Healthy, Growing Churches (5)
“I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer.” Revelation 2.9, 10
Tractate on the Apocalypse 2.10
Apringius of Beja (mid-sixth century)
“He speaks of those future trials and evils which will come upon them from the impious, and he comforts his faithful, that they not be fearful of the tortures of the persecutors. And he indicates what they would be strong enough to suffer and what the enemy would be able to do.… For, just as in the early period of the catholic church, after the banishment of the apostle, whose sayings these are, the sufferings continued and many tribulations were inflicted upon the church, so we know that also in the future more [sufferings] will be inflicted when the antichrist arrives, although even now the church often sustains many sufferings in various places and regions from heretics and from native populations.”
A church is not healthy which cannot discern the object it fears. If we fear our neighbors, those who scorn and ridicule us, or those who can make our communal existence difficult, then our fear is discerned, but misplaced. We must fear God, and Him only. When we fear God, we will serve Him, grow to love Him, and glorify Him in all our works (Deut. 10.12, 13). We will bear the threats and intimidation of the surrounding world without backing down from our witness. We will speak prophetically against any evils in our community, and undertake works of self-denying love to bring the grace, truth, beauty, and goodness of God to our neighbors. We will not fear to be rejected as we bear witness, to be ridiculed as we stand for righteousness, or to incur the wrath of the devil as we continue plundering his holdings throughout our community. Healthy churches fear God, but they fear no man, nor anything men or spirits might do to them. Leaders of healthy churches keep a close watch on what their congregations fear, to discern when they may be starting to shift from their proper focus.
How might you be able to discern when the fear of men is more prominent than the fear of God in your church?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Quotations from Church Fathers are from the Ancient Christian Commentary Series, published by InterVarsity Press.