Revelation 3:14-22 // The Church that is Lukewarm

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TEXT: Revelation 3:14-22, NIV84

  • This ends the reading of God’s Word.
  • The Word of God for the People of God.

PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION:

Eternal God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, grant us Your Holy Spirit who writes the preached word into our hearts so that we may believe it, and be gladdened and comforted by it in eternity. Glorify Your Word in our hearts. Make it so bright and warm that we may find pleasure in it, and through Your inspiration think what is right. By Your power fulfill the Word, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen. [1]

 

INTRODUCTION:

I love the Rocky movies and Rocky 3 is one of my favorites. In Rocky 3, Rocky Balboa has been the heavyweight champion of the world for several years. The once obscure and impoverished street fighter from Philadelphia is now living in a Hollywood style mansion. He’s enjoying a life of wealth, fame, and self-indulgence. The day he plans to announce his retirement, he is challenged by an unknown behemoth named Clubber Lang played by Mr. T.

Rocky accepts the challenge. He trains for the fight in a circus-like atmosphere. He signs more autographs than he hits punching bags.


Meanwhile, Clubber Lang is in a meat locker, punching sides of beef and knocking around dock workers.

When the fight time comes, we might wonder whether Rocky can reach down and pull out one final victory, even though he is no longer at his peak.

Clubber Lang destroys Rocky in just three rounds, humiliated and dejected, Rocky tries to figure out what went wrong.


Apollo Creed, his opponent in the first two Rocky movies, tells him what his problem is. He said, “You used to have the eye of the tiger. You used to be hungry to win. You used to have the want-to. You used to be willing to pay the price to train. You used to fight with abandonment. You used to, but winning led to fame, and fame led to affluence, and affluence led to indulgence, and self-indulgence led to weakness, and weakness led to defeat.”

This morning as we look at the church at Laodicea, we will see that they have a similar problem. They are affluent, they are confident, and according to Jesus they say that they have need of nothing, but as we see their big problem is that they’re in denial about their condition.

When it comes to getting help for drug or alcohol addiction we’ve always heard that the first step to help is admitting that you have a problem. Well, the church at Laodicea doesn’t seem believe that they have a problem, and the you can’t help people that won’t admit that they have a problem.

 

Even when Jesus saves us, He first causes to see that we have a problem, and He is our solution. So, the first thing that needs to happen is that the church needs to see is their problem.

 

As we look at the text, we’ll see 2 Problems with the Church, 3 Things The Church Needs, and 3 Signs of Hope for the Church. So, if you’re keeping count, we have 8 points to cover.

 

2 Problems with the Church (v. 15-17)

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!16 So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” – Revelation 3:15-16, NIV84

 

Problem #1: Lukewarm

Sometimes in order to understand what a text means we have to rule out what it doesn’t mean first.

  • When Jesus is saying “You are neither hot nor cold, I wish you were one or the other.” What we think that means is that Jesus wants would rather us be red hot, on fire for Him or He would rather us be cold and completely against Him, than to be completely indifferent, but that’s not the case.

  • Jesus isn’t talking about our passion, or how we might feel about Him. He’s talking about our usefulness.

Laodicea was a city that had two major springs near it, one was a hot spring that came down from Hierapolis, and the other was from a cold spring that came down from the side of Colossae, and by the time the water came together from where they would pipe it in near Laodicea [2] it became lukewarm and it was undrinkable. [3]

 

On a hot day, you can use a cold glass of ice water to cool you down, and you can use hot water to shower with, but you can’t hardly use lukewarm water for anything.

 

Here’s another way of thinking about it: here in the south, we consume a lot of tea. We can drink iced tea or we can drink hot tea. (Whenever we go to a mall in Little Rock or Fort Smith, my wife loves going to Teavana and getting different kinds of hot tea to make at home.) Hot tea and cold tea are both pretty good, but who likes lukewarm tea? Nobody.

 

Jesus is saying, “If you’re hot I’ll use you, if you’re cold I’ll use you, but I won’t use you if you’re lukewarm. I’ll spew you out of my mouth.”

 

  • The main question for us is: Do we want Jesus to use us?

