“Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
- Revelation 3:13, NRSV
by: Tim Emmons, 2017 Virlina District Conference Moderator
Can you visualize the apostle John as he looked out over the waters of the Aegean Sea? Can you imagine the broad range of his emotions as he endured isolation and separation from the beloved saints in the church at Ephesus? Surely his accommodations were not those of a luxurious sea resort. As we peer into his heart and mind, we can certainly detect thoughts of his awareness of his own mortality and a certain discomfort with his current plight. But we can also see, in his mind and heart, his memories of his life with Jesus and the wondrous miracles and teachings which were presented with the authority of the One who is God.
As John worships “in the Spirit,” the One who loves him dearly appears and gives him instruction concerning what he is to share. John is overcome and finds himself in a position of submission at His feet. He is to record messages and give them to the seven churches in Asia Minor which are listed in the book of Revelation. Could these be messages simply for those existing churches in that day, or for others in that time in history? Or could it be that we are, as well, the intended recipients of these messages? I prefer to believe that the Word of Christ is for all time and for all people.
In Revelation 3:13-22, which is our scripture for our district conference theme, “Listen to the Spirit,” we read the words of Jesus: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches.” As we read these words, we must understand that He is speaking to us both corporately and individually. Twice in this particular passage we are admonished to listen and understand, underscoring the importance of listening. It is imperative that, in the midst of competing voices, the voice of Jesus is the One which resonates most clearly and takes precedence in our lives over all others.
We live in a culture that seeks to consume us as we seek to consume the benefits of that culture. If we are listening to Jesus, He teaches us that our desire to consume all that the world has to offer will ultimately lead to our destruction. Conversely, if we allow ourselves to be consumed by the One who has created all things, we will obtain a life and a relationship that does not destroy but gives life, and a Holy energy that overcomes the destructive nature of our earthly existence. Simply stated, we will live. So, how shall we live?
In the tension of conflict, not only in the world but also in the church, we are called by Christ to imitate Him as we engage with each other in the church and with the world at large. Surely, we are passionate about our beliefs! Surely, we believe intensely that He has spoken to us through the study of scripture, prayer, and the fellowship with the saints! Can we be as passionate and intense about our calling to become engaged in the ministry of Jesus Christ to the “least of these”? Can we become so passionate about His ministry that all else would pale in comparison? Can we actively engage in ministry in such a way that indicates that we have been listening to the Holy Spirit of God? The world is watching and waiting, yearning for life which is sustained only by the power of that Spirit. When the world sees the church in disarray and division, it sees a church that is, perhaps, more concerned with its own image than the needs of a dying world.
Can we listen to the Spirit, understanding that the conversation is never over? Can we speak the truth of Christ in love after having listened to the sweet voice of Jesus? Can we reason together, at the feet of Jesus, as we explore the mysteries of God? He has much to tell us! I hear His voice speaking to me. He tells me that too many have suffered and died in isolation and emptiness because I have not listened passionately and intently and then responded to His voice. Our Lord is calling out to this generation. Do you hear Him calling? “Listen to the Spirit!”