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When Little Means a Lot

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
January 12, 2024 12:00 am

When Little Means a Lot

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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January 12, 2024 12:00 am

What can one solitary Christian do for God? In this message Stephen reminds us that spiritual effectiveness is not measured by abilities or numbers, it is measured by commitment. A Christian who is wholly surrendered to God can do more than a hundred Christians who are partially surrendered to Him. Access all of the lessons and resources in this series:

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Jesus Christ is the one who is real and genuine and authentic. Listen, my friend, if you are following anybody or anything for your spiritual health and well-being instead of Jesus Christ, you are being led down a dead-end alley. And you live in a generation like I where there are many saviors and many paths. Everything and everyone else is a cheap knock-off of the real genuine Savior. A healthy church is one that's totally and completely committed to Jesus Christ.

I'm sure you'd agree with that. Looking to anyone or anything else as the source or standard of the Christian faith results in disaster. So, your spiritual effectiveness isn't measured by your abilities or by your church attendance. It's measured by your commitment to Christ. Today, you're going to be challenged to fully surrender to God as Stephen Davey opens God's Word to the book of Revelation. Stephen called the lesson you're about to hear, when little means a lot. We have read the mail of five churches thus far.

Letters sent by Currier, the leading elder of the church, dictated by Christ himself. Thus far, we've learned these primary truths. To Ephesus, we learned that it's possible to be orthodox but unloving. To Smyrna, we learned that suffering may mean you're in the middle of God's will and design for your life. To Pergamum, we read that tolerating false doctrine may be the first step to total disobedience to Christ. To Thyatira, we read the warning that tolerating immorality may lead to practicing immorality. And then, last Lord's Day, to the church at Sardis, we learned that it's possible to have an impressive past but no effective future.

Except for one letter. These letters have been sent to churches that were in deep, deep trouble with the Chief Shepherd, our Lord. Ephesus was cold and unloving. Pergamum was no longer guarding true doctrine. Thyatira was riddled with division and tempted by immoral leadership.

Sardis was literally asleep at the wheel, resting on their past, not passionate about their future. You'd think that God was not only writing mail to them, he was reading our own mail in this generation. These are the same problems, not with churches in the first generation or century, but in the generation of the 21st century. The truth is, God is reading our mail.

This is our generation. These are letters that are to us. And about now, in fact, I was so glad we finally got to this particular portion of the letter because you might be wondering, is there anything in the divinely inspired mailbag for a church that's doing something right? Is anybody keeping their eye on the goal? Is there a church with their eye on the right goal, for the right reason, attempting to teach the right things, pressing forward in the right ministry, holding to the right standard, and experiencing the smile and approval of God?

And I'm so glad today to say, yes, there is. Revelation chapter 3, verse 7. This is a church that has been a model ministry.

For anybody who wants a model, they ought to go here. It's called the church of opportunity. It's called the church of the open door.

People refer to it that way. Chapter 3 of Revelation, verse 7. And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia, write, the words of the Holy One, the true One, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one will open.

Stop here. Now you know, if you've been with us in this study, that Jesus Christ doesn't sign his name at the end of the letter, he signs it at the beginning of the letter. And he typically has pulled out of the first chapter's vision something descriptive about who he is.

This time, it's brand new stuff. He's pulling descriptions out of other places in scripture, what we know to be true about them, but they're not coming out of the original vision. And I think it's significant that perhaps he is delivering these descriptions of who he is because he's found a church that matches his own heart and desire. He says, go back, these are the words of the Holy One. Hagias means separated unto God, distinctive from what's around it. And this was the church. This was a separated, holy church, exclusively belonging to God, and in no way belonging to the world. He also signs the letter, I am not only the Holy One, but I am the true One.

Alathanos is the Greek word chosen here, which means true in the sense of being genuine, being real, as opposed to being fake or a fraud. Jesus Christ is the one who is real and genuine and authentic. Listen, my friend, if you are following anybody or anything for your spiritual health and well-being instead of Jesus Christ, you are being led down a dead-end alley. Everything and everyone else is a cheap knock-off of the real, genuine Savior.

And you live in a generation like I where there are many Saviors and many paths, but they are dead-ends. He is the genuine One. He also introduces himself in verse 7 as the one who has the key of David, a phrase that perhaps is an allusion to 2 Kings 18, where Hezekiah gives his faithful steward like him the key to his palace, in fact the key to his treasury. He has at his disposal everything belonging to the King. So Jesus Christ is the one who as rightful Messiah has every right to all those things pertaining to the house of David, to that coming messianic kingdom.

