Time to Stand No Matter What!

What Does It Mean To Stand Up For Your Belief In Jesus Christ

Pastor Matt Stokes
Jan 3, 2021    47m
Have you ever faced a time where someone challenged your beliefs, but you were afraid to respond? This message of courage and faith can help you stand up for your belief in Jesus Christ no matter what the circumstance. Video recorded at Ocean City, New Jersey.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Matt Stokes: 00:00 God's revelation reveals God's history and future. And in the midst of the Book of Revelation, God reveals his heavenly past, present, and history on current events. Revelation is the only example of apocalyptic literature, that's the ancient prophet's symbolic interpretation of dreams and visions. And in the midst, there is a perspective given on future events, so that the present could be viewed in light of history's final outcome, and that's the essence of prophecy. Ancient words of prophecy are often called into the present, during a time of crisis, to warn or comfort people. The final words of these thoughts are collected in a book called Revelation. In Revelation, John is saying, Whoa, back up, everybody, my message stands in the tradition of the ancient biblical prophets, and I am bringing their message to a final conclusion. So John makes it clear it's written to seven churches in their modern day. Here's the part we need to get, this is not a secret predictive code, the Apostle John is using futuristic imagery. He presumes that we will go and discover, within the symbols, what the Holy Spirit means. And John is confident that we will be confident, and comforted, because we have heard, listened to, and experience the Word of God. And there's an invitation today to see, understand, and experience the Book of Revelation.

Matt Stokes: 01:36 So let's just get right to it today, the message is called, Time To Stand No Matter What, and it's going to be Revelation chapter 3. So if you want to turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter 3, I'll just tell you something, you know, I'm from Philly, most of you know, born and raised. And some particular pieces from Philadelphia, I remember being in a section that wasn't so great, and I saw this guy being beat up really bad. I don't know if he died, but if he did and he was beaten until he was near death. This other guy like hit him from the shoulder, took him up, threw him on the top of a car hood, and then jumped on top of the car hood and just pummeled him. And his, the big guy's girlfriend was like, Johnny, no. You know, and this guy's like bam. And like, you know what I did? Nothing, I watched the whole thing, and I have to live with that, knowing that I didn't help him.

Matt Stokes: 02:38 So I wasn't part of a gang in Philly, but I had guys, and we would travel to different things. I don't know if it was a Father Judge dance or something that Archbishop Ryan, whatever it was, football games, we traveled with a group. We were outside our section, we were in like Frankford sitting on some school steps, I can't even remember the school, I mean, we're talking, I was in my late teens. But I remember sitting there with this group of guys, and there was an older guy who was in our group about two years older than me, maybe a little more than two, and he kind of ran the group because he was the oldest guy. And while we're sitting on the steps, smoking our cigarettes and doing what teenagers do, this other group of guys that were from Frankfurt came up to us and said, you're on our steps. And so none of us talked because we're waiting for, you know, our guy, what he says to do, that's what we do. So we're all quiet, and then the guy says, and he's with a group too. All right, we've got seven or eight, he's got seven or eight, he's like, I'm going to give you three seconds to get off my steps. One, and I just remember clenching my fist, and my adrenals were like jing. And then he's like two, and I look at the guy next to me and he's got his fists, like we're ready to go. And right before, he's about to say three, the oldest guy in our group goes, come on, guys, let's go. And we all got up, humiliated, off the steps and walked away. Fifteen years later, that guy calls me and said, we started small talking about some things. And then he says, hey, remember Frankfurt on the steps? I said, yeah. He said, I should have stood up, it was time to stand, I should have stood up.

Matt Stokes: 04:25 I grew up all through junior high and high school with this girl who used Jesus' name in vain all day, every day, and she got really creative on how she did it. She said things like Jesus H. Christ, I don't even know what the H is for, I should Google this later this afternoon. Does anyone say that outside of Philly? Do people say Jesus H? What is that? She put all kinds of words between Jesus and Christ, right? And do you know what I did? Nothing.

Matt Stokes: 04:53 In fact, I'm not going to go too long ago, like, I'm telling you all these stories from my childhood. Not too long ago, there was a guy who was talking about karma, and he believes in karma, and he was going on to tell me why he believes in karma. And I said, well, you know, actually in the Bible it says, whatever man a sows, that's what he's going to reap. And like, there was a door that was open there, and I didn't walk through it. And I just, I kind of didn't, you know. And then later, you know, the spirit pressed into my heart that I opened that door, and you didn't walk through it.

