Revelation 3:1-6 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. 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. 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.’”
The Lord knows our deeds, our actions. He sees the things we do, either for good, or for evil. He knows our accomplishments and our motives, too, for what we do or don’t do. For, he knows everything about us (Ps 139).
He knows if we are truly following him in obedience to his word or if we are just going through the motions to try to look righteous while we hide secret sins behind closed doors or where we think no one can see us. He knows who is “the real deal,” and who is being hypocritical.
He knows if we are just putting on a show, a performance, to make ourselves look good in front of others. And, he knows if we are sincere and selfless in our actions towards others, or if we are doing good for others to get something in return, or to boost our own egos, or for the praise of man.
For, He is not fooled by performance. Those who are actors, who are just putting on a good show, they may be able to fool some or many people, but no one can fool God. And, he’s not sleeping, or looking the other way, either. He is fully aware of what is going on, and he has a day when he will judge.
This is a letter to the gathering of a church, but the church appears to be mostly dead, not alive spiritually.
Thus, those who are performing for an audience may have a reputation of being spiritually alive, of having genuine faith in Jesus Christ, and of having walks of obedience to the Lord. But it is in reputation only, not in reality.
So, this could be speaking mainly to those who make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, but by their lifestyles they deny him. Or, this could be speaking about those who started well with the Lord, but over time they drifted away from their pure devotion to the Lord, and now they are living in spiritual adultery against Jesus Christ.
It says here that they are dead, and then it says that they should wake up spiritually and strengthen what remains and is about to die. So, it is more like they are mostly dead, and if they don’t do something to strengthen what is not yet dead, it will die, too.
Repent and Obey
So, the counsel here is to have a spiritual awakening or a reawakening. And, that can only happen in the power of God’s Spirit at work in our hearts as we cooperate with that work, and as we yield control of our lives over to the Lord.
And, it begins with seeking God’s face and inquiring of him to show us any areas of our lives in which we are sinning against God or where we have not yielded fully to the Lord. We should know this, but sometimes things are hidden in the depths of our hearts or minds of which we are not aware, or which we may have suppressed or purposefully hidden.
So, we need to be willing to have the Lord bring those things into the light, and then we need to repent. We need to make the choice to forsake all those sins – all those wrong attitudes and behaviors – to leave them behind us, and to follow our Lord in obedience to his will from this moment forward.
And, then we must daily die to sin and self, and daily put on the armor of God with which to fight against the devil’s schemes. And, we must walk in the Spirit and no longer according to our flesh. We must shake off everything in our lives hindering us from walking in purity of devotion to our Lord, and then we must get serious about obeying our Lord in all things.
Warning of Judgment
We read further on in this chapter that the Lord reproves (rebukes, chastises), and he disciplines (punishes, chastens) those he loves, so we should be zealous and repent where repentance is called for.
And, five out of these seven churches (Rev 2-3) are instructed to repent or face judgment (divine correction and discipline). So, God does judge, and he will judge his church who is living in spiritual adultery, and who has wandered away from her pure devotion to the Lord, if she does not repent.
And, I believe the church in America is facing such a judgment right now, because God has been calling the majority of his church to repentance for a long while, but she has not been responding to those calls.
I believe the closing of the doors to these buildings where the churches gather, and the strict measures put upon these gatherings even as some are reopening their doors, are part of God’s judgments. And, I believe we are going to see more to come, especially as our leaders begin to put together their plan for bringing peace and unity to the people of the world.
For, world peace and world solidarity, by nature, will exclude Christians from being able to share their faith with others. For, the Christian faith says that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and to God, and that we must turn from sin and follow Jesus in obedience. And the world at large is not going to accept that, for they will want to continue in their sin.
One Who Conquers
But not every individual Christian (or professing Christian), and not every church congregation is faking their Christianity or is going through the motions of faith while they are living in sin. If these churches in Revelation could serve as a model for us, then it would be less than a third of the overall church which is actually living in holiness and righteousness.
But, praise the Lord, there are those who have not soiled their garments, and they are walking in purity of devotion to the Lord Jesus, walking in the fear of the Lord according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh.
And, for those who conquer Satan and wickedness and sinful practices, by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, via repentance and obedience to the Lord’s commands, they will also walk in purity, for God has made them worthy.
But, to conquer is not a one-time event in one’s life. The word actually is present tense and it is active tense. It is the one overcoming, thus, who will be clothed in white garments and whose name will not be blotted out from the book of life.
For, the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in those who WALK according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (Rom. 8:1-17).
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.
If Thy way and its sorrows bearing,
We go again,
Up the slope of the hillside, bearing
Our cross of pain.
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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