Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Date: 17 June 2012

For more sermons and other writings check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

Revelation 09 – He Who Overcomes

 

When John was on the prison island of Patmos – persecuted for his faith – with the churches in his care doing it hard – Jesus appeared to John and revealed to him who was in charge:

 

Revelation 1:12-18: I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw ... someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

 

John could see with his own eyes that Jesus was alive – more than ever – (some years ago, he had been killed on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of humankind but he was alive now) – with power: Noble in his robe, eyes like blazing fire, voice booming like the sound of wild rivers, his mouth armed with a sharp sword and the entire face shining like the sun in all its brilliance. John could see and hear Jesus in a powerful vision and – just in case – he did not know how to interpret the vision, Jesus spelled the meaning of what he saw out for him. He said: “I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Therefore, Jesus did not only look powerful, he was – unlocking the grave for us – holding the keys of authority. John trusted in the right person – Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He was the Lord of the church and the Saviour of all people.

Only then Jesus told John to write letters to seven churches and – while the letters picked up on diverse local issues – Jesus did conclude each one of them with the same predominant theme – in which is contained one of the hallmarks of every Christian’s life. Listen to the closing words of Jesus’ letters to the seven churches:

 

Revelation 2:7: ... To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

 

Revelation 2:11: ... He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

 

Revelation 2:17: ... To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

 

Revelation 2:26-27: To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations — ‘He will rule them with an iron sceptre; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ — just as I have received authority from my Father.

 

Revelation 3:5: He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

 

Revelation 3:12: Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.

 

Revelation 3:21: To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

 

According to these seven letters – what seems to mark every Christian life – your life here this morning? You are called to overcome obstacles. Jesus kept repeating this phrase: “He who overcomes” “To him who overcomes” “He who overcomes” “To him who overcomes”. Even though Jesus is glorious – and John’s encounter of Jesus was glorious – even though Jesus is all-powerful and all-loving – he does not yet promise us a life without struggle. On the contrary, he admonished the churches to lift their game in overcoming problems.

Right here, many of us make a significant mistake. We think that becoming a Christian should spell the end of all striving. With God on our side, we should live carefree from now on. Life should become easy. Therefore, we get confused when the Christian life is demanding and exhausting and requires everything that you have. Are you confused?

Christians enjoy freedom from the damning consequences of sin. They are forgiven. They enjoy the power of the Holy Spirit which assures them of the Father’s love, grants them resilience in temptations and allows them to break through in mission work but – at its core – the presence and power of the Holy Spirit requires our cooperation – our willingness to engage and fight for what we want – or better: what God wants.

I give you just one example outside of the seven letters in Revelation:

 

Galatians 5:16-25: So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like ...

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 

Life is made up of a basic conflict: the Holy Spirit against our sinful nature[which is also the point of access for any demon operating in this world]and sometimes – even as Christians – we do what we do not want to do. However, if we live by the Spirit – which means: if we cooperate with him and allow his power to energize us (our mind and emotions) – then transformation will come and our lives will be growing the fruit of love, joy and peace – (slowly but surely). We are set up for this: in Christ Jesus, we have become new andhave crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (see also Galatians 6:14) but – nevertheless – (I say it again) – none of the love, joy and peace will show up during our week unless we are radically willing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. We are tokeep in step with the Spiritand resist the sinful nature – resist “sexual immorality, impurity ... idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, . jealousy, ... selfish ambition, ... drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21). Is this hard? Is this harder or easier than indulging the sinful nature?

We cannot do anything by ourselves. Everything is done in the power of God through the Holy Spirit but – however you want to find words for what is reality – we are not passive but cooperate with the Spirit and – coming back to the church letters in the book of Revelations – we overcome many an obstacle. God makes us – his tiny junior partners who rely for everything on him – responsible for victory.

What then are we to overcome? There is the sinful nature but – in the case of the seven churches in the book of Revelation – Jesus is quite specific. This is what displeased him:

 

Revelation 2:4-5: Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first ...