It's his. And he can allow access to those who belong to him to gain entrance in. And finally Christ says to this little faithful church in verse 7, I will open and no one will shut, who shuts and no one will open. I know, verse 8, your works behold I have set before you an open door which no one is able to shut.

I love that. What does he mean? An open door has been opened before you and nobody can shut it. Now some believe that it's a reference to Christ himself. He is the door that opens the kingdom and the believers in Philadelphia are going to get in. So this is a reference to the kingdom.

Perhaps this is an allusion to John chapter 10 where Jesus said very clearly, I am the what? I am the door, verses 7 and 9. In the days of Christ, sheepfolds did not have doors.

They were literally made without a door. They were stoned most often and they would enclose the flocks at night and once the animals were all gathered into the fold, the shepherd himself would lay down at that entrance, that opening, he would become the door. And you couldn't get in, you couldn't get out unless you got past the shepherd. It's a wonderful picture of salvation. You've got to get in through Christ and you don't have to worry about ever somehow getting out. Christ is guarding you.

You're secure. That's a beautiful picture of salvation. But I don't think Christ is referring to salvation here in Revelation chapter 3. In fact, Revelation chapter 3 speaks of a door that is never, what? Shut.

It's never shut. Each church is challenged regarding their present ministry, their present experience. They're told to change something, believe something, confess something, do something, remove someone, accept something. So in that context, the church in Philadelphia is being given a promise of something and I believe the open door would be a promise of even greater effectiveness as they minister for the glory of God. I believe this is a door of opportunity for even greater service. This little faithful church is poised for greater ministry than ever. And this would be consistent throughout the New Testament with the illusion of Christ's servants, especially the apostle Paul who often talked about open doors. He wrote to the Corinthians, for a wide door for effective work is open to me.

He adds, and there are many adversaries. I love his spirit. And look, we've got a great open door for effective ministry. How do you know Paul? All the adversaries are lined up against us. That's how I know. How often do we discern the will of God because, well, it's all working out and there are no adversaries.

It's smooth and clear. And Paul would say, oh, God is opening an effective door. When he came to Troas to preach the gospel, he wrote in 2 Corinthians 2 that a door was opened to him by the Lord. He asked the believers to pray for him that God would open him a door for the word to declare the mystery of Christ. Colossians 4, 2. When Paul returned to the church in Antioch in Acts 14, 27, he reported how God, quote, had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

I think we ought to adopt this kind of terminology. Maybe he already used this when praying for open doors of effective ministry. I think we ought to pray that way to God, not only as individuals but as a church, for more effective means to deliver the gospel not only to this world around us but the world beyond. Allow us, Lord, would you please, by opening doors, to reach people for Jesus Christ through a myriad of ways. Use us all.

We want to be an assembly that looks for and walks through the open door. If there is a door that God is remaining closed, it remains closed. Let's not argue with God. Let's not fuss with God, either individually or corporately.

Let's not get upset with God. There are reasons, perhaps for delays, there are reasons the door is shut. We tend to camp out at closed doors, don't we? We set up our tent and we argue. We invite people to come join us. We had a little thing going right there in front. Oh, you know what?

We're going to keep banging. God hasn't opened it. God opened doors. What is God doing with us? Lord, help us to run through it and to grasp the opportunity.

How do you qualify to see if a door is swinging open? I think that's found in the latter part of this paragraph, verse 8. He says, you have a little power. You haven't denied my name, the gospel. Let's back up. You have a little power.

I love this. He didn't say, you've got it all together as a church. You're really something. No, he basically said, you've got a little dunamis. You've got a little dynamic. You don't have a lot of it. You don't have leftover.

You don't have this tremendous charisma, a lot of dynamic power. You've got a little bit, but the little bit that you have, you've entrusted to me and you are using that little bit to the maximum degree. Very encouraging for a church of any size or ministry, outreach.

Here's a church that had just a little. Christ also says in verse 8, you've kept my word. He says later in verse 10, you've kept the word of my patience.

It would be translated patient endurance. I think my patience is a reference perhaps to the cross work of Christ and his patient humility in enduring. I think this is a reference to the fact that the believers hadn't denied the gospel.

The tense of these verbs is aorist, which means there was probably at some point in their past some trying event, some critical moment in the church's history where they were facing persecution to deny the name of Christ, to deny the gospel, and they said, we will not. Because of that, now you have a church that's poised and prepared. You have a door open for you now, here and now. Run through it. One of the reasons I believe this door referred to greater and more effective ministry is because this metaphor would have been immediately recognized by these people living in this city, just as the Sardian believers. You remember the believers living in Sardis were told to what?

