Revelation 1:10-11 “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”
We Christians talk a lot about saving souls. But today I want us to think about saving churches.
The Archbishop of London this month made a statement that rocked Britain. He claimed that Christianity is vanquished in Great Britain.
Let me ask you a question which may shock to you: Is Christianity worth saving?
Of course there will be those who claim we are enjoying the greatest revival of all time, and they will disagree with the Archbishop.
My remarks today will make no impact on either the optimists or the pessimists. I want to speak to the rest of us.
Fact: “Christianity” is in trouble.
Question: Can we save it?
Of course, I do not mean “the Church!” And I do not mean nominal Christianity – the religion that masquerades as the Church. Every religion is at best man-made, and at worst demon-inspired.
Religion is man making his own way of salvation.
Real Christianity, the message of Christ, is a revelation from heaven, and has nothing to do with religion. Religion is often the cause of war.
Now the Church is not a collection of Christians. The Church is the drawing together of a body by Christ’s Spirit. Of course, the Church will never die. Jesus gave us that assurance.
But local churches do get in trouble, and from time to time cease to exist. In this series of messages I want to give some advice for dying churches.
In the Book of Revelation, John is told to write to each of the churches in Asia. In those letters, Christ gives us some pointers in how to save the churches.
You will notice these city names mean something. We can learn from their meanings!
(Do you know what your name means? I was once encouraging a group of believers to live up to the meaning of their names. To help them know the meaning of their particular name I had brought with me a list of name meanings. There was one surly lady in church that day, and I was amused when I read out the meaning of her name: it was “battle-axe”! She certainly had lived up to her name).
Lesson # 1: Be Beautiful!
Now the first church we shall look at in this series of messages is Ephesus.
But she had let herself go. The church at Ephesus had lost her first love.
Ephesus – meaning: “Desirable.”
When we get the beauty back in the churches, then we will see the sparkle come back!
Revelation 2:5 “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”
But how does the Church keep beautiful?
Look at these verses for some answers:-
1. The Church is made beautiful by God’s Word.
1 Chronicles 16:29 “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”
Listen to me: the Church is made beautiful by the washing of the Word. The written and the living Word of God.
She does not need makeup to hide the flaws, she needs a makeover.
When writing to the Ephesians Paul uses the allegory of the Church as a bride.
Ephesians 5:25-28 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.”
Holiness is the beauty of the Church! “..It should be HOLY and without blemish!”
2. The Church is made beautiful by God’s presence.
Psalms 26:8 “LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth.”
Is your Church that kind of place?
His honour is a two-edged sword. He should be honoured, He is worthy of honour.
Do you love this House of God because of its architecture? Its stained glass windows? Because it is historic?
Or do you love your it here because it is the place where God’s honour dwells? Where God is honoured.
Where we are honoured to have the blessing of His presence?