It’s Always Paul and Somebody Else

SCRIPTURE READING IN PHILEMON 1:23-24

Philemon Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow labourers.

The Apostle Paul was a TEAM PLAYER.

I never read in Scripture where JUST Paul took trips to establish churches in the Roman Empire.  It was ALWAYS Paul and somebody else–Paul and Barnabas or Paul and Silas.  In addition, a number of people were with these headliner pairs, like John Mark, Luke, Timothy and Epaphras, and the valuable couple, Aquila, and Priscilla.

One of these helpers that traveled with Paul was a young man named DEMAS.

Notice in the Bible verse Demas is referred to as one of Paul;s “fellow laborers.”  At this point, Demas was valued enough to be mentioned as one of Paul’s fellow laborers, an honored designation.

But in Colossians 4:7-14what I found as notable and something interesting as well.  In Paul’s closing remarks and as was his custom, he mentions a list of servants by name.  Notice that Paul says some glowing things about several people in this passage:

Tychicus is a “much-loved brother and faithful ministering assistant and fellow servant”…verse 7

Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother…verse 9

Aristarchus a fellow prisoner along with Mark the relative of Barnabas…verse 10

Epaphras, a servant of Christ Jesus, a man of prayer and convictions…verse 12

Luke the beloved physician…verse 14

Great praise was given to these men.

Demas is also mentioned at the end of this passage, notice in Verse 14 and the only thing Paul says about him is “And Demas”.  Glowing remarks for all but one, Demas, and all he got was his name mentioned.

Was Demas being slighted here, demoted in Paul’s estimation somehow?  Hold that thought.

Now, let’s look at 2 Timothy 4:9-11 –

DEMAS has abandoned Paul’s team in this portion of Scripture while Paul while incarcerated in Rome. 

The phrase “deserted me”  in the Greek literally carries the idea of “abandonment in a time of need.” Today we might say, “He left me in the lurch”.

Ironically, Paul asks Timothy in verse 11 to bring with him Mark, who had abandoned Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15 but had later been restored to service.

[11] Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”  (NIV)

I find it ironical when Demas had deserted him, Paul sent the former quitter, John Mark, whom Paul now says it was helpful to him in the ministry.

Ah, reconciliation at play!

This is a reminder to all of us that no one is UNSALVAGEABLE to God.

John Mark, like Demas, had been a miserable failure earlier in life, but now he had become a “helpful” servant.

GETTING BACK TO DEMAS…

What happened to him?  He started off with great promise.

ONCE he’d been a valued co-laborer; NOW he’s a tragic failure.

I’m not a big fan of reading between the lines in Scripture, BUT…

I can think of several reasons DEMAS may have left his post.

FIRST, DEMAS MAY HAVE BECOME WORN OUT –

Perhaps he had not anticipated how tiring ministry really was.  No doubt, working with Paul involved many hours of tiresome labor to:

  • Witnessing the Gospel to many people…
  • Counseling sessions to attend…
  • Study time needed to be done for sermons…
  • Teaching responsibilities…
  • Meetings to attend.
  • Choir practices
  • Drama rehearsals.

Many times, undoubtedly, he may have been burning the candle at both ends.  And I can relate!

Past times in my serving in ministry…after working all day at a secular job, then at night, attending leadership meetings, evangelism outreach classes…And that’s okay, actually, because honestly…I LIVE for this kind of usefulness.

But I can see myself being in Demas’ shoes if I’m not careful; just getting WEARY of being tempted to quit if you caught me at the wrong time.

What Demas needed to hear is the same thing we need to hear when we get WEARY IN THE lORD’S WORK.

Paul said in Galatians 6:9 – “Let us not become weary in doing good, for the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.”

Sometimes we need to get some rest…But don’t get weary in well-doing.

Sometimes we have to reprioritize to make sure the important things get done first, but don’t get WEARY in doing well!

Sometimes we may feel taken advantage of and unappreciated, but don’t be weary in well-doing–because we’re not doing our service for people anyway.

I want to share a couple of tips that I’ve learned over forty-five years in various ministries on how NOT to get or stay weary in well-doing:

  • First, when you can, SERVE in harmony with your spiritual gift.

We can’t always have that luxury to serve only where we’re GIFTED, but that’s where we should gravitate when possible.

When we minister in our giftedness, we may get tired, but we get tired because we’re doing too much of what we ENJOY and that’s a good kind of tired.

  • Second, find time for alone time with God where you can get recharged and encouraged in the Lord by His Spirit.

Just maybe, Demas needed to set aside some time with God and get STRENGTH from Him.

