When someone mentions the Hallmark Channel, he immediately thinks of Christmas, because it feels like Christmas and the Hallmark Channel have essentially become one in the same. I am sure it would not surprise you that the Hallmark channel is the most watched cable channel during the months of November and December, especially among 18 to 54-year-old women. According to reports in 2019 about 100 million people watched at least one Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel. According to an article on the website av.com Why are Hallmark Christmas Movies So Addictive? the author writes, “If you happen to flip on the Hallmark Channel at any point between late October and early January, you’ll be transported to an alternate dimension that looks vaguely like our own but where the teeth are whiter, the snow is faker, and the unbridled passion for Christmas is frighteningly forceful. No one in a Hallmark Christmas movie can just casually enjoy the holiday season—they must either have a manic enthusiasm for Christmas or their lack of zeal must be a major plot point to be resolved.”
She continues “films range from a successful workaholic planning a Christmas charity event with a hot chef to a successful workaholic planning a Christmas charity event with a hot firefighter. (Or for example) Christmas At Graceland, meanwhile, is about a successful workaholic singing at a Christmas concert with a hot music promoter.”
I do not go out of my way to watch Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel, but it may surprise you that one my favorite movies is WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. In fact, you would be surprised to know that I love watching romantic comedies. I truly am a sucker for romantic comedies (rom com) and even tear-jerking love stories. Now, I need to show my man card and say that I also love a good of horror, action, and science fiction movie but… BUT… in my book, nothing beats a good ole story about a man and woman falling in love. Yes, I even get my fair share of rom com’s by watching the Hallmark Channel… I make this confession so as to say that I really love the Old Testament story of Ruth because the story itself makes for a perfect romantic movie.
The book of Ruth is a short story nudged in between Judges and 1 Samuel. It is a simple story that is told in a direct way probably from female perspective. One can read it at both a surface (casual) level and a more in-depth level. At the surface it is a love story between a man and a woman. But at a deeper level, it is not just a love story between a man and woman, but also a love story with the underlying truth of God’s love for his children that is displayed to us through the act of redemption.
It is a story of…
We are unsure of the date for writing this book; some have suggested anytime between the first and second century B.C. We do know the approximate time the events of this story take place, per the opening line in the first chapter; during the time when the Judges ruled (prior to Israel’s monarchy). Most likely towards the end of the rule of Judges. Geographically the story begins in Bethlehem, then moves to the land of Moab and concludes back in Bethlehem.
Overview of the Main Characters of Ruth
There are three key characters and four minor characters who all have some sort of role in the story. They are as follows…
Ruth – A Story of Romance and Redemption
Vs 1 – 2: “During the time of the Judges…”
This is the period time prior to the Israel’s monarchy. The time of the judges was when judges were the men and women of God who delivered Israel out times of trouble.
Vs 2: “A man went to sojourn in the country of Moab… and his wife”
The name of the man was Elimelech (“My God is King”) and his wife is Naomi (“lovely, delightful”) and they were from Bethlehem. When a famine occurred in the land, they took the 70-mile journey to Moab to live.
Their sons: Mahlon (“weak or sick”) and Chilion (“failing”) were the sons who married Moabite women (Ruth and Orpah).
Moabites - The Moabites were descended from Lot and his oldest daughter (Gn. 19:37), They were a people group who had been hostile towards when the Israelites had approached from Egypt after the exodus (Nu. 21:29). The god of Moab was Chemosh and it is believed that Chemosh and Moloch were one in the same. Child sacrifice was a form of worship to the god Chemosh. It is believed to be early in the period of the judges when Eglon King of Moab had invaded and dominated the Israelites for eighteen years (Jdg. 3:14). Needless to say the Moabite women were not followers of Yahweh at the time. These marriages were, in fact, interracial marriages.
Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when Naomi’s husband dies and soon thereafter her two sons die as well. She was is alone, a childless widow.
(Ruth 1:6 – 18)
Vs 6: When Naomi hears in Moab that the famine is over in Judah, she decides to return to her homeland. She starts her trek back on the road to Judah.
