Scripture Reading: Revelation 2:7b (NIV)
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
All of us have something to wrestle with and overcome.
There are something preventing our success; something preventing our surrender to Christ; something we persist in clinging to, something we will not wrestle with and master; something preventing our commitment to the Church; something preventing our growth or character; something in our surrounding, our place of business, our companionship, our pleasures. It may be something of sin or temptation as it meets us out in life. Whatever it may be, we are not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good.
There are self-reliant ways that men try. They trust in vows, resolves, character and efforts. But life sternly deals with all merely self-effort, and refuses to let man reap a moral victory in his own strength. There is really only way. The fight must be waged under the leading of the great Captain of Salvation. By the cross we conquer. In other words, we overcome by the Blood of the Lamb. David conquered Goliath because the wisdom and strength of God were upon his wisdom and strength. Paul could do all things “through Him who strengthened him.” We may be “more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” It is a spiritual fight and for it we can have our Lord’s spiritual presence – and this presence will aid us in our victory over life’s obstacles.
There is nothing for those who never knew what it was to fight. But gracious rewards await those who overcome. The messages to the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation indicate that the reward will be precisely adapted to each precise fight and each precise victor. But, whatever else may be said, the smile and acceptance of Jesus is the one all-satisfying reward.
This morning, I would like to share a message entitled, THE REWARDS OF AN OVERCOMER.
What is the meaning of “to overcome”?
“To overcome” according to the Webster dictionary means:
- To get the better of in any conflict or struggle.
- To prevail over or surmount, as difficulties/obstacles.
- To gain mastery; to win.
Christ is our exemplary Overcomer. He has overcome sin and death and as His joint heir, we share the same victory. Christ has given us the power of an overcomer. By the power of Christ, He wants us to get the better of the many conflicts we are facing in this world; He wants us to prevail over every difficulty that confronts us and to gain mastery over our fight with any sin in our lives.
In order to goad the members of the different churches on in their different fight against sins or difficulties, Apostle John pens down the gracious rewards each overcomer will receive in Heaven. The message to the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation is also the message to individual Christians today because it is the individual Christians that make up the Church of Christ. Intrinsically, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit within us to empower us in our fight here on earth. Extrinsically, God has revealed to us the eternal rewards that are waiting for any overcomer, so that we will be further motivated to fight on and really win over our obstacles.
My daughter, Jan, knows that this year will be the toughest battle she has to fight and overcome and that is her GCE A Level examination in November 2010. Before she returned to Spore at the beginning of this year, she asked me to motivate her by stating what her reward would be if she passes her GCE A Level with flying colors again. I told her – “Just work hard, and leave the rest to God.” She said, “No! I need motivation to know what lies ahead after my hard work and struggle. I want to know what will be my reward in the future so that I will be motivated to persevere in my academic difficulties and prevail. This is the way, Mummy, you have been motivating me all these while.” Yes!
Throughout the academic life of Jan, I have been using intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivation to encourage Jan to overcome all her educational struggles and battles. At the end of her victory for every school year, she would receive I-pod, latest cell-phone, latest camera; cash but for this major battle of her academic year, my extrinsic reward for her is a trip to Europe with the whole family; if God not willing, a trip to Europe of Jan with her classmate. This promised reward goes a long way to encourage Jan to keep on working hard at her studies and to overcome her fears, doubts, the temptation to give up, her homesickness, her weariness and her loneliness in Singapore.
Similarly, we are going to look into this extrinsic motivation that God has laid out for us through the eternal rewards for those who keep on fighting and struggling and will not give up till they overcome that particular hindrance or roadblocks.
2 Gracious Rewards
The final promise of eternal reward is given only to those individuals in the church who are overcomers. In Revelation 1-3, it is not the church as a whole that is addressed but the overcomers in the church. To be an overcomer is to overcome in those particular things in which the church has failed.
So this morning, I will be sharing with you each of the 7 particular thing each of us has to overcome and the respective reward that goes along with it if we overcome it.
#1 Thing To Overcome… Lovelessness Reward… Tree Of Life
Rev 2:4 (KJV) – Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Rev 2:7 (KJV) – He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
The very first letter of John is addressed to the church in Ephesus – the crossroad of civilization – considered to be a city of great political importance. The basic problem with the church in Ephesus is that even though the church members had stood fast against evil and false teaching, they had left their “first love” – their basic love for Christ and for one another.