SECOND, DEMAS MAY HAVE BECOME UNHAPPY WITH HIS EFFECTIVENESS –

Maybe he tried to win his relatives to the Lord, and they wouldn’t listen.

Perhaps as he preached alongside Paul he became disappointed that he didn’t see the same results as Paul.

Possibly Demas found that PREACHING when most of his hearers didn’t want to hear what he had to say was more difficult than he anticipated.

And he just simply became discouraged in his doing, and he decided to throw in the towel and QUIT!

If true, then he would’ve been helped by Paul’s words to the Corinthian church, 1 Cor. 3:5-7:

Paul was saying that much of what we do when we SERVE GOD doesn’t result in immediate visible results.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it or that God isn’t blessing it.

Maybe Demas just needed to HEAR that we work for God, not for effectiveness and it won’t be until we get to HEAVEN to see the fruit of our labor.  Right now, we just need not be WEARY in well-doing.

THIRD, POSSIBLY DEMAS HAD BEEN DISAPPOINTED WITH THE FAILURES AND INCONSISTENCIES OF OTHERS –

Maybe some of the Christians he worked with were not all they were cracked up to be.  It’s hard to imagine that he could have found a more spiritual man to minister alongside than the Apostle Paul, but Paul certainly wasn’t perfect.

  • Maybe some of the other Christian leaders he worked with didn’t live up to the standards he thought Christians or ministers of the Gospel should have.
  • Maybe he started looking at others for inspiration instead of Jesus!
  • Maybe he was looking around instead of looking up!

Or maybe he struggled with a certain SIN in his life that caused him to begin to look at others with more critical eyes so that he wouldn’t feel so bad about his own sin.

OUCH!!!

We really don’t know for sure, but if that’s the case, the writer of Hebrews had the answers to Demas’ problem

HEBREWS 12:1-2 (AMP)

[1] THEREFORE THEN, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth]. let us strip off and throw away every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which is so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us,  [2] Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].  He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The writer says we should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ and not others as we run the race.

  • JESUS is the author and finisher of our FAITH, not those around us.
  • It was JESUS who endured the cross for us, not our co-workers in the Lord or our mentors, our fellow Christians.

I wish Demas had thoughts of that before he threw in the towel.

FOURTH, DEMAS MAY HAVE BEEN DISAPPOINTED WITH HIMSELF –

Perhaps he thought, once in the Lord’s service, somehow his struggles with sin, lust or fear, or covetousness, or anger from jealousy would disappear.

  • Maybe he forgot the importance of depending on the Holy Spirit.
  • Maybe, as he looked back over the last few years of serving in the ministry that he became disappointed he hadn’t come any further in the Christian life than he felt he should have.

As a young worker in God’s Vineyard, maybe he had been too idealistic–thought that people would flock to hear him teach and preach with multitudes being SAVED!

But things, well…they just didn’t turn out that way.

All anyone wanted to hear was that big-shot Paul!

Possibly, DEMAS struggled as many of us struggle and was disillusioned with his own wrong motives and lack of spiritual growth, especially when he compared himself with the great Apostle Paul, who seemed to always be “on target.”

FIFTH, IT’S ALSO POSSIBLE THAT HE HAD DEVELOPED A DIMINISHING OF SPONTANEOUS SERVICE FOR THE LORD –

  • I wonder if Demas was so involved with FIGHTING for the Word of God that he stopped FEASTING in the Word.
  • I wonder if he became so busy SERVING God, that he stopped SAVORING God.

If so, then most likely his spiritual life became forced, cold, mechanical, calculated, until he just didn’t bother taking time out to spend with the Lord anymore.

Maybe he became like Martha instead of Mary.  

MARTHA received a gentle rebuking from Jesus though she was busy serving, while MARY was commended because she took the time out to be with Jesus (Luke 10:41-42).

Maybe DEMAS wouldn’t have given up if he had been able to feed at the Lord’s table.

SIXTH, JUDGING FROM PAUL’S WORDS IN TIMOTHY 4, MOST LIKELY THE ATTRACTIONS OF THIS WORLD ALLURED DEMAS AWAY FROM GOD.

Paul said, “…because he loved this world, has deserted me and gone to Galatia…”  (2 Tim. 4:10).

That will rob you of your spiritual power and zeal like nothing else!

Jesus half-brother James (Mark 6:13) said in James 4:4

[4] “Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy?  So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God”  (AMP).

James uses mighty strong language here! 

A FRIEND of this world’s system is a spiritual adulterer or adulteress who, instead of loving God with ALL your heart, goes “a whoring” after the world, to use O.T. terminology.

How can one experience the JOY of walking with God if you’ve become His enemy?

No, the WORLD will not satisfy you; it will only pull you away from God and SERVICE to Him.