On the way she tells her daughter’s-in-law to go back to their homes, families, and gods so she could return to Bethlehem. They refused. Naomi says to the girls, “May the Lord grant each of you rest in the house of a new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly. She believed there was no future for these young women in her homeland. According to the CSB Study Bible, “Naomi assumed that no other family in Bethlehem would be interested in marrying Moabite women, and she emphasized the certainty of there being no other sons from her own line who could fulfill the role of levirate marriage.” At first both daughters said they wanted to go with her, but she convinced them that she was of no use to them. She addresses the girls tenderly as though they are her own. “But Naomi replied, ‘Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands?’” Orpah was persuaded to leave, but Ruth was not so easily persuaded as she shows her loyalty to Naomi as she clings to Naomi and insists on going with her the word “cling” is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:24 to describe the marriage bond.
Vs 15: Naomi tries to convince Ruth that since her sister-in-law has chosen to return to her country and gods that she should do the same.
Vs16, 17: Naomi urges Ruth to go back to her people and to her gods but Ruth insists on staying with Naomi; she says, “Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” Ruth’s response shows her fierce love and loyalty to her mother-in-law. Ruth fully realizes and understands what her commitment to Naomi means; she is going to be cut off from her own people Moab, and she will adopt Naomi’s people as her own. Her decision also has religious implications of which she is fully aware. Naomi’s God (Yahweh,) will be her God (not Chemosh). This does not mean that she has no religious principles or that she rates friendship above faith. In fact, some have suggested that Ruth has already adopted the faith of her mother-in-law. This is mere speculation.
“Where you die I, will die…” Ruth’s loyalty and commitment to Naomi was not shallow. She is in for the long haul. She will stay with Naomi until she dies and thereafter. Ruth has pledged he allegiance to Naomi, her people, and her God. It is presumed that Ruth was much younger than Naomi (she was probably around 50), and her commitment will remain even after Naomi dies. She is making a promise that she will not break. She goes so far as to say that if she does break the commitment there will be divine judgment on her.
Vs 18: Naomi sees Ruth’s commitment, so she stopped talking to her. This probably means that Naomi stopped arguing and conceded to Ruth’s persistence and accepted her plea.
(Ruth 1:19 – 22)
Vs 19 – 22: The two traveled to Bethlehem and upon their arrival all of Naomi’s friends recognized her. They were excited that she had returned.
Unfortunately, Naomi was not as enthusiastic as the women of Bethlehem. She informed them that her time away was anything but pleasant. She lost her husband and her two sons. She suggests to the women that her name is no longer Naomi it is Mara (“bitter”); because the Lord has dealt bitterly with her.
The expression barley harvest (probably towards the end of April) is found in the Gezer Calendar which speaks of ‘Month of pulling flax. Barley harvest is the Month when everything (else) is harvested.’ This is significant to the story as we will see in the weeks to come; this harvest will be a game changer in the life of Ruth
In this first chapter we see in Ruth, a person of integrity, sacrifice, and loyalty; all the qualities that make for a true friend. When we look at this story today, we should ask ourselves, “how is this first chapter of Ruth useful for us today?” I fully believe our takeaway for today is how we can find and foster friendships that are rooted in true integrity, sacrifice, and loyalty.
The Qualities of a Healthy Friendship
I personally believe it is important for all believers to have AT LEAST one person in their lives that is a person of…
My challenge to you today is that you find, seek out or foster a friendship that has these qualities. No matter your age, it is always important have someone who is a friend to the end and one who will seek to edify and bring out the best in you. True friendship rooted in Christ is a friendship that will never end.
As I conclude this message the scene is set for chapter two as we are introduced to another key character, Boaz. We are going to see in this how the qualities that Ruth possesses integrity, sacrifice, and loyalty are key to her fulfilling the divine call of God on her life.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Ru 1:1–7). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Duguid, I. M. (2017). Ruth. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 402). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Duguid, I. M. (2017). Ruth. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 403). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Four weeks ago, we began our series titled “Spiritual Warfare”. In this series we have been looking at what the Bible says on the subject of spiritual warfare. We have looked in detail at many aspects of the topic. More specifically we have been talking about the four realities of Spiritual warfare that we are engaged in. So far, we have talked about…
We have talked about the battle plan and the war we are engaged in, and today I will talk about the outcome of our battle. Rarely, if ever, does a person, team, or country enter a competition or battle without having the end goal be victory. We do not enter sporting competitions, contests, and conflict with failure as the objective. No, we plan for victory. The problem is, in everyday life, temporal competitions, and battle we don’t always emerge victorious.
