Ernest Robinson - To The Seven Churches - Silverdale II, New South Wales - January 1994

Revelation 1-3, here we read the messages to the seven churches. In these messages, I do believe that we have the most perfect mirror that this world has ever seen. If we look into this mirror we may not like the image we see of ourselves. It is not a mirror where you have to stand up on a chair to see into it; with this one you have to go down onto your knees.

The first message: was to the church at Ephesus. They had lost their first love. It is amazing to read what they were able to do, in spite of having lost their first love. It just meant that God had lost the first place in their hearts. A little more than twenty-seven years ago when I left my home country South Africa, to go to Korea, an elderly sister Worker said to me, "Well Ernest, I suppose you think you are making quite a sacrifice to leave your country, your parents and everyone you love, to go to a country where you don't know what to expect? But I want to tell you today that it doesn't matter where you are, the greatest sacrifice you will ever make is the price you will have to pay every day to give God first place in your heart."

In those years, I have found that those words were so true. The greatest sacrifice you will make will always be the price you will have to pay every day to give God first place in your heart. I suppose none of you would dare to think you are serving an idol. But do you know what an idol is? It is just the thing that is occupying the place in your heart that God should have.

The thing that occupies first place in your heart is the thing that your thoughts run to when they have a moment to wander. Ask yourself, "Where do my thoughts tend to hang around?" You will find out what it is that has first place in your heart. When God loses the first place in your heart you lose your way to the tree of life. You don't feel the warmth of God's presence. You know
that you are missing it and deep down you feel uneasy.

Ezekiel 44:1, "Then He brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. Then the Lord said unto me, 'This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord, the God of Israel. hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut.'"

This speaks of a spiritual temple which was never a building. It is your body and you read of a door which must be kept closed and never opened because the Lord God of Israel has gone in there. To me, that is an exact picture of the door to the first place in our hearts. Before we made our choice, we were opening and closing that door all the time. But when we made our choice there was an awful battle and that is what the battle is, to put out whatever was in there and open the door so that the Lord could come in and take first place. Then the door must be shut.

Sometimes we are very careless and without realising it, we have opened the door and something else has slipped in there. God is not going to share that place with anyone or anything else, so He just quietly withdraws. If you make that choice again, and it is not going to be any easier, you will find your way to the tree of life.

The second message: was to the church at Smyrna. They did well, but were going to suffer tribulation. Sometimes we go through real suffering, more of heart than of body, and we wonder what we have done that God needs to punish us like that. It is a very foolish thought. One thing that will help us, is to remember that the purpose of life is not in itself. The one real purpose for our lives is that it is an opportunity for us to prepare for our only real future. To further that, God wants to do something in us.

If we are not having any sufferings, it is very peaceful but at the same time you feel very uneasy because not much has been done to the forming of your spirit. I Peter 1:6, "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."

Don't be surprised at it. These things are absolutely essential for something to be done in our hearts, preparing us for our only real future. II Corinthians 4:17, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

In Rome in the olden days, they used to have severe punishments. There was a man who was convicted for a crime which he never did though from the evidence, it looked as though he had. He was put into prison and a big, heavy iron weight was chained to his leg. It really got him down and many a day he looked at it and thought, "If only it were a little lighter." Afterwards this man was found innocent and the judge felt that it was too bad, just to let him go so he said, "Take that weight and weigh it; then give him the equivalent weight in gold for all his suffering." Do you know what the man said then? "If only it had been heavier!" We can understand that. You think it is all to heavy now, but one day you will say it was a light affliction. God knows what we can take.

[Transcriber's Note: The above story, as far as I can recall from schoolboy ancient history, involved Herod Agrippa who was at one time in bonds and when released was given the weight of his bonds in gold by the Roman Emperor Caligula. That does not detract at all from the appropriateness of Ernest's analogy.]

The third message: was to the church at Pergamos. They seemed to have had a problem with the flesh. It is common to all men and quite serious, and I just want to mention a few things about that. When we make our choice, it is a choice to deny ourselves. When we make that choice, there is another choice that we are going to have to make at the same time. That is to avoid the things that
stimulate those wrong desires.

You know what they are. Don't be like the man who decided for the sake of his health not to eat meat, but liked to hang around the barbecue to get the nice smell. There are quite a number of young people here, and our passions are very strong. A lot of you feel that you cannot cope. It doesn't matter how strong they are, these passions pass away, but we sit with the results of deeds done
in those passions. We need to remember that.

Do you know anything more wretched and miserable than to sit with the results of deeds done in passion when those passions are no longer felt? The world has become frighteningly permissive, but as God's people, we should remember it doesn't matter if everybody does it, wrong is still wrong; and it doesn't matter if nobody does it, right is still right.

In talking about the weakness of the flesh, I will tell you something about the lion country in South Africa. When those lions run after the deer, they are actually not able to run fast enough to catch them so they have to use their brains. The lion and lioness hunt together and when they see a herd of deer, they are very clever. The lion goes upwind and the lioness goes in the opposite direction and hides in the grass. When the deer catch the lion's scent, they run the other way, right past the lioness. And like a cat, she jumps out and gets one. Remember that the lion that is roaring over there is not as dangerous as the one that is lying quietly in the grass. When there is a lot of difficulty, many of us valiantly stand against it, but are often caught by the flesh. Samson was more than a match for the Philistines but was no match for his own flesh. You may know the poem of the soldier:

"He was not listed with the troops abroad; He carried neither bayonet nor gun.
There was no crowd waiting to applaud the devastating battle he had won.

