When I look at all of the posts that I have lined up, some in process, others not started yet, I find that I can’t do any of the things that I’d really like to do before I write some other things that God has brought to my mind recently. What I am hearing from the Almighty is that if we don’t come to a good understanding of these things very things, the rest is not going to do us a whole lot of good.
I want to talk with you some more about what it is that God really wants out of us in our daily walk with Him. So far, what has been written on this site about this subject would probably amount to a book of modest length, with a few additions, and of course a whole lot of editing. Yet, there is more to say, and it has everything to do with living a life that honors God in this unique period of time. Before you “tune out”, give it a chance because there may just be something that is vital to your life in this humble script.
John the Baptist was the one that was chosen by Jehovah God to blow a road through the underbrush of phony religiosity of the Scribes and Pharisees. His style was a bit like the process of using dynamite to cut a road through nearly impossible places. John didn’t win any awards for the most likely to succeed, neither did he make himself popular with many of that day, other than those considered belonging to the lower class. The common people loved him because he dared to tell it like it was, and in this case, he said many things that exposed the religious system of the day for what it was, and the men that made the most religious “noise”. The religious leaders did a good job in showing that they were as phony as the day is long.
With at least the same measurement, if not more, that the people loved the Baptist, the religious leadership hated him. As much as they despised him though, they dared not touch him because they feared an uprising of the people which could effectively toss them on their ornately long tasseled derriere’s. It was nothing less than a real “stick in the eye”, to the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees that this wild-haired, unkempt bearded, half-clad prophet who ate little more than wild honey and big juicy live grasshoppers, got way more attention and favor from the very people that they were used to having as their subjects, than they themselves did! They hated him, and despised the people for their preference of someone who in their eyes was so fearless and uncouth, nor fell all over himself to honor them as the great leaders they thought they were.
But John was not only hated by the religious establishment. He was also hated by King Herod. King Herod’s dislike of this prophet however didn’t hold a candle to King Herod’s wife. The hatred for John by the King’s household is not something that I want to get into in this post.
In the four gospels of the New Testament an account is given of Jesus going into the Temple and raising a ruckus with the money changers and those that had their sacrificial animals displayed for the people to purchase for Passover. Many people believe that this only happened once, but I believe it happened once earlier in Jesus’ 3 ½ years ministry, and one not long before He was crucified. There are some details that seem to indicate a difference between the events. Some even believe that it happened three times, but I’m not so sure.
There is something about these events worth taking another look at. In order to develop the thoughts I’m after, I’d like to bring another passage of Scripture to the table as well. As most of us know, Jesus was the Speaker in the Book of Revelation (or Apocalypse), chapters two and three. He was speaking to, and describing the conditions of seven specific churches. All of these seven churches existed in the first century. It turns out that they also specifically coincide with the detailed description of a specific church, depending on the years of history. In other words, Gentile church history appears to be divided into seven sections, each one belonging to one of these seven churches. What is even more interesting is the fact that each one of them is not only in a specific order in the Bible, but the same order is reflected by the characteristics of each of these churches, chronologically. That in itself is a mind-blower. Another thing about these descriptions is this: All of the good things listed about each, as well as the problem areas are meant to be read and understood so that each individual Christian can adjust their own life accordingly.
In this post, I’d like to take one of these churches and its description in order to tie it together with Jesus’ actions when He drove the money-changers out of the Temple, and also to apply it to our lives today.
In Revelation 3: 1-6 it says this to the Church of Sardis in the NIV translation of the Scriptures: “…I know your deeds, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard. Obey it and REPENT! But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet, you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Ancient Sardis was the capitol of Lydia, located in the western area of modern-day Turkey. The city was known to be very wealthy, with gold being minted in Sardis. King Croesus of Sardis was well known because of his own great personal wealth. This city was nearly impregnable, with sheer walls on three sides. Any enemy that dared to attack would have to do it from the front where everyone could see what was happening.
History tells us that Sardis was probably the first of the major gentile cities to be reached with the Gospel of Salvation that Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross for. It also appears to be the first of the major cities to have their belief in this eternal Gospel slip away from them, and also to suffer the ultimate collapse due to military conquest. The Persians sacked Sardis in about the 7th century AD. Tradition says that a soldier found a crevice in the sheer rock face that protected three sides of Sardis. He then led a whole band of soldiers to the summit and took the city by surprise. 300 years later, the city as taken again, while they were “napping”, this time by Antiochus.
What is interesting about Sardis is this: Chronologically, this “church” was the one that experienced the escape via the Reformation led by Martin Luther. That gives one a bit of insight why Jesus said the specific things that He did when He spoke prophetically to this church—especially the people of this time. Yet, look at what Jesus’ estimation of the condition of this church as a whole was! Look at the list:
- Reputation of being alive, but are really DEAD
- They were asleep
- The little left of any value was about to die
- Deeds not found complete in God’s sight
- Lack of true walk with God, and had forgotten how to Repent
- Only a few left who had not soiled their white clothes
- Were in danger of being caught off guard by Jesus’ coming as a “thief”
If a guest speaker were to preach this kind of message in most churches of America today, they would not be received well at all. They would be accused of limiting God’s grace and the freedom it provides. What is interesting is this: Most of the true churches in the world see would see this as a true message from the Spirit of God—except here.
We have been coddled to the point that we cannot handle a real message from God anymore. We have become accustomed to a “feel-good” gospel. We are so worried about our self-esteem that we purposely turn a message like this off. In fact, we purposely avoid a number of Scripture passages because of the requirements in them that God had penned for our growth. We turn our noses up at anything that has a negative sound to it.
