Revelation 3:1-3 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.”
In Reputation Only
This “dead” or “alive” is speaking of spiritual death and spiritual life, not physical death and life. And this church in Sardis is not one single congregation like we would think of in America today. It was the church, the body of Christ, the collective body of all the saints in Christ Jesus in the city of Sardis no matter how many different places they met, for they didn’t have big buildings called “church” like we have in America. They met in small groups in people’s homes or in public places which were meeting places.
They, collectively, had a reputation of being spiritually alive, i.e. of being spiritually on fire for the Lord, walking in his ways, doing what he commanded, going where he would send them, and saying what he gave them to say. They had a reputation of walking in fellowship with the Lord in holiness and in righteousness, in purity of devotion to him, and of daily dying to sin and to self and following Jesus wherever he led them. But it was in reputation only, and not in truth.
Now, as we will read on further, this did not include everyone professing faith in Jesus Christ in Sardis, but it appears that it certainly represented the majority, which I believe fits with where the church in America, overall, is presently. But I don’t believe the reputation of the church in America is necessarily that they are truly walking in purity of devotion to Jesus Christ but more that they are in relationship with Jesus Christ through confessions of faith in him. And the “alive” part is mostly emotional, not spiritual.
The American “Church”
When I hear people speaking of groups of people meeting together in buildings they call “church” (not the true church) – which includes a mixture of the people of the world, “in name only” Christians, and true believers in Jesus Christ – it is not usually talk of how godly and committed to Christ they are. It is mostly about their cool sounding bands, their fun and witty preachers with their interesting talks, the programs they have for all ages, and how friendly and accepting and non-judgmental that they are.
So, in America today, the reputation of the church, overall, has more to do with the things mentioned in the previous paragraph. It is a reputation of being alive, but more in the sense of being fun, entertaining, exciting, lively, friendly, non-threatening, etc., where no one gets in anyone else’s face about anything but where people are generally accepting of one another no matter where they are spiritually, even if they are living in sin.
But it is still a reputation of being spiritual and of being Christian and of being in relationship with the Lord Jesus. But just like the church in Sardis, they are “mostly dead,” i.e. not dead all the way, for there are still some things which remain which are on the positive side but which are about to die if they do not wake up and repent of their wicked deeds and turn and now walk in obedience to the Lord.
For, the church here in America is mostly teaching a diluted (altered) gospel message, which resembles the true gospel, but which is a lie. And so many people are professing faith in Jesus Christ (they have a reputation of being alive spiritually) but they have not died with Christ to sin and they are not living to him and to his righteousness, in practice. Many who profess faith in Jesus are still living in deliberate and habitual sin (they are spiritually dead).
A.W. Tozer: “It is my opinion that tens of thousands of people, if not millions, have been brought into some kind of religious experience by ‘accepting’ Christ, and they have not been saved. If your Christian conversion did not reverse the direction of your life, if it did not transform it then you are not converted at all. You are simply a victim of the ‘accept Jesus’ heresy!”
So, if this is where you are, professing faith in Jesus Christ but still deliberately and habitually sinning against the Lord and not walking in holiness and in righteousness in obedience to his commands, then this message is for you. If you do not turn away from your sins to follow Jesus in obedience, you will not have eternal life with God no matter what you profess with your lips or think you believe in your heart, and no matter what anyone else has told you. Heaven is not your eternal destiny.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-11; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Ac 26:18; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15; Eph 2:8-10]
Revelation 3:4-6 ESV
“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.”
Yet, there are still Christians in America who are walking in obedience to the Lord, who have forsaken their sinful practices, and who are living holy and godly lives pleasing to the Lord and for the glory of God. We may be few in number, but we still exist. It doesn’t mean we have always lived perfect lives but we presently are walking in submission to Christ as Lord and we are not giving our minds, our hearts, or our bodies over to the sinful passions of the flesh – yet only by the grace of God, so all the glory goes to God!!
When our Lord Jesus returns for his bride, we will be welcomed into his eternal kingdom. And then our salvation will be complete and we will forever be with our Lord. For, by the grace of God, and in his strength and wisdom, we have conquered the flesh with its sinful passions and we are walking in purity of devotion to our Lord. Again, this is not a claim of absolute perfection, but it is a testimony to God’s saving grace that we are able, in Him, to walk in holiness and in righteousness to the glory of God.
I Can Only Imagine
Song by Bart Millard
I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk by Your side
I can only imagine
What my eyes would see
When Your face is before me
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees, will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine, yeah
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