The Church in Sardis

And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; 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. 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. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Revelation 3:1-6 (KJV)

In chapter 3:1-6 we will endeavor to show that Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to His Church, that local churches, because they are made up of a “Mixed multitude” (a term from the Exodus), often grieve His Spirit, what happens to the Church when He is grieved, and the hope of life which only comes by His Spirit.

It appears that complacency is a problem. We get in a place where the temperature is just right, the seats are soft and comfortable, there is no trouble to speak of, and we fall asleep. Suddenly, we awake and we find ourselves plagued with problems, or we may not awake, because the enemy has crept in on us while we were unaware and kills us. If a friend does not wake us up, then, death is inevitable.

That friend of course is Jesus. In this Scripture text He reveals Himself through another one of His characteristics. He had to go away, in the ascension, before he Spirit came. Now the Spirit of God in all His fullness can dwell and habitat in the life of every believer.

Jesus’s message to Sardis is one to “WAKE UP!” to your true situation. There was still hope for Sardis, but it was by the resurrection power of the Spirit. They could have life and power with God in no other way.
Jesus is the “GIVER OF THE SPIRIT” who is the giver of life and power to live a clean, holy and endless life.

In verse 1 we have Jesus revealing Himself to the church of Sardis as the One who has the “Seven Spirits” – indicating the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and the “Seven Stars”. See chapter 1:4, 16.

The Holy Spirit is the source of life for the Church. Without the Spirit there is no life. We notice that Jesus reveals each part of His character as needed by each church. The church of Sardis certainly needed to see Jesus as “THE GIVER OF THE SPIRIT’. In chapter 4:5 we have “Seven burning lamps, which are the seven Spirits of God”. In chapter 5:6 we see “Seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God…”. We have a fullness of light, power, and spiritual enlightenment, which come from the Spirit of God.

The “Seven stars” are the pastors. Jesus places pastors in each of His local bodies as it pleases Him. If the pastor is the source of the church’s problem, then, Jesus will remove him and put in a replacement. It could be the people of Sardis was blaming their pastor. Accusing him of not doing his job, or the church’s lack of growth, its complacency, its dying or death. They could have been saying, “These sermons you have been preaching are irrelevant to our need. There is no threat from without. We are not near dying”. The pastor on the other hand may have just blended in, became one of the neighborhood. “When in Rome do as the Romans do”.

Sardis was a city on a hill. it was protected by cliffs. It was virtually impregnable. However, it was overthrown at least twice by enemies while the guards slept at their post; thinking, “We are impregnable, there is no danger”.

Jesus says that this church has a name of being alive – they still have a name over the door, they are still keeping their programs going, but there is little difference in the practice of the church and the practice of the city – “But you are dead”, says Jesus. It really does not matter what the people in the community say about the church. What really counts is what Jesus says.

In verse two, it would almost seem fitting to say, that, the phrase “Be watchful” could also read “WAKE UP!”.

Consider Paul’s writing to the Romans in chapter 13:11-14. It is time for the Church to “Wake up”. Revival is needed.

Sardis could very well represent the time of the “Reformation” if we were looking at that dispensationally. During the “Dark ages” the professing church had become villianous. Killing, enslaving and conquering of land was the work of a majority of the “church” in this time. The true Church had fallen asleep. The doctrine of the church was to earn your salvation or pay for it with money. You could even pay the “Priests” to pray some poor soul into Heaven. If you could do that, why not pay them to pray an enemy into hell. The church, then, used the name of Jesus, but few within it really knew Him.
Jesus saw the need and He called out brave, and bold men like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Knox, John Calvin, William Tyndale, and others to raise a mighty voice, to put the Word of God back into the hands of the people. To preach the true gospel of grace. The people began to wake up. The Church began to identified more with Jesus now, and less with the world.

Jesus’s words sound as though there is still hope…
“Strengthen the things that remain” is probably a reference to the small minority who were loving the Lord Jesus. Everytime they tried to work for Jesus the majority would stop it. The works were not perfect or complete in His eyes. Those who loved Jesus were the only possessors of the Spirit. A complacent spirit grieves the Spirit of God. The Spirit keeps us alert and aware. When we pay no attention to Him we grieve Him, and our source of power and strength erodes until ‘rigor mortis’ sets in. The Spirit never leaves the individual true believer, but He does and will leave from empowering a local church.

The only hope (v. 3) for a church in such as the afore mentioned condition is to get back to the basics. “Remember” salvation by grace through faith, hold on to it as though your life depended on it (it does), and repent. Confess your deadness, your complacent spirit, your grieving of the Holy Spirit.

