Thursday, March 17, 2011

Revelation Chapter Three, Part 2 of 7

3:3 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.
Jesus warned Ephesus to remember from where they had fallen, and to repent and do the first works. Here is a similar command to Sardis: remember how you have received and heard the truth of their confession; that is, by faith, 1st Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 10:9-17. Ephesus left its first love (Christ) and stumbled into the bondage of legalism, the letter of the law. Sardis had forgotten that by faith they stand, Romans 11:20. Their comfortable position made them careless, and they had left off with watching for their Lord and strengthening the brethren through sound doctrine and love.

But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers,” Luke 12:45-46.

The careless attitude was condemned most scathingly by our Lord during His earthly ministry. It would also appear that from the above testimony our Lord gave that such a one walking so carelessly is not in fact a true believer at all, but an unsaved Churchian. Such “Christians” want the benefit of playing church without the actual commitment of serving the Lord Jesus Christ; but note that if Christ is your Savior He is also your Lord, Luke 6:46.

And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more,” Luke 12:47-48.

The unbeliever’s place is a place of punishment, and the gradation of punishment is partially determined by what we knew in this life, and what we did with that knowledge. Possessing a saving knowledge of the gospel and refusing to act on it is perilous and fatal, and I can only assume will lead to the most severe punishment meted out in the Lake of Fire.

Peter writes, “For he who lacks these things (the manifestation of spiritual fruit) is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins,” 2nd Peter 1:9. He goes on to write a little later about the same type of mentality: “Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation,” 2nd Peter 3:3-4. This type of thinking has poisoned the church today. Fewer and fewer people believe the Rapture will genuinely occur as the Bible describes it, if it occurs at all. Many believe Christians will be going through the Tribulation, or at least a portion of it. Others think the faithful Christians will be Raptured, while the rest will be left to be refined. One has to wonder: how odious must this generation be to have to suffer a refinement no other generation of Christianity in existence had to endure to enter Heaven? These are flawed, unbiblical thoughts that engender confusion and division. The Apostle John considered watching for His coming of chief importance for the saint, and that the very act would purify our motives for living on this earth. Read on:

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure,” 1st John 3:2-3.

Christians who are not watching, but are caught unawares (as it were) when our Lord returns, aren’t going to be left behind. Recall the parable of the virgins that Jesus told. Five were wise and had oil in their lamps, signifying the presence of the Holy Spirit. Five were foolish and brought no oil; in other words they were unsaved. While they waited all of them slumbered and slept; believer and unbeliever alike fell asleep waiting for Christ’s return. Only when the bridegroom did at last call, the five wise virgins could trim their lamps and go to Him, while the five unwise were not allowed entrance because they did not know Him. They never belonged to Him; He wasn’t casting out unworthy saints, but rejecting a people who never entered into a relationship with Him. The relationship is signified by the presence of the oil in the lamps; the wise virgins knew their Lord’s will and carried with them the oil. The Bible states that the very beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction… Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God,” Proverbs 1:7; 2:5.

3:4-5 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.
There was yet a remnant of the church of Sardis who purified themselves, or sanctified themselves for service to God, and became serviceable vessels. Jesus spoke of those, that they would walk with Him since they held fast their confession in a setting where backsliding and ease had taken precedence. This does not necessarily indicate that only those whose raiment is undefiled will go to Heaven; our Lord does not specify here that He is indicating a future state after this life. The Greek verb “walk” in this instance means “to live or conduct one’s life.”

In other words, these saints had victory over sin in their daily life; therefore they could walk in fellowship with their Lord; “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints,” Revelation 19:7-8. There is the imputed righteousness of Christ which every believer receives when we believe unto salvation; and there is the righteousness of being sanctified and bearing fruit in the Spirit. Such “righteous acts” (NKJV) are our adornments before Christ our Lord, like a bride taking out her very best to beautify herself for her husband-to-be. The greatest beauty of it is, the ornaments were precious gifts from our Heavenly Husband, and when we are adorned with them they each serve as a tacit reminder of what our great God and Savior has done in us and through us throughout eternity.

The only Man worthy to enter Heaven in any esteem of His own was the Lord Jesus Christ. A little later in Revelation John records the praise lauded on the conquering Lamb of God, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5:12.

Where does a saint derive his worthiness from? We must “be found in him, not having [our] own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” Philippians 3:9. “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,’ says the Lord,” Isaiah 54:17. Only the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, received when we are regenerated by the indwelling Spirit of God makes a saint worthy to enter Heaven so we do not stain it with our sin-nature. Again, look back to the cleansing of Joshua the high priest in Zechariah. It was the Angel of the Lord who removed the high priest’s filthy man-made righteousness and clothed him with a righteousness befitting a saint; the righteousness which only God may impute upon a man or woman who believes on the name of Jesus Christ: “Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment,” Zechariah 3:4.

Those that overcome stand before the throne of God and the Lamb marveling two-fold: first they marvel at the greatness of God and His absolute worthiness in all things. Second they marvel at the fact that a holy God can take sinful man, infuse him with spiritual life, and bring him to Heaven without defiling it. We shall marvel that we stand in Heaven before God’s throne; that God permits us to look at Him, to speak with Him, that He condescends to share Himself with us and love us. We will marvel at the depths of God’s boundless mercy and grace, and wonder how it is that God would have cared so much to stoop down and cleanse me from my sins, and lift me up to the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The marvel is two-fold: the absolute sovereign adequacy of our great God and Savior, and our utter and complete bankruptcy to produce or supply anything remotely adequate to bear us to the place we yearn to be.

Those who believe the gospel have their names recorded in the book of life, which shall not be blotted out. Confessing Christ before men is not one way to assure our position in the book of life of the Lamb. Why? You can confess Christ’s name until the cows come home, but if you do not believe the gospel you are still unsaved. Works do not replace faith; but works can demonstrate and compliment it, James 2:14-26. Being ashamed at Christ and His words will not merit having one’s eternal destiny altered. All of us suffer despondence and become at some point ashamed of Christ and His words. If you reply to me “Never! Never have I done this!” I will reply that you are either a very young Christian, or you are lying to save face. If we are honest there have been moments when we have not said what we should, or we said something we shouldn’t, or we agreed by our silence to something contrary to God’s will. We shun giving the gospel sometimes, and it is here that it may be construed that we are ashamed of Christ and His words. Paul’s confession among men is exceedingly rare: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” Romans 1:16. I am inclined to believe that Paul was unashamed 24-7. I must confess that I do not abide in the Spirit quite like Paul did.

We must make many personal exceptions and overlook numerous inconsistencies in our lives if we want to continue holding the belief that we are running the race without fumbling at all. James warns us that a single sin is enough to make us guilty of all the law, James 2:10. Our names will be in the book of life, if they are there at all, because of Christ’s worthiness; not ours. I leave the teaching in Sardis with a clear passage of Scripture that too many Christians do despite to in their effort to undermine eternal security and salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ. Yet here it stands in all its simplicity and glory, so that even a young man could hear it and be cleansed, Psalm 119:9. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life,” John 5:24.

1 comment:

  1. Great post.

    There is definite evidence that many in a church like Sardis are not saved, and have no commitment to Christ. Real Christians in such a church struggle to stay focused on the Lord, while the others use the church for their own satisfaction.


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