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lwpray
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 Re: In the day of Thy Power



11. Firstly, Sardis was a church relying on her past reputation. ”Thou hast a name that thou livest.” Here was evidently a company with a great spiritual tradition, that had succumbed to the temptation of looking backwards in pride instead of looking upwards in humility and dependence. Doubtless there had been a day when the eyes of this church were truly fixed on Christ, seeking to do all as unto Him; thus had she become great in spiritual power and influence, and had a name among the churches. Now, alas, she had taken her eyes off the Lord and fixed them upon men, more concerned with their commendation than His, striving to live in the borrowed glory of a day that had passed.

Men are impressed by externalities, the Lord only by realities. When the saints at Sardis lost that ”single eye” that was set on pleasing the Lord, they became occupied with maintaining forms and traditions, ”sadly contented with a show of things.” Activity and organization continued, but life and power waned. The church had striven to maintain appearances, and she had succeeded - ”Thou hast a name that thou livest,” but at the cost of her life - ”Thou art dead.” Sardis had become like the Necropolis of Cairo, whose streets and houses appear from a distance like those of a thriving community, but when viewed from within it is discovered that the houses are roofless, and in place of the hearthstone there is a tombstone.


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/6/28 16:44Profile
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 Re: In the day of Thy Power



12. Secondly, Sardis was a church not fulfilling her works. ”Be thou watchful, and stablish the things that remain, which were ready to die: for I have found no works of thine fulfilled before My God” (Rev. 3:2). It has already been pointed out that the deadness of Sardis was not to be accounted for on the ground of her inactivity. It was the quality rather than the quantity of her works that revealed that she was dead. ”The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed” (1 Sam. 2:3).
The output of this church, when placed upon the balances of the sanctuary, was found to be deficient of that vital element, ”the spirit of life.” Here was the activity of converted men without the activity of God. Here was action without unction. Here was a form of religion that, despite its orthodoxy, denied the power thereof.

Thus with all the energy put forth there was no consummation and no fruition. Before God the works were unfulfilled, that is, the divine purpose in them was not being achieved. There was gospel testimony with no conversions; prayer gatherings with no spirit of intercession and no answers from heaven; ministry of the word with no enrichment to the church; much being done but nothing being achieved. ”I have found no works of thine fulfilled.”
Unless the life of the Spirit was pulsating through her activities, how could there be fulfilment so as to satisfy the eye of God? She was working in the energy of the flesh, and it is always true that ”they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). The case of Sardis is a vivid illustration of the truth that ”the mind of the flesh is death” (Rom. 8:6). She was sowing to the flesh, and thus she could not reap fruition and fulfilment, only corruption (Gal. 6:8).
Well might the Lord have said to Sardis what He said to Israel years before: ”Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes” (Hag. 1:5, 6).


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 Re: In the day of Thy Power



13. Thirdly, Sardis was a church not living up to her privileges. ”Remember therefore how thou hast received and didst hear; and keep it, and repent” (verse 3). She is now reminded by the Lord of how she had received the truth. It is possible that she had been entrusted with a fuller measure of spiritual light than many other churches; and that this was why she had ”a name,” a reputation among the others. At the first she had accepted in humility and obedience this sacred trust, for Christ reminds her, ”Thou. . . didst hear.” She had become ”obedient from the heart” to that which she had received. The truth had been embraced.
As Ephesus had to be reminded that she had lost her first love, so Sardis had now to be reminded that she had lost her first obedience. Privileged beyond many, and with a reputation surpassing most, she had become careless of her holy stewardship. God had given these believers light that they might walk in it, not boast about it. Every privilege brings an attendant responsibility. Failure to live up to the light received had brought this church to a worse state than if she had never had that fuller light. ”If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matt. 6:23).

Christ had now to command this church to ”keep” that which she had at the first received and heard, and to ”repent” of her failure to do so. She had let the truth slip, not mentally perhaps, but experimentally. Have we done the same? ”Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them” (Heb. 2:1). It is a most solemn thing to receive and not to keep. If there are churches today who, like Sardis, have a name that they live, who speak of the greater light that they have received, they would do well to ponder what Paul would describe as ”sound words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:3), when He spoke of our accountability as servants in view of the privileges we have received: ”That servant, which knew his Lord’s will, and made not ready, nor did according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes. . . And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more”(Luke 12:47, 48).


