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Devotional - The Berean Call To The Sardis Church

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Oct 16, 2013.

  1. And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. - Acts 17: 11 (NLT)

    “Write this letter to the angelof the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spiritof God and the seven stars:“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. - Revelation 3: 1-3 (NLT)

    The poor state of the church is nothing new. The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John begins with seven letters to seven major churches of that time and in the vast majority of them - Jesus is less than pleased. I can only imagine what He thinks now when He surveys the church landscape in these last days. Seeing hucksters bilking the poor out of their money in His Name. Seeing new age, motivational philosophy and self help replace the solid Biblical theology He has left us. Seeing seeker friendly, purpose driven, man centered teachings supplant the Word of God. Seeing salvation without repentance, salvation without regeneration, and salvation reduced down to a Mickey Mouse three sentence prayer. Hallelujah - pass the offering plate and plug em into ministry!

    To have to endure while preachers in thousand dollar suits sell earthly prosperity to people without enough food to feed their families. To have to endure while so called Christian leaders live lives in direct opposition to Biblical principles. To see service times cut down to the point that the church operates under a fast food mentality. You can always have it your way! Special orders don't upset us! Here is your happy meal of theology today - God loves you and has a great plan for your life and if anyone tells you any different they are just a legalistic Pharisee spreading disunity! After all this is about your best life now and there are seven steps to a better you and five keys to living an extraordinary life! If you ever don't like what God has to say, just draw a circle in the sand, cross your arms and demand God answers your prayers in the affirmative. This is after all about us - not Him!

    To have to watch as worship erodes into a man centered - how can you bless me today - fleshly mess of entertainment. How we have gone from Amazing Grace to How Amazing God thinks I am? To see Pastors who treat their professions like they are rock stars. Who operate without belief in the Holy Spirit. Who tend only to the sheep that drink their Kool-Aid and leave the sheep pen door open so the others can leave. Who think they are responsible for the growth of the church and not God. Who are more interested in the horizonal growth of a church than the vertical growth of the people God has entrusted to them. Who use carnal metrics to measure their success, rely on worldly experts to develop their leadership skills, and with a nod and a wink allow more and more leaven into the Body of Christ until unbelievers can no longer tell the difference between the church and the world.

    There are correlations between the churches in Revelation and the church today for us to consider. In the key verses today we see Jesus writing to the Church at Sardis. In the ancient world, Sardis was one of the largest cities with bustling commerce and plenty of trade. So this was not some small back-woods country church Jesus was writing to. This was the mega-church of today. This very well could be the church you find yourself in today. We need to drop our propensity to church-worship and really listen to what God has to say because the building we stand in every Sunday does not make us any more or less righteous. The first charge Jesus has against the church is that they cannot see who they really are. This is vitally important for the church today as well. Jesus makes no bones about it - you are dead. The problem however is not just that the church is dead it is that their reputation was that of a church vitally alive! But Jesus knows all the things we do. He sees all the things we do in His name. The facades we put in place to cover up the fact that spiritually we are dead. The great show we put on. The solemn religious festivals we hold. Publicly calling for a fast. Making a lengthy show of prayer. Pretending to heal people when we are completely devoid of the power of the Spirit of God. The Bible gives us an example to consider:

    A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered. - Acts 19: 13-16 (NLT)

    These seven sons had a father who was a leading priest. They knew all about religion. They knew all about the show. I am sure they dressed the part. I am sure they sounded the part and knew all the pious sounding things to say. But underneath the pomp and circumstance they were just seven people in way over their head, calling on a God they were not even in relationship with. As it was, so it goes. But preacher - that church has 45,000 people attending every week!

    “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. - Matthew 7: 13-14 (NIV)

    The broad road is broad for a reason beloved. Because that's where most of the people are unfortunately. The Bible teaches us that in the end days people will not want to hear sound doctrine and they will seek out and gather around themselves teachers who will tell them what their itching ears want to hear - even myths. It is a myth that babbling incoherently brings any glory to God. It is a myth that in order to have a Spiritual experience you need to be knocked down and roll around on the ground. The prosperity gospel is a myth. The hyper-grace gospel is a myth. The word faith, name it and claim it, blab it and grab it gospel is a myth. The seeker friendly purpose driven gospel is a myth. These are all myths designed to make us feel alive when we really are quite dead. We sing and dance and put on mighty plays but there is no real move of the Holy Spirit. In our pursuit of being relevant to the culture that is dying - we are no longer relevant to the God that can save them.

    Jesus then implores the church to wake up, go back to what you heard and believed at first, hold onto it firmly, repent, and turn to Him again. These are four imperatives all of which reveal the state of the current church. The first revelation is that if Jesus is telling us to wake up then by definition we are asleep! We have been lulled to sleep by the name of Jesus. What do you mean preacher? The modern church is convinced that merely saying the name of Jesus makes something holy. But remember at the last day we will learn otherwise:

    “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ - Matthew 7: 21-23 (NLT)

    It is not enough to say Lord Lord - we must actually be doing what He has instructed us to in His Word. We must not be found to be breaking God's laws! Casting out demons in His name? Ask the Seven Sons of Sceva how that worked out for them! We must stop convincing ourselves that our acts of religiosity are righteousness. That building our congregation or expanding our individual Towers of Babel means we have added to the kingdom of God. We need to stop sleepwalking through our salvation.