I suspect that many people that attend church regularly today would either walk out of Jesus’ sermon if He happened to show up, or we would turn our ears off so that we do not hear what He would have to say! Pretty sad…
Our ritualistic going through the motions benefit us nothing! Getting back to church isn’t even the answer! I don’t advocate staying out of church, but there are more people truly serving God at home than there are those who truly walk with God, and also go to church.
Now, there are those that will use the previous statement as an excuse to stay out of church fellowship. That’s a mistake, and God is quite aware of what a person’s true heart condition is. There’s no fooling Him!
Sardis was the perfect model of inoffensive Christianity. They became quite “seeker-friendly”. As a result, they also died in their walk with God. Here’s something that is offensive to many Christians: God requires us to maintain our walk with Him! We don’t dare slack off. In fact, we need to be pursuing Him, just as Jacob pursued God when he feared for his life from Esau his brother, whom he had cheated twice. God did meet him, but do you notice that Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord all night long before he got what he was after?? We quit after five or ten minutes, at best!
Here’s what Jesus told the Christians with torn and soiled garments of Sardis to do:
- Be watchful
- Strengthen what remains before it dies
- Remember what you’ve had and is slipping away
- Hold fast to what is right, and don’t compromise with the world around
- Repent and Return!
Our sophisticated society is offended by words like “sin”, “hell”, “repent”, etc. Even the ecclesiastical leaders avoid such lowly terms and concepts! But, until we will humble ourselves to the point that we will decide to let God show us the picture as it really is, we are doomed! Many complain that they get tired of hearing of “gloom & doom”, and they are usually speaking of the information that is being made available about the condition of today’s world and the catastrophic future ahead, but the REAL “doom and gloom” is the arrogant rejection of the only source of honest truth, and the solution to man’s real problem—Jesus, and His plan of Salvation that requires the bended knee before the KING of KINGS. Without accepting God’s plan, mankind will find themselves on the wrong side of things and scream out for the rocks and mountains to fall on top of them to hide them from the face of the ONE that sits on the Throne! (Revelation 6:15-17)
The church of Sardis became just like the Pharisees. Jesus described them as “beautifully adorned corpses in the funeral parlor.” I have no idea who all is reading this post, but I have never felt more concerned with the condition of the majority of the American Christian Church. Our walk with God that American Christians used to have has rotted away and hardly has any substance at all. We HAD a name, and even though most think they are “alive” in Christ, it has become a pretense and is no more than hypocrisy! We are allowing ourselves to be robbed by the “hater of our souls”! One problem is this: We think that we are so secure that nothing can get in between us and our God! That is absolutely true—except for one thing. We can let our relationship rot, allow ourselves to be robbed, without knowing it, set our own “gods” in place that take the #1 position of our life’s priority list. Why do you think there are so many warnings about seeing to it that we live up to the calling that we have been called to? The Scriptures even see that one’s name can be blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life! I don’t want to get into an argument about Eternal Security at this point; just think through the ramifications of being fool enough to remove God from the top of your priority list! This earthly life is very, very short. Eternity NEVER ends!!!
At this point, I’d like to briefly bring into play the incident in the Temple, in my humble opinion, the first time He did what He did. Jesus saw the prideful sanctimonious actions of the religious leadership. He saw into their heart of hearts and saw that they were as phony as cardboard. The Temple, which Jesus quickly informed them was a place that God considered Holy. It had however turned into a den of thieves. People came in from all over the land and because they needed an acceptable sacrifice, were conveniently presented with an array of sacrifices to choose from. The prices were vastly inflated, and there was nothing spiritual left of what was going on. The excuse could very well be used, that this is what it took for all of the people to be able to “obey God”. No explanation of course was given to explain the rip-offs of the people!
What had originally been designed by God as a place and means to meet with God and have the guilt of the people covered, became a huge financial enterprise. Everyone was sure to get a cut of the profits. The Temple was now a loud, violent, and smelly place. The poor spent what little they had left to buy food with and lined the pockets of the rip-off artists. The priesthood of course also made a fortune with their obscene percentage. None ever commented about this, but Jesus saw through it and it angered Him probably more than anything else in His 3 ½ years of earthly ministry.
So, here we are! How different is that than what we see today? Amazing how similar it is. Ministry after ministry has missed the mark completely with their financially profitable ambitions. The greatest of the leaders live in opulent luxury comparable to executives of large corporations! I’m not saying that a poor person is more holy than a wealthy one, but the twisted “prosperity gospel” has become the Golden Calf of our time. The love of money has brought many to the point of bowing at the feet of this “god”. And you know what? God is furious!! God loves us beyond our capacity to understand, but He will not compete with anyone or anything for your love or mine! This is why Jesus went in and in a controlled fury, drove them all out!
How about you? How about me? We don’t dare misunderstand what our walk with God is all about and how He meant it to be lived. WE ARE AMBASSADORS OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN! How does your “ambassadorship” look? Maybe you’ve walked away from where you once were. Maybe you have never really humbled yourself before your Creator to clear things between He and you…
Please, settle your account with God this moment. Do any of us have a guarantee that we will live through the day? No. We all have a set time of departure—whether we are ready or not.
Folks, I’ve been saying for a long time now that God loves this nation so much that He is going to shock it like it has never experienced before. It is not to save the nation anymore, but to bring as many as possible to the recognition that time has run out. This year, 2011, will be traumatic in many ways for America—and the rest of the world. Right now, it is us that God has given a great burden and concern for. This is the only reason I write what I do, because it certainly does not make me popular! I know most see me as a “loose cannon”. I’m not going to worry about that. God told Jeremiah that he had better speak what God told him to speak or he (Jeremiah) would be held responsible for the blood of those that he was too timid to speak the truth to.
Not me, and not on my watch…
Keep Looking Up!! He’s COMING…SOOOOOOOOON…”Choose you this day whom you are going to serve…” (Deuteronomy 30: 19)
To Be Continued to Part 3