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You Are Extremely Poor, But Rich!

Time For A Spiritual Checkup!  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jesus promises eternal rewards to the church for enduring such great persecution

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Knocking him down, every 4.6 yards!”

During a Monday night football game between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, one of the announcers observed that Walter Payton, the Bears’ running back, had accumulated over nine miles in career rushing yardage. The other announcer remarked, “Yeah, and that’s with someone knocking him down every 4.6 yards!”

Walter Payton, the most successful running back ever, knows that everyone—even the best—gets knocked down. The key to success is to get up and run again just as hard.

What Walter Payton was to the world of football, God calls every believer to be to the cause of Christ!
When life knocks us down, when our suffering intensifies, God says get back up and keep on going!
With that in mind please turn to Revelation 2:8-11… we are in week 2 of this study we’ve entitled Time For A Spiritual Checkup…we are looking at what Jesus says to the seven churches of Asia Minor as a message that Jesus says to all churches everywhere…as the Great Physician, Jesus has a diagnosis for his churches, that all believers every where would do well to listen to and heed his instructions!

Seven Letters to Seven Churches

All these churches received the entire book of Revelation, not just the letters addressed to them…so they not only read their own letters, they read the letters to the other churches....
Jesus has something very specific to say to these churches and every church was to read the entire message.
Remember we understand that the number seven is symbolic of completeness.
Seven letters = complete message
Seven churches = the complete church
So everything that Jesus says to these seven churches is the message Jesus says to every church in every generation in every locality.
Since churches are made up of individuals, the message is both individual and corporate in nature.
Last week we looked at the church of Ephesus...

Ephesus — The Careless Church — We must take care to cultivate our relationship with Christ to ensure our motivation for serving Him is out of a genuine love for Him.

They had an all star line up of pastors, they were doing all the right things, Jesus commended them for being an active church, for maintaining their doctrinal purity, for opposing evil and exposing false apostles and for hating immorality, especially in the church.
But Jesus diagnosed them with a huge spiritual maladythey abandoned their love for Himthey had program without passion...they didn’t lose it, they forsook it, they quit, they stopped loving Jesus the way they did at first…they were just going through the motions…I can hear them saying “this is the way it’s always been done”… they were faithful to do the right things but their motivation for doing those things was not from a heart that loved Jesus like they once did...
Jesus called them to remember what it was like when they first trusted Him, to repent by changing their direction, and return to him…return to that love for Christ that motivated you to serve regardless of everything else...
Jesus promised them that if they didn’t do what He commanded them to do, he would come in judgment and remove their light from the world...
As of the 14th century, the church of Ephesus no longer exists.
Jesus also promised that genuine believers were guaranteed a place in heaven with the Father.

Listen to The Great Physician

From Revelation 1 we see that Jesus stands in the midst of these churches, living in them, seeing everything, hearing everything and he diagnoses their spiritual health in some fashion…we are allowed in to the examination room to hear what the Doctor says to the patient...
We would do well to listen to him as he speaks to these “patients” to do a self-examination based upon what He sees in them…where change is needed, we need to change…where commendation is received, we can rejoice...
So as we look at these churches we are listening to the doctor speak to us as individual believers and as a corporate body.
Today we hear his examination of the…Church of Smyrna

Church of Smyrna — The Crowned Church

The Destination — v. 8

Smyrna exists today as the city of modern Izmir, the third largest city in Turkey.
It lay almost 40 miles due north of Ephesus.
It was exceptionally beautiful and large (population approximately 200K)…it ranked as “First of Asia”, “Crown of Asia”…the way the city was designed and built, the symmetry of the city was such that you could stand at the sea port and look up toward the top of Mount Pagus and could see a panorama that led it to be called “a crown.”
Birth place of Homer, the author of Iliad and the Odyssey in classic literature...The city had also experienced a period of nearly 400 years of decline but was revived into a great urban populous.
It was a wealthy city where learning flourished, especially in medicine and science…there were many temples that lined the streets that all led to the most notable temple built for Zeus himself.
It was a center of emperor worship having won the privilege of building the first temple in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius…under Domitian emperor worship was demanded of every Roman citizen on threat of death.
Once a year a citizen had to burn incense on the altar to the godhead of Caesar…once completed, they were issued a certificate as proof by those appointed to oversee the sacrifices.
This was a dangerous place for Christians because of the zeal by which emperor worship was pursued.
Every citizen had to burn a pinch of incense and say “Caesar is Lord”.
John’s disciple, Polycarp, the pastor of this church, was burned alive at the age of 86 because he refused to do this.
Eighty six years have I served Christ, and he has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
There was a large and hostile Jewish community that took an active and prominent role in Polycarp’s death (talk more about this in just a moment).
The city was also blessed with many groves of trees some of which produced what was known as myrrh…where the city gets its name.
Myrrh has a sweet aroma but a bitter taste, it was one of the gifts the wise men presented to Jesus and it was also used as an embalming ingredient.
Smyrna means bitter
So what we know about this city can be summed up in two words… beautiful and suffering.

