To be like the church at Philadelphia is surely something that all congregations of the Lord’s church should strive to be like. The word Philadelphia means “one who love his brother.” It sure is a good thing to love your brothers or sisters. I do hope that when we move to our new building that these words can be said of us as it has been said in the past. The church that was in in Philadelphia was from all accounts a small congregation of the Lord’s church but that did not stop them from being steadfast in the hour of trial. They were encouraged to hold firmly to that which they had. The Lord promises, to him that overcomes, He will make them a pillar in the temple of God. They were encouraged to hear and obey His word. There is no condemnation to the church in Philadelphia, let that be said of us.
The church in Philadelphia had many things to overcome. There were many gods worshipped there of which Dionysus was the main one. They also contended with the Jews. Today we don't have to contend with the Jews or pagan gods, there are other things that the church contends with. The teachers in our school who say there is no God, we contend with a country that has little regard for morality. Many sports programs pull our lives away from God. The church in Philadelphia put God first and they kept their candle stick, let’s do the same in Ripon.
John wrote these words to the church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3:7-13
Let’s remember the statement Jesus made in Matthew 28:18 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on the earth.” He controls the door and who is admitted into heaven. Jesus is the only one who can and does lay down the conditions for going to heaven.
It warms my heart to see young men learning to be leaders in the church. Our first Tuesday of the month where these young boys are up front song leading, praying, and doing devotionals, gives these boys confidence and lets them know they are adequate, able, and aspiring members of the body of Christ in Ripon. This pleases God.
In 1 Timothy 6, Paul writes to young Timothy showing him how to be a man of God, even when other men feel he is too young to be adequate for God. Our young boys have hearts for God. They want to serve God and please Him. Imagine if they were not given the opportunity to? Imagine if we discouraged them in their youth, saying they should not be up there as leaders because they are too young? Imagine if Paul had this attitude with Timothy? It amazes me that there are congregations in this country that do not develop their youth in the church and we wonder why we are losing so many of them to the world.
In 1 Timothy 6:11-14, Paul shows Timothy a portrait of the man of God.
First, the man of God FLEES (Vs. 11). He flees from false teaching and holds to the doctrine of sound words, which comes from God. He does not get caught up in the ways of worldly men (1 Timothy 6:3-5). The man of God also flees from the love of money (Vs. 10). Money can become our idol and Paul states to flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Paul also tells Timothy a man of God is one in whom also flees from youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22).
Our we fleeing from these sinful things?
Second, the man of God FOLLOWS. He pursues heavenly things, such as righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness (Vs. 11). Are we in hot pursuit of the things of God?
Third, the man of God FIGHTS. This is the noble and good fight, the fight of faith (Vs.12). This is one in which never gives up. He has made the good confession and takes hold of eternal life in which the devil wants to take away. Are we fighting the good fight of faith?
Fourth, the man of God is FAITHFUL. He keeps to the Word without stain or reproach. Nothing will be able to get us to pervert the truth, or fall from it. Are we being faithful every day to the Lord? Are we being men and women of God?
In His Service,
We have all heard this said about us and sometimes we might even think it about ourselves. I know it does not shock us to learn that we are not perfect. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Christ died for us to take care of that. We still need to think about how we act and what we say to the people that we are in contact with every day.
A Christian having sin in their life does not make them a hypocrite. The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word meaning a play actor or someone pretending to be someone they are not. I am sure there are some Christians who want to think of themselves as sinless and are striving to convince you of their holiness and purity. Matthew 23:27-28 calls them “whitewashed tombs.” Having sin in your life does not make you a hypocrite, it makes you human and in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ.
There are two reasons why unbelievers hurl that accusation at Christians. First, they do not know much about God, Jesus or the church. They just know enough to expect that Christians will be different from them. They expect us to be somewhat Christ like, loving and understanding of other’s failures. Sometimes they do not get that loving, caring or understanding attitude. Second, they have been in contact with some Christians in the past that have made them feel inferior. Like they were somehow less human because they were sinners, when the Christian who made them feel like that was no better than them. They walked away from their encounter feeling worse about themselves and about the church.
Church, we cannot control how someone feels about Christians or the church but we can work hard to ensure that they don’t feel that way about us. Jesus made people feel comfortable. People felt like they could talk to Him and He was a person they thought they could spend time with. That should be us.
Church, let’s make sure that when unbelievers encounter us it is a beneficial and meaningful encounter. Let’s make sure they see Christ living in us instead of ours sins shining brightly. We cannot be perfect but we can make sure that they walk away with a good view of the church and Christianity.
In the late 1990’s the Church in Ripon donated $50,000 to build a preacher training school and a school for destitute children in Nekempt, Ethiopia. The Nekempt School of Preaching is one of 5 training schools in Ethiopia. Each year 100 to 150 graduate from these schools. This current session will bring the number of men trained at this school to 350. It isn’t possible to know by the way these men look, their age or by the scores on their tests who will become an effective soul winner and Church planter. One of the most effective Church planters in the 49 year history of training preachers in Ethiopia was an almost illiterate man who could not graduate because he could not pass the tests even when given orally. He had a burning passion and a committed heart to preach the word and leave the rest to God. He later established many congregations and converted scores to God’s Church.
The Nejo congregation
The town of Nejo is 122 miles west and north of Nekempt. It has a population of 20,000 and is growing. Brother Abeyot Onaba is from Nejo and was taught the Gospel by Brother Zelalem Dunfa. Recently he was accepted to attend the Preacher training school in Nekempt. After his graduation he returned to Nejo and established a congregation. The Nejo Church now has 34 members and averages 40 in attendance. The congregation in Nejo is a perfect example of how Christianity spreads. There are now tens of thousands of Christians in Ethiopia, thanks to dedicated Christians teaching others the Love of God. Next week-The rest of the story.
According to Mr. Webster, a hero is anyone “admired for courage, nobility, or exploits, especially in war.” My brother-in-law, Norman Stone, was stationed in Germany three years while serving in the army. One day as he was driving down the freeway, he noticed a car along the side of the road with fire coming out of it and a woman trapped inside. He immediately pulled over, ran to the burning car, jerked the jammed door open, and pulled the woman to safety. A newspaper printed a story about the incident and Norman was called a hero, which he was. Without regard for his own safety, he saw a desperate need and met it, thus saving the woman’s life. Often in war, soldiers will throw themselves on explosives to save the lives of fellow soldiers or civilians. These acts are indeed heroic and often save the physical lives of people who go on to live 30, 40, or even 50 more years. They are honored and sometimes even memorials are erected so others will remember.
About 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ came to this earth, lived a perfect and sinless life, and was cruelly crucified for the sins of the entire human race. Jesus knew our desperate need to be redeemed, so without regard to his own comfort, He gave up heaven and a life with God to save us from our sin. Unlike human heroes who lose their lives, Jesus rose from the grave, returned to the Father, and is waiting for us to join Him after this life is over. He doesn’t just offer us 30, 40, or 50 more years of life if we dedicate ourselves to Him in obedience, He offers us eternal life. The memorial that Christians partake in to remember history’s most momentous heroic deed, we call the Lord’s Supper. We celebrate this selfless act of our Savior each first day of the week. It is too special to only observe once or twice a year.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in
appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:6-11
Oh, what a Hero!