Revelation 8 - Comfort and Challenge

Revelation 2:1-5

Jesus praised the seven churches but also challenged them. We love to be praised, but few people like to be criticized. We need both comfort and challenge for spiritual growth.

Think about the way our brains develop. We need challenging things to think about to make our brains develop and stay healthy. But our brains also need rest. Comfort and challenge, praise and prodding.

Or think about the way muscles grow. Muscles grow by being challenged to exceed their current ability. But muscles also need time to recover. Comfort and challenge.

Or think about disciplining children. Studies have shown that kids raised by parents who are either too strict or too lenient both struggle in adulthood. But there's a happy place in the middle where parents provide boundaries and loving flexibility. Comfort and challenge, praise and prodding.

We know this about so many areas of life, but get suspicious if someone critiques our relationship to God or our morality. But we can’t grow without challenge. We need someone who is objective, fair, and compassionate to confront our sin. Jesus says in verse 19, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent." Jesus confronts our sin because he cares about us.

What does Jesus confront in these churches? All seven letters deserve close attention but we can summarize them with three problems. Today we mention one.

The first problem is a love failure. Ephesus is famously criticized because they “have forsaken the love you had at first” (2:4). This probably isn’t their love for Jesus - although that’s important - but their love for people. The scholar, Tom Wright, says, “ ‘Love’, in the early Christian sense, is something you do.” Jesus says in v.5, “Do the things you did at first.” Sometimes the Church gets big pushback from non-Christians but that’s never an excuse not to love people.

How do you respond to criticism?

O Lamb of God, you see all things and know all things - even me. Cheer me on in what is good. Challenge my sin. Grow my love. Amen.
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