Revelation 2:19

Sermon preached on October 2, 2011 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A few years ago someone told me that some airlines have changed the way that they train and certify pilots. I don't know if it's true or not, or if they still do it the way he described it to me—because it seems a bit unnerving. The old way was that they would train pilots in a simulator and then they would give them training in the real airplane. I saw an example of this once. We were in Scotland waiting for my sister to land and her flight was delayed. As we were waiting we saw this big passenger airliner do touch and go landings. It did it five or six times. It would touch down and then take off again right away. A new pilot was learning how to fly that particular type of airplane. Well, what the person told me was that some airlines don't do that anymore. Because the simulators are so good and because actual flying time is so expensive, they've cut out the practice time in a real airplane. So now they just train the pilots in the simulator. Now don't misunderstand me. Anyone who is a pilot of a passenger plane has had lots of hours flying actual airplanes. It's just that they haven't flown every type of airplane. So what this means is that someday you might get on a plane and the pilot who is going to send that plane hurtling down the runway and is going to lift off has never flown that particular type of airplane before. That will be the first time he has ever done it—and he's doing it with passengers on board.

How does that make you feel? I mean, I know flight simulators are very good today—but there's something in me that doesn't like it. If I knew that was happening, I think I'd rather catch another flight. Airline pilots have their experience measured in hours. For example, a pilot might have 4000 hours flying a particular type of airplane. I don't think they count simulator time in that number. The more hours he has in a particular plane is a measure of how experienced he is on that type of airplane. The idea is that the more experienced he is on a particular plane, the better he is able to deal with problems that he might face on that airplane. He knows the plane inside and out, he knows it's idiosyncrasies. He knows how it handles in all types of weather and is able to pick out right away what is normal and what is not.

Experience brings skill and better ability. That's true of just about any profession. If I was sick I'd rather be treated by doctors and nurses who were experienced rather than by those who were inexperienced.

I've done some traveling with some of you. I've traveled with Doug and Phil to presbytery meetings. They are both very experienced and safe drivers. They drive defensively. When I'm in a car with them and they're driving I have no problem closing my eyes and getting some rest.

But it's quite a different story when I'm in a car with someone who is just learning to drive. Have you ever been in a car with someone inexperienced behind the wheel? Wow, what a different feeling. You feel that at any moment you could be involved in an accident. I remember when I was teaching Heather to drive that at first I'd give her lots of help. I'd tell her about the speed and the traffic signs, like when we were coming to a stop sign. But as my driving lessons continued I realized that I needed to stop doing that, that she needed to pay attention to them herself. So I told her that she was on her own and that she'd have to pay attention to everything herself, that I wasn't going to warn her of stop signs and the like. One day we were driving around Canton for practice and I noticed that she was approaching an intersection with a stop sign as if she wasn't going to stop. I looked and saw that no other cars were in the area so I thought I would keep quiet and let her notice the stop sign herself. But as we got closer and closer I could tell that she wasn't going to stop, she didn't notice the stop sign. At that point I told her about the stop sign and she went to slam on the brakes. But instead of hitting the brake pedal, she hit the accelerator and we went zooming through the intersection. As soon as we got completely through it she realized her mistake and she slammed on the brakes and we came to a sudden stop way on the other side of the intersection.

Heather is a much better driver now and she doesn't go through stop signs anymore. She has more experience and she does a much better job of driving now.

One of the lessons that this life teaches us is that experience usually helps you do something better. Most people, when they start a job spend quite a bit of time learning how to become more skilled at it.

That's what Jesus expects of you as a Christian. He wants you to be gaining experience and as your life goes on He wants you to be doing a better job of serving Him. He said to the church at Thyatira. (Revelation 2:19)

"I know your deeds, your love and faith,
your service and perseverance,
and that you are now doing
more than you did at first."

