Dead or Alive?

Thursday, June 22, 2017, 8:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Wake Up!” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Revelation 3:1-6 (ESV).

“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.’

Jesus is speaking here to the church in a specific location, at a particular time in history, but this could apply to the church today, too, and in any location. Yet, this can also apply, at least in part, to us individually, as well. So, as we read this passage of scripture, we should prayerfully consider how this might apply to you and to me, and to our local fellowships of believers in Jesus Christ, or to the church universally across America or the world.

By Reputation Only

The church has a reputation of being alive, but they are dead, or they are mostly dead, it would appear. So, what does alive or dead look like?

Well, if you were to ask a group of Christians in America if they believed their church was alive, and to describe what that looks like, what do you believe they would say? I believe the majority would describe “alive” as having to do with the music being lively and loud, the preacher being funny and entertaining or culturally relevant, church being fun rather than boring, and there being plenty of activities and fun and entertaining events. And, “dead” to them would be a church that was too serious, that was boring and not fun and entertaining, that didn’t blend in with the culture of the day, and that spoke too much on repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ.

Obviously that is not what this passage of scripture is talking about, or it may actually be the reverse of how the majority of Christians in America might describe “alive” and “dead,” with regard to their local fellowships.

In other words, “alive,” in this context, has to do with being spiritually alive, which has very much to do with repentance, obedience, and submission, and with taking God and his word very seriously. Yet, it also has to do with the joy of the Lord, the peace of Christ, and walking in fellowship with Him. As well, being “dead” (or mostly dead) has to do with being spiritually dead, which may mean that they focus too much attention on externals, and on meeting felt needs, and on entertaining the masses, to the exclusion of repentance, obedience and submission to Christ and to his cross. And, to the exclusion of taking God and his word seriously, and applying its truths to their daily lives. Yet, inclusive of worldly attitudes and behaviors, and even encouraging such behaviors by teaching a false grace gospel, which gives its adherents free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse.

Many people who call themselves Christians, or many Christian churches, have the presumption of spirituality (being of the Spirit of God) based on the name Christian or the name church, or because they might be “good deed doers,” but it may be only performance. In other words, they may honor God with their lips, but their hearts may be far from God. Their “spirituality” is in form only, but not in the practice of godly and holy living. They clean up nice on the outside, and they have the appearance of godliness, but they deny its power by their lifestyles. They have bought into a false grace gospel which teaches them that God does not require repentance, obedience or submission, and thus they think they have free rein to continue in willful sin against God and still have the promise of eternal life with God.

Wake Up!

So, the call here is to wake up from your spiritual slumber, and to revive what still has life in you, but which is about to die completely. So, how do we do this? Well, first off, we have to pray, seek God’s face, and ask him to show us what is mostly dead in our lives, and what needs to be brought back to life. We probably already know what that is, if we are paying any attention to our spiritual lives at all, but we may need the Lord to point these things out for us, if we have not been paying attention to how our lives may have slipped away from our pure devotion to Christ, and how we may have become entrapped by the world and by sinful attitudes and behaviors once again. It is possible to become desensitized to evil and to the Spirit’s voice speaking to our hearts, to where we can become complacent and apathetic or lazy about our spiritual walks with Christ, so that we need the Spirit of God to show us where we need to be brought back to life.

When the Spirit of God, thus, points these things out to us, and shows us how we have gotten off track, and where we need to get back on point, then we need to repent of our sins, turn away from them, and turn back to following our Lord in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. We must realize here that “Lord” is not just a title or a name given to Jesus to signify that he is God, but that it means “owner-master.” And, we are his bond-slaves (willing submission). He is the owner of our lives, and he is the one to direct our paths and to guide the course of our lives, not us. We are not on this earth for our own enjoyment and pleasure, but we are here to honor God with our lives, and to do what he has called us to do and to be.

