Character Matters, Pt. 2 - Revelation 3 - Pastor Josh
What does God call the church to be?
One day in my sophomore year of high school, I was just beginning to learn how to drop in with a skateboard. If you’re unfamiliar with dropping in, it’s when you start at the top of an empty pool with your skateboard and ride down the sidewall of the pool. Before leaving, I thought I could try rolling into the drop in. Instead of starting from a standstill, you roll into the pool making it a little tougher. But instead of rolling in, I fell 5 feet onto my ankle. Reflecting on it, I know what I did wrong. Dropping in is one of those things where if you don’t commit yourself 100%, you’re just going to fail. Sometimes it’s a small bailout and nothing happens, but other times you fall and break your leg. You’ve got to be all in, fully committed, in order to thrive.
What is it that God calls the church to be? This brings us to our central truth today, God calls the church to be all in, in all circumstances. God is calling us to commit to Him wholeheartedly, all the time, through all of life’s ups and downs, which, if we’re being honest, feels like a lot of downs lately.
This is why it’s crucial we humbly receive God’s Word this morning… because our commitment to God is inextricably connected to who we are and our character. If we love God, that love will evidence itself in our being. Good character isn’t a personality issue, it’s a heart issue. So, I pray we all honestly, earnestly examine our hearts this morning. So again, what does God call us, the Church, to be? This leads us to our first answer…
1. God calls the church to be committed to Him, not compromise. (3:1-6) Jesus calls us to live a life committed to Him because a life with Him leads to eternal life. But a life lived for the world’s only destination is death.
Remember again, there’s a pattern in Jesus’ words to each church. 1. He starts by focusing on a different characteristic of Himself. 2. Then He describes the state of the church addressed, 3. God tells them how to respond in relation to their struggles. 4. It ends with an overarching call to hear and receive God’s words. So, what should we need to know about the church in Sardis before we can understand Jesus’ message to them?
Unlike Jesus’ words to Smyrna and Philadelphia, it didn’t sound like Sardis was enduring any type of persecution but instead were living peacefully with the synagogue and Greek communities. Without any opposition, the church grew so comfortable that the church was only Christian in name, nominal and disingenuous at best. They talked the talk, but they didn’t walk the walk.
Jesus knows their reputation – they seem alive but in fact they are dead. Being dead was the worst judgment of all 7 churches and although they seemed to be thriving alongside their Greek and Jewish communities, in fact they were more like them than like Jesus. They were merely white-washed tombs – pretty on the outside but dead on the inside. They compromised their commitment and love to Jesus for the world around them.
It’s a close relationship that Jesus is calling you to today. Whether you know Him already or not yet, Jesus is calling you into a committed, joy-filled relationship with Him. He wants to walk together with you in clean garments – for us to repent and turn away from the world and towards Him. He desires to call you worthy and live forever with you. This is the reason why He came into our world 2000 years ago – to live the perfect life that we could never live in order to pay for our sins with His death so that we wouldn’t lose eternal life with Him. Jesus calls us to commit to Him because He was so committed to us to the point of literally dying for us. Then by rising from the grave, Jesus displayed His power as God, showing He wasn’t merely a prophet but the God who has full authority and power over all and He invites you to join in and share that victory with Him.
This is the God who knows everything about us and still loves us. For God to have done all of this, in turn it’s only right we respond in praise and commitment to Him, not any worldly thing. Never compromising their faith for things that will never save nor fully satisfy us.
Remember, God calls the church to be people committed to Him, not committed to compromise. What do we see God calling the church to be next?
2. God calls the church to be people faithful to Him, not distracted. (3:7-13) There are many things that can take our eyes off of Jesus in the world. But as long as we are faithful, we will be rewarded in the end.
There was no condemnation for the Philadelphian church. Instead, they were faithful to the end and would one day be made into pillars in His temple, supporting Christ’s church and worshipping in God’s presence forever with Christ as their foundation. They would even be called God’s own, called by the name of His new kingdom and even given Jesus’ very own new name. God was commending them and encouraging them to hold fast to what they have so that no one could steal their crown, their riches in Christ, away.
Perhaps this is you and you identify with the church here in Philadelphia. You’re facing persecution in some way. With your job, with your family, with someone in your life. There’s something or someone that is standing in tension with your commitment and faithfulness to God. Yet though your faith is being strained and challenged, you are hangin’ on, holding on for dear life and looking to Jesus. If this is you, I want you to know that He sees you and knows your works. No matter how small you might feel right now, whatever the persecution and struggle you are silently suffering with, Jesus knows, He cares and He will reward you in the end.
So far, we know that God calls the church to be people committed to Him, not compromising for the world and to be people faithful to Him, not distracted by persecution. So, what else does God call the church to be?
3. God calls the church to be people dependent on Him, not indifferent. (3:14-22) Churches that lose their dependence on Jesus end up useless. If the influence of Jesus’ character and actions are missing in a church, we’re no better than useless, purposeless water.
Remembering again the pattern of these passages, Jesus begins by identifying Himself, calling Himself the “amen” meaning verily, truly, so let it be. Like how the word “amen” is used through Scripture to affirm truths about God, Jesus Himself was the very personification and affirmation of God’s truth. He is the true and faithful witness in contrast to the Laodiceans and is prominent over all God’s creation. All of Jesus’ titles stand in contrast to the Laodiceans’ character which was known for being neither cold nor hot, lukewarm, worthy of being spit out.
Knowing that the church would understand the idea of lukewarm things being gross would not be missed. The reason why they were lukewarm is because they believed they already had everything. Like their city, they believed they were self-sufficient. In reality, they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.
Though Jesus rebukes them, He doesn’t do it because He hates them but because He loves them. Like a good parent who disciplines, Jesus is calling His children to return to Him.
Jesus’ words to the Laodicean church and their self-sufficiency helps us understand our own failings as a church today. It’s incredibly tempting and altogether easy to absorb our culture’s attitudes on all things before trying to stop and think critically from God’s Word. In failing to consider Christ, we too become lukewarm; wishy washy and deserving of being spat out.
God calls the church to be a people wholeheartedly committed to Him without compromise. To be faithful and not distracted by the world. And to be people dependent and reliant on Him, without indifference.
If we’re going to commit to Jesus, like dropping in on a skateboard we have to learn to commit or else we’re just going to keep on bailing. Sometimes we’ll fall and get up quickly, but other times we’ll fall and not get up because our leg is broken. Or worse, we fail to ever commit in the first place and never get to establish a relationship with Jesus. Would we be a church who is all in on Christ, dedicated to Him in every circumstance.
Praise Songs: Great Things, Praise to the Lord the Almighty, Refiner's Fire, All the Poor and Powerless, Doxology