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Repentance From Dead Works (22)

From our last two broadcasts, we have seen how the activities of certain seductresses who claim to be prophetesses, can, and have indeed, corrupted the good works done in and by the church of God in many localities and communities. These wolves in sheeps clothing, whom we referred to as Jezebels, are carnal, sensual, worldly, and very influential among the church hierarchy; and have unimpeded access to the pulpit, and by extension, the hearts of Gods people. They are thus able to easily lead them astrayaway from Godwith their destructive teachings and seductive lifestyle. And this was the Lords anger against the church in Thyatirathe church leadership had permitted Jezebel there to teach her destructive message of sensuality and idolatry; thereby leading many of the servants of God in the church astray. However, there were some in the church in Thyatira who had not allowed such corruption to affect themthese were commended; but those who had already been corrupted by Jezebels teachings were called to repent. Although the Lord Jesus Christ had given the Jezebel in the church in Thyatira ample opportunity to repent, she refused. In like manner, the Jezebels in the present day church, like their 1st Century progenitor, are unrepentant, and messengers from hell whose activities must be stopped! All of Gods children must resist their teachings and seduction, by submitting totally to God, and by giving His Spirit free course in their lives and local assemblies.

Our discussion today is on the Lords assessment of the church in Sardis, being the fifth church in our study on the Lords assessment of the churches in 1st Century Asia Minor. Revelation 3:1-6: And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, 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. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

From these scripture verses, we note the following things about the Lords assessment of the church in Sardis:
Firstly, they had a name or reputation of being a living church, but in reality, it was a dead church.
Secondly, majority of them were lethargic, or in a sleep of death, and needed to wake up and begin to strengthen what remained, which was about to die.
Thirdly, none of the works done in and by the church in Sardis were found to be perfect or up to Gods standard of good works.
Fourthly, they were strongly advised to remember how they had received (that is, how they had obeyed) the word of God to their advantage; and hence, to repent, or return to that manner of hearing and doing the word of God.
Fifthly, there were a few of them who had not defiled their garments of righteousness, and whom He assured will walk with Him in white.
Finally, the Lord assured those who overcome the lethargy and complacency of religion that they shall be clothed with white garments, their names shall not be blotted out of the book of life, and He will proclaim their names before His Father, and the angels!

Our first observation of the Lords assessment of the church in Sardis reveals that the church had a reputation among men to be a living church. It was well known in the community, indeed, in the region as a vibrant and vivacious church. It was a renowned and popular church in the region and virtually all the inhabitants there had concluded that it was a living church. However, when the Lord Jesus Christ gave His own assessment, He said that the church was a dead church. It is one thing to have a reputation among men; it is a completely different thing for Christs assessment to be in agreement with mens accolade of you. If you had asked people in the region, which church to attend, they would readily have directed you to the church in Sardis, with the remark, God dey for that church o! But if you had prayed to God about which church to attend, God would have said The church in Sardis is dead!

You see, human perception of a thing is very much limited. For example, when God sent Samuel, the prophet, to go to the house of Jesse to anoint for Him a king who would be a replacement to King Saul; on seeing Jesses first son, Eliab, Samuel concluded that indeed, this Eliab, was the person to replace King Saul as the next king of Israel based on his physical stature. But in 1 Samuel 16:7, God said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. By this statement, we see that while mens assessment is generally superficial, Gods assessment is thorough and deep. While men look at the things which the human eyes can seethings which can be manipulated for the benefit of those who are looking; God looks at what cannot be seen by the human eyethat part of man which cannot be manipulated for the benefit of viewing eyes. God sees the depth of what is in a man; that is, the true nature of a man. For example, while men look at the title of a book, the packaging of a product, and the colour of a mans skin; that is, a containers size, shape, design, material, and so on, as the basis of assessment; God looks deeperHe looks at the content of the container! Thus, a church may be well-spoken of and considered by people to be a living church; but God may rightly say that it is a dead church, as was the case with the church in Sardis.