Our Church is like the Church of Ephesus. We retain our faith without wavering. Our church does the same things it always does. Our church as a whole is faithful but the motive is changing. In the beginning, everything that was done was done purely out of love for Christ. Christ was the motive. The gospel was the driving force. The great program of Christ for the salvation of souls and the spread of the gospel was the source of inspiration, the driving force that made our members labor until they were exhausted and to bear great burden on their hearts for the salvation of souls. But with an increasing membership and a growing responsibility, organization was necessary. There is great danger in organization, in societies with special memberships and demanding special loyalty to the organization. The work they do may be exactly the same to all outward appearances but the incentive may be loyalty to the organization, a desire to see it grow and prosper.
At first everything is Christ; then gradually the church begins to take on importance and church work begins to take the place of Christian labor. At first this condition is so slight as to be imperceptible but its tendency is always to increase until church work has entirely supplanted Christian labor. Church work is that which is done for the church rather than for Christ. We are the church. Most of the labor and most of the money expended in church work is for ourselves. Beautiful blinds, nice tiles, comfortable seats, elaborate music, good air-conditioning system, eloquent preaching are all for our own enjoyment. Therefore, it is easy for our motives to shift from the love of Christ to love of the church. Then we become the center of our own affections. This is a serious situation and the church that allows it is in danger of losing its place among the candlesticks.
Although the church of Ephesus is faithfully serving Christ, Christ knew that if the motive is changed it would not be very long before the work would change and the church would become engaged in all kinds of temporal activities. The real work of the gospel would suffer.
Temporal activities and reforms may be entered into by those who do not love Christ. There is no longer any opportunity for separation or for testing or for steadfastness. There may be a great sense of loyalty built up but it must be remembered that loyalty to the church is not always loyalty to Christ. When we love the church we love ourselves. The first love is Christ. The second love is the church. Christ here warns the church of the danger of leaving her first love.
Jesus promises the overcomer the right to “eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God”. The Garden of Eden contained the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). Eating from the tree of life brought eternal life with God; eating from the tree of the knowledge brought the ability to discern good and evil and therefore, to choose evil. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, they disobeyed God’s command.
So they were excluded from Eden and barred from eating from the tree of life. Eventually, evil will be destroyed and believers will be brought into a restored paradise. In the new earth, everyone will eat from the tree of life and live forever (22:2, 19). Eating from the tree of life pictures the gift of eternal life. In paradise God will restore the perfect fellowship that existed in the Garden of Eden before sin entered and ruined the relationship between people and God.
To be an overcomer in the Ephesus Church is to retain one’s first love when the whole church as a whole is departing from it. The church of Ephesus was the careless loveless church, made up of loveless and careless believers who neglected their love for Christ. Are we guilty of the same neglect?
#2 Thing To Overcome… Persecution Reward… Not Hurt By Second Death
Rev 2:9-10 (KJV) – I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (But thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
Rev 2:11 (KJV) – He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt by the second death.
The second letter that John addresses to is the Smyrna Church. The name Smyrna means “bitter” and is related to the word myrrh. The city remains a functioning community today called Izmir. The assembly of Smyrna was persecuted for the faith.
The church in Smyrna was not having an easy time of it! The members were persecuted, probably because they refused to compromise and say, “Caesar is Lord.” Smyrna was an important center of the Roman imperial cult and anyone refusing to acknowledge Caesar as Lord would certainly be excluded from the guilds.
A large Jewish community also thrived in Smyrna. The Jews, of course, did not have to patronize the imperial cult since their religion was accepted by Rome but they certainly would not cooperate with the Christian faith. So, from Jews and Gentiles, the Christians in Smyrna received slander and suffering.
But they were rich! They lived for eternal values that would never change; riches that could never be taken away. “As poor, yet making many rich” (2 Cor 6:20; 8:9). In fact, their suffering for Christ only increased their riches.
Our struggles are not with flesh and blood, but with the enemy, Satan, who uses people to accomplish his purposes. The Jewish synagogue was actually a synagogue of Satan. The people who persecute you are normally the instrument of Satan to dampen your faith and commitment to Christ.
No words of rebukes are given to the church of Smyrna. They may not have enjoyed the approval of men but they certainly received the praise of God. However, the Lord did give them solemn words of admonition as they faced increased suffering: “Don’t be afraid.”
