In To The One Who Conquers, Sam Storms examines--in great detail--the seven letters to the seven churches found in the book of Revelation. The church in Ephesus has nine meditations. The church in Smyrna has five meditations. The church in Pergamum has six meditations. The church in Thyatira has seven meditations. The church in Sardis has six meditations. The church in Philadelphia has six meditations. The church in Laodicea has eleven meditations. The book addresses how they were relevant to the original audience--first century believers--and are relevant to the church today. I believe it is important to keep both in mind when you're reading. If you focus only on future-fulfillment, then what exactly did the promises and warnings mean to those churches? If you focus only on the past, well, you have other problems to address. Storms goes through these two chapters verse by verse by verse. Sometimes phrase by phrase.
I chose to read this book of meditations--or devotions--with two things in mind. How is this message relevant to the church--as a whole, as a body of believers, as a community--and how is this relevant to me as a believer, as an individual. What can I learn from reading this letter or that letter. Are the problems facing those churches familiar to me? Are there churches still struggling with these problems? Am I contributing to the problem? Are there things in my own life I need to address? Is there anything I need to be praying about?
Sam Storms does address some of the problems facing modern churches. He does ask some tough questions, asking readers to challenge themselves to really contemplate what they're reading.In "Christ In and Over His Church," he writes:
Do you care what Christ thinks of the church? Or are you more attuned to the latest trend in worship, the most innovative strategy for growth, the most "relevant" way in which to engage the surrounding culture? Yes, Jesus cares deeply about worship. Of course he wants the church to grow. And he longs to see the culture redeemed for his own glory. All the more reason to pray that God might quicken us to read and heed the words of Christ to the church in Ephesus then and to the church now, whatever its name, denomination, or size. It obviously matters to him. Out it not to us as well? (31)
And in "Our Knowledge of God's Knowledge of Us":
Sin is strengthened by the illusion of secrecy. (32)
How does your knowledge of God's knowledge of you change your life? If it doesn't, it should. (32)
In "The Limits of Love,"
Does love have its limits? Are there places it won't go, people it won't embrace, ideas it won't endorse? Or is true love indiscriminate, universal, and all-inclusive? These questions are clearly and decisively answered in our Lord's words to the church in ancient Ephesus. And his perspective is anything but politically correct! Jesus had already commended the Ephesians for their hard work and perseverance. He now turns his attention to their orthodoxy. Far from being blinded by love, they had 20/20 discernment. They hated evil--period. No ifs, ands, or buts. Whatever form evil took, whatever ethical or theological, they stood resolute in their opposition. No compromise. No cutting of corners. Their love was revealed in their intolerance. Unsanctified mercy had no place in the church at Ephesus. We would do well to learn from their example. (41)© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible