For the past several weeks we have been discussing the letters to the seven churches addressed in Revelation chapters 2-3 during our Sunday morning worship services. Jesus dictated the letters to John who wrote down Jesus’ words on a scroll and sent it to be read to those churches spread out over Asia Minor. As you see from the map there is a geographical patterns to the letters. Starting from Ephesus in the southwest, the scroll addresses the churches in the same order as their respective cities moving north, then southeast.
In His letters Jesus commends each church for what they are doing right, then he points out where they are falling short. For example, Jesus tells the church at Ephesus that they are doing well with weeding out false teachers and remaining true to sound doctrine. In doing so, however, they have forgotten Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God and to love neighbor, reminding us that sound doctrine without love is meaningless. The exceptions to this pattern are the churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia, where Jesus does not condemn them for anything.
The question we must ask has two parts. First, we must ask what would Jesus say to Hillside Church of God at this time in history? For what would Jesus commend us? For what would He reprimand us? Would he tell us we are remaining true to His teaching, or would He warn us to stop compromising His truth with the lies of the world? Would Jesus tell us that we are a loving, generous, merciful, and forgiving church, or would He point out that we are an exclusive clique which does not welcome outsiders? Would Jesus point out that we have a solid reputation in our community, witnessing publicly and serving South San Francisco and the surrounding communities with humble hearts, or would Jesus condemn us for being inward focused and uncaring to those outside of our fellowship? Would Jesus tell us that He is pleased with our offering of praise and worship on Sunday mornings, or would He tell us that our worship services are unacceptable to Him?
The second part of the question is more personal. What would Jesus say to us individually at this point in our lives? What in our spiritual walk would Jesus say, “Way to go!”, and to what would Jesus say, “We need to talk — now!”? What would Jesus say to you regarding your daily walk with Him, studying His word and spending time worshiping Him throughout your daily routine? What would Jesus say to you regarding your witness in your home, or your workplace, or among your friends and neighbors? What would Jesus say to you about discovering your spiritual gifts and committing them to be used in building up the Body of Christ at HCOG? How about your use of God’s resources, such as your money, your time, and your gifts and talents? We can go on and on. Personally, I am not sure about what Jesus would commend me for, but I am fairly sure about the reprimands. I know what I need to do, and I pray that I can humbly allow the Holy Spirit to direct my path towards repentance and restoration.
The great part of each of Jesus’ letters to the seven churches is that after Jesus points out their shortcomings, He gives them a chance to repent and turn things around. True, He warns them against having their lampstand removed (2:5), having the sword of Jesus’ mouth fight against them (2:16), being cast to a bed of suffering (2:22), miss Jesus’ coming and being left out of His Kingdom (3:3), and being rejected by Jesus (3:16). However, each letter ends with these words: “To him who overcomes, . . .” Jesus promises those who repent and overcome this world that they will: eat from the tree of life in paradise (2:7), they will not be hurt from the second death (2:11), they will eat from the hidden manna and receive a new name written on a white stone (2:17), they will rule over the nations with Jesus and receive the morning star (2:26-28), they will be dressed in white and have their names securely written in the Book of Life and acknowledged before God and His angels (3:5), they will be a pillar in the temple of God with a new name written on it (3:12), and they will have the right to sit with Jesus on His throne (3:21). Jesus always gives us another chance.
What a wonderful God we serve! Let us, therefore, consider what Jesus would say to Hillside Church of God, and what He would say to us personally. Let us receive His praise and encouragement with humble gratitude, and let us receive His correction with hearts that are broken and repentant. Not only that, but let us take Jesus’ words seriously and allow Him to change our lives to be the church, and the people, God has called us to be. Remember: Jesus doesn’t use only those who are perfect; Jesus uses those who are willing to be used for His Kingdom. Let’s be willing to be used.
I love Hillside Church of God, and I am excited about what God has in store for us!
Your servant in Christ,