I’ve Given Some “Maybe’s”, the REASONS Demas Could Have Bailed Out On Paul.

But all is not lost in the case of DEMAS (3 John 1:12):

“Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone–and even by the truth itself…”  (NIV)

It is said that this passage of Scripture was written about 90-95 AD.  Many Bible scholars believe that DEMETRIUS in this passage is the same DEMAS found Philemon 23-24.  

The name “Demas” was what is called a diminutive of the name Demetrius; in other words, kind of like shortened nickname of the name like Bob for Robert or Will for William.  

If this is the same DEMAS as the one Paul referred to, it proves again, as with John Mark, it’s never too late to recover, restore, reconcile those who have FAILED, failed miserably. And reconciliation IS the theme of Paul’s letter to Philemon.

Somewhere along the line, Demas got things straightened out in his life so that John could say,  “Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone…”

If you are in danger of becoming a DEMAS, or maybe you find yourself already a “Demas”, then it’s time to grab hold of God’s PROMISE found in 1 John 1:9:

[9] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].  (Amplified Bible).

_______________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS –

The Free Dictionary by Failex.

Bible Hub – 2 Timothy 4:10; Elliott’s Commentary for English Readers.

Ray Stedman, The End of the Road.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search, Settings Advance.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); except where noted in the text.

 

 

A PASSION FOR A “HEART RELIGION”

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IN ROMANS 10:1, the apostle Paul says “Brethren, [with all] my heart’s desire and goodwill for [Israel], I long and pray to God that they may be saved” (AMP).

What is your heart’s desire?  

I think every person has desires in life, and often, intense desires.  I’m not sure its knowledge or wisdom, however, like Solomon asked for in 1 Kings 3:7-14.

My heart’s desire?

There are certain days when I want wisdom and knowledge, especially when reading God’s Word and preparing a bible study lesson.  But for the most part, it is probably not my greatest desire.  I seem to instead, get in my own way with selfishness.

THE “HEART” ( Hebrew lablab/lab, Greek cardia):

The word “heart” occurs over 1,000 times in the Bible, making it the most common anthropological term in Scripture.  It denotes a person’s center–physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities (See footnote [i] ).

I want to focus here on the HEART as the Center of hidden emotional-intellectual-Moral Activity in this bible study.

  • In 1 Samuel 16:7, the LORD says to Samuel that the Lord looks at the heart.
  • The king’s heart is unsearchable (Proverbs 25:3), but the LORD searches all hearts to reward all according to their conduct (Jeremiah 17:10).
  • In the time of judgment, God will expose the hidden counsels of the heart (1 Corinthians 4:5).

JESUS says that the HEART’s secrets are betrayed by the MOUTH, even as a tree’s fruit reveals its nature (Matthew 12:33-34)–“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth,” says Solomon (Proverbs 16:23).

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS –

One deserved criticism tossed at me over the years in my ministering has been not being tactful at times.  But I saw how carefully thought out and tactfully worded Paul was in his letter to the church in Rome.  I’m still learning the lesson.

He spoke of UNITY in the body of Christ, and how we as members of that body belong to one another as he spoke of living in harmony. 

In the land of the Jews, it was the beginning of unrest and ultimately leading to rebellion, the destruction of Jerusalem.

Paul spoke of the different groupings within the Church, as the “weak” and the “strong.”  Some Jewish Christians had problems about what they might and might not eat.  Some kept particular solemn days in accordance with their Jewish traditions.  Paul encouraged the strong to be patient with the weaknesses–the spiritual immaturity of the weak.

Paul made it a point of the IMPARTIALITY of God and His dealings with JEWS and GENTILES.  ALL were under SIN, so what right had one group to feel superior to the other?

I found it amazing to see the passion of Paul in his words; the Apostle to the Gentiles, on behalf of his people Israel.  There was no doubt in his mind the HISTORY OF THE CHURCH bound up with the HISTORY OF ISRAEL.  It was “to the JEW first” that the gospel was preached.  As Jesus said, “salvation is of the Jews.”  

Paul’s own missionary procedure on arriving in a new city was to go first to the synagogue with the gospel and only after that to the gentiles.

However, the other nations would in time take part in the BLESSINGS of the GOSPEL MESSAGE.

Paul spoke of the UNITY of the Jew and Gentile within the church (Romans 15:8-9).

PROMISES WERE MADE –

The PROMISE to Abraham was…in him, ALL the families of the earth would be BLESSED!

In the meantime, Paul saddened by the fact that many Israelites had refused the GOSPEL.  He taught the Gentile Christians in Rome to bear with the infirmities–the shortcomings–of their Jewish brothers and sisters since the CHURCH wouldn’t exist without them.  Paul fervently prayed that ISRAEL might be SAVED!

