Revelation 3:1-2 ESV
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: “The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
“I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.”
God Knows/He Sees
God/Jesus knows our works, whether they be sinful practices, or good deeds done in the flesh, which are either to try to look righteous as a cover-up for evil, or they are human effort to try to earn our way into heaven. He also knows if our works are the works of the Spirit, which God prepared in advance that we should walk in, done in the power of the Spirit, and as part of God’s workmanship, which we were created to do (Eph. 2:10).
For, works are what we do, either in the flesh, according to the flesh, or in the Spirit, according to the Spirit.
So, if Jesus does not find our works complete in the sight of His God, then our works are obviously lacking in what is of the Spirit, which means that they would appear to be primarily or wholly of the flesh. And, this is why he said that this church was dead, but not completely dead, for something remained that was about to die that could be revived if she would repent.
But, even though this church is mostly dead, she has a reputation of being spiritually alive. So, how does that work exactly?
Her reputation, i.e. this outward show of righteousness, has been going on for a long time, while in reality, she has also been mostly dead for a long while, too. And, how did she get mostly dead? By compromise with the world, and by following after the flesh rather than following after the Spirit.
She sounds a lot like the American church, at large, though not including everyone, as we will see.
One of the big reasons the American church is mostly dead, while having a reputation of being spiritually alive, is because of her partnership with the government and with big business.
She sold herself out to corporate America in order to grow the church the way human corporations grow their businesses. And, thus, she became unequally yoked together with the ungodly, and she turned God’s house, his temple, into a marketplace, both of which are forbidden by God.
A Diluted Gospel
And, thus she diluted the gospel of salvation in order to make it more palatable and acceptable to the world, which then gave its adherents free license to continue in their sinful practices without guilt and without remorse. But, she advertised this diluted half-truth gospel as though it was the real deal, and this diluted gospel has now gained wide popularity.
The way in which she diluted the gospel of Christ, from what Jesus and his NT apostles had taught, was by lowering God’s standards and his requirements, or by doing away with them altogether. She, thus, “softened” the message to make it non-offensive to human flesh, and she sugar-coated the hard truths of the gospel or she ignored them altogether.
Turning away from sin and walking in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ, and surrendering our lives to him, making him Lord of our lives, are not being stressed in this diluted gospel, and in some cases, they are even discouraged. And, so we have a whole lot of people gathering together in the name of Jesus who are still largely living to the flesh, and who are not committed to following after the ways of God, only secondarily, if at all.
But, she appears alive because she entertains the world and turns her gatherings into big shows with lots of entertainment, and fun stuff is going on all the time, and children are being given lots of fun activities to do, and so the church is an exciting place to be, with continual activities which keep people occupied and entertained and coming back for more of the same.
Revelation 3:3 ESV
“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”
So, Jesus is warning the church that is mostly dead to remember what she had received and heard, which is what Jesus had just told her regarding her works and her reputation, and of her need to wake up spiritually and to revive what is remaining so that she doesn’t become completely dead.
But, it could be also that he was referring to what she had heard and received in the beginning, when she first trusted in Jesus Christ to be her Savior and Lord, and to cleanse her of her sin.
She was to bring that back to mind, how she was taught the truth that is in Jesus “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; cf. Rom. 6:1-23).
He is telling her to hold on to that truth and to repent, meaning to turn away from her sin and to turn back to God to follow him in obedience. But, if she will not turn from her wicked ways, and if she will not awaken spiritually, and forsake the ways of the flesh and of the world, and if she will not turn to follow her Lord in surrender to his will, then some type of judgment is to befall her, and she won’t be prepared for what is coming, either.
Revelation 3:4-6 ESV
“Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. 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.”
But, like I said, the whole church wasn’t like that, and the whole church in America is not like that, either, though the vast majority appears to be. There are people in America who are truly following Jesus Christ with their lives, who love God with all their hearts, and who are serving him in obedience to his direction for their lives.
And, there most certainly must be congregations of followers of Jesus in America, too, who have not bowed the knee to the corporate world.
But, the message here is not hopeless. There is a promise and hope for those who will conquer sin and the flesh in the power of God’s Spirit, who will leave their sinful lifestyles and their compromises with the world behind them, and who will now follow Jesus in obedience to his commands.
Even if you have strayed far from God, it is never too late to return to him while there is still time. But, don’t delay, for none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. For, he says that we are going to all reap what we sow. If we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction. But, if we sow to please the Spirit, then we will reap eternal life with God (Gal. 6:7-8).
Footprints of Jesus
Lyrics by Mary B. Slade, pub. 1871
Music by Asa B. Everett
Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling,
Come, follow Me!
And we see where Thy footprints falling
Lead us to Thee.
Though they lead o’er the cold, dark mountains,
Seeking His sheep;
Or along by Siloam’s fountains,
Helping the weak.
If they lead through the temple holy,
Preaching the Word;
Or in homes of the poor and lowly,
Serving the Lord.
Though, dear Lord, in Thy pathway keeping,
We follow Thee;
Through the gloom of that place of weeping,
If Thy way and its sorrows bearing,
We go again,
Up the slope of the hillside, bearing
Our cross of pain.
By and by, through the shining portals,
Turning our feet,
We shall walk, with the glad immortals,
Heav’n’s golden street.
Then, at last, when on high He sees us,
Our journey done,
We will rest where the steps of Jesus
End at His throne.
Footprints of Jesus,
That make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus
Where’er they go.
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