Matt Stokes: 05:28 Nope, it's time to stand no matter what, there are some things that are not worth fighting for. My wife and I, we fight very consistently on the issue of what's the difference between black and dark blue, anybody else have this with their spouse? Here wear these black pants? Well, they're not black, they're navy blue. No, they're black. They're not black, they're navy blue. We'll come over here and stand in the light. I am with you in the light, and this is navy blue, right?

Matt Stokes: 05:51 Like, some things aren't worth standing for, but what about the courage to stand when something's right, no matter what? And I'm saying as a pastor of Coastal, I'm saying particularly the courage to stand in the context of Christ, because that's what this family of faith in ancient Philly did. Come with me Revelation chapter 3, starting in verse 7. And it says this, "Write this letter to the angel, the messenger, of the church in Philadelphia." Most of you know that Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love. Philos is the Greek word for love, and adelphós is the word for brothers, so it's the city of brotherly love. Most of you know, if you're a local, that ocean city was founded by brothers to be sort of a place where Christians could come and retreat. And so this city is also a Philadelphia in that sense, the Philadelphia that we know is founded on the other side of the Delaware river here, has its own history.

Matt Stokes: 06:54 But as far as the history of this particular city, it was a little cultural outpost. What do I mean, it was like a visitor center. It wasn't huge like the city of Colossi. It wasn't huge like Ephesus. This was a little cultural outpost. In other words, when you went there, you learned Greek culture, you learned Greek language, Greek art, Greek political systems, all the things that had to do with Greece, they want you to learn their culture. So along the major routes from Europe to Asia, and the major cities you would visit, you would come through this little city of Philadelphia, lots of little temples, lots of gods. They actually called it little Athens, was it nickname, because they want you to feel like you were in Greece when you went to Philadelphia. It was almost like they were doing outreach, but their outreach was to try to convert you to Greek culture. Right?

Matt Stokes: 07:52 So something else you might not know, there was a lot of seismic activity that goes on in this region here, volcanoes, earthquakes. So, you know, it was just funny, because we were just singing that song, And I Will Not Be Shaken. Like this city was shaken, it was shaken many times. In fact, in regular history, you'll see that about a hundred years before this was written, which was probably AD 90, a hundred years before that, there was an earthquake that almost decimated the city of Philadelphia beyond repair so that it would just be a pile of rubble. But that's why they had little strength, they were a little city/.

Matt Stokes: 08:27 Next it says, "This is the message from the one who is holy and true." Let me pause and just center down on this for a minute, most of us know holy hagiasmos in the Greek, it means sanctified, it means set apart. The word true is alithís, normally in the Bible. And the word true is mentioned hundreds and hundreds of times throughout the Bible. But this word is not alithís, it's aléthinos, it doesn't mean true as opposed to what is false, it means true in regards to not pretend, what is genuine, what is sincere, what is authentic. It's used only in a very few places, and most of the places that it is used, it's actually used by this writer, John. Jesus is the aléthinos light, he's the true light. The aléthinos light, that lighteth every man that comes into the world. A time is coming, John chapter, 4 and now is, when aléthinos worshipers will worship in spirit and what? And truth. That word truth is alithís. The genuine aléthinos worshipers will actually worship in reality, they'll worship in God's reality, right? So it's fascinating how he uses that word, I am the aléthinos vine, I'm the true vine, and my father is the vine dresser, he's the gardener. And this is eternal life, John 17:3, "And this is eternal life, that they might know the, the only aléthinos God and Jesus Christ, whom thou hath sent."

Matt Stokes: 09:58 And when I look at aléthinos, and this is me, because some of you ask, how do you study? What do you center down on? When I hit that word, and I actually go through and I look up the original language, I got stuck there. I was like, aléthinos, is that a word that people would say of me? Sincere, genuine, authentic, real, is that a word people would say of you? You know, I want to encourage you, I believe that God's blessed this church. Matthew could probably tell you similar testimonies of people that say they've really been blessed by Coastal because we're led of the Holy Spirit, because we believe in the supremacy of scripture, and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But here's another reason, we're pretty real here, right? That's why I always talk about the three-piece suiter, and the open-toed sandler, and the purple mohawker, the Harley biker rider, like we all fit in here together, like we're all real. And take Matthew for example, he had a tragedy that, you know, that ended in great humility in his life, and he actually used that tragedy and he's very transparent in talking about it, so it actually created a platform for him to share the gospel.