The TRAGEDY of his people?  

They were seeking their own RIGHTEOUSNESS by the works of the Law.  Yet God’s LAW is impossible to keep; we are ALL sinners and fall short of the glory of God.

We cannot cancel out sin, our rebellion against God by multiplying our good deeds.

The ONLY WAY is….through Christ Jesus, who is “the end of the law” (Romans 10:4).

If we are to be made RIGHTEOUS before God, it’s only through RIGHTEOUSNESS of our LORD JESUS.  We RECEIVE righteousness by FAITH in Him alone!

Moses envisioned a place in time, that the children of Israel would have broken the LAW and been driven from their land.  Yet God still addresses His ancient people by calling them back to Himself, not through WORKS but in the spirit and in FAITH.

According to Paul, the OBJECT of the FAITH can only be the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10):

romans-10-9-10

No longer able to fulfill the LAW by works of righteousness, we are called to A HEART RELIGION.

WHOEVER BELIEVES in Christ JESUS will not be ashamed.  

WHOEVER CALLS upon His name will be SAVED!

I’ve never understood why, when pastors ask at the end of a church service for hands raised in accepting Christ, then asks that every head should bow (‘no peeking, please!’).  The bible says, “If you  CONFESS with your mouth”…THAT’S WORDS spoken with lips. 

Perhaps they don’t want the person to be embarrassed.  But if that is truly the explanation–the reasoning–then Romans 10:11 makes no sense:  “No man who believes in Him will ever be put to shame…”

HEART BELIEF –

Heart Belief is a sincere and personal acceptance of the TRUTH which God has revealed.

The WORD OF GOD near to us is in our mouth and in our heart; testifies to our inability to keep the LAW OF GOD; testifies our sinfulness; it testifies that the wages of sin IS DEATH–which is eternal separation from God.

It TESTIFIES of our NEED for a savior…

It TESTIFIES that Jesus Christ is the ONLY SAVIOR of sinners!  He laid down HIS LIFE for our SINS and God raised Him from the dead so that we might live in Him.

Thus FAITH is not merely an arrangement of facts of the Gospel.  Even the demons believe in the TRUTH of the Gospel–and tremble!

SINCERE FAITH leads to public confession of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is not an easy CONFESSION to make, as the community in Rome during Paul’s stay can attest to.

On one hand, an opposition of those within the synagogue; on the other, the civil authorities and state religions feeling threatened by claims of Jesus’ Lordship.

CONFESSION OF FAITH strengthens the new believer.

It brings with it the ASSURANCE, the confidence that we are on the side of the Victor.  It’s a clear announcement of intent within the spiritual warfare and it is a challenge to those who hear!

BAPTISM–One way in which we CONFESS our FAITH.

With the waters of BAPTISM, we PUBLICALLY & OPENLY say farewell to our old way of life and initiated into the community of believers.

To be BAPTIZED into Christ Jesus is to DIE TO SIN, TO BE BURIED in His death, and to RISE again in the newness of life (Romans 6:3-5).  

“Behold, the fresh and new has come!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul was concerned that the GOSPEL–THE GOOD NEWS was heard by both Jew & Gentile.

FAITH comes by hearing, and hearing by the WORD of God, so it is necessary to proclaim the name of the LORD to the world.  His name is JESUS. (10:17)

canyouhmn

QUESTION:  How can one hear unless someone speaks or preaches?

That question certainly puts a lot of responsibility on us as believers–to make sure what we say in person or what we say on Social Media…is what JESUS would say!

The word translated “PREACH”, evangelizo, is a word with rich meaning.  The word can be translated, HERALD.

A HERALD acted as a public announcer, delivering a message from a King.  The MESSAGE was given to the HERALD from the King and the Herald took the message to the community–The HERALD spoke for the King!  When the HERALD was speaking, it was as though the KING himself was speaking.

But there’s a CATCH!

The Herald was simply to proclaim the MESSAGE he was given by the King. The HERALD couldn’t ADD, SUBTRACT, ALTER OR CHANGE the Message in ANYWAY!

So when we PREACH to others, we are speaking for JESUS, but ONLY when we speak HIS Message.

So are we willing, is it our HEART’S DESIRE to be seen as some’s BEAUTIFUL FEET?

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If no one goes, then there is no MESSAGE delivered.

We are living in a dying world that is depending on YOU to let them HEAR Jesus through YOU!  And that should be our HEART’S DESIRE…OUR PASSION!!!

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS:

Footnote [i]:  bible study tools.Dictionary

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).

