We were all intrigued. All eyes were riveted on them as the Wedding Day approached. The would-be King of England had a found a bride. Through the miracle of television, we were invited to join them tuned in early that Wednesday, July 29th, 1981. I happened to one of them. We had just arrived in the States from France with our two-week-old son. I, like the rest of world, was curious how the Royals live. I wanted this for myself. We saw Diana riding in a horse-drawn carriage to St. John's Cathedral. Trumpeters heralded her arrival. Diana's incredible gown was forty-six yards of silk to match her complexion. One hundred yards of netting to poof her crinoline skirts. It took her three-and-a-half minutes to walk down the aisle of the church and to her groom.
What we didn't we see that day, God saw. He saw their hearts. What looked like a fairy-tale wedding--Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella all rolled up into a "happily-ever-after" ending--was seen for what it really was by God. No amount of money could cover up the shallowness of heart. The events of their marriage and Diana's death were no surprise to God.
In 1st Samuel 16:7b it says, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart."
That's how Christ knows His bride, by the condition of her heart.
Matthew 22:1-14 talks about a king who sent out an invitation to his inner circle of close friends (they are representing the Jewish nation who hardened their hearts when they received it). His Son didn't fit their idea of a king. Perhaps Prince Charles would've. God then extended the invitation to anyone, good or bad, who would accept it.
But when the king came to see the guests, he noticed someone who stood out in the crowd. This person had neglected to put on the royal robe he'd been given. That was the appropriate wedding attire. The king then questioned him about it. However, the man was somewhat taking aback. Why, he had worn his finest robe, his Sunday best. But the King said, "Only those who wear my robes may join me. You must leave."
What was the significance of these robes? They were a prerequisite for the banquet, but why? Isaiah 64:6 states, "Our righteousness is like filthy rags." The robes represent Christ's righteousness that we've receive when we accept his invitation and that cleanse us from all our sins. It is God's standard of acceptability. But like the man, we are trying to set our own standards and terms of acceptability, thinking we're okay when we are not. We need to recognize that to come to him on our terms is just as costly as refusing God's invitation. We need to ask ourselves, "Have I accepted God's invitation? What are the eternal consequences for one who does reject it? What terms am I setting for God's standard of acceptability? What are God's terms? How do they differ?"
The Bride, his church, is made up of believers, and each church has its own uniqueness, its own individuality. Because Jesus created us, he knows each of our circumstances. He knows our gifts and potential, and he knows our weakness and insufficiency. That's what prompted him to send these letters.
The first was written to the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7). The Christians there were very busy going about their churchly duties, caught up in a perpetual "to-do" list. In fact, it seems in verse four that they had forsaken their first love, him!
The second letter was written to Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17). The Christians there were surrounded by intense pressures and temptation from a society built on man's philosophies. The was city was known for the cultural and educational strengths, but they had no time for God. If you find yourselves going through the motions, then perhaps you need to follow Christ's instructions from verse five, and "Repent and do the things you did in the first place." Seek him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Give him first place. Take time to talk to and hear his voice in prayer. Develop your priorities through consistent time in his Word. We, too, as Christians, are surrounded by pressure to compromise the truth. To reach an agreement with the world and its standards.
The third letter to Thyatira was written to a church that had fallen into the sin of immorality. Our nation oozes with it. It hurts our minds, bodies, and the dignity of those who fall into its trap. It destroys friendships, families, churches and our relationship to Jesus Christ. Jesus said in verse 22 that suffering will come to those who continue in it, unless they repent of their ways.
The Bride of Christ must remain pure; Jesus takes these issues seriously. If you're divorced, he's already forgiven you.
The fourth letter went to a church in Sardis (Revelation 3:14-22). These church-goers' relationship with Christ had become superficial. Christianity was an outfit they put on for Sundays only. They looked great on the outside, but they were shallow and empty on the inside. Jesus wants his Bride to grow in him, not know him intellectually. It's about the condition of your heart. Isaiah 29:13, says "These people draw near to me with their mouths and honor with lips, but they have removed their hearts far from me."
The last two letter were to commend faithful brides. The first was Smyrna. (Revelation 2:8-11). Though they had endured harsh persecution and poverty, Jesus called them rich! Their faithfulness in face of suffering would bring them the Crown of Life. Jesus never says that by being faithful to him, we will avoid troubles, suffering or persecution. Rather, we must be faithful to him in our sufferings. Only then will our faith prove genuine.
The other letter was to Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13). They, too, had held on even amid difficulty. It took a real effort on their part to remain obedient. It says their strength was little, yet they patiently endured. If you're a new Bride and feeling like your strength is small, take heart. And if you've had a long rich marriage, Jesus' letters still apply. That's how Christ knows his Bride, not by outward appearance, but by her heart.
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