 

Revelation 2:10: Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

 

Revelation 2:14-16: Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to . teaching [which entices God’s people] ... to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality ...

 

Revelation 2:20-23: Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman . , who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols ...

 

Revelation 3:1-3: ... I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent ...

 

Revelation 3:11: ... Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

 

Revelation 3:16-18: So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

 

What were the churches to overcome? Twice, there was the threat of persecution – the threat of becoming afraid and denying Christ (Revelation 2:10; 3:11). Twice, there was the problem of losing passion for Jesus – “forsaken the love you had at first” “lukewarm” (Revelation 2:4-5; 3:16-18). Twice, the churches tolerated idolatry and adultery in their midst (Revelation 2:14-16; 2:20-23). Once, there was incomplete obedience (Revelation 3:1-3). Jesus drew up a list which looks and sounds familiar to us.

Persecution – at least in the form of rejection and ridicule – is also a problem among us because we become shy in sharing our faith. We also struggle to remain passionate about Jesus. Why else would we stay away from prayer and praising him? Idolatry and adultery – bowing down before consumer goods and sexual images – seem to be part and parcel of our Western culture – also inside the church. Finally, our obedience is probably also incomplete. The list looks and sounds familiar and Jesus is right in drawing attention to the problems.

What I find interesting is that the churches which look the best from the outside are criticized in the harshest manner and their sin is identified as the worst – [they worked hard (endured in performing good works) but had no passion for Jesus] – while the churches who tolerated the most obvious and grossest sins of idolatry and sexual immorality are simply warned of the coming discipline. This means that you cannot always tell by looking at a person what Jesus thinks of their conduct. Some look like good Christians but Jesus is very upset with them and the attitude of their hearts and others look like failing in so many ways but Jesus is more relaxed in sorting out the issues.

 

[I also find it interesting that the letters to the churches do not focus on the overcoming of certain temptations or the overcoming of demons in deliverance and healing or overcoming poverty. There is no charge to “take the city” for Jesus but everything seems to focus on our relationship with him and our faithfulness to him.]

 

However, I want to get away from the more detailed list in Revelation – (I preached about the loss of passion a few weeks ago) – and point out the common cause of most problems – including ours. Listen again to Jesus’ words:

 

Revelation 2:4-5: ... Consider how far you have fallen! ...

 

Revelation 2:14-16: ... You have people there who hold to . teaching [which entices God’s people] ... to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality ...

 

Revelation 2:20-23: ... You tolerate that woman . , who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols ...

 

Revelation 3:1-3: ... you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! ... Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; ...

 

Revelation 3:16-18: ... You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me ... salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

 

What was the underlying problem of all of these churches? Why did Jesus need to write to them? What can be your greatest problem – our greatest problem – which makes you sin and drift away from Jesus? The answer is: ignorance, a lack of understanding, wrong teaching, being asleep in your mind, not having a firm grasp on God’s truth, etc. Three churches thought that they were doing well – they enjoyed a good reputation, they were pleased with themselves – but Jesus told them to wake up. He pleaded with them: “Wake up! You do not realize how far you have fallen! Remember what you have first received and heard.” Then, two churches tolerated wrong teaching in their midst which led others into the sins of sexual immorality and idolatry. Wrong teaching always leads to wrong behaviour because you do what you are taught – (you do what you think is okay).

For instance, if you are taught – (maybe not explicitly but by the media and the silence of Christians) – that feelings of love sanction sex (intimate relations) before marriage, then this is what you do. But if you are taught that sex is holy and bonds man and woman together asone flesh”; therefore belongs in the covenant relationship of marriage, then you are less likely to go against God’s command. Even Adam and Eve believed wrong teaching before they sinned in the Garden of Eden. On account of the serpent, they believed that eating from the forbidden fruit would not lead to death but make them like God (Genesis 3).

Among Christians today, I hear many a time disparaging words abouttheologiansand I think that I understand the criticism because whentheologiansget it wrong, they can be stubborn in theirexpertknowledge. They can do a lot of damage. However, the wordtheologiansimply meansone who speaks about God”. By this definition, whenever you are speaking about God, you too are a theologian. The question is simply whether we are good ones or bad ones. Is our teaching right so that our thinking is right so that our behaviour is right?

