Jesus At The Center Of The Church
Urgency • Message 5
September 10, 2023
A. Introduction (Revelation 3:1)
The gift of urgency…
I was thinking about some of the conversations I have had with people recently…
Someone was talking about how they went through a bad divorce and how it became a wake-up call for them in their life. It forced them to draw closer to God than ever before. There is a new sense of urgency.
I was thinking about a conversation with someone who’s been in the church his whole life and tears filled his eyes as he said, I know I’m not where God wants me to be. And there is a new sense of urgency.
I was thinking about a conversation with a person who talked about how they were an alcoholic for a good portion of their life until God set them free… and they’ve got a new sense of urgency.
Now, I’m not trying to stir this up because I think you Clemson and Gamecocks fans are a bit cultish anyway… but I saw an article that talked about how bad one state’s football was… that 10 out of its 15 teams lost in week 1…
But do you think the coaches sat with the players and said…
A+ for effort
Don’t beat yourself up. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
There are more important things in life than just football…
You know what I can assure you was said? It’s time to wake up. You better pull it together. I can assure you there was a sense of urgency.
The church we are looking at today is given the gift of the wake-up call. A sense of urgency to take Jesus seriously and put Him at the center of their lives.
Revelation 3:1a (NLT):
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the One Who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars:”
Remember the word 7 in the Bible means completeness or whole… so it’s saying Jesus holds the fullness of the Spirit of God and the fullness of the church.
Background on Sardis
It was an important city… to paths to the city and upper level and lower level…
a wealthy city, situated at the junction of several important roads and trade routes.
The first coinage ever to be minted in Asia Minor was minted in Sardis. Sardis was the place where modern money was born.
The combination of easy money and a loose moral environment made the people of Sardis notoriously soft and pleasure-loving.
The city was on a mountain and well-suited for defense. And people thought it was unconquerable.
It was said a soldier defending Sardis dropped his helmet down the cliff walls. An opposing army watched as the soldier climbed down a hidden trail to recover his helmet. They marked the location of the trail and led a detachment of troops up it that night. They easily climbed the cliffs, came to the actual city walls, and found them unguarded. It was said, they went through a hole in the wall that was so small a child could guard it… but they were so arrogant they didn’t even guard it… The soldiers of Sardis were so confident in the natural defenses of their city that they felt no need to keep a diligent watch, so the city was easily conquered.
Winston Churchill said to Britain in the early days of World War II:
I must drop one word of caution; for, next to cowardice and treachery, overconfidence leading to neglect and slothfulness, is the worst of martial crimes.
Sardis had twice before fallen because of overconfidence and failure to watch.
B. Commends… (Revelation 3:4-5)
This is one of the passages where Jesus really doesn’t commend anything… the closest He does commend is in verses 4 and 5.
Revelation 3:4-5 (NLT):
“Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are Mine.”
It’s like if you ask for some feedback on your presentation or what you shared, and someone goes, it wasn’t that bad… not really a compliment… and you never know what to do with those comments… (not going to come to you when my life is falling apart)
Notice the white clothes. In ancient Roman culture, white was the color used for triumph, that’s why it says all who are victorious will be clothed in white.
Notice the motivation to change is rewards, not punishment… notice verse 3 says they will walk with me… what God was giving the victorious a deeper life and power in the Spirit.
Most of the time we try to motivate people to change with the negative… I’ll give an example. Shame isn’t a good motivator.
For years, I struggled with a pornography issue, and for years the way people motivated me was that if I didn’t overcome this it would destroy my marriage, my ministry, or my future… However, do you know what transformed this sin pattern… It was the idea that it was robbing me of the deeper life in Jesus. That when we forsake sin we are rewarded with a deeper more fulfilling walk with Jesus. Remember it’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance.
Revelation 3:2b (NIV)
… for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of My God.
I love this verse. The church was settling for less than what God had for them… Don’t settle, wake up!
Revelation 3:5 (NIV)
The One Who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge that name before My Father and His angels.
Now in ancient cultures, there was a book of the living, and if you died or were a criminal, you were taken off the books. Jesus is saying that for followers of His, their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Now, there are 5 times in the Bible where it refers to names being blotted out. This is important it’s not that God is sitting there with an eraser going who can I catch…
But the truth is there are some in churches who think they are right with God, they are active, but they are dead. They have no desire to change their life. To respond to the Spirit… Jesus goes, wake up… Wake up… and put Jesus at the center of your life.
Revelation 3:1b-3 (NLT)
“I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of My God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to Me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.”
