“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
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. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (NIV)
Over thirty-five years ago, the late Chuck Colson, a former White House Counsel and founder of Prison Fellowship, wrote a timely and influential book entitled Loving God. In it, he presented a simple yet biblical premise concerning the life of every believer in Jesus: The way to love God is to obey God. Everything turns on our listening to God and doing what he says to do.
Jesus himself communicated to the church at Philadelphia (not Pennsylvania, but ancient Asia Minor, now present-day Turkey) affirming their faithful obedience of the message. Because of their steadfast observance of the gospel, the Philadelphian believers would be protected and loved by Jesus.
The church at Philadelphia did much more than offer a confession of loving God – they affirmed that confession through loving obedience to Jesus. In some Christian circles, we call this “living into our baptism.” That is, it is one thing to experience the sign of baptism as being set apart by the Holy Spirit for a relationship with God through the person and finished work of Jesus. It is quite another thing to “live into” this reality by knowing God’s Word and dutifully obeying it.
Human beings are complex creatures in their psychology, sociology, and history. However, there is at least one simple straightforward biblical truth we all can live into: To love God is to obey God. Therefore, it is quite necessary for us to spend extended times reading and knowing our Bibles well so that we can adhere to what it says.
“It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn’t want our success; He wants us. He doesn’t demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self.” –Chuck Colson
Gracious God, thank you for the message of good news that in Jesus Christ I have forgiveness of sins. Help to hold onto this gospel through all the vicissitudes of life so that obedience springs from my heart in all things by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.