Over the last few years, we have been on an incredible journey where many of our traditional teachings have been corrected which led to many changes in our practice. As a congregation, we were not necessarily in sin but languished in less than what God had for us. I identify some of the changes in teaching:

 

Living Grace Paradigm Shifts

 

(Rick Warren [modified]: “Paradigm shift” is just another word for “repentance”.)

 

1.      We used to remain separate from other Christians that were not Lutheran but God brought renewal to us through them and impressed on us the mandate for Christian unity across all denominations.

2.      We used to associate mainly with other Lutherans in our national Lutheran denomination but God impressed on us that we belong (in the first place) to the one citywide body of Christians in Toowoomba and our region.

3.      We used to believe in “cheap grace” which takes forgiveness for granted despite lukewarm discipleship but God impressed on us that obedience was not optional.

4.      We used to trust the preaching of “wise and persuasive words” (1 Corinthians 2:4) but God impressed on us that faith would come through “demonstrations of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4) which confirm the preaching.

5.      We used to know only the baptism in water for the forgiveness of sins but God impressed on us also the baptism in the Spirit for power which grants us faith assurance, victory over sin and much fruit in mission work.

6.      We used to pray and accept any outcome as ordained by him but God impressed on us to exercise faith and have concrete expectations for what he promised (e.g.: healings, conversions).

7.      We used to assume the best of God in any sound worship setting but God impressed on us that we begin worship in the “Outer Court” and then his presence intensifies until we receive his glory in the “Holy of Holies”.

8.      We used to think of ourselves as “poor miserable sinners” but God impressed on us that sin was not our master. We are under grace (Romans 6:14).

9.      We used to think that every minister’s work consisted of preaching and visiting but God impressed on us the five-fold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (or shepherds) and teachers.

 

 [Spend some time on the various paradigm shifts and identify the changes in behaviour. Maybe select 5,7 and 8.] Did those changes in thinking come easily to us? No! Why not? There are many reasons. Changes of thinking and behaviour require adjustments which can be hard work. We like the comfort of our routines. The whole process was humbling because we were not as advanced in our Bible understanding as we thought that we were (and the older you get, the more this can be a challenge). Then, one key problem was that we were doing well – new congregation, 260 average Sunday attendance, five staff, balanced budget, positive energy and joy. We were feeling good about ourselves. Why change when nothing seems to be lacking? In this respect, we had the same problem as some of the churches in Revelation. Jesus said to them: “Wake up. You do not realize what is missing.”

However, this is the lesson: Do not always trust your feelings. Let Jesus speak to you and listen to him. Obey him, adjust to him and overcome the deception of your feelings. Hear what Jesus is saying to you.

Two weeks ago, Bethaney had her own struggle with putting feelings to the side and not letting them dictate what is true. I have permission to share with you her Facebook posts:

 

Facebook posts:

 

Bethaney Schilling

I am free from hurt, pain, past, present. I am me and am now accepting that God loves me for who I am! And I don't have to change because he loves me the way I am and the way I dress..like. Church today...was astounding! just..inexplicable!

June 3 at 12:54pm

 

So...commpletely spiritually happy...so alive!! It's like I am drunk!!! :D But feels soooo much better than weed or Alcohol. I am so happy that I am steered clear of that!!
I love you J.C. And will serve you the rest of my life! EEEKKK! :D yup..I'm nutty..But I love this feeling!!

June 3 at 2:10pm ·

 

Bethaney Schilling to Edgar Mayer

June 3 at 3:26pm ·

Lol. After I got off the phone to you, my hands were loaded with gold-dust :D

 

[We talked about not mixing with people whose negative influence we cannot handle. One thought was that a young Christian may convert the old friends but another thought – probably closer to the truth – was that the new life was not yet established enough to resist the old temptations. Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’”]

 

Bethaney Schilling

Yes, he is :) I wish I could get rid of the anger I have right now..lol. Not in an of you btw..lol

June 3 at 5:16pm

 

Edgar Mayer

And He will remain with you - always - even when the feelings change. The truth is the cross and His love. This truth never changes.

