Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sermon--Church by Reputation Only--Revelation 3:1-6

In all honesty, you may get more out of this message by listening to it here than just be reading it.

The Sun is about 93 million miles from the earth. If the sun were to blow up right now, we would know it in about 8 minutes. The star nearest to the Sun is Proxima Centauri. Astronomers measure the distance between stars in units called light-years. A light-year equals 5.88 million million miles (9.46 million million kilometers). This is the distance light travels in one year at a speed of 186,282 miles per second. Proxima Centauri is 4.3 light-years from the Sun. It is a dim red star in the constellation of Centaurus that lies at a distance of over 40 million million kilometers, some 270,000 times greater than the distance between the earth and the sun.

If it blew up right now, we would not know it for 4.3 years. The North Star is about 30 light years away. If the North Star blew up right now—we would not know it for 30 years. From our perspective, it would continue shining, continue pointing the way with all the appearances of life.

I believe much can be said for many churches in our country today. They have been dying for many years, some died many years ago, just nobody knew it yet.

Sardis was a capitol city of Ania minor—it was wealthy economically, it important militarily, and it was a ruling city over the region had to come and pay honor to the gods. It was a place of the upper crust, the politicians worried about maintaining the good name they’ve established to get elected.

Sardis was also famous for its impressive necropolis, or cemetery, of "a thousand hills" (modern Bin Tepe), so named because of the hundreds of burial mounds visible on the skyline some seven miles from Sardis.

1. Jesus walks among us and is not impressed with our Reputation

a. This church had a reputation—maybe outside of town in the larger Christian community, maybe even a good reputation in town. They were a nice, friendly church. City councilmen maybe went there, school board members went there. Respected members of society. They had the reputation of being alive. They had all the Signs of Life—meeting together, singing loudly, bible studies, community awareness.

b. But the signs of life were a bit less convincing upon the close examination of Jesus. It’s much like my first trip to Disneyland and riding on the “It’s a Small World”—all the little creatures move their arms, legs, mouths, all coordinated to music and to each other. In a kid’s mind—because it moves, it must be real. But it’s not—the Animatronics give the appearance of life, not the reality of it.

c. This church appeared to be alive, but in reality it was dead—how would you like to be know as a Christian or a Church by Reputation Only? This church is Almost like they were pulling themselves off of Dr. Frankenstein’s experimental table—something lurching along when in reality it’s dead.

e. Dead also means destitute of force or power, inactive, inoperative. A dead church has no power—sees no power—sees little move of God’s Spirit.
A good reputation is great, but if not backed up by a genuine heart, reputation is not that valuable.

g. Let me give you an example of a Reputation that is not valuable or accurate. I’ve read ones like it several times in the newspapaers.Testimony of a Serial Killer’s Neighbor—“But he was always such a nice, quiet, helpful neighbor.” “I would never believe or suspect them capable of something like this!” "I think we realized all along, at least in our judgment back in the 1970s and 1980s, that this person was part of our community and he was able to function among us," said Richard Lamunyan, former police chief in Wichita.

h. "That was one of the difficulties we were having in actually bringing him to light so we could figure out who he was. He would be, obviously, someone's neighbor. He would be shopping at the grocery stores just like everyone else. He would belong to clubs. He would have a job."

i. Reputation can fool you and me—the only opinion that truly matters is our Savior who is walking among us.

j. What does an alive church look like? The Church—the Lampstand—is supposed to be filled with the Spirit of God—“give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning” It is supposed to be a Light—that cannot be hidden—Romans 5:8—“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord—live as children of light.”. An alive church is one that is shining in the darkness, that is burning bright—not with stage lights, but the Presence and Power of God—exposing evil, dispelling darkness, rescuing people—everything exposed by the light becomes visible.—Ephesians 5:13

k. What does a dead church look like? If you’ve ever seen an oil lamp running out of oil? The flame weakens, it flickers more, it puts out more smoke because the wick is burning instead of the oil—