However, in spiritual warfare we are given a promise of victory against our opponent. We are guaranteed to have our hands raised and celebrate the victory that has been won. Isn’t that a great feeling? We all know the feeling of elation when we have fought hard for something and emerge victorious. We are in a spiritual battle, it is intense, it is ongoing, and it is exhausting but we must take solace in knowing the outcome for the believer is guaranteed victory. So why would we not fight with all we have?
The spiritual war battle was waged at the beginning of time. We see the roots of this battle found in Genesis 3 in the Garden of Eden. Satan has deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, she convinces her husband to do the same. The sin has been committed, Satan believes he has won, but we see this is just the beginning of the war.
God curses the serpent, the devil above all creation because of his deceit and craftiness. In fact, chapter three begins by calling the serpent craftier that all other creatures and now he is cursed over all creatures. He is cursed to be on his belly and the text implies that he will now slither on the ground.
Genesis 3:14- 15
“So the Lord God said to the serpent: Because you have done this, you are cursed more than any livestock and more than any wild animal. You will move on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life.
I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
In this passage God speaks of enmity or hostility between the snake (Satan) and humanity. From a literal perspective some interpret this as a natural hostility between man and snakes (and I know that feeling because I have a great hatred towards snakes), but a long-established translation implies much more. From this point on the serpent (who we have come to know as Satan) will continually be at war with humanity. Satan knows that humans are created in the image of God and that He has a special care for us over any of his other creation. Satan will spend the remainder of his days trying to destroy and separate humanity from God. He succeeded initially in the garden. However, God speaks of an offspring (which could refer to humanity in general) but the interpretation more specifically points to One offspring in particular.
Verse 15 – This verse is what is called “Protoevangelium” or the first gospel account in the Bible. The Offspring refers to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The Offspring of the woman is foretold as being at war with Satan and his “offspring” (his followers, the demons and evil powers). Biblical scholar and commentator Gordon Wenham writes, “(This curse) declares lifelong mutual hostility between mankind and the serpent race. Of more moment for interpretation is the question whether one side will eventually prove victorious in the battle, or whether the contest will be never-ending.” But as we all know this will be a war for the soul that Satan cannot win. A prophecy is spoken and proclaimed over the serpent.
He shall bruise/strike your head – Death, resurrection & redemption. Jesus delivers a fatal blow to Satan and his demonic kingdom because His will is the perfect sacrifice for humanity. All who believe will be redeemed and made right with the Father; thus, destroying the work of the devil.
You shall bruise/strike his heal – Satan will seemingly celebrate a short and temporary victory as the crucifixion unfolds. The death and rejection of Jesus will be painful and harsh and temporary… non-lethal (bruise his heal). From the offset it will appear Satan has won but in the end Jesus will be victorious.
So, this brings up a valid question, “If Satan knows he is defeated, then why does he continue to fight?” What is the purpose of fighting if you already know you have lost? I don’t think anyone in this room would knowingly or willingly enter a fight if they were guaranteed failure. I think this question could be answered relatively simply. The Bible is very clear about the nature of Satan, he is a master deceiver; deception and lying is what he does, and he is very good at it. I think the devil is so good at convincing others of his lies that even he believes his own lies.
I am sure we have all met someone who is so good at the art of lying that over time that person begins to believe the lies he or she tells. I have met individuals who have a harder time telling the truth than lies. I have had conversations with individuals where they tell me one thing, then a few days later tell me something contradictory and when I called them on it they are convinced they never said what they previously said. It is impossible to talk to someone, let alone trust someone like this. I feel sorry for these people because I know they have convinced themselves to believe their lies, and Satan is no different… Except I don’t feel sorry for him.
What does victory look like…
1 Corinthians 15:56, 57
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
We are told in the Bible that all who believe in Jesus are children of God (1 John 3) so we are victorious, or we have overcome the world. The word “overcome” is derived from the Greek root word nike (ni-Kay) which means victorious. We are victorious in this life. The darkness of this world, Satan, and his demons cannot overtake us because we are victorious. The reason we are victorious is because Jesus Christ.