June 3 at 5:38pm

 

Bethaney Schilling

‎:D Thankyou Edgar Mayer :D I need those reminders. And I need as yu have said...good christian friends to be surrounded by.

June 3 at 5:40pm

 

How hard is it to overcome the obstacles to our faith? We need to change our thinking, change our behaviour, hold the course – be steady – in the midst of emotional ups and downs and – above all – reconnect with Jesus and love him. We do this by the power of the Spirit – as we live by the Spirit – but even the small cooperation, which is required from us, seems to be a big task. There is discipline required, self-denial, acts of service and constant obedience.

This morning – what do you have to overcome? Do you want to overcome what separates you from Jesus? Is there a sin that you have come to tolerate but Jesus has not? Maybe in your thinking but not Jesus’ thinking – is a little bit of sexual immorality okay – lingering on what the eyes should not see – too much flirting? Is a little bit of denying Christ at a party okay? Is a little less giving to God’s kingdom okay? Is a little less passion for worship okay? Is a little drifting back into our old mode of thinking (see paradigm shifts above) okay?

Jesus was tough on the seven churches in the book of Revelation but he had his reasons. There was a season coming that demanded absolute vigilance from the churches. They had to be ready for his coming in judgement on the world and the fightback attempts – the backlash – from the opposition – Satan and his demons.

History would move quickly now. The book of Revelation begins with these words:

 

Revelation 1:1: The revelation [of] ... what must soon take place. He made it known ... to his servant John.

 

Therefore, God seeks to ready the churches with discipline (cf. Revelation 4:1) while the devil seeks to exploit weaknesses through testing temptations:

 

Revelations 3:19: Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.

 

Revelation 2:10: ... I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death ...

 

Revelation 3:10: ... the hour of trial . is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

 

Ultimately – everything would be about life and death. Christians had to get their house in order because – in the process of Jesus shaking up the world – persecution was also coming and you cannot withstand this kind of opposition with a lukewarm attitude that tolerates divided loyalties – idolatry and sexual immorality. Everything had to be focused on Jesus alone. For this reason, Jesus was so tough on the churches. Do you want Jesus to come – shake up our little world – bring revival? If you sayyes”, expect him to be tough with us also because whenever he moves, the opposition also stirs – does not yield without a fight. We have to know that whatever – whoever – is not fortified will be lost to sin, death and the devil. Accept the discipline to pass the test. [There is also the principle that when the glory of God intensifies sin is judged more swiftly even among Christians. Cf. Acts 5.]

Look again at Jesus’ words to the seven churches. What else is common in all of the seven letters:

 

Revelation 2:7: ... To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

 

Revelation 2:11: ... He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

 

Revelation 2:17: ... To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

 

Revelation 2:26-27: To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations — ‘He will rule them with an iron sceptre; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ — just as I have received authority from my Father.

 

Revelation 3:5: He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

 

Revelation 3:12: Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.

 

Revelation 3:21: To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

 

What does Jesus promise the churches? Look carefully. Every single promise is about heaven – is about eternity:

 

Revelation 2:7: ... the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

 

Revelation 2:11: ... not be hurt at all by the second death.

 

Revelation 2:17: ... I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

 

Revelation 2:26-27: ... I will give authority over the nations ... just as I have received authority from my Father. [This reference also seems to be about the authority which we will have in heaven. There we will receive “the right to sit with Jesus [original: me] on his [original: my] throne” (Revelation 3:21).]

 

Revelation 3:5: ... I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

 

Revelation 3:12: ... I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.

 

Revelation 3:21: ... I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

 

[Take a moment and be overwhelmed how closely Jesus shares himself and his status with us in heaven.]

