Cold. I am very, very cold. It’s one of those states of being cold where you just can’t get warm. I’m absolutely chilled. Where your very bones are cold. I’m in sweats, and snuggled under two fuzzy blankets. It’s (fairly) quiet on this Friday night. Work has been quite intense this week. I’m grateful for this time to snuggle under covers and do some scripture work and writing, to settle my soul.
I’ve been studying the messages in Revelation to the churches, in chapters 2 and 3. These messages are portrayed written in the color “red”. That would indicate that they are messages coming from Jesus. Or from God. But each message to these individual churches contain vital information–warnings, commendations, directions to be heeded. Always before when I’ve come to passages in Revelation, I’ve often breezed over them, telling myself that I was not capable of understanding them. But this study in Revelation has changed my view on this book; it is relevant to today. There is much to learn. Much to apply.
The verses in Revelation 3:1-6. 6 short verses. But they serve as a wake-up call–I believe directed at believers. They are directed to the church at Sardis. Sardis was supposedly an impenetrable city, yet twice they had gotten comfortable in their safety, which led them to being overrun. The same can be said to be true about the church at Sardis.
The passage is below:
“ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 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. 3 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. 4 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. 5 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. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
God does not mince words here. At all. He jumps right to the heart of the issue: “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” Wow. Here is a God who sees. He knows this church’s work. He knows their reputation of a church that is heavy in works. They look alive. Really alive. But are they?
God pronounces the judgement: “..you are dead.” Here’s the church with a reputation of being alive, in a city with a reputation of being a solid fortress. Yet beneath the outer veneer of “aliveness”, this church was dead, just as the city under the veneer of being solidly protected, was overtaken.
What is dead? It appears that their outer selves knew what works to do. They knew the right things to say. They played the game well. And yet, they were dead inside. Their very soul was dead.
I don’t know about you, but I can definitely relate to this church in Sardis. There are times–many more than I care to admit–when I foolishly allow my soul to become sluggish in the things of God. Sluggish bordering on dead. And when I allow that to happen, the doubt seeps in. And as time goes on, I find it harder and harder to dig out of this dead hole. I walk through sleep like a zombie–the walking dead. Leading worship but not worshipping. Reading scripture but not allowing it into the fiber of my soul. Performing works with out glorifying God. I am dead.
But look what God says in response to this lethargy; this apathy: Wake Up! Strengthen what remains! Remember what you received and heard. Keep it and Repent.
This is his warning. This is his appeal. It is like he is saying “Snap out of it!” Have you ever had to be told that?
I have. I have had days where I have moved through life as if moving through jello. When the days have run together. When I’ve forgotten what I have received and heard. When I have not kept the truth of scripture that I have been given. Those are dark, dark times. They are like being dead. They are being dead. And the only way out of that grave is to allow God to tell me to “Snap Out Of It”, and for me to listen to His command.
It does become a matter of conquerering. Of conquerering fear. Of conquerering apathy and cynicalness and depression and fear. And to the one who conquers these things–to the one who “Snaps Out of It” there is a promise:
Beautiful. To never have your name blotted out of the book of life. To have Jesus confess your name before God the father. To be clothed in white garments. Eternal peace.
But let me not fool you. To “snap out of it” is not easy. At all. I know this also from experience. It takes very real work. It takes real scripture work and study. It takes honest, gut wrenching prayer. It takes worshipping corporately with a body of believers who also are struggling with the very same things. It takes work.
But that work is more important than any other work you will ever undertake in your life. Ever. It’s everlasting work. And it’s work that will enable you to do good work in other areas of your life–your family, your job, your life.
I don’t want to be alive, yet dead. I don’t want the hypocrisy of that. I want to be alive in every area of my life. I’m sure you do, as well. Let’s urge each other to do the hard work, to strengthen what remains. To strive for true life; to be conquerers.
I think this is a good place in our study for me to share a really great table that I found in the ESV Study Bible concerning these messages in Revelation to these churches. Take a look at the promises. Then take a look at what will happen. But most remarkably, examine the fulfillment of these promises. God’s word is truth.
|Promise||What Will Happen||Fulfillment|
|2:7||will eat from the tree of life||22:2|
|2:11||will not be hurt by the second death||20:6; 21:7–8|
|2:17||will be given a white stone||21:11, 18–21|
|2:26–27; 3:21||will reign with Christ on his throne||20:4|
|2:28||will be given the morning star||21:23; 22:5, 16|
|3:5||will be clothed in bright garments||19:7–8; 21:2, 9–10|
|3:5||name will be in the book of life||21:27|
|3:12||will be made a pillar in God’s temple||21:22–23|
|3:12||will participate in the new Jerusalem||21:10|
|3:12||will have God’s name written on them|