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 Re: In the day of Thy Power



14. Finally, Sardis was a church failing to maintain her purity. The heart attitude of these believers resulted in defilement as well as deadness. There were only ”a few names in Sardis which did not defile their garments” (Rev. 3:4). These garments speak of the outer life, that which is plain for all to see. These who were resting on a past reputation, who were satisfied to think that they had been privileged to receive the fuller light, had grown careless about their outward purity. The garments of glory and of beauty had been defiled by the works of the flesh. Instead of ”hating even the garment spotted by the flesh”(Jude 23), they were hardly conscious of any defilement there, or that the outer garments were any less pure than they ought to have been. It was clearly taught in the Old Testament that where there was death there was defilement (Lev. 21:1, 11, etc.).
Had these Christians been full of life they would have been vigilant, and so have avoided the spotting of their garments. Only he who watches can expect ”to keep himself unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27). The moment of decline was when they ceased to watch. The Lord had thus to bring them back to the point of departure in order to show them the way to recovery, to the reviving of their life.


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 Re: In the day of Thy Power



15. ”Be thou watchful, and stablish the things that remain, which were ready to die: for I have found no works of thine fulfilled” (Rev. 3:2). The things that remained in Sardis were her incomplete works. These spiritual activities were a mere shell devoid of the kernel of life, and now even the shell was about to pass away. That which remained could only be saved from final decay and established by a new inflow of divine life. For this the church must awake. There must be a new spirit of vigilance, of obedience, of repentance.
”If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” Once again the solemn alternative is set forth. If the church was not willing to watch that her life should be revived Christ would visit her in judgment. The words of the Lord to these believers, ”I will come as a thief,” had evidently no immediate reference to His return, although His second advent is thus described elsewhere. This coming was not a promise but a warning, and its fulfilment was contingent upon the failure of the church to watch - ”if. . . thou shalt not watch, I will come,” implying that vigilance could avert it. It was a coming of Christ in judgment - ”I will come upon thee.” And finally, whatever application the warning may have for believers today it applied primarily to this church in Sardis, who Christ knew would no longer exist when He should come again. If the church did not repent Christ must fulfil His word.

The thief comes to dispossess his victim of the precious things in his keeping. In such a manner would Christ come upon this church in judgment if she did not repent and watch. Did these believers boast that they had a name that they lived? He would come and take it from them, and all the churches would know that Sardis was dead. Were they still making much of ”the things that remain,” the works that were unfulfilled? He would come and these things that were ”ready to die” would pass away. Were they satisfied with the light that they had received? He would come and take this from them so that the light that was in them would become darkness. As for the garments that were spotted and defiled, He would come and strip these from them, and their nakedness would be seen by all. ”Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15). In a word, this church lacked the one thing needful, the spirit of life; and if she would not remedy the situation He would come to fulfil His own words spoken here on earth, ”whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath” (Matt. 13:12).

Not only would Christ come to do the work of a thief, but He could come in the manner of a thief. ”Thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” As a thief comes stealthily, secretly, silently, so would Christ come upon this church in judgment. Unheralded He would arrive, undetected He would go. Her precious things would be taken from her without her realizing it. As Samson ”awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times. . . But he wist not that the Lord was departed from him” (Judges 16:20); so would she awaken, all unconscious that ”the thief” had visited her in her slumbers and that which she should have held fast till He came (Rev. 2:25) had gone.
As we have weighed up the Lord’s description of the church in Sardis, has there risen up before us those churches that we know? Have we seen our own spiritual lives mirrored in the condition of these first century Christians? Then we can be assured the warnings apply to us also. It is ours to determine whether He shall come unto us as the rain, or as the thief, to quicken or to judge.


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 Re: In the day of Thy Power



Zeal
16. ”Thou are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold” (Rev. 3:16). This was the Lord’s appraisal of Laodicea. What is the spiritual significance of being hot, cold, or lukewarm? The final command of the Lord to this church was, ”Be zealous therefore and repent” (verse 19); He had evidently been registering the zeal or fervour of this church. Now zeal is not enthusiasm, though it may contain it. There is, however, a fleshly enthusiasm in spiritual things which is the offspring of pride, and which bears no relation to spiritual zeal. To be fervent and to be zealous both convey in the original the idea of heat, of intensity of feeling. Zeal also contains the thought of a jealous concern: ”zealous” and ”jealous” being interchangeable words in Scripture. A jealous concern for God’s glory is the motive of true spiritual zeal. It was jealousy for God’s honour that moved the Saviour to purge the temple, but it reminded the disciples of the Scripture, ”The zeal of Thine house shall eat me up” (John 2:17).

