Agonizomai: Rev 3:2 - Sardis the Counterfeit Church<br>While There's (Faint) Breath There's Hope

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Rev 3:2 - Sardis the Counterfeit Church
While There's (Faint) Breath There's Hope

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Rev3:2 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.

"A bruised reed I will not break and a smoking flax I will not quench," says the Lord - whether He speaks of individuals or of churches. And in Sardis there are some that have not "spoiled their garments." Also, God’s warnings will indeed revive those who truly are His, just as they will condemn those who are not, through their lack of response.

The "deadness" of this church is, therefore, not utter but relative. They are a prostrate body at whose mouth the mirror scarcely fogs. Like the Laodiceans, of whom we will learn by and by, there is no mention of any conflict either within or with those outside the church. They have not been contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints and have thereby become bywords in the army of heaven. You must defend it or you will blend it and eventually end it.

There are faint signs of (spiritual) life that are about to expire, and the Lord is exhorting them to wake up from their torpor. Their works are incomplete in the sight of God. What does this mean? Well, it is possible to appear to be in good order and in conformity with the precepts of God, which this church apparently did, while having motives that fall far short of God’s requirements.

They might, for example, give - even give with generosity - but not from joyful and liberal hearts as unto the Lord. They may do works of service, but not out of a heart of humble love as unto the Lord. All that can be done can be wrought either in Christ or out of Him. It can be an act of worship or it can be a blindly self-righteous "doing something for God" - as if there was a way for us to add to Him, or to give something we had not first received. And an unguarded heart - a heart that is unwatchful and not abiding in the Truth - such a heart is already sliding backwards towards the pit.

We are indeed of the miry clay from which we were taken and we have an innate tendency to return to it. The Bible calls it "the flesh" or "the sin nature" or "the old man". But we have received the Spirit of Christ, if indeed we are His, and it is by this very Spirit that we are to put to death daily the deeds of the flesh. We are to yield ourselves to righteousness.

It is a monumental work that is accomplished only through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a daily battle - a matter of life and death. A struggle worthy of the prize of eternal life with Jesus Christ. It is not a struggle to attain to eternal life in the sense of earning it, but to attain to it in the sense of abiding in it. Eternal life in Him is the gift of God to His elect. The duty of the believer is to examine himself to see if he is in the faith...
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! {2Co 13:5}
And that is it in a nutshell. We must prove our election. We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling knowing that God is at work in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure. There is something very scary about it. Our salvation depends entirely upon God. We cannot influence His eternal decision wherein He gave a peculiar people to the Son before the world began. But we can discover if we are His.

This discovery is in some sense ongoing. As we encounter obstacles, or as we stumble on the Way, we must constantly be pressing in towards God or we shall be overcome and we shall begin to doubt and grow cold and be distracted until we are, like most of the church at Sardis, almost dead. We may discover that we do not belong to Him - because only those who truly do will persevere to the end.

Scary though it may be, it is strangely only in the acceptance of our own powerlessness to effect our salvation that we are free to believe in the only One Who can help us - and this believing is itself the very means by which our salvation is made manifest. The legs must be kicked out from under us in order for us to rest in God’s goodness alone. This is what sovereign election does to human pride. Perhaps it was the neglect of this doctrine, amongst others, that brought the Sardis church to be one that had only a "reputation" of being alive.

Perhaps they came to think that God was relying upon them to achieve something - waiting for them to do the things that partners do in order to seal the deal. Perhaps they lost that sense of awe and helplessness that comes from understanding that it all depends upon God Himself. Justification, sanctification and glorification, as facets of the same salvation that is in Christ, are received and not wrought by us. The obedience of faith is the means.


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