Matt Stokes: 11:11 I did a wedding not too long ago, and you get to know the wedding party because you got to do the rehearsal and all that kind of stuff, and then later you do the wedding, right? And so you get to know them a little bit. And I was leaving and on the way out with Laura, as I was heading towards the car, I said goodbye to one of the girls in the bridal party. And she said, Hey today was like, really, it was really good. And I was like, oh, well thanks very much. She goes, yeah, you know, you're real. And it really touched me, like you can't, I guess because I grew up with so much phoniness in the church, like there was the guy behind the banister and like he might as well float into the room. Right? Because like, he wasn't really real to me. So God put me in this particular position, and I try to be as real and as transparent as I can, because I think God values that. In fact, in this particular passage, it's a character of God. I'll tell you, remember I told you about that person who wrote to me and said, I like, when you tell us how you fight with your wife? I actually filed that one, that was a keeper, you know? But like what they really meant by that was, we really appreciate that you tell us that you're real.

Matt Stokes: 12:16 I'll tell you that my thoughts are scattered. I mean, the staff here knows what my morning was already like today, I'm impulsive. You know, I just tell you, it's a very careful integration. And I've said this before, like people want a pastor that's real enough that we can really relate to him, but you don't want me to be too real, because if I'm too real, then it's like, Oh my goodness, you did that. Like sometimes I wonder if you really knew who I was, if you'd really ever come back here again. And then I wonder if I really knew who you were, I wonder if I'd come back again?

Matt Stokes: 12:51 It says there's a key, and he holds the key, and he opens the door that no one can shut. This is a direct reference to Isaiah chapter 22, if you want to write it real small on your margin. Long story short, there was a leader over Israel, and he was not responsible with his authority. So what God does, is he said, I'm going to take you, and I'm going to throw you...Literally it's fling, it's like what you would do with a Frisbee, it's kind of a violent word. I'm going to throw you, I'm going to cast you out of your position, and put Eliakim in your place. And I am going to place on his shoulder, listen, the key of the house of David, right here, and what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts, no one can open. So it's like a symbol here of something, and Jesus now is taking those words from Isaiah 22, and he's actually ascribing them to himself. So, you know, and this is powerful, it's a very strong language. And so what's being presented to the ancient Philadelphians here, is a perfect and powerful, sovereign and strong, Jesus.

Matt Stokes: 13:58 Now, when I read it, and I don't think I'm alone, and when you read it, it makes it sound like, you know, Jesus is like the hammer. Matthew said in the lobby after the last service, he was like maybe that's what the H is for in Jesus' H. I don't know, we'll look it up. But I know this, he is a hammer and he will crush people like powder. And he is a God of love and judgment, but here's the good news, he's with them, he's with them, and Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And I want to just encourage you by saying that Jesus is for you, and Jesus is with you. What would happen today? Again, I say this often, if we broke forth from this place and we believed in the core of our being, God is for me, God is with me. Like, I don't know what your self-talk is, but what if you really said, God is for me, God is with me. And if God is with me, then who can be against me? He who spared, not his own son, but delivered him up for us all. Will he not freely, through him, give us all things. That is the gospel, that the Father loved us so much that he sent his Son in order to show us how much he loves us, and how much he wants to give to us, that's the gospel.

Matt Stokes: 15:12 The point here is, is that Jesus has the key and he says, I'm going to open, and no man can close, and when I close, no man can open. Knock and the door will be what? Say it loud, say it loud. Open. Matthew chapter 7, verse 7, Matthew 7:7, "Knock and the door will be opened" The syntax and the structure of the statements in the passage, along with the context, clues, and the history. When you put it all together, what's really being said, here is, it indicates an opportunity with Christ's authority, for them to continue their testimony. That's what he's saying. I'm going to place upon you with my authority, the opportunity for you to have more of a testimony, to shine your light in your city, to let the gospel go forth from your life. I'm going to open doors.

Matt Stokes: 16:10 You know, Paul prayed for an open door when he was writing in Colossians chapter 4, I'll read it for you. Just listen to this, it says, pray for us too Paul says, pray too that. God may open a door and our message will go forth, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains. So while he's in chains, more like this probably, chained to the wall, he still says, God can go open the door. Do you see what I'm saying? I mean, do you hear the impact of that? He's chained to the wall, and he's like, pray that God still opens the door, and that the message still goes forth.

Matt Stokes: 16:44 Acts chapter 14, "And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done through them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles." And I'm saying, now let's correlate this to Coastal Christian, this community. He's saying, I've sovereignly, and I've strategically positioned you in a place where you can proclaim my message, my message of justice, my message of wisdom, and power, and love. And I placed you there, and you've walked through that door. So I'm saying that because I want to challenge you to accept the opportunity, the moment, go through the door, go through the door, go through the door, say it with me, go through the door. Say it louder, go through the door. Tell the person on either side of you, tell them to go through the door. You've got to go through the door that God opens for you.

