess our situation and propose strategies for increase as much as we need “let’s get serious Sundays” —weekly opportunities to confess that we have failed to turn word into flesh, and to make new commitments to do so. Our hearts will not feel so phony if we do this, and the world will not think we are selling them a bill of goods. Ironic, isn’t it that a pre-school activity— “show and tell” —could turn out to be what we need most. – Steve Harper reflecting on John 13:31-35 in The Holy Gospel: April 28, 2013 (Year C)

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. – Brennan Manning

Revive my heart renew my soul
In You O Lord I am made whole
No more in fear will I wander
‘Cause You’re my God, my Lord and Lover
Like a burning fire, be my one desire
I want to be holy just like You
I want to go where You lead me to
With reckless abandon to Your truth
I want to fall deeper in love with You
And deeper and deeper and deeper
And deeper in love with You
– from Just Like You by Matt Maher, (CCLI Song #4510938)

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This is the fourth of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

7 Letters of Revelation: Remain True to My Name

Jesus Christ is Lord by Thomas Hawk

Jesus Christ is Lord by Thomas Hawk

Revelation 2:12-17 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. 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. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: 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 also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, 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.”

Jesus Christ is Lord – the first and oldest affirmation made by persons claiming to be Christ followers. His very name brings together the fullness of who He is and what He has done for the world.

  • Jesus: Jesus of Nazaraeth, who lived in a specific time and place, fully human, who understands our brokenness and frailty firsthand, the Word of God made flesh, God incarnate
  • Christ: the Anointed One, the long promised Messiah, who died on a cross and rose again for the salvation of the world
  • Lord: fully divine, eternal and all powerful, King of kings, due all honor and glory and reverence

Jesus is fully human and fully divine, Lord and Savior of the world, the Leader and Forgiver of all who claim his name. – Lisa Degrenia <><

The guarding of the truth of the gospel is a major concern of Jesus Christ. He is not only anxious that we should love him, and that we should suffer bravely for him, but also that we should believe in him and hold fast the truth about him…. If Jesus is the divine Lord, we must submit to him as our Lord. If he is the divine Savior, we must trust in him as our Savior. This personal appropriation of Jesus Christ is essential. – John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

1 Timothy 2:3-6a NRSV
This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all.

Philippians 2:5-11 NRSV
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Unless Jesus is Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. – S. M. Zwemer

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Ephesians 4:14-15 NRSV
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 NRSV
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Prayer for Christ’s Sharp Sword
Risen Christ, Word Make Flesh,
Wield your sharp sword of saving truth
Wield it for our good
Prick our conscience
Wound our deceiving pride
Cut away our camouflage
Pierce our defenses
Lay bear our homegrown truth
Our sin
Our brokenness
Our need of you
With your Living Word, sever all that is destructive within us
Slay all falsehood- in doctrine, in worship, in living
Open us to the Truth that is you,
So we may be healed in body, mind, and spirit,
So we may be whole and holy,
So we may faithfully, gracefully, share what we have received
So our war torn world might also know your truth, love and peace.
Amen.

Click here for a powerful and personal reflection on this theme as found in John 14:23-29 by Steve Harper.

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This is the third of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

Click here for the terrific Flickr photostream of today’s featured artist, Thomas Hawk

Prayer for Christ’s Sharp Sword © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

7 Letters of Revelation: Suffering for Christ

Persecuted Prayer by Luke Flowers

Revelation 2:8-11 NRSV
The Risen Christ says, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life: I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.”

If the first mark of a true and living church is love, the second is suffering. The one is naturally consequent on the other. A willingness to suffer proves the genuineness of love. We are willing to suffer for those we love. Evidently Christians in Smyrna had not lost their pristine love for Christ, as had the Christians in Ephesus, for they were prepared to suffer for him.
– John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

Religion is largely populated by people afraid of hell; spirituality begins to make sense to those who have been through hell—that is, who have drunk deeply of life’s difficulties. Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

Wesley Covenant Prayer
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Matthew 5:10-12 NRSV
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

John 15:18-20a NRSV
During the Last Supper, Jesus said, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. – Dietrich Bonheoffer

Where are the marks of the cross in your life?
Are there any points of identification with your Lord?
Alas, too many Christians wear medals but carry no scars.
– Vance Havner

When we try to live in solidarity with the pain of the world—and do not spend our lives running from necessary suffering—we will surely encounter various forms of “crucifixion.” Many say pain is merely physical discomfort, but suffering comes from our resistance to, denial of, and our sense of injustice or wrongness about that pain. This is the core meaning of suffering on one level or another, and we all learn it the hard way. As others have said, pain is the rent we pay for being human, but suffering is to some degree optional. The cross was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved suffering as an act of total solidarity with all the pain of the world. Deep reflection on this mystery can change your whole life. – Richard Rohr, Holding the Darkness

1 Peter 2:20-23 NRSV
If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

Prayer for Suffering
Risen Christ, Humble Jesus, so many of your children suffer as you suffered- beaten, imprisoned, enslaved, separated from friends and family, cut down at the prime of life. They sacrifice far beyond what we can imagine, all for the love of you. Bless and protect them, Mighty One. Encourage them and provide for them. Fill them with your strength and power. Remind them that they are not forgotten by us and not forgotten by you.

Through their witness and your Word, move us to follow you as fully and as deeply. Awaken us from false understandings and false security. Rouse us from apathy and compromise. Forgive us for choosing comfort over commitment. Free us from fear, imagined and real. Free us and renew a right spirit within us- a courageous spirit, a sacrificial spirit born from true love of you. Free us and use us for your glory. Amen.

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This is the second of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

Click here, for more terrific work by today’s featured artist, Luke Flowers.

Click here for another reflection on suffering entitled God will wipe away every tear by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.

Prayer for Suffering © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

7 Letters of Revelation: Make God Your First Love

Revelation 2:1-7 NRSV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.”

What a splendid church the Christian community in Ephesus seemed to be! It appeared to be a model church in every way. Its members were busy in their service, patient in their sufferings, and orthodox in their belief. What more could be asked of them? Only one thing was lacking… Love, then, is the first mark of a true and living church. Indeed, it is not a living church at all unless it is a loving church. The Christian life is essentially a love-relationship to Jesus Christ. “Jesus captured me,” wrote Wilson Carlile, founder and “chief” of the Church Army. “For me to know Jesus is a love affair.” – John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. ― Brennan Manning

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NRSV
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you.
And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there,
and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made.
You were with me, and I was not with you.
The lovely things kept me far from you,
though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all.
You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness.
You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness.
You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you.
I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.
– St. Augustine, Confessions

Deuteronomy 30:6 NRSV
Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.

God of Life, your risen Son has gathered us into the church, nourished us with his body and blood, and poured out upon us your Holy Spirit. Grant that we may receive the blessing of your grace, so that we may love you with all our hearts, and gladly feed your sheep on the name of Christ. Amen. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes

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This is the first of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page