God’s love for us is so great that He has fought and continues to fight the battle for us, and He has declared us victorious. Through Jesus Christ we now have a new life, a life where we are fully alive, thriving and in need of nothing because the Spirit of God dwells in each of us. The old ways; the sinful, dark ungodly ways are gone, and we no longer need to live in the murky waters of the world. We now live in the fresh waters of Jesus Christ; living victoriously over sin, Satan and all his evil beings. We are thriving in the Kingdom of God and sharing the Good News that Jesus and His Kingdom has come. Satan and his minions will try and beat you down but take comfort and security in the understanding that nothing that comes your way can defeat you or hold you down in this life or the life to come because Jesus has defeated death and sin.
Romans 3:23 – 25
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented him as the mercy seat, by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.”
The believer is justified – This is a judicial term that simply means to declare righteous. To be acquitted by God from all charges brought against a person because of his or her sins.
According to Romans 3:23 all of humanity is guilty before God of sin (Genesis 3:16) thus we are condemned. But, in verse 24 Paul writes that we are justified by God’s grace by the redemption of Jesus Christ through faith. Jesus took our place and received the punishment and condemnation that we all deserved by his death on the cross. Thus, our justification is by grace or unmerited favor through faith because it is not based on anything we did. When we are justified, we are able to stand free from condemnation before God. Satan will try to accuse us and try to convince God that we should be condemned but because of God’s grace we will not be condemned.
So, what does victory look like to Satan? It looks like hell.
Revelation 20:1 – 3, 7 -10 “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven holding the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan,, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the thousand years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time.
When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea. They came up across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the encampment of the saints, the beloved city. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed them. The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Victory in Jesus results in eternal condemnation for Satan. Jesus wins and because of Him, so do we.
As I conclude this series today, I think we need to continually remind ourselves about the fact that we are victorious in this battle because of our faith in Jesus. Satan or the world has no hold on us, and we are not slaves to him or to this world. We are victorious in Christ, so we need to live victorious lives. There is nothing the world can do to beat us down, take away our joy or cause us to live our lives in defeat because of evil and darkness. The world can and certainly will try it’s hardest to beat us down, Satan will work overtime to lead us down the paths of doubt and uncertainty, He will try to take away a joy that cannot be taken away from us, so let us start living as victorious Christians. Jesus has conquered Satan and the world! Let us acknowledge and believe that in turmoil of battle, pain, suffering, and persecution joy can be found. Let the truth that we serve a victorious king be our foundation. We live in a time of uncertainty, violence, godlessness, amoralism and turmoil and this should not affect our lives in the least. We have overcome evil and the world because Jesus has conquered the works or Satan, the world of darkness and evil. We belong to God and He is the victor ensuring that we can live victorious lives as well.
Today we are going to look at the sixth letter of the Apocalypse written to the Church of Philadelphia.
The City Philadelphia
I am sure you are all aware that this in not the US city that prides itself on cheese steak hoagies, Rocky Balboa and the Liberty bell. The Philadelphia I speak of today is a small town located in Asia Minor. Today it is known as Alaşehir located in Turkey. To this day it remains a relatively small town and there is still actually a small Christian community in this area. One of the main reasons it was a small town was because it was located near a fault line. It was an unstable area and people were afraid to live there because earthquakes were somewhat common. In 17 A.D. one leveled the city (and 11 surrounding cities) and it faced a long series of tremors that followed. This was also the same quake that destroyed Sardis. The city was named after Attalus II because of his strong affection and devotion to his brother (Philadelphus means lover of his brother). Mounce p.115
Philadelphia was a prosperous city due mostly to agriculture and industry (dyeing). Grapes were one of the main resources in the area, so it is not surprising that the worship of Dionysus (the god of wine) was prevalent.
Around the 6th Century it was known as “Little Athens” as it had many pagan temples and religious festivals. The earthquakes have destroyed much of the historical artifacts of the area but there are still some remains from the later centuries standing today.
Letter to The Church of Philadelphia
I have heard literally dozens of sermons on the letter to the church in Philadelphia and I have come to a conclusion… Every Church either wants to be or thinks they are the Church of Philadelphia today and for good read. Jesus has nothing but good things to say and many comforting promises as well. It is believed that this church was probably a small church in a small town (not unlike ours) that didn’t really have a huge impact on society and the city, yet it was significant enough to Jesus to speak to them and commend them for their works.
Verse 7: This is the first letter that does not have a description of Jesus taken from John’s vision of chapter one. The whole letter is dominated by the sure and certain prospect of life in the kingdom of God. Jesus declares himself the one who is “The holy one, the true one and the one who holds the key of David.” It is his way of declaring his authority, his trustworthiness and power over life and death.
