Thursday, July 6, 2017

Death of a Church

How does a church die? The church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) is pronounced dead. We are not really told why. Was this a result of following one or more of the errors of the churches round about? Had they accepted false teaching, like Pergamum and Thyatira (Revelation 2:12-29)? Had they lost their first love, like Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)? Had they become lukewarm, like Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22)? We are not explicitly told. Perhaps we are not told to prevent us from jumping to the conclusion that if we just avoid this one particular thing, we are safe. How then do we avoid going down that road?

We need to be firmly grounded in the Word of God, and not just in our few favorite sayings, but all of it (2 Timothy 3:16,17; Acts 20:27-32; 17:11). Also, there needs to be more than a superficial knowledge (remember Ephesus); we need not only to know the Word of God but to integrate it into our life and follow it (James 1:21-25; Colossians 3:16; Psalms 19:7-14).
We need to be willing to repent (2 Corinthians 7:10; Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). If there is any theme that seems to run through the letters of Revelation, it is this. Now this is not a matter of making resolutions or gritting our teeth and trying harder. It is a matter of acknowledging our sin and turning to God and trusting in His power to overcome it (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; John 15:5). But repentance is often hard to do. We will do many things to avoid it. We will rationalize our sin, blame other people, try to pretend our sin is not there, or trust in our own ability to grit our teeth and do better. And the great irony of all this is that God is willing to restore us and begin to work to change us if we just acknowledge our sin and come to Him.

We also need to ground ourselves firmly in the gospel. It is only if we remember what Christ has done for us that we have a basis for loving and serving God (2 Peter 1:9; 1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15). We need to remember that we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6) and that Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21) so that we might be saved by faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9). If we remember this, we will be motivated to build our church and our life on the Word of God and to repent when we turn aside from it.

I do not want to be purely negative. Christ is at work in His church, and we can trust Him to be at work in His people (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 4:15,16; Colossians 2:19). But we do need to exercise vigilance so that we do not depart from God’s truth and end up like the church in Sardis.

No comments:

Post a Comment