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YOU ARE BORN TO SHINE

2 Corithians Chapter 4 verse 6

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Tuesday, April 03 2012

Introduction:

Last week, the Church in Thyatira was the focus of the Lord in Rev 2:18-29. This was a Church with much commendation from the Lord because of their love, Faith, Service and Perseverance. Despite these, Jezebel' one of the leaders in this Church misled many into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols and by her teaching. The Lord pronounced judgment against her and encouraged the remnant to hold on to the end.

Today, we shall look at the message of the Lord to the Church in Sardis. The situation of this Church is really sad.

 

Sardis - A city of wealth

This city is about 40 miles east of Smyrna, the ancient capital of Lydia. Seven hundred years before this letter was written, Sardis was one of the greatest cities in the world. It was wealthy with a river full of gold. The king, Cresus was  the richest King around that time. The wealth of this city made the inhabitants lazy so, they preferred to enjoy themselves. The Church in this city was strong but a time came when they became like the people around them. They became Lazy, prayerless and eventualy, a living dead Church.                                                                         

Many of our churches are dead! Their sanctuary is a morgue with a steeple. They are congregations of corpses. They have undertakers for ushers, embalmers for elders, morticians for ministers, and the pastor graduated from the cemetery. Such churches lost vital signs years ago. Can anything be done about a dead church? How can a dead church be revived? How can we prevent our churches from dying? Jesus will answer these questions and more.

  1. The Character (3:1a). "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things said he that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars;"

Jesus describes Himself as the One who "has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars." The word "has" (echon) conveys both ownership and control. Jesus holds or possesses the seven spirits and stars. The number "seven" is the number for perfection or fullness. This does not mean that there are seven Holy Spirits. There is only one Spirit of God. "The seven spirits of God" represent the fullness of the Holy Spirit in His seven manifestations to the seven churches (Rev 1:7, Isa 11:2-5; Zech 4:2, 10). It is through the Spirit that God brings revival to His church. This means that revival comes only by God's choosing, not by man's doing. This principle is recorded for us in Zechariah 4:6, "?Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts."

Jesus also has "the seven stars." This speaks of His sovereign control of the angelic realm (Rev 1:20). Through the angel responsible for each church, Jesus protects and controls His churches. The church in Sardis needs to be reminded of their spiritual resources. Not only do they have the full measure of the Holy Spirit; they have angels watching over each church. These angels are held in the palm of Jesus' hand.

  1. The Condemnation (3:1b). "I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead"

With each of the previous four churches, Jesus begins with a word of commendation. But when Jesus speaks to the church in Sardis, He starts with a word of condemnation. He does so because a dead church is deadly to the cause of Christ. Ironically, Jesus' condemnation focused upon that which the church felt was their strength?her name. Jesus' knowledge about the church in Sardis pertained to their deeds, which were woefully inadequate. They had a name (might be very popular in the community), but that was it. From God's perspective, they were as good as "dead." It is important to recognize that the church in Sardis doesn't appear dead. This church has a reputation for being alive. People are impressed. This church's deadness is not man's evaluation but God's.

So why did Jesus consider this church dead. "Dead" could be equated with lacking spiritual life. Apparently, the church had probably begun not only to read but to believe their own press clippings. Such acclaim could have deadened their sensitivity to the spiritual warfare in which they were engaged. The result would have been to sense little need for prayer, little reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, and great confidence in human wisdom, human effort, and human programs. While their doctrine had not changed, their dependence upon God had greatly diminished.

This is a warning. A church is in danger of death: when it begins to worship its own past or history, its reputation or name, or the names in the church, when it is more concerned with forms than with function and life, when it is more concerned with numbers than with the spiritual quality of life it is producing in its people, when it is more involved with management than with ministry or with the physical over the spiritual. Interestingly, most churches do not die in one fell swoop. They die gradually. Almost all liberal churches today started as evangelical churches. Churches die by degree. This truth is also relevant to every individual Christian.

  1. The Correction (3:2-3). "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come on you."

In life, identifying the problem is the first step toward solving it. The problem with the church in Sardis was that she was dead. But as hopeless as that sounds, all was not lost. Jesus saw the glow of embers among the ashes and exhorted the believers in Sardis to fan the flame with renewed commitment to Him. How could they do this? What steps were they to take? Christ gave them five directives that, if obeyed, would burn new life into their church.