He assured them that He knew the devil’s plan and was in complete control of the situation. Some of the believer would be imprisoned and tried as traitors to Rome. Yet their tribulation would not be long; to the Bible, ten days signifies “a brief time” (Gen 24:55). The important thing is faithfulness, standing true to Christ no matter what the government might threaten to do.
Jesus promises the overcomer of persecution “not to be hurt by the second death.” Believers and unbelievers alike experience physical death. I shared with you last Tuesday that the speaker in Spore, Bishop Dag, shared that the chance of us dying is 1/1. It is a sure thing. My new Bible-study series teaches that ultimately, our life goes back to the box.
The first death for those in Smyrna might well be martyrdom. But even then they would be victorious because they would not face the second death. All people will be resurrected, but believers will be resurrected to eternal life with God, while unbelievers will be resurrected to be punished with a second death – eternal separation from God.
D.L. Moody puts the second death like this, “He who is born once will die twice; he who is born twice will die once.” And if the Rapture occurs during his lifetime, he won’t even have to die that one time. The “second death” is the death which no believer will experience. The first death concerns the body. The second death concerns the soul and the spirit; it is eternal separation from God. No believer will have to undergo that.
We all take persecution very likely. It is very sad to see some young people dropping out of this church simply because of persecution. We lost one peer leader under HOF and three facilitators under RZone simply because of persecution. Worse, we have one boy in our church who signed up for water baptism 4 times and who attended the water baptism briefing for 4 times but bailed out at the beach 4 times, simply because of the persecution from his grandmother.
And these people take persecution from relatives very lightly. They think it is alright not to stand faithful unto death for Christ. They are more fearful of men than of Christ and they thought there are no consequences for not overcoming persecution. If you are genuinely saved, 99% of you will be persecuted because our Christ was also persecuted and as his followers we are not exempt from this cross. If you deny your Christ now, you will experience second death. But if you overcome your persecution fearlessly, you will miss the second death.
To be an overcomer in Smyrna Church is to be faithful unto death along with the rest of the church.
It costs to be a dedicated Christian, in some places more than others. As end-time pressures increase, persecution will also increase and God’s people need to be ready.
#3 Thing To Overcome… Compromise Reward… Gift Of Hidden Manna, White Stone & A New Name
Rev 2: 14-15 (KJV) – But I have a few things against thee because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught that Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.
Rev 2:17 (KJV) – He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna and will give him a white stone, and the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
The third letter of John was addressed to the Church of Pergamos. Pergamos had the first temple dedicated to Caesar and was a rabid promoter of the imperial cult. The problem in Pergamos was leniency toward those in the church who were compromising their faith with the idol worship and sexual immorality of pagan worship. The Church of Pergamos was a compromising Church. They upheld the doctrine of Balaam and Nicolaitans.
What are the doctrines of Balaam? They consist of 2 items:
- To eat things sacrificed to idols;
- To commit fornication.
Translated into terms of the church, it would amount to making, using and worshipping idols and contamination with the world, or a mixing of the world and the church. Fornication in a spiritual sense is for a church to demand and receive special favors from the government. It is sometimes called a union of church and state. It is a basic doctrine of the Roman Church.
What about the doctrine of Nicolaitans? This is the name applied to the new movement within the church. Nico is the Greek word for “conquer”. Laitanes is the word from which we get our word “laity”. The word therefore means “conquerors of the laity.” It is the beginning of the priesthood or the ecclesiastical control of individual churches. When a church leaves its first love, it begins to turn its attention to ecclesiastical power and influence.
When its leaders talk about “church loyalty,” they are actually demanding loyalty to themselves while they are leading the people away from the Bible. The movements of the churches to enhance their political power and social prestige by union, federation and worldly alliances are the deeds of the Nicolaitans.
Jesus rebuked the church for tolerating those who, like Balaam, were undermining people’s faith. Apparently some in the church were corrupting others in their attempt to justify idol worship – perhaps by joining in with civic ceremonies where idols were worshipped. Eating food offered to idols probably refers to these people’s taking part in pagan feast. Sexual sins may also be understood as it is or as being part of certain pagan festivities.
The church also had some Nicolaitans among them- people who follow the same teaching and commit the same sins as those who were like Balaam. These two groups were essentially the same in their practices. The Nicolaitans were Christians who had compromised their faith in order to enjoy the sinful pleasures of their society and perhaps to be able to burn incense on the altar to the emperor to avoid the penalty for not doing so. Their sin was in compromising their faith for the world. They thought that the best policy was to peacefully coexist and go along with what they could of Roman society in order to be left alone.
