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HOPE As We Look Inward – Part 1

Living in the Light / Anne Graham Lotz
The Truth Network Radio
March 26, 2023 3:00 pm

HOPE As We Look Inward – Part 1

Living in the Light / Anne Graham Lotz

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Grace To You
John MacArthur
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

Here's Anne Graham Lotz. Anne continues in her study of the book of Revelation. She'll illustrate how Jesus shines the light on the hearts of the seven churches found in Revelations chapter 2 and 3.

So let's join Anne's teaching now in part one of her message titled, Hope as We Look Inward. But it also takes place if we're that last generation when Jesus returns. And I believe the rapture is imminent. I believe any moment we're going to hear that trumpet blast and hear that loud shout and we're going to be caught up in the air and we're going to be seeing Jesus face to face. So are you ready?

Are you prepared? And in Matthew chapter 24, the disciples asked Jesus, what will be the sign of your coming and what will be the signs of the end of the age? And so Jesus gave them signs that would characterize the last generation of human history. And I'm not going to go through that, but I believe it's my generation, actually, and I've got lots of biblical reasons for that.

If I live out my normal lifetime, I believe that on my natural lifetime, I believe that Jesus will come back during my lifetime because of what he said, other parts of scripture, but specifically Matthew 24. Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells a parable, and it's about 10 women who were expecting to see the bridegroom. They knew he was coming. They each had a lamp, which was a profession of faith. They each believed he was coming for them.

They each grew so tired because he seemed to delay that they all went to sleep. But there was a very significant difference between five of the women and five of the women. The difference was five of the women were prepared to meet Jesus face to face.

Five of the women were not prepared in their hearts. I'll just summarize it that way. And 1 John chapter 3, verses 2 and 3 says, Dear friends, now we're children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him, purify themselves, just as he is pure. So once again, I believe the way scripture is laid out is inspired, not just the words, but the pattern of scripture. So in chapter 1, after bringing us to that point where we fall down at his feet and we surrender everything to him, then the next two chapters have to do with the inside of us.

Because after surrendering to him, then he just shines the light of his truth into our hearts and says, all right, you've surrendered to me. Before we get on to that service, there's some things we need to deal with. And so he shines the light into the hearts of seven different churches in Revelation 2 and 3. So turn on your Bibles to Revelation chapter 2.

We're going to develop a few of them and touch on all of them. And I hope I get through in my time. But the first one is the church at Ephesus. And the church at Ephesus, they were in their second generation of knowing Jesus. So the people at Ephesus and that church had grown up in the church.

They'd grown up in a Christian home. And they'd been under excellent leadership. The apostle Paul had established the church. And John himself, the apostle who's writing this, had been the pastor of that church.

And Timothy was the superintendent. So they'd been under excellent leadership. And I identify with the church at Ephesus because I was born and raised in a Christian home, many generations of believers in my family. And I've been under some excellent Christian leadership. And I wonder if the same thing could be said of you. Were you also raised in a Christian home, raised in the church?

Have you been under excellent leadership? And if it wasn't in your home or in your church, today you can get it online. You can get it in books and tapes and audios. And so we have wonderful, excellent Bible teaching and Bible preaching today that's available to us. So it could be that what Jesus saw in the Ephesian church is the same thing he sees in your life, same thing he saw in my life. And I'll call it sort of a familiarity, mechanical, perfunctory, living out your Christian faith, just, you know, going through the ropes.

And I label them busyness because I see that. But first of all, let me give you the pattern. All these churches have the same pattern in their letters. They begin with Jesus saying, look up, you know, focus on me. And then he says, after looking at me, he says, I want you to learn from me because I know what you're doing right. And he commends them.

I know what you're doing wrong. And then he corrects them. And at the end, I'll give you a principle from the letter. And then he ends with a promise. So this church, he says, look at me. And in verse one, he says, these are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven lampstands.

And the seven stars we know from the end of chapter one are the leaders of the church, the lampstands are the church itself. And he's saying, I hold you in my right hand. I want to use you in your midst. So if you focus on him, look up and see Jesus.

He is here, invisibly present in our midst, moving in our midst. And he holds you in his right hand. He wants to use you. Lord, my life is available. You can help yourself to anything, everything. I'll serve you. I'll do whatever you call me to do. And he's saying, I want to use you. I'll hold you in my right hand. And then he says, learn from me.

I'll know what you're doing right. In verses two and three, let me just read. He says, I know your deeds, your hard work, your perseverance, that you can't tolerate wicked men, that you've tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and you've found them false. You've persevered. You've endured hardship for my name and you've not grown weary. And that's where I see their busyness.