 

If we want Jesus to use us, then we have to be honest about who we are, and that leads us to the second problem.

 

Problem #2: Self-Deception

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
– Revelation 3:17, NIV84

 

This is the source of all their problems. This is the very reason that they are lukewarm. When the people in Laodicea looked at themselves, they saw the perfect church. They were wealthy, powerful and they had arrived.

 

  • The city of Laodicea itself was so wealthy that when an earthquake hit in 61 AD and destroyed the whole city, Caesar offered troops, money, resources, and anything else he could think to help them rebuild. They refused all of it, and they rebuilt the city on their own. They didn’t need anyone’s help. They were self-sufficient. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being self-sufficient in the sense that you live on your own, pay your own bills, drive yourself back and forth, etc.

  • It’s one thing to not have to depend on other people in that manner, but when you have so much that you think you don’t need what God has to offer, then you’ve got a problem.

 

They looked at their position, their possessions and their power and they said, “We have everything!” Reality is that they were indifferent, apathetic, and unmoved and they believed they were in good shape.

 

You can be sure that the road to destruction begins when you say, “Nah, I’m good, fam. I don’t need Jesus.” Every time we think that we don’t need Jesus, every time we think our own righteousness, and our own works are enough to satisfy God, it’s because we have deceived ourselves.

If we were Laocedia and we were listening to this being read in our church, this is where we need to start asking ourselves, “Okay, what needs to be done to change this?”

  • Well, Jesus, in His mercy, tells us what to do.

 

3 Things We Need

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” – Revelation 3:18, NIV84

 

There’s three things here that Jesus says we need, and gives the reason as to why we need each of these.

Faith Worth More Than Gold

Here’s the question: what kind of gold is Jesus offering? Obviously this represents something. Jesus isn’t giving us real gold… you know, unless you believe the prosperity gospel.

 

  • I believe gold here represents faith. Jesus gives us faith as a gift, and not only does he give it to us freely, but it’s a real faith that can be put to the test because Jesus says that it’s gold that’s been refined in the fire.

  • In 1st Peter 1, Peter talks about how we can rejoice now in the inheritance that Jesus because we will suffer trials, and he says in 1 Peter 1:7, “These [trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Jesus is telling us to get faith from Him that can be tried in the fire. What does this look like? It looks like that man in Mark 9 who says to Jesus, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” That’s how you get more faith. You go to the source of faith Himself, and say, “Lord, I need more faith. Help my unbelief.”

 

Clothed in His Righteousness

The next Jesus wants give us is “white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness.”

  • These clothes white clothes are the righteousness of Christ.

We already talked about it a little bit earlier, but in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve cover themselves up with fig trees, and God decides that that’s not good so Genesis 3:21 tells us, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” The assumption is that God kills something and uses the death of whatever animal this was from to cover up Adam and Eve’s shame.

  • Why couldn’t they have just sewn together fig leaves? Because the work of their hands would never be good cover themselves up before God.

 

In Genesis 4, Adam and Eve have two boys. The boys names are Cain and Abel.

 

Cain is a tiller of the ground, Abel is a keeper of the animals in the field.

 

So, they both bring God sacrifices of their respective jobs. Abel sacrifices an animal, and Cain brings a sacrifice from the ground.

 

Well, God accepts Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s. Why? Nothing died! Cain didn’t kill anything. Cain thought he could get by with the work of his hands, and that didn’t cut it. Something or someone has to die in order for your sins to be atoned for.

 

Well, for us, in this administration of the covenant, Jesus has died in our place for our sins, and He says, “Your righteousness isn’t good enough. Wear mine.”

 

And whenever Jesus gives us His righteousness to put on that’s a theological term called “imputation.” R.C. Sproul defines it this way, “Imputation means that the righteousness of Jesus is counted for me the moment I believe in Jesus Christ. That’s what Luther said. That that righteousness an “iustitia” alien—an alien righteousness. A righteousness that’s “extra nos.” A righteousness that’s apart from me, it’s not mine inherently. It belongs to Christ. And what Christ does is when I put my trust in Him, He imputes or counts to me His righteousness. And on the basis of that imputed righteousness, God declares me just right now.[4]

 

The third thing that Jesus wants to give us is salve for our eyes. 