Jeff Lee

· Plenty of beautiful, unused space

· Declining or steady number of baptism, attendance, and giving

· Worship services are proper but "blah"

· Little excitement for outreach or mission to save the lost

· Sins of the saints tolerated

· Few new and young families

· Church work is perceived as what takes place inside the church building only

· Prevailing sense of complacency

· Chronic shortage of leaders

· Leaders and members function out of a sense of duty, rather out of joy and vision

· Witness and outreach effort are done mainly by the pastors

· A high percentage of inactive members

a. At one associational meeting, a man was heard to say, “Brother Moderator, we didn’t baptize anybody this year. We didn’t have many new members and we didn’t take in very much money, but Praise God, none of the other churches around us did anything either!”

2. What does a fake church look like? Sometimes it is very hard for you and me to tell. It’s not going to be a matter of activity, it’s not going to be a matter of popularity & reputation—a crowd does not guarantee the church is alive, a small crowd does not guarantee the church is dead.

a. Let me say that Jesus knows exactly what one looks like.

b. We can never confuse activity with the power of God, activity is not a sign of the Presence and Power of God—a Good Reputation is not the be all end all

c. Practically every church, at one time in its history, was alive and vibrant, but when that church becomes too focused inward, they lose that vibrancy

Churches die when their focus turns so inward upon their own, upon Maintenance more than Ministry-- that they forget that there are people around them who are dying, who are spiritually dead, who are separated from God and can do nothing about it on their own, who are destined for eternal separation from God in hell because we are unwilling to reach them.

3. Jesus walks Among His Churches with An Alarm Clock

a. Wake UP

b. Stop sleeping and living off your reputation—stop taking it easy, stop denying that there is a problem, stop pretending everything is fine— stop cruising toward retirement

c. Jesus has a song for a church that has died—“Up from the Grave He Arose”--Wake up to the fact that you are spiritually dead—wake up to the fact that your vibrancy for God has gone, wake dup to the fact that you are in a dangerous position.


ii. Don’t go through the motions
Ephesians 5:13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
"Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
EPH 5:15 Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.”

iii. Understand what we’re supposed to be doing—being the Light!

d. Strengthen what remains

i. Stabilize—to make firm, Reanimate

ii. Get the blood pumping again

iii. Perform CPR on the heart of the church

iv. Break out the zapper

v. Perform quintuple bypass if necessary

e. Works Not Complete—Not Accepted by Reputation

i. Since the light exposes everything—the One who is the Light is walking among them and Exposing their deeds.

ii. There was much left undone

iii. There was much not done well

iv. There were many things being done that were not fulfilling the Mission

v. There was much to be disappointed with

vi. It’s like turning in a great and well written paper to the wrong teacher, the wrong class, the wrong assignment.

vii. Some people go to college as the top of their class in high school—and they live on that reputation—as a smart student—so they coast a bit--until you see their work, until they get that first test back and actually do the work—you realize, maybe they are not the student you thought they were going to be.

viii. It’s like the church has turned in a dissertation that was really only a rough draft that still has glaring omissions, didn’t have any works cited, or the name wasn’t even put on it.

f. Our deeds are known and exposed—our life and vibrancy will be examined—and if we are not complete, if we have been weighed, measured and found wanting—Jesus will tell us and He will hold us accountable

g. 1 Corinthians 3:11-12—“ For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

h. God looks at the life of the church and assesses its contribution to the Kingdom of God

i. God knows the community we live in—he knows the spiritual apathy, the indifference that exists here in Macomb

ii. Knows there are plenty of opportunities for defilement

iii. knows the culture and the mindset of the people

iv. sure, it’s hard to get people interested, sure it’s hard to get people committed

v. sure they may ridicule, persecute

vi. sure there’s so many other options and choices to take people’s attention

vii. God knows all that and they are not excuses for our lack of spiritual vitality. He also knows that the same attitudes have infected the church. Their apathy indifference does not excuse our apathy and indifference. This is a letter to the church—it is not a rant about them—“my goodness if only they would do this… if only they would quit that…”

viii. Attempt Great things for God—Expect Great things From God.