Matt Stokes: 17:59 He says, see, I have set before you an open door. This is interesting because in the New Living Translation, as they make it more modern, they took out ado. ado is a word that means to see or to behold. It actually says, see, listen to this, pause and give me your attention for a second. It says, "See, I've set before you an open door." And like, again, little words like fascinate me. Why did he say see? Probably cause we don't see, probably because we don't see the open doors that are in front of us for maybe a number of reasons. Do you see the open doors that God's placing in front of you that he wants you to walk through? Why do you miss the doors? Are you missing the doors, maybe because you're looking for the gates. Do you know what I'm saying? You're looking for the gates, like the big opportunities, it's like I'm looking for the defining moment. And God's like, okay, I've got this door though, that I just want you to walk through.

Matt Stokes: 18:57 Like for me, personally, like this is the gate, okay? You have come this morning, and you come and you get to see me. Like, I didn't have to do anything for you to be here. It's like, I'm so glad you're here. I'm telling you, to me, like this is the gate. Like Matthew said, there's more of you are coming than ever, and I'm so thankful that you're here. I saw brand new faces coming through the door, I'm like, praise God. And then faces of familiar people that I just haven't seen in months, like praise God. This is like the gate, but I'm telling you, when I walk outside of this place, I get as scared and nervous as you to sometimes walk through the door, to take that step.

Matt Stokes: 19:36 I was at the gym this weekend, and there's a guy there, Crazy Jim. And I don't talk to Crazy Jim, do you know why? Because he crazy. So I just usually tend to avoid Jim, I've got my iPhone and my headset in. And like, God like presses it into my heart to talk to him, but like I try to start blowing it off. So I put on, you know, of course, you know, I put on my set, I always put Matthew Maher on. I put them on a loop going, look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me. Because like, it gets me all fired up, you know? Yeah, it's pretty awesome, you all should try that. And so like as I'm lifting, like I feel God pressing into my heart like yo, in case you think that's like you just talking to you, it's me, talk to Jimmy. So like 10 minutes later, I'm showing Jimmy Costal on my phone, and I'm exchanging phone numbers with Crazy Jimmy. Like I'm giving my phone number to some guy, like he's giving me his number, I'm like, this is so weird. But it was God, like he told me to walk through the door. I'm writing this message that's talking about, you know, it's time to stand no matter what, and I'm not going to talk to Crazy Jimmy, I've got to do this.

Matt Stokes: 20:53 I want to challenge all of you to walk through the door that God's placing in front of you. Well, you know, it's not my gift. Look, it's all of our calling, some of us are gifted in it more than others, but it's all of our calling. Do you want a strategy, I'll give you a strategy. Talk to people as if they're already believers, just say, hey, would you just pray for me, because I have this situation that I've got to face at work and really I'm just kind of caught up about it, and I would just really appreciate your prayer. Like, you'd be surprised how that opens the door. Like yeah, okay, I'll pray for you. Perfect, okay, do you want prayer right now? You don't have to get crazy about it, but start to walk through those doors. Hey, I was just thanking God for some clarity, because I really didn't know what to do about this particular thing, and I went in this direction and God really blessed it. And I'm just thanking God for it. Whatever, hey, I was at church and they're studying Revelation there like every week, and I just heard that, you know, no matter what you want, if God closes the door, there's no way anyone can open it. And if God opens something, then there's no way anybody can close it, like God's going to get what God wants. Like just talk to the person as if you're presuming they're already a believer, and just see where it goes. That's an interesting, I'm just giving you one simple strategy that you could try.

Matt Stokes: 22:04 There are very few times where I've given my testimony where someone has actually been combatant. And if they are going to be combatant, you usually know they're going to be before it happens. And sometimes you're surprised sometimes you think it's going to be, and it isn't, but sometimes you don't think it's going to be, and it is. But most of the time, you know, right. I took on three witches at once in Bucks County one time, great conversation, great conversation. Laura was there, and then there was this other witch that I live next door to, that, which was such a witch that when she started her car, it actually went broom, broom. That's how intense she was as a witch. She had like a satanic bumper sticker on her car, and on her bicycle. And no matter how hard I tried, I just could not break through to her. You know, like it seemed like that door was closed, and obviously God wasn't opening it. No man comes to the father unless the father draws him. and he just was now drawing her. But I had to walk through the door, if that's what God's calling me to do. And whatever context that might be for you, I want to challenge you, if God gives you that door of opportunity that you walk through.