Bible Dictionary:  VINE’S Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

The Opportunities Knocking At Your Door – Part Two

PART TWO in the series in THE REVELATION TO JOHN — Chapter 3:

TRIVIA QUIZ:

Grab a church friend, your spouse, a bible study partner and each one take out a piece of paper writing down your answers.

FIRST QUESTION:  HOW MANY DOORS are there in your church’s sanctuary?  

Just take a wild guess and write the number down.  You can get the actual count later.

Second, how many doors are there in the entire church?  Put down a number.

Okay, exchange your papers with the person who took the same quiz.  Just kidding–you can mark your own.  Now how did you come up with your answer?

I’ve been told people, who get bored during their pastor’s message, count just about anything & everything–how many doors?; how many chairs?; how many lights?; you name it.  I’ve often myself, looked up at the wood-planked ceiling where I usually sit,  staring at what looks like the face of Jesus embedded in the grain patterns.  I think you get the idea.

My PURPOSE for the “trivia quiz”–was only that you be aware of what’s around you–the OPPORTUNITIES already granted to us by Jesus; yet we fail to follow through by not being aware of any doors at all.

DID YOU KNOW THAT A LOT OF DOORS ARE MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE?

Both the Old and New Testament mention “doors”–often with different meanings.

DOOR=INTIMACY

REVELATION 3:20:

“Here I am! I stand at the DOOR and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him, and he with Me.”

We usually apply this passage in an evangelistic sense. and yet it was written to a church of believers.

THE ILLUSTRATION:  The willingness of Jesus to pursue believers who have grown cold in their relationship with Him.  The imagery is Jesus knocking at the DOOR of a church–maybe your church–waiting for the church to reopen that DOOR so that a vital relationship can be re-established.

Another type of door mentioned in Scripture.

DOOR=SALVATION

JOHN 10:9:

“I am the DOOR; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live).  He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture.”

JESUS was teaching the remarkable TRUTH for all to see:  He is the only way to SALVATION.  Inside that DOOR, that GATE, there is safety and everything we need.

There’s a THIRD type of door to mention.

DOOR=OPPORTUNITY

I was reading a prayer request from a gentleman who was unemployed.  The bank creditor was making demands, and almost simultaneously, been turned down after a seemingly good employer interview.  He explained: “I won’t give up knocking on the doors, but I’m tired of waiting in the hallway of opportunity.”

The apostle Paul says in a letter to the church at Colossae:

“Pray for us, too, that God may open a DOOR for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains”  (Colossians 4:3).

The DOOR OF OPPORTUNITY refers to the way that God gives opportunities, even when we are waiting in the hallway. Opportunities to preach the gospel; how He prepares willing ears to listen and eager hearts to receive it.

THE SIXTH OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES–Philadelphia – Revelation 3:7-8:

Other than its geographical location, this particular church is more than just a gateway to the East or a fertile valley, but also an “open door of opportunity”–spiritually speaking.

*NOTE:  [Be sure to READ Revelation 3:7-13].

In Philadelphia, there was a small bunch of Christians faithful to the task.  Neither large in number, powerful or influential, but they were significant to Christ Jesus, Who takes the time to write them a letter.

CHRIST=THE LETTER

Jesus introduces Himself with terms which are relevant to the audience:

1.  He says He is Holy–

HOLY=morally perfect without flaw or blemish.

HOLINESS is an important attribute of God.

HE IS TRUE=the One behind everything, the One Who is wholly trustworthy and reliable.

JESUS holds the KEY OF DAVID= ___

This is an interesting description in which I found reference to the Old Covenant–Isaiah 22:

THE PROPHET ISAIAH in this story, condemns the city of Jerusalem.  

The people had just been DELIVERED from their enemies camped outside the city; but they showed no gratitude in the divine rescue.  The charge lain before them, they were self-sufficient, trusting in their own efforts.

He then turns to Shebna, the chief steward of Jerusalem, who was guilty of a similar sin as the city residents itself.  He was guilty of seeing himself as indispensable, a “STRONG MAN” (Amplified Bible); a “MIGHTY MAN” (Verse 17, NIV translation).  He apparently paraded himself through the streets in a mighty chariot and prepared for himself a splendid grave.  As a result of his unfaithful service, he was replaced by Eliakim.

The Significance of the IMAGE portrayed…

The CHIEF STEWARD of the city held the KEYS!

KEYS OF DAVID= This was the MASTER KEY, not only to the city, but to the palace.

He was second only to his king and controlled who could come and go–who had access to the king and who didn’t have access.

He was the one who opened the DOORS and shut the other DOORS  (Isaiah 22:20-23).

