Jesus At The Center Of The Church
Faithfulness • Message 6
September 17, 2023
Jesus at the Center of Church – Philadelphia
A. Introduction (Revelation 3:7-8. Isaiah 22:22)
Today we are going to be looking at a church that for the most part really was faithful to God. It’s the church in Philadelphia.
And it starts out saying this…
Revelation 3:7-8 (NIV)
“These are the words of Him Who is holy and true, Who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name.”
Now notice it talks about the keys of David in verse 7 and a door that cannot be opened or shut. This is a reference to Isaiah 22:22.
Eliakim had the keys of David to open the door to treasure only he had the access. So, when he shuts the door, it’s shut, and when he opens it, no one can close it. God is saying He’s the One Who closes the door and He’s the One Who opens the door.
22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
How many of you are the type of people who make lists, and you categorize everything…? You make a list of the different types of lists you need to create that week. And the worst part of those lists is you force those lists upon us non-list people. Stop that it’s a sin… But you know what list people are, control freaks…
Most of us really want to be in control… But this verse is a reminder that we aren’t in control, and I was reminded that is a really good thing…
See, I was reflecting on how God brought our family to Brookwood. I’ve shared this with some of you in the small groups I visited. My last church had approached me about stepping into the role of senior pastor there. My wife asked me, are you ready to anchor into Texas? I said, yes, but there are 2 churches that if they called, I would have to push pause on the process here and explore. One was my home church in Tennessee and the other was Brookwood… fast forward two weeks, and both churches called and asked if I would explore the senior pastor position.
Our first process was the church in Tennessee, my home church, and my wife said that I was a shoo-in… you know the people there and it’s your home church… We did 8 or so interviews and not one of them went well… why? Because God was shutting that door. And you know what I did? I kept trying to force that door open… but with every interview, it just felt worse and worse… finally, they called me and said, we don’t think it is a good fit… and honestly, I felt relieved, and my only real regret is that I didn’t break up with them first…
Then we came out to Brookwood, and it was like God was giving us a favor that was beyond us… Why? Because He was opening a door… People have asked me, do you feel excited about being a senior pastor? Honestly, I don’t… I feel excited about Mexican food. What I feel is called… I have never felt more clearly called to anything in my life, which I think will sustain me in the difficult times and ground me in the good times. The reason I’m here is because God opened this door… and I count it as one of the greatest privileges of my life to be the senior pastor here.
It's like the great theologian Garth Brooks says, Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.
I’m learning God’s ways are always better than mine… even in difficult times. There are doors I have walked through that have been incredibly painful, but I can see God’s goodness and blessings. Whatever you are going through I urge you to give God complete control…
See, to be faithful to God we must give up the illusion of control…
And how do we do this…? Go back to verse 7…
Revelation 3:7 (NIV)
“These are the words of Him Who is holy and true, …”
The word for holy means different or unlike… God is unlike anyone or anything…
Now Jesus goes on to commend the church of Philadelphia….
This is the one church that Jesus really only commends. He doesn’t have anything bad to say…
B. Commends… (Revelation 3:8-10)
Revelation 3:8 (NIV)
“I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name.”
Let me give you some history city of Philadelphia.
You can visit this city today in modern-day Turkey… it’s called Alaşehir (Al-a-sha-hare).
It got its name… from King Attalus II of Pergamon who loved his brother so much that he was given the nickname Philadelphos – meaning the one who loves his brother … that’s where Philadelphia gets its name…
(used to have a jail cell in their stadium and a judge because they were that corrupt)… Is this who you support…. Come on Gene repent)
Philadelphia was built on the edge of a volcano made the soul fertile and lush… and it produced the best grapes in the area next to Rome… Think of this like the Nappa Valley of its day. This is a present-day picture…
Because of the wine, they actually worshiped the Greek god Dionysus. He was the god of wine, fertility and the god of the party…
I want to show you some dates just to help you understand what’s going on in this city…
AD 17 There was an earthquake that was so cataclysmic it destroyed a lot of the buildings and Rome exempted Philadelphia from tributes for 5 years…
The tremors were so bad after the earthquake that people moved out of the city for fear the city would collapse on them and this continued for a while.
Now Tiberius helped Philadelphia rebuild the city so in honor of his help they changed the name to Neo-Caesarea meaning the new city of Caesar.
AD 23 right after they got the city of Philadelphia rebuilt, another huge earthquake hit and destroyed the city again.
AD 70 at this point Roman Emperor Vespasian helped rebuild the city and in honor of this, the city changed its name to Flavia in honor of Vespasian’s family name…
Constant name change….
AD 92 Roman Emperor Domitian imposed a decree for Philadelphia to tear up 50% of their grape production and plant wheat… Now part of the reason they did this is Rome wanted to be the superior place for wine and Philadelphia was threatening them… This move devastated the economy.
City in Crisis
You have a city that’s been decimated by earthquakes, constant tremors causing them to move in and out of the city, constant name changes that created an identity crisis, they felt betrayed by Rome for having to remove their vineyards, and now they are in an economic crisis. Massive layoffs, crime would have increased, food shortages… This wasn’t a good thing.
Both literally and figuratively it was a city that was shaking.
