Revelation 3:11

Sermon preached on February 19, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. 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.

Jim Vaus was an electronics wizard who worked for the mob in Los Angeles in the late 1940's. His specialty was wire tapping. He had started his career assisting the police in their criminal investigations, then moved to helping Hollywood stars seeking evidence to help them in their divorce proceedings, and finally ended up working for the mob. Mickey Cohen was his boss.

Late one night in 1949 Vaus phoned Cohen and told him that he needed to see him. He drove to Cohen's house and told him that he had recently attended a Billy Graham crusade and had become a Christian. He informed Cohen that he couldn't work for him any more, that he was giving up his illegal work. Surprisingly, Cohen told him that it was okay.

But other criminal figures were not so pleased. Vaus was scheduled to fly to St. Louis that week to do some work to help the mob there with a horse-race betting scam. When Vaus phoned them to tell them he wasn't coming, they told him that they'd be coming for him. Not long after some thugs from St. Louis showed up at Vaus' house and told him that it as time to settle scores. Vaus knew that they had orders to either kill or cripple him. But instead of showing fear, he spent 45 minutes on his porch steps telling them how he had been converted and how Jesus had transformed his life. Amazingly, the thugs listened and then left without doing anything to Vaus.

Vaus' old boss, Mickey Cohen, became more and more interested in what had happened to his former employee. He started seeking out Christians. And then it was like a miracle happened. Mickey Cohen made a public profession of faith in Christ. Many Christians were elated. It was all over the news and many Christians were happy that such a person was converted. Cohen even traveled to New York to attend a Billy Graham crusade.

But as time passed, it was clear that Mickey Cohen hadn't changed. He didn't leave his old lifestyle. He was still a gangster. At some point the Christians Cohen befriended confronted him about it and told him that he couldn't continue to be a gangster. In response Cohen said, (Charles Colson, Loving God, p. 92)

"You never told me I had to give up my career. You never told me that I had to give up my friends. There are Christian movie stars, Christian athletes, Christian businessmen. So what's the matter with being a Christian gangster? If I have to give up all that—if that's Christianity—count me out."

A lot of good Christians witnessed to Cohen. I'm sure that part of their witnessing included the necessity of repentance. But obviously Cohen just didn't take in everything they were saying. He thought he could continue living just like he was living and be a Christian and go to heaven. But that's not the way it works. Mickey gave up Christianity.

Jim Vaus, on the other hand, left his life of crime. He even made restitution for the crimes he committed. A short time before his conversion he had stolen $15,000 of electronic equipment from both the telephone company and a local radio station. He sold his house and car in order to pay them back. He also admitted that he had committed perjury against a policeman and thus saved the policeman's career. He went on to become involved in working to bring others to Christ. He worked with Billy Graham some and became an evangelist in the service of Christ.

Our text is about perseverance. Mickey Cohen didn't persevere. In fact, it seems he never even began the Christian life. He never came to know Jesus. But Jim Vaus was different. He persevered. Even in the face of a brutal beating and death, he refused to go back to his old ways. Which one is in heaven today? The answer is obvious.

If you come to know Jesus, everything in your life changes. Jim Vaus life was proof of that. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17,

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!"

If you come to Christ, not only does everything change, but basically everything stays changed. Jim Vaus is also an example of that. Christians persevere in holiness. Of course that doesn't mean that true Christians can't fall into sin or backslide for a time—but if they've truly come to know Christ—they will repent of those sins and turn back to Christ. One of the things that is characteristic of the Christian life is perseverance.

Our text is about persevering. It teaches us four things about it.

The first thing we should note about it is

the absolute necessity of persevering.

You must persevere for Jesus. He has given you a crown. This crown is really the victor's crown. It symbolizes victory, that you belong to Jesus and are on His side.

If you don't persevere, you're lost. Or, as Jesus puts it here, someone will take your crown. An enemy will come and snatch it away from you. We have a similar teaching in Colossians 2:18 where the apostle Paul warned the Colossian Christians about people who worship angels and delight in false humility— that they didn't 'disqualify' them for the prize.

As a Christian you must say 'no' to sin and temptation. You must persevere in holiness.

Here in our text it is referred to as 'holding on'. If we let it go we're lost. As the prophet Ezekiel told the ancient people of God, (Ezekiel 18:24)

"if a righteous man turns
from his righteousness and commits sin
and does the same detestable things
the wicked man does,
will he live?
None of the righteous things
he has done will be remembered.
Because of the unfaithfulness
he is guilty of and because of the sins
he has committed, he will die."

Perseverance is absolutely necessary. We need to take seriously warnings like Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:11–13

"If we disown him, he will also disown us;"

In John 15:2 Jesus said about His Father,

"He cuts off every branch in me
that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes so that it will be
even more fruitful."

We must hold on to the end. We must not give up. As Jesus said in Matthew 24:13,

"he who stands firm to the end
will be saved."

Leon Morris writes, (Matthew, Pillar Commentary)

"Saving faith is known not by some firm declaration or a well-intentioned beginning, but by endurance."

You must persevere in holiness. Are you doing that? Are you keeping yourself pure.

The second thing we see about perseverance is that

you need to work at persevering.

Perseverance doesn't just happen. We have to work at it. But it's a glorious work. It's about maintaining your crown, the crown of victory. Jesus said to the church in Philadelphia,

"I am coming soon.
Hold on to what you have,
so that no one will take your crown."

We must hold on to what we have. We must not let it go.

You need to have a plan. Remember what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24–27.

"Do you not know that in a race
all the runners run,
but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games
goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last;
but we do it to get a crown
that will last forever.
Therefore I do not run
like a man running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a man beating the air.
No, I beat my body and make it my slave
so that after I have preached to others,
I myself will not be disqualified
for the prize."

Do you have a plan for persevering? Have you gone into strict training?

You need to be vigilant. Use the means of grace, prayer, the Word, the sacraments, Christian fellowship—so that you will be able to stand against the attacks that are launched against you.

Every day you need to be in the Word of God. Every day you need to be in prayer, multiple times each day. Every Sunday you need to be in church, hearing the Word preached. Every time the Lord's Supper is dispensed you need to make an effort to be in church. Every Sunday you need to be in church gathering with other Christians, seeking to learn from them, enjoying their company, listening to their wisdom—sharpening them as they sharpen you.

I'm amazed that so many professing Christians today just throw away some of the things that God gives them to help them persevere and they think nothing of it. They throw away church attendance and they think that it's not going to hurt them spiritually. That's nuts. Gathering with God's people is a means of grace. God uses it to feed you, to strength you.

Giving up church attendance is akin to saying,

"I'm going to eliminate all protein from my diet."

You may be all right for a little while if you do that, but after awhile it will greatly harm you. You'll become weak. It'll harm your immune system. It'll affect your muscles.

Christians, if God gives you six weapons to protect yourself against Satan and the other enemies that are seeking to destroy you—are you going to just throw some of them away and say that you don't need them? If you were in the US army going into battle and they have you a M16, ammunition, some grenades, a pistol, a knife, a helmet and a bullet proof vest—do you that you could just throw away two or three of those things and think that you were going to be okay? No. You'd take those things. You'd make sure they were with you all the time. You'd keep your guns clean, at the ready.

Yet so many Christians today are not like that. They're individualistic. They read the Bible themselves. They pray by themselves—and they think that that's all they need to protect themselves. That's delusional.

I've said before that it's ultimately God who keeps us.

From that someone might be inclined to think that because it is ultimately God who keeps us, we don't have to do any work ourselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The promises given to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are promises to those who 'overcome' (2:7, 2:17, 2:26, 3:5, 3:12, 3:21), to those who 'remain faithful to the point of death' (2:10), to those who 'do God's will to the end' (2:26), to those who 'hold on to what they have until Jesus comes' (2:25).

We have work to do. Yet we can do it because God works in us.
In persevering we actually become co-workers with God. What a privilege this is! Louis Berkhof writes, (Summary of Christian Doctrine, 1938)

"the perseverance referred to is less an activity of believers than a work of God, in which believers must participate."

In 1 Corinthians 1:7–9 the apostle Paul put it this way.

"Therefore you do not lack
any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait
for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
He will keep you strong to the end,
so that you will be blameless
on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God, who has called you into fellowship
with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."

Paul is asserting that God is the one who will keep us to the end. But notice how he puts it. He will keep us 'strong'—He has not failed to give us any spiritual gift we need. Yet we are the ones that have to use the spiritual gifts. They don't operate on their own. We have to work.

The fact that God works in us makes it possible for us to work. As the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12–13

"Therefore, my dear friends,
as you have always obeyed—
not only in my presence,
but now much more in my absence—
continue to work out your salvation
with fear and trembling,
for it is God who works in you to will
and to act according to his good purpose."

God works in us so we can work. God works in us—so we must work.

With Christianity there is a sense in which there is no resting on your laurels. You have to persevere.

Someone once asked Walt Disney why he worked so hard on his movies. At the time Disney was at the top of his game. He had released hit movie after hit movie. The person who asked Walt that was suggesting that Walt didn't have to work that hard anymore, that he could rest on his laurels. Walt replied,

"You're only as good as your last movie."

In other words, if Walt made a movie that was bad, that bombed—people wouldn't remember his previous string of great movies. All they would remember and talk about was the last movie that he made—the one that was bad.

That describes how we are to view the Christian life. We are to view it as something that we are to do well. We are to grow, become more and more skillful at it, and each year that we live we are to do better than we did the year before. As the apostle Paul told his son in the faith Timothy, (1 Timothy 4:14–16)

"Do not neglect your gift,
which was given you through
a prophetic message when
the body of elders laid their hands on you.
Be diligent in these matters;
give yourself wholly to them,
so that everyone may see your progress.
Watch your life and doctrine closely.
Persevere in them,
because if you do,
you will save both yourself
and your hearers."

We are to be constantly making progress. We cannot rest on our past accomplishments. Indeed, we must persevere.

The third thing we see in our text is that

there are people, forces, that are trying to take your crown.

Jesus said,

"Hold on to what you have,
so that no one will take your crown."

This is personal. You're in a war. The enemies of Christ have set their sights on you. In 1 Peter 5:8 the apostle wrote,

"Your enemy the devil
prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour. "

Ephesians 6:12 says,

"For our struggle is not
against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers,
against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil
in the heavenly realms."

Many of the psalms, which describe the life of righteous, many of them about evil men trying to destroy the godly. Psalm 140 is typical. It says, (verses 1-8)

"Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men;
protect me from men of violence,
who devise evil plans in their hearts
and stir up war every day.
They make their tongues
as sharp as a serpent's;
the poison of vipers is on their lips.
Keep me, O Lord,
from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from men of violence
who plan to trip my feet.
Proud men have hidden a snare for me;
they have spread out the cords
of their net and have set traps
for me along my path.
O Lord, I say to you,
'You are my God.'
Hear, O Lord, my cry for mercy.
O Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
who shields my head in the day of battle—
do not grant the wicked their desires,
O Lord; do not let their plans succeed…"

There are forces arrayed against you. Satan hated Job and wanted to destroy Him. He wanted to take Peter and destroy His faith.

You need to be vigilant. You need to make great use of the means of grace.

Are you going to let evil forces take your crown?

During World War 2 the people in charge of the British Crown Jewels hid them. At one point in the war they were afraid that the Nazis were going to invade and overrun Britain. They didn't want the crown jewels landing in the hands of the Nazis. Herman Goering used to collect treasures like that. They didn't want their crown jewels landing in his hands. So they hid them. We still don't know where. Some rumors say they were transported to Fort Knox. Other rumors say they were moved to a vault in Montreal. Still others say there never left Britain. The point is that they were kept safe. They weren't going to let the Nazis take the king's crown.

Are you going to let the evil ones, who hate you, who want to destroy you—are you going to let them win? Are you going to let them take your crown?

Or are you going to work hard at perseverance? Are you going to see sin and temptation for what they are? Are you going to love God's commands and work hard at applying them to your life?

That's what you need to do. Don't delay. Get sin out of your life.

The third thing we should see in our text is that

the time that we have to persevere is not inordinately long.

Jesus said to the church in Philadelphia,

"I am coming soon.
Hold on to what you have…"

The implication is that this activity of persevering will not be such a long activity that it will wear us out and that we will not be able to hold out.

I once worked at a job where I had to be on watch, sometimes during a time when it was tempting to go to sleep. I worked as a policeman and sometimes I had to be on watch all night. Sometimes around 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning it seemed like the night would never end. But before too long you'd see first rays of light in the eastern sky and the night would be over.

Jesus is telling us that the time we'll have to persevere is not that long. We can concentrate on it and put all our effort into it knowing that we're not going to have to do it for too long—that Jesus is coming soon.

In a couple of months it's going to be the 100
th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy. The ship hit an iceberg. It was a calm night and that made the icebergs harder to see because there were no waves splashing up against the base of the icebergs. In the movie "Titanic" there were a lot of things that were fictional. One of them was the scene of the two watchmen in the crow's nest of the Titanic. Just before they spotted the iceberg, they were goofing off look down at the deck of the ship, watching Jack and Rose kissing. When they looked up from that, one of them could see the iceberg directly in their path. He sounded the warning but it was too late.

That was fictional. But the point is a good one. If your duty was to be in the crow's net watching for icebergs, it meant that you were to never goof off. I'm not sure how long the crow's nest duty on the Titanic was, two, three, four hours—I'm sure it was relatively short. Your duty was to be constantly vigilant. Grant Osborne writes, (Revelation, p. 195)

"The emphasis is on the continual effort (present tense) needed to maintain their walk with Christ."

So, you who call yourselves Christians,

how are you doing?

Are you persevering? Paul said to the Corinthian Christians, (2 Corinthians 13:5)

"Examine yourselves to see
whether you are in the faith;
test yourselves.
Do you not realize that
Christ Jesus is in you
—unless, of course, you fail the test?"

Are you holding on to some secret sin? Are you giving Satan a foothold? Beware. You're stepping onto a slippery slope. Don't indulge in any sin. Daily ask God to keep you from all sin. Daily ask Him to fill you with His power. Daily ask Him to help you make use of all the means of grace that He gives you.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, what you should see from our text is that

you don't have a crown. You're already lost.

The evil ones that hate you, that want to destroy you—they already have you. You're on your way to hell. There's only one that can save you. That's Jesus. Go to Him today. Repent of your sins and find life in Him.