The Description - v.8

Jesus describes himself here by saying he is the first and the last, who was dead and has come to life.
This description of Jesus displays both the divinity of Jesus as well as his humanity.
First and the last = this is a reference to the eternality of Jesus, Jesus is fully divine.
who was dead and has come to life = in his humanity he died the worst of deaths for them.
These would be relevant for this church and us for the fact that Jesus says to those who are suffering, I’ve been there…I experienced the worst conditions ever…I died and I rose again…some of you will die, but like me you will live again.
Regardless of the appearance of evil, I see it all, I am still in control.
As we will see in just a moment, this congregation would face imprisonment and death and the Lord says “Been there, done that, wrote a book about it…You will die, but because of me, you need not fear the second death.
What is the second death?
Revelation 20:14 NASB95
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:8 NASB95
“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
These believers were experiencing great persecution much like Jesus did and this description of Jesus would be a comfort to them.

The Delight — v.9

Jesus has nothing negative to say about them…that doesn’t mean they were a perfect church…but the implication here is that Jesus finds delight in his people when they faithfully endure persecution for his name sake...
In the list of the seven churches only Smyrna and Philadelphia are without rebuke from the Lord.
"I know your tribulation and your poverty…and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews but are not”
the English word your is the singular possessive pronoun…meaning that Jesus is talking to the individuals who compose this church…he is fully aware of the persecution every one of them experiences…he is fully aware of their poverty...
tribulation = actually means living in oppression, serious trouble, burden that crushes.
poverty = strong word in the Greek, not just poor to the degree of being unable to afford luxuries, this is abject poverty, possessing absolutely nothing, extreme poverty, poor to the point they could not afford the basic necessities.
blasphemy = slander = speech that injures character

We are beginning to see in our culture just a glimpse of what they had to endure.

Some of the same things Smyrna experienced, Pergamum and Philadelphia would experience…and in a small way believers today are experiencing the same sort of things…it was not popular to proclaim Christ in those places and great cost came to those who did…
In these cities driven by merchants and trade, there were guilds (similar to modern day unions) and it was imperative for a worker in a particular trade to be part of that guild…so if you were a merchant, a baker, a potter, etc. then you had to be part of the merchant guild, or the baker guild, the potter guild, etc. Each guild had their own god or goddess and they would have often have feasts among the guilds where offerings would be made to the god or goddess of that guild. All of this was set up and intertwined in the guild and if you wanted to succeed in business, you had to be part of that guild…if you worked for the owner of that business, you had to participate in the feasts.
So put yourself in their sandals for a moment…you are the believer who owns the bakery and if you want your business to thrive, you are told you must belong to this guild that holds monthly feasts and makes offerings to the Pillsbury Dough Boy. As a believer, you could not willingly or unwillingly participate in those activities and remain faithful to Christ. Even without the internet, you would be known as one who didn’t support the local guild...As a result you lost business, or if you were the worker, you would be fired.
These individuals would be slandered along with the name of Christ…the Jewish synagogues would oppose the churches in these cities by reporting Christians to the Roman authorities claiming they were a cult. This led to the government opposing them because the Christians would not bow down and worship Caesar or give in to emperor worship…this was considered treasonous and often led to death.
say they are Jews and they are not = Paul would say in Romans 9:6 that not all Israel is Israel meaning that not all the physical descendants of Abraham are true heirs of the promise…they are not the spiritual sons of Abraham because they rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
So these believers are being persecuted by Gentiles and Jews alike...
Synagogue of Satan = Because the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, they had become just as much a tool of Satan as emperor worship…the persecution these believers faced came from the religious community as well as the government and economic side…instead of doing the work of God, they were doing the work of Satan.
Here are just some of the accusations made against Christians by people of that day.
Cannibalism = talked about “eating the body” and “drinking the blood” of Christ.
Immorality = “love feasts”, claimed these were really sex parties
Atheism = denied the existence of the Greek/Roman gods
Arsonists = spoke of the fire of the Spirit, fire of divine judgment
Traitors = would not acknowledge the lordship of the emperors…I told you earlier about Polycarp, the pastor of this church, who was murdered because he would not worship the emperor.
Destroyers of families = Christians were so loyal to each other and the Lord that Jewish families would disown those who became Christians.
The persecution these people endured from the hand of Satan was great and Jesus commends them because their light was shining brightly in one of the darkest places known at that time.

