KEY TEXT: Revelation 3:1-6 "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: 'The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. 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.'"
KEY THOT: All life on earth is a grace-gift of the Spirit. This is true for both physical and spiritual life. However, just because life is a grace-gift does not guarantee that the life will flourish without proper nurture and nutrition. It is presumptuous to assume a baby will grow up by itself just because it has been born. Like physical life (bios), spiritual life (zoe) will die if it is neglected. God grants us His life when we put our faith in Christ: this life can either flourish or perish. It all depends on what we do with the life God has implanted within our spirits. For the church at Sardis, their spiritual life was in danger of dying even though outwardly, they seem to be doing fine: "I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God" (Revelation 3:1-2).
If our spiritual life is flourishing, it shows itself in fruitful works. While good works do not save us, good works are evidence of a flourishing spiritual life. Just as a plant that is being properly nurtured and nourished will bear fruits, so it is with the life we have received from God through faith: "So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 7:17-20). In the context of this passage, Jesus was referring to false prophets, but the same principle applies to believers: if our tree is healthy, it will bear good works. This commonsensical principle applies to all life forms.
So, what do we do if our spiritual life is dying? Jesus' exhortation to the church in Sardis is relevant to us: "Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent" (3:3). Three things we need to do:
- "remember": We have to go back the basic. The Gospel is not the ABC of Christianity but the A-Z of Christianity. We need to recall what we have been taught--the power of the Gospel to save and deliver us from the flesh, the world and the devil. The cross is the answer to our backsliding. We need to put to death again the flesh that is still very much alive and choking the life of the Spirit. We have to die to self so that Christ may be alive in us.
- "keep": We have to "keep" what we have heard. NIV translates that word as "obey". Obedience is not works but fruit of the life of God within us. If we say we have "faith" but yet no works of faith (obedience), then it is not saving faith we have but something else. True faith receives God's life implanted in our spirits. And God's life is evidenced in fruitful works as we obey Jesus' commands.
- "repent": Repent means to turn around. If our current lifestyle is causing our spiritual life to be dying, then it makes sense to re-assess what we are doing and give up whatever that is not consistent with Jesus' words. It's no use saying, "But I'm just a sinner saved by grace". If our spiritual life is dying, it is evidence that grace is not working in our lives. It's time to turn around and turn back to God.
Let's not fool ourselves. Let's shout out that the Emperor has no clothes. If our lives are not producing "works complete in the sight of my God", then it's time we need to do something about it before we experience spiritual rigor mortis.
Jesus again calls to have overcoming faith: "The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels" (Revelation 3:5). So, by grace God has granted us His life within through faith; but what we make of it depends on us as we walk by the Spirit of grace instead of indulging in the works of our flesh.
Abba-Father, thank You for the warning that the life You have implanted in our spirits can die from neglect, just like any other life. May Your Spirit continue to rekindle the fire within us, so that our lamps will always be kept burning brightly before others. Amen.