Revelation - 6
3rd February 2008
Thank You for the worship this morning. We bless Your name. We think of those beings who are around You continually saying holy, holy, holy. Thank You that we can worship You. You are an awesome and holy God who cares about our concerns. You understand and know what we are facing today and You are here with us. Give me grace to speak Your Word with humility, power and understanding.
There is a book that has come out – called Unchristian. It sells well to pastors, because pastors love studies about why people don’t come to church. It is a study of those between the ages of 16 and 29. What has been happening in that age bracket – Xers, Millenials, etc – the least churched group of people in the United States. 26% of those in that age group attend church. That means that 74% do not. We are losing that generation. It is hard to reach. For those who are over 60, it is over 60% who attend church.
The ‘outsiders’ as they call them in the book – give their impressions of Christians
5. Out of touch with reality – 72%
4. Too involved with politics – 75%
3. Hypocritical – 85%
2. Judgmental – 87%
1. Anti-homosexual – 91%
For those who are churched, the percentages are only about 10-15 points lower of their impressions of Christians.
The media has done a lot in shaping peoples’ opinions about the church.
Obviously, the church needs to speak for truth and righteousness. But those who feel this way say that it is because of the way that Christians they know act.
We are on the verge of losing a generation. In 15-20 years, these are the ones who will be leading the church. We are, in some ways, promoting these attitudes. Not on purpose.
We are going to be looking at the Church in Sardis. This church was in a similar situation – there is a correlation here. A little background on the church in Sardis:
Sardis – one of the oldest cities in Asia-minor. On the road that goes into Susa – founded in 4000 BC and was in existence until 650 AD - the capital of the Persian empire. That city existed for 4650 years. Think about it. It was a powerful city. Sardis was the first place coins were made. Part of the reason – it was wealthy with silver and gold mines. It was a large city for the standards of the time – 120,000 people there. It was significant. It was known for fabric and wool – they made clothing there. It was set in the plain under the mountain of Tumolus – You see that peak – that is not part of the mountain – it is a wall. They had built their Acropolis up there. They did that because Sardis was a military power. If they were ever threatened – they would go up into this impregnable stronghold – a fortress fully supplied where they could not be defeated. For you Lord of the Rings fans - this was their Helms Deep. This place where no one could get to. The city was known for that.
In the 549 BC, the King of Sardis decided to attack Persia. If you have seen Thermopolis – they had a phenomenal army. Cyrus turned them back – marched right up the road to Sardis – the people all gathered in the Acropolis – they all packed in there like Sardiines! Then they waited out the siege.
Legend has it – there was a soldier who was on the wall who had dropped his helmet and scaled down the wall and scaled back up to get it. A slave saw it – that the soldier climbed down and got his helmet and climbed back up. The slave was tortured and told the enemy – in 564 BC – that there was a way to climb up. And the Persian army was able to climb up and capture the city.
“Capturing Sardis” – a phrase for achieving the impossible.
200 years later, the feat would be repeated by another army.
Sardis had a false sense of security. The church mimicked the city – with an overconfident false sense of security. How easy it is, then, for us, to get a false sense of security of how we are doing in our faith.
1 Cor. 10: 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. The Message says it like this:
Don’t be so naïve and self-confident – you are not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
They thought they stood firm, but they fell. The church thought it was standing – but it was about to fall. The church in America thinks it stands – but it may be losing the next generation. When we think we have it all together, we are in the most danger.
You take heed – lest you fall. When someone else falls, you take heed.
Rev. 3: 3:1 "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 'Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3 'Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep [it,] and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. 4 'But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy. 5 'He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels. 6 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. '
3:1 "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this:
Basic introduction -
'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
“I know” – same formula – He knows our work and service and will reward that. He knows how we have suffered and He will reward that. In Matthew – even giving a cup of cold water, God remembers. Watching children, doing nursery – setting up for a pot-luck – everything, God remembers. But He also knows our deeds in secret.
When our kids were younger – first verse they learned – “God sees me.” You want them to believe that because when they are in the living room and you are in the kitchen – you want them to remember that God sees, even if you don’t! God sees you. He knows what you are doing. There is that side of it.
He says – they had a name – a reputation – if you were to look at this church, you would get a sense that they were large and influential – very wealthy. They were known – like the great churches of today – you turn on TV and there are all these churches with names that are popular – that is how the church in Sardis was.
In Sardis, they had a huge gymnasium – and inside of it, there was a synagogue. The Jews had adapted completely to the culture of the people in Sardis. You don’t see persecution here – they had completely adapted to the culture – they were accepted, they were large and had influence.
'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
You look good on paper – but you are dead. Death and immortality was a fascination of people in Sardis. On each side of the road, the Tombs of the Kings – like a memorial. Like the WWII memorial or the like.
You are dead. You think you are alive. You think you are immortal. You have got it all wrong. Let him who thinks he stands take heed. New England better take heed tonight.
