I don’t know about you but I have always hated any kind of exam, whether as a kid or now in my senior years. But King David brings to our attention the only exam that matters in the light of eternity. When we turn to the Old Testament we can read what King David said when he beckoned to be examined:
“Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.” (Psalms 26:2 NKJV)
Then as we turn to the very last book of the Bible, we learn how the Apostle John encounters Jesus as He examines the seven churches of Asia Minor. From this there is so much that we can learn as Jesus examines these seven churches as recorded in Revelation 2 and 3. First, these were real churches that existed at the time with real attributes. Second, these churches represent seven different time periods in the church age. Third, we can apply it to ourselves when we look in the mirror and examine ourselves of how we lineup with the attributes of these churches, both good and bad. Fourth, we can look at any individual church and see how it lines up. And fifth, we can look at any domination and see how it lines up.
While studying Revelation 2 and 3, my attention is first drawn to two of the churches in particular. They are Ephesus and Thyatira:
“I know all the things you (Ephesus) do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first.” (Revelation 2:2-4 NLT)
“I know all the things you (Thyatira) do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things. But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols.” (Revelation 2:19-20 NLT)
Notice with Ephesus that they were commended for their adherence to doctrine, but were not loving the way they should. Whereas Thyatira was commended for their love, but strayed from doctrine. Wow, imagine combining the good traits from both—being not only loving but also true to the Bible both as a church and as an individual!
Next my attention is drawn to the church of Laodicea:
“I know all the things you (Laodicea) do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Revelation 3:15-16 NLT)
Jesus wished His people of Laodicea were hot (like the therapeutic hot spring waters of nearby Hierapolis) or cold (like the refreshing cold spring waters of nearby Colossae). Lukewarm is not some spiritual condition in between hot and cold at all. Lukewarm stands in opposition to both hot and cold. So, for Jesus, hot and cold were both genuinely good conditions, and only lukewarm was a bad condition. In other words, in these verses, hot and cold are used as synonyms to refer to strong, passionate, remarkable faith. Lukewarm refers to unremarkable faith.
Wow, between Ephesus, Thyatira, and Laodicea we learn straight from Jesus that we must not only love and be true to the Bible and doctrine, but we must live a strong and passionate faith.
Now let’s turn to and observe what John says about Jesus’ eyes especially:
“His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.” (Revelation 1:14 NKJV)
Jesus’ eyes cut through everything, past all the facades and disguises. He examines us as we truly are. There will be no fooling Him on Judgment Day. Before it is too late, our prayer must be the same as King David, “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart!”
It doesn’t stop at the individual level. So many churches and ministries need to do the same. They have gone astray. Legalism, mysticism, compromise, blurring the lines, twisting scripture, greed, and false promises have invaded them. But Jesus warns:
“Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.” (Revelation 2:5 NLT)
I am extremely careful of what I listen to and what I read. It must line up with the Word of God. There are no new revelations. Discernment must be exercised. Paul makes it clear not to elevate any minister or ministry:
When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. (1 Corinthians 3:4-5, 7 NLT)
No minister or ministry is perfect in all their teachings, nor are their lives perfect. But I have found a few who have been faithful and relatively sound over the years. They have challenged me to higher ground and most of their teachings are sound enough to be blessed by. They range from Baptist, to Methodist, to Presbyterian, to Christian and Missionary Alliance, to Calvary Chapel, and to Pentecostal backgrounds:
Dwight L Moody
Paul gives us the best advice he possibly could concerning the list of who we listen to or read from:
“Do not quench the Spirit. Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19, 21 NKJV)
Anyone who believes everything that is preached from a pulpit without going home and checking it out is setting themself up to be a victim of deception or false doctrine. This is regardless of whether it is someone over an international ministry or whether it is someone in your local church.
Let me make something perfectly clear. Just as it is a blessing to be taught biblical knowledge by an international teacher, we must also be tuned into the anointed preaching and teaching of our own local church. This is how the Holy Spirit addresses the specific needs through specific messages to the local body.
I will finish by reiterating what I brought out in this article about three of the churches from Revelation 2 and 3: We must be loving, we must be true to the Bible and doctrine, and we must live a strong and passionate faith that is willing to be persecuted and martyred if need be. But, regardless of where you stand, are you ready to be examined by the fiery eyes of Jesus?