Deeper Christian Life Ministry – Search The Scripture 26 Sunday, July 2020 (LESSON 959)
Topic: Challenge Of Reviving A Dead Church
Memory Verse: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God” (Revelation 3:2).
Text: Revelation 3:1-6
This lesson is the fifth in the series of messages communicated by Christ through John the apostle to the seven churches in Asia Minor. The message in this lesson is addressed specifically to the church in Sardis — a worldly compromising and hypocritical church —that prided itself to be alive but diagnosed by Christ as spiritually dead or dying. He says, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1).
His evaluation of this church is so different from their evaluation of themselves and that of others. There were outward proofs of liveliness and dynamism; the church had a good reputation in the eyes and estimation of all those who could not see beyond the physical. Truly, “the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16: 7; 2 Corinthians 10:18). Self-praise and the praise of men can make one relapse into self-satisfaction, complacency and blindness to the reality of one’s spiritual declension and eventual death. Christ is concerned with the spiritual life of those who profess to be members of His church. The reason is, He died to “redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). He x-rays the lives of professing believers In every church in the light of this specific divine purpose and goal of His sacrifice. It saddens Him that majority of members of the church in Sardis were spiritually dead while some others were critically on the verge of dying among the steadfast and faithful few that must be urgently revived. The spiritual condition of this church attracted the Lord’s rebuke and condemnation. Thus this study reveals the characteristics of any church that is dead and the steps to reviving it. He commends the faithful few and promises to reward those who remain steadfast in righteousness till the end.
Question 1: Why should believers be concerned about Christ’s evaluation of their lives and service?
CHRIST’S REVELATION CONCERNING A DEAD CHURCH
(Revelation 3:1,2; Matthew 23:25-29; Romans 5:5-10; 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-5; 2
Corinthians 6:14-18; Jude 11-13; 1 Timothy 5:6; 2 Peter 2:12-22).
“These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” Christ’s revelation and assessment concerning this active but dead church in Sardis is unbiased, incontrovertible and absolutely true, based on His perfect knowledge of all things (Revelation 3:1). In Scripture, ‘seven’ connotes perfection or fullness. Thus, Christ presents Himself as possessing the fullness of the Holy Spirit with His various powers, graces and operations (Isaiah 11:2).
Christ also reveals He has the seven stars, that is, His appointed leaders over the seven churches of Asia Minor. As Head of the church, He communicates His disappointment over the spiritually dead state of the local assembly to the leader He has appointed over it. It is obvious that the Lord holds Christian leaders responsible for the state of their churches. In the church in Sardis, true righteousness was lacking among majority of the members. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him …” (Titus 1:16). They were religious but sinful; they had the appearance of a living church but were spiritually dead; they possessed a lively, active and outward disposition but were bereft of Christlikeness. The cover-up did not last as Christ exposed their lifelessness to help them make amends before it is too late. People who think they can hide their ways and activities from God do greatly err. He is omnipresent and omniscient. He asks, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him… Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:24).
Question 2: What attributes of Christ make every effort at covering sin futile?
Being omniscient, Christ knows the true state of all churches. He knows the state of all men: their thoughts, words, works, dispositions, nature, qualities, affections and motives. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and Opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). Hypocrites cannot successfully conceal their iniquities from His all-seeing eyes (Psalm 90:8). Awfully, all shall be exposed “in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ…” (Romans 2:16).
This truth should make sinners and hypocrites repent of sin and seek the Lord for salvation.A church is said to be spiritually dead if, one, it only has a Christian name without the life and doctrines of Christ; two, orthodoxy is substituted for morality; three, external morality replaces inward piety, grace and humility; four, formalism reigns without spirituality (2 Timothy 3:5); five, there is prevalence of spiritual apathy and insensitivity to the Word and Spirit of God (Proverbs 21:16; 28:9); six, there is dryness, lukewarmness, coldness and compromise amongst its members (Revelation 3:15-17; 1
Corinthians 10:5-10); seven, its members are given over to worldly and sinful pleasures (1 Timothy 5:6; 1 John 2:15); eight, it preaches the letter without the quickening and convicting power of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:1,5); nine, the preaching of the truth is minimized with little time allocated to it while other activities are accorded prominence; ten, it lacks vision and passion for evangelism and mission.
Question 3: What are the characteristics of a spiritually dead church?
A number of reasons account for the spiritual death of a church. One, self-righteousness and self-satisfaction; two, carnality and fleshly lusts; three interaction with dead, worldly churches; four, neglect of the Word of life; five, disregarding the Spirit of life; six, unconfessed sin and undisciplined backsliders; seven, worldliness and worldly pleasures; eight, unequal yoke and friendship with the world; nine, seeking to win the world
without feeding the church; ten, perpetual insensitivity to Christ’s correction; eleven,
allowing persecution and ridicule to uproot its solid foundation; and twelve, partaking of the Lord’s Supper unworthily.
Question 4: Mention some causes of spiritual death in a church.
