Christianity 201

December 5, 2017

The Church of Sardis Needed Strengthening

by Russell Young

At the beginning of his revelation to humankind, the Lord pronounced blessings on those who would hear and take to heart the fullness of that revelation. Following this he commended the seven churches for their strengths and admonished them for their failures. At the end of his revelation he promised a presence in the New Jerusalem for those who overcome. (Rev 21:7) They were to do something to find eternal fellowship with him, not to passively rest in mental “belief” or in the “acceptance” of his gift of grace.

His address to the churches was not to the church corporate but to the body of the churches. To the church in Sardis he stated, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard: obey it and repent.” (Rev 3: 1─3 NIV) The blessing that the Lord had proclaimed rested in the need for those of Sardis to wake up and to obey what they had received.

It is easy for a church to have a reputation of being alive. A reputation is derived from the impressions of others. A church can be very active within itself and within the community, as was likely the church in Sardis. However, the Lord declared it to be “dead,” or perhaps, its members to be dead. He left them with the call to “obey” and dismissed their reputation of being alive.

The issue of concern to him appears to be that of personal righteousness, since he addressed the state of their coverings and commented that a few people had not soiled their clothes. These he proclaimed would walk with him dressed in white. “White” raiment stands for purity and holiness. Those who don’t wear white will be left shamefully exposed. He admonished the church in Laodicea to buy “white clothes to wear, so so[they] could cover [their] shameful nakedness.” (Rev 3:18 NIV) Apparently the need for personal righteousness had been lost in the church of Sardis and in the minds of its people. The Lord said that he or she who “overcomes” like them would be dressed in white, that their name would not be blotted from the book of life, and that he would acknowledge them before his Father and his angels.” He did not say that they needed to confess him as Lord but that they had to live out their confession through obedience–to do something, if they were to avoid death. Even though the church had a reputation of being alive, the Lord’s assessment was that most of its members were dead.

The need for personal righteousness is seldom declared; it is assumed to have been given as an act of grace by the Lord. Many claim to rest their hope “in the righteousness of Christ alone” without exploring the meaning of their pronouncement. Paul warned his readers not to be deceived. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6: 7─8 NIV) Pleasing the Spirit requires obedience to him. The writer of Hebrews declared that “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5: 9 NIV, Italics added.) Those who have chosen to walk in darkness—apart from the Spirit, or who do not recognize the need for obedience due to deceptive teaching will reap destruction even though they may have attended church many times a week and have a reputation for being alive because of their busyness and activity.  The Lord commends his children for their righteous acts and gifts of mercy; however, without holiness no one will see him. (Heb 12:14 NIV)

There are many false doctrines being presented that bring comfort to the dead, but the Lord cautioned the church of Sardis, and his people through them, to “Wake up!” The promise of a place in the New Jerusalem is only offered to those who “overcome.” (Rev 21:7) Does your walk need strengthening? Do the teachings of your church need strengthening? The church in Sardis was found wanting and needed strengthening.


Author Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. His book Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.


Our Thursday contributor, Clarke Dixon, also looked at the church of Sardis earlier this year. Click here to read Dead Churches, Like Sardis.


Yes, today’s first scripture text did indeed form the basis of a Bob Dylan song, When You Gonna Wake Up.

May 10, 2014

Devotional Double Header

This week C201 joined another blog aggregator, The Fellowship of Christian bloggers. I hope to introduce a few of the bloggers here as I encounter material that fits our vision of devotional writing. To start, I was intrigued with the title of this first one: Done With Religion by Michael Donohoe. Click the title below to link.

Colossians 3:5, 9-11 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry…Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him, a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all…

As followers of Christ, our old nature has been killed and buried. We are new creatures in Christ. We no longer have to serve sin because Christ has set us free.

Our old sinful nature was crucified with Christ. It was dead and buried and now a new, holy and righteous creature has risen and is alive in Christ.

We have Christ living in us and we can rely on His power to overcome temptation by His strength. Because of Him we can live a life free from the guilt and punishment of sin. The sinful nature is still in the ground and a new person now lives as one with God. He put His Spirit within us and made us His dwelling place.

When God looks at us, He sees His child that has been changed by the grace of Christ. We are now holy and righteous in His sight. Not because of anything we have done, but because of the work Christ did. We no longer have to work to earn salvation. After accepting the grace of God, we no longer have to strive to keep the law. The law was good in that it was a tutor to lead us to Christ. The law was fulfilled by Christ and now that we are His, we live by faith in the grace He provided.

In Christ, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no upper level or lower level child of God. The is no Jew or Greek, male or female, clergy or laity. Each one of us make up an equally important and functioning part of the body. We are all saved by grace and living under the headship of Christ. Christ is our all in all.

May we continue to grow in Grace and let Him have the preeminence.

The second of our devotional double-header today was also from a blog with a title that grabbed me: Finding the Holy in the Mundane by Rachel Stephenson.  Click the title below to link.

 

Confident Hope

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called—His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.Ephesians 1:15-18 (NLT)

Paul begins his letter with a prayer that spills out in gratitude and praise. He writes of God’s greatness, grace and glorious purpose. Why did Paul begin with such resounding praise? So you can know.

Heavenly Wisdom

Paul continues his prayer asking God to give us wisdom—spiritual, God given understanding. It’s not the kind of understanding that is simply factual. Paul’s prayer is that we would know Him better. God reveals Himself in all creation; He wants to be known. God imparts on the believer a supernatural understanding of Himself. It’s a divine and glorious honor, reserved only for the believer.

Confident Hope

When I am trying a new recipe, I hope the finished product is yummy.  When I am learning a new skill, I hope I am able to produce the desired outcome. When I write, I hope you understand what I am trying to convey. There is an element of uncertainty in the hope I have in my skills and abilities. I may or may not be able to accomplish what I set out to do.

Paul prays that we may understand the confident hope we have in Christ. Christ is THE factor that turns a wish into a confident hope, a sure thing, and an absolute truth. Paul prays for our understanding of that hope.

The Inheritance

What is that confident hope? Read verse 18 closely.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called—His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.

God considers YOU an inheritance—prized, valued and purchased. Knowledge and understanding is what Paul prays for you and me. Can you begin to fathom that? The God of the universe, pure and holy, considers frail, sin-sick humanity as a valued inheritance.

To understand that you must understand the value God places on humanity. God sent His Son to die to reconcile us. That is value! Jesus’ blood purchased our redemption. That is confident hope—there is power in the blood of Christ—power to redeem and purify the sinful heart.

God invested Himself in His own inheritance—US!

Father, may I come to know You better! Illuminate my understanding of the hope I have in Christ. Let me come to understand the love You have for me and the desire You have for me to know and love you more.

 


What the Bible Speaks To

In addition to Bible Gateway and Bible Hub, devotions here are sometimes prepared using TopVerses.com   I found it interesting to see their topical index; these are the things that the Bible teaches and speaks to, and it’s interesting to see these collected together in a single list:

Top Verses by Topic (The links are all live!)