Friday, August 18, 2006

Exhortation To Smyrna

Right now my work is in the middle of our busiest season, and now is the busiest of the busiest at the hotel where I work at, so I am really not able to put the time into studying and writing that I like to do. Though I remember that I have some excerpts from several longer studies that would be worth posting, as an exhortation and encouragement to my readers.

The following is taken from Smyrna: The (Persecuted) Suffering Church

Revelation 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

The first and the last. The Lord Jesus Christ was the one who had the preeminent place in these believers' lives. Colossians 1:15 and 18 say, Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence. Preeminence means "first in rank or influence." The church in Smyrna was able to overcome because Jesus Christ had the first place in each of their lives. Does He have first place in yours? Does Jesus have first place in every area of your life, or just the parts that you've decided to give Him, the leftovers so to speak? The word firstborn is the Greek word prototokos. Protos means "foremost (in time, place, order, or importance)." These verses in Colossians teach us that Jesus is the most important person in all creation, greater than every creature He ever created. He is the most important person that ever rose from the dead. Is Jesus Christ the foremost person in your life? Does He have the priority when it comes to your schedule? Does He have first place in your day to day life? Does He come first before your family and friends, before your dreams and goals? Is Jesus the most important person in your life? If you are saved, He should be!

Matthew 6:33 says, But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Do you give the Lord the first part of your day in prayer and Bible reading? Do you give Him the first day of your week by attending a solid, Bible-believing church? Do you give Him your firstfruits? This is an Old Testament word that referred to the tithe (10% of your gross income), which were the first fruits gathered when the harvest began to come in. (See Proverbs 3:9-10) He wants all these, but He especially wants the priority, the first place in your life. He wants to be your first love. (See Revelation 2:4) Is He?

"Let me shoot a quiver full of interrogatory arrows into your heart. Has Jesus the supreme place in your desires? Do you esteem all things but loss in comparison with the excellency of Jesus Christ, your Lord? Is He to you as a city of refuge to the manslayer? Is He to you as a spring of water in a dry place? Is He to you as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land? Is He to you, having had experience with Him, a refuge and fortress, a very present help in time of trouble? Is everything in Jesus desirable in your eyes? Do you desire to obey His commandments? Do you desire to have His spirit? Are His holiness and government, His cross and sufferings desirable to you? Are you longing at all times for Him? Have your eyes been opened to see His "want and worth?" Is His righteousness the righteousness you desire? Do you want to do His will - no matter what it may be? Are you willing for Him to dictate wholly your plans, actions, and speech? Is He really your Lord?" (James Crumpton, The Seven Sayings On The Cross)

Jesus was also the author and finisher of their faith. They endured the trials they were facing by keeping their focus on Christ and what He endured to save them. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. The word author is from a Greek word (Strong's #747) meaning "chief leader; also rendered captain, prince." In other words, He was the leader of their salvation, the pioneer who blazed the trail they were to follow. (See also Hebrews 5:8-9, though the word here for author is #154, meaning "causer, ie. He that causes; the agent by which an effect is produced," in this case our salvation.) The word finisher (Strong's #5051) means "completer, consummater." Jesus not only was the focus of their salvation, He was the only person who could bring their faith to completion. He will do that for every one who believes in Him. Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Which was dead, and is alive. Here Jesus is identifying with the church in Smyrna, by stating that He has already gone through what they are about to face, in this case, death. (See Hebrews 2:9) The fact that He has risen again is proof that those who believe in Him need not fear death, because on some future day they too will also be resurrected. (See John 11:25) John 14:19 says, Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more; but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also. 1 Corinthians 15:20 states, But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. While there were other believers that God had raised throughout the Old Testament and during Jesus' personal ministry, Jesus was the first person to ever be raised immortal, never more to die. This He did by His own power! Death could not hold Him in the grave because He was God Almighty manifested in the flesh! (See Acts 2:23-24) Just as the firstfruits of the crop indicated that there was a full harvest yet to come, even so Jesus was the firstfruits from the dead, indicating that all who truly believed on Him for salvation would one day rise from the dead as well! For the believer, death is referred to as a sleep, a brief transition that carries us into the presence of the Lord. (See Philippians 1:21-23 and 2 Corinthians 5:6-8)

Romans 5:10 states, For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. This is referring to Jesus’ resurrected life in Heaven. Yes, He died on the cross for our sins, was buried in the tomb for three days, but He arose triumphantly from the grave and is alive forevermore! Praise the Lord! Jesus is now glorified in Heaven with the glory He had before His incarnation. One day, when He returns in His glory, all true believers will be made like Him. We will then have immortal, glorified bodies for all eternity. (See Romans 8:29-30; 1 John 3:2; and Philippians 3:20-21)

He is our faithful High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses and afflictions because He has gone through anything we could or will ever have to face in this life.

Hebrews 2:14-18 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.

Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

The words succour and help from the above passages are from two Greek words (Strong's #s 996 and 997) meaning literally "to run to the cry." Whatever trials or afflictions you are going through in life, call out to Jesus in faith for help, and the Bible teaches He will run to your cry. That's comforting! I don't have to face any trial alone. Jesus can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. This phrase is from the word sumpatheo, where we get the word sympathy from. He will have compassion on us, so let us run to Him in all our afflictions.

August 31st/04
Jerry Bouey

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