““And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’”
Revelation 3:1-6 NKJV
Long ago, I used to meet with a seasoned saint on a regular basis. In the beginning I had hoped to learn from him, as he had walked the walk of faith longer than I had been alive. I loved to hear the stories of past victories in the Lord , and some of the great things he had done for God. After a while, though, I began to wonder if there was any spiritual life left in him, as he had little to say about what he was doing in the here and now. He repeated the same stories from the past, rehashing all that he had done, but offering nothing new. I wondered if his faith was still alive, but was now dead.
Years later I had the privilege of driving Miss Caroline Raveling to church. She was a 93 year old saint, so in love with Jesus, that my car became a rolling revival meeting. She had a vibrant faith, never ending and centered on the Lord. When she went to be with the Lord Jesus, it was merely an address change.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
II Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV
Caroline fought the good fight and finished her race.
In the letter to the church at Sardis, Jesus approached them in the same fashion He had with all the previous churches, as they had at one time done what was expected and went out sharing the Gospel, but they had ceased and gone from alive to dead.
In these late days, we are seeing a continuum of health in the global church. There a relatively small number of churches that are still faithful and alive in Christ. the Bible is preached and beloved, and the faithful are just that, faithful. These churches are marked by their insistence on sharing the Good News.
In my years walking in the faith, I have learned what to look for in discerning if a church is alive or dead. If the church is going out to reach the lost, it is alive, if it is only seeking to serve those in the congregation and not have a concern for those without, than it is dying, and soon will be dead.
My church, Grace Fellowship, is lesson in the death and rebirth of a church. The previous congregation that occupied the building in which is our home, had ceased to reach the lost, and did no outreaches to the community around them. Eventually the congregation aged and died, leaving few to sustain it. Once alive, the church was now dead, and the lamp stand was taken away.
We at Grace fellowship have worked hard at sharing the Gospel, and we have been blessed by having a pastor in Shawn Barr, who is relentless in sharing the message of Jesus Christ. We look upon the life and dead of the previous church as a cautionary tale, inspiring us to do better.
In many places, church buildings that were once alive and full, are now empty, some having been repurposed into clubs, bars, or even brothels. Yet others are now mosques.
Death is often preceded with allowing sin to linger in the body, to become sloppy with love, mistaking grace with licentiousness. Then there is a departure from the teaching and preaching of the Word.
There are whole denominations disappearing today, and others splitting over violative issues. There are many former believers, falling away from the faith, as they seek to follow the world, becoming allies with sin rather than God.
Even in the most dead of churches, God has those who have not bowed down. They are the ones who insist on reading their bibles and believing what it says, praying and living by faith. Their values are dictated by Scripture in the face of a culture that is centered on pursuit of whatever make one feel good.
Brothers and sisters, if you are one of the few still alive in a church that is dying, pray without ceasing for your fellow congregants. Pray for your pastor and encourage him on in the faith. Above all else, make sure that your own spiritual needs are met.
““You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV
That light must shine, not only in the world, but in the church. That same light that attracts people to it from darkness, also encourages those who are trying to walk in the faith, but feel alone.
I am at the point where my time alone with God is far more productive than that which comes in the assembly. I still attend to use my gift, to encourage others and build them up. Those of us who are filled with the Spirit of God are first responders, giving life saving spiritual CPR to those who have fallen.
Let us go and shine the light brightly, signaling life in Christ. Let us press on, enduring all things for the cause of the Gospel, keeping our robes unspotted by the world.
“You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
Revelation 3:4-5 NKJV
Be on the lookout, looking forward to the appearing of the Lord. He is coming soon.
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One thought on “Here lies”
Great challenge Bernie! I praise the God for senior Saints like Caroline and Bobby Burkhart. People who love the Lord so much that it continued to drive them and pour out of them. Praise our great and holy God, and may we remain on fire, like those who sets the standard for us.