9 I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, 11 saying, "Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea."
Revelation 1:9-11 NASB
The Seven Churches
I have so often read through the first 3 chapters of Revelation and asked myself, "If Christ wrote a letter to me, what would it say?" Would my letter read like that of the church at Ephesus who had lost their first love? Or would I be encouraged to endure coming persecution like the church at Smyrna? Would Christ identify in me, as He did in the church at Pergamum, a part that worships Balaam and is a stumbling block for His people?
In Thyatira He pointed out immorality that had been able to creep into the body of believers and had deceived a number of them; I hope that is not what he would say to me? As He did with the church at Sardis, would Jesus awaken me to the fact that though I think I'm alive, I'm really dead? The church at Philadelphia received an encouragement to stand firm and continue their faith; is that what I also would hear? Or perhaps, just like the church at Laodicea, He would find me wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked?
What would Christ say to me?
An Open Book
When I read what Christ told John to write to these churches, I can't help but wonder what the people thought when they read or heard the words that were meant for them? For their own sake, those who were rebuked, I hope they repented. For those who were trying to stand firm, I hope they endured. But for all the churches, I have to think they were amazed to see how Christ read them like an "open book"; nothing was hidden. To some of them He even revealed things that had not yet taken place.
I wonder if anyone was surprised to hear that Christ knew what was going on, whether good or bad? I wonder if they were encouraged, those who were standing firm, that Christ Himself was cheering them on to win the race? I wonder how many felt that they were living out their existence in secret, or at least in isolation until their letter arrived?
My Letter Too
No, I have not received a personalized letter from Jesus pointing out my strengths or failures. But I am reminded that the letters these churches received was meant for me too. For as with any man, it would be easy for me to forget my first love, or to lose hope in the midst of persecution. Like anyone else I too could let my heart grow hard and welcoming to that hidden sin kept "secret" from the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit. And I do think that I need to keep sober so that I don't allow immorality to creep in unaware and deceive me into accepting that which so easily entangles. As I see happening to others, I think I also could have my eyes closed to my own spiritual death all the while thinking that I am alive. Yes, the encouragement to those believers to endure to the end is for me just as is the warning to not be lukewarm.
Like the seven churches, I also need to know that Christ reads my life like an "open book"; nothing in me is secret. He knows the good and the bad of what I am going through and He desires to work out His sanctification in me and help me endure to the end.
I have read through the seven letters to the seven churches many times and I have never seen my name written in any of them. Yet, I know they are for me too. I know that God, in His mercy and kindness, has provided a reminder of how easy it is to fall away from the faith and through these letters He is sounding the alarm to examine myself, repent, and endure to the end.
Will I heed His call to me? Will I take the report cards that He wrote so many, many years ago and see that He is calling to me also?
Yes, I will choose to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches; yes, I will choose to have eyes to see what the Spirit is saying to me.