The key of David: Is a reference to Isaiah 22:22 and indicates ownership over the house of David (this points to the Messiah). Jesus is the only one who has the authority to posses the key to both life and death (Rev. 1:18). He is the one who allows or forbids admittance into the eternal Kingdom of God. It is only through Jesus Christ that one can enter into life eternal.
The door which no one opens or shuts: (The door has two possible meanings… 1) The opportunity for effective evangelism [1 Cor. 16:9 & 2 Cor. 2:12] and 2) the door represents the admittance to the Kingdom of God). It is most commonly held that the door represents the entrance to the Kingdom due to the fact of the promises Jesus makes later in the letter. This door can only be opened and closed by Jesus and no one else.
Verse 8: I know your works… You have but little power. I noted earlier that this was probably a Small church in a small town that had little impact on the city. However, this was not a deterrent instead they hold fast to the Word of God and remained faithful to Jesus’ name.
Verse 9: We are introduced to the term’s synagogue of Satan in the letter to Smyrna. This term is believed to represent the Jews who were persecuting Christians. The Jews still believed they were God’s chosen people; but had since forfeited that right because of their disbelief. The Church of Jesus Christ has now become the chosen avenue of God’s grace to the nations. In their persecution of the Church they thus became known as the synagogue of Satan. These Jews thought they were true Jews doing God’s work, but they were in fact a synagogue to Satan. They were not working for the God Israel; in fact, they were doing the work of the devil.
Bow down before your feet: Why will these people bow to the feet of the church? According to Isaiah 60:14, the Jews believed that the Gentile nations (their enemies) would one day bow or bend the knee before them and thus humbly acknowledge them as God’s chosen people. Now Jesus is declaring that there will in fact be a day when even the Jews humble themselves as they acknowledge that Jesus is the true Messiah and his Church is His chosen people. They will bow not in worship but in respect to the fact that the Church is the people Jesus loves.
Verse 10: The hour of trial: Since the Church of Philadelphia has patiently endured during their trials and tribulations Jesus is promising them protection from judgment. This promise is certainly consistent with Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. Many hold this hour of trial to be a reference to the Great Tribulation spoken of later in Revelation that is believed to occur before or after the rapture of the Church or even before the second coming of Jesus Christ. The major question is whether Christ is promising deliverance from the period of trial or safekeeping through the trial? This is an argument that has been debated for years and I am not going to settle it today. However, if we use the high priestly prayer of Jesus as our guide then we can note that Jesus prays that believers would not be taken out of the world (physically taken away) but that we would be protected (preserved through judgment). One could deduce that Jesus actually prays for preservation and protection for believers during the time of great judgment.
The early church is expecting trials which precede the return of Jesus Christ. “The idea of this ‘ordeal’ (trial) was inherited and transposed from early Judaism, in which it was anticipated that a period of intense distress and suffering would immediately precede the eschatological victory of God (his return and judgment) … The fact that God’s people will be ‘kept safe from the time of ordeal’ cannot mean they will escape it physically. The ‘testing’ process will affect the whole living world, but the faithful will not be hurt by it spiritually.”
Verse 11: I am coming soon… There is a sense of urgency in Jesus’ words here (Jesus mentions this three times in Revelation). He is coming back. When? Nobody knows. So, what is the Church of Philadelphia to do? Hold fast to what they have in the coming days of trials and judgment. They have the Word of God; the truth of the Gospel. They are called to remain faithful so that no one can seize or snatch away their crown (N.T. describes three kinds of crowns life, glory and righteousness). The believer can have assurance that their salvation is secure if they remain faithful to Jesus Christ and obedient to His Word.
Verse 12: The one who conquers Jesus will make him a pillar in the temple. A pillar would be symbolic of stability or immovability. Because of faith in Jesus Christ the believer will remain sturdy and immovable. This was probably comforting to the people who lived in an unstable town. He will remain in this eternal city forever. Jesus will also write on the believer the name of God, the name of the city of my God and my own new name. What does this mean? Ultimately the one who overcomes will overcome and will become a citizen of the eternal city (the New Jerusalem) not because of his/her deeds but because He is a son of God and belongs to Jesus.
