First, let me state at the outset that I believe in the Church. I believe in it’s presence, it’s purpose and it’s power. Established by the Lord Jesus Christ, I also believe that it continues to grow and I am sure that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Mat.16:18). This being said, it must be told that the present state of the Church is not good.
Having said that, it is important to note what the church is. The word church is properly defined biblically as, ‘a called out company or assembly’. The word is used in three different ways:
1. the local assembly – i.e., the gathering (‘…the church that is in her house’ Col.4:15)
2. individual believers – i.e., you are the church (the idea Paul conveys when he tells the Corinthians, ‘…you are the temple of God…’ 1Cor.3:15)
3. the universal/worldwide body of believers – i.e. all true Christians throughout the world
Once this is understood we can come to the conclusion that the messages to the churches are to be and can be applied to the church in general and/or to the individual members in particular. Although a church may be blind to it or unwilling to own up to it, every local assembly, more or less, will find its identity in one of the seven churches. Also, and this is important, the letters are addressed to leadership. They are to the churches in general (every member), and the pastors (leaders) in particular. Each letter opens with, ‘…unto the angel of the church of…’ The angels, without going into any long dissertation or explanation, speak of the pastors of those particular churches. A church, by default, will take on the nature of its leadership. What they do or don’t do, or what they allow or don’t allow, is in turn, what that congregation will follow through on. This is why leadership needs to be in alignment with the Lord’s program and not their own.
The Church at Sardis – Revelation 3:1-6
Their Reputation (v1)
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
This church had ‘a name’. This reputation identified them as:
• being alive
• being active
• being successful
It was their activity (works), which gave strength to the idea that they were alive and successful. But this was not the case. This was their outward appearance; how they looked to others. However, all these things were not a true indication that they were a living, breathing church. Jesus knew the real truth.
Their Reality (v1)
The truth about this church that Jesus knew was that it was actually dead. This reality was either unknown or unaccepted by them.Their works were hollow and incomplete. Any church void of the moving and operation of the Spirit of God is dead. A hollow word breeds a hollow faith, which breeds hollow works. It was hollow because it had lost its power; yet their problem was not necessarily doctrinal–it was obedience. They had the Word, but for them, it wasn’t enough; and once you put His Word aside, you will, eventually, venture into alternative facts. Today’s church is also guilty of reaching for something extra, and has, unfortunately gone the way of doctrinal error. The sad part about it is that doctrinal error is so accessible. Many high profile names speak a truth that is not truth, and preach a gospel that is not the gospel. Youth groups are dead and dying because their leaders are trying to entertain them, rather than preach the pure gospel, which is the Cross. However isn’t it good to know that even death is not beyond His touch? There was and is hope.
Their Recommendation (v2-3a)
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent…
Of all the seven churches, Jesus had nothing good to say about them. The closest he comes is telling them to strengthen ‘what remains’. His recommendation to them is a strong one, which amounts to a command. He tells them in essence, ‘You need revival’. That was the essence of His words ‘be watchful’, which simply meant, ‘Wake up!’ Jesus’ words also reach us today–we too need revival. We do not more dead words and dead services. No more promises of great financial and spiritual wealth. No more soothing, feel good messages that will serve only to reinforce the spiritual stupor we are in. With all the revival services that I see advertised, if it was real revival, churches would be full; ain’ts would become saints, and prayer meetings would be breaking out, instead of another concert. Here’s truth: good singing is not revival; great sounding choirs is not revival; passionate preaching is not revival; big crowds on consecutive nights is not revival; dancing and shouting before the Lord is not necessarily revival. Real revival reacquaints us with the Christ of our salvation; it sets us on a path of obedience. Real revival goes hand in hand with brokenness. That is where repentance comes in. He calls us to change; to turn around.
