At Grace Church Barrow we’re journeying through Revelation 1-5 this term. As well as being actual churches in first-century Asia Minor (what is modern-day Turkey), I’m convinced the seven churches identified (chapters 2-3) are also representative of all churches in time and space. Therefore as we read Jesus’ letters to these churches there will be aspects of challenge and encouragement for all of us in each one.
So as we go through the seven letters to the seven churches, I thought it would be personally helpful to myself to write a prayer responding to each letter each week from the perspective of being the pastor of that church…
The fourth letter in Revelation is to the church in Thyatira (2:18-29). You can read it here.
You are the Son, enthroned by the Father to reign over all the nations (v18, 27). You have eyes are like blazing fire. Your feet are burnished bronze. And so you see to the heart of our spiritual state and you stand unshakable amidst both the rising and falling of your churches, as well as the plots and schemes of the evil one.
And as you turn to us, you find us busy and active (v19). We are full of good events in our diary, new programmes on our term card, and fruitful statistics on our annual report. There is love and faith and service and perserverance. We have grown from those early days. We have seen professions of faith and baptisms and exciting ministries being born.
Yet you call us out for tolerating in our midst what you find intolerable (v20). If we’re honest, we’ve become lax. Tolerance is seen as such a virtue in our age – and in our eagerness to welcome and encourage, it seems I have permitted teaching that leads to sin and idolatry.
How naive I’ve been. How blind to the real enemy within. I’ve tolerated people distorting the gospel and preaching a supposedly ‘Christian’ message of ‘freedom’, which has actually led people into lifestyles that don’t please you (v20):
‘You don’t need to keep those standards…’
‘If you’re really spiritual, you’d understand that God doesn’t care about being so literal…’
‘Just follow your heart. After all, Jesus has set you free from rules…’
They all sound so ‘Christian’. And yet as I reflect again, it is clear such so-called ‘deep’ teaching (v24) is idolatrous. It is ugly and scandalous and twists the wonder of grace into a license to live as our own desires would have us live. How did we let this happen?!
Be merciful to us. Just as you have given these false-teachers time to repent, thank you for this warning to us (v21). Your call to repent is always an act of patient grace. As much as we can say, we are truly sorry.
We hear the words of your Spirit in this letter. Where we have become entranced by teachings about a so-called ‘deeper knowledge’ of you, bring us back to reality. Bring us back to the gospel. To hold on to your teaching until you come again (v24-25).
We tremble at the prospect of your promised judgment for those who abuse their positions of authority and distort your message and lead your people into sin (v22-23). We stand afresh in awe of you, King Jesus, the one with the Father’s authority to judge the nations but also the one who graciously grants to those who endure the morning star, yourself, for one day you will appear in glory to usher in a new age (v27-28). Help us stay faithful in the mean time as we wait for your appearing.
To you be the glory in the church and amongst the nations,