 

Sight for Vision and Direction

This is the root problem for Laodicea, and it could be the problem for some of us, they’re blind, and Jesus wants to give them sight.

The third thing Jesus wants to give us is eyesalve so that we can see.

If you study the history of Laodicea as a city, then you know that all of these things – gold, cloth, and eyesalve – are all things had and produced in abundance. They were wealthy, they produced the finest cloth, and they were the leading producer of all kinds of medicines.

So, Jesus says, “If you think what you have is good, what I’m offering is better.”

Jesus says, “You can only heal people’s bodies, you can only appeal to their materialistic wants, but what I have is for their souls, people actually need what I have.”

And when we realize that, that’s when our eyes are opened. And the beauty of that, is that we Jesus opens our eyes we not only see where we are, but where we are going.

  • Jesus wants the church at Laodicea to see that if they continue to down this path of pride and self-sufficiency, then they are headed straight for destruction.

But see, out of all the problems with the church, there’s still three more things that should give us hope.

 

3 Signs of Hope for the Church

A Warning of Chastisement

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” – Revelation 3:19, NIV84

Compare what Jesus says here to what Solomon says in Proverbs 3.

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
– Proverbs 3:11-12, NIV84

If you fast forward to Hebrews 12 in the New Testament, the author of Hebrews actually tells us what it means for us to be disciplined and chastised by the Lord.

 

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:


  “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
      and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
  6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
      and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”


7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:4-11, NIV84

 

The writer of Hebrews seems to be telling us that God allows hardships in our lives for the sake of disciplining us.

So, when Jesus tells the church at Laodicea “whom I love, I rebuke and discipline,” he’s giving them the rebuke now, but the discipline is coming, and the discipline is coming in the form of hardships.

The Church has had it easy, but it will not always be that way. That’s one of the reasons why this letter is so relevant for our day. We’ve had it easy, and we’ve got it easy now, but it will not always be this way and we need to be ready.

The fact that Jesus is giving this rebuke is a sign that He’s still holding on to them. They are still his, and He’s not letting go.

The second sign of hope is that He invites them to fellowship.

 

An Invitation to Fellowship

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” – Revelation 3:20, NIV84

We’re all familiar with the painting of Jesus standing on the outside of the door, and we all know the symbolism of the painting and how there’s no doorknob because we have to let him in, etc.

But this invitation is to the church. We’ve heard evangelists take this verse out of context and tell us, “Oh, sinner, just open the door to your heart and let Jesus in. Can’t you see that He’s knocking on your heart’s door?” Listen, every once in a while Jesus kicks down some doors.

Jesus is showing up and saying, “I’m at the door and I’m coming in. You can either fellowship with me and benefit from that fellowship or you can be like Laodicea and believe that your own resources are good enough.”

Jesus has told several churches so far that He is coming and they had better be ready, but here Jesus is telling Laodicea that He’s so close that He’s at the door, and they had better be ready to fellowship with Him.

 

  • Jesus is coming to dinner, and He’s the bread of life. If we want life, then we need to run to Jesus and feed off of Him. We can’t feed off the world expect to be sustained. We have to take our food from Jesus, and the good news is that Jesus is inviting us to do just that.

    • He’s not withholding Himself. John 6:37, “Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never cast out.” That’s a promise straight out of Jesus’ mouth.

 

The Promise for Overcomers

“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 3:21-22, NIV84

 

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we hear that and we think, “How can I possibly overcome when I feel like I’ve been defeated so many times by temptation, by sin, and by my suffering. Sometimes I feel like that soil in Mark 4 where the seed of the word has been choked out by the cares of this life. How can I overcome?”

  • If you’re fighting on your own, then you never will overcome, but if you trust in Christ, then you will overcome because He already has.

 

“…those who are conformed to Christ in his trials and victories shall be conformed to him in his glory; they shall sit down with him on his throne, on his throne of judgment at the end of the world, on his throne of glory to all eternity, shining in his beams by virtue of their union with him and relation to him, as the mystical body of which he is the head.” – Matthew Henry

 

How are you conformed to Christ? By being made new. If you’re a new creature in Christ, then this victory is already yours. All you have to do is trust Him.