Are you upholding the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitan in your life? Do you feel that there is nothing wrong to have images in your homes? Do you feel that there is nothing wrong for Christians to fornicate? Do you fornicate before your marriage? Do you think it is alright to cohabit with your partner before you are married? Do you mix the world with the church? What is our church like today?
A pure church or is it a church that mixes the world with Christ? Do we introduce impure programs into our church worship service? Do we bring magic of Copperfield into our Church? Two weeks ago, a mega church in Singapore hosted the Asian Conference where all the top guns of the Asian churches were there. During the program, they showcased fashion show with model donning plunging necklines on the runway; they even displayed pyrotechnics like those in Las Vegas and the pastor’s wife even cuts an album with a worldly Black American R & B singer, where she donned bikini and danced like a Geisha.
Last week, the founding pastor with 19 other church members and pastors were called in by Commercial Affairs Dept and their houses were raided and if found guilty, they have all to serve a 6-month jail term. The charge is – mixing church funds with business. Do you mix other religions with Christianity? So many members of the churches in the world are practicing yoga and they didn’t know that the basic tenet of yoga is Hinduism. Do you still attend fiesta and Dinaygang festival? Do you compromise with the politicians in order to gain their favor? Like the State church in China called the Three-Self Church. They are the compromising church. They can only preach the message sanctioned by the government. They cannot preach the true gospel of Christ. Do you believe in Interfaith or ecumenical movement- every faith unifying for the sake of unity?
Those who overcome compromises will be given a reward that here includes three symbols: hidden manna, a white stone and a new name.
Being able to “eat of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven” suggests spiritual nourishment that faithful believers will receive for keeping their churches doctrinally pure. On the journey toward the Promised Land, God provided manna from heaven to the Israelites for their physical nourishment.
Then God told Moses to place a jar of manna in the Ark of the Covenant as a reminder of God’s provision. The Jewish tradition held that this golden pot of manna still existed somewhere; hidden by Jeremiah at the destruction of Jerusalem; it would be restored at the messianic age. The hidden manna symbolizes the promises and blessings that will come with the arrival of the Messiah.
Jesus, the bread of life, provides spiritual nourishment that satisfies our deepest hunger. Those who were refusing to revel in the pagan feasts of Pergamos were promised the manna that would satisfy hunger and bring blessing.
It is unclear what the white stones represent or what the names on each will be. Because these stones seem to relate to the hidden manna, they may be symbols of the believer’s eternal nourishment or eternal life. Small stones served many purposes in ancient times. Some were given to the poor to help them obtain food, like food stamps. Some were used as invitations to a banquet. The invited person would bring along the stone in order to be admitted. Each stone would have an invited person’s name on it. For those who refused to go to the pagan banquets, a place was reserved at the Messiah’s banquet in heaven.
The stones may be significant because each will bear the new name of every person who truly believes in Christ. Alternately, the new name may be Christ’s name as it will be fully revealed. Or perhaps, because a person’s name represented his or her character, it may be that the new name signifies the believer’s transformed life and character because of Christ’s saving work. The new name may be the evidence that a person has been accepted by God and declared worthy to receive eternal life. In any case, we know that God will give believers new names and new hearts.
To be an overcomer in Pergamum Chruch is to contend against the Nicolaitans and the followers of Balaam.
Are you overcoming a compromising spirit today?
#4 Thing To Overcome… Corruption Reward… Power Over Nations
Rev 2:20 (KJV) – Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which called herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
Rev 2:26-28 – And he that overcometh and keepth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star.
The longest message was sent to the church in the smallest city! Thyatira was a military town as well as a commercial center with many trade guilds. Wherever guilds were found, idolatry and immorality- the two great enemies of the early church – were almost always present too.
The believers in Thyatira were a busy lot! They were involved in sacrificial ministry for the sake of others (they are involved in charity –verse 19). What’s more, their works were increasing and characterized by faith, love and patience, so the church was not guilty of mere “religious activity.” But alas, the Lord found much to expose and condemn in the assembly at Thyatira. No amount of loving and sacrificial works can compensate for tolerance of evil.