Registering the temperature of this church’s zeal, the Lord says to her, ”I would thou wert. . . hot.” The zeal that God looks for is ”boiling hot,” for this is what the word means in the original. How many there were in the sacred records who were ”hot” in their zeal for God. Said David, ”My heart was hot within me; while I was musing the fire kindled: then spake I with my tongue” (Ps. 39:3). Jeremiah declared, ”If I say I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His Name, then there is in mine heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jer. 20:9). But who among the sons of men ever exceeded the zeal of him who described himself as ”the least of the apostles,” but who ”laboured more abundantly than they all” (1 Cor. 15:9, 10). ”I am ready,” he could say, ”not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
Paul’s Christianity was not a pastime but a passion. The zeal that was once engaged in persecuting the church had been reclaimed for God, purged and sanctified; and now, fed by the Spirit of God and burning with holy intensity, it was ever urging him forward ”toward the goal for the prize.” One can only imagine the feelings of the Saviour as He looked sorrowfully at this church of Laodicea and said, ”I would thou wert. . . hot.”

”I would thou wert cold.” This does not suggest an unregenerate state, for Christ could not have wished that these Laodicean believers had never been redeemed, unless He thereby denied the value of His redemptive work in them. No, the state here described is that of the backslider, who has slipped so far as to reveal no concern at all for the things of Christ. He has opened his life to the world with its icy blast. He has become manifestly cold towards the One to whom he once yielded allegiance. The cares, riches, and pleasures of this life have frozen his soul. There is not even a pretense of zeal; he is cold. But this was not the state of the Laodiceans.
”Thou art lukewarm,” that is, the state between the two. Laodicea had neither the spiritual intensity of the hot, nor the spiritual honesty of the cold. The hot are fervent, the cold are indifferent, but the lukewarm are complacent. According to her confession, this church was ”hot,” for she professed so much: according to her condition, this church was cold, for she possessed so little. These believers were tepid because they had not the concern, the passion, the zeal which would make them hot; and because they were too self-respecting to be numbered with those who were openly cold. ”Tepid is that condition in which conviction does not affect conscience, heart, or will” (Campbell Morgan). Whatever convictions these Christians had, they did not lead to action.


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 Re: In the day of Thy Power


17. ”I would thou wert cold or hot.” That the Lord would rather they were hot than lukewarm we can readily understand, but why would He rather they were cold than lukewarm? Firstly, because a lukewarm state is a mixture of hot and cold, and the Lord abhors mixtures. Mixture is the work of Satan and spells chaos. This was the state of the creation as we find it on the first page of Scripture (Gen. 1:2), and God set to work to renovate and restore by dividing the things that were different, the light from the darkness, the waters beneath the firmament from those above, the seas from the earth, etc. The same lesson was enshrined in the law. ”Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed: neither shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together” (Lev. 19:19). ”Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together” (Deut. 22:9-11). Divine order necessitates the separation of those things which by their very nature are irreconcilably distinct.

Secondly, the Lord prefers the cold, because there is an element of hypocrisy in the lukewarm state that is not so with the cold; and the Lord abhors hypocrisy. The profession of those believers, ”Thou sayest, I am rich,” was denied by their true condition, ”and knowest not that thou art. . . poor.” When a man’s condition denies his profession, that is hypocrisy, even though he may be blind to it. It is the same in the realm of salvation: compare the attitude of Jesus to the self confessed sinner, tax gatherer, and harlot with his attitude to the hypocritical, self righteous Pharisee. To the former He said, ”Come unto Me, all ye that labour” (Matt. 11:28); to the latter, ”Ye offspring of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell?” (Matt. 23:33). Though the Laodiceans were hardly conscious of their hypocrisy, they were not thereby absolved from it.