Their Reproof (v3b)
…if therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
This coming that the Lord is speaking about is judgment. Scripture states in 1 Peter 4:17:
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Sometimes, judgment can come in the form of an absence of His presence, due to a grieving and quenching of His Spirit. Other times, His judgment can come in the form of sifting. That is, He will allow the enemy to have some leeway in our lives. Whatever way He chooses to judge, it can be avoided if we would judge ourselves. Here’s what the Spirit says through the pen of the apostle Paul:
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.1 Corinthians 11:31-32
This principle, set forth during a discussion of the Lord’s supper, holds true here. We must be able to receive His truth and make an honest assessment of our condition. Just come clean.
Their Remnant (v4)
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
Names. Individuals. It’s important to remember here once again that the church is made up of people. Jesus says here that there were some people—but sadly not many, who had not ‘defiled their garments.’ This is the harsh, but honest language He uses to describe those who had not allowed sin, Satan and self to intrude and dominate their lives. They had not allowed the world to pollute and contaminate their minds and hearts. They had made themselves so familiar with truth that when a lie entered into their hearing, their Spirit-given discernment immediately was aroused. There is yet that same remnant that exists in today’s church. Their ears have not been tickled by the latest fad or teaching. The only thing they are guilty of is remaining true and faithful to the Lord and His Word—and this makes them worthy; not perfect—just worthy.
Their Reward (v5)
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
I’d like for you to get the full import of this word ‘overcome’. It speaks of those who hold firm to their faith even to the point of death, and against the power of their enemies, temptations and persecutions. Wow! In essence Jesus says, ‘he that continues to conquer…’ We ought to be living in victory, not always reaching for it. This can only happen through the Cross. Jesus promises three powerful things here. First, He says we will be clothed in white. This indicates full righteousness as we walk with Him on the streets of gold. Second, He states that our faithfulness means that we will be kept until the end. Finally, our names will be joyfully acknowledged before the Father. Could it be that our names will be shouted throughout the corridors of heaven? What a day that will be!
In spite of its present day condition, His Church is a glorious Church, and it will remain so because He is the Head, and hell’s best will not even begin dent its doors. We the body need to live up to its glorious calling.
Our Response (v6)
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Church, let’s not turn a deaf ear to our Lord’s words. Rather let us respond to His gracious invitation found in Isaiah 1:16-18:
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If we cannot hear what he is saying, maybe it’s time to go back to the altar. Only as we obey His word can we avoid the judgment He promises. Wake up Church! There is life in Jesus’ name!
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.
- As it pertains to worship:
- Mat.15:8-9 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
- As it pertains to works and service:
- As it pertains to devotion:
- As it pertains to self-righteousness:
My former pastor, Jack A.SanFilippo, was a man among men. It was through his preaching that I was introduced to Jesus. As a teen, on several occasions after evening services, he would drive me home. I can still hear him, as on more than one occasion he would say to me: ‘Michael, do you see all these buildings? Do you see all those lights in the windows? I would answer, ‘Yes,’ and he would say, ‘Each light represents a soul; someone who is lost and needs Jesus.’ The absolute profoundness of this statement escaped me then, but I’ve understood it now for many years. His words may seem a bit extreme to some, but the fact is, he associated each light with a person; a potentially lost person. His statement was an expression of the burden that he had for souls. I’ve never known anyone since then who had the passion for the lost that he had. He would cry, pray, and even walk the streets to reach out to the lost. It was through his example, I began to learn the value of a lost soul. No one is to be thrown away. No one is a hopeless case. Though he went to be with the Lord over thirty years ago, I have tried to keep his example and his words about ‘the lights in the windows’ in my heart every day.
Jesus, first and foremost, had a burden for the lost. We see this truth spoken by the Lord himself:
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10
When we speak of ‘the lost’, it is sort of an in house phrase. It is a phrase sprinkled throughout the New Testament used to identify those who are not saved. People are lost because they don’t have a relationship with Jesus and have lost their way. This is the universal condition of those who are without Christ. Here’s what the Apostle Paul told the Ephesians about the fact of being lost:
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12-13
It is an unfortunate condition because most who are lost, don’t see themselves in this way. Some may even be offended at being described in this manner. Aliens? Without hope and without God? Far off? No way! Most will tell you that they know who they are, where they are, and where they are going. Of course there will be exceptions. These see their lives as sort of a wandering maze, going from one thing to another and not quite knowing what it’s all about. They probably wouldn’t tell you, but they are searching, but have no idea what they are seeking for. They go from job to job, weekend to weekend, party to party, club to club–even relationship to relationship looking for that elusive peace and satisfaction. Oh, they do manage to find occasional happiness and a pseudo-peace that temporarily masks their need, but nothing quite gives them the peace they seek, because like sin, pleasure is but for a moment.