If we choose to keep going our own way, though, doing what we want, and still addicted to sinful behaviors and attitudes, God will use divine discipline in order to judge, correct, rebuke, chastise and scourge us, and in order to get us to turn from our sinful ways, and to get us to come back to him in full submission. And, we don’t know when this will take place. And, we can’t even be certain that we would survive such a judgment. Yet, if we are conquerors through Jesus Christ, who loves us, and we give up our sinful practices, and we follow our Lord in obedience, then we will have our eternal rewards in heaven with God. But, if we refuse to repent, and if we continue to practice sinning, the Bible teaches that we don’t have the assurance of eternal life with God (Jn. 6:35-66; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25; Eph. 5:1-21).

Walk in White

Yet, not every individual, and not every church congregation which professes the name of Jesus is mostly dead and in need of repentance and revival. There are those who believe in Jesus throughout the world who are not soiling their garments, i.e. who are not in the practice of willfully sinning against God and giving in to the sinful desires of their flesh. They walk with Christ in purity (decency, integrity) of heart, mind, attitude and behavior.

They live in unadulterated fellowship with their Lord. They are spiritually alive, and they follow their Lord in obedience. They walk in a manner worthy of the calling they have received from the Lord, “to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light” (See: Col. 1:9-12; cf. Eph. 4:1-3; Phil. 1:27-28; 1 Thess. 2:11-12).

And, this is how we should all live, who profess the name of Jesus. But, if you are among the “mostly dead” spiritually, then you need to turn from your sins today, trust Jesus Christ with your life, and choose to walk from this moment forward in a manner worthy of your calling, in purity of heart, mind, attitude and behavior.

Wake Up! / An Original Work / November 25, 2011

Based off Ephesians 5:1-21; Revelation 3:1-6

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead.
Your God awaits you to do what
He says to you.
Be not conformed to your selfish will.
Trust in the Lord. Do what He says.
He will give you victory.
Do not walk in darkness;
Come into the light of love.

Listen to your Savior calling
You to obey all His teachings.
Repent of your sin, and
Christ will shine His love on you.
He waits patiently for you to
Heed His whispers to your heart.
Will you hasten to obey Him;
Not from Him depart?

Live your life from this day forward,
Walking in His love and mercy.
Let Him cleanse you of all your sins.
Dwell with Him today.
Do not insult God’s grace to you.
Do not make light of your sin.
Let the light of His truth come
And free you from within.

Practicing Holiness

Sunday, June 18, 2017, 3:54 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “God Be with You till We Meet Again.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 4 (Select vv. NASB).

Don’t Be Anxious (vv. 4-7)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

To rejoice means to be “glad for grace” or “to experience God’s grace (favor), be conscious (glad) for His grace” (source: biblehub.com). And, his grace to us is his favor, kindness, and goodness towards us in providing for us the way of salvation (deliverance) from bondage to sin, and for giving us new lives in Christ Jesus, free to now walk in his righteousness and holiness. And, if we are truly glad for his grace, I believe it would mean that we would walk in that grace and not live to gratify the desires of our sinful flesh.

A gentle spirit is forbearing, longsuffering, forgiving, and patient. It patiently endures lasting offense or hardship (M-W). It is also fair, equitable, and reasonable, and it follows the spirit of the law over the letter of the law. The spirit of the law is the true purpose or intent of the law (rule), i.e. what is really at stake (source: biblehub.com). For example, the letter of the law says to not commit adultery, but the spirit of the law says not to even lust after another in our minds and hearts. The letter of the law can be routine, ritual, ceremonial or habitual, and tends to be external only with no real change of heart, mind and attitude. So, if we are to let our gentle spirit be known to all people, it must engage our hearts, it must transform our minds and our actions, and it must be forbearing, forgiving, fair and reasonable.

We are not to be anxious (worried, fearful) about anything. If something is upsetting or disturbing us, we are to take the matter to God in prayer, seek his counsel, pray for wisdom, and rest in his love and in his sovereignty over our lives. And, we are to follow his leading, do what he says, and trust him with the results. Worry never changes anything, except to make matters worse. It is the opposite of faith. When we trust the Lord with our circumstances, and we lean on him in times of need, for him to supply all we need, then his peace will guard our hearts and minds against worry.

