Roy Osborne 2008
CHRIST IS LORD INDEED
Throughout the Bible, the messages from Heaven come in three forms. Whether it be prophecy, the letters of Paul or sermons and parables of Jesus, one or more of these three forms is used. The message may be instruction on how God wants us to live, as in the Sermon on the Mount. Instruction in righteousness is a key to being a child of the King. Or, there are warnings, rebukes and demands for repentance. Such was often the message of the prophets, graphically illustrated by Jeremiah who put an ox yoke about his neck and stood by the roadside crying out, "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?" He was decrying the sins and rebellion of Israel and was calling on them to repent. Finally, there are the great messages of promise...of redemption and hope. Messages of encouragement for those in difficult situations and promises of ultimate blessings to those who persevere.
Accompanying these messages is always the reminder that God is not speaking from some distant place, inaccessible to His children, but that He is very present and personally involved in our lives. Also, the reality of the grace and mercy of God is reflected in the constant presence of His Son and our Savior, the Lord of all, proclaimed either prophetically in the Old Testament, or in the reality of His life in the New Testament writings.
In the letters to the seven churches, we find commendation and encouragement to those under persecution, promises of eventual victory and a crown of glory. But also, there are condemnations of misbehavior, and warnings of the need to repent, or they will be without the Lord in their lives. Accompanying it all is the image of the glorious Lord, walking among the lampstands, with their spirits in His hand, and the mercy and love of the Father shown to them by His very presence and glory. But, for them and for us, it is important to know that these wonderful and eternal blessings are only for those who heed His words, take to heart His message, and with love and faith, place their trust and their lives in His hands.
To the great church at Smyrna, the One who is here called "The First and the Last" sends this great message of hope. This church had and was going to suffer much persecution. One might ask why God, who is all-powerful, allows his servants to suffer. You might as well ask why Jesus had to die on the Cross. The world we live in is a world of sin and death. It is a world of suffering and woe. Paul thanked God that he was permitted to suffer, recognizing that suffering separated his physical self from the spiritual man, which was made richer by the suffering of the bodily man. Every tear shed, every pain endured is a bit of that which separates us from the love of this world and makes us long for the world where the Father dwells in peace and love. Only those who long for heaven can understand this. Those who seek in Christianity earthly gain only grasp for cheap temporal riches while rejecting eternal treasures.
In the letter to Smyrna, the Lord said He knew those who claimed to be Jews but were not. He called them "the Synagogue of Satan" (the Slanderer). This is important for it emphasizes once again the importance of keeping Christ at the center of our faith. Paul, in the Roman letter, makes it very clear that not all the children of Abraham are true Jews. Only the children "of the promise",i.e., those who believe in the promised One, who was Jesus Christ, are counted the children of God. The seed of Abraham by faith are the true Jews. That is the message reflected here. The Jews had been leaders in the persecution of Christians here in Smyrna, as well as in other places, which is recorded in the book of Acts, where they fomented much trouble for Paul and other apostles. Let no one forget the words of Jesus: "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me"!
Here in Smyrna, the persecution centered in the refusal of the Christians to take the title "Lord" away from Jesus and give it to Caesar. Those who refused were killed. They typified the centricity of proclaiming Christ as Lord in our lives today. We may tolerate all manner of disagreement with others in matters of religion as long as they proclaim allegiance to Christ as Lord, but there can be no compromise nor tolerance for those who deny Him.