We hear about so much of the great Christian people who fall terribly. It is a shame. A lot of these views come from those who see these.
Once you open your mouth – your life better represent it. The moment you slip – the moment you fall – they are waiting.
Matt Cramer shares a lot at his work – “But I am just a sinner too” - I thought you were a Christian? It doesn’t come any easier for me! I’m a struggler too. If you elevate yourself above others – you better stay there.
They thought they were alive, but were dead.
If you follow the elections at all – I do – and I feel sorry for myself for doing it! They pay a lot of attention to this ‘voting block’ – the evangelicals who have a lot of influence. There is a lot of wealth. Hundreds of billions of dollars (I think 300 billion) are spent on church buildings.
In 1970 – there were 10 churches with members over 2000 people. In 2005, over 1300 churches over 2000 – and it has probably doubled since then. There are several churches with over 30000 people. There is nothing wrong with big churches; some are doing a great job. This week, I heard of another study done – Every time that when churches grow like that, the churches fall. I hope that is not true here. Every week, 50 churches shut down. Permanently. But then there is a struggle going on underneath it all.
As a church, we need to take heed, lest we fall. But there is a generation that is not happy with church – as that book, Unchristian shows.
Those in that age group say, “We are sick of seeker-oriented churches. All glitz and glitter.” We need to take heed.
I don’t want to focus on that – we need to take heed as individuals. When we have some measure of success in our personal lives, it is then that this verse comes into play. One of the guys was sharing at Men’s Fraternity how he and his wife had begun to make some progress financially – and then begin to fall into the old habits.
When you start to make progress – you tend to fall back into old habits. You push forward and forward –and then become content with that. You relax and stop taking heed. There is usually a fall after that. As a Christian, you are either moving forward or falling back. There is no neutral ground.
Like bananas – When you are green, you are growing – when you are ripe, you are rotting.
Once they get to yellow, what do you have? (Someone shouted out, Two days!) Yes, you have two days – and then you have to make banana bread. Not that that is all bad, when it comes to bananas! But as Christians, we don’t want to become banana bread – we want to be bananas. Scratch that from the tape.
2 'Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.
A side note – they were building a temple that was never finished. They would have understood – like the tower over here – their tower with nothing on top of it. Remember…
3 'Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep [it,] and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.
He is referring to the two times the city fell – that is the reality for your spiritual life. Wake up and be ready. We need to recognize that so much can take place and happen for us.
I think of marriage. A lot of the men say this – maybe it is just us guys – but for Cindy and I, I think things are going wonderful – until she tells me otherwise. For all of us guys, that is the case!
We need to be able to look at our lives and make sure we are taking heed.
4 'But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy.
This goes with the city’s production of wool – there are always a few – a remnant – those younger people who are committed to Christ demonstrate a zeal and willingness to serve Christ that is more than we have seen in some time. We see these kids who are engaged in the battle – there is hope – a movement in our country that has the potential to be significant and not to end up like Europe, where less than 10% of people go to church. I have been taking a reformation course – and most of those cathedrals are empty on Sundays.
5 'He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels. 6 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. '
For Him to confess our names – He is speaking up for us – this one is one of mine. Christ does that for each of us. Think about it – in heaven, Christ is there, saying, he/she is one of mine – this one belongs to me.
When our kids do something good – that one is mine. When it is not so good, we kind of hide.
We don’t need to be ashamed to confess Him, because He is confessing us.
In closing – a few things about our church. God has been doing some great things. Four years ago, we fit very nicely into the fellowship hall for a potluck... Last week, it was packed. It is encouraging. People are taking ministries.
A few years ago, we talked about making room for others. Everything has been renovated. We need to go back to that – and say, we need to continue that – we need to make room for more people to minister to. We have a plan – it will come out more in detail. I will give you the bullet points
1) We are in the process of paying off our mortgage on the building. We would like to pay it off in two years – actually, if we can, to pay it off by the end of this year. We believe we can, as a faith goal. We are not going to make a big deal about this. This will free us up to do some of the things to continue to grow. We will have envelopes where you can give to paying off the building debt.
2) We are going to add parking, if the city allows.
3) Once the building is paid off – we’ll look at how to make more room.
4) This building is not accessible to some people – so we are trying to figure out how to do that.
We’d like to pay off the building – and there are ways of adding accessibility that are not good. We don’t want to do that – we want to do things the best way. Just so you know – it is to provide more opportunity of service to people and to minister to more and more. The nursery can be crowded. We need to do something. If we have the building paid off, it frees us up. It is a faith-goal to pay it off.
We have a 20 year loan that comes up every five years. So you have to refinance every 5 years. When that comes up – we would like to be able to pay it off. Then we can figure out where to go. The board has talked about this and we agree. We are adding on to what we are paying off every month. The principal is adding up faster – it is encouraging.
Let’s close in prayer – in your own life – let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall.