When most of us read a book we forget more than we retain.
Superior books are subject to purposeful abuse – critical phrases and sentences underlined, notes scribbled in the columns, question marks and exclamations – all indications of the reader’s intent to dig out as much treasure as possible. And the reader returns year after year until the author’s insights are fully screened and digested.
Of the 95 theses, # 60 is the most critical. If you forget 1 to 59 and 61 to 95 it could be unfortunate but not critical. But if the truth of 60 is missed, if you fail to realize the importance of relationship with your Sin-bearer, if relationship with others is nurtured more religiously than your relationship with Lord Jesus, your earthly christianity and your entire eternity will be greatly impoverished. Guaranteed.
Please give special consideration to thesis # 60.
Lord Jesus had messages for “the seven churches which are in Asia” (Revelation, chapters 1 to 3), most of them stinging and a few complimentary. Lord Jesus also has a message for each of us, but only those having “ears to hear” have the ability to hear.
There is only one way to ensure the Lord Jesus has no stinging words of rebuke: Retain your “first love” as first love. In other words, love Jesus more than every other person or any pastime or habit or addiction. In other words, outlaw idols, human and otherwise.
For many, the value of relationship with “the Son of His love” was greatest at conversion. Because of multiple strains of life and the deceitful glitter of the world and/or religion, relationship has devalued.
Christians live in dangerous times. Addictive smut is a few clicks away. Ever-present, well-disguised religions compete for our affection and allegiance. Evangelicals fellowship with evangelicals, the confused with the confused, and sit under the ministry of those who have swapped the lordship of Christ for ecclesiastical lords.
Yes, we live in dangerous times. It has always been so throughout church history, but perhaps for us the level of danger is much elevated. We must stay close to stay protected. Straying from our Shepherd is straying from protection. Straying from His protection is inviting calamity.
Both the consistently faithful and the one who has foolishly wandered and wisely returned are overcomers. There is no concern for rebuke from the Master, even though they may (will?) do dumb often. The Lord looks at the heart, and if He sees loyalty and effort He is satisfied. In the letters to the seven, there was no reprimand for overcomers.
Revelation has much to say about “him who overcomes”.
Within the seven churches were both the overcome and the overcomer. And, of course, both are in our 21st century church, the one far outnumbering the other. It is so silly to be overcome when we can easily become an overcomer through repentance.
The overcomer will never hear what many of the seven churches heard….
He will never hear, “Nevertheless I have this against you.”
She will never hear, “I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.”
He will never hear, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”
She will never hear, “I have not found your works perfect before God.”
He will never hear, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
She will never hear, “That the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed.”
He will never hear, “Anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”
Some might balk at the suggestion the Lord Jesus would speak to an evangelical in such a stern manner, yet He did say, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.”
“Rebuke and chasten.”
The overcomer, the one whose first love is Lord Jesus, has no need for rebuke or chastening. Instead he is a recipient of many promises….
“To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
“He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
“To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name.”
“He who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.”
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world.”
“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God.”
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne.”
Obviously it’s imperative to understand what an overcomer is….
The word ‘overcome’ suggests a struggle against a formidable enemy. Resentment, unforgiveness, unbelief, envy, fear, lust, religion, pride, love of leisure, love of money – these are all formidable enemies that have successfully subdued most.
An overcomer is the one who does not allow any person or any circumstance, good or bad, to pry him away from “first love”. An overcomer is the sheep contentedly feeding on pasture near The Good Shepherd. An overcomer is the one quick to repent. An overcomer is the branch firmly attached to The Vine.
There is much wrong with evangelicalism (etcetera). But if every evangelical simply bowed to the Biblical truth of thesis # 60, not only would evangelicalism be greatly reformed, it would actually cease to be.