Sunday, March 5, 2017, 6:34 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Open My Heart.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Revelation 3:1-6 (NASB).
The Reputation (v. 1)
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
This is Jesus speaking. He is speaking to the church in a particular location. Today we can ask ourselves if this applies to us, or to our local church fellowship. What does our character reveal about us? About our church fellowship? Do we have a reputation of being spiritually alive? Or dead? If alive, what is this reputation based on? And, who is the one giving this impression? Are we alive in Christ by name (reputation) only but not in reality? Is this just a façade, i.e. a false persona that we present on the outside while inside we are devoid of the radiant presence and power of the Spirit, while we are still operating primarily from our own flesh?
For instance, what would be your definition of a church that is “alive”? Be honest. I think most people, particularly of this generation, would think that a church was alive if the music was exciting and upbeat, if the church services were fun and entertaining, as well as inspiring, if the people were friendly, and if the sermons were not too long or too serious, but were just light talks to make the people feel good. If they had a really cool logo and a colorful state-of-the-art website, and fun packed activities for adults and children alike, that would make it even more alive. Right? I mean, who likes a church that is boring and that preaches about sin and repentance? That is for old-fogies and stick-in-the-muds, right? Church should be fun, fun, fun!
Obviously I am being sarcastic to make a point. At least, I hope you picked up on that. The sad reality of it all, though, is that does represent the attitude of a large number of church goers, which is evidenced in the masses flocking to the Mega churches which cater to the world. Yet, when Jesus speaks of a church being alive, he is not talking about the cool music and the fun and entertaining preachers, is he? So, what is he talking about?
Well, for one, he is not speaking about the institutional church, but he is talking about the body of Christ, his saints. Yet, included in this is the fact that there are those among them who are not genuine believers in Christ and those who are Christians in name only. But, the people he is largely addressing are born again believers in Jesus, but they are those who have compromised with the world, and who have turned to marketing the church just like big business, and who are following after the philosophies of humans rather than or over and above the teachings of Christ. They have bought into this whole concept of church being run and marketed just like any other business, and they have forgotten that Jesus Christ is the head of his church, not man, and that the Spirit of God is the one to empower us.
So, a local body of believers in Jesus can have a reputation of being alive if that reputation is based on human thinking and reasoning and not on the Word of God. But, if they are following humans and thus they are diluting the gospel to make it more acceptable to the world, and they are turning worship services into big stage productions to entertain the world, though they be alive by the world’s standards, they are mostly dead by God’s standards, because they are being guided by the flesh and not by the Spirit of God. Spiritually alive means walking in the Spirit, in obedience to our Lord, repenting of sin, allowing the Spirit to lead, and following our Lord wherever he leads us to go and to be and to say and to do.
Wake up! (vv. 2-3)
Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.
So, the counsel here is to “wake up.” When we are awake physically, we are conscious, alert, and aware. It is the same spiritually. When we are nearly dead, it means we are in a state of insensitivity and unresponsiveness to the Spirit’s voice, and the power and working of the Spirit of God is barely evident in our lives, if at all, because we have probably quenched the Spirit and put out his fire in our lives. This is the condition of much of today’s modern church here in America. They are so wrapped up in the trappings of the world and with trying to entertain the world that they are just about completely missing what the Spirit of God has for them. They haven’t forgotten God altogether, but they have squelched (silenced) his voice so many times, because they want to be acceptable to the world, so they barely hear him anymore, and thus they have mostly pushed him out the door.
If they want to be spiritually alive again, they need to throw out all those marketing books on how to grow their churches (businesses) and all those books written by mere humans which are replacing the Bible in “Bible” studies, and they need to focus their “worship” services on true worship of God and not on entertaining the world. What does God call true worship? It is for us to give ourselves to God as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to him, no longer conformed to the ways (patterns) of this sinful world, but to be transformed of the Spirit of God in heart and mind so that we can show what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God by our lives (Ro. 12:1-2). So, they need to repent of their worldliness, and be holy – set apart (unlike, different) from the world because they are becoming like Jesus!
They also need to return to the gospel of our salvation as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles, and not as taught by worldly men who are trying to gain followers after themselves, while leading people to a false hope of eternity with God. They need to teach about sin, judgment, repentance, obedience, and submission to God, as well as they need to teach about God’s grace, our salvation, forgiveness, and his mercy. They need to tell the truth that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, and not just that he died to free us from hell and to give us heaven when we die. They need to tell people that if we live a lifestyle of sin (practice sin), that we will die in our sins, not go to heaven, and that Jesus died to deliver us from slavery (bondage) to sin, not just to forgive us our sins.
God/Jesus is saying to his complacent and spiritually adulterous church that she needs to remember what she received and heard from Him, not from man, but from the Word of God, and then she (the church) needs to keep (obey) it. He is saying, “Turn from your sins of complacency and idolatry, and turn to follow (obey) me with your lives.” If the “mostly dead” church does not repent, then God is going to visit her in divine discipline (judgment, correction) when she least expects it, not that she is expecting it at all.
Walk in White (vv. 4-6)
But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Not everyone is like this, though, i.e. like the description in the section above. Not all Christians or all church congregations in America are worldly, complacent, mostly dead, and are in need of a wake-up call. There are believers in Christ in America who love the Lord very much and who are walking in his holiness and righteousness, whose desire is for him, to please him in all that they do, and who honor God with their lives and with their witness for him. They take God and his Word seriously, and they are dedicated to the Lord and to his service. They don’t play with sin or make excuses for it, but they call for repentance and obedience to Christ, and they, themselves, walk the talk and they don’t just talk the walk. They walk in purity, in truthfulness and in integrity. Jesus will confess their names before His Father for he found them worthy, because they worship him in spirit and in truth, and they follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
Open My Heart / An Original Work / July 2, 2013
“Be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil” (Rm. 16:19b).
Open my heart. Let Your truth in.
Make of me a servant, pure within;
Sing of Your praise all of my days.
Let Your Spirit transform all my ways.
Jesus Christ died on a cross to
Save me from my sin.
“Repent of sin. Be cleansed within.
Obey all of His commands today.”
“Why do you doubt? Why do you fear?
Jesus Christ will wipe away your tears.
He cares for you. He feels your pain.
Die to sin, and life with Him you’ll gain.
Follow Him where’er He leads you.
Talk with Him each day.
Then you will know what He has planned
For your life before your world began.”
“Come unto Me, weary in heart.
Let My love and grace to you impart.
Believe in Me. Trust in My care.
Take your burdens to the Lord in prayer.
He will meet all of your needs,
And give you peace within.
Rejoice in Him! Tell of His love.
He will give you comfort from above.”