Practice These Things (vv. 8-9)

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

I think that one of Satan’s fiercest ploys against us is to get our minds distracted from God, and thinking about (dwelling on) what has no eternal value, what is against God and his Word, what is fleshly, and what is worrisome. He also wants us thinking thoughts that are evil, wicked, sensual, hypocritical, hateful, revengeful, bitter and unforgiving, etc. So, we have to rein in our minds by managing, first off, what we willfully allow into our minds. For instance, in 2008 my husband and I took all our movies we had purchased over the years and we compared the content in them to this passage in Philippians 4, no matter how innocent they may have seemed on the surface. And, we were surprised that the vast majority of them did not stand against this test, and thus we trashed them.

But, this isn’t just about the things we choose to watch, read, listen to, etc. This is also about Satan’s tactics against us in introducing thoughts into our minds to try to get us distracted, off track, worried, troubled over minor things, and to get us to be worldly in our thinking, i.e. focused on what has no eternal value, or on what is clearly sinful. So, we need to pray, and we need to guard our hearts and minds against these things by putting them off and by putting on the spiritual armor God has given us to fight off these evil attacks against us (See: Eph. 6:10-20). And, then we need to put on, in our minds, hearts and attitudes, what is pure, right, honest, honorable and worthy of praise. We need to train our minds to be godly – all in the power, wisdom and strength of God’s Spirit now living within us. Amen!

And, not only do we need to change the way we think and believe, and the attitudes of our hearts, but we need to change how we behave, i.e. we need to submit to our Lord, obey his Word, humble ourselves before him, and do what we know is right. Again, this is all in the power, strength and wisdom of the Lord that we are able to do this. Instead of making a practice of doing what is sinful, we need to practice what the Word of God teaches us we must do. And, practice involves repetition, training, habit, obedience, and regularly and consistently living what we believe and what we know is right. And, we have to be intentional about this, and work at it, by the Spirit of God, or we may easily slip back into some of our former ways.

Be Content (vv. 10-13)

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

God has all of us where we are for a reason, if we are walking in his ways and in his truth. He is completely sovereign over all our circumstances. None of what we are going through has escaped his notice or his concern. So, we need to pray and ask him to show us what he wants to teach us through our trials and difficulties, and then allow him to mature us through them. He is teaching me much through this lesson today. I needed this.

Being content in our circumstances, though, does not mean to be lazy, complacent or unconcerned over things which God would want us to learn, change, and put into practice in our lives, or remove from our lives. We should never be content with living sinful lifestyles or in spiritual mediocrity, in other words. That is not what this means! What this is speaking about is being content with having little materially or with having much. But, it can branch out into other areas, too, yet never to the point of being ok with living however we want, giving into sinful pleasure, and indulging in all kinds of lustful passions and desires, and then claiming God’s grace covers it all.

Being content in our circumstances also does not mean complacency or showing unconcern over those who are lost in their sins, or over professing Christians who are living not much different from the world. Gentleness, as well, does not necessarily equate silence and noninvolvement when we see injustices or abuse or when we see Christians practicing sin. We need to remember this: “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19-20). And, to cover a multitude of sins does not mean to excuse them away or to ignore sinful practices. It means to forgive the sins once committed but now repented of (turned from), and to not punish the offender, but to show him (or her) God’s grace.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. I can, with the strength of the Lord, live righteously, walk in holiness, speak boldly, when needed, yet be gentle, too, and I can live with little or with much, by his grace.

God Be with You till We Meet Again
Jeremiah E. Rankin, William G. Tomer

God be with you till we meet again;
by his counsels guide, uphold you,
with his sheep securely fold you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
neath his wings securely hide you,
daily manna still provide you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
when life’s perils thick confound you,
put his arms unfailing round you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
keep love’s banner floating o’er you,
smite death’s threatening wave before you;
God be with you till we meet again.

Till we meet, till we meet,
till we meet at Jesus’ feet;
till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.