Jesus says in Revelation 1:18-20, "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels [literally, messengers] of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches."
There is much said in our time about meeting with the Lord, letting Him have the control and minister to our hearts by the many gifts He has given to the church. This must be more than a theory; it must be real in our midst as we come together. We do gather unto the Lord. We must believe He is in our midst, and if that is true, we must reverence Him and give Him proper fear and honor as the Head of the church. God's messengers are "in His right hand"--in other words, they are under His control, under His authority.
God's "messengers" are those that are used to bring a manifestation of the Spirit to the church. There must be vessels in each local gathering that are open to God's Spirit, set aside for His use, ready and able to move. This can only be accomplished if each one is in fellowship with God personally. We cannot hope to be used by God in the midst if we personally are not in fellowship with the Father and Son. Through these vessels, manifestations of the Spirit can come in the midst.
When God manifests Himself in the midst, He does it for our edification--that we may be built up, a container of all that God is, and that His will may be accomplished. He will exhort us, stimulate us, move us on with enthusiasm, bring us to the place where we are excited because the Holy Spirit is working in us. It will bring joy to our lives. God will be with us by His Spirit to comfort us and lead us on. He will bring correction and instruction to those that are in disobedience or sin. They must respond to it and be "overcomers" in the power that He gives.
Our natural minds cannot comprehend what God is doing, but the spiritual mind that is being exercised by the Spirit of God can start to comprehend it and move in it. We can start to know the ways of God, and move by the power of the Spirit that indwells us. We should be lively stones, alive unto God, moving as the Lord moved when He was here on this earth, in union with the Father. This was the prayer of our Lord to His Father: "Make them one as we are one" (John 17). This is the oneness God has brought us into by putting His Spirit within us. He has brought us into fellowship with the Father and the Son, so that we now can move together in oneness.
The account in the first three chapters of Revelation can give us great insight and a practical example of the working of God--what He is doing today in local churches and how He is doing it. When the Spirit spoke to the seven churches in Revelation, we see two expressions used as the Lord revealed their condition. One is "he that overcometh," and the second is "he that has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying unto the churches." Individually and collectively, we are responsible in these two areas. When God reveals, we must be those that obey, going on to abide in Him and let His Word do its perfect work in and through our lives--becoming "overcomers." Do we have ears to hear? Do we put value on what is being said to us? Do we believe God is speaking? Do we sense that our dealing must be with God, not just with man? When we realize that God is our heavenly Father, mindful of everything in our lives individually and together, it should give us a proper reverence and love in our hearts for Him. We will start to see how God in His love and mercy meets with each gathering.
Notice how specifically and directly Christ ministered to the needs of the churches in Revelation. He always began by commending them for what was right in their midst, and then went on to reveal what He had against them. He then gave the remedy, what they needed to do to respond to His word. He told them when to repent, and He told them what He would do if they did not repent.
When Christ spoke to the church at Ephesus, he first recognized the good things they had done, and then He said, "You have left your first love." We begin in God when we partake of His love, His very nature. He loved us and gave Himself for us. Now we are able to move in love, giving ourselves for others. God sees what is the motivating force in our lives, and if it is not love, He says, "Repent--and if you don't repent, I will come and remove your candlestick." We can go a long way in doing things for God, having certain attributes, but we can miss what God counts most important, and that is our first love. A church may still be religious, but not spiritual. If it is not a testimony to the Lord, God will remove it.
To the church at Smyrna, God said, "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer [this is a word of comfort]: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2:9,10). We will suffer for the name of Christ, maybe even to the laying down of our lives. But God will be in our midst, giving us words of comfort, encouraging us to be faithful, as a father would to his sons and daughters.
To the church at Sardis, God said, "...I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee" (Rev. 3:1-3) Then he goes on to encourage the few, "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy." (Rev. 3:4) This is not a worthiness within ourselves, but a worthiness because we have walked in faith. Our testimony and righteousness flows out from experiencing all that God is, and moving in union with Him.
To the Laodicean church He says, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Rev. 3:19-22) Here we find that Jesus was on the outside, but God was still offering them His hand of mercy.
God wants to come and work in this personal way in the midst of every church. If God is who He says He is, doing what He said He would do, then wherever they may live, God's people are meeting with Him, gathering together unto the Lord. The emphasis should be on communing with God, then with each other. John lays this out very clearly in his first epistle, "...If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another..."
When God is meeting with us and we are meeting with God, when we are open and giving Him His proper place, He will keep our testimony pure. He is the one that searches the hearts. He is the one that cares for us and disciplines us properly. This does not take away from the responsibility of the local oversight God has set forth, or the responsibility of the church to deal with sin. But many things cannot be seen on the surface, and that is why we need God revealing our hearts. When we are dealing with God, we cannot hide. He is all-knowing. This is what we should be doing--dealing with God, not hiding from Him. Our lives should be open not only to God, but to each other, so that we can speak the truth in love to each other and grow up into Him, into all fullness.
We must always remember that God has not called us to be in the judge's seat. He will manifest Himself and reveal what is wrong. He will also commend us for what is right according to His purpose, as He did for these seven churches. If we individually try to judge, and work the things of God in our own strength, according to our own understanding, we will miss the things of God. But if we have a proper reverence for God, and we are allowing God to deal with us as our heavenly Father, we will know the outworking.