The church was permitting a false prophetess to influence the people and lead them into corruption. This prophetess was given a name, “Jezebel” and it is symbolic of the idolatrous Queen Jezebel who enticed Israel to add Baal worship to their religious ceremonies. The seductive teaching of Jezebel was similar to the “doctrine of Balaam”. She taught believers how to compromise with the Roman religions and the practices of the guilds so that Christians would not lose their jobs or their lives.
It is interesting to contrast the churches at Ephesus and Thyatira. The Ephesian church was weakening in love, yet faithful to judge false teachers; while the people in the assembly of Thyatira were growing in their love, but too tolerant of false doctrine. Both extremes must be avoided. “Speaking the truth in love” is the biblical balance. Unloving orthodoxy and loving compromise are both hateful to God.
The believers are promised authority over the nations if they overcome corruption. This promised authority over the nations refers to the fact that God’s people will live and reign with Christ. When the Lord sets up His Kingdom on earth, it will be a righteous kingdom with perfect justice. He will rule with a rod of iron.
Rebellious men will be like clay pots, easily broken to pieces.
Jesus Christ is the “Bright Morning Star”. The promise in Revelation 2:28 suggests that God’s people shall be so closely identified with Christ that He will “belong” to them. In Isaiah 14:12, Satan is named Lucifer, which in Hebrew means “brightness, bright star.” The corrupt people in Thyatira were following “the depths of Satan,” which would lead to darkness and death. God’s overcomer, on the other hand, would share the Morning Star.
To be an overcomer in the Thyatira church is to keep separate from the wicked woman, Jezebel and not to be corrupted by her.
How about you today? Is there corruption in your heart? There is so much love in your heart, even love for evil and corrupt people. You’ve mistaken love to be encompassing good and evil. You forgot the exhortation in Jude 23- On some have mercy with fear, HATING even the garment spotted by the flesh.
When you fail to hate what God hates, your heart will be corrupted. Basically God hates all sins of the flesh. Do you hate being bitter; jealous; competitive; rebellious; effeminate; unscrupulous; hypocritical; critical; divisive; lazy? Yes you all know all these are wrong. But some of us are so corrupted in our heart that we not only know it is wrong to be like this but we enjoy and approve of ourselves and others being like this (Romans 1:32).
#5 Thing To Overcome… Deadness Reward… White Garment & Names In The Book Of Life
Rev 3:1 (KJV)…I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
Rev 3:5 – He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name before my Father and before his angels.
Sardis was a mighty church with a great name. It shook off Jezebel but retained many of her forms and trappings. Its reform was not perfect. Ceremonies, liturgy, ecclesiastical attire, candles, altars, processions, soft music – anything that produces a synthetic spiritual atmosphere is a substitute for, and therefore a replacement of, the Holy Spirit. These things stem from the Roman Catholic Church, not the apostolic church. They headed back to Babylon, not Pentecost.
Jesus pronounced to them, “Thou art dead.” This practice of putting make-believe in place of genuine spiritual experience is always a deadening thing. There is a very little to be approved in such a church even though it has a good name. It stands high in the esteem of the world. It has a large number of professing Christians but comparatively few spiritual Christians. Such a church would naturally not be interested in the prophetic Scriptures or in such things as the Rapture or anything that is spiritually discerned. The Rapture will overtake this church as a thief in the night.
Dr Vance Havner has frequently reminded the pastors that spiritual ministries often go through 4 stages: a man, a movement, a machine, and then a monument. Sardis was at the “monument” stage – dead.
All of the church’s man-made programs can never bring life, any more than a circus can resurrect a corpse. The church was born when the Spirit of God descended on the Day of Pentecost and its life comes from the Sprit. When the Spirit is grieved, the church begins to lose life and power. When sin is confessed and church members get right with God and with each other, then the Spirit infuses new life – revival.
There are so many born again churches, apart from the Roman Catholic churches who have the name of being alive but actually is dead inside. While I was in Japan, I attended an International Church that carries the description of a dead church. They have all the trappings of spirituality but they are dead. Joy is now in France and this is her second week there and she emailed me telling me that she is beginning to love Paris despite its messiness and dirtiness.
She said that students of her campus are all so nice, even though the general Parisian public is cold and arrogant. She even contemplates of taking her PHD in one of the French schools that is related to A-Star of Spore. But one lament of hers is that the International Church she is attending is dead. It has a grand Roman Catholic architecture and even though they sing Hill song, she couldn’t get used to the liturgy that is being practiced there. She is trying hard to find an English speaking Pentecostal church but there is none. Deadness.
