30 years of Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church’s existence provide many things for any sharp-eyed person to evaluate and comment. We are grateful for both cheering and corrective comments from God-fearing and faithful Christians. Many believers whom the Lord added to the church in the course of the last 30 years also brought much joy and assurance concerning the church’s testimony.
You might be wondering what critical concerns about our church could there be? Are we not sound in our doctrines? Are we not making every effort to preach the Gospel to the unsaved, and also to edify the believers? Do we not have a biblical form of worship? Still, can there be some aspects of our activities and ministries that the Lord is very displeased with?
The leaders and members of the church should not become complacent to the extent of not checking our individual lives and our service to see whether we please Him always. Our private affairs of life, our attitudes, our relationships, our activities, our dependence on God, our obedience to God, and all else must be evaluated before Him. “No stone should be left unturned” in checking whether we are pleasing the Lord.
Having studied the first three chapters of the book of Revelation in our recent Sunday afternoon GBI classes, a deep concern fills my heart about what the Lord would say concerning the spiritual state of our church. Out of the seven churches, five of them were sharply rebuked by the Lord. Two of them (Sardis and Laodicea) were in grave spiritual danger of being wholly discarded by the Lord because of their sins. Only the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia were not chided.
Consider the following words of the Lord’s rebuke to five of the churches in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3.
|Church||The Lord’s Rebuke||Sins|
|Ephesus||“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4).||Left its first love for the Lord and His people.|
|Pergamos||“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:14-15).||Embraced false doctrines, love for money and sexual immorality.|
|Thyatira||“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols” (Revelation 2:20).||Allowing a wicked woman to be the church’s teacher/ leader, sexual immorality and idolatry.|
|Sardis||“… thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.… I have not found thy works perfect before God” (Revelation 3:1-2).||Sought man’s applause, though the Lord denounced their activities as dead.|
|Laodicea||“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.… (for) thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:15, 17).||Delighted in wealth and fame, while disregarded its members’ spiritual impoverishment and wretchedness. Christ was excluded from their fellowship; still He knocked at the “door”, that they may open unto Him (Revelation 3:20).|
It is instructive to note that churches like Ephesus, Pergamos and Thyatira also received commendation from the Lord for various things they did rightly in His sight. Ephesus was a church that was applauded for labouring earnestly and patiently, and for its uncompromising stand on doctrines. The church in Pergamos was praised by the Lord for enduring persecution and poverty in the service of the Lord with an uncompromising stand against false teachers. Likewise, the church in Thyatira was commended by the Lord for its works, charity, service, faith and patience. Yet each of them had specific rebuke from the Lord for failing in specific areas (which are mentioned in the chart above).
Thus, it is crucial that we do not ‘rest on our laurels’, if there is any at all. Our chief concern ought to be whether we please the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, in all aspects of our faith, doctrine, life and ministry. People may be very pleased with our church, but is the Lord pleased with us? Nothing should be of more significant concern to the church than what the Lord has to say about us.
But, how can we know whether the Lord has a word of rebuke against us? The Lord has given very clear counsel (at the end of every one of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3) as to how all the churches should take heed to what the Lord has to tell them. He said, “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Christ’s messages in those letters are for all the churches in all places and in all ages, and the Spirit of God will let the churches know of the Lord’s counsel specifically for them. The Holy Spirit is sent to us, that we may be instructed of the Lord’s will (John 14:17; 16:13; 1 John 2:27). Let us yield to the Spirit who would teach us through His Word. Let us also pray for the preachers and teachers of God’s Word that they will be enabled by the Spirit to admonish us faithfully according to God’s will. Like the apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 2:13, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual”, may our teachers also be enabled by the Holy Spirit to teach us His will concerning us. Let us all, as a church of Jesus Christ, conduct ourselves at all times to please and honour our Lord, in all matters of life and ministry.
Let us remember, brethren, our church may be seen as having an excellent place of worship, running many well-organised programmes and even being economically sound. Yet, the Lord who searches our thoughts and motives may be very displeased. So, all leaders and members of the church must sincerely and earnestly seek to know the Lord’s estimation about us, that they may repent and renew themselves according to His admonition.