 

So, the next logical question: how can we trust Him?

 

Look at what Jesus says about Himself at the end of verse 14: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”

  • CSB – “originator of God’s creation”

 

According to what the Apostle Paul says about Jesus: He is God’s ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ to everyone of His promises. (2 Corinthians 1:20) How do you know God will keep His word? Because Jesus, who is Himself God in the flesh, died and rose again.

  • Revelation 19:11 even tells us that one of the names of Christ is Faithful and True. So, can you trust Him? Yes, you can.

 

Let’s pray.

 

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, sometimes we’re flawed, we’re faulty and we’re unreliable, but Lord, You are Faithful and True. You are consistent when we are not. If you change us, and conform us to the image of Your Son, then we’ll be faithful and true to You. Lord, we are physically made in Your image, but conform us spiritually to the image of Your Son, in His in holy name we pray. Amen.

_________________

  1. Luther’s Prayer to Receive the Word
  2. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
  3. Sermons and Outlines, https://www.sermonnotebook.org/new%20testament/Revelation%203_14-22.htm
  4. “An Alien Righteousness.” Ligonier Ministries, http://www.ligonier.org/blog/alien-righteousness/.

Revelation 3:1-6 // The Church that Looks Alive

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TEXT: Revelation 3:1-6, NIV84

  • This ends the reading of God’s Word.
  • The Word of God for the People of God.

PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION:

Almighty and Everlasting God, since we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from Your mouth, make us hunger for this heavenly food, that it may nourish us today in the ways of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, the bread of heaven. Amen.

INTRODUCTION:

Pastor Donald Grey Barnhouse offered a scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia, all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday . . . where Christ is not preached.[1]

Honestly, this is what some of us might want. We like the idea of clean streets, respectful children, and everyone being all clean and tidy.

After all, this is what we want, right? We want the nice, pristine picture of a simpler time when everyone was clean-cut, children who act like Beaver Cleaver.

“Big deal that Christ isn’t being preached in our churches, at least they’re not out in the streets listening to rock music and doing drugs, right? At least they’re in church, right?” That would be out rationale anyway.

This is the city of Sardis, this the condition of the church of Sardis. They’re having church every week. They’ve got programs for church members of all ages. They’ve got Bible studies and Sunday school classes. They’re doing all the busywork that makes them look very much alive.

  • Do you know what busywork is? Back when I worked in the convenience store business, I was the master of busywork. Busywork is the kind of work you do when you want to look busy. There was always a spot on the counter at Exxon that was so shiny you could see your reflection in it because I wiped that thing down when I got done with everything else because I knew if I didn’t, my manager would feel the need to get up from his easy chair in his office and tell me to find something to do.

  • This is what the Church of Sardis is doing! They look busy, they look alive, and Jesus says they’re dead as a doornail.

A Picture of Jesus

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.”- Revelation 3:1a, NIV84

 

I mentioned last week that each of these pictures of Jesus that we see in these seven letters reflects the initial picture of Jesus that John saw in Revelation 1.

 

In Revelation 1:12-13, John sees Jesus walking through seven golden lampstands, and then John sees Him holding seven stars in Revelation 1:16, and then in Revelation 1:20, Jesus tells Him what these mean.

 

“The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
– Revelation 1:20, NIV84

 

Now, if we interpret Scripture with Scripture, and compare Revelation 1:20 to our text, then we see Jesus walking among seven lampstands, holding seven stars, and holds the seven spirits of God.

 

  • Seven stars – Angels/Messengers/Pastors
  • Seven lampstands – churches
  • Seven spirits of God – a picture of the fullness of the Holy Spirit

Jesus gives both the Holy Spirit and the word to His messengers, (“to the angel of the church of _____ write…”) and His messengers give the word of God to the churches, and the churches relay the word of God to the world, and Jesus is the head of it all. Jesus is involved in all of it.

Jesus is the one who sees His church, and is walking among the churches. He is the One to whom we, as the church, must give an account.