Why did Jesus have this burden for the lost? It was because He knew and understood several things. First, take a look at this verse:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. Luke 4:18
As we have seen in Luke 19:10, Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost. Here they are. They are described by Jesus in no uncertain terms. So concerning the lost, Jesus understood that:
They were BLIND
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
2 Corinthians 4:4
Satan and this world system of which he controls has effectively blinded the very minds of the lost, causing them not to see or understand their dangerous condition.
They were in BONDAGE
And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
2 Timothy 2:26
This blindness keeps them in bondage to the enemy. He has managed to both trap them and enslave them-because he could. The lost have no personal power over him.
They were in DARKNESS
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Acts 26:18
This is part of the lost condition; blindness implies darkness, and for the lost, it is preferable. This is because the lost are under the dominion of Satan.
They were in DANGER
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18
This is the culmination of blindness, bondage, and darkness–condemanation. The lost in this condition. Daily, they are on the precipice of destruction, one heartbeat away from an eternity without the Lord. Yes, the lost are in great danger.
In light of these things, what should the Christian’s response be to the lost? Our response, I believe, should the same as the Lord’s. We should have a burden for the lost. A burden that causes us to remember the most important part of men and women. The soul. Until the soul is brought into union with Christ, that person will wander; that life will be incomplete. A great old chorus says it all:
Souls are crying, men are dying,
Won’t you lead them to the Cross?
Go and find them, Please help to win them
Win the lost at any cost!
Win the lost at any cost–are you doing your part?
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44)
The devil is a deceiver. His name says it all. Here in our verse the phrase ‘he speaketh of his own’, means that he speaks from his character. He is a liar; he lives in untruth. It is what and who he is. Deception flows from his pores, so to speak. He lives to deceive and above all, and most dangerous of all, he himself is deceived. He thinks he will win. He’s seen the last page of the book, which spells out his doom and his demise, yet he still believes he can change it all. Somehow, he believes he can defy what has already been declared and decreed by the finger of God through the Holy Ghost. It is because of this arrogant and twisted self-deception, that there are several things that he simply cannot accept, or handle. I believe that these are the things that drive him to destroy people; that fuel his blind, yet intelligent hatred toward humanity and the true Christian in particular because it is we who proudly carry the name of the One who defeated him at the cross. So, first of all, here is truth number one that the devil just can’t handle–
The fact that he himself is not God
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isa.14:13-14)
These verses are tagged simply as Satan’s 5 ‘I wills’. These five statements spell out his wish list, his bucket list, if you will, with the last one being his ultimate goal; what he’s wanted almost from the start. Having said that, there are three titles ascribed to Satan that I’d like to bring to your attention. First, scripture states that Satan is the ‘god of this age’ (2 Cor.4:4). Secondly, in John 12:31, he is spoken of as ‘the prince of this world’. Finally, in Eph.2:2, he is called ‘the prince of the power of the air’. With all of these grandiose titles–and I’m sure he appreciates and embraces them all, it’s still not enough for him. He wants to be God himself. He would love to dethrone God if he could, but he can’t, so let’s move on. The second thing that the devil just can’t handle is–
The fact that his beauty was not enough to get him what he wanted
Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (Isa.14:11-12)
Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone wasthy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so:thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee
Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. (Ezekiel.28:13-15,17)
Look at all Lucifer had going for him! He was given power, beauty, wisdom, and even an anointing! Yet he forfeited it all because eventually, he came to believe that all of this merited him equal status with God. But of course, this would not be the case. This is a truth he just can’t handle.