If there is no awakening Jesus warns, that He will come as a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:4). This would, of course, be only upon those who are not “Overcomers” as the next two verses deal with.

A living organism has … growth, repair, reproduction, and power. If these are missing in a local church that church is either dying or dead. The church needs revival. If the believers at Sardis did not obey God Jesus warned He would “Come as a thief”.

In verses 4 and 5 the judgment that awaited a majority of “church members” would be avoided by the “Overcomers”. The “Overcomer” is a saved – born again – individual who is constantly growing in his/her walk with Christ, and by God’s grace is always faithful.

White is a symbol of righteousness, purity, cleanliness. Jesus mentions only a few who “Have not defiled their garments”. Jesus says, “They are worthy”. They have been made worthy because of the Holy Spirit and the “GIVER OF THE SPIRIT” Jesus Christ. The only way of righteousness or being worthy is in His Spirit.
The “Book of Life” is mentioned several times in the Scriptures. Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; Exodus32:32; Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3 just to list a few. Some believe this implies one can be saved and lose it. That would be contrary to God’s grace. If we do nothing to deserve God’s grace, then, how can we presume that we can do something to get out of His grace? The “Book of Life” has had written in it the names of everyone who was ever conceived. When a person died apart from Christ his/her name is “Blotted out of the book of life”. When a person believes and confesses that Jesus is Lord, and believes that God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead, then God writes that person’s name in the “Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27) and his/her name remains in the “Book of Life”.

Jesus says, that He will confess this individual’s name before the Father.
Some points to note about the BOOK OF LIFE:

1. Contains the names of all the living;
2. Revelation 13:8; 17:8 suggest that the names of saints are written in the book from the foundation of the world – before they have done anything good or bad;
3. Chosen in Christ before the beginning of time (Ephesians 1:4; Matthew 25:34).
4. As unbelievers die their names are removed from the BOOK OF LIFE (Psalm 69:28).

Once again, to the Church of Sardis, the message of Jesus is requesting/commanding His people’s hearing (v. 6). It is an invitation to hear the Holy Spirit speak to the heart of the true believer of Jesus. It seems especially appropriate in this letter, because Jesus is showing Himself as the “GIVER OF THE SPIRIT”. Hear His words. Hear Him and believe and do them.

In conclusion, the prophet said, “This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6). If the church is to be the Church it must operate in the presence of God. The Holy Spirit must be a continued welcome and wanted guest within the local church, and the total Body of Christ.

To “Grieve the Spirit” is to make Him an unwanted guest. Unwanted guests do not feel like staying very long, and begin to pull away any influence, and make themselves absent. God gives His people a commandment not to grieve the Spirit; “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit will never leave a born again person, but when we pay Him little or no attention; ignore His teaching, leadership, comfort, convictions, righteousness, and judgment we will certainly be without His powerful influence.

Why do churches die? Because they neglect Jesus and His gift that He has given. He is the GIVER OF THE SPIRIT.

Only those in the local Church who heed the warnings of the Spirit and repent of their foolish deeds will overcome. Jesus’s promises to the “Overcomers” are for all those who are repentant.

The Church must stop grieving the Holy Spirit; the Church must depend on the Spirit, not the promises and promotions of the flesh and man; the Church of the 21st century must wake up out of its comfort, and lethargy, and live for God. The Church must experience revival.

Advertisements

He Never Changes

THE GLORY OF HIS IMMUTABILITY

“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:4-8 (KJV)

In this article we see words of encouragement through the reminder that God is immutable – unchanging. The whole of the Revelation is for the encouragement of believers of all ages. To the Christians who are enduring trial, and persecutions in our day it is truly encouraging to know that God is unchanging, and is the true source of courage, hope, and ultimate fulfillment of His promises.

Is there anything in life which we can count on? Clothing fashions change from day to day. The economy flourishes or we suffer depression, or somewhere in between. People’s attitudes change, about situations and other people. Even the planet earth on which we live is unstable. Think of the hurricanes, tsunami’s, earthquakes – you get the picture.

We can trust in the immutability of God. He never changes. Since He never changes His laws are still the same, His expections of His people are still the same as they have always been, and His character is flawless, so He is fully trustworthy. We may not be able to trust kings and leaders of our state and community, and even of our churches, at times, but we can have the utmost confidence and trust in the One who never changes. The Lord Jesus Christ.

His grace has always been abundant. His peace one of the greatest of experiences. Apart from His unchangingness these would be flippant and He would be just as untrustworthy as the word of a liar.

