seven letters  philadelphia part II

"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" (Revelation 3:8 NIV).

One of the first things that Jesus says in His letter to the church at Philadelphia is "I know your deeds." This phrase may sound familiar because this is the fourth time that Jesus has used it in His messages to the churches of Revelation chapters two and three. The fact that Jesus has repeated this statement four times in His messages to these churches should serve as a good reminder of the fact that Jesus is aware of everything we do, even if we think no one else is. The Bible's book of Hebrews talks a little more about this when it says...

"He knows about everyone, everywhere. Everything about us is bare and wide open to the all-seeing eyes of our living God; nothing can be hidden from him to whom we must explain all that we have done. But Jesus the Son of God is our great High Priest who has gone to heaven itself to help us; therefore let us never stop trusting him" (Hebrews 4:13-14).

He then follows up by saying "...I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut." Now what does this term "open door" refer to and what does it mean for Christians today? Well, let's see if we can make this a little more understandable with a quick illustration: Let's say that you have an airplane ticket to travel from Montreal to London. Now the fact that you have a plane ticket doesn't necessarily guarantee that you will be on board when that flight takes off, does it? After all, people miss flights for various reasons all the time. This is because a ticket doesn't assure that you'll be on board when the flight leaves- it only represents the opportunity to do so. 

Well in a similar way, the phrase "...I have placed before you an open door..." means I have given you an opportunity. An "open door of opportunity" that Jesus provides is like a "ticket" that allows us to be involved as God's representatives in doing the things that He wants to do. And just like the Biblical church at Philadelphia, Jesus also presents His followers with open doors of opportunity today. You see, there will never be another person exactly like you and because of this, there may be certain unique opportunities that might be open to you and no one else. These opportunities could include almost anything, depending, of course on your willingness to be available for God to use you in the work that He wants to do. Since there may be no one else who can fully take advantage of the open doors that Jesus provides, this potentially makes you very important in God's plans.

Now someone with an airplane ticket will usually lose their chance to use it if they don't take their flight during the time allowed. However, the opportunity for the church in Philadelphia was like an unlimited ticket: "...I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut." In other words, nothing could close off the opportunity that Jesus opened for them. Of course, just because a door is open to you doesn't necessarily mean that God will make you walk through it. While nothing can shut a door that Jesus has opened for you, it is possible to waste an opportunity that God offers you by ignoring or disregarding it. It's also possible to become so preoccupied with other things that you walk right by a door of opportunity that Jesus has opened for you.

There's something else too. Remember that the door that Jesus speaks of here is an open door. Unfortunately, some Christians have gotten themselves into trouble by trying to go through (or pry open) a door that Jesus didn't open for them. One area where this seems to happen a lot is in relationships with the opposite sex. You see, it's possible for someone to want to be in a relationship with another person so much that they ignore the warning signs indicating that God has closed the door to any romantic involvement. It's always better to look for those doors that Jesus has opened for you rather than try to force an opportunity that Jesus is not leading you to pursue, especially in the area of relationships.

So despite the fact that the church at Philadelphia didn't have a lot of strength, they did excel in two key areas. The first area was faithfulness or as Jesus says, "...you have kept my word." It's clear that these people knew what the Bible said and were serious about living in a way that showed respect for God and His Word. While others may have ignored the Bible's teachings, these people made sure to apply the Scriptures in their daily lives. Secondly, Jesus also said that these Christians had "...not denied my name." You see, the authorities in those days often tried to get Christians to curse Jesus by threatening them with death but the Christians in Philadelphia wouldn't do it. Instead, they gave us a good example to follow by backing up what they believed by the way they lived. 

"Listen! As for that group that belongs to Satan, those liars who claim that they are Jews, but are not, I will make them come before you and bow down at your feet. They will all know that I love you." (Revelation 3:9 TEV).

Apparently, there were people in Philadelphia that claimed to follow God but really had more in common with His enemy. While these people didn't fool Jesus, it does bring to mind an important warning that He once gave to His disciples...

"Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as 'Lord,' but still won't get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

As Jesus assured the Philadelphian Christians, everyone will eventually find out who is really serious about honoring God and who isn't. While there may be some who mock or attack Christianity today, those people will eventually have to admit that it was right to follow Jesus. In the meantime, those who love and respect God should remember the words of 1 Corinthians 8:3...

"But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him" (NKJV).

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Except as indicated, all Scriptural references taken from The Living Bible, 1971, Tyndale House Publishers


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