CHRIST’S PRESCRIPTION FOR REVIVING A DEAD CHURCH
(Revelation 3:2,3; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3,4; Ezekiel 33: 11; 18:23,32; Romans 8:5-8;
Carelessness and forgetfulness of the sacrifice of Christ, the gift of grace and the accompanying reciprocal responsibility required of believers were the problems of believers in this church. So, Christ calls everyone in the church to “Be watchful” and alert to the causes of spiritual death and avoid them. Whenever a believer becomes carefree, such will lose spiritual experiences and must genuinely repent and be restored to faith in Christ. The prodigal who is restored to spiritual fervency must watch against re-entry of sin and love of the world into their hearts. Christ also calls the leader and the few who still have spiritual life to “strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die” with love, warm and inspiring exhortation, encouragement with God’s promises and intercession for the dying believers in the power of the quickening Spirit. This spiritual service is urgent to bring revival in view of the summary of Christ’s assessment that, “I have not found thy works perfect before
God” This revelation should stir us up to seek more grace to work and serve God acceptably. God expects perfection in our lives and service. He expects the best but in the Sardis church, He saw the shell devoid of the kernel, the carcase without the soul, the shadow having no substance. We should examine our works and inquire from the Lord of the harvest if our works are acceptable unto Him. Christ calls every dead or dying church to “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard; and hold fast, and repent”.
Forgetfulness of the price of redemption, the great love and unmerited favour of God and Christ’s investment of grace in our lives can lead to spiritual declension. Hence, Christ’s directive to remember or recall events associated with our conversion and first love for Him. We must recall how we each received the gospel with love, devotion, ardour and hold fast the whole truth the church has received. Christ calls the spiritually dead or dying to recall the steps to salvation and life in Christ and retake them for their spiritual revival. One, “Receive” the word of God with faith. It was a mark that led the early believers to genuine salvation (Acts 2:41). Two, “Hear,” the word means to listen earnestly with full attention and purpose of heart to obey it.
“…Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11 :28), Three, “hold fast”, which implies to believe, accept and trust in His Word and act on it. Four, “Repent” which means total self-examination, rejection and turning away from every form of sin and friendship with the world and a return to the original love, truth and purity of life and doctrine. Repentance also includes restitution of things to their proper owners (Leviticus 6:1-4). Repentance is demanded by God and lack of it attracts divine judgment.
Question 5: What are the scriptural steps to reviving a dead church?
Moreover, spiritual revival is enhanced through practical obedience to the word of God (Matthew 7:24,25; Jeremiah 7:22,23); two, preaching of the pure, Spirit inspired word; three, purging of the church of all false teachers and prophets; four, disciplining or rebuking members whose lives or professions are not in line with godliness; five, prayer for revival because, the effectual fervent prayer of “a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16-18); six, planting of faithful, trusted and holy pastors to lead churches (Jeremiah 7:4).
COMMENDATION AND PROMISED REWARD FOR THE FAITHFUL FEW
(Revelation 3:4-6; 19:7-9; 21:27; 20:12-15; Daniel 3:13-30; 7:27; Luke 12:8; 21:36; Romans 15:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:27, 28; 1 John 3:1-3)
Like a lily in the mire, there were few in the Sardis church “…which have not defiled their garments…” (Revelation 3:4). Righteousness is the spiritual garment that makes a Christian pure and clean before God (Revelation 19:8). The fact that multitudes of people do evil is not an excuse for believers to compromise their faith. The grace of God is always available and sufficient for heaven-minded believers to remain steadfast, holy, faithful and uncompromising in their walk with God.
Joseph, Moses, the Rechabites, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Mary, Paul the apostle, lived and served God in ungodly environments (Genesis 39:7-12; Hebrews 11:24-29; Jeremiah 35:5-18′, Daniel 3:13-18; Matthew 1:18-25; Galatians 1:10; 2: 11- 14). Prior to the deluge, Noah and his family were the only ones who were found righteous and worthy to escape the flood. Christ also was once lived in our world; He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrew 4:15). He died and rose again to empower us to live consistent lives of victory over sin, self, the flesh, the world and Satan. So, He expects us to put on the whole armour of God and live by faith in the power of His name, blood and Spirit. We must resist temptations and constantly uphold our conviction at all costs, if we expect to earn the commendation and reward from the Lord.
Question 6: How can present-day churches avoid spiritual declension and the consequent judgment?
Christ declared the faithful few in Sardis worthy and qualified to walk with Him in white. It is comforting to receive commendation of Christ, our Lord. This promise is not only for the pure in Sardis but also for all who “…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” (Revelation 3:5). Great blessings await the faithful at the end of the age. These promises should stir sinners and backsliders to repentance and restoration so that their names can be in the “book of life”. To avoid the risk of being deleted from this book, believers should abide in Christ and determine to be consistent in holiness and faithfulness to Christ to the end.
Believers can avoid spiritual declension and death, revive a dead or dying church and maintain spiritual fervency or revival by being always ready to “hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 2:5-7,16,17,22) and obey Him wholeheartedly, promptly and fully. God’s Spirit and Word enliven and sustain spiritual life in believers and in His church.