How about you personally? Do you have the name of a Christian but deep inside you are dead? You may be even attending a Spirit-filled church but inside you is dead. You only follow the motion of the service but deep inside you are dead. Is this one of the struggles you are fighting now- your deadness?
The one who overcomes deadness will thus be clothed in white garment. Notice the passive voice in the verb will be clothed, which denotes that God has given the garments to the overcomer. The garments are the righteous acts of the saints. The color “white” denotes purity and thus saints who are clothed in white garments are holy in God’s presence.
“I will never erase his name from the book of life.” –Here is a promise that is worded in strongly negative terms to assure faithful Christians in Sardis. It assures them that they are absolutely safe and secure. Their names have been recorded in the book of life and will never be erased.
The Jewish people kept accurate records in regard to vital statistics. When the Jews returned from exile, lists were drawn up for the registration of families.
Excluding people from the records of the house of Israel was practiced in the days of Ezekiel. False prophets were completely ostracized and banned from the land of Israel (Ezek 13:9). The Romans would erase the name of a criminal from the records before they put them to death. Christians who refused to worship Caesar as Lord were considered convicts who would lose their citizenship. Jesus assures the faithful in Sardis that their names would never be erased from the book of life. Those people who profess the name of Jesus but whose lifestyle fails to support their profession never had their names recorded in “the book of life.” Jesus tells them that he never knew them and he orders them to depart from him (Matt 7:21-23).
Can you confidently say today that your name is written in the Book of Life? Don’t play around with your salvation. Recently there are a few deaths in our church that are quite dubious in nature. As a pastor, I cannot safely proclaim to all of you that they are all in heaven. I doubt their names are written in the book of life because even though they professed to be Christian, I dare say their lifestyle never supported that profession- there was no obedience in their life to Christ; they snapped at the pastors; they were not faithful in Church; they didn’t serve God in any way; they chose the place they wanted to go without consulting God; they walked their own ways and they thought a simple prayer at their death bed can save them.
Now how about these words of Jesus- Not all who calls me Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven except he that does the will of God?” You mean to tell me that if you have been dead spiritually all these while, you can be in heaven? The Bible is very clear – only those who overcome their deadness shall have their name written in the Book of Life. Why live a dubious life and die a dubious death that you leave many wondering whether you are in heaven or not? Why do you want to die like Solomon- until today, we don’t even know for sure if he is in heaven or not? Live in the Spirit of God and walk with the Spirit so that you will die in the Spirit, with your name clearly written in the Book of Life.
I will confess his name before the Father and before his angels.
This is a word of Jesus spoken during his earthly ministry and repeated with minor variations:
Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven” (Matt 10:32).
“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8).
“The one who confesses me before me, I will confess him before my Father.”
The warning here is that we not grow comfortable in our churches, lest we find ourselves slowly dying. To be an overcomer in the Sardis church is to maintain a Spirit-filled life.
#6 Thing To Overcome… Unfaithfulness Reward… Pillar in God’s Temple
Rev 3: 8 – I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
Rev 3:12 – Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jersualem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
Philadelphia was situated in a strategic place on the main route of the Imperial Post from Rome to the East and thus was called the “Gateway to the East.”
Christ had no words of rebuke for this church. Though small and struggling, the church in Philadelphia had stayed true to Christ and he told them simply to seize the opportunity of open door even though they had very little strength. The people of Philadelphia overcome the temptation of unfaithfulness despite their little strength. They kept the word of God and had not denied the name of Christ.
The believers who overcome unfaithfulness will receive the promise to become pillars in the Temple of my God. The word “pillars” symbolizes permanence and stability. Philadelphia was constantly threatened by earthquakes. The people would evacuate the city and stay in temporary dwellings. Sometimes the only part of the building left standings was the pillars. This permanence is further stressed in the next verse, “they will never have to leave it.”
Christ also gives these victorious believers three further promises:
He will write…God’s name on them.
They will be citizens in…the New Jerusalem.
They will have Christ’s new name inscribed upon them.
This threefold promise pictures believers belonging to God, having a citizenship in heaven, and having a special relationship with Christ. The New Jerusalem is the future dwelling of the people of God. They will be citizens in God’s future Kingdom. Everything will be new, pure and secure.