The Church of Philadelphia For Us Today
It’s no wonder every Church either claims or wants to be the modern-day version of Philadelphia. There are some wonderful promises and commendations in this letter. I take comfort in knowing this great letter was written to a small congregation that seemingly had little impact in their earthy dwelling… However, God was pleased with them and acknowledged the good works (remaining faithful to Jesus and His word). This is one of the greatest commendations a small church can receive and pursue. I have stated before that we live in an ever-changing culture where truth is relative. We certainly live in a society that has mixed up its priorities and even the Church (i.e. larger denominations) seem to be following suit of mixed up priorities. Now, more than ever it is important for the TRUE Church of Jesus Christ to hold to the truths of God’s Word and remain faithful to the name and Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus has given us the promise of entrance into the eternal Kingdom of God when we remain faithful to him and his word.
We must also be ready for he is coming soon. I wish I could tell you when this will happen, but nobody knows the day, hour, minute or year. Since we do not know we are to hold fast to what has been given to us; namely the Gospel message, the Great Commission and the Great Commandments and live our lives with these as our foundation.
Finally, for those of us who are overcomers we need to continually keep in focus the prize that awaits us. Take comfort in knowing that whatever difficulties or judgments we may face God will preserve us and give us the strength to endure in the last day. We need to live as victors and be reminded that we are children of the Living God and we have a secure place in the Kingdom of God (the City of God) and His name is written on us so we belong to him and him alone.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Re 3:7–13). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Smalley, Stephen S. (2005). The Revelation to Johns: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.
Two weeks ago we began our series titled “Spiritual Warfare”. In this series we have been looking at what the Bible says on the subject of spiritual warfare. In our introduction I mentioned the four realities of Spiritual warfare that I will talk about in our four week series. Two weeks ago, I talked about…
Ephesians 6:11, 12 (ESV)
This morning I have chosen to use the ESV translation of this passage because I think it gives a relevant look at the battle, we are engaged in. We are in a spiritual battle or a wrestling match, but our opponent is not human. The text says that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” which is translated as human/mankind. We are not in a physical, emotional or political struggle with our fellow man; it’s not a battle of man against woman, Republican against Democrat, or church against church…our battle is spiritual. It is against rulers, authorities and evil powers of the spiritual realm. The enemy we wrestle with hates us, he wants to destroy us, and he will do whatever it takes to overpower us. This is frightening but as we will soon see this is nothing to be fearful of.
The Greek word for struggle or wrestle is the word “pale” (palay) and it means “wrestling (which is a contest between two in which each endeavors to throw the other, and which is decided when the victor is able to hold his opponent down with his hand upon his neck).” According to Webster’s 2 New Riverside Dictionary the word wrestle is defined as “struggle with an opponent in an attempt to throw or pin him down.” This is the goal of the sport of wrestling is, whether fake or real, the goal is to pin down your opponent.
Wrestling is a sport of strength, endurance, the mind and manipulation. Many moves of a wrestler are not the ones where you overpower with sheer brute strength your opponent, but many are moves of strategy where you set up your opponent (manipulate him) so you can use a tactical move that will give you victory.
There is a saying, generally said before going into battle or even before a wrestling match or any sporting event, “Know your opponent.” Why is this? Because if we have done our homework, studied our opponent’s tactics, and we have properly trained and prepared for our match, then we will have a plan than can lead to victory. This is why sports teams watch films of their opponents the week before a game; so, they can be familiar with plays, strategies and weaknesses and be victorious. The same goes for Christians in Spiritual warfare.
I talked about this last week. We need to know our enemy because he is crafty, deceitful and he will do whatever it takes to pin you down and destroy you. Our struggle or wrestle match is taking place in the spiritual dominion. Our opponents are the spiritual beings, authorities, powers, forces and rulers of evil in the heavenly realm. These include Satan and his legion of dark angels.
One of Satan’s maneuvers is to deceive people into believing he doesn’t exist, a metaphor or he is just a figment of our imagination. He is this character that people made up to represent evil. Some people think if you believe in this Satan character then you may be delusional or mentally unstable. However, the Bible talks about the reality of the devil, Satan, the dragon or Lucifer quite a bit. Jesus talks about him and many of the epistles reference him as well. He is alive and well and he is doing whatever he can to try and destroy God’s people. Another tactic he uses is convincing people he does exist but conclude that he is not as bad as he is made out to be.