He fought his pride, his selfishness; the battle was deep in his heart,
But no throng waited to applaud, No chant of triumph sounded in the mart.

The Lord God who looks down into the soul has kept a place for him among the blest,
Because he conquered self, the only foe, that could have dealt to him a mortal blow."

The fourth message: was to the church at Thyatira. Their last works were better than the first. That is quite a surprising thing. We all mean to do well, but come back here and are disappointed in ourselves. The Korean people have a saying, "Dragon's head and snake's tail." It means we can be full of valour when we start off, but when we come back we find it has petered out and it is nothing more than a snake's tail. I wonder if I could tell you one thing, so that it might not be like that next year?

As you sit in these meetings, decide what it is that is your biggest problem. We could all settle on that, then just decide, "I am definitely going to take care of that next year." If you do that, I do believe you will come back next Convention feeling a lot better and you will have a song in your heart.

In regard to this church, it speaks about Jezebel and it is not unnecessary to speak about that in these meetings. There have been some who have risen up amongst us and caused, you couldn't believe, how much trouble. The devil is far more dangerous when he appears as an angel of light than when he appears as a serpent. Those who have caused trouble have tongues as smooth as oil and as sweet as honey. But that tongue is dangerous.

The serpent has been a symbol of false teaching from the book of Genesis to Revelation, and Jesus being lifted up as our example is the only thing that will save us from that desperately dangerous poison of false doctrine, especially if it rises up from among ourselves. If you try to argue with these people, they know this and that verse. You can't do it that way. Keep your eyes on Jesus.
It is not possible to be deceived if we are looking at Jesus.

The fifth message: was to the church at Sardis. They had a name that they were living but they were dead. They were just hypocrites. That is one thing I am very much afraid of. When I went to school we had a motto, "It is better to be than to seem to be." Our brother Trevor Loechel told us the testimony of a sister in South America. She just said, "I am like a bottle, very easy to clean on the outside, very hard to clean on the inside and quite transparent." That is why it is so easy to become a hypocrite, because it is easy to clean the outside and difficult to clean the inside.

A sister said, "I would like to be more to God than others know." As she said that, I thought it was exactly the opposite to what was in my mind. One brother gave this description of what some people think humility is. He said it is going around saying bad things about yourself and expecting to be contradicted. That is hypocrisy and it is in the marrow of all of us.

At my first Convention when I was in the Work, I happened to be near the sisters' room and saw a whole pile of their shoes near the door. I thought, "I will do my good deed for the day." I gathered them up and started polishing them. It took me quite a while and I was thinking, "Wouldn't it be fortunate if one of them came out for something and saw me doing that unnoticed and unknown?" But then I caught myself, "You hypocrite!" God loves sincerity and we catch ourselves up.

A sister Worker said something about hypocrisy being like the devil trying to get us to choose between two wrongs. A young man had come to her and said, "I am not being what I should be. I am only being a hypocrite and it would be better for me to quit." She told him, "You are trying to choose between two wrongs and it is impossible to get anything but disaster. Being a hypocrite is wrong and quitting is wrong. The only thing for you is to stop being a hypocrite."

The sixth church: is the church at Philadelphia, and their message was to "hold fast to what you have." Jesus said to His disciples, "You are the ones who have continued with me." They had held fast. There is only one way to hold fast to what you have. When I was first at school, I was the youngest and smallest in the class. Little boys have no manners and no scruples, and any time I brought anything nice in my lunch box I never got a chance to eat it because the bigger boys took it.

However, I became good friends with the biggest and strongest boy and then I never opened my lunch box unless I was with him. Some of us think we have some serious problems, but we only have one problem, to live so that God can be with us. Settle that problem and other problems will take care of themselves. Psalm 18:29, "... by my God have I leaped over a wall." Don't worry about the wall; worry about having God with you. Tom Beattie visited us in Korea long ago and said, "If we can come out of this even just with our own salvation it will be no small achievement."

I was writing a letter one time and a tiny little ant crawled over the page. I blew it and it just stuck there, so I blew a little harder. I was amazed how far that ant went on clinging on. Every time I blew, it didn't try to walk, it just clung. I learned something from that, that there are times when it is not a matter of making progress, it is a matter of clinging on.

The seventh message: was to the church at Laodicea. They were in a terrible condition, but didn't realise it, going on mechanically, just the form without any life in it. We can choose whether we want to serve God or not, but we cannot choose how. I think we would be helped by a vision of what we are missing by being unfaithful. Something that is a sure characteristic of people like the church at Laodicea is, "Do we have to do that much? Is that much necessary?" People who serve Him in spirit and in truth feel that they are not doing enough.

In closing I will tell you about a lady in Namibia. In the early days, the Friends there were very poor. One man had a lorry and he was a very kind man. He would drive over the most terrible roads, long distances around the farms, picking up people to go to Convention. On the way to Convention, they would always pass a place called "Lion Fountain." The water from that fountain is
about the best in the world, and they would never pass there without having a drink.

While they drank, a man had to be watching for lions. One lady on the back of the lorry was quite heavy and she had a bad leg. It wasn't easy to get her onto the lorry, with someone pulling and someone pushing. When they arrived at the "Lion Fountain," someone offered to bring her some water. But no, she wanted to drink from the fountain direct.

So they had quite a job to get her there, and while they were drinking the watchman called "Lion!" In a moment everyone was back on the lorry and then they remembered Sunny. Where was she? She was already up on the lorry with no moaning, no pulling or pushing, and she was ashamed of herself. Just one word was all that she needed. "Eternity" is the word for us. If we knew the meaning of that word, we would be desperate.