May we take heed to the words addressed to the Seven Churches of the book of Revelation. To which of these seven churches do you belong?
The church of Sardis starts with quite an eye-opener, but will they listen or shrug their shoulders? “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” (Rev 3:1b, NIV2)
So many times, when we enter a church, we are left wanting. Even worse, so many come to church once, just to see with their own eyes what Christianity is about, and they leave the premises thoroughly disappointed.
It hurts when hardly anyone notices us, and it is even worse when people talk behind our backs, and we overhear someone saying: “Why are they even here!”
If our worship service is just for singing songs without having any personal meaning, it is no wonder that the members sing with such sour faces, and that the sounds they are producing sounds more like the noise of lemons being squeezed. If the message has no substance, as Jesus is not the central focus, it’s no wonder we are left wanting. Why go to church all?
Some churches stress their most important message, which is that if you want to be blessed, you have to give your tithes. The real message has been completely deformed, and such churches sound more like a political party raising funds to win an election.
Is it any wonder that these visitors never go back to church? They never had the opportunity to see who Jesus truly is! God was not honored there. Sadly, too many experience such disappointments.
A church devoted to God is supposed to be alive. After all Jesus proclaimed: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b, NIV2) And His words are true. I can vouch for that, as I am experiencing the full extent of what Jesus meant by that.
Sadly, some churches are quite dead. Is it any wonder that in North America 60 churches a week close their doors (According the book 2020 Vision, written by Bill and Amy Stearns)?
Jesus urges such churches to “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.” (Rev 3:2-3a, NIV2)
Joy is possible only by walking in the footsteps of the Lord. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (John 17:13, NIV)
We can make a difference in people’s lives. All we need to do is to “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb 3:13, NIV2)
The church could fill the empty hearts of those who have never experienced Jesus, if only their focus would be on Jesus alone: “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed-that exhilarating finish in and with God-he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Heb 12:2-3, MSG)
Maybe it’s time for us to travel to underprivileged countries where we can be introduced to the real meaning of being a Christian. These Christians don’t just sit there and see life pass them by. They are alive, joyful and full of determination to shine as brightly as possible, as God is their sole focus. Imagine a place where 3,500 new churches spring up every week and 3,083 new believers give their hearts to God every hour of every day! (All this is happening in the third world.) In China, for example, 28,000 become ardent disciples of the Most High on a daily basis!
What drives these Christians? The love of God that they have experienced personally. We could sure learn from them, as their focus is solely on Christ.
Still, among any churches, even deadly ones, there are always a few who know the Lord intimately, and that was the case in the church of Sardis as well. They are promised: “They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.” (Rev 3:4b, NIV2)
There is hope in any dying church. If only they would start focusing solely on Jesus, their lives would make a difference in their neighborhoods. This, however, means not giving up!
General Daniel Sickles was determined to win the battle against the enemy during the battle in Gettysburg. As he was directing his troops from horseback, a Confederate artillery round hit him in the right leg, tearing it almost completely off. A tourniquet was quickly applied to his injured leg.
As he was still conscious, General Sickles took a cigar and continued to give orders to his soldiers. Nothing would deter him from his mission until he was eventually carried away for emergency surgery. His troops loved him for that. He had always been there for them, and now, even though he was seriously injured, he continued to be there for his men.
Sadly, his leg had to be amputated. His leg bones, though, were put on display in the National Museum of Health and Medicine. Interestingly enough, after the war General Sickles often visited his missing limb.
This general had been as good as dead in this battle. He should have been completely useless, but he wasn’t. His focus was on winning the battle, not on wallowing on self-pity. Maybe we can learn something from such an attitude as well.
One question remains: where is your focus?
(To access the entire, “A Study on the Seven Churches of Revelation” devotional series, please click here.)