They were just busy, busy, busy, busy doing so many good things. And Jesus says, thank you. And I want to say to you, if you're busy in the Lord's service, if you've been serving him, he says, thank you.

And it may be that you're busy and doing things that nobody really knows about. Jesus says, thank you for all you're doing for him. But then he says, I have something against you. Verse four, you've lost your first love.

So what is the first love? When I first fell in love with Danny Lots, I can tell you I was emotional. I was passionate, wanted to spend all my time with him.

We called and talked on the phone every day. I wanted to hear what he had to say. I wanted to tell him what I was going through.

You know, it's just a first love. And when you fall in love with Jesus, maybe at the cross, when you received your salvation and you just want to talk to him all the time. You couldn't have enough time in prayer.

You want to hear what he had to say. You're reading through your Bible, just saturating yourself in it and telling other people about him. And when did you lose it? Years ago, I taught a Bible class for 12 years.

Every, every week never missed a class. I left because I believe God called me out into an itinerant ministry. And first thing I did, I was invited by Samaritan's Purse to speak at a pastors conference in Fiji.

I had to look that up on the globe to see where it was. And Helen went with me, went to Fiji and fabulous conference. Another speaker who was slated to give messages.

He wanted to sit on the beach. So I took his sessions and my sessions and came back and was invited to Brazil. I went to Brazil.

I spoke at a big pastors conference there and then somebody heard I was there and they asked me to come south Brazil to speak to a big youth conference. And I did that and I came back and I was traveling all around and I knew when I went to church, I no longer seemed to enter into the worship. And when I prayed, my prayers just seemed to, you know, go right to the ceiling.

When I read my Bible, nothing seemed to speak to me. I thought I was just tired, jet lag. And then came to this passage and I was reading it through and the Lord just said, Anne, I know all you've been doing. Thank you. Thank you for taking all those sessions.

Thank you for going to Brazil. Thank you for what you're doing and thank you. But I have something against you. You're losing your love for me. I went on to the next verse. I knew that wasn't me because I tell other people how to love Jesus, you know.

But you know how he does when he convicts you? It just comes back to your mind, comes back to your mind. And it came back to my mind and I got on my knees and by this time, tears were slipping down my cheeks. And I said, all right, Lord, tell me what you see. And he said, Anne, you are tired, but it's not just weariness. You're losing your love.

Your busyness is crowding me out. And I said, oh, my goodness, you know, because I had been in love with him since I was a girl. I knew he was speaking the truth.

So I said, what can I do? So from verse five, he told me three things to do. He said, remember the height from which you've fallen. And if you've ever been in love with Jesus, can I tell you that's the height? And can I also ask you, have you ever been in love with Jesus?

Have you ever had a first love? If you haven't, then you're missing the pinnacle of the Christian faith. And I knew what it was to be in love with Jesus.

And it's a long way down when you lose it. So he said, remember the heights from which you've fallen and you have fallen. And then he said, repent and repent means to stop it, turn around. And so I said, Lord, if a first love is emotional affection, how do I turn away from that? How do I get that back?

How do I stop not loving you like that? And then he took me to the third thing. He said, return to what you did at first.

And so I said, what first thing? And he brought the cross to my mind. Ann, come back to the cross. Confess your sin that you're serving me without loving me, that you've put your work before your worship. So you confess that and then take a good look at what it cost me to take away your sin and bring you into this love relationship.

And I did. I went back to the cross in prayer and I confessed my sin. I told him I was sorry. I didn't mean to lose that love. Just in the busyness I had neglected him and pushed him to the periphery, the very one I was serving. And then I said, well, what other first things? And he said, well, go back to the first thing, what you were doing when you were in love with me that you're not doing now.

I knew exactly what it was. I had been going around giving messages, saying messages and polishing them, but I hadn't been in the scripture in a fresh way, studying, breaking it down for myself since I had begun that itinerant ministry. So I picked up a pen and a legal pad, that was before I was using a computer, and picked up my pen and legal pad and I began studying the book of Revelation, breaking it down, meditating on it, preparing messages from it.

The very first book I ever wrote, Vision of His Glory, the content won a gold medallion. And I want you to know, if you read that book, that is the fruit of my repentance, all right? That came right out of the study that I began when God convicted me of losing my first love. And I'll tell you that within a week of putting that back in my life, when I went to church I could enter into the worship, I felt when I was praying, I was communicating, he began to speak to me through his word, the love was back. And I pray to God I never lose again, I've come close, I'm going to be honest, in the busyness of my life, especially in the weariness and the sickness, although I will tell you, you know, sickness, the cancer journey, actually brought me closer to him. I fell more in love with him through that journey, so he can do that too.