According to verse 4 the Revelation is written “To the seven churches which are in Asia.” This does not mean that there were only seven churches in Asia. It is probably symbolic and representative of the total Church. Not only for John’s age, but for all ages to come. That is not to take away from the Revelation’s immediate message and intent.

John’s salutation is similar to that of the apostle Paul’s. Both of these men realized the importance of “Grace” and “Peace”. “Grace” being the ‘unmerited’ or ‘undeserved’ favor of God, and without which, we would all be eternally condemned. “Peace” being made clean before God, without guilt or condemnation. Grace is our standing or position before God. Peace is our experience with God.

“Which is,… which was, and which is to come” reveals to us the eternalness of God. These words are written again in verse eight, chapter 4; 11:17; and in 16:5. There could be no grace or peace if God is not eternal or unchanging [immutable]. If God changed with every generation, fad, or grievance of people He would be even less dependable than our fellowman.

It is because of His immutability that He is able to save us (Hebrews 7:24-25). In Exodus 3:14 God tells Moses to tell the people, “I Am hath sent me unto you”. This name means, “Self-Existent One”. If He is Self-Existent He needs nothing to sustain Him, therefore, He is unchanging. He is, He was, and He always will be God.

“Seven Spirits” has been a troubling statement to some. When we think of the number seven (7) in the symbolic way which John meant, we can only come to the conclusion of fulness, completion. The fulness of the Holy Spirit is certainly in the giving of this Revelation of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit before the throne. If He is before the throne, and He abides in us, then, where are we who are in Christ Jesus?

In verses five and six we find Jesus revealed as a Prophet [“Faithful witness”], Priest [“First begotten of the dead”], and King [“The prince of the kings of the earth”].
As the Prophet He called people to the Father by His words and by His life. The prophet is hated while he lives and calls people to righteousness, thus, Jesus was crucified. He became Priest by His death, burial and resurrection. He became Priest, “After the power of an endless life ” (Hebrews 7:16). “The first begotten of the dead” has more to do with His power and position than His being the first to rise from death. However, He was the first to have “…the power of an endless life”. By His death and resurrection He became our High Priest. This High Priest is truly a priest. He has been “Touched with the fellings of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). A priest is one who approaches God on behalf of men and communicates to man on God’s behalf. Certainly, this is Jesus. He is King by His power over kings and Nations. He rules supremely. Here the word is “Prince”. The prince is one who will be king. but has not began his position of rule and authority. With Jesus this is by choice of His Father, until His set time.

This is the One who loved us, and loves us, washed us and loosed us from the slavery of sin by shedding His own blood. He gave His life. He took the condemnation that was mine and yours. By doing this for us He has made us “…a kingdom of priests unto God”, or “Kings and priests”. The Scriptures are full of doxologies unto God. Is it any wonder? When we truly begin to see God in His glory how can we be silent any longer. He is glory. He is worthy of blessing, power and dominion forever. SO BE IT.

Verse seven has Him coming in power and great glory. This event takes place chronologically in Revelation 19:11-21. This event follows the Rapture of the Church by at least seven years.

When Jesus comes for the Church no one will see Him. He is coming then as a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4). People will be snatched from their homes, cars, places of employment and chaos will prevail upon the earth.

In this verse “Every eye shall see Him” and they will mourn and weep over His appearance. They will even cry out to the rocks and hills to fall on them (6:16; Hosea 10:8). “They also which pierced him: “, then, would refer to the people who condemned Jesus to die. That, of course, being the Jewish nation, and they will believe in Him; “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” Romans 11:26-27 (KJV).

John’s response to this may seem, to some anyway, to be cold and heartless, but he says “A-MEN” out of anticipation and exhilaration, and faith that the Lord Jesus will be ultimately victorious. So, it is more a cry of victory than of vengeance.

Finally in this study we get to verse eight. “Alpha and Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It is interesting when you think of Jesus as the “Word of God”. Words are made of letters. If He is the First and Last, the Beginning [Genesis] and the end [The Revelation], then, He is also everything in between.

He is, He was, and He forever shall be. He is unchanging [Immutable]. Because of that He is our A to Z. From beginning to end the Immutable One. A-Men.

In conclusion, let me readdress the fact that He is unchanging. There is not much, if anything, in this world that does not change.

It should cause us to be bold and brave to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ knowing He never changes. He is “…The same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Because He is unchanging He is a worthy, Prophet, Priest, and King. Worship Him. He is revealing Himself to a changing world.