Implications

It is becoming increasingly common in our culture for Christians who believe the Bible and proclaim Christ faithfully to be labeled as dangerous and evil.
Believers are often labeled as anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-women, anti-diversity, arrogant and intolerant.
Just like the church of Smyrna, the more steadfast we hold to the truth of Scripture, the more we should expect opposition from all sides…even from the religious community…and the temptation we all face at some point is the increasing temptation to shrink back because we believe that if we stand up for Christ, all we are going to do is cause problems or be ridiculed, etc… “I just keep my head down, and my mouth shut and I avoid all of it.” “I’m not going to tell others about Christ because that will just lead to a firestorm...”
Believers who follow the truth are not anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-women, etc., we are anti-sin, we are against anything that sets itself up against Christ

Before we take a stand against sin in the life of others or the world, we had better make sure we have taken a stand against sin in our own life!

doesn’t mean we have to be perfect…it means we are evaluating every thought, every word, every action in our own life to be more consistent in our own obedience to Christ…if we are growing and changing into his image we can stand up against sin…but if we refuse to acknowledge the sin in our own life first, we can’t see clearly enough to help others deal with their sin.
Matthew 7:5 NASB95
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
2 Corinthians 10:5 NASB95
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
we can still be against the sin of homosexuality and love the person entrapped by that sin, we can still be against the murder of innocent babies and still love those who don’t agree with us…we can be intolerant of sin but still love our fellow man enough to care for them openly and honestly and share the love of Christ with them regardless of what they say or do...

The Diagnosis = You Are Rich

You don’t have the material possessions of this earth, so yes, you are poor, you do have every spiritual possession of heaven in Christ so you are extremely rich!
Ephesians 1:3 NASB95
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
Just in the context of Ephesians alone we are...
Chosen by God…eternally forgiven of every sin (past, present, future), redeemed, adopted, sealed, permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit…being in Christ brings EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING!

Do not make the treasures of this world your single pursuit, for when you leave this earth they will belong to someone else…Rather pursue that which honors Christ first, and the riches of heaven will be waiting there for you.

You may not possess the riches of this world that classifies you as wealthy, but if you are in Christ, you are abundantly wealthy as an heir of all things…you may not have enjoyed the approval of men, but you do receive the praise of God!

The Directions — v. 10

Don’t be afraid.

Jesus assures them that He knew the devil’s plan…Jesus is in complete control of the situation.
Some of them were going to be thrown in prison
Some of them would be tried as traitors of Rome
Their tribulation would not last long…10 days…signifies a brief time… a time that is sufficient to complete something...
They needed to know they are fighting a spiritual war in which their efforts are going against Satan…the accuser is going to incite the leaders against them…there was even the possibility of death!
Jesus assures them that this is being done to test them!
Why is God allowing Satan to do this?…to test the faithfulness of his people…this is not for God’s benefit for He knows how faithful His children will be…it is for God’s people to see the shallowness or depth of their own trust in God!
How deep is your trust in God when all your wealth is taken? How deep is your trust in God when you are taken from your family? How deep is your trust in God when you are thrown into prison for your testimony? How deep is your trust in God when you stand eyeball to eyeball with death? How deep is your trust in God?
This is nothing new…we see this throughout the Scriptures.

Satan wants to use suffering to sabotage us, God wants to use suffering to strengthen us.

Satan cannot do anything to us outside the sovereign control and ultimate purpose of God.
All throughout this worship center this morning, Satan is doing everything permissible by God to tempt you, pulling you away, discouraging you and defeat you…Satan and his cohorts want to sabotage you…to sink you…to shipwreck you…wherever you are suffering right now, whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual, etc., Satan is working to destroy and devour you.
God is saying to you right now…you are going to be tested…I know it, this is for your good…I know you don’t understand it, I know you don’t understand why these things are happening…Don’t be afraid…Trust me! Everything that happens to you has a purpose. I love you and want you to be like my Son. You have to trust me that this is exactly what you need to strengthen you!

Be faithful to the point of death

No matter what is going to happen to you…regardless of who does what to you…stay faithful…don’t compromise…don’t give up…don’t quit…even if death is inevitable, don’t be afraid.

Jesus never promises escape from tribulation. He does, however, promise the grace to endure affliction without fear and the pledge to bring you through to an eternal reward.

The Declaration — You Will Be Crowned With Eternal Life! — 10, 11

Two primary words for crown in the New Testament…one word was used to refer to the crown a king would wear, one with gold and jewels; the other was the crown the winner of the contest would receive, the victors crown, the wreath around the head
The one used here is the victors crown…the crown of life…literally translated the crown, that is, fullness of life.
See this also in James 1:12
This is an idiom that is understood as highest joy and gladness of glory and immortality.
Because they were overcomers, because they had trusted Him, they were victors in the race of faith and had nothing to fear. Even if they were martyred, they were guaranteed a home in glory, wearing crowns. The awful judgment of the second death was not theirs to experience…
To experience the second death is to be eternally cut off from God!
If the saints experience physical death because of their testimony for Christ, they will receive imperishable life in eternal glory.

The Directive

Listen to what the Spirit says to the seven churches
Church of Ephesus = Remember, Repent and Return
Smyrna = Stay Faithful and Do Not Fear the Second Death
you may die physically, but you will never be separated from God.
Unbeliever, unless you repent and turn to Christ today, the reality of the second death is something you need to fear, and you need to fear it greatly!
The course your life is on right now is a path of destruction that ultimately concludes in never-ending punishment for rejecting God’s free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ alone!

The world may look at us and label us poor, idiotic, foolish, intolerant, bigoted, etc., but stay faithful because the Spirit labels us as overcomers and extremely rich with the promise of eternal glory!

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