Matt Stokes: 23:22 Let me correlate it one more time in a particular way. To get through the doors of Coastal anytime during the weekday, you need a key. It's actually a key fob that you wave over this little pad on the door, and the door opens up. And there's only one man in this church that is the lord of the keys, one fob to rule them all, and that's Dan Nobel. And if you know Dan Noble, he controls everyone's digital key fob. So if you have an event here, you can fill out the room requests form, you can invite the people, you can show up early. And if you don't have your key, Dan, Dan, he's our man, he opens the door that no one can. And if Dan digitally deactivates, no man can open that door. Maybe you see my metaphor. The point is this, it doesn't matter if you don't have the key, God has the key and can open any door of opportunity. Sovereignly, If God shuts the door, there's no way you're going to open it. Whether it's an evangelical opportunity and you think you're the person that has to win them to Christ. Like I shared the gospel, now I'm going to close the deal. God's like, no, you walked through the door, but this is my responsibility.

Matt Stokes: 24:42 Whether It's a ministry that you're desiring, or whether it's something you want in financial goals, or whether it's a disease that's ending in fatality. I'm saying God is sovereign over it, he opens the door that no one can shut, and he shuts the door no one can open. So what do we do? So we pray, and we trust the outcome to the one who is holy and aléthinos. The one who is holy and true, who holds the keys. The smallest child, if he's with the one who holds the keys, he can walk right into Fort Knox. And yet, without the key, the most powerful, prominent, prestigious, strong, person will be frustrated.

Matt Stokes: 25:24 Look at this next phrase, "You have little strength." "You have little strength." They were uniquely located, again, particularly in this hyper-seismic reactivity region. And for that reason, they really couldn't grow as a city. This was a very little church, it wasn't large at all. But do you know what? That didn't matter. Jesus was giving ancient Philly a very high compliment here. "You have little strength." See, we can be too strong, did you know that? You can actually be too strong to use. If you're, you know, when I grew up in the nineties, I call it the Iverson effect. Here's a guy that was so strong, but you know what, the team couldn't use him. How about Samson, God said, I'm going to make you strong, and then Samson got so full of himself, God couldn't use him. He used the strength for himself to the last moment of his life. Judas was given the financial responsibility, the strength of financial authority, and that led to the love of money, which is the root of all

Matt Stokes: 26:31 See in ancient Philly, they had the humility to know that their strength was in the Lord. And I want to encourage you right now that if you have little strength, praise God, he's going to use it. If have little strength, well, I don't know, I'm not an evangelist, and I'm not...If you have little strength, God's going to use it. One man, named Abraham with little strength, if you believe the history of his life and his character, he started a nation that's spread around the world today. One man named Joseph of little strength, saved Egypt from starvation. One little boy named David with little strength, put a stone into a giant warriors head, and gave courage and strength to the entire nation. There was a little group of fishermen that had a few friends, and they're responsible for taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. It's not always about bigger or smaller, it's about healthy. Just like a church of 30 in North Carolina is rising up with strength, and helping people in India on the other side of the world. It's not about your strength and ability, it's about his strength and your availability. Again, it's about being humble. It's about being a Christ committed, Holy Spirit submitted, believer. I mean, come on, the whole reason Gideon's army was taken down to 300 men was so that God could show them that they had little strength. Do you hear what I'm saying today? If you hear what I'm saying, give me a real loud I.

Matt Stokes: 27:58 God wants to show you that when you're weak, you are strong. Right? Second Corinthians 12, Paul says, "I had this weakness, and this weakness came upon me, this infirmity was upon me. So I prayed to God to take it from me, and God said, my strength is going to be sufficient for you. And what you're going to find out is my strength is going to actually bring wholeness to you in the midst of your weakness." And then Paul says, Oh my goodness. When I found that out, I was actually excited about my weakness, because then I realized that when I'm weak, then I'm strong." When I'm weak, then I'm strong.

Matt Stokes: 28:28 And now you have Jesus right here, writing to the church of Philadelphia. He says, "You have little strength." Now go and stand, no matter what. How did this church stand no matter what? In the midst of mixed multitudes, they stood no matter what. In the midst of paganism, and hedonism, and humanism, and Roman imperialism, they stood no matter what. How did this church stand the test of time? They lasted over a thousand years. Hey, will Coastal last a thousand years, if the Lord tarries? A thousand years, until the Turks came in, and the Ottoman Empire and they gathered all the Christians into the largest temple, and they made them all martyrs in a moment and murdered them. And they entered into glory as it says in the scriptures, particularly in [inaudible] "Blessed in the eyes of the Lord are the death of his saints." But how did they stand, no matter what, for a thousand years,

