Revelation #9 Revelation 3:1-6 (MSG) End Time Dilemma: Hypocrisy
Revelation #9 Revelation 3:1-6 (MSG) End Time Dilemma: Hypocrisy
Ephesus the spirit is judgmental. Smyrna is in danger of giving in. Pergamum infected with a spirit of compromise. Thyatira tolerates false teachers. Jesus' message: Are you awake? Are you listening? You are in a war for your soul. Now Jesus turns His attention to the congregation in Sardis.
The historical record indicates that Sardis was a very wealthy city. Gold and silver coins were minted, people were buried with jewelry, and it was a center for the wool and dye trade. The city was located on a major “highway.” The patron deity of Sardis was Cybele believed to have special power to raise the dead to life. There was also a wealthy Jewish community in the city. The Christian congregation was not being persecuted by the authorities, they were not having to overcome the false teachings of the wolves in sheep's clothing, and they were not being harassed by the Jewish population. The church is not dealing with the problems faced by the other congregations. Should be an easy street for them.
Rev 3:1-6 (MSG)
1 Write this to Sardis, to the Angel of the church. The One holding the Seven Spirits of God in one hand, a firm grip on the Seven Stars with the other, speaks:
"I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you're dead, stone dead.
2 "Up on your feet! Take a deep breath! Maybe there's life in you yet. But I wouldn't know it by looking at your busywork; nothing of God's work has been completed. Your condition is desperate. 3 Think of the gift you once had in your hands, the Message you heard with your ears—grasp it again and turn back to God.
"If you pull the covers back over your head and sleep on, oblivious to God, I'll return when you least expect it, break into your life like a thief in the night.
4 "You still have a few Christians in Sardis who haven't ruined themselves wallowing in the muck of the world's ways. They'll walk with me on parade! They've proved their worth!
5 "Conquerors will march in the victory parade, their names indelible in the Book of Life. I'll lead them up and present them by name to my Father and his Angels.
6 "Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches."
Jesus identifies himself as the one holding the 7 Spirits in one hand and the 7 starts in the other. The 7 Spirits represent the Holy Spirit, the 7 Stars represent the spirit of the congregation, and together they reveal that Jesus has authority over the church. This congregation has access to the power of God to carry out its mission. But Sardis is asleep in the light. A majority of the congregation is Christian in name only.
The gospel according to Mark records the story of the withered fig tree.
Mark 11:12-14 (MSG)
As they left Bethany the next day, he was hungry. 13 Off in the distance he saw a fig tree in full leaf. He came up to it expecting to find something for breakfast, but found nothing but fig leaves. (It wasn't yet the season for figs.) 14 He addressed the tree: "No one is going to eat fruit from you again—ever!" And his disciples overheard him.
The reason why there was no fruit is because it was out of season. The reason Jesus got upset was that when the fig tree is in full leaf it would have figs. The tree looked good, it promised fruit, but there was nothing there. This is the same problem with the believers in Sardis. They looked good, but no fruit.
You can’t fool Jesus. Two things are going on in Sardis, spiritual apathy and nominal faith amid self-centered busyness.
Spiritual apathy is an attitude of indifference. Obedience to God’s commands and the teachings of Jesus is optional. I bet such a person doesn’t practice the 7 habits of a disciple. They are not passionate about their faith, it's an add-on to life, not the primary driving force. They don’t talk about their faith. They do not use the spiritual gifts they have been endowed with to serve. According to Jesus’ message, such a person is in spiritual danger.
A nominal Christian identifies as a believer but does not actively practice the faith, or is compromised with the culture to the extent that the only difference between how they live their life, and their non-believing neighbor is that they occasionally go to church. They believe in Jesus, but they don’t let their faith influence their daily lives. According to John, such a person is in spiritual danger.
Since the folks at Sardis have a reputation of being alive it indicates that as a group, they were having church. Jesus tells them that they are dead. All their activities were self-centered. The congregation existed to serve itself. A self-centered congregation is most likely more concerned with its growth and success than meeting any of the needs that exist within the community. There is little spiritual transformation occurring. We’re entertained, and we’re happy, and we’re a great social club, and what’s more, the pastor tells great jokes. According to the message the congregation is given they are in spiritual danger. There is no Holy Spirit power creating dynamic change in the lives of people.
