The Lord Jesus Christ loves His Church and speaks correction to and chastens those within the local churches that supposedly make it up (Revelation 3:19). This is the why and what for of His end of the first century specific messages to seven churches of Asia and their messengers in His Revelation I wrote about to open this New Year (Revelation 1:9-11, 19).1 The mere fact the Lord has something to say about what goes on in the churches demonstrates not only His knowledge, but concern that things be done in accord with His will, way and Word! He did not go away back to Heaven and turn the business of the Church over to us. He is Lord (Ephesians 1:15-23)!
In exercising His ever active Lordship over His Church from birth, the Lord Jesus presents Himself to the messenger of the church at Sardis as “He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.” With authority granted by His Father (Mathew 28:18), the Son asserts His control over the fullness of the Holy Spirit represented as “the seven Spirits of God” in His activities among men and church messengers as “the seven stars” He earlier interpreted to John (Revelation 1:20). Then, after declaring He knew Sardis’ works, He drops a spiritual bomb shell on them with shock waves that reach to this very hour: they had “a name” for being “alive,” but were “dead” (Revelation 3:1, NKJV)!
The church in Sardis had a name or reputation for being alive whatever that meant for them at that time. Perhaps like some churches that were before and many that have followed them down through the centuries, professed Christians in the Sardis church were intensely engaged in sensational spiritual practices such as speaking in tongues which the apostle Paul warned against over emphasizing (1 Corinthians 14:1-19). Maybe it was passionate preaching or spirited singing and dancing that were carried out as a telltale sign God was present. Possibly too, it was all of these elements that are found variously in numerous churches among the ethnicities on earth today.
Few however, would argue with me that among the ethnicities, those of my own either on the African continent or scattered among the world’s countries including this one engage in all or most of what is described in the foregoing during any given service of what we call worship. The reputation for being alive among black Americans in their churches draws tourists to observe us from all over the world. And we typically do not disappoint; putting on emotion charged performances sometimes that are hard even for the most stoic of souls to resist being caught up in.2 I do understand such services have been historically cathartic for us and in loving empathy have written about why.3
Nevertheless, without the Holy Spirit whose living, working presence the Lord Jesus controls, none of what professed Christians do in the churches lives now or eternally before God (John 6:63). Clearly, from the Lord’s judgment of the church at Sardis, sensational activity and high energy emotional worship are not surefire indicators of the Holy Spirit’s living presence and work as many want to falsely believe. By default, works not empowered by the Holy Spirit are of the sinful flesh. Those acting in the flesh do not please God (Romans 8:5-8). And while there may be “liberty” when the Holy Spirit is present, such times are never a license to sin (2 Corinthians 3:17, NKJV)!4
The verdict of the Lord Jesus on the reputation of the church at Sardis was that they and their efforts were spiritually dead as is the case in every church where the Holy Spirit is not actually operative in what is going on! Apparently though, the church was not completely dead since after pronouncing them so, the Lord commands them to “Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die;” He not finding their works complete “before God.” Then, He exhorts them to go back in memory to what they had been originally taught, grip it tight and repent from their departure. If they don’t, He warns, He will come upon them suddenly for what will surely be retribution (Revelation 3:2-3, NKJV). The Lord says the same to guilty churches today.
Always in God’s economy there is a faithful remnant. At Sardis, there was one that by implication in their life and deeds were alive through the authentic work of the Holy Spirit. The Lord acknowledges them and promises a reward for their faithfulness--“for” He says, “they are worthy.” They will also never face the possibility of Him blotting their names out of “the Book of Life.” They will be alive in the Spirit forever! The Lord will also confess the names of these faithful saints before His “Father and before His angels.” He urges every individual in the church at Sardis and the one you attend too, if you will, “to hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” (Revelation 3:4-6, NKJV). The risen, living Christ continues His cry among American churches, "Who is on the Lord's side?"
1 See the two-part post that begins January 5, 2020, Revelation’s Seven Churches In Time, under the category, Bible Prophecy.