Matt Stokes: 29:29 I'll tell you how, look at the next verse, the next line. It says, "You had little strength yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me." How did this little church stand no matter what? Number one, they were reaching out with Jesus. Number two, by relying on Jesus. And number three, by being faithful to Jesus. Reaching out, relying on being faithful to Jesus. So how do we, right now in this Coastal Community, how do we stand no matter what? In the midst of her religious legalism, in the midst of consumerism, in the midst of racism, in the midst of reverse racism, globalism politicization, atheism, modernism, postmodernism, Neo postmodernism, and fatalism, how do we stand no matter what? Same way, by reaching out for Jesus with every open door opportunity, by relying on Jesus and obeying his word, by being faithful to Jesus and standing up for the gospel, no matter what.

Matt Stokes: 30:33 Verse 9, just quickly I'll run through this. It says, "Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love." And I don't want to stay here too long because he said very similar things to another church, I believe was Pergamum. Jesus uses very strong language to talk about those who said they were Jews, but listen, they were Jews in name only. They had no spiritual connection to Abraham, they weren't aléthinos in terms of their genuine faith. What they did do though, is they looked at the Jewish Christians and they slandered them, they ostracized them, they ex-communicated them. Aléthinos believers, genuine believers, were kicked out of the synagogue society. And if you know your history, you know, that's like cutting you off from your entire community. Your attempt to buy, your attempt to sell, your attempt to socialize, all destroyed by these particular people.

Matt Stokes: 31:36 Listen, you can read it again in chapter 2, he says the same thing, but you'll see how serious the Savior takes. slander. One more thing quickly, it's important to notice that Jesus is not speaking here of all Jews, this is a particular group. Just like those who are not really aléthinos Christians right? Now, remember I said this before, they may have theological intellect, or they may be social activists and go to church, but they're not genuine Christians. Jesus said many will come on that day and say, Lord. And he said, I will say to them depart from me, I never knew you. And they'll say to him, well, wait, didn't we do this, and didn't we do that, and didn't we do this other thing for you? And Jesus is going to say, no, I never knew you.

Matt Stokes: 32:32 Verse 10, "Because you have obeyed my command to persevere." Would you circle that word, persevere, in your copy right now in chapter 3. “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing." Other translations say, "The great hour of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world." Another translation says, "To those who dwell on the earth." Notice this, he says, this is really important. He says, "I'm going to keep you from the hour of trial." "I'm going to protect you from the hour of trial." What I'm trying to say is, it doesn't say this, "I will protect you in the hour of trial." In other words, he's not going to actually protect them while they're in it, he's actually going to protect them from it. Why is that important? The pattern of prophetic references often have a dual meaning, okay, something the present reader understands, but it's also for future readers as well. As Matthew and I go through Daniel and Revelation, I'm sure we're going to take some time, at some point, to talk about the theology of prophecy and how that works. But for now, just understand this, this time of great testing, this hour of great testing, to which he's referring, was no doubt significant to something that this city of Philadelphia saw on their horizon, but it's certainly also a reference to the great tribulation.

Matt Stokes: 34:02 Which we'll talk about in a few chapters coming quickly. I know that, because when it talks about testing those who dwell on the earth, it's in the Book of Revelation, it's in there nine times. And every time it's in there, it's a reference to lost people, and God's judgment upon the lost people who dwell upon the earth. They're earth dwellers, they have no home in heaven, they have no citizenship in heaven, there's no destination for them other than earth. No doubt, this is a reference to the great tribulation, the hour of trial, the hour of tribulation. So there's a dual meaning going on here, and we'll talk more about that as we move forward. But quickly, the great practical takeaway from verse 10 is this, and I don't have a slide for this, but maybe this is worth writing down just in your own words. There is a direct relationship between keeping God's commands, and persevering through trials. Because you've kept my commands and shall persevere through trials, there's a direct relationship.

Matt Stokes: 35:02 I know in my life, listen to this, because this might be one of the most important things I say today in terms of real, practical, spiritual help. When I am saturated in scripture, and I have really sincerely given myself to prayer, and I am seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and I'm surrounding myself with other people who do, and I'm sharing my faith, I'm reaching out like this church of Philadelphia, I know that I persevere through trials in a whole different way. I have more strength, I have more determination. I have more grace towards others, I have more love for God, in the midst of some really sick, crazy stuff that might happen in my life. And because I know some of you and the trials that some of you have faced, or even are going through now, I just want to challenge you. There is a direct relationship between keeping God's commands, following through on what he's telling you to do in his word, and your ability to persevere through whatever you're going through.