The Devil’s Tactics
Satan’s tactics are always subtle. In the introduction I mentioned our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual dominion. Now, this is not to say that our battle does not make it into the physical or human realm. There are times our enemy influences others, meddles in relationships, and causes conflict and division among God’s people. This is also part of the battle and we must always remember it is not the person we are at war with, it is the spirit behind the battle. We will talk a little more about that in a moment.
Would you believe me if I told you that often conflict among believers and/or Churches is one of the main sources of our Spiritual Battle? Satan is never happier or pleased when God’s beloved children battle one another. However, the real question lies in what or who is the source behind our conflict? We are children of God who are saved by grace, since this is true why is it that we fight so often? There is a saying that goes like this, “Where two or more are gathered there will be conflict.” According to author Ken Sande, “Conflict affects our marriages, families, churches, neighborhoods and workplaces. It affects Christians and non-Christians alike, bringing us low, damaging our relationships, and tarnishing our witness to the world.” Is this what God wants for his people? I can boldly answer that question with an emphatic, “NO!”
James 4:1 – 6: “Where do quarrels and fights among you come from?” The answer, “It comes from selfish desires that are at war in us.” When we look at any unhealthy disunity or conflict in our lives it is almost always a guarantee that the root of the problem is selfish desire. We see this in the modern church. There are conflicts or fights over the style of music that is played for the time of worship, communion, baptism, theology, placement of furniture in the building, our core purpose, jealousy, bitterness, anger and they are all rooted in selfish desire. Douglas Moo writes, “The seventeenth century Jewish philosopher Spinoza observed: ‘I have often wondered that persons make boast of professing the Christian religion – namely love, joy, peace, temperance, and charity to all men – should quarrel with such rancorous animosity and display daily towards one another such bitter hatred, that this, rather than the virtues which they profess, is the readiest criteria of their faith.’ Some battles to be sure, need to be fought. But even they must be fought without sacrificing Christian principles and virtues.”
In the second verse James expands on the nature of these sinful desires and he uses some strong language to describe their actions like envy, kill, and covet. Now it is uncertain as to whether these people were actually killing one another out of selfish desire (which isn’t entirely improbable) but we can safely assume that he is using an analogy like Jesus as he describes.
At the beginning of the message I showed a video of the The Screwtape Letters which is a fictitious (but theologically sound) book written by C.S. Lewis. It is a fictional story about a demon named Screwtape who writes letters to his nephew, a junior tempter demon named Wormwood. He writes his letters with the purposes to advise him on methods to get the “Patient” (John Hamilton) to falter in his faith and fall into sin.
Lewis writes in the preface,
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack; but ill-disposed or excitable people who might make a bad use of it shall not learn it from me.
Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle.”
In writing Lewis gives many examples of how the spiritual battle that is ongoing is engaged and fought. As he mentions and the Bible states, “Satan is a liar” and he will do whatever it takes to engage and overtake us in battle. I have three subtle tactics the devil uses to invite and engage us into a spiritual battle.
How to Fight the Battle and Win
So, this battle is intense. It is a fight we are engaged in whether we like it or not. There is a battle going on all around us and the Devil desires to do whatever he can to overthrow God’s people. So, how do we win this battle that we are in? There is no better battle plan than Jesus’ battle with Satan found in Luke 4:1 – 13.
First things first… If Jesus was tempted by the devil, then you and I must acknowledge that we are not exempt from the attacks of Satan. Since we are not Jesus, we are more vulnerable to his attacks. We are in battle and there is only one way to emerge victorious… By holding fast to God’s Word. We win the battle by the Word of God.
Jesus’ temptations were both plausible (they made sense) and attractive (enticing) just as they are to us today. Satan is a master deceiver so he will appeal to the intellect and he will appeal to the flesh. This is why it is important to hide the Word of God in our hearts. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful.” We are not strong or smart enough to ward off the Devil, but God is, and His Word is powerful enough to give us victory. Next week we will look at the victory that is promised to us.
 Biblical Peacemaking: Applying the Gospel to Conflicts of Daily Life (Peacemakers Ministries 2011), www.peacemaker.net
 Moo, p. 181
Sardis - The City
The city of Sardis was one of the wealthiest and powerful cities in the ancient world around the sixth century B.C. It is believed that gold and silver coins were first pressed there. It also claimed to be the first city that discovered the art of wool dyeing.