Today, the indices by which men measure a living church include, the number of people in attendance in their services, the kind of building in which it holds its services, the size of its bank accounts, the number of branches and ministers it has, the number of cars parked in the church during their services, the ostentation of the dressing of the attendees, the boisterousness of its choir, the charisma of the pastor or bishop in charge, the attendance of the church by political leaders, or top government functionaries, the number of babies born in a time period, the number of marriages that take place there, and so on. Meanwhile, Gods assessment goes deeper; things like: Are they living by faith? Is the unfeigned love of God in their hearts? Are they obedient to the word of God? Are they without spot, blemish, and wrinkle? Do the church leaders submit to the Holy Spirit to lead them on how to run the church? Are they teaching the true word of God, or are they preaching what the people want to hear? Are they crucifying the flesh and its passions daily? Are they being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ? Are they adhering strictly to the word of God? Are they holy in all manner of conversation? Do they seek to know God or are they only interested in collecting blessings from Him?

Dear brothers and sisters, rather than busy ourselves building a reputation among men, we should seek Gods approval! The Lord Jesus Christ said that only those who do the will of God will be allowed entry into heavennot necessarily miracle workers, preachers, or prophets! Dont let anyone deceive you; what you consider as insignificant is, with God a very big issue! A church is a living church based on criteria set by God, which cannot be evaluated by merely looking at the church.
Spiritually, a living thing is always associated with Gods presence, His essence, and His breath; whereas, in human terms, life is associated with an external vibrancy even though there may be decay on the inside. In Genesis 2:7, it was when God breathe into the nostrils of the human shaped clay lump that the clay became a living soul, that is., a human being. In Deuteronomy 8:3, the bible says in part, man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. A living church is thus one in which the Spirit of God has free course, and in which the word of God is the essence of their existence. The Lord Jesus spoke to the Pharisees thus, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. The Lord called these religious leaders hypocrites, comparing them to well painted tomb stones which look beautiful on the outside, but inside are the skeletal remains of dead men. I remember attending a funeral in Accra, Ghana, some time ago, where I saw a very well laid out cemetery, within which, were all manner of beautifully designed and well-kept tomb stonesin fact there was one particular tombstone which was built like a ship. Friend, no matter how well we decorate the tombstones of our loved ones, they hold only their skeletal remainsdead mens bones! And talking about hypocrisy: a hypocrite is a pretender or an actor, who pretends to be someone he is not and never intends to be. A hypocrite is therefore a person who manifests two divergent natureshe is a good person in public, but a terror in private; he is a saint in church, but a demon at home; he is a decent man during the day, but a rapist at night; she is a well-mannered lady in the day time, but a prostitute at night.

Indeed, hypocrisy was the major malaise of the church in Sardisthey portrayed an outward appearance of a living church, but inwardly, they were really dead! The bible, in 2 Timothy 3:5, speaks of people who have the form or appearance of godliness, but they deny, or are unable to live, the godly lifestyle which they profess! This was the sad assessment of the church in Sardis by the Lord. Before men they were boisterous, but before God, they had no lifethey were dead! Is it possible that our churches today are full of hypocrisy? Having an outward show of godliness, but being unable to manifest that godliness in our daily interactions? Otherwise, where are the Christ-like people who ought to be in the church and influence the society in which we live in with holiness? The fact that people generally believe that a message is anointed does not make it sothose goose-bumps that appear on your skin when you are listening to a message may just be the result of a rusty and corrupt message, rather than the anointing of God. The fact that people generally say that a song is a gospel song or that it is in praise to God, does not make it sothe bible says in Isaiah 66:3, that sacrifices made to God by people who are not right with Him, are an abomination unto God; and that an unrighteous person who prays to God is like a person who is blessing an idol. The fact that people say that your church is the church of the living God does not mean that God is saying the same thing. You are not alive because you feel so; you are alive because God says you are! In 2 Timothy 2:19 the bible says, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. By Gods standard, do you belong to Him? By His assessment, are you alive or are you a hypocrite?

Let us pray!