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Repentance From Dead Works (18)

As we addressed the Lord Jesus appraisal of the believers in Christ in Ephesus in our last broadcast, we saw that all their work, labour, and patient endurance; hatred of evil people; aversion to false ministers of the gospel; and, hatred of the deeds of the licentious Nicolaitans; turned out to be dead works because they lacked the love of God within them! It is not just doing a good deed that is good works, but first and foremost, you must have been qualified by God; that is, you are born again and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, before you can do good works. Thereafter, your deeds are appraised on the basis of whether they were done with the love of God in your heart or for self-glory. So, even if you prophecy accurately, teach the word of God soundly, exhibit mountain-removing faith, have sold all your possessions and have given them to the poor, and, are indeed willing to pay the ultimate price of dying for the gospel; but have not the love of God, which is given only by the Holy Spirit, all your deeds amount to dead works, and will not count in eternity!

Today, we shall be looking at the Lords assessment of the works of the believers who were in the city of Smyrna as documented in Revelation 2:8-11: And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

These scripture verses reveal, as we intimated in our last broadcast, that the Lord Jesus has perfect knowledge of all that you do; whether or not you are a Christian. For the believers in Smyrna, the Lord was aware of their works, their tribulation, their poverty, and, the blasphemy of certain so-called Jews. What is significant about the Lords awareness of the situation of the believers in Smyrna is that, He did not say that the adversity they experienced was the consequence of sin! Indeed, He went on to prepare their minds for greater tribulation, including imprisonment and even death, which was to come upon them, encouraging them to persevere and endure these contradictions of life till the end! Indeed, the Lord regarded the endurance of the believers in Smyrna as a plus, and as good works! Today, there are strange teachings that suggest that all suffering is the consequence of sin. But when the propagators of this strange doctrine meet people who are suffering because they are fraudsters, prostitutes, embezzlers, and so on, they offer to pray special fire and brimstone prayers; rather than ask them to abandon their sinful lifestyle, and repent before God. The truth is that, there is a suffering that is according to the will of God, and there is a suffering which is as a result of sinful living. The bible says in 1 Peter 4:19, Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator and in Acts 14:22b, we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Friend, tribulation is an integral part of the Christian life, and Gods will for the believer in Christ. When a believer endures tribulation, and suffers according to the will of God, he is doing good works, and should commit himself to God. In 1 Corinthians 13:3, the bible alludes to suffering for the sake of the gospel as good works, when it says, though I give my body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. The issue here was the fact that the suffering was for self-aggrandisement, and not based on love for God! Therefore, while suffering according to the will of God is good works, suffering as a fraudster, prostitute, busy body, etc., is clearly dead works! The believers in Smyrna were thus commended for their endurance of suffering for Christ, and were further urged to continue therein, in spite of the intensity of the greater tribulation to come.

Another strange doctrine that has permeated Christendom today is that poverty is a curse, and the result of sin; and wealth is a sign of divine blessing. This strange teaching suggests that people like Bill Gates, Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia, and all wealthy people, are not just saints, but true servants of God by reason of their wealth; whereas, people like the beggar, Lazarus, who was mentioned in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, in Luke 16:19-25, are terrible sinners and bereft of good works. Let us correct this wrong teaching which is clearly from the devil: financial poverty is not equivalent to spiritual poverty! Indeed, a person may be financially rich, but morally and spiritually bankrupt; and another person may be financially poor, but morally upright, and spiritually rich. Hence, the Lords remark to the believers in Smyrna: I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) In Revelation 3:17, speaking to believers in Laodicea, the Lord Jesus said, Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: Unlike the believers in Smyrna, the believers in Laodicea prided themselves in their financial and material wealth, but the Lords verdict was that they were morally and spiritually bereft and bankrupt!

The Lord also made a distinction between the believers in Smyrna and some people who claimed to belong to God, even though they were not born again. He said that such people were of the synagogue of Satanthey were worshippers of Satan; not worshippers of God! We need to be careful that what we call church is not the synagogue of Satan! The fact that a place has church as part of its name, and singing, preaching and prayer take place there, does not make it the Church of God. Just as there are false ministers of the gospel, so also are there false worshippers and false churches! The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. A church is the gathering of believers in Christ, in His name! Friend, if you are not born again of the Spirit of God; or, if you claim to be born again, but dont believe in the Holy Spirit and His ministry in and through Christians; or, if you claim to be born again, and believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but do not consent to the wholesome teachings of Jesus Christ; or, if you claim to be born again, believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but do not accept nor practice all the teachings of Jesus Christ; then, you are of the synagogue of Satan, and not of the Church of God; you are a false worshipper of God, and, a doer of dead works!

Good works therefore, include our suffering for the sake of the gospel, deprivations for the sake of Christ, and death arising from persecution. The Lord spoke of the tribulation which the believers in Smyrna were encouraged to endure, and said that they were being tried; that is, they were being tested to prove their faithfulness to God, in the face of persecution. Many people are Christians today, only because things are easy now, but what happens when it becomes a crime to be a Christian (and that time is already here)? Someone said something to the effect that, If you are accused and tried for being a Christian, will there be enough evidence to convict and sentence you to death? The understanding of many people who are huddled in churches today is that Christianity is the proverbial bed of roses; nothing can be further from the truth!

In Romans 5:3-4, the bible says, we [can] glory [rejoice] in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation [tough times, persecution, etc.] worketh patience[or perseverance]; and patience, experience [or character]; and experience, hope [the joyful expectation of eternity with Christ in heaven] and in James 1:2-4, the bible says, My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Beloved, trials, tribulation, persecution, and temptation from the devil are the believers spiritual muscle builders, and that is why believers are told to count it all joy when such adverse conditions arise. The Lord said in Matthew 5:10-12, Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Tribulation, persecution, temptation, etc., do not necessarily arise from sin, but rather, they are a means of developing Christian character! In 1 Peter 1:7, the bible calls these adversities, the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. You see, beloved, the challenges of life; the tribulation or persecution you are facing because you are a Christian, including bombings by Boko Haram because we are Christians; and, the temptations of the devil; are all a means of proving that we are indeed Christians, and the sort of works we are engaged inwhether they are of gold which endures fire, or of readily combustible materials which are consumed by fire. In 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, the bible says, Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Whether a deed is good works or not is proven by firethe adversities of life. Many people will readily work for God if they are paid a good salary. Many will worship God as long as everything is going well in their business and family. Many others will gladly worship God in a church building that is completed and beautiful, but will cleverly avoid a church where a building project is on-going. And there are people who will be in church, as long as they can get welfare. But when all these good things become contrary, they are out of church! The bible says that we are to give thanks to God for all things (good and bad), and in all things (pleasant and unpleasant). Our worship of God is dead works, if it is only when things are rosy! The bible says, If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. (Proverbs 24:10). The proof of your works, faith, and spiritual strength is in the time of adversity. If your service to God is good works, you will continue to serve and worship Him, even if you are killed for it. Someone said, A mountain of cotton fluff remains a mountain in the absence of the wind; but a rock remains a rock even when there are torrential rains.

Are you serving God now only because things are alright with you? Are you giving thanks to God only because you have a breakthrough? Are you in that church, only because it is a mega church? Do you believe that lack of money and material things is a sign of spiritual poverty, and that financial and material abundance is equivalent to spiritual prosperity? Repent of all these dead works, and submit to Gods dealings through adversity, which though at any present time is unpleasant, yet, it is working for you, a far greater weight of eternal glory, with the assurance of receiving the crown of life as an eternal reward. Beloved, strive to obtain the crown of life, secure your place with Christ in eternity, and avoid the second death like you would a plague!

Let us pray!