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).
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