 

The Problem of the Church

“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.”
– Revelation 3:1b-2, NIV84

 

Thom Rainer, a pastor and church revitalizer, wrote a book a couple of years ago called Autopsy of a Deceased Church. Basically, this book is a compilation of the most common reasons he’s found as to why churches go under, and this written from 30+ years of ministry experience.

 

In his book he talked about a few things that contribute to the death of a church, and I’m just going to run through three of them, and then I want us to see the common thread that runs through all of these.

  • The Past is the Hero – Churches that have the past as their hero are blind to the reality of the declining church. Areas that they cling to are:
    worship styles, facilities, pastors of the past, our own needs rather than the needs of those without Christ, the way we have always done things so we are comfortable.

  • Refusing to Look Like the Community – Losing the children and grandchildren of those in the church, when the church does reach out, they ask the community to come to them rather than the church going to the community, the church becomes a fortress, keeping people and possessions on the inside safe while keeping people on the other side out. The church stops reaching and caring for the community.

  • Preference-Driven rather than a Gospel-Driven –  Attitude is self-serving, self-giving, self-entitled. A church by definition is a body of believers who function for the greater good of the congregation. When church members increasingly demand their own preferences, the church is steadily not becoming the church. The church dies because its members refuse to be the church.

  • Pastoral Tenure Decreases – The pastor comes to the church and leads in a few changes. The members don’t like the changes and resist. The pastor becomes discouraged and leaves. The cycle repeats.

Now, when we think of a dead church, we might think of one where the building is only open once a week for one hour on Sundays, and no programs, but there are many dying churches that have an abundance of programs, but it’s all busywork.

The common thread that runs through all of these is a lack of correct focus.

  • A church should be more focused on whether or not they’re actually pleasing God in worship than whether or not the songs they’re singing is coming out of the hymnal.

  • A church should be more focused on whether or not a family down the road might not have enough groceries to get through the week than whether or not they can build a new building or remodel their bathrooms.

 

There’s two passages of Scripture that really show us where our focus should be. I’m going to read these passages, and what I would encourage you to do is write these down or print them out somewhere where you can see this every day.

 

“Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40, NKJV

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4, NKJV

When we talk about success we always think about it in terms of results – how much money we make, how big our building is, how nice of a job we have, but a truly successful life is made of you loving God, loving your neighbors, and putting other people’s interests ahead of yours, and I can guarantee you that that was the problem is Sardis. They weren’t successful in the things that mattered.

 

  • You can’t love God, and love your neighbor and be a dead church. It’s impossible. So, if you’re Sardis, and Jesus says that you’re dead, then there’s something wrong with how you’re loving God and neighbor.

 

Part of the problem with Sardis is that they were really comfortable and secure.

 

The Church at Sardis didn’t suffer any persecution, and the reason for that is because there was a wealthy community of Jews in Sardis and Christians blended in so well that almost everyone outside of Sardis thought the church there was just a sect of Judaism.

 

  • G.B. Caird called the church at Sardis “the perfect model of inoffensive Christianity.”

  • I wonder how many of our churches we could say that about today. I wonder how many of our lives might reflect that statement.

    • “Jesus is Lord… but that’s just my opinion.” – This isn’t like our political opinions where we can just pick a side based on what think benefits us most, this is a matter of real truth.

 

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.” – Revelation 3:2, NIV84

 

  • The city was located on a hillside, and it had a big city wall around it so if you were an enemy and you wanted to take the city, it would be very difficult. You would have to scale the mountain, and then find a way up, over, or through the wall.

  • Up to this point in the entire city’s history they had only been under siege twice, and both times it was because they got comfortable.

    • They were not watching, they were not on guard, and they were not prepared for the enemy.

When the members of the church at Sardis would heard this letter they would know that Jesus is making a direct reference to them being overtaken, and what Jesus wants them to know and us to know is this: “If you think being overtaken by natural enemy is bad, it’s nothing compared to being overtaken by the devil.”

You heard me quote John 10:10 last week, and I’ll say it again: the devil’s job to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus has come that you might have life, and life more abundantly.

 

  • So, what do you want? Do you want life or destruction?

 

If you want life, then run to Jesus, trust Jesus, sit at the feet of Jesus, and have an active and living faith in Jesus!

