On Churches and Church Members

They were riding the wave. Part of a winning team. Their stats were all going the right way. Love and faith? Service and patient endurance? All trending upwards. Their “latter works exceeding the first.” As a whole, things were going great for the church.

But the One who walks in the midst of the churches “has eyes like a flame of fire” and looks beyond the team stats and takes note of each player’s play. His “feet are like burnished bronze” and so, while pleased with the numbers posted, He is just as concerned with testing each individual’s contribution and is ready to provide “coaching” were needed.

Hovering over the letter to the church at Thyratira this morning (Rev. 2:18-29). Kind of complex. Things going well in so many ways. And yet, they weren’t.

“’I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.”

(Revelation 2:20 ESV)

While their love and faith were growing, they permitted a false teacher in their midst. While they served well, while they kept on keeping on, they failed to restrain “the deep things of Satan” (2:24) from permeating the culture of their fellowship.

They let slide the deceptive and destructive suggestion that you could be a holy people and still engage in unholy practices. By doing nothing, they gave platform to a way of thinking that said you could serve a holy God and still eat food sacrificed to idols. They put up with a seductress in their midst who persuaded others that they could have their kingdom cake and partake of the world’s unclean delicacies too.

Not how it works, says the Son of God. The collective end would not justify the individual means. For it’s not churches, and their overall sanctification and service, that will be judged at the bema seat of Christ, but church members (2Cor. 5:10, 1Cor. 3:10-15). Being part of a growing, happening local fellowship couldn’t cover for a lack of personal fidelity and faithfulness. Solid, morning services on Sunday didn’t excuse the fact that saints were being seduced on Monday. Good teaching on the weekend, couldn’t simply offset complacent tolerance of Jezebel’s teaching during the week.

The Lord in our midst reminds us that, while He is pleased when a church is doing all the right stuff, He is more concerned that members of the church are maturing in the right way.

And all the churches will know that I am He who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

(Revelation 2:23b ESV)

He searches mind and heart. He cares about purity of thought and purity of motive. At an individual level. We should too.

He is a jealous God (Ex. 34:13-15). He will not tolerate playing fast and loose with the ways of Jezebel–either as a church or as a church member. We shouldn’t either.

Might we be churches that post all the right numbers for the right reasons — growing in metrics of grace. Might we also be church members that pursue the kingdom only, and not the world. That love Him only, and no other.

By His grace. For His glory.

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