The IMAGE Continues in REVELATION 3:7-8:

An Open Opportunity
An Open Opportunity

[7]  “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:  These are the words of Him Who is holy and true, Who holds the KEY OF DAVID.  What He opens, no one can shut; and what He shuts, no one can open.”

[8]  “I know your deeds.  See, I have placed before you an OPEN DOOR that no one can shut.  I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name.”

*[I capitalized words for emphasis to this blog.]

2.  JESUS is here claiming to be the NEW ELIAKIM–the One Who holds the PALACE KEY, not an earthly door, though, it was heaven’s DOOR.

Christ Jesus opens and closes the DOOR and allows people to enter the kingdom–He is in control of the OPPORTUNITIES which we have and no OPPORTUNITY is not appointed but by Him!

The Church’s Position-

Philadelphia was a BLESSED city, living in the “Land of Opportunity,”  BUT…why were they so BLESSED?  Wouldn’t you want to know why a church in your community was so BLESSED?  And yet, Christians tend to be more interested why a church in the town is so UN-BLESSED!

Revelation 3:8 NIV:

“I know your deeds.  See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.  I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

The NIV translation here is a bit wrong in my opinion.  The Greek reads like this:

“I know your works.  Behold I have set before you a door that is open, and no one is able to shut it because you have little power; have kept My word and have not denied My name.”  *[See Footnote [ii] ]*

JESUS gives us THREE REASONS for Taking OPPORTUNITIES:

1. WEAKNESS –

This was a small church without prestige in the surrounding community.  If you are attending a small church or have attended a small church, you might get the idea here.

It regularly got beaten up by the local Jews (the RELIGIOUS ) who condemned them.  Their doctrine sure didn’t agree with theirs.  But because it was weak, they RELIED ON GOD; they knew whose work it was and didn’t try to seize His authority.

Perhaps a lesson for all of us fiercely independent people.

2. WORDLY –

No, I didn’t forget the “L” between the “R” and the “D”.  Yes it is a word and if it isn’t, it should be.

The church members were CONSUMED by the WORD.  Keeping God’s WORD  meant that they knew God’s Word and… we could likely conclude, therefore, they spent time studying God’s Word.

Are we “WORDLY” or are we “WORLDLY” in our focus?

3. WAVERING-not –

Here was a church, who no matter what they were faced with, refused to give up on their FAITH.  The ridicule, the peer pressure, the opposition, persecution did not make them WAVER.

They were FAITHFUL while waiting in the hallway praising God to the end.

The 3 W’s — WEAK, WORDLY and WAVERING NOT…

These THREE WORDS were the reasons given for the open door–the OPPORTUNITY to preach the gospel to their neighbors, their friends, to people passing through the city–or even waiting in the same hallways.

DIFFICULTIES & OPPORTUNITIES:

We can be surrounded by trial, bother, inconvenience, pain…and may in fact, be surrounded by many opportunities.

Christ recognized that often OPPORTUNITY & OPPOSITION go hand in hand and gave the church in Philadelphia…

4 specific words, PROMISES of COMFORT: 

1.  PROMISE TO HUMBLE THEIR ENEMIES.

How do you HUMBLE anyone, much less your enemies?

[9]  “I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars–I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.”

JESUS promised the believers that not only would He humble their opposition, but He would open their eyes to the TRUTH!

Now there was an OPEN DOOR of OPPORTUNITY!

God isn’t pleased by outward rituals but PLEASED by inward attitudes.

2.  PROMISE TO KEEP THEM FROM THE HOUR OF MAXIMUM TRIALS.

[10]  “Because you have guarded and kept My word of patient endurance [have held fast the lesson of My patience with the expectant endurance that I give you], I also will keep you [safe] from the hour of trial  (testing) which is coming on the whole world to try those who dwell upon the earth”  (Amplified Bible).

A couple of things to take note here.  The coming TRIBULATION period is going to be GLOBAL in nature–come on the whole world.

Also, to TEST those who live on earth; not just talking about Christians in the church here.

This phrase is repeated several times through the Book and refers to believers and unbelievers alike.

3.  THE PROMISE OF STRENGTH AND SECURITY.

[11]  “I am coming soon.  Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.  [12]  Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of My God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from My God; and I will also write in him My new name.” 

new-jerusalem2
THE NEW JERUSALEM

 (See Revelation 21-22)

 The Two Great Pillars of the City…

The Jerusalem temple was destroyed in 70 AD where TWO GREAT PILLARS stood.  One of the pillars was called Jachin (which means “established, permanent”), and the other Boaz (“strength”).  with that in mind, another PROMISE is given.

Christ PROMISES the believers, the “overcomers” in verse 12, by using the image of the “pillars” that He will set His believers up in such a SECURE fashion that can never be removed.