Jesus commended them for doing more then than they did at first. As time went on they were doing more and more for the Lord. This should be a great incentive for each of us to do more and more for the Lord. He wants us to be doing more and more for Him. The great truth we see here is that

Jesus wants us as individuals and as a church to be doing more for Him now than we did at first.

I believe there are two aspects of this. First, it implies that we are to be doing more things for Jesus. Second, it implies that the quality of the things we do is to improve as well.

Now of course if you are in your 80's or 90's some of what I'm going to say doesn't apply to you. The same applies to those who are dealing with health issues. But still I think that some of what we say apples to those who are old or sick. You may not be able to do more than you did years ago. In fact you may be doing far less. That's okay. Yet, in terms of the quality of your work, it may well be that your works today are more than they were years ago. You may not be able to do as much, but what you do is better, more pure, more Christ-like.

Jesus commended the church at Thyatira for their deeds, their love, their faith, their service and their perseverance. Jesus wants you to do more and more for Him. How important it is that you do this. This isn't the only place that Jesus tells His people to do more and more for Him. It's a theme throughout the New Testament. For example, in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 Paul wrote,

"Finally, brothers, we instructed you
how to live in order to please God,
as in fact you are living.
Now we ask you and urge you
in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more."

Just a few verses later he wrote, (verse 10)

"And in fact, you do love
all the brothers throughout Macedonia.
Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more."

In his second letter to the Thessalonians Paul wrote, (2 Thessalonians 1:3–4,

"We ought always to thank God for you,
brothers, and rightly so,
because your faith is growing more and more,
and the love every one of you
has for each other is increasing.
Therefore, among God's churches
we boast about your perseverance
and faith in all the persecutions
and trials you are enduring."

In Galatians 5:7–8 the apostle Paul criticized the Galatian Christians because their works for Jesus had greatly slowed. Indeed they were in danger of stopping. Paul said to them,

"You were running a good race.
Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?
That kind of persuasion does not come
from the one who calls you."

Allowing someone to cut in in front of you and slow you down or stop you from running does not come from Jesus. He wants us to keep running a good race.

Now why is it good to do more as we go on in our Christian life?

Some people might think,

"What's the big deal? We are not saved by our works, by our obedience. Salvation is all about grace. So why should we be so concerned about 'works'?"

I suggest we strive to serve Christ better and better because

good works are one of the purposes for which God saved us.

We're not saved by our works. We're saved by the perfect work of our Savior Jesus. We are not justified by our works but we are justified on the basis of Jesus' work. We appropriate that by faith. We are justified, or declared righteous by God when we believe. Our sins are washed away and Christ's righteousness is imputed to us.

But that does not imply that 'works' in the Christian life are not important. The
Westminster Confession of Faith, in its chapter on justification (XI:2) says,

"Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love."

It is true that salvation is of grace. But think about the purposes of salvation. Why did God save us? What is the purpose of our salvation? There is not just one answer to that question. God had many purposes in mind when He saved us. His glory was one of the purposes. But another of the purposes of our salvation is given in Ephesians 2:8–10. The apostle Paul wrote,

"For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—and this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God— not by works,
so that no one can boast.
For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Notice how he said that we were 'created in Christ Jesus to do good works'. When we are saved we are new creations in Christ. One of His purposes in recreating us in His image was so that we do good works. God has even prepared those good works beforehand for us. How can we think that we are to leave undone the works that God prepared in advance for us to do?

We see the same thing regarding the purpose of our salvation in Titus 2:11–14, (ESV)

"For the grace of God has appeared,
bringing salvation for all people,
training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled, upright,
and godly lives in the present age,
waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory
of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness
and to purify for himself a people for his own possession
who are zealous for good works."

One of the great goals of our salvation is that we be made a people who are zealous to do good works. Christians are a people who do good works. This is inevitable and necessary. In Romans 6:4 Paul talked about how we died with Christ and were buried with Him,

"in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father,
we too may live a new life."

Paul goes on in that chapter to show that we are no longer slaves to sin, but are now slaves of righteousness.

There is no conflict between justification and sanctification. They go together. Those who are justified freely through faith will live their lives for God's glory. Remember how the apostle Paul put it in Titus 3:4–8,

"But when the kindness and love
of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because of
righteous things we had done,
but because of his mercy.
He saved us through the washing of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us generously
through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that, having been justified by his grace,
we might become heirs having
the hope of eternal life.
This is a trustworthy saying.
And I want you to stress these things,
so that those who have trusted in God
may be careful to devote themselves
to doing what is good.
These things are excellent
and profitable for everyone."

Those who believe in Jesus, who have their sins washed away—will serve Him. It's inevitable. Remember the Parable of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25? Who were the sheep who were commended and welcomed into glory. Jesus will say to them, Matthew 25:34–36

"For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you clothed me,
I was sick and you visited me,
I was in prison and you came to me."

So Christians, I urge you, do more and more for Jesus. When you stand before God on the great day of Judgment, I hope you will hear words of commendation that say,

"You did more at the end than at the first."

The second reason I would urge you to do more and more for the Lord, or, if you're already doing as much as you can, to improve the works that you do for Him, is because, to some extent,

Jesus' glory is tied to you doing more at the end than the first.

G. K. Beale suggests that the works of the faithful Christians at Thyatira, their deeds, love, faith, service and perseverance, (Revelation: 260)

"are not mere general deeds of Christian "service" but are works of persevering witness to the outside world. That this is specifically meant is discernible from the fact that when "love," "faith," and "endurance," especially "endurance and faith," appear elsewhere in the book they almost always refer to persevering witness."

Your persevering deeds show the world what kind of God you serve.

What kind of Savior do you serve? Is He One that the more time goes on you realize that He's not as good as you thought He would be and so you serve Him less and less? No. Just the opposite is true. The more time you spend walking with Him, the more you come to know Him—the more you realize how wonderful, how faithful, how wise, how committed to you He actually is! The more time you spend with Him the more you should realize how worthy He is.

Does He let you down when you need Him? Does He ever desert you? Does He ever cease loving you, even when you fail? Does He ever leave you without things you need? No, of course not.

If your deeds get more and better quality —they show the world God's commitment to His people, His power in them—that He is a God who provides for them. 2 Corinthians 9:8

"And God is able to make
every grace overflow to you, so that in every way,
always having everything you need,
you may excel in every good work."

More than anything else the world needs to know about Jesus and His work and His love for sinners. If your deeds get more and better quality—they show the world what kind of God you serve. They show that knowing Him is better than life. If you love others like Jesus has loved you—your love shows His love. This reveals to the world the glory of God. Your deeds glorify Jesus.

They will bring Him glory on the days that you do them. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:16

"let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father
who is in heaven."

They will also bring Him glory on the last great day. As we read in 1 Peter 2:12

"Live such good lives among the pagans that,
though they accuse you of doing wrong,
they may see your good deeds
and glorify God on the day he visits us."

The third reason you should grow in works is that

this shows that you truly belong to the Lord.

In 2 Peter 1:5–11 we read,

"For this very reason, make every effort to add
to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;
and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;
and to godliness, brotherly kindness;
and to brotherly kindness, love.
For if you possess these qualities
in increasing measure, they will keep you
from being ineffective and unproductive
in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But if anyone does not have them,
he is nearsighted and blind,
and has forgotten that he has been
cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager
to make your calling and election sure.
For if you do these things, you will never fall,
and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, it's clear from this passage that

Jesus is not pleased with your works.

You're not even doing the most basic of what God commands you to do. As we read in 1 John 3:23,

"And this is his command:
to believe in the name of his Son,
Jesus Christ, and to love one another
as he commanded us."

You were put here to obey and serve God. You're not doing that. Unless you repent you will perish. Turn from your sins. Go to Jesus. Find true life in Him.