Jump Start # 2310
Revelation 3:3 “Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.”
Our verse today comes from the message to Sardis church. There are many layers of lessons to be seen here, and in doing that it is easy to miss the obvious, overall lesson. That same overall lesson can be found in the message to the church at Ephesus and as well as Laodicea. Those three churches, as described to us in Revelation, were a mess.
- Ephesus had lost their first love
- Laodicea was lukewarm
- Sardis was dead
Not sure which, if any, were better than the others. I guess it’s like saying, “Would you rather get punched in the stomach or in the face?” My answer would be, “Neither.” Churches do not start out this way. Lukewarm won’t start a congregation. Dead definitely won’t start anything. It takes energy, drive, zeal, goals, vision and a whole lot of work to begin a congregation. There is a level of excitement. Lots of folks are invited and talked to. That’s how churches generally start. But, by this page in our Bibles, time has passed by. Things have settled down. Ephesus lost their focus. Laodicea was going through the motions. And, Sardis, was on life support, already flat lining.
What is interesting in the Lord’s words to all three of these congregations is that the word “Repent” is used. A whole congregation can repent. Things can change. Now here are some thoughts:
First, the Lord had not given up on these places. You read in the paper of stores closing their doors. They are going out of business. They can’t make it. That’s not the message here. Dead churches can come alive. Lukewarm churches can become hot again. And, churches that have lost their love can get it back. Things do not have to stay the way that they are. A dead church isn’t destined to remain dead. The fate isn’t sealed. It’s not too late.
Second, for these churches to change, the individual members had to get on the ball and change their lives. A church is dead because the members are dead. A church is lukewarm because the members are lukewarm. A church loses it’s love and focus because the members have. So, for these churches to change, to repent, it would have to start within the hearts of the members. This is where the ball is often dropped. We go along for the ride, wanting someone else to turn things around. Don’t count on me and don’t use me, is a common thought. If things get better, I’ll stick around. If they don’t, you won’t see much of me. It’s that spirit that keeps a dead church dead. Until everyone repents and gets on board with the Lord, the place will remain dead. Faith in Jesus is lived at home and at work as well as in worship. What was going on at home? Were they praying? Were they connecting to the Lord? Our faith can’t remain at the church house. It is who we are. Our faith defines us. Our faith determines our choices. A dead church is the result of dead faith—everywhere.
Third, until these churches turned around, they were doing more harm than good. The state of all three, loveless, lukewarm and lifeless is of no value to the community nor to the members. People aren’t encouraged in such places. Going through the motions doesn’t touch anyone’s heart. Lives aren’t changed and people aren’t brought to Christ in such settings. These places create a false sense of security. The illusion of being right fogs the reality of heartless indifference. There isn’t much difference between the man in the world and a dead faith in Christ that these folks had. A dead faith won’t make the right choices. A dead faith won’t deal with worry, fear and death. A dead faith doesn’t help anyone.
I know some places like this. Small, doing nothing, keeping house and wasting money because they don’t have the energy to turn things around and they don’t want to have to go to some other place. So, they keep heating and cooling these church buildings and the numbers continue to get smaller and smaller. No reaching the community. No social media presence. No bringing in friends. No goals. No future. Just lifeless sermons being preached to lifeless folks sitting in the pews. Why? Why put up with this? Why not change?
Fourth, the avenue of change comes from the word of God. That is always the roadway to life, hope and forgiveness. God’s word must be preached. It must be preached boldly. It must challenge, move and change those people. Leadership must begin to lead. Stir the pot. Get back into a deeper study of God’s word. Focus upon the power of that word and how it changed lives.
We understand this individually. In our sins, we were dead to Christ. Yet, through that powerful word, we believed and we changed. We found life and our whole lives changed. It works individually and it will work congregationally. Preach the word. That’s the key. Don’t preach nice, safe lessons. Preach what needs to be preached. The power is in the word of God. Believe that.
Loveless, lifeless and lukewarm—terrible conditions for a church to be in. But they would remain that way if the members remained content and didn’t want to put much effort into their faith. Deception is one of Satan’s greatest lies. We convince ourselves that things are not too bad, when they really are. We take no steps to change things. Problems do not go away. A leaky roof doesn’t fix itself. A heart problem doesn’t cure itself. Closing our eyes to the obvious only lengthens the time a church remains in a desperate condition.
And, with all of this, God is not pleased. He wants us to be strong and growing. He is not happy when we are loveless, lifeless and lukewarm. We fool ourselves that all is well, but it’s not. And, to think God may ask of us, “Why did you not repent?” “Why did you not change?” That would be hard to answer. Some would point their fingers at others and believe, ‘it wasn’t our place to change things.’ But it is.
We cannot accept nor be content with substandard faith and actions. We tolerate weakness and accept the idea that some will just be like that. Help the weak, is what the Thessalonians were told. Bind up the broken is what the shepherds of ancient Israel failed to do. Get a Bible study going. Have some conversations. Stop accepting what the Lord doesn’t. You don’t find in these Revelation passages the idea that some are just this way and that’s ok. What you do find is the word, Repent.
It’s time to please the Lord and not the folks sitting in the pews.