To be an overcome in Philadelphia is to faithfully follow the church through open doors of service despite your little strength.
In a very real sense, the church today is like the Philadelphia church, for God has set before us many open doors of opportunity. If He opens the doors, we must work; if He shuts the door, we must wait. Above all, we must be faithful to Him and see the opportunities, not the obstacles. If we miss our opportunities, we lose our rewards (crowns).
Many of us fail to overcome the temptation of unfaithfulness. When we have little strength left, we usually give up on our faith in God’s promise; we deny Christ and we fail to seize the opportunity of open door, using our lack of strength as an excuse. The people of Philadelphia overcome this danger of unfaithfulfness. Let me say to all of you – even as a church we have very little strength left, yet we must not give up this open door of opportunity to enter the land of Tabuc Suba to build our new Sanctuary.
Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by the financial challenge of this project and I would argue with the Lord that I have little strength left to face such challenge. Many times I am tempted to doubt all the words Christ has spoken to me about our land but as I was praying one morning, God challenges me that this is one obstacle I have to overcome. Despite my little strength, I still have to seize this opportunity of an open door. I can’t give up. I have to keep my faith in God.
#7 Thing To Overcome… Lukewarmness Reward… Sit with Christ
Rev 3:16 – So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Rev 3:21 – To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
Laodicea was the wealthiest of the 7 cities. It was located near Hieropolis, where there were famous hot springs and Colossae, known for its pure, cold water. The city was known for its bank, manufacture of a rare black wool and a medical school that produced eye salve. The problem in this church was lukewarmness- they were neither hot nor cold. It was blind to its own needs and unwilling to face the truth. When a church becomes lukewarm, it loses its vigor (v16-17); its values (v17-18); its vision (v18b) and its vesture (v17-22).
Those who overcome lukewarmness “will sit with Christ on his throne.” This refers to the heavenly kingdom. This promise is certain because Christ won that right for believers through his own victory on the cross. Victorious over sin and death when he rose again, he sat with His Father on his throne. The Gospel of Mark records, “When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Mark 16:19).
In the Christian life, there are three “spiritual temperatures” – a burning heart, on fire for God; a cold heart and a lukewarm heart. The lukewarm Christian is comfortable, complacent and does not realize his need. If he were cold, at least he would feel it! Both the cold water from Colossae and the hot water from Hierapolis would be lukewarm by the time it was piped to Laodicea. Cold water is good. Hot water is good.
But lukewarm water is sickening. This describes the feeling of nausea that comes when the Judge contemplates this Laodicean church- “I will spue thee out of my mouth.” This church is finally and completely rejected as a church and the appeal is no longer to the church but to the individual, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man open the door, I will come in.” Rev 3:20
To be an overcomer in the Laodicean church is to remain fervent in the faith.
There are so many things we have to overcome as a Christian:
Some issues mentioned above needs a lifelong battle to overcome and master. Some can be overcome over a short period of time. But whatever it is, my exhortation to you is you have to continue this fight and struggle to win and master over that thing that stumbles you; the thing that curb your greatest potential in Christ; the thing that hinder your spiritual power and effectiveness. If not there will be eternal repercussion. Whatever effort we put in to overcome our sphere of besetting sin, Christ knows and sees our works and He will reward us accordingly. Rewards like the tree of life, not hurt by the second death, gift of hidden manna, white stone and a new name; power over nation, white garment; name written in the book life; pillars in God’s temple and sitting with Christ are all real rewards.
They are not fairy tales. They are God’s gift and prize to you if you win over your fight in this life. The stake of your eternal life is very high if you give up. So let’s us yoke with the Holy Spirit- let Him come and strengthen whatever little strength we have left in our hearts this morning and allow him to wash away all our failures, sin and corruptions and let us renew our resolve with Christ as our Captain and by His blood and His spirit, let us fight till we become an overcomer and not a loser.
It is interesting to note that the dandelion has a peculiarity, from which the Christian may derive a delightful lesson. You cannot keep a good dandelion down. It will come up to the sunshine. If the grass is one inch high, the dandelion comes up two inches. If the grass is four inches high, the dandelion comes up five inches. If the grass is ten inches high, the dandelion will come up eleven inches. It never gets down under the circumstances. So the Christian should always be on the top of everything around him in order that he may see the face of the Lord clearly.
End of Sermon