That Jesus tells the congregation to wake up which means there is still hope. Hope of revival, hope on getting back on track with Kingdom business. A Christian church is strengthening believers in their faith, especially those who are immature or struggling. A congregation of disciples is reaching out to the lost and those who have fallen away intending to make them true disciples of Jesus. Those who have bent their knee to the Lordship of Christ band together to be a force for good in the community they have been planted. Wrap it all up in love for God, love for others and you have a congregation doing the work God has called His churches to do. Failing to do Kingdom business invites spiritual danger.
The gift that the folks once had was pure devotion, faithfulness, trust, and passion. They started well, but life has a way of wearing your zeal down. When a person first comes into a right relationship with God, they can’t seem to get enough of scripture, fellowship, and worship. A whole new spiritual world has opened for them, and they are excited about what they are discovering. The heart flames can become smoldering embers and you are left with a form of Godliness but no power. When this happens, a person is subject to spiritual danger.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NIV)
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
Jesus reveals that if they don’t wake up from their apathy, their nominal faith, or their self-centeredness He will remove their candlestick. That means the presence of God disappears, that means what remains is a spiritually dead church that in Sardis’s case is going through the motions, but going nowhere.
To the righteous remnant in Sardis, those who have maintained their vows to the Lord are promised that their names will appear in the Book of Life. The Book of Life contains the names of every person who maintained their loyalty to Jesus. If your name is in the book, it is because you bent your knee to the Lordship of Christ and overcame every situation that tempted or threatened you to recant your faith. It doesn’t matter if you believe that there is an actual book like we have on our shelves at home. The book is a symbol of Jesus’ sovereignty and authority, for it is Jesus who writes your name in His book. It is a symbol of hope and confidence, when you have bent the knee to Jesus you know that your name is written in the book therefore even though you die, shall you live. The book can also serve as a call to repentance for everyone whose name is not written in the book they are in spiritual danger.
In past teachings, we have considered John Calvin’s position that God chooses who will be saved, and if you are chosen no matter what you have been given eternal life. But here Jesus says that to those loyal to Him, to those who keep the faith, He will not blot out their name from the Book of Life. When you bend the knee to Jesus, acknowledging that are out of alignment with God, believing that Jesus is the reconciler of your estrangement to God, committing to be His disciple, and realign the entirety of your life to God’s will and way, and then asking that God accept your faith, Jesus wrote your name in the Book. Yet if you do not remain loyal, if you reject the faith that brought you to life eternal, Jesus can blot out your name. That’s a spiritual danger that many in Sardis were in.
Two other promises are given to the overcomer. The true believer will be given garments of white and Jesus will confess his or her name before the Throne. We have previously noted that white is the color of righteousness and purity. White garments occur numerous times throughout the Revelation. When white is given to the saints it most likely is a symbol of their justification, of being made right with God. White is appropriate heavenly attire and the one who overcomes the spiritual danger is promised to be wearing it.
The second promise is an echo of Jesus from the gospels “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.” There also is a warning given at the same time.
Matt 10:32-33 (MSG)
"Stand up for me against world opinion and I'll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I'll cover for you?
Watch out for the blotter. The believer who does not heed the warning is in spiritual danger.
The problem with the majority of the congregation in Sardis is that they are “a perfect model of inoffensive Christianity” (Mounce, p. 110). They have allowed themselves to get in step with secular society, with the anti-Christ culture (Ladd, p.55). They have “accommodated themselves to the standards of a pagan society” (Rotz, p. 80). The problem is clear.
2 Cor 6:17 (MSG)
So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good, says God. Don't link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself.
This message demands from us today an inspection of our fidelity to Christ. Are you taking up your cross daily and following Jesus or are you compromised with the culture? Are you passionate about being a disciple, and standing out as a Christ follower or are you saturated with society? Are you working out Kingdom Business or are you worn out? Fruitlessness, apathy, a laze-a-fare faith, and self-centeredness all warn that you are in spiritual danger. Wake up. Jesus in these End Times is giving you time to repent, to turn back, to strengthen yourself, to fan into flame your faith.
In the End Times, your personal victory depends on your fidelity to Jesus. As we learned from our study of the letters of Peter, your behavior matters. What you do determines your destiny. As we read the Revelation we will discover that you are either all in or all out, there is no middle ground. “Are your ears awake?”