Gems in the book of Revelation Part 131 - Revelation 3:5 Walking with the Lord
The ‘gem’ is in the promise that ends the letter following the words ‘to the one who is victorious’. Here is the rest of the letter :
“To the angel[a] of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits[b] of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. 4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
What a magnificent promise that is, walking with Jesus! Unfortunately it is not given to to all the church members in Sardis but only to those who ‘have not soiled their clothes.’ It is not hard to see why it was restricted to the few because the church ‘has a reputation of being alive, but you are dead’. There are few clues as to what the problem was. The majority of the church had ‘deeds unfinished in the sight of my God’. What that meant in the first century is not clear. But, sadly, it is a description that can all too easily be applied to many churches today. Too many, in this country at least, are hives of activity with all sorts of things happening but seem to be more social clubs than true centres of spirituality. Perhaps that was the problem in Sardis; it would certainly fit the scant evidence we have in John’s description.
What, in our day, are the necessary aspects of a church which is truly alive? There has to be plenty of activity to be sure. What is truly important is where is the focus of what goes on. It must be Jesus, his worship, living in step with him and his promotion before all. To accomplish that a true and accurate study of scripture is essential. That is always necessary but it is not sufficient. It is possible to have the scripture properly studied from the front and yet the focus not to be on Jesus. It may instead be on people in general, or the leadership, on those in the church, or those outside the church, on organisations within the church, on the vigour of the worship, on the splendid accuracy of the doctrine taught in the church, on how modern they are or how well they maintain ancient thinking. It may even be on the building, on the finances, on the splendour of the robes worn by the leaders, and a hundred and one other considerations, worthy in themselves but not the appropriate place to focus the efforts of the fellowship.
It is never possible to be sure what is happening. It is easy to set up an organisation to keep a check on things like schools or hospitals. A count can be kept of how many students have passed external examinations at a good level or how many patients have survived difficult and dangerous operations, but it is not possible to send someone in to check on what is happening in a church. That would have to be in terms of how deep its spirituality is, which means, of course, what progress are people making in following Jesus, something largely well hidden from the sight of all but the Lord.
All this means that no one is a good Christian because they go to church, read an internet site like this every day, were baptised as a baby, belong to a Christian community, hold a passport which says ‘Religion - Christian’ or reckon they are ‘a decent, good living person’, once upon a time went forward at a big Christian rally, were ‘born again’ that way or any other way, and so on. No! Things are much more difficult than that. Ultimately only the Lord knows who are truly his. We may have a good idea of whether we personally are or not if we are honest enough, but not really anyone else,
Being a true follower of Christ is a process, not a once off single event. Of course lives start with a birth and all processes have a start point and this one is no exception. It may sometimes be so well hidden in our childhood or at the end of a lengthy process that we scarcely know when it all began. There should be no such doubt about the continuing process that follows.
Hopefully we, you who read this and I, will be amongst those who walk with Jesus, dressed in white as it says here, to signify our purity and holiness developed over the days, or months, years, or decades that we have been walking with the Lord getting stronger of leg and lungs and heart beat as we go. May it be so, dear Lord.