Matt Stokes: 35:59 11, "I am coming soon." The word, again, is a Greek word that means I'm coming quickly, I'm coming suddenly, I'm coming rapidly, I'm coming unexpectedly. "Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown." He's saying, hold on, hold fast, keep a tight grip, keep up what they have as a foundation. What is Jesus telling them to hold onto? What did they have? I'm going to say it again, because I really want to drill it down. They were reaching out with Jesus, they were relying on Jesus, and they were being faithful to Jesus. And now we just mentioned another one that I asked you to circle in verse 10, they're fighting for Jesus. He says, you keep reaching out, you keep relying on, you're being faithful to, and you fight for, Jesus, you're going to receive a crown, and don't let anybody take it from you. And again, this is not a Royal crown, this is the Victor's crown, this is the crown that you received when you won the games, when you won the Olympics, right? When you won the competition, Jesus is like, run the race as fast as you can, and don't let someone steal that crown from you.

Matt Stokes: 37:08 It's Interesting, you can do this if you want this afternoon, get online. You can actually find the videos, I watched it last night because I remember seeing them in the past, but I just wanted to make sure that they were there. Where people are actually like running races, like famous competitions and marathons, whatever, And the one video I saw last night, like the guy was heading towards the finish line and he went like this, like everybody cheer for me, everybody cheer. And zoom, this guy went right by him, like broke the tape in won nine one hundredths of a second. Because he was so full of himself, he got so self-confident, running going like this as he was heading. And then you see him go like this, and who goes what, then there was another guy jacked up, runs, and he goes like this and he's running, and just before he crosses the line, he goes like this. Boom guy runs right by, if you look for it, I mean, it's actually funny if it isn't so sad when it comes to the spiritual metaphor. It's like the tortoise and the hare, remember like the rabbit thought he was so fast. Like I always go, is everyone thinking of bugs bunny right now? Like he thought he was so fast that, you know, he decided that he was going to get lazy, he was overconfident, he took a break and he lost the race to a turtle. If you keep watching those runners, then you know how YouTube, like one thing leads to another. You'll see some football ones where the guy gets down to the end zone and he's got the football, and he's like on the one yard line he's like going like this. And like some guy just takes the ball right out of his hand, or like tackles him from behind, and it's like, you dope, don't give up until you cross the line. And I'm saying there's a challenge here for us, not to give up. Don't give up.

Matt Stokes: 38:48 Verse 12, "All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it." What does that mean? Let me explain it quickly, there were large pillars in these temples that were dedicated to these gods in these cities, and the pillars are a symbol of strength, they're a symbol of stability. And this that you're looking at right here in Revelation chapter 3, is a direct reference to the ancient city of Philadelphia, he's alluding to the earthquakes that they would have. See when they had earthquakes, and again, I've told you, I've been to Israel three times, been to Greece, been to Italy, ancient ruins everywhere. And when you go to see, they're called tells in Israel, when you go to these digs. Do you know what you often find? The pillars are still standing. The pillars are still standing, like after everything is decimated and people are looking for coins and some old soldier's helmet, there's these massive pillars that just never fall. And he's saying to them, those who are victorious, those who fight and overcome, "They're going to be like pillars in the temple of my God, and they will never leave It." What does he mean by that? Well, in those days, when there was an earthquake, you ran, you ran. The houses were made of like lean twos or tents, if you were rich, you probably had like a mud brick house. Everything would come crumbling down, and you would run, and you'd have to leave. And he's saying, no, "If you're a victorious, you're going to be like pillars in the temple of my God, and you will never have to leave it." You're never going to have to run out. The pillars are still standing, these pictures that I'm showing you are actually pictures that are remaining right now in the ancient city of Philadelphia.

Matt Stokes: 40:31 "And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name." Shew, that is so heavy. "Anyone who has ears must listen to the spirit and understand what he's saying to the churches." So here's the point, on these temples, in the pillars, if we ever get a chance to go back again. Jerusalem, Greece, Italy, you'll see in these ancient temples on the pillars are inscribed people's names. They're the names of the people that were prestigious in the city, they were pronounced, they were prosperous, they actually help build, or found, or helped create the city. And what they would do to honor them, is they would write their names right there on the pillars.

Matt Stokes: 41:22 In fact, you even have it in Second Chronicles 3, when the temple was made for God, the Hebrew temple. There's, there's two pillars outside, and there's names on the pillars, Jakin and Boaz, right there on the pillars out front. And he's saying, if you continue to take the opportunities that I'm opening for you, and you will obey my word, and you persevere. You're going to be like a pillar in my temple, you're going to be like a citizen in my city, and I'm going to write my name on you. And when the world is shaken to the core and the kingdoms of men crumble, you will not stumble, you will be like pillars. You will be remaining as citizens in this new city, and along with the name of God [inaudible], I'm going to write my name on you.

