If Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in Revelation is relevant for today; that is, if our churches have the same flaws as they did (and I believe we do), then you may find this blog helpful.
When I read through the messages for each of the seven churches (excluding Smyrna and Philadelphia), I saw basically three kinds of sins: 1) a church that has neglected the spiritual life (the churches at Ephesus and Laodicea), 2) a church that appears to be Christian but is not (the church in Sardis), and 3) a church without much discipline, that tolerates wrong teaching (the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira).
We will look at the messages of these church according to these three groups, and I will show how I think some of our churches are in the same category as them, that is, how they have the same flaws.
1. Churches without spiritual zeal—that do not have a close relationship with God.
Ephesus, Revelation 2:2-4
‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
Laodicea, Revelation 3:15-16
‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. 16 ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
Many of our church have this sin. Many of our very conservative (and I think legalistic) churches have this sin, because they are very concerned with the truth and morality and doing what is right, but they neglect their own soul. They work so hard at trying to look good and look righteous but they neglect their relationship with God. They read the bible to seek the truth, but they don’t have much of a personal prayer life.
2. Churches that appear to be Christian but are not.
Sardis, Revelation 3:1-2
‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.
It appears to me that this is a church that on the outside appears to be Christian but on the inside is spiritually dead. This I think is like many of our very beautiful liturgical churches. People come to church on Sunday, all dressed up, but that is about all we see of their so called Christianity. They are Christian fakers. They are hypocrites. They may even be involved in all kinds of charity events, yet they don’t know God. Do you know churches like this?
3. Churches that are too loose in their discipline, that tolerate wrong teaching.
Pergamum, Revelation 2:13-15
‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 ‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality. 15 ‘Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
Thyatira, Revelation 2:19-20
19 ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. 20 ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
I’m afraid to say it, but this kind of sin is rampant in many of our churches today. Many of our new evangelical community churches are way too loose and undisciplined. The emphasis in these churches is to just get them in and worry about their morality later. In the process all kinds of wrong teaching is creeping in, even among the pastors. These are the churches that make a great effort to get the most popular Christian music, rock music that will appeal to the unbeliever—all in an effort to just get them in! The preaching is high on grace and having a “relationship with Jesus,” but a very weak effort is placed on holiness and purity. Do you know churches like this?