Wednesday, August 12, 2015, 12:59 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “O Zion, Haste.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Revelation 3:1-6 (NASB).
“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. 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. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 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. He who overcomes will 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
But You Are Dead
The modern church of today often incorporates the use of buzzwords to make it sound alive – words such as “authentic,” “relevant,” “contemporary,” “fun” and “resonate,” etc. The vast majority of today’s institutional church, for instance, has turned the church into a marketplace where the church is marketed (advertised, promoted) just like any other human-based business. The leadership of these churches frequently attend church-growth seminars, and/or they read books or short publications on how to sell their church to the people of this world, so that the world will want to come to their meetings. They use props, gimmicks, marketing techniques, schemes, etc. in order to draw the people of this world to their gatherings. And, so, many of these churches now pattern their meetings around the unsaved, rather than with the goal in mind of nurturing, discipling, edifying and encouraging the body of believers so that they can go out into the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In order to make the world feel “at home” and “comfortable” in the gatherings of the “church,” the leadership of these modern churches have been instructed in things they must do in order to make the church more “user-friendly.” For one, many have removed actual Bible studies from their gatherings and have gone to book studies of books written by mere humans, but who make reference to scripture, but they pick and choose which scriptures to use in order to support the philosophy they are trying to present. Many sermons are now more topic-oriented, which allows for the use of scriptures taken out of context to support whatever message the pastor wishes to convey. Now, I am not opposed to topical studies. They have their place, but there is the danger there of teaching what is of humans, using scripture to support, rather than teaching scripture, and getting our beliefs from there.
In these modern churches, there is a large focus on entertaining the world rather than on the conviction of the Holy Spirit in the life of the sinner in need of a Savior. The gospel has been diluted to where it barely resembles the gospel as taught by Jesus and his apostles. Instead of teaching the need to repent (turn from our sins to God), and to walk in the Spirit in obedience to Christ, and to submit ourselves to God’s will for our lives, the modern church is very focused on the flesh of humans and on making them feel good about themselves, even in their sin. In these churches, believing in Jesus Christ is not about dying to sin and living to righteousness, as taught by Jesus and the apostles, but it is now focused around self, and what God can do for us, as opposed to us submitting our lives to him.
These modernized and culturally relevant churches are sleeping, i.e. their eyes are closed, they are spiritually inactive (apathetic, complacent), and they are lacking in spiritual consciousness (awareness, concern). They are lacking in judgment and discernment, and are easily duped into believing lies and following after whatever sounds good, without bothering to test what they hear to see if it is really true or not. So, they are easy prey for wolves in sheep’s clothing who would willfully deceive and trick them into following after a false gospel, and who would encourage them in self-gratification and the belief that God is here just to make them happy. So, today, God is calling out to these flesh-driven congregations, and is calling them to “wake up,” to repent of their sins, and to become spiritually alert and active in following Jesus Christ with their lives, and in doing what he has called them to do and to be.
In order for them to wake up, though, they have to want to wake up, and so many don’t. So many who call themselves Christians prefer to live in ignorance, for they find solace and comfort there. They prefer to just entertain and be entertained and listen to feel-good messages which then just lull them to sleep even further. So, something is going to have to happen in their lives which will cause them to wake up, or that will motivate them to want to wake up, or else they will continue in their apathy and complacency. I believe God will bring a form of divine discipline and correction to his wayward church in order to move her to repentance and renewed faith and commitment to him as her only Lord, i.e. in order to revive and renew her. And, I believe some of this has already begun, and it is only going to get worse in the very near future. The church is seriously under attack, and if any of us have not already been brought to this point of decision, we are going to have to soon decide which side we are on – God’s side, or the side that is doomed to eternal punishment.
If you are reading this, though, and God is convicting your heart of your spiritual apathy and spiritual laziness, I pray you will respond at this moment to the voice of God, that you will repent of (turn from) your sins of complacency, that you will submit your lives at this moment to God’s will for your lives, and that you will choose from now on to follow your Lord in obedience to his calling upon your life. This will mean that you will have to do some self-evaluation before the Lord in prayer, asking him to show you what needs to be eradicated from your life, and that you will have to willingly surrender all to Jesus, and throw off all that hinders and the sins which so easily entangle, so that you can run the race God has marked out for us with perseverance. And, then you must willingly submit to God’s plan and purpose for your life, and be responsive to the voice of his Spirit within you whenever the Spirit speaks conviction to your heart, or leads you in a direction he wants you to go. This means God/Jesus has to be priority number one in your life, and that your desire must now be for him, and that you will daily be in his word seeking God’s face.