    Secondly, if we need to go back to what we heard and believed at first then by inference we have indeed left sound teaching. Somewhere along the line the church became more important than the kingdom. The vast majority of churches today operate under the purpose driven model which turns the unsaved into the unchurched and seeks to horizontally build individual churches. We need to put down the impure doctrine that tickles our ears and return to the only Gospel that has the power to save.

    I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! - Galatians 1: 6-9 (NLT)

    The prosperity gospel is no gospel at all! The hyper grace gospel is no gospel at all! God did not ask for purpose driven sheep! We follow too many perversions of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and God is calling us back to what we first believed. The Gospel that truly saved us. Only there is the power of God.

    Thirdly, we must hold onto it firmly. God is aware that there will be many slick doctrines and false teachings to pull us away from the one true God. We cannot just know what we know - we must hold onto it firmly. The Apostle Paul warns Timothy to guard only two things closely - his life and his doctrine. Despite the attempts of people like Joel Osteen to turn doctrine into a dirty word, it remains the life blood of a believing Christian. It is what matures us beloved.

    Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. - Ephesians 4: 14 (NLT)

    I understand why people like to hear what preachers like Osteen and Prince have to say. It plays to our flesh and feeds our carnality. When we hold fast to that we are grasping the wind. God says to hold firmly to the true Gospel. It is the Berean Call to the Church at Sardis and the church today. The other set of key verses today are from Paul's second missionary journey. The people of Berea astounded Paul so much that Luke makes note of them in the Book of Acts. Their approach is three pronged and should be the outline for believers today who seek to hold firmly to correct doctrine. Firstly, they listened eagerly to the messages Paul was delivering. While that sounds simple enough we all know that this is not so true all the time for believers in church, especially in churches built upon the purpose driven model where most church members are serving in ministry during church service. The truth is that as our walk wears on we can become more sloppy than we once were about what we are being fed. We can stop bringing our notebook. Stop writing in the margins of our Bible. Part of this is also related to the watered down nature of most contemporary preaching. When sermons are reduced to twenty minutes and it is three topical sermon points and a cloud of dust - there is not much incentive for eagerly approaching the preaching of the Word. All I can say is if you find yourself in a church where there is no reason to eagerly approach the opening of the Bread of Life - it is time to find another church.

    Secondly, the Bereans searched the Scriptures day after day. That is right beloved - our walk is not meant to be contained to Sundays. The Bereans took their walk with God seriously. Every day they would be in the Scriptures. We have turned modern Christianity into a consumer mentality. We cater to the seeker instead of catering to God. We try to sell the seeker on what God can do for them instead of what God has already done for them. We cannot expect the power of God in our lives on Wednesdays when we only crack the Bible open on Sundays. It doesn't work that way. The reason why we are so susceptible to false teachings is that we do not do what the Bible actually says.

    Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus. They have left the path of truth, claiming that the resurrection of the dead has already occurred; in this way, they have turned some people away from the faith. - 2Timothy 2: 15-18 (NLT)

    We have become a church that prefers the worthless foolish talk because we do not know any better. It is interesting here that Paul specifically gives and example of two people who fell into false teaching because they didn't know the Word well enough for themselves! And their false beliefs were leading others astray as well! Work hard beloved! We ned to stop trying to fit Christ into our lives and start making our life to be about Christ.

    Thirdly, the Bereans weighed what was preached to them up against the truth of Scripture! Do you get that? They did not reflexively believe everything they heard just because someone in authority was saying it! They wanted to make sure that what Paul and Silas were teaching was in fact the truth. In the modern church there is simply too much pastor worship. Too much blanket acceptance without verifying truth against the Word of God. Let us be clear. The majority of pastors and preachers are good men who have a genuine call of God on their lives but even they can be wrong. Putting your pastor high up on a pedestal only ensures he will break his legs when he falls off. Christians are known for burying their wounded because we set up unattainable expectations for the people in leadership. And realize that is the good half! The other pastors might really be snake oil salesmen or hucksters:

    You see, we are not like the many hucksterswho preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us. - 2Corinthians 2: 17 (NLT)

    Jim Jones was a pastor. Today we still see charlatans like Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen and Joseph Prince as pastors. We hear or read something from a well followed pastor and we blindly accept it as truth and the Berean call to the Church of Sardis says that we cannot. We must test everything as the Bible instructs. Not out of disbelief or disrespect but rather out of complete reverence for God.

    The fourth and final imperative we see in the key verses from Revelation is that we must repent and turn back to God. It is not merely an academic issue beloved - it is a sin issue. I know that people do not like to hear about sin anymore or they pretend it doesn't matter to God anymore but that is simply not the case. This is a very big deal to God and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Belief in another Gospel is rejection of the true Gospel. This is why we are facing an epidemic of false conversions in this country. So many people have come to a Christ that doesn't exist through churches teaching another gospel. They have been promised a hope that they do not possess. How do so many stand before Christ on the last day and say Lord Lord? Because they were sitting in the Church of Sardis, asleep, and no one bothered to try and wake them up.

    Reverend Anthony Wade - October 16, 2013

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