Matt Stokes: 42:12 There's so much symbolism going on in this particular verse. So you have the pillars, right, and they're representing strength, and security, and endurance. And then you have the citizenship. Citizenship was so important, of what city you were a citizen, had everything to do with your status. If you were from the great city of Rome, that meant one thing. If you were from a smaller city that didn't have any significance, that meant something else. He says, I have a new city, it's going to be called the new Jerusalem. And by the way, I'm bringing it down from heaven, and you're going to be a citizen in that city. And you're going to be like pillars in that city, and I'm actually going to write the name of my God on them, and then he says, and I'm going to write my new name on them. Do you see the symbolism? You have the pillars, then you have the name on the pillars, and then not just the name of God, but also his new name. What does he mean? I believe his metaphor is that we're going to be married to him, and we receive a new name, because we're married to the lamb. Like my wife, you know, I gave her a new name. Her name used to be Laura Brungardt, that's her maiden name? South German, Brungardt. Brun in German means Brown, and gardt is garden, so brown garden. So she said, I don't know, but whatever my ancestors did, they were gardeners, and obviously they weren't very good at it. So she said, I saved her from her last name. Her name is no longer Laura Brungardt, her name is Laura Stokes. See, when I came into her life, I gave her a new name. And Jesus is saying, if you're victorious, and you overcome, and you obey my word, and you don't deny my name, I'm going to make you like a pillar in the city that's coming down from heaven, and I'm going to write the name of my God on it, and I'm also going to write my new name.

Matt Stokes: 44:09 Is anybody else blown away by this imagery? Because I look at this, and as we close, I'll just say, you know, we all want, who wouldn't want to be, out of the seven churches, who wouldn't want to be Philadelphia? They're awesome. But, are you taking the time to walk through the open doors? Are you relying on Jesus? Are you finding your strength in Jesus? Are you keeping his word? Are you not denying his name? Are you fighting those battles?

Matt Stokes: 44:36 I'll say this quickly, what's the first step. Like you're here and you're going, hey, man. like what you just read, like from God, that's who I want to be. Like, what's the first step. Here's the first step, and if you want to write it down, I don't have a slide for this, but this is so important. This is paramount, this is vital, this is crucial, this is essential. What's the first step in embracing all that you're seeing right here, really believing that Jesus loves you. Like all of this has to actually...So we're talking about, what's the foundation that these pillars are built on? It's really believing that Jesus loves you, that God is for you, again, that God is with you. And if God is with you, then who can be against you?

Matt Stokes: 45:18 I don't know how long Coastal Christian is going to be an effective ministry. I know every church has a certain shelf life, right, and you think of churches in the great awakening, that may be a shadow of what they once were, I don't know. But how did this church stay alive and effective for a thousand years? They believed in the love of Jesus Christ and the message of the gospel. Let me say it again, they believed in the love of Jesus Christ and the message of the gospel. They listened to, they leaned on, they looked for the love of Jesus Christ, and they would stand firm and they would fight to forge out their faith. Stand up no matter what.

Matt Stokes: 45:57 So, as we close, here's the ironic encouragement. If you were to go to Philadelphia at this time, you would look at this city and it would not be spectacular in the eyes of men, but in the eyes of Jesus, he doesn't have a single word of criticism against them. So I want to say to you, don't fall into the sin of these other cities, getting lazy, being overconfident, letting your guard down, losing your crown, run the race, and don't give up, fight the fight and don't give up, finish the course and don't give up, it's time to stand up no matter what. It's time to stand up no matter what, by reaching out with Jesus and don't give up, by relying on Jesus and don't give up, by being faithful to Jesus and don't give up, by fighting for Jesus and don't give up. And when your boss tells you that with that Jesus talk, we no longer need you, stand up no matter what. When despite your repentance and broken heart, your spouse still threatens to leave you, stand up no matter what. When you hear a voice whisper that says to you, hate God because you lost that person that loves you, stand up no matter what. When someone slams the door shut in front of you, stand up no matter what. When someone says Jesus and the church are just a crutch for you, stand up no matter what. When people hurt you, and other people use you, abuse you, and falsely accuse you, stand up no matter what. Because if God is for you, who can be against you? Stand up no matter what. And with that, Amen.

Recorded in Ocean City, New Jersey.
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