Is the Church Awake? – A Christian Worldview of the Church, Part 5

John’s warning to the church in Sardis, recorded in Revelation 3:1-6 comes without the positives he heaped on the churches in the previous chapter. I find his description chilling. He says they are dead though they have the reputation for being alive. In other words, they had other people fooled. I suppose the term hypocrisy fits.

What did it look like for the believers in Sardis to appear alive? Did they have large numbers in attendance? Were they giving liberally to the church? to the poor? Sending members out to nearby communities to start other churches? Holding revival services? Behaving morally? I can’t think of what else might have made others think they were alive.

But they weren’t. John told them to Wake Up! An odd command for a group he described as dead. Here’s the whole admonition:

Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.

I’m not going to pretend to understand this. Except, I do get “what you have received.” We Christians have received God’s mercy and forgiveness, resulting in salvation. So we are to “keep it, and repent”?

For those of us who believe it is God who keeps us, this seems a little problematic, as does the later line about not erasing his name from the book of life. Our names can be erased?

This would be troubling, especially if I was determined not to remember what I had received, not to keep it, not to repent. Instead of focusing on the part of the verse that seems incongruous with other passages about salvation that seem to indicate God has sealed us with His Holy Spirit so that we will not slip from His hand, I think it’s most important to understand the admonition.

After all, if A never happens, then B won’t come into play. Worrying about having my name erased from the book of life is null and void if I remember what I have received. If I keep it. If I repent.

Somewhere along the line, I had a teacher who introduced the concept of keeping short accounts. How important to respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction when I sin, and repent at once. When I was younger, there were times I didn’t want to repent. I thought I was justified in my sin, even when I recognized my actions or thoughts as something in opposition to God’s Word. So I didn’t want to repent. I didn’t want to give in and give up what I thought I was entitled to—pride, anger, complaining, gossip, covetousness … you get the picture.

How much better to keep short accounts—to respond at the first prodding of the Holy Spirit in my conscience. The biggest result is restored fellowship with God. Times of prayer, times in the Word bring me closer to God when I don’t have un-repented sin standing between me and Almighty God.

Oh, yeah, this passage is addressed to the church in Sardis. I’ve approached all these Revelation warnings as truth that can apply to the Church, but I don’t suppose the Church can wake up if we who make up the Church remain asleep.

Published in: on December 3, 2008 at 2:17 pm  Comments (2)  
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