Finally, the Lord prefers the cold because there is more hope for the recovery of the cold than of the lukewarm. There was more hope for the son (representing the tax gatherer) who said, ”I will not,” but afterwards repented and went, than for the son (representing the Pharisee) who said, ”I go, sir,” and went not. To the latter Jesus said, ”the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” (Matt. 21:31).
It was to these two classes that the parable of the prodigal was directed (Luke 15: 1-3). Today we may rightly use the story to preach the gospel to sinners, but it has a more poignant application to those who are already sons of the Father, especially in relation to the elder brother in the plot. If the prodigal who openly left the home be taken to represent the cold backslider, and the elder brother who stayed at home, professing that he had never transgressed and yet who never possessed his possessions (verse 29), be regarded as the lukewarm believer, the story will live.
How would we expect a lukewarm, complacent Christian to react to a backslidden brother who not only returns to the Father’s house, but into a fulness of joy and blessing that the other has never known? How would we expect him to behave when he is entreated to come in and share these good things? Just as did the elder brother: ”He was angry, and would not go in” (verse 28). Ah, there is more hope for the recovery of the cold than of the lukewarm.


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 Re: In the day of Thy Power



18. The Lord now proceeds to define this lukewarm state. ”Because thou sayest, I am. . . and knowest not that thou art. . .” This was the whole situation in a nutshell. Even the hot could hardly be in a better state than rich, having gotten riches, and having need of nothing. Even the cold could be little worse than wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. They aspired to be among the hot, whereas in all but name they were among the cold.
Their claim was threefold. Firstly, they boasted of their spiritual inheritance: ”I am rich.” They made much of the great objective side of truth, their spiritual riches in Christ, without realizing that such is vain unless backed up by the subjective or experimental side. In other words it was no use talking about being spiritual millionaires, while they were living like spiritual paupers. It was no use congratulating each other that they were ”Blessed with all spiritual blessings. . . in Christ,” or that they were ”in everything. . . enriched by Him,” if they were manifestly not living in the goal of their inheritance.

Then they spoke of their spiritual increase: ”I have gotten riches.” They thus included riches gained by them as well as riches given to them. It is right and proper that riches received as an inheritance should be increased by proper use. The faithful servant who has received five talents will gain other five talents. Light obeyed will increase. God deals to each man a ”measure of faith,” but it may grow exceedingly. ”Unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance” (Matt. 25:29). This boast might have been true, but was in fact a sad delusion. They mistook increased apprehension for increased appropriation.

Finally, they asserted their spiritual independence: ”I have need of nothing.” They were self sufficient. No minister of the word, no servant of God could impart anything to them. They knew it all, and they had it all. The exceeding riches of God’s grace were not flowing through to meet the need of this poverty stricken church because she had ”need of nothing”. The Lord has no wealth for the rich, no food for the full. ”The hungry He hath filled with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away” (Luke 1:53).
Did someone suggest an extra church prayer meeting to implore God’s blessing? They had no need of such a thing. Was mention made of a day to be set apart for humiliation and confession in view of the prevailing deadness? It was quite uncalled for – things were going well. Was concern expressed that the gospel service was not reaching the people, or resulting in conversions? The gospel service had always been quite adequate, and the results must be left with God. Did someone dare to suggest that there was a suspicion of coldness in the service of worship? The gatherings were all that could be desired.


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 Re: In the day of Thy Power




19. Such was the claim of these believers; but what had the Lord to say of their actual condition? ”And knowest not that thou art. . .” They were oblivious of their true condition before God. Spiritual insensibility is always a mark of lukewarmness. They had not ”their senses exercised to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). So much had they emphasized their standing and so little their true state that they were virtually saying, ”Everyone that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delighteth in them” (Mal. 2:17). ”Thou art the wretched one and miserable.” ”Wretched” indicates the state of one in the midst of trouble or frustration, as when Paul cried out in the midst of his failures, ”O wretched man that I am.” ”Miserable” means in a state to be pitied, an object of mercy. Paul used this word also to describe what a believer would be without the hope of resurrection: ”If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:19). Where they had thought to be congratulated they were in fact to be commiserated. Why were these believers wretched and miserable, though unconscious of it? Be cause they were ”poor and blind and naked.”

”Thou art. . . poor.” They could talk about ”the unsearchable riches of Christ,” they could admire them as though they were their own, but they failed utterly to possess them. This church stands in striking contrast to that of Smyrna whom the Lord consoled in all her tribulation and poverty with the reminder, ”But thou art rich” (Rev. 2:9). She had learned the secret of ”having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:10).