 

If you want destruction, then do what Sardis did:

  • live off your reputation

  • get comfortable in your pew

  • Lose your edge

 

The reason G.B. Caird said that the church at Sardis is the perfect example of inoffensive Christianity is because according to the Apostle Paul, the preaching of the cross is offensive foolishness to those who are perishing.

 

  • So, when the cross loses it’s offense, it’s because we’ve stopped preaching it properly.

 

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV84

 

  • When someone hears the Gospel and believes that they can stay the same afterward, it’s because they are perishing, but if they hear the Gospel and want to be changed, and they want the life that Jesus offers, it’s because they are being made alive!

 

The Solution Jesus Provides

And so, what does Jesus do? Is there any hope for Sardis?

“Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” – Revelation 3:3, NIV84


Now, if you remember, this is very similar to what Jesus told the church at Ephesus back in Revelation 2:5. Remember?

 

“Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” – Revelation 2:5, NRSV

 

This is almost the same threat. In Ephesus, He tells them that if they don’t repent He’ll remove their lampstand, and here in Sardis, He says that He’ll come like a thief. I think the message is clear.

 

Jesus is promising judgement to those who are not repentant.

 

Jesus is promising to judgement to people live off their reputation.

 

  • “Well, I prayed the Sinner’s prayer once and signed the back of my Bible.”

  • “I went to Vacation Bible School.”

 

Do you have an active faith in Christ now? I’m not asking if once had. I’m not asking if you prayed a prayer or became a member of the church. I’m not asking if you were baptized. I’m asking you right now, in this moment: can you look at Christ in faith and see Him as your Savior or do you see Him as your judge?

The question is very simple: are you alive? Is your faith alive?

  • I’m not asking if your faith is strong, I’m asking if it’s there. You can have a weak and puny faith, but God can work with that.

  • But if you have a dead faith, then you will come under the divine judgement of God unless you are made alive in Christ.


Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.” – Revelation 3:3-5, NIV84

 

If your faith is alive even if it’s puny, then there’s a reward for you because you’re holding on. And the reason you’re holding on is because God is holding on to you because Jesus says, on no uncertain terms, “I will never blot out his name from the book of life.”

 

  • Hear me loudly and clearly: there is no possible way that you can twist this text to say that God will remove the names of His children from the Lamb’s book of life. If you’re a genuine believer with an active faith in Christ, then your name is there and it’s there to stay. Anything else is a lie from the pit of Hell and it smells like smoke.

  • If you’re a faithful believer and you’re stuck in a church like Sardis, then this is what you need to hear from Jesus. You need to know that your perseverance in not in vain.

    • You need to know that all those days you’ve spent believing in the Light in spite of the darkness around you isn’t for naught.

 

Jesus is saying, “Hold on, you can’t let go now! I’m going acknowledge you before my Father in Heaven.”

 

Do you realize the significance of that?

 

The end of verse 5 is a direct reference to Luke 9:26 when Jesus says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father of the holy angels.”

This is right after Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

 

If you’re not ashamed of bearing the shame of the cross, then there’s a reward for you. This is exactly what we sing in The Old Rugged Cross.

To the old rugged cross/I will ever be true
It’s shame and reproach gladly bear/Then He’ll call me some day
To my home far away/Where His glory forever I’ll share

This kind of proclamation is strange to the world, but this is power for us. The proclamation of the cross is what causes us to see Jesus dealing with our sin by His death and resurrection.

  • We can’t afford to blend in like Sardis and live off of our reputation.

  • We can’t afford for the world to look at us and just assume we’re like everybody else.

We have to make our stance clear: we are a people that believe that Jesus has come in the flesh, Jesus has died, Jesus has risen, and He will return in power and glory to judge the living and the dead.

Let’s pray.

CLOSING PRAYER

Heavenly Father, we come before You, and our hearts are exposed. You see all of our faults, our failures, and our shortcomings. You see everything laid out before You. We ask You to forgive us. Cleanse us by Your blood, and make us new creatures. Grant us life and repentance, and it’s in the name and by the power of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that we pray these things. Amen.

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  1. Horton, Michael Scott. Christless Christianity: the Alternative Gospel of the American Church. BakerBooks, 2012.