But I'll just apply this to you. Have you lost your first love? Can you remember the heights? Have you fallen? Would you be willing to repent? Return to the cross? Tell him you're sorry, you don't want to be mechanical, you don't want to be perfunctory in your Christian life, you want to live your life in your heart of worship. Then what were you doing when you were in love with Jesus that you're not doing now?

It could be something different for all of us. For me it was that in-depth Bible study, for you it could be Bible reading, it could be prayer, it could be sharing the gospel, witnessing something else that you were doing, I'll tell you something else. It also could be something that wasn't in your life when you were in love with Jesus that you have allowed to creep back into your life that's robbed you of that love. And I'll just tell you, sin, whatever it is, will rob you of that first love. And you can never lose your salvation. Once you're saved, you are saved.

And let me just do a little parenthesis right here. Jesus says, I'll give you eternal life, if you could lose it, it wouldn't be eternal, it would be temporary, right? So he gives his life eternal, and you're not going to lose it, but sin will cause you to feel like you have lost it. And you'll feel abandoned, separated from him. It's not because he's left you, it's because that sin in your life is hindering fellowship.

So I pray that you'll pinpoint and you'll know that habit, that attitude, that whatever it is is not worth the trade-off. Because whatever the sin is may have pleasure for a moment, but what it's costing you is your first love with Jesus. So the warning in verse 5, he says, Ann, if you don't put love for me back first, I'll remove your lampstand.

A lampstand is a stand on which you place your lamp so the light goes out broader. And I felt like he was speaking of my ministry. Ann, if you don't put love for me back first, I'll dry up your ministry. There was a time when I was afraid he'd call me into service, and then a time when I was afraid he wouldn't.

And to think that he would dry it up was all the warning I needed, if I needed any all. And that's a warning, I believe, to the church today. Because if we don't put love for Jesus back first, before all the programs, the policies and the rituals and the traditions and all the denominationalism and the politics and the social issues and all the stuff, if we don't put Jesus back first, as Matt sang, the heart of worship, then he'll remove the lampstand. It doesn't mean he's going to bulldoze the church. But I know you and I have been in churches where the Spirit of God is left. There's no sense of the Spirit of God in that place at all. So, listen to me, he says, the principle is that love for Jesus must come first.

He wants your love, oh dear friend, he wants your love more than all of your service combined. Did you know that? The greatest commandment is not serve me until you just fall over. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. So the promise, if you put that back, I'll give you the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. And the tree of life is eternal life, which Jesus said in John 17 is not just heaven when you die, but it's that love relationship with Jesus right here, right now. And you have the right to eat of it, you're going to be satisfied in your love relationship with Jesus. Right in the paradise of God, you're going to be aware of God's presence in your life and you'll live in that heavenly place.

Oh, do you have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying? The church at Ephesus did not. They're just ruins there today. Second church on the list is Smyrna. And Smyrna was a church that was suffering intensely. Domitian was on the throne, demanded for people to worship him as God. When the church refused, he poured out persecution and this church had been persecuted.

They had suffered enormously. And so Jesus identifies himself in verse 8. These are the words of him who is the first and the last who died and came to life again. In other words, dear Smyrna church, I know what it's like to be persecuted even to the death. I understand the feeling of your infirmities. And then he says, learn from me. I know what you're doing right.

This is one of the two churches in this list of seven that he did not call to repentance. They were doing everything right. Oh, wouldn't you love for him to have an evaluation for him to just say, Ann, you're doing everything right.

I can't imagine. But church at Smyrna was doing everything right. So I see a tendency to do something wrong. They weren't rebuked for this, but I just want to point it out in verse 10 when he says, don't be afraid. And the tendency, if you're being persecuted for sharing the gospel, is that you tend to hold back the next time you have that opportunity. You tend to compromise, water it down, not be so vocal, not to take such a strong stand.

I don't know if you've ever done that. If you ever shared the gospel with a friend or a neighbor or a family member and it jumped down your throat, next time you have that opportunity to share the gospel, maybe not just with them but with somebody else, do you hesitate? Do you think, you know, maybe I shouldn't be quite so bold and straightforward and maybe I ought to soften it, compromise a little bit. And the fear of rejection, the fear of persecution can cause you to be fearful, hold back, stay seated when you should stand up, stay silent when you should speak up.

So I wonder if that was a tendency in the Smyrna church. So he says, I know what you need to do, just don't be afraid. You know, just don't be afraid. Even if persecution costs you your life and in many parts of the world today, especially in the Middle East, people are coming to Christ and knowing when they do, they're going to die.