“Never again will he leave it”  

Jesus was simply saying, no matter what’s going on around you…what’s in the news headlines, when you labor for Me, you will reach a place where you will not have to leave ever again.  It is a picture of SECURITY, PERMANENCE and STRENGTH.

4.  THE PROMISE OF A “NEW NAME”

I often wondered in growing up as a child, why my parents couldn’t come up with a better name for their first child, other than the name MELVIN.  I was teased almost every day, even as a teenager.  The comedian, Jerry Lewis would use the name on the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis TV show every week:  “MEL-V-I-N!” .  Someone must have protested to the show’s writers, for on one occasion, Mr. Lewis said that there was a U.S. Navy Ship with the name: USS MELVIN.  I would then make use that information as a “come back” when teased later.

Christ promises a NEW NAME which is represented by our character.  If… we OVERCOME, we will be given three names:

1.  The NAME of God shows we will be godly.

This is the PURPOSE of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our lives.

2.  The NAME of The City of God.

The last 2 Chapters in Revelation–the New Jerusalem being the bride being prepared for her husband, JESUS.  This new name speaks of the loving intimacy Christ has for His FAITHFUL.

3.  Given a NEW NAME that no one knows.

Names in the Bible symbolize one’s CHARACTER or role.

Before JESUS was born in Bethlehem, an angel appeared to Joseph and told him that Mary would have a son, who was to be called “JESUS”.  Why?  “Because He will save His people from their sins.”

When we get to heaven, each one of us will have a new ministry, a new area of service, and come with a NEW NAME symbolic of this new ministry.

PROMISES THAT ARE AVAILABLE IF…

The promises listed in this study were available to the church in Philadelphia and also available to us–IF…we are FAITHFUL; taking the opportunities JESUS sets before us in the meantime.

Perhaps JESUS has an OPEN DOOR for you right now.  Do you have the FAITH in Him to step through it?

[13}  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

 

[PART THREE TO FOLLOW – “Entering the Throne Room”]

 


 Photo Credits:

Photo – Heaven Images 123rf.com/stock-photo/heaven.

NEW JERUSALEM IMAGE:  Google Search – New Jerusalem images.

Bible Translations:

NIV (New International Version); AMP (Amplified Version).

Footnotes:

[i] – The Little Church that Tried @ Ray Stedman.org.

[ii] – Bible Hub – Rev. 3:8; INTERLINEAR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Does the Bible Say About Mediocrity?

The Best of the Worst or The Worst of the Best

Here is a quotation from Chip Crush that might peak your thinking, regarding the word MEDIOCRITY:

“It’s not that mediocrity is bad; rather striving [my wife likes “settling”] for mediocrity is the fault”.

A Definition:

Webster’s Dictionary says Mediocrity is;  “of moderate or low quality, ordinary, so-so”.  I know some people who read this blog regarding MEDIOCRITY, will look at Webster’s definition and say,  “What’s wrong with being an ordinary Christian?”  Is being “ordinary” really a bad trait in a Christian”s life?

I’m not much into popular music these days. The music that I listen to the most is from CD’s I’ve collected over the years and, I like all types of music for the most part.  I ran across a song the other day by group called Matchbox 20; a song titled “HANG”.  The tune was ‘catchy’ but the lyrics made me scratch my head just a bit. Is there a theme or verse I could use regarding mediocrity?  I’ll give you one verse and let you decide what the world is saying to those who are willing to listen and believe what they hear.

“HANG” by Matchbox 20:

“And we always say, it would be good to go away someday,

But if there’s nothing there to make things change, If it’s the same for you,

I’ll just hang.”

My mother used to tell me, “If you see someone jump into a fire, would you do the same?” NO, I would “just hang”.

Coram Deo:

Coram Deo” is Latin for, “Before God”.  As believers in Jesus Christ, whatever we do, NOT just on Sundays, is Coram Deo; Before God. What comes out of our mouths, how we act is seen and noticed.

After I graduated from high school in San Diego, my mom and dad sat me down at the kitchen table one day. They proceeded to tell me, now that you have graduated from high school and planning to go to college, a  reformation was going to take place. Get a job, and pay rent; fifty dollars per month [hey, it was 1959!]. In turn, I would receive room and board which included mom doing my laundry too.  Now to a 17-year-old, who had no clue what real life was about, immediately proceeded to go into shock.  Three months later I had my first REAL job, registering at San Diego State University and starting my brand new “real” job as a “box boy” aka “courtesy clerk, on the same day! Those experiences alone began my journey towards independence and the unknown. I was “waking up to smell the roses” for the first time in my life. And now looking back on my experiences, “And I thought life was tough at 17”.