A Few People
Although what I have described (above) seems to fit the vast majority of today’s modernized institutional church, it does not represent all who call themselves followers of Christ, or all church congregations. Although I believe we are in the minority, there are individual Christians in this world, and there are church congregations who are truly following Jesus Christ with their lives and ministry. They have not bowed to the world’s system, but have come out from the world of sin and are living separate from the world, not in physical reclusion or isolation, but who are not in fellowship (spiritual union) with this sinful world in life practice, thought and deed. They are unlike (different from) the world, because they are being transformed of the Spirit of God into Christ’s likeness.
These are those who are living lives worthy of the calling they have received from God. Although I don’t believe scripture teaches sinless perfection, and I don’t believe we can live in sinless perfection while we still live in these flesh bodies, I do believe we are called to be holy, set apart from the world, because we are becoming like Jesus. I believe we can, by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the flesh, and in the power and working of the Spirit within us, we can walk (conduct our lives) in Christ’s righteousness. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us. He died that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who walk not after the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Jesus conquered sin so that we could be free from slavery to sin, and so we could become slaves (servants) of righteousness. His grace does not give us free license to continue in sin, but it teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Jesus Christ’s return for his bride.
For those who overcome all this worldliness and spiritual apathy, and who wake up from their slumber, and call upon God out of a pure heart, they, too, will walk with Christ in his holiness, purity and righteousness, and their names God/Jesus will never blot out of the book of life, but Jesus will acknowledge their names before God the Father and the angels.
For some people, what this says here messes with their theology, for they don’t believe anyone’s name could ever be blotted out of the book of life, i.e. that once you are in, you are in for eternity. Yet, many, many scriptures appear to teach just what this says, for they teach that only if you remain in Christ, and you endure to the end, and you continue in Christ and in his Word, and hold firmly to the Word planted in you, and if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and only if you hold firmly to the end the confidence you had at first, do you have the promise of eternal life with God. [See: John 8:31-32; Romans 11:17-24; I Co 15:2; Col 1:21-23; Hebrews 3:6, 14-15; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; I John 2:24-25.]
Scripture teaches us that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue (on a steady course) to walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (according to our sinful flesh), then we are liars. It instructs us that if we conduct our lives according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live. Jesus said that if we hold on to our lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin and self), we will gain eternal life. In other words, eternal life and salvation are not guaranteed to all who just pray a prayer to receive Christ, but who deny Christ, abandon the faith, and keep on living sinful lifestyles, as well as it is not guaranteed to those who do not stay the course, but who switch sides part way through the race. In John 3:16 we read that whoever believes (present tense) has eternal life. We are not saved on the basis of past belief, or a past confession of faith. We must remain in Christ, and in his Word, and we must be overcomers through the faith God gives us.
So, today, if you are just playing church, going through the motions, and are Christian in name only, or if you have fallen back into sin and have become apathetic in relation to God’s calling on your life, I pray you will surrender your all to him today, and that with quickness and eagerness you will not hesitate to follow Jesus fully with your lives.
O Zion, Haste / Mary A. Thompson / James Walch
O Zion, haste, thy mission high fulfilling,
To tell to all the world that God is light,
That he who made all nations is not willing
One soul should perish, lost in shades of night.
Behold how many thousands still are lying
Bound in the darksome prison-house of sin,
With none to tell them of the Savior’s dying,
Or of the life he died for them to win.
‘Tis thine to save from peril of perdition
The souls for whom the Lord his life laid down;
Beware, lest, slothful to fulfill thy mission,
Thou lose one jewel that should deck his crown.
Proclaim to every people, tongue, and nation
That God, in whom they live and move, is love;
Tell how he stooped to save his lost creation,
And died on earth that we might live above.
Give of thine own to bear the message glorious;
Give of thy wealth to speed them on their way;
Pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious;
O Zion, haste to bring the brighter day.
Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace;
Tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.