They'll be put to death by their own family, people around them. But you know, this is just an aside. Our brother-in-law and I were diagnosed with cancer the same week. He had pancreatic cancer, I had breast cancer. And so we were talking about it and my brother-in-law was chuckling and he said, Ann, he said, you know something, we're in a win-win situation.

And I said, how is that? And he said, well, Ann, if we die from this cancer, we're going to go home and be with Jesus. And if we live, then we're going to be able to serve him somewhere on this earth. We're in a win-win situation. And my brother-in-law died and I'm still here.

We both won. So can I just apply that, the persecution, rejection? It doesn't matter, their response. Can I tell you that?

It just doesn't matter. What matters is that you and I be faithful to share the hope that we have within us, to be faithful to share in this crazy world that we're living in, the truth, the foundation on which we can build our lives that will not be shaken. So don't be afraid. The gospel is worth speaking out for. The gospel is worth taking a stand for. The gospel is worth risking rejection, even from your own family. The gospel is worth dying for.

Yes, it is. And it may come a time in America that we're going to pay that ultimate price. So be it. We will not back down.

Listen to me. Jesus says the principle is in verse 10. He says the suffering is for 10 days. I don't exactly know what that means, but I'm going to assume that means your suffering is temporary. And even if you suffer persecution for your entire life compared to eternity, it's temporary, isn't it?

We're just a blip on the timeline. So it's just temporary. And remember, there's a crown of life. That's the promise in verse 11. You won't be overcome by the second death. The second death is hell. So when we die the first time, we exit this life, we step into eternity. The second death is judgment in hell.

So you don't have to worry about that at all. Remember that He has a crown of life for you. So you take up your cross and you follow Jesus. But don't forget that after the cross, there comes the resurrection and the glory and the crown. This life is just temporary.

We're going home. And He's going to give you. You've been persecuted. You know there's a special crown for those who are persecuted and who are martyred.

Another crown to lay at His feet. So are you listening to what the Spirit is saying? Don't be afraid to share the Gospel. The church at Smyrna was listening. And there's still a church there today.

It's the modern day city of Izmir on the coast of Turkey. And I've been in that Christian church. The third church on the list is Pergamum. Pergamum was an interesting city. It was very up and coming, very sophisticated. They had a medical university there. They had a library that had over 200,000 cuneiform tablets. They were very sophisticated, intellectual. And the altar to Zeus was seated on a hill.

It was made out of white marble. And when the sun hit it, it just shone throughout the valley. It dominated the valley. So they were religious, intellectual, sophisticated, up and coming. When a church was planted in Pergamum, the early Christians were thrilled because they thought, now the church is going to impact Pergamum and Pergamum is going to impact the world with the Gospel.

But the opposite happened. Instead of the church impacting Pergamum, Pergamum impacted the church. So Jesus says in verse 12, look at me. These are the words of Him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. That's the word of God. And He's reminding them that God's word is God's word.

It comes out of His mouth. And the Pergamites felt like they had progressed beyond that. That was for another time. That was for another day. That was for more simple people. But that didn't apply to them. They were just gone past that. And if you've gone past the word of God, you've gone too far. So learn from it.

He says, I know what you're doing right. They were true to the name of Christ in verse 13. They called themselves Christians.

They didn't denounce their faith even when they were under pressure. But what they were doing wrong is that they had Belamites and Nicolaitans in their midst. And we don't know exactly who Belamites and Nicolaitans are or were, but I'll just summarize it by saying within the church there were people that were pulling people away from faith in God's word, causing them to doubt it, deny it, dilute it, disregard it, substitute other things for it. And He says what I hold against you is within your church. The Pergamite Christians weren't Belamites and Nicolaitans, but they were tolerating Belamites and Nicolaitans in their midst. Jesus was holding the Pergamite Christians accountable for who they were listening to, who they had in their midst. So be very careful.

Watch out. The American church is permeated with people in the leadership positions who deny the truth of God's word, that take people's faith away from God's word, who don't urge their followers to study it and read it and apply it and live by it. So He says I know what you need to do. Verse 16, repent. Stop doubting the truth of God's word and stop tolerating others who do. I think you either take God at His word or you don't. So nail down your faith in God's word. The wonderful thing about God's word is that it's true.

And in this crazy world of spin and lies and deception and delusion, we know what the truth is. You can hear Living in the Light with Ann Graham Lotz weekly. And for ways to experience the God-filled life as you pursue your personal Bible study, go to She'll help you get started with free resources you can use and share with others. Join us here each week for Living in the Light.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-26 16:28:44 / 2023-03-26 16:39:15 / 11

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