It may seem presumptuous to “speak” for Jesus on if He is pleased with your church. But I assure you it doesn’t have to be. We have in Revelation Jesus evaluating earthly churches on their service to Him and others. Sixty years has gone by since Jesus was resurrected and taken to heaven. And though we are much more than sixty years from the time He was taken up, His way of evaluating churches has not changed. I want you to notice four truths from the letters to the seven churches from Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
Why Jesus does not praise the churches
It is insightful for us to see what Jesus doesn’t praise these seven churches for. He doesn’t praise them for having a nice building or a manicured lawn. Though we certainly want to be good stewards and represent His name well, our facilities are not on the top of Jesus’ list. He doesn’t praise them for large Sunday morning attendance or numerous children in a youth group. He doesn’t praise them for the latest technology, or for whether they have pews or chairs. He doesn’t praise them for a large social media presence. The American church, because of the financial blessings we have had, often forget what the Church in fact is. If we do have nice buildings and large attendance, that can be a blessing, though this is certainly no for sure sign of a church that Jesus is pleased with.
Why Jesus does praise the churches
What gets heaven’s attention? Over and over Jesus praises churches for their deeds. The good works that a church is involved in. He praises them for their labor, for perseverance. For going through trials faithfully. God praises churches for hating evil. Revelation 2:6 says, “Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (NASB). God likes it when churches hate evil. So much for the American Jesus who is always nice!
Jesus praises a church for their faithfulness and tells them they will have people who will die. Jesus isn’t going to deliver them, but He will give them the crown of life (2:10). He praises churches for their love, and that their deeds are greater now than they were (2:19). What does Jesus love in churches? We can glean that He loves a church that serves one another. A church that remains faithful. One that loves their community, no matter how different the people may be to them. A church more concerned with souls than messes. A church that loves truth, biblical teaching, spreads the gospel, and despises evil
Why Jesus rebukes the churches
Jesus hasn’t changed. As He rebuked religious people while on earth, He still does so from heaven. He rebukes a church because they have left their first love. What kind of church could she be who loves other things more than Jesus? Or doesn’t love people? Love is what we must have. But, notice, it is a real, biblical love. In chapter 2 verse 14 Jesus rebukes a church for false teaching. Doctrine matters. What a church teaches matters to God. But then he rebukes a church for lack of church discipline. Listen to 2:20, “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (NASB). Did you see what Jesus says? He said that they “tolerate the woman Jezebel.” Why hadn’t this church taken care of this? Were they too “loving”? This isn’t a case of a woman who had struggles and yet wanted help. No, this was rebellion and a refusal to repent (see the next verse). He rebukes a church for having a “name” but being dead. Jesus also rebukes a church for being lukewarm and then warns them of their danger of being spewed out of His mouth.
Brothers and sisters, take heed to these sober warnings! Let us not be fools!
What Jesus tells the churches to do
But Jesus doesn’t leave them without telling them what to do. In a few cases He had no rebukes for a church. And He tells them to continue being faithful and also to hold on to what they have. But the overall message to the churches is one of repentance. Repent! To begin to do the things you once did (2:5). To repent, or Jesus will come quickly and make war with them with the sword of His mouth (2:16). What does He say to one church? That unless they repent He will remove their church (2:5).
Our Lord is not offering suggestions or giving us vain warnings! God forbid! He is calling us all to be faithful, loving, bold Christians and churches. To love what He loves and hate what He hates. Would Jesus be pleased with your church? Would she be in danger of a severe rebuke from our Lord? May God help us all.