The city is located on top of a high mountain. It was a fortified city with nearly perpendicular walls reaching 1500 feet above the lower valley which provided a natural fortress. Over time as the city grew, they developed a lower city at the bottom of the mountain it was located on.
Archaeology has discovered that the lower city had a theater, a stadium and a large temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis (which was destroyed but some pillars remain today). The patron god of Sardis was Cybele (who is identified with Greek goddess Artemis).
Cybele was believed to possess the power over life and death.
In 546 B.C. Cyrus defeated the city and thus becoming the seat to the Persian governor. In A.D. 17 an earthquake destroyed the city. It was rebuilt with the help of Emperor Tiberius who gave the city about $1 million and five years of tax reduction. In A.D. 26 the city put in a bid for the privilege of building an imperial temple but lost out to Smyrna. Naturally it was a very pagan city and this culture had some major influence on the church as we will see Jesus has some harsh words to the city.
Sardis – The Letter
This is the fifth letter of the Apocalypse written by the Apostle John and spoken by Jesus. Sardis is the first of two churches in which receives only criticism and no commendation.
Vs 1: Having a reputation can be a good thing or bad. The church of Sardis had a reputation; however, it was not a good one. They have the appearance of being a church that is alive but is actually spiritually dead. From the outside looking in everyone would think this church was doing fine and seemed healthy, but Jesus saw through this façade and brought to light the true nature of this church… He saw that they represented spiritual death and decay. Their works were anything but pleasing to Him.
Vs 2: Jesus tells the church to wake up… This is significant because Jesus is speaking a language the people of Sardis understood. Twice in Sardis’ history the city was defeated (546 B.C. & 218 B.C.) due to inadequate watches. As I mentioned earlier that it was a city that was nearly impregnable however due to slumber the city was overtaken. Both times the enemy struck while the city watch was not paying attention or possibly sleeping. Because of their unwatchful eye they were overthrown by the enemy unexpectedly. Jesus is calling the church of Sardis to awake from their spiritual slumber. They are called to strengthen the areas that seem to be salvageable (there must have been some) for if they do not, they are about to die along with the church. As I have noted already the church may seem like they are alive to everyone around them, but Jesus sees their works and they are not favorable in his sight.
Vs 3: The call to remember… Jesus tells the church of Sardis to do the same as Ephesus and remember. They are to remember what they have heard and what they have received. This was most likely the message of salvation through faith. We are not told what works are unfavorable to Jesus, but He certainly calls them to return to the message of hope and faith in Jesus Christ. They seemed to have lost sight of the message that was given to them and that was once received with open arms. He tells them to keep it and repent. One would think that all is lost with the church of Sardis, but Jesus is not finished with her. He exhorts them to not only wake up from their spiritual slumber but also to repent of their evil works. Repentance is always one of the first steps to returning to a right relationship with Jesus. The warning… If they do not wake up, then Jesus is going to execute imminent judgment that will come swiftly and unexpectedly (Like a thief).
Vs 4: The majority of the church was not walking with God however there are some who remain faithful. They have not soiled their garments. In Asia Minor soiled clothing would disqualify one from worshiping their god and was also a sign of dishonor to their god. Robert Mounce sees this as a reference “to the danger of contaminating the Christian witness by accommodation to the prevailing standards of a pagan city mind.” The church was in a wide state of compromise and most of the individuals in this church were living double lives. They wanted the best of both worlds. Those who do remain faithful in this pagan filled church are promised garments of white because they remain faithful and ultimately will walk with Jesus. They are considered worthy because of Jesus and his grace. The garments of white are symbolic of victory, justification and walking with Jesus equates communion and fellowship with Jesus. It is very important to note that those who are “worthy” are not considered worthy because of anything they have done it is only by the grace of God that some did not compromise their faith.
Vs 5: The promise to the one who remains faithful and obedient; he will have his name written in the book of life. Jesus assures them that they are secure because they belong to him. He will confess them before God the Father, and they will receive eternal life.
Church of Sardis Today
So, what does all of this have to do with us today?
In this letter of rebuke to the Church of Sardis we can apply a lot of what is said to our own lives personally and as a Church. In this I believe there are warnings and promises that we should heed today. If the Word of God truly is sharper than a two-edged sword, we should see that what Jesus says cuts to the heart of the believer and the Church today.
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 1:20). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 108 - 109
 Ibid p. 112
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.