That’s why in verses 8 and 10 Jesus says:
Revelation 3:8b (NIV)
“I know that you have little strength, yet… you have not denied My name!”
Revelation 3:10a (NIV)
“Since you have kept My command to endure patiently…”
He’s affirming their faithfulness. Their dependence on God. Because of the trails and problems they were walking through…
Anyone in this room exhausted…. Is anyone walking through some stuff in your life that’s got you worn out? This is what this city is going through. They are fatigued and tired but they kept Jesus at the center of their lives and the church.
And this is one of the few churches that Jesus really doesn’t confront them… So, I wanted to take a few minutes to affirm your faithfulness as a church, Brookwood. Now enjoy it, because next week is the church of Laodicea. Jesus spends the majority of the time confronting them… so we are going to spend the first 10 minutes confronting all your sin patterns and rebuking things… so come back next week.
Dedicated space with trained volunteers
Special friends offer a safe and fun environment for individuals of all ages with Special Needs. We have specialized rooms for various sensory needs. Special Friends makes us special because we cater to a community that is often forgotten. This not only allows a fun and safe environment for our SF but gives their families a time to worship while their kids are being cared for. We are growing each week and have 30-40 Special Friends.
We have a Hoedown coming soon for them. There will be dancing, a live band, hayrides, dinner, and karaoke for our Special Needs Community. Our Special Friends count down the days all year for this event and once again we are at a capacity of 160 guests.
The Café with Special Friends has been open for one year on September 24! In that year we’ve made $7619 after expenses. A portion of that money has already been given to one of our community partners David’s Table which exists to demonstrate the love of Jesus to adults with disabilities and their families. Every latte and bagel you buy helps provide activities such as art, gardening, fellowship and helps send our special friends to camp. With every chai tea and donut you buy you help Brookwood to partner with other special needs agencies in our community as well as to provide for individual needs within our own Special Friends Ministry.
Student ministry spends their spring break serving the shut-in community while others are enjoying their vacations our students are providing yard work and minor home repairs. They even built a deck!
Generations Group Home – (Brookwood Men/Men’s Ministry) completed 15 projects to allow these young men to see what being the hands and feet of Jesus looks like.
Feeding the Homeless- Brookwood families serve the first and fourth Saturday of each month at the River of Life Outreach Ministry. We serve a meal and share the gospel with families that are less fortunate in the downtown Greenville area. On average, there are 60 people served each month.
Pass it Forward provides our Brookwood families with essential household repairs and other home projects. There were 35 people helped through Pass it Forward so far in 2023. All of these folks are either elderly, single or parents of special needs children.
Women’s Car Clinic – Brookwood volunteers provided 20 women with basic car care and a car wash. There is a time of prayer and fellowship while the services are being done.
India - Through our Set Free Water of Life Initiative partnership, 5 deep wells were drilled in India bringing clean water to more than 25,000 people.
Additionally, through the faithful support of Brookwood, 11,000 pastors worked together to share the gospel with each person they encountered and planted 50,000 new churches across India and West Africa.
But I also think that the numbers can lose some of the humanity of our work, so here is also a story from one of the girls who was a part of the recent summer rescue: “My family arranged my marriage at 13. My husband fell ill with dengue fever just a year later and passed away. In my culture, this is one of the worst things that can happen to a girl. It’s believed that a widow is to be shunned. So, my father contacted a mine agent and sold me off to work in the mine. In just a matter of months, I went from being a young girl at home to being a wife, to becoming a slave. Work in the mine was horrible. The mine agents made us fear rest. And the nights were the worst. Every female worker was raped by the mine owner. What was done to us was heinous. But everything changed when the pastor partners came to rescue us, deactivating the electric fence and sneaking us out of that pit. The protection and love I am feeling at my new church home is the safest I’ve ever felt. They tell me about Jesus and His love for me. I’ll happily call this place my home.”
No, but Brookwood has been a faithful church… and I want you to know that because of your generosity, we are able to do so much. This wouldn’t be possible without you… You can read more about how your generosity impacts others…. And on the back are steps of faithfulness…
Let me close with this…
Revelation 3:11-12 (NLT)
“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of My God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of My God, and they will be citizens in the city of My God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from My God. And I will also write on them My new name.”
Victorious – the Greek word was nikōn which means victorious - the Greek goddess of victory was Nike.
But notice the word pillars… I found this such a prophetic picture for Brookwood Church…
Ancient pillars were built with ancient technology that had a foundation that was kind of floating. These pillars could withstand the shaking and the shifting seasons.
Do you know what’s around today… everything else has gone.
Listen, you think of Rome, all the glory and all the power, its rubble, and yet this little movement of a Jewish carpenter named Jesus is impacting the world…
In a culture that is shifting and declining… in a season where a lot of people are tired and discouraged… I want to remind you that the church of Jesus Christ will never crumble… it will never surrender… God is HOLY AND TRUE … HE will build His church, and the gates of hell and the gates of culture and compromise will not stand… GIVE YOUR LIFE TO WHAT MATTERS MOST… something that won’t spoil or fade… are you in?
True…Faith isn’t about my faithfulness to God, it’s about God’s faithfulness to me.