From the June 10 sermon “Missional in Philadelphia: Didn’t Give Up or Give In,” preached by Pastor Mark Driscoll out of Revelation 3:7–13:
King Jesus knows the works of the church in Philadelphia—and ours—and he has only encouragement for them. Though Satan hates and hinders the church, they did not deny Jesus’ name. Jesus loves the church, and that’s enough to empower and encourage them. He opened a door of opportunity for them that no one could shut—it was the last church in Turkey to fall to Muslim swords 1,200 years later. Jesus also opened a door for Mars Hill Church and hasn’t yet closed it. Will we continue to walk through it, in faith and on mission?
Our Church is Hated—and Loved
The church is loved by Jesus. This is one of the greatest lines, Revelation 3:9, Jesus says to the whole church, “I have loved you.” That’s everything. That’s it. Jesus loves us.
Do you believe that? Do you know that? Do you feel that?
Jesus loves us. He just does. Now, don’t get theological and start to figure out why. Just be grateful. He loves us. The church is the people that Jesus loves.
You know why the church continues? Why our church continues? I just told you, it’s not ‘cause it’s powerful. It’s not because it’s easy. It’s not because there’s no resistance. It’s not because there’s a lot of support from wayward teachers, and false believers, and denominations that have gone apostate. It’s because Jesus loves us.
Do you actually believe that Jesus loves our church? He does. I’m absolutely convinced of this. And you know what? Jesus’ love is enough. That’s why he uses this language, “patient endurance.” He uses the words that we’ll be able to “hold fast,” hang in there, and be the “one who conquers.” That’s all hope-filled language.
Yeah, life is hard. Yeah, compromise is tempting. Yeah, the critics are real. Yeah, Satan’s at war. But you’re going to be okay. Question is, how? Jesus says, “Well, it’s easy. It’s very simple. I love you.” Because Jesus’ love is always enough.
Jesus’ love is always enough. It’s enough to sustain us. It’s enough to empower us. It’s enough to encourage us. Absolutely. Absolutely.
The Church in Philadelphia
Jesus tells the church in Philadelphia, “I’ve opened a door for you. A door that no one will be able to shut.” [. . .]
Let me tell you a little bit about the church in Philadelphia. It was a church-planting church. They sent missionaries and church planters out. If you believe some of church history, they actually started church planting all the way into India. Some of the first church plants in India came from the church at Philadelphia.
Here’s what’s interesting, historically. If you go there today, you won’t find a lot of believers. Most of them fled modern day, around 1947. If you go back historically, the church at Philadelphia was amazing. John is writing this in the year, roughly around AD 100. And Jesus says, “I’m opening a door that no one can shut. You’re not powerful. There are false believers, teachers, and churches all around you. But you really do love me, and I really do love you.” And they took that encouragement from Jesus, and do you know how long this church continued, generation after generation after generation, to serve Jesus? Over 1,200 years. Over 1,200 years. That’s the power of Jesus saying, “I love you.”
Which city do you think was the last, final city to fall in what is modern-day Turkey? Philadelphia. In 1342, Turkish Muslim soldiers showed up to the church. All the other cities had fallen. Many of the churches had given up. Many of the Christians had fled. And many had been brutally murdered, a martyr’s death. And the last place to fall was the church at Philadelphia. They refused to compromise. They refused to deny Jesus Christ.
When he tells them in Revelation 3, “You have not denied my name,” twelve hundred years later the church in Philadelphia, by the grace of God, did not deny the name of Jesus. And they died. They were slaughtered in their own church. Women, children, young, old, slaughtered. Put to death by the sword, in their church. That’s how they shut down the church at Philadelphia. They had to murder all the believers. This is an amazing church. This is an encouraging church. This is a Spirit-filled church. And Jesus loves the church.
Mars Hill, I’m not saying we’re that kind of church. I’m saying, in the grace of God, we should aspire to be.
Jesus Has Opened a Door for Us
There are some who just assume, “Well, someone will take care of the church. Someone will keep it biblical. Someone will keep it faithful. Someone will pay the bills. Someone will serve. Someone will lead the groups. Someone will care for the people. Me, I can be a consumer and not a missionary. I can take and not give. I can criticize and not help.”
Christianity is about Jesus and his people. And Jesus is always faithful. And the question is: Will his people be? [. . .]
Jesus is alive. He loves this church. He’s opened a door so that this church could reach the world, and the world could meet him.
See, the critics can’t shut this door. And false teachers can’t shut this door. And people who would stand back and criticize those who are serving, they can’t shut this door. And we don’t have real estate. And we’re losing places to meet. And we’re upside down. And we’ve outgrown our systems. And it’s an economic downturn. And that door won’t shut. And I don’t care who we vote for in November, that door won’t shut. Because above our elections is our King. [. . .]
And here’s my heart: I love you. I love you with Jesus’ love. I’m good to the end. I know it’s not all about me. It’s all about Jesus. But I’m not going anywhere. I don’t want to be a conference speaker. I don’t want to be some consultant. I don’t want to be a guy who just does leadership development seminars. I want us to have a church, a great church, an awesome church, a Spirit-filled, Bible-soaked, Jesus-fired-up church.