Pride is a serious matter. If it was able to bring an angel of God down, then what do you think it can do to us, who are created a little lower than they were? God is absolutely repelled by pride because it was the very thing that instigated this thing we call sin. The bible states emphatically that, ‘God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble’ (James 4:6). Pride is also actually first in a list of seven things that are an abomination to Him.
These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Prov.6:16-19)
Thirdly, I believe the devil just can’t handle–
The fact that he can’t do exactly what he wants to do
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:12)
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. (Job 2:6)
I believe it rankles Satan to no end that he cannot really do what he wants, when he wants. We see here his proposals to God, as to what he wanted to do, and we see Gods’ response as to what he actually could and could not do. Do you ever wonder sometimes, why you are even still here, when you have such an enemy as Satan who wants and is willing to destroy you? Why doesn’t he just do it? It’s because he can’t. God has drawn a line in the sand, and the devil won’t–can’t cross it. If he hasn’t been given permission to do a thing, then he just can’t do it. Oh sure he has been given some power along with some rope, and he does manage to ruin,destroy, and blind the minds of those who do not serve him, but he does not have a free hand. All he does and is allowed to do falls under the sovereign and watchful eye of his creator.
Next, we see that the devil just can’t handle–
The fact that he doesn’t get the worship he craves
And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Mat.4:9-10)
This certainly must be classified as desperation at its peak. Satan is literally asking Jesus to worship him! At the same time though, his request has a two-fold purpose. First, he obviously wants to be worshipped for his own twisted reasons. Remember, he wants to be God, so he naturally desires the worship that goes along with it. Second, and actually more importantly, if he could get Jesus to sin, he would have effectively ruined God’s plan of redemption for humanity. This of course, he was unable to do.
The last two truths that the devil can’t handle probably stick in his craw more than all the rest, because they have to do with Christ and His people. The first being–
The fact that the blood of Jesus sets men free
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Rev.12:11)
Because he was unable to thwart God’s plan of redemption, he cannot handle the truth that Jesus’ blood that was spilled on the cross, still has the power to save, heal and deliver from sin. Satan’s plan backfired; blew up fight in his face. You see, the very thing that the devil wanted to happen, that is, Christ dead and out of the way, was the very thing that God needed to happen. No, I am not saying that we owe a debt of gratitude to the devil for inflaming Jesus’ foes with hatred enough to have him crucified. But what I am saying is that God uses the enemy at times to fulfill His purposes. The fact is, Jesus came to die, only the devil didn’t know it. This is how he would go about destroying the works of the devil. WhAnd I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. When we read Joseph’s words in Genesis, we see a principle that God lays out in scripture, namely that God is able to take what looks bad, what is bad, and cause it work for His purposes. Joseph said, ‘But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive’ (Gen.50:20). The things that make us scratch our heads and say, ‘Why?’, are the very things that God is able to use for our good. This is what happened at the cross. It certainly looked bad, at least for three days. But joy came on Sunday morning! That’s the kind of God that we serve! His blood still sets people free–and the devil hates the blood.
Because Christ did die on the cross, something else fantastic happened, and it’s the final truth that devil really can’t handle. It is–
The fact that he has no power over the child of God
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Col.2:13-15)
Here we have the proverbial ‘nail in the coffin’, the ‘coup de grace’, the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’. These are some of the most powerful and overlooked passages in the bible. They speak to the nature and enormity of the defeat that Satan suffered at the cross. It was both public and humiliating and he’s been trying to recover from it ever since, to no avail. He still stands powerless before the ‘cross wise’ child of God. When we understand that Satan was disarmed at the cross, having his power over us snatched away, we can better appreciate the victory that was purchased for us there. Christ’s death on the cross secured a perpetual victory for all who trust in Him, and an enduring and most devastating defeat for the devil. He fell there, and he will never get up because he was crushed. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Gen.3:15).
So there you have it. Prophecy was fulfilled, and truth came to pass–just like God said it would. And oh don’t you know that the devil just can’t handle the truth!
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.