“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Dead Church – (Revelation Chapter 3 Verses 1-6)
So how does this deadness manifest itself in the church in Sardis (v1)? Does the flesh rule perhaps? Maybe the members are not walking as they ought to? Interest in the truth of God’s word and the prayer meetings have diminished? O they will most probably still go through the motions, words will be uttered in prayer. The form is retained but the inner life fades it has died. There’s not that desire that once pressed them into close communion with God. None of the unutterable burnings holding them in an intensity of soul-stirred supplication. The flame of holy desire is dampened. The great and eternal interests of heaven-born, God-given religion are all but extinguished. It’s not lukewarmness, coldness, it’s deadness. Intolerable to the Almighty. And the knock-on effect of this is more infidelity, not just lack of faith. They sought the world, its friendship, its treasures, and its pleasures, and it has killed them, spiritually. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17). There will still be activity, all kinds in fact. The numbers keep up, there’s no outright heresy, no immorality, no persecution to deal with. But it’s dead. Ignored by the community around it, it’s a harmless, outdated entity. It’s so utterly benign nobody would think to fight or persecute them. They are a threat to no one. They are living of-of the capitol of the past (v3). Hence the call to repentance (v3). But that sounds a note of hope, at least for some.
It’s call to wake up, to remember former vows. The vows that some have made at the time of their adult baptismal service ought to be used often. If they were, perhaps it would keep some from falling to this depth of apostasy. They need to strengthen themselves spiritually, get a grip on the truth that is left amongst them. The call is to bring to mind, again and again, all the blessings they have received in the past. Their justification, the sweet and blessed communion with God in former times. For in their midst is the King with his all-sufficient provision, ready to pour out his Spirit upon his people once again. In reviving, refreshing effusions. Do you see, what hope there is for a backslidden assembly? But the time is short, the plug is about to be pulled (v3). They must turn from this dishonesty (v2). They have a reputation but with no reality to it. The reality is that the people are starving spiritually. They are given stones for bread. A Christless ministry. Alas, we are not strangers to this in our own land today. They are called to remember the gospel that brought life and immortality to their souls. It is only as they recollect these things that they will begin to realise how far they have fallen. “I will come like a thief” (v3b). The thief’s aim is the removal of the valuables without detection. God’s Spirit will be withdrawn, and the church will probably carry on, as usual, totally unaware that he is gone. The light and strength are gone, just like Samson of old. “He awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him” (Judges 16:20). Eventually, the church, this local expression of it, will cease to exist. A gradual dying by letting the truth slip, “therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation” (Hebrews 2:1-3)? When the sword of judgment falls it’s too late, life has gone, their valuables have been removed, they are not even aware of it. How tragic. Wake up! Wake up! Before it’s too late.
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)