1. Lack of urgency. (Revelation 3:1-3)
Notice twice they are told to wake up… wake up and strengthen what remains before it dies…
It’s important to note it wasn’t wicked or evil deeds that were taking them out. It was complacency. They weren’t alert and they had no sense of urgency in following the Lord and seeking after Him…
As a result, their hearts had grown cold… Remember Sardis was overtaken by military conflict. It was overtaken by neglect… it was by complacency.
Think about it, the Bible compares the Christian life to a race, battle, farmers tilling up the land…
If someone is in a race, if someone is in war, if someone is tilling up ground because their future depends on it, do you know what all these have in common… Urgency…
Jesus tells us to live with a sense of urgency. TO WAKE UP…. To be alert. And put Jesus at the center…
God has a call on Brookwood and your life… Let’s not settle for anything less. We must wake up to the gift of urgency… We will go after all that God has on this church…
Whatever I can dream up for this church, whatever you can dream up for this church… is just too small… but we must have a sense of urgency to put Jesus in the center.
2. Surrounded by transformation.
Just because we are around something doesn’t necessarily mean we are being transformed by it.
And do you know one of the things I’ve noticed about being in the south… I was in Chicago for 11 years and I feel like I’m back in the promised land… I laughed because when I was in Chicago I never went into a Starbucks and saw someone reading a spiritual book and when I got to South Carolina and Texas, when I walked in it seemed like every other person had a Beth Moore book out… A lot of people grow up around the church…
Listen, I think there is something good about being in Southern culture. I think there is something great about being surrounded by church. We need each other and sharpen each other…
But just because we are surrounded by something doesn’t necessarily mean we are being transformed by it.
Listen, I hang out with a lot of people who eat healthily and work out… imagine me sitting at the doctor and he said, hey your blood pressure is up, cholesterol up and you’ve gained some weight… and I looked at him, and say, I don’t get it. Well, I hang out with healthy people, people who work out…
Just because you are surrounded by something doesn’t mean you are transformed by it…
Listen you are surrounded by the Holy Spirit. You are surrounded by people who have their lives transformed by Him, who respond to Him in worship, who have been stirred and then decided to wake up… But have you completely surrendered to the Spirit? I’m not asking do you love God or do you feel stirred up… I’m asking has your life been transformed by the Spirit and is being transformed by Him.
The church of Sardis was surrounded by God, but many weren’t transformed…
The church of Sardis was at peace—but it was the peace of the dead. This indicates no struggle, no fight, no persecution… See, I think if you have no resistance or no spiritual warfare, it’s because your faith is no threat to the enemy… he has already lulled you to sleep.
So how does a church, how do people get like this? Think about maybe you once were on fire and now you find yourself in a dry spot… did you ever slow down and think how did this happen?
3. Spiritual drowsiness. (Joshua 24:14-15; Luke 15:11-32)
I believe that probably the greatest threat to our spirituality isn’t a moral failure but spiritual drowsiness.
It’s the slow fade/burn.
CS Lewis says…
Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
The greatest threats are the home and car, future jobs we keep chasing after.
The shopping that cures our boredom.
Obsession with our current hobbies.
Another weekend full of fun plans.
Because the natural pull of the world is a powerful sedative that lulls us to sleep to the invitation of God.
Because the comfort of modern life allows us to believe in God without ever really needing Him.
One thing you must stop saying to your faith is the phrase one day…
One day, I’ll let go of this bitterness. One day, I’ll take God more seriously. One day, I’ll make church a priority. One day, I’ll be bolder in my faith. One day, I will deal with this sin issue...
Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT)
“So fear the Lord and serve Him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
Do you love Jesus a little more this year than you did last year… if not, stop saying one day…
If you are in a great spot with Jesus… you didn’t get there overnight and if you are in a dry spot, you aren’t going back overnight… you have to take steps of faithfulness.
CLOSE … there is one word I want to close with… one word… Return…
I had a dream where someone was being unfaithful…and I noticed how much this one person in the dream was trying to win this person back but the bride was sort of indifferent… and they were talking about meeting up… and right before they met, I woke up… Does that ever happen to you… I tried to fall back asleep because I wanted to finish my dream.
Then I felt like God whispered, put this thought in my mind, The church is My bride, I’m jealous for her, return to Me.
The church is My bride… Do you know how loved you are? The parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep… in my dream, I was somewhat amazed at how faithful and determined this person was… but do you know how determined God is to bring us back to him… He speaks about 3 times in Luke 15 with a lost coin, lost sheep, and a lost son…
Jealous for her… Do you know how forgiven you are? God wants our devotion. But He always welcomes us home… In Luke 15, the prodigal son runs off.
Return to Me. How available are you? Do you slot Jesus in or do you build your life around Him…?
Put down for 1 week your Activities, Hobbies, Phone… and spend that time just with Jesus and watch what your faith does when you put Jesus at the center.