Los Alamos Church of Christ

Let the Word Dwell

#39 Revelation 2:10

Be Faithful

 

This morning we do the last of our 40 Memory Verse Challenge.  Remember, we have already done #40 when we honored Doyle Rottmayer…

 

#40 Revelation 21:3 "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

 

Holistic eschatology.  I have learned a new term.  Holistic eschatology is earth renewed.  We are given authority to rule the earth; our original job.  Heaven comes to earth.  The kingdom is complete.  God lives with us.  We live with God.  We walk together in the cool of the evening. We will fully be his people on the renewed earth throughout eternity.  Holistic eschatology.

 

I can’t wait.  But I will.  In the meantime, I will do #39 on our Memory Challenge…

 

#39 Revelation 2:10 Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

 

If we want to be in the holistic eschatology; if we want the crown of life, we must be faithful to death! 

 

Let’s do our memory work…

 

Tree list – 30s is dirty 9 is cat

 

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Listen to the beginning of the book of Revelation…

 

ESV Revelation 1:1-6 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

 

The message of the book of Revelation was given to the Seven Churches of Asia.  Seven, the complete number, is a message to the whole church.  It was a message that gave courage to the church at the end of the 1st century.  It was a message that was soon to take place.  It was a slap fight a tree message that pumped up the Seven Churches to withstand the powers aligned against them.

 

But, but, but, this is also message that can give courage to the Seven Churches of the 21st century.  The church today needs courage. 

--The seven churches of the 21st century needs the message from the one who was and is and is to come

--Today, the church needs the message from the faithful witness.

--We need to hear from the firstborn from the dead.

--We need to listen to the ruler of all the kings of earth.

--We must be his kingdom; his priests.

--We are called to bring him glory and dominion forever and ever…  Amen?

 

There is a message for us in the words of the faithful and true.  Let’s listen…

 

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ESV Revelation 2:8-11 "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: 'The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. "'I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.'”

 

Each of the seven churches received a special word of encouragement.  #39 memory verse is in the 2nd of the seven letters; to the church at Smyrna.  The church in Smyrna was being persecuted. 

 

Perhaps, they first were persecuted financially.  They were ostracized from the economy and driven to poverty. In order to operate in the Roman Empire of Asia everyone had to honor the Emperor as LORD; as a god.  These Christians were not willing to do this.  Pressure was placed upon them by cutting them off from work, from buying, from selling.  They had become poor because of their faith. 

 

Economic persecution was followed up with verbal persecution. They were being slander as atheists.  Isn’t that an odd thing?  Christians were called atheists because they did not believe in the pantheon of gods that all the rest of the Roman Empire adopted.  The people of Asia blamed all their problems on the “Christian Atheists” because they had offended the gods.  So, they singled out as the problem, “You atheists; you Christians are the reason we in trouble.  If you Christians would pay your homage to the gods life would get better.”  They were slandered. 

 

But what was coming was even worst.  They were going to be put in prison.  Christians in Smyrna were going to be thrown into prison for 10 days.  10 days is symbolic for a limited but intense period of time.   Those who were imprisoned were going to have to renounce Jesus as Lord and give their allegiance to Caesar or they were going to suffer.    

 

Some of those Christians in Smyrna were then going to be put to death, if they did not reject their faith in Jesus Christ.  Some in Smyrna were going to have to be courageous in the face of martyrdom.  This message from the “one who died and came back to life” was vital to them.  It is THE message from the one who was martyred and came back to life.  This one who died and came to life, HE, promises those who would be martyred that they would not be hurt by the second death.  “Yes, you may be martyred.  But be faithful to me even to the point of death and you will receive the crown of life!”

 

That is the context of our memory verse.  Be faithful to the point of death.  Be courageous even if you are tortured.  Be true to your belief that Jesus is Lord even at the cost you your life. 

 

 

#39 Revelation 2:10 Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

 

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Every time I study the book of Revelation, I wonder.   I wonder, what would I do?  If I faced a cruel oppressor; if by being faithful to Jesus I would die; if the choices were black and white; belief/death…would I be faithful even to death?  Would you?  If you really were going to die for being a Christian would you do it? Or would you renounce?

 

I think of… Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.

 

 

ESV Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

 

Would I have that kind of faith to face the fire?

 

I think of Paul as he goes to Jerusalem knowing of his reception.

 

ESV Acts 21:13 Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."

 

Would I have that kind of faith to face the sword?

 

I think of Stephen.

 

ESV Acts 7:54-60  Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him.  But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."  But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.  And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."  And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

 

Would the words of the first and the last be enough … to give me courage to face Nebuchadnezzar’s fire, or a Roman sword, or angry stones? 

 

#39 Revelation 2:10 Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

 

Would I?  Would you?

 

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It is unlikely, but possible, but unlikely, that here in America in our lifetimes, that we would be called upon to be martyred.  It is unlikely.  I am thankful for that.  Amen?  So, how can I know what I would do in the face of martyrdom?

 

I would like to advocate this morning that… life or death is much the same thing.  You can know what you would do as a martyr by looking at what you do with your life.  If you are faithful in the little things, you would be faithful in the big things.

 

Our lives are a finite resource always slipping away. Every minute that passes is the expenditure of your life.  Every moment is being used up and gone.  In a sense, our lives are spent one moment at a time.  Each moment we live is a gift we give of our life.  We have some choices in how we expend each moment of our lives. We can allocate our dying. The martyrs spend their entire lives in a single moment.  Most of us spend our lives one moment at a time. 

 

My point is, because life is a finite resource, giving ourselves to others is a sacrifice. It is sort of… martyr-o-logical.  What?  In essence it is no different.  Whether I spend all my live in a single moment or I spend my life in sacrifice in a long series of moments; it is the same.  A sacrificial giving of my life to Christ in moments is functionally the same as giving him my life all in one moment.

 

When we think of "making the ultimate sacrifice" our minds tend to jump to big, dramatic gestures…

--a soldier dies protecting our freedom.

--a fire fighter runs into a burning building.

--a police officer steps into the line of fire.

 

And it can be that sort of thing. In crisis situations people do act heroically, giving their lives in a big single action to save others. But I wonder if the difference here is more quantitative rather than qualitative, a matter of degree, rather than of kind. To love other people in small, but tangible ways, over a lifetime is a way of sacrificial dying. It is slower; a drip, drip, drip rather than a big splash.

 

Which is to say that I do think there is something sacrificial… martyr-like in giving small gifts of love to each other. Love is a sacrifice. Love is an expenditure of our life.  Love is an… incremental martyrdom. 

--spending an afternoon shopping for a shut-in.

--joining a neighbor to fix a roof.

--teaching a Bible class to a bunch of yahoos.

--feeding the homeless in a soup kitchen

--working at the jail and then with them after

--spending time playing with your kids

--dating your wife

 

10,000 small deaths = 1 big death

 

Here is the answer to my question would I have the courage to be a martyr?  What would I do if I faced death or denouncing Jesus?  It is pretty simple.  Do I live my life in incremental martyrdom?  In every moment of my life am I giving my life in love?  The answer to these questions is the same. 

 

Would I? – Well, am I?  Would I give my life in a single moment?  Am I giving my life in every moment? The answer, I suspect, is the same.  I may never know for sure if I would die for Christ.  That is big.  But there is at least a clue in how I live each moment. 

 

Listen to Revelation 2:8-11 from the TIM.

 

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TIM Revelation 2:8-11 "And to the angel of the church in Los Alamos write: 'The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. "'I know your wealth (but you are poor) and the slander of those who say that they are “smart” and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to test you for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful in spending each moment of our life, and I will give you the crown of life.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.'”

 

Let’s allow #39 to be a reminder to be courageous in each moment of our lives.

 

Join me in reciting memory verse #39…

 

#39 Revelation 2:10 Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

 

 

 

Tim Stidham

November 15, 2015

Los Alamos Church of Christ