Wake up twice. Why? Because they were slumbering at the wheel and they would have immediately recognized the challenge in those words because the city had been asleep, the guards had been asleep, and the enemy was able to overtake it by simply walking through the gate, unguarded sleeping guards. So also, these believers living here in Philadelphia would have immediately understood what it meant.

Why? Because Philadelphia, in the days of this writing, was known as the city of the open door. It was called the doorway to the east. It had been built by the emperor as a missionary city. Not for the gospel, but for Greece. It was designed because of their position, the ease whereby they could, from that launching pad, reach into what is now modern-day Turkey and, in fact, all of Europe. The emperor wanted them to be the launching pad to disseminate the Greek culture and the Greek language and they were absolutely successful.

This language, the Greek language, would be the language of the Western world. And Jesus Christ then, I believe, is playing off of that and he wants this church to recognize greater potential than ever in ministry by understanding they are positioned in such a strategic place which God considers to be an open door to become a missionary church to spread the gospel to the world. Look, I have set before you an open door.

You're the gateway to the east. If we will, we have these special promises. In fact, these are promises in any generation to the true believer and true church. Look at verse 9. 1st Christ delivers to them the promise of a future reign.

Let me go through five of them quickly. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews are not. They are not. That is, they're not true followers of the faith of Father Abraham.

They lie. Behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you. There's going to be one day a universal demonstration that we, in fact, are the beloved of God. When all of the enemies of Christ will be vanquished, when all the enemies of God will be humbled, they will bow their knee under duress and admit that he is Lord. And for those churches like this little church who was put at some point in time, challenged perhaps with the threat of their own lives to deny the name, Jesus says, I want you to know one day you will reign with Christ.

Secondly, there's the promise of an imminent rescue. Because, verse 10, you've kept my word about patient endurance. That is, you've not denied the gospel of my cross. I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to try those who dwell on the earth.

I am coming soon. This hour of testing, I believe, is what's known as the tribulation. We're going to soon discover the details of this seven-year period of intense divine judgment that will affect all who live on the planet. The church, by the way, will literally disappear from the record of Revelation's descriptions of events on earth from chapter 6 all the way to chapter 19 when we then surface again coming with Christ to set up the millennial kingdom. And for that I would tell you the church is gone.

It's been raptured. Would you note carefully in verse 10 that Jesus Christ does not say to the church, I will keep you through the hour of testing. I will keep you in the midst of this hour, this specific designation of time of great testing. I will keep you in spite of the hour. No, I will keep you from, literally out of, this time of great judgment on earth.

There are those who would say, nope. Stephen, this is a reference to the great white throne judgment of all unbelievers in the future. And the church is going to go through the tribulation.

Problem with that view, among others, is that the great white throne judgment does not take place on earth. Revelation chapter 20 verse 11. The time of great testing that is worldwide. This goes beyond Philadelphia. This is universal. This will affect all earth dwellers.

This is a promise then not just to Philadelphia but the church worldwide. I am going to take you out of this great hour of testing. And I will, verse 10, look again, I will take you out of the time of testing. Take you out, terro ek. The basic meaning of the preposition ek means literally from, out from, away from, out of and away from. If the Lord had wanted to convey to the church that we would be preserved in the midst of the tribulation, he would have used the preposition en. That means in.

Or the preposition dia. That means I will keep you through the tribulation. Furthermore, for Christ to promise the church that he will sustain them during the great tribulation, if that's what he meant, would be meaningless because these people are going to die.

They're not even going to go through it. It's a meaningless promise but the promise that we'll be kept out of is good for the first century and the second century and right now the 21st century. And we're waiting to be taken away. Jesus says to them in verse 11, I am coming soon.

I'm coming quickly, this implies imminency. It could happen at any moment, this catching away of the bride of Christ. Catching away is rapturo in the Latin which gives us our word rapture. Going to rapture you away. Now the other letters talk about Christ coming but he's coming in those letters to discipline the church, to take away their lampstand, to deal with them because of their sin, not this one.

This is a coming to take you away. You'd have to go over to 1 Thessalonians or 2 Thessalonians 4 where we're told we're going to be caught up, rapturo. We're going to be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Listen, in the rapture, before the tribulation, we will leave earth to meet Christ in the air. At the second coming, we will come with Christ through the air to earth. We're waiting to go this direction and then eventually we're going to come back down and set up the millennial kingdom.

We'll study all that further in the future. Listen, he's telling this church and he's telling us because we're living on this side of the rapture. There's an open door of ministry. Know that at any moment you might be caught away by Christ as the tribulation period, this hour of great distress and trouble comes upon the earth dwellers. Before you need to understand Philadelphia, before this happens, you now have an open door of effective ministry.