  • Wake up. Every time the phrase "wake up" is used in the New Testament, it conveys the notion that God's people are spiritually asleep when they should be awake. Jesus uses a very effective metaphor. In the physical realm, when we are asleep we are unconcerned, apathetic, and indifferent. Unfortunately, the same can be true in the spiritual realm. Many Christians have dozed off and they don't even know it. They are in need of an abrupt wake-up call. Rom 13:11.
    "Wake up" can also be translated to mean "keep being watchful." Jesus wants His church to be vigilant. Christians can decline into spiritual lethargy if they do not stay alert. Whenever we do not watch our spiritual condition, we begin to decline.1 Pet.5:8 "be sober, be vigilant .
    I would encourage you to memorize Psalm 139:23-24. There is very little difference between living in either a sinful condition or an apathetic condition.
  • Strengthen. The word "strengthen" means "to establish or stabilize something." Jesus commands this church to "strengthen the things that remain which were about to die." This is likely a reference to various opportunities remaining for this church. Sardis is living on borrowed time. Yet, as long as a church remains, God still has a purpose for it. 
    Once the church loses its life God's purpose for it is over (Matt.5:13). No matter how a church may have failed God still has a purpose for it, if it can get back on a right relationship with the Lord.
  • Remember. Jesus says, "Remember, what you have received and heard." The word "remember" means "to constantly call to mind." The church at Sardis is to remember how they responded to the good news of the Gospel at the first. The "what" (the doctrines of the faith) had not been forgotten or forsaken, but the "how" (their response, prompted by the power of the Holy Spirit) had been. The cure for this nearly dead church was to keep in mind the way that they had first responded to the truth of God and to once again respond in the same way, prompted and empowered by God's Spirit. The key to the Christian life begins in the mind.
    There is a reason ("for") that Sardis is almost out of time. Jesus' explains, "I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God." Could they be good deeds done for the wrong reasons? Giving applause and recognition, serving out of guilt or obligation, loving in order to be loved?these are all incomplete deeds.
    I'd like you to notice that Jesus knows what God has called us to do and if we fail, the deeds are not "finished." Finishing works is very high on God's value system (John 17:4; 19:30; Rev 21:6). God is after our perseverance. I can't emphasize that enough. That theme dominates these seven letters.
  • Retain. Jesus says, "Keep it" (1 John 2:3). God has called us to apply the truth of His Word. He's not after information overload but transformation overload. Are you a different kind of spouse, parent, employee, or friend because of your faith? Do others see the difference in your life without being told that you're a Christian? God wants your unswerving loyalty to Him. He wants you to keep His commandments over the course of your lifetime.
  • Repent.  This last exhortation sets the previous four in motion. The New Testament uses of "repent" (metanoeo) always mean a change of thinking for the better (except in Luke 17:3-4). Repentance implies a change of life because of a complete change of thought and attitude. The Greek word carries the idea of a total change in thinking and behavior with respect to both how we think and act. Whether the focus is on attitude or behavior depends on the context. Jesus wants the Christians at Sardis to completely change their thinking and orientation about their sin.

If the church in Sardis ignores these five commands, Jesus will deal with them. "Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you." Our Lord Jesus is patient with our apathy and indifference. Yet even the Lord has limits. If they refused to repent, Jesus promised to come to the church as a thief. Jesus will come unexpectedly and that means judgment.

  1. The Call (3:4-6). "You have a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. 5He that overcomes, 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. 6He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches."

Jesus gives a commendation after the condemnation in this letter. He commends a few spiritual giants that did not soil their garments. The worthiness here is linked to the fact that these were believers "who have not soiled [defiled] their garments." This is a figurative way of saying that there were a few who had not walked in disobedience (Rev 22:14; Jas 1:27; Jude 23). Walking with Christ in white garments refers to a practical righteousness not a positional righteousness. This must be seen as a reward.

 Salvation is a gift given through faith in the finished work of Christ. It is based on His worthiness and record, not ours (Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7). We are only worthy to enter God's kingdom because we have trusted in the worthy One. Nevertheless, Jesus still exhorts us to, "walk in a manner worthy of our calling" (Eph 4:1).

Contributor: Alex Alajiki

Posted by: Isekhua Evborokhai AT 07:05 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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