Saturday, July 1, 2023

Things Which Shall Be

Bobservations' Column

Titled - "Things Which Shall Be"
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

From Thyatira to Sardis brings us to and through the most politically charged era of “The Church.” The Latin Rite of Rome found itself at odds with the Eastern Rite of Constantinople. Eastern Orthodoxy was pitted against Roman Dogma: The Great Schism of 1054 A.D.

Doctrinal differences between the two, and the Universal Authority of the Papacy in Rome were the core of the disagreement. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, and Pope Leo IX of Rome brought the Schism to a head by mutually excommunicating one another from “The Church.” This was the watershed that brought full division within the faith, The Great Schism of 1054 AD. There were now two Popes of the Church.

Eastern Theology had its roots in Greek Philosophy, while Roman Theology had its roots in Roman Law. From the point of view of Jesus’ Church, neither was correct in their understanding of His teachings. And besides Rome and Constantinople, there were at times others that laid claim to the Papacy: The Bishops of Alexandria, and Antioch were also in the mix, but to a lesser degree.

Then in 1521, The Roman Church suffered another schism with the 95 Theses of a Roman Catholic Monk, Martin Luther. With Luther came more division: The Protestant Reformation. To say that these 500 years of Church history were filled with tumult, disagreement, doctrinal and cultural differences would be an understatement. It was a period when Apostolic Succession ended, though the Roman Catholic Church still holds to it in spite of its obvious loss. Muhammad brought yet another “truth” between 500 and 600 AD, and Islam became a threat to all the forms and names of Christianity.

False teachings, False Doctrine, False prophets, human egos, and even those that would alter God’s Word have all had their heyday within Church history. Confusion abounds within Christian Denominations, and so it takes a commitment to God’s Word to sift through the mess, and hit the pay dirt of Christ’s simple message of salvation. While East and West have us jumping through hoops, Jesus taught us that Salvation is by His grace through faith in Him, and Him alone.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” - 
Ephesians 2:8-9

Sunday Morning Audio Teaching
Revelation 3:1-6- "Things Which Shall Be"


We are continuing our teaching in the book of Revelation, studying the letters written to the seven churches.

To recap, this book is the Revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ which the apostle John received in a series of visions. The first few chapters cover the past, the present, and the future. They are really about Christ and His church, and Christ addressing His church.

When the apostle Paul founded the church in Ephesus, that church became a strong church, taking the gospel throughout the rest of Asia Minor or modern-day Turkey (Acts 19:10). As the gospel spread, churches were established in many cities, seven of them are mentioned here. 

It wasn't long after these churches were established that we see false teachers, error, compromise and sin creeping into the church.  Churches then began differing from each other, straying from the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we read the letters to these churches, we find out why.

Background Sardis is the ancient capital of the Lydian kingdom, going all the way back to 1,200 years before Christ; rich in gold, rich in silver. There are some historical indication that it might have been the first place where gold and silver were minted into coins. There was a river there that seemed to be rich in gold from which the gold was mined. Because of its wealth, a city that endured many wars, they were usually victorious because of the geographic location.

They became a center for wool and dying, things that were particularly common in the ancient world. By the middle of the sixth century B.C., the city attained such a high level of respect, that when its downfall came at the hands of a little-known enemy, the Greek cities received the news of it with disbelief. It was conquered. It was conquered not once, but it was conquered twice. It was conquered in 549 B.C. It was conquered again in 195 B.C. The Persians conquered it, and then Antiochus the Great, the Greek, conquered it.

By the time we come to the New Testament era, there’s a temple there to Caesar, to honor Caesar, and there is a temple there to the Empress Livia. There is the normal idolatry there. Seven hundred years before this letter, Sardis was one of the great cities in the world. If you go there today, you’ll find nothing but a pile of ruins near a little village called Sart. But once, it was the glory of Lydian Empire, and it’s greatest king was a man named Croesus. Have you heard that name? Have you heard “rich as Croesus”? Unlimited luxury and wealth.

Sardis stood 30 miles southeast of Thyatira in the fertile Hermus valley near a range of