What are you going to do about it? This is the promise of a future reign and an imminent rescue. Thirdly, there's the promise of significant recognition. Look at verse 11, hold fast what you have, Jesus dictates so that no one may seize your crown. This isn't salvation that somebody could ever take away from you.

Nobody could ever take your salvation away from you. This is a reference to a full reward, crowns of reward that the New Testament talks about. Notice verse 12, the one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.

This doesn't mean a lot to us in our own culture because this is a reference right out of theirs. It's a promise of recognition. In Philadelphia, as in all Greek cities, after the death of a faithful priest to some god, some temple, after he died, if he'd been faithful, oftentimes they'd do it with even distinguished citizens. They would carve a pillar and they'd place it in their temple. And there they would be recognized then by all who come to worship. Christ is basically saying, you're going to be a pillar in my holy place. You're going to have a place of special recognition of your faithful service to your true and living God. It's an interesting thought that those who serve today as pillars of the church will one day be recognized as a pillar in the temple of God. Fourth, there is the promise of permanent rest. Look at verse 12. The one who conquers, I'll make him a pillar in the temple of God.

Never shall he go out of it. You're not going to be going in and out of this wonderful place. Again, to the citizens of this city living near a volcano. In fact, Strabo, the Roman historian, tells us that the people of Philadelphia always lived with one eye on the volcano. It provided rich, fertile soil for them, but they just waited and wondered. In fact, about 65 years before this letter was written, there was an eruption and earthquakes and they had to flee and they lived in little huts and tents all around the city, ready to go near the temples.

They could collapse and kill them, so they had to wait until finally they crept back in, still fearful. Jesus Christ says, when I place you in my temple in that holy day, in that holy place, no fear. You'll never have to run. You will be perfectly, eternally secure. It's a wonderful promise of permanent security and rest. One more, the promise of an ultimate reward.

Not only the promise of a coming rain, an imminent rescue, gracious recognition and wonderful rest, there is an ultimate reward. Three new names are referenced here, each referring to our identification with God, referring to our identification with the heavenly city, referring to our identification through faith in Christ. He writes, and I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven.

I can't wait until we get to the point where we can study that together. And my own new name. You see, whenever a new emperor took the throne, he minted coins with his likeness, with his titles stamped upon it, and the people used it as currency. It's as if he's using that metaphor to say, look, you're going to be stamped, as it were, with the image and identity, likeness of the living Lord and Savior. I mean, now we're just a bare shadow. There, we will be perfected and glorified, sin nature removed.

Unique, not just a facelift, this is going to be a new identity. We have the rights to the city of God, the new Jerusalem. Let me quickly draw from this text some truths. First, don't be surprised by the potential of one church. Don't be surprised by the potential of one church. And don't, by the way, just a sub point, don't equate the plan of God with the grandness of some church. Oh, that's a big church. They've really got potential. No, this little church had great potential.

He got a little dunamis, put it to work. Secondly, don't ever underestimate the power of one testimony. And I'm talking about yours and mine. Where you work, where you live, where you go to school, where you play, you're being watched by more people than you can imagine, especially as you demonstrate that you belong to Christ. If they hear anything come out of your lips about Jesus Christ, they're really going to watch you.

And they're going to take notes mentally. And I'm here to tell you, don't ever underestimate the wonderful power of the gospel in and through your personal testimony. Do you have a little dunamis? A little dynamic? Just a little? Offer it up to God. Like the little boy, give him your lunch. He might use it to feed one person. That's fine. He might use it to multiply it to thousands.

That's fine. The one who feeds one is no more significant to Christ than the one who feeds 5,000. Don't ever underestimate what God can do with your singular, separated, distinctive, passionate, holy testimony. I remember one Christian leader often singing whenever he came to college. He ran a couple of orphanages in Texas and he would often sing this little chorus, little as much, if God is in it.

You ever heard that? Labor not for wealth or fame. There's a crown and you can win it if you go in Jesus' name. This is when little becomes a lot. When you give your little to Christ, he can make much of it. The question remains, what kind of people are we going to be? What kind of church do we want to be? A disobedient church? A divided church? A untrained church? A sinful church? A mediocre church? A cold church? A sleeping church? How about this one?

Let's be this one. By the grace of God, through our limited dynamic, offered to him through faith and courage to serve with joy and we will await the call upward. Let's actually do as we've been reminded today. Stephen called this lesson when little means a lot. You're listening to Wisdom for the Heart. This is the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. If you want to listen to this message again or get caught up on any of the messages in this series, we've posted all of it to our website. Again, our website is We'll continue through this series from Revelation next time, so join us here for more Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-12 01:07:35 / 2024-01-12 01:18:14 / 11

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