”Thou art. . . blind.” Not only is there a blindness which affects the minds of the unbelieving (2 Cor. 4:4), but of the believer also. Peter reminds us of those spiritual virtues that God has granted to us as believers, and how they may become ours; but he adds, ”He that lacketh these things [who, like the church of Laodicea, does not possess his possessions] is blind, seeing only what is near” (2 Pet. 1: 3-9). These believers were ”short sighted” (2 Pet. 1:9, Darby), seeing only the temporal and transitory things of the passing world, and without the heavenly vision for ”the things that are above, where Christ is” (Col. 3:1 ). These believers were indeed ”wretched and pitiable,” as was sightless Samson, grinding in the prison house.

”Thou art. . . naked.” As God looked at this church all that He could see was ”flesh.” ”In my flesh dwelleth no good thing” (Rom, 7:18). ”They that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). The eye of God can only find pleasure in looking upon one clothed with ”the new man” which we are commanded to put on (Col. 3:10). If these believers had ever ”put on,” then they had certainly failed to keep on. ”Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15). Yes, there is an inevitable shame attached to nakedness in the spiritual as well as the natural realm, and this reproach was upon the Name they bore as well as upon themselves. Little wonder their Lord was deeply concerned that ”the shame of [their] nakedness be not made manifest” (Rev. 3:18).


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 Re: In the day of Thy Power



20. Despite this pathetic picture the Lord had not yet despaired, even of these believers. He outlines the pathway to recovery: ”I counsel thee to buy of Me. . .” This meant, firstly, they must renounce their boast to ”have need of nothing,” for clearly he who has no need, has no need to buy. Secondly, they must be prepared to pay the price, for all buying costs. This must be paid in humility, repentance, diligence, and sacrifice. Finally, they must buy of Him. In Christ Jesus their Lord were all the resources and blessings they could need to meet their poverty, blindness, and nakedness.

For their poverty He offered them ”gold refined by fire.” Gold means purchasing power. There is practically nothing material beyond the grasp of the natural man if he has gold. There is no spiritual blessing that is beyond the grasp of the spiritual man who has this gold that Christ offers. They needed everything, and they could have everything, if they had ”gold refined by fire,” that is, a purified faith. ”The proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire” (1 Pet. 1:7). Faith is the great purchasing power of the believer. ”Believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:22) is an eternal principle of the ways of God. All things are within range of the one who believes (Mark 9:23).
If the Laodiceans’ claim to be rich meant that they were well to do they were certainly devoid of this gold. Smyrna in her material poverty, however, had much of it (Rev. 2:9). It is indeed seldom that material gold and spiritual gold are found together in any quantity. ”Did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith?” (Jas. 2:5). ”Buy of Me gold.” The gold was in Christ and of Christ. They could henceforth, if they would, ”live by faith, the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20, Darby), just as a pauper, receiving a vast inheritance, would start to live by his newly acquired wealth.

For their nakedness He offered them ”white garments.” These were also to be bought of Him. If the gold was the faith of Christ, then these garments were the righteousness of Christ; not the imputed righteousness which is the portion of all who believe, but the imparted righteousness, seen in the practical outworking of holiness day by day. They were to ”put on the new man.” But what is meant by this? The passage goes on to explain, ”Put on therefore. . . a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering,”and so on (Col. 3:10, 12). ”The fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:8). The flesh was to be covered with the white garments of Christlikeness.
Not only had they to buy the garments, but also don them, ”that thou mayest clothe thyself,” as the R.V. rightly renders it. This is in keeping with the teaching concerning ”the new man” which the saints themselves had to put on, and also concerning the Bride of whom we read, ”It was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen” (Rev. 19:8). Only thus could the shame of their nakedness be covered.

Finally, for their blindness He offered them ”eye salve to anoint [their] eyes.” Of the three things mentioned here, vision is perhaps the most difficult to recover, once it has been lost. Samson recovered his great strength before he died with the Philistines, but he never recovered his vision. In Christ there is an eye salve, more wonderful than that which He once made of clay to anoint the eyes of a man born blind (John 9:6). That day Christ ”anointed on” the eyes for outer sight. This eye salve they themselves had to ”anoint [or rub] in” that the inner sight might be restored. As the Anointed One, there rested upon Christ ”the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:2). The same anointing of the Spirit from Him could bring healing virtue to the blinded vision, causing these believers to know and to be taught concerning all things (1 John 2:20, 27). Thus would they receive ”a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; having the eyes of [their] heart enlightened” (Eph.1:17); thus would they see the wondrous ways and purposes of God.

That blessed unction from above
Is comfort, life, and fire of love,
Enables with perpetual light
The dullness of our blinded sight.
FROM LATIN OF NINTH CENTURY.


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