2 Save attempting to shame me for telling the truth on “us” since I have been black all of my life and even before I was a believer, as a child I witnessed how we do. And
as it concerns performing, while I know a relative few individuals among the musicians and audience may be having a genuine encounter with God, my teen years
were mostly spent in bands entertaining; I know performance, entertainment and being moved by the music when I see and hear it as still happens to me in all trans-
parency when I allow it (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Just because you are feeling it in what is called worship, does not mean God is and it is idolatry to think so, since He made
us in His image not the other way around (Psalm 50:16-23; Isaiah 1:10-20)!
3 Read the two-part repost beginning February 8, 2015, Strong Through God, Not Religion, under the category, Black History.
4 Examples occur whenever an assembly is thrown into disorder by folk lacking self-control and women in disobedience and defiance of God’s written Word are allowed
to lead worship where adult men are present (1 Corinthians 14:20-40; 1 Timothy 2:11-14). Women freely empowered by the Holy Spirit to prophesy (Joel 2:28-29,
Acts 2:1-18, 21:8-11) are not free to do so as they please or as sinning church leaders command in disobedience to God’s perpetually set order of mankind. Or are we
now blasphemously teaching that the “Holy” Spirit sanctions sin in rebellion against Himself? Knowing this not to be the case, no wonder the false escape is to lie on
God and declare He has spoken (Jeremiah 23:30-32), changed His mind (Malachi 3:6), updated His Word (Matthew 5:17-20, 24:35) or abandoned the temperance of
His eternal nature He wills to display in us (Galatians 5:22-23)! It is not nor will it ever be the Holy Spirit that pushes the guilty into sin, but the prince of darkness and
the lusts of their sinful flesh draw them into it (James 1:12-18).
At the opening of this Black History Month I celebrate my ethnicity before the God who in His perfect creative wisdom made me what I am and will be forever! My celebration is not intended to exalt blacks as superior, discredit or exclude the reality of my brothers of other ethnicities since we are together what the same God made us to be as the creature, man, leading to celebration by all of our existence from Him. While it is a sad fact of history that my celebration of black history came about from evil circumstances, I am not mad at anyone in it. However, even with improvement, I do at times painfully realize America has still not arrived at an appreciative biblical worldview of ethnicity.
Clearly, from the beginning, God our Creator intended that mankind should be displayed in a variety of physical hues, size dimensions and features though, He created from the dust just the one man, Adam (Genesis 2:7, 5:1-3). As scientists that are Christian and/or honest now understand, the variety of hues, size dimensions and features among the human race are the result of genetic programming in the human body. This programming includes gene copying and mutations over time that point to the logical, inescapable conclusion of an intelligent design by a purposeful Designer; a Designer the Bible declares is God (Exodus 4:11; Proverbs 20:12; Acts 17:26; Romans 1:18-21)!1
In spite of all of the negative associations with ethnicity sinful men have created over the centuries to this hour, another evident intent of God concerning mankind is that we should retain our ethnicities eternally! This is plainly seen in the global extent to which the salvation of God through the Gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ, was to be proclaimed (Isaiah 49:5-6; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:19-23; Acts 1:8). It is also seen and celebrated in the outcome of the proclamation to the end of this present age; the Lord’s labor beginning through His faithful apostles with the Jews (Acts 2:36-47, 10:34-48, 13:1-3, 14:21-28; Romans 10:14-18; Revelation 5:9, 7:9-10).
Finally, God’s intention to retain the ethnic diversity of mankind forever is seen in His prophetic Word. Indeed, as the Lord led me to write in the two-part post, Revelation’s Seven Churches In Time, starting January 5, 2020 under the category, Bible Prophecy, individual saints are shown as from every nation or ethnicity of man in the new, eternal future God has planned (Revelation 21:1-14, 22-27). Knowing these truths, Christians more than all other people on earth are to appreciate and celebrate the wonder and beauty of humanity’s ethnic diversity as the “very good” work of our Creator (Genesis 1:31, NKJV). But we too, with the world have issues with bigotry that degrades ethnicity.
