I’ve been reading through the book of Revelation in my personal devotions. Incredible book! It’s horrifying, comforting, devastating, and awe-inspiring all wrapped into this tight little bundle of twenty-two chapters. Most of the book is jam-packed with apocalyptic visions of what’s happening right now in our world. I am champing at the bit to teach the book at Peace Lutheran. It won’t be long now until we get this church going and we can do stuff like that. Yeah!
The first part of the book is what we want to talk about today. You know what goes on there? Jesus preaches to churches. Yes. Seriously. Jesus himself preaches to churches. In fact, if you have a red letter Bible it’s all red through that section. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if Jesus is going to go to all the trouble to preach after his ascension into heaven he must really want us to think about it. In particular, Jesus wants us to be thinking, “What does this say to me about my church?” Or perhaps a better question might be, “Of the churches that Jesus speaks to there, which one is most like mine?”
If you’ve read Revelation, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Please, please, please tell me that we’re not like Sardis. And I’m begging you to tell me we’re not Laodicea. Anything but Laodicea.” I’ve got good news. I believe we’re like Philadelphia. For the more technical readers out there, I could build a detailed exegetical case, but now is not the time for exegesis. Now is the time for a brief church blog. So allow here just a few similarities that I noticed.
Here’s the first similarity: we have “little strength.” Our mission counselor was here a few weeks ago and joked with me saying, “Church plants have everything going against them.” He said it with a grin on his face, but in that moment I knew he was right. We have everything going against us in the church world. Think about it. We don’t own a gorgeous building in the community. We don’t have much recognition and we don’t have many members yet. By anybody’s estimation we have little strength. That’s just honest.
Here’s the second similarity: we hold to Jesus’ word. I know. I know. Every church says that. What church worth their salt would say any differently? And yet, holding to Jesus’ teaching is an incredibly important part of Peace Lutheran’s identity. There’s even a name for it. We’re not just called Lutherans. We’re called confessional Lutherans. We’re so serious about what the Bible says that we have written confessions of what we believe the Bible means that are now over 500 years old. That’s different from anything else I know about in Aiken. The Philadelphians were like that. They held to Jesus’ word like nobody’s business.
Now comes the fun part. You know what Jesus said to this little church that held like nobody’s business to Jesus’ word? He said, “I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” Do you see what that must mean? That church has something that Jesus desperately wants people to have! In fact, that church has something that Jesus wants others to have so badly that Jesus makes a promise. He says that he is going to see to it that no one can shut them down. He’s saying, “You have a message that I died to make true. You have held to it. I want people to have it and know it and believe in it so badly that I myself will hold the door open for you.”
That’s how Jesus rolled in Philadelphia and that’s how he’s rolling in Aiken too. It's been amazing to watch. He’s introduced us to people. He’s shown us places. He’s paving the way. That's how he's held the door open here in Aiken. It’s grace, grace, and more grace as we’ve worked to get this church started. And why? Because Jesus wants people in this community to know the message we hold to: the gospel message that brings real peace to real people. Don’t miss tomorrow’s meeting. We’re going to talk about ways we can walk through the door that Jesus is holding open for us.