 

This clarifies our priorities and guards our hearts against disappointments. Know what is promised to you and know what is not. In this life – we are always overcoming – always taking on the next issue – the next battle. There are victories – amazing breakthroughs – but also losses. When Jesus establishes his rule – shakes the kingdom of darkness – there are casualties. There are martyrs. There are times of sacrificing your life.

The Bible book of Acts records the amazing miracle of Peter’s rescue from prison in response to prayer:

 

Acts 12:5-10: So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him ... Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists ... They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it ...

 

This was great evidence of God’s kingdom power but the same Bible chapter begins with a rather sobering note:

 

Acts 12:1-2: It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.

 

Not everyone will experience a miracle rescue. God will not be stopped but some of us are giving their lives in his service:

 

Revelation 13:10: “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.” This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.

 

In this last reference, there is not only mention of death but also captivity which I take to mean that – in the kingdom of God – some experience instant victories – instant breakthroughs – but others keep suffering at the hands of God’s enemies. They are in for the long haul and – maybe for many years – endure the opposition to enjoy victory much later. [Consider the missionaries who sowed for decades in tears and now the very same places see thousands coming to Christ in a very short time.] For instance – in Australia today – who is willing to come and say something about same sex marriages and say something about the loss of life in abortions? Take on these issues and – (I think) – we will be in for the long haul and also somecaptivityas we are on the receiving end of popular opinion.

Jesus’ promises are about heaven. His rewards for us are all about eternity where our joy can never be taken away again. Heaven is worth everything. Do not be disappointed when the current season of our nation does not favour the church but overcome and fix your eyes on eternity.

Finally, have a closer look at Jesus. John saw him again in another vision and this is how he saw him:

 

Revelation 5:6-14: Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed ... ” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne ... the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb ... And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy ... because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation ... ” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne ... In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” ...

 

Jesus was theLion of Judah” – a mighty ruler from the royal tribe of Judah – but – in this vision of heaven – the Lion appeared in the form of a Lamb that had been slain because that was the truth. Jesus was slain on a cross outside of Jerusalem. He died for you. He purchased you with his blood. He overcame. By his death, he overcame the devil because his sacrifice counted before God. He endured to the point of death; therefore was worthy – therefore received everything in eternity.

When you are doing it tough, look at Jesus – the Lamb that was slain. We don’t give in to self-pity, complaining, depression, anger and envy. Jesus suffered first and when he suffered, he demonstrated to us that he loves us. He knows what he is doing. He will rule. He will shake up the world. His kingdom will expand until the eternal kingdom comes and our place with him is assured. Overcome and keep loving him.

I summarize some of our main points: 1) Christians are always overcoming obstacles. 2) We are not promised an easy life. 3) We live by the Spirit and his power but are not passive and cooperate with him. 4) Nothing is more serious than overcoming lukewarm affections toward Jesus. 5) The underlying obstacle is always wrong teaching which sets up wrong behaviour. 6) Do not trust feelings but hold on to the truth. 7) Jesus was tough on the churches because he was coming soon in judgement and revival. Jesus prepared them with discipline because the devil would fight back with testing temptations. 8) Jesus promised us heaven, not bliss on earth. 9) Persecutions will not cause us disappointment. 10) Heaven is worth everything. 11) Jesus was slain first – for us.

When Jesus wrote letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, he told every single one to overcome something. He pointed out a problem – something that displeased him – something that was a serious threat to their relationship with him – asked them to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, dig in with discipline and overcome the issue.

This morning – what is Jesus saying to you? Do you know? If you do not know – let the letters in Revelation be a guide to you – think about the biggest threat to your affections for Jesus. What makes you lukewarm toward Jesus? Are you at ease in your Christian life – quite happy – but need to wake up and renew the relationship with Jesus? Are you fearful about opposition or keen on idolatry? Do Jesus’ morals – especially his attitude to intimacy and marriage – make you a step backward? What is there for you to overcome?

Overcome and Jesus promises heaven to you. Look at him. He was slain for you. He overcame the cross – your sin – and rules in heaven now. To be with him – overcome. In the power of the Spirit, Jesus thinks that you can do it. Take this on. Overcome. Amen.