Someone is Watching:

My dad explained to me, if I was to keep my job and my boss’s approval, never be idle on the job.  I was to find things to do even if there wasn’t anything to do.  If the floor needed to be swept, don’t ask the boss if you should sweep the floor, just do it! This statement was long before a tennis shoe company used the same terms.  “What if the floor had just been swept”, I asked?  My dad’s answer, “Sweep it again. Somebody is watching you and they will appreciate your hard work.”  Looking back on my dad’s wisdom, his telling me to work and live above the common, ordinary, commonplace, characterless, colorless surroundings would benefit me in the long run.  If you don’t do, you become “mediocre”.  My dad’s words about being mediocre have stuck with me all my working life and today, in my Christian life.

What Does “Abba-Father” Say to Us About MEDIOCRITY”; Does He Notice?

II Timothy 4:6-8 says,

For I am already about to be sacrificed [my life is about to be poured out as a drink offering]; the time of my [spirit’s] release [from the body] is at hand and I will soon go free.”

“I have fought the good (worthy, honorable, and noble) fight, I have finished the race, I have kept (firmly held) the faith.”

Anyone who thinks that the Apostle Paul  lived in mediocrity can see in verse 7,  that wasn’t who Paul was. This past Sunday, our Pastor continued his summer series on “The Matters of the HEART”.  He spoke about our CHARACTER and defined it by saying, “Character is the will to do what’s right as God defines right, regardless of the cost!”  I would add “What is right” is what God’s Word says is right.  It’s not what I feel is right based on “stuff”.  Dr. Creflo Dollar says, “when you do right because of what’s right you will prosper and prosper others”. NO MEDIOCRITY HERE!   He continued with this phrase on CHARACTER:  “You will never rise above your limitations of your character.”

II Timothy continues in verse 8:

“[As to what remains] henceforth there is laid up for me the [victor’s] crown of righteousness [for be right with God and DOING RIGHT], which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me and recompense me on that [great] day–and not to me only, but also to ALL THOSE who have loved and yearned for and welcomed His appearing (His return).”

Do you see a life of mediocrity in verse 8 into Paul’s character?  That is a rhetorical question. “Yeah, but I’m not Paul” you might be thinking. If that is what you are thinking, then it is you who are living in mediocrity.  Make it personal, I personally have done so before.  And YES, our Father does notice how we are living around others.

Staying out of MEDIOCRITY; Changes in your desires:

What would you say to a fellow believer, if he or she gave an answer to this question, “What type of Christian would you call yourself? After a long wait, the answer was, “I am just an ordinary Christian. Like everyone else I guess”. According to Webster’s definition that would be “mediocre”.

Turn to Romans 15:14-33 and read first, then let’s go back and underline or write down some important keys Paul gives in staying out of MEDIOCRITY.

1.  Being rich in goodness towards others. (verse 14)

2.  Amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge. (verse 14)

3.  Being competent to admonish, counsel, instruct one another. (verse 14)

4.  Winning obedience from the unbelievers by your word and deed—CHARACTER. (verse 18)

5.  Fully preach the Gospel [faithfully executing, accomplishing, carrying out to the full the good news] of Christ in its entirety. (verse 19)

6.  An ambition to preach the Gospel, not where Christ’s name was already known. (verse 20) NO MEDIOCRITY in that ambition!

7.  Giving to the less fortunate among believers. (verse 26)

8.  Wrestling in prayer–fervent, boiling over, type prayers. (verse 30, JAMES 5:16)

There was 8 Keys to getting out of mediocrity as a Christian. See if you can go through the verses and list some other keys if you are willing and able.

You Need A Different or Changed Attitude to see RESULTS:

Romans 12:1-2  “I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [ALL] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.”

Two of the most important steps that you can take in life are:

1.  Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior of your life.

2.  The Renewal of your mind [a new attitude with new desires].

“Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], BUT be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].”

Almost every morning when I open my eyes, I first thank my Father for giving me another day. Then I ask for a renewal of my mind for that day; a new attitude TOWARDS OTHERS who aren’t always “lovely” in my life and I am not always lovely either.

God’s Word Always Lifts You Above Mediocrity:

“I don’t always have time to read in my Bible in the morning”.  With excuses like, “I slept in this morning, I don’t feel good, the kids are driving me nuts, I’m just to busy…I’ll read when I get home”.  Those are excuses and they will keep you in a life of MEDIOCRITY.  As Paul tells Timothy, there is a victor’s crown waiting for us someday and the Lord is watching our lives in Christ Jesus. 

Joshua 1:8 encourages us and gives us a promise:

“This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success.”

You cannot and will not live in Mediocrity if you obey that quoted verse!