On Sunday we will look at the 2nd letter of the 7 letters to the 7 churches in Revelation. You can find this letter in Revelation 2:8–11. It is the letter to the church at Smyrna. I encourage you to join us at the corner of LaFox Rd and Route 38 at 8:30am or 10am. Bring your Bible with you so you can follow along. If you don’t have a Bible we have plenty to share. My pray is that this message will be relevant and practical in helping you to grow and mature in your walk with Christ.
These letters we are examining are comforting and convicting at the same time. They inspire great faith and courage. They celebrate our faithfulness and challenge our waywardness. The truths they convey spoke to the 7 historical churches addressed in the letters but still speak to us today. There is a timeless quality to their message.
The invitation of Jesus is to hear and to understand what he is saying to the churches. Then he invites us to follow him. As we contemplate what it means to follow him, there are a few themes repeated throughout these letters. I will share briefly with you now, but go into greater detail on Sunday.
1) Following Jesus does not make life less difficult. Following Jesus does not make all our problems go away. We sing the songs about how much Jesus loves us. It is important to recognize that truth, but it is also important to know that Jesus challenges us. Jesus is not about giving us a less difficult life, but a more full life.
2) Following Jesus will lead us to greater challenges and higher aspirations. Following Jesus is not always comfortable nor is it convenient. In fact, I might go as far as to say that it is never comfortable or convenient. To follow Jesus means being led down roads which we would rather not go, making sacrifices we would rather not make, and leaving behind what we would rather not leave behind. For the Christians who originally received these letters, following Jesus often meant loosing their jobs, their families, and their lives. But they were willing to do so because they knew that following Jesus meant living for a cause that was greater, more lasting, and more fulfilling than they had been living for before.
3) Following Jesus requires courage produced by faith. The greatest challenge to following Jesus is that of fear. This is Satan’s #1 tactic to get us off track. Fear prevents us from walking into the destiny God has set for us. Think about anything that God led you to do that you did not do. What held you back? It was fear. There is a reason you decided not to go on that mission trip. There is a reason you did not put your tithe in the offering plate. There is a reason that you failed to call and pray with that person God put on your heart. There is a reason you failed to greet that person you did not recognize on Sunday morning. We’ve got our excuses, but behind it all is fear. There is a reason that “do not fear” is the one thing that is most often commanded in the Bible. God knows what holds us back.
4) You are either following Jesus or you are not. You are either all in or all out. There is no in-between. You are in the boat or out of the boat. It is yes or no. There is no maybe so. Jesus wants all of you, not some of you. It is impossible to half follow. Are you in or are you out?
5) You will not find the strength within. Faithfulness will not be produced by trying harder. Faithfulness is produced out of a deep and abiding relationship with the Savior. Get to know him. Love him. Hear him. Learn from him. Receive him.
So what does it mean to follow Jesus? I would love to hear from you. How are you challenged to follow Jesus? What has it meant for your life? How has it changed you? What has been your struggles? What have been your victories? How have you seen the power of God revealed?