ix. our lack of fervor or passion manifests itself in not even attempting great things for God—because we don’t really believe He will do great things among us.

x. Has it been so long since God did something great in the life of this church that we have stopped expecting it? Stopped even looking forward to it, but resigned to the sad reality that “it’s always going to be this way—nothing’s ever going to change”

xi. WAKE UP—That is not the kind of church our Savior has called us to be that is a dead and dying church and we are called to be Alive. WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!

4. Jesus walks among us and knows whether we respond to His correction—vs. 3

a. When your alarm clock went off this morning—what did you do? Did you get up right away? How many of you hit the snooze button? One of the most evil and destructive inventions in history.

b. If we’re alert, we’ll remember what we have received—the Grace of God poured out on our Sinful existence

c. We will remember the Great Commission we have been given that is supposed to guide our church to reach people trapped in darkness

d. We Must OBEY that above all else. We will repent

e. But it is so easy to ignore that alarm clock—it is so easy to turn over and go right back to sleep.

f. If we’re not alert, He will come against us—even his unfaithful bride—like a thief—we won’t know the time, our deeds will be fully exposed, our lampstand can and will be removed. There comes a point—if we keep trying to hit the snooze button with Jesus—He will no longer try to wake us up.

g. When the oil reservoir leaks, when it is cracked and no longer powered by the oil—sure, you can try to repair it, but in many cases, it’s easier just to get a new lamp, than it is to try and fix a broken one. You need to know—the same can be said of churches. In many instances it is easier to plant a whole new church that doesn’t have the baggage than it is to revive a dying one.

h. Jesus walks among us and Knows whether we have responded to His correction—He knows whether we have woken up or whether we are still asleep.

5. Jesus walks among us and knows who are faithful—vs. 4

a. This is the hope and promise of the Remnant—there are those who are awake, even among those who are asleep.

b. They have not been defiled—especially in a Jewish culture—contact with something dead—made them unclean, made them incapable of participating in the worship at the Temple.

c. Not all descendants of Abraham/Israel are Israel

d. Not all sitting here in this building are genuine in their walk—are undefiled—polluted, contaminated

e. He knows the remnant, the faithful—the living, those whose works are complete

f. Do you remember when God told Gideon to gather an army and about 32,000 turned up? God said, “No, that’s too many for what I want to do.” Eventually, God took that number down to 300 men.

Those 300 men were much like God’s remnant—and God did more with those 300 committed men, than He could do with 31,700 mildly committed people.

g. They are worthy—not because they have earned it, but b/c they have put on the white robe given to them by X—

i. This is more than a black tie affair

ii. Rev. 7:9-- After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

iii. 7:14—made white in the Blood of the Lamb

iv. Invitees to the wedding banquet—Jesus provides the clothes—Rev. 19:8-- Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."

v. REV 16:15 "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."

h. Vs. 4—walk with me—“and He walks with me and He talks with me”—Jesus wants us to walk with him—there is nothing better—it will be just like it was back in the Garden

i. Coming to the Garden in cool of the day—a leisurely, pleasant stroll that is desired above all else

j. Vs. 5—Victors, dressed in white, their name never erased (never forgotten, never blotted out, never stricken from the record, never annulled), Acknowledged before God—special guest of honor

6. Jesus knows what kind of church we are today—He knows whether we are alive or whether we are living by reputation only. He knows whether you are sitting there right now angry at the possibility and suggestion we may be dying—still asleep in other words—or whether you are awake.

7. Jesus also knows whether you are a believer in reputation only—He knows whether you have put on the mask of Christianity

8. Is our light shining across the galaxy? Is your light shining across the galaxy?

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