In Revelation 2-4 Jesus takes stock of the seven churches and makes an overall assessment of where each church is at.
The assessment shows them what to stop doing, keep doing, and start doing.
What they choose to do will depend on how clearly and seriously they see the glorious and risen Lord Jesus. His purity and power. His greatness and holiness. His hold over history. His grace and truth.
Their fidelity and faithfulness will be shaped by their focus. Are they focused on the one who holds reality together? On the one who is just and the standard of justice? On the one who has risen and is reigning?
Or have they framed Jesus in their own image? Before quick decisions are made in light of changes to the traffic light framework; before we instinctively snap back to ‘normal’; before we go back to the ‘way things have always been’ it may be worth slowing down and assessing honestly where we are at as a church.
What do we need to stop doing, keep doing, and start doing?
Faithfulness in a season of change
For the seven churches in Revelation it’s a season of great change, complexity, and challenge. It’s a time of suffering, upheaval, and loss. It’s an age of uncertainty, instability, and vulnerability. In the midst of this, Jesus calls them to slow down and hear what the Spirit of God is saying.
Jesus calls the churches at Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis, and Laodicea to stop their false teaching, theological complacency, half-heartedness, and idolatry.
He calls the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia to keep being theologically vigilant, to keep enduring, being faithful, and growing in love.
Broadly speaking, Jesus calls the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea to repent and to start taking his Word seriously.
Repentant, faithful, and fruitful
We’ve been in the traffic lights for four months. In that time there has been grief, tension, pain, and loss within churches. I’m really struck at how counter-cultural Jesus calls us to be in these situations. There’s no sweeping under the carpet, wishing it away, minimising sin, or just hoping that we’ll gather back together and sing “Kumbaya” and keep going.
He knows spiritual vitality depends on right relationship with him, and right relationship with each other.
Jesus calls the first century churches to repentance and confession of sin. Naming sin and confronting sin in themselves, in each other, and in the church is at the heart of what the first century churches needed to start doing to be faithful and fruitful into the future.
In light of the revelation of Jesus Christ in Scripture, in light of the circumstances we find ourselves in with the changing of the traffic lights, what are the practical activities and spiritual practices we need to stop doing, keep doing, and start doing to be faithful and fruitful for the future?
I’m grateful to Marius Dryfhout, the Prayer Coordinator at Feilding Bible Chapel for sharing the questions and the reference to Revelation from which I’ve developed this devotion.