Jump Start # 2004
Revelation 3:1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.’”
I have a new picture that hangs in my office. There is a story behind it, of course. Last fall, we filmed a welcome video for the church. If you haven’t seen it, you ought to check it out on our website. The producers flew a drone over the church building to get some outside videos. I asked one of them if they could stop the drone right above our steeple and to get me a still picture looking down the very top point. That’s the picture that is now framed in my office. I told someone that’s Heaven’s view of us. Actually, that’s not correct. God doesn’t really care about a building, He sees us as people.
All of this brings us to our passage today. God’s view of things. There are three things God saw out of Sardis.
First, He saw what they were doing. He saw their deeds. God knows what a church is capable of doing with what they have. God knows how hard we are trying. God knows if we are all talk and nothing else. God knows. We can fool others. We can fool ourselves. But there is no fooling God. He knows.
Second, God saw that Sardis had a name. The name was their reputation. It’s how others knew them. The name said that they were alive. God was aware of that. God saw that. God knows what others think and say about a church. God knows what a church says about itself. Sometimes we can convince ourselves that things are pretty good, when they are not. Sardis had done that. Keep saying you’re alive and after a while you might just believe that yourself.
Third, God saw that Sardis was actually dead. What was dead? Their faith. Their motivation. Their passion. Their love for the Lord. Their desire to do the things of God. I had a tree fall in my yard on Christmas eve. It made a real mess. I spent a long time picking up all the branches and pulling, as best as I could, the large pieces to the edge of the woods. We had some wind that night, but it wasn’t anything too great. It doesn’t take much when something is dead. It doesn’t take much to knock one down when they have a dead faith. A little challenge here and little aggressive argument there and the dead faith falls to the ground. I have more work to do on my yard this spring. The falling tree put some deep holes in my yard. Often there is a lot of clean up that follows a dead faith. There may be marriages that fall apart. There may be others that are hurt and damaged by a dead faith. What’s worse is that Sardis was dead and they didn’t even know it. They were convinced that they were alive. They had fooled themselves. They didn’t see themselves as God saw them.
All of this brings us back around to how Heaven sees us. God has multiple lenses to see us.
First, He sees us as individuals. We walk by faith. Unless you believe, Jesus said, you will die in your sins. This is the most obvious way that we think of God seeing us. Our attitudes. Our choice of words. Our actions. We are responsible for what we do. We can be influenced, taught, guided and misguided, but at the end of the day, it’s our choices, our decisions. God sees that. We are faithful to Him, or we are not. We are serious or we are not. We are alive or we are not.
But that’s not the only way God sees us.
Second, God sees us in our families. He sees us in the roles that we play. We are husband or wife. We are parents or children. We have responsibilities and obligations. What we do is directly connected to the previous point. It’s hard to be on the ball spiritually with God and be a dead beat dad. It’s hard to be faithful and strong and be neglectful at home. These two blend together, but they are not the same. We can be sassy with our mouths. We can have a short temper with the people we live with. We can be kinder to strangers who serve us at a restaurant than we are to our own family. Don’t you think God sees that? We can be thoughtful, sweet to folks at church and mean as a snake at home. Don’t you think God sees that? God sees us in our families.
Third, God sees us in the church. Now, not just what we do in worship, but He certainly sees that, but how engaged we are and what we are doing with the church. Sardis was dead only because the members were dead. You can’t have strong members and a dead church. The church is what the members are. Laodicea was lukewarm, because the members were lukewarm. Ephesus had lost it’s first love, because the members had lost their first love. Together, we make the church what it is. There were a few at Sardis who were not dead. God saw that. He knew that. What part did those people have in making Sardis dead and what part were some, the few, still doing right with God? God saw and God knew. Which brings us to us. What am I doing to help my congregation be alive, active and true to God? Am I just along for the ride or am I doing what I can? I may not lead, preach or teach, but I still have my part to do. Do I sing enthusiastically? Do I actually pray with others? Do I try to encourage? Do I hold up my end of things? It’s easy to put some distance between self and the church. We tend to talk that way. “Those down at the church,” we say, as if we are not part of them. We are. We are connected. We belong. We are family. God sees what we are doing and if we are among the “dead” or among the “few” who are trying.
The lenses of God. He sees you in the different roles that you play. He sees you and He knows. He knows what you are up against. He knows about your health. He knows what you are capable of doing. He knows when you are really trying. Losers limp is an expression used among those who run track. Those that are good, run well. Others try. Sometimes a person is beat as soon as the starting gun fires. He knows he will be lapped. He wants to save face. So, he falls. He grabs his leg as if he is injured. He hobbles off the track. No one can fault him for getting a cramp or pulling a muscle. He tried. The truth is, he faked it. He was too embarrassed. So he came up with “losers limp.” God knows when we have faked a losers limp spiritually. He knows.
So, all of this gets us back to Sardis. Go along with the majority or do what we know we ought to do. The few that pleased God weren’t in the same camp as the majority. The majority was dead, even though they thought they were alive. The few actually were alive. God knew. How about you? Are you just sailing along with the others or are you doing what God really wants you to do? Are you willing to be different, even among the few, if that’s what it takes to please God?
God sees us. Remarkable thought. Makes us only hope that we can see ourselves as God sees us.