Come with us on a tour of Jesus' portraits of seven different churches, and see if you can find the church that you attend.
The first one is Ephesus.
This is a hard-working church, performing a multitude of charitable works and perfecting the religious duties and observances of Christendom – so much so that they have substituted ritual for personal relationship. While Christ commends them for their hard work and stand against evil, He tells them to repent and return to their first love relationship with Him, or risk permanent removal from His presence.
The second portrait is of Smyrna.
This church is very poor in regards to earthly edifices and resources, but rich in their relationship with Christ. Many had looked down on them, even to the point of persecuting them. Their future appears gloomy in the natural, but Christ has pledged to honor them with a crown if they will continue faithful to Him – even if faithfulness results in physical death.
The third portrait is of Pergamum.
They dwell in the midst of evil people but have remained true, even in the face of death. The problem is that they have allowed compromise and seekers of self-glory to enter their midst. The Lord instructs them to remove this compromise from their midst, or He will come and cut it out with the sword of His word.
The fourth portrait is of Thyatira.
They are continuing to endure in their ministry of love and are growing in number and ministry, but they have allowed fornication and idolatry in their midst. Whether this is in a natural or a spiritual sense is not specified, but we know that both are obnoxious to God. We are to maintain sexual purity as outlined in God's word and must not rationalize away any part of God's concept of one man for one woman with sexual intimacy limited to marriage, or we will be faced with God's chastisement of suffering. Also we must be careful to put no person or thing in the place of excessive devotion or admiration that belongs only to God – not our family, work, recreation, or even our church and ministry of compassion.
The fifth portrait is of Sardis.
They have a past history of being on fire for God but have become complacent and quit growing in the Lord. They are instructed to repent and wake up or else Christ will come and they will miss Him.
The sixth portrait is of Philadelphia.
They are small and limited in finance and/or numbers but they have remained faithful. Christ promises He will exalt them in due time and establish them as a pillar in the house of God.
The seventh portrait is of Laodicea.
They have become lukewarm and are depending upon their own abilities and resources rather than looking to God. God instructs them that they must repent and look to God for that which is of true value, then they will be allowed to sit with Jesus upon His throne.
To each of these churches are promised blessing and a special place in heaven if they will correct the wrong and build upon the right, but to each is also promised punishment and possible removal from the presence of Christ if they refuse to respond to His correction. Although this is an apparent message to the church world and it is easy to start pointing fingers and criticizing, let's reflect on a simple truth for a moment. Churches are made up of individuals and can become no greater than the individuals that make up the church. An old saying asks, "If every member of my church were just like me, what kind of church would my church be?" Which of the above portraits picture your life with Christ? What weaknesses do you need Christ to help you change, and what strengths do you need Christ to help you develop that Christ may be glorified in your life and that the church you attend will better become the portrait that Christ would have it to be?
Exie Barber was brought up in an Assemblies of God pastor's home. He was ordained by the Kansas District Council of the Assemblies of God in 1978. Currently, he serves as senior pastor at the Assembly of God in Ellsworth, Kansas and writes for the adult Radiant Life curriculum. Recently, he became an adjunct faculty member for Global University. He earned his B. A. in Christian Education from Southwestern Assemblies of God College in 1987 and his M.A. in Christian Education from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.