Again, looking at the letters from the Lord to the seven early churches in Asia Minor, today’s Turkey, let’s identify those qualities Jesus loved in those churches, qualities that still are appreciated by the Lord Jesus. Certainly, the situation of each of these churches was different—different towns, different sources of income, different leadership, different opportunities, and different sources of problems. Next month we will consider how they responded to their setting. But now we will focus on a dozen or so qualities Jesus is looking for in a church. Consider each one. Is it in your church? If not, seek it.
- PATIENT. 2:2, 19. This is an important virtue both of individuals and of churches. The patient just keep on doing what is right and good, even when things are not going just as one might expect.
- OPPOSED TO EVIL. 2:2. In our day it appears that evil is winning the “cultural war.” Lying, stealing, killing, infidelity in marriage, failing to honor one’s parents, and coveting were condemned by God at Sinai. He still sees them as evil. Love is perverted. Self dominates service.
- NOT GULLIBLE. 2.2. We have always had persons who sought to “con” Christians, persons who knew the “righteous” language and used it to exploit and take advantage of others. Jesus told us “to be wise as serpents, yet gentle as doves.” A current example is “the prosperity Gospel.” The members of the seven churches in Revelation were suffering. We will suffer.
- PERSEVERANT. 2:3, 10, 13, 25; 3:5, 8, 11. This quality is the most often cited in these seven letters. Keep on keeping on. Things may not be “PEACHY” right now, but things will be better for us and for the church in days to come, if not in this world, then surely in the world to come.
- PURE 2:3. In many of our churches one finds a covenant printed and hanging on the wall. It is a guide concerning how we are to live and to treat one another. It is grounded in the concept that the family of God should be morally pure. Read it again. Grade yourself. Do better going forward. The statement about Walking in White, 3:4, 5, seems to be repeating this expectation.
- MINISTERING. 2:19. As individuals we need to care for one another. And as a body, the church needs to care for its members and for the larger community. I was recently impressed by the role of the churches, their pastors, and their leaders in responding to the riots in Baltimore.
- FAITHFUL. 2:19. God reveals himself as being faithful. He does what He promises He will do. He is forthright in telling us what He wants us to do as individuals and as churches. As His children we too should be faithful. As the “bride of Christ” the local church should also be faithful. In 3:12 we find the Lord of the church speaking about being Branded as Faithful. What better observation can be made of a church?
- WATCHFUL. 3:2. A key theme in Revelation is that Jesus will return to establish a perfect government. Justice will finally be achieved. Again, individually and as a church we should live each day as if that will, indeed, be the day of His return.
- REPAIR. 3:2. When one owns a house, his/her work is never done. The same is true of a family and of a church body. We never are fully pure. There is always some work to do, including making repairs.
- REMEMBER. 3:3. The Bible is to be read as a recital of the Mighty Acts of God. Both Judah and the church went through dark days. But again and again, God showed up at the right time and took care of things in His way. It is in the remembering that one sees our God is a Faithful God.
- PROVIDED OPPORTUNITIES. 3:8. Each of the seven churches had, or would have, special opportunities to serve the Lord of the church. Given that their places were different, the opportunities were diverse. Sadly, none of the churches survive to this day. The times have changed. It seems safe to say that as they, and others, failed to respond to opportunities, Islam was allowed to triumph in the region. Is there a lesson for us in this observation?
- HEALTHY, WEALTHY, AND WISE. 3:18. To my mind the core issue with the Prosperity Gospel is that it focuses on the material and neglects the spiritual. It focuses on oneself, and not on God and His kingdom. God is viewed as being the servant of the individual, which reverses the relationship taught in Scripture by 180 degrees.
- REPENTANCE. 3:19. The line in Romans 1:17 about how God’s righteousness is revealed from “faith to faith” has been important in the lives of many saints. As believers and churches walk with the Lord, they see His hand. They, while tempted to arrogance and pride, resist. Even in times of success and victory, we must continue to repent, truly repent, humbly. It is for this reason that each congregation needs to study and reflect upon its history. See where God has blessed, chastised, opened doors, provided necessary resources, and won victories.
Running through these letters, one finds a recurrent theme of becoming an overcomer. We will look at this later in this series. Let us suffice for now to encourage our churches to do what is needed to become overcomers. Focus on having and exercising these qualities as a church. And encourage each member to seek to have these qualities in his or her life.