As I wrote of God’s racial diversity initiative in another post, ethnic and racial prejudice is still just as prevalent among professed Christian churches in large numbers as it is in wider secular society.2 To its credit, secular society is making a serious though, spiritually and morally flawed effort through its newly invented political correctness, tolerance and multiculturalism to do better. Among some churches, an effort is being made not to recognize ethnicity or race at all as a means to show progress in race relations. While this should be done as it relates to love in interpersonal relations, to deny or ask someone to deny their ethnic or racial heritage is not biblically consistent with God’s will.
No one should be forced to downplay or made to feel ashamed of their ethnicity because God is the source cause as our Creator! Instead, we are to celebrate what we are as creatures purposely “formed,” “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “skillfully wrought” by God (Psalm 139:13-15, NKJV).3 Wickedly, the recognition and special celebration of black Americans in American history came about because whites in the majority refused to include them in the curriculum and text books of their segregated public and private educational institutions. This flagrant act of bigotry was endorsed with the purposeful support and willful silence of those that also called themselves Christians as though Jesus Christ--who is Jewish, was okay with this.4
As a Christian black American aspiring to be a strong man of God in the image of Christ,5 I rejoice in the truth the Lord is not a bigot! Too, in His perfect will, He does not support demoralizing oppression to the point of rendering an ethnicity worthless through attempting to erase their history though, He has allowed it as one of the many negative outcomes of sin and His judgment in the world (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3; Jeremiah 5:15-19, 16:10-13; Lamentations 1:1-11). I am grateful to God for His mercy that last century inspired Carter G. Woodson to launch an observance of black history6 which I mark in days now that have only moderated in overt ethnic and racial bigotry. Elimination awaits Christ’s Second Coming on the way to God’s new eternal order (Isaiah 11:1-10, 56:6-8).
1 View David Rives’ Creation In The 21st Century Episode On Race for a biblical and scientific discussion.
2 See the December 6, 2015 post, Celebrating God’s Racial Diversity Initiative, under the category, Call Repent.
3 Thus, for example, so-called progressive minded predominantly black American churches that do not want to engage in purposeful evangelism and ministry among
those that share the same ethnic and racial heritage because of concern about offending their white and mixed race members are foolish. In every city Paul, the
Jewish apostle to us Gentiles, started with fellow Jews because of his natural ethnic and spiritual relation to as well as love for them in their shared heritage (Acts 9:
10-22, 13:1-5, 13-17, 42-47, 14:1, 17:1-3; Romans 9:1-5). No one faults our white brothers in their predominantly white churches for naturally connecting to their
own, but only that they or anyone for bigoted reasons should purposely avoid and exclude others. God’s heart in me like the apostle Paul is that I should preach the
Gospel and witness Christ to all as the Holy Spirit gives opportunity and also be burdened (as I am) to make sure those from among whom I have sprung ethnical-
ly in America with our shared heritage of slavery and racism hear accurately from a biblical worldview to the end of becoming victors rather than victims! Those that
would nobly (though, deceitfully) exalt themselves above recognizing ethnicity even in a positive way are deluding themselves and not impressing God as they think
since He is the Author of ethnicity. Read my May through November 2006 series of Journals, The Renewing Of Our Minds to see what worldview such uninformed
thinking arises from at https://fromslaverytovictory.org/Journal-Archives .
4 Read the February 3, 2019 post, Christianity In Black And White, under the category, Black History.
5 I write about the way of Jesus Christ, the Strong Man of God in my book, The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics. Get a print copy or digital download of the book
at major internet booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBooks.com and Apple (digital only). You can also get a print copy in this Ministry's
Strong Man Store.
6 So, clearly, God gets the glory for caring enough to inspire the courage of Mr. Woodson to create the observance! This truth should serve as a warning rebuke to
those black Americans that are guilty of focusing almost exclusively on individual human achievements and success in the observance which are truly shallow in
the context of the deeper and richer spiritual realities of God’s purposeful involvement in our common historical experience. God’s involvement is evident in the bib-
lical worldview of black history presented in the continuing educational spirit of the observance by Open Door Communication Ministries, Inc. in our From Slavery To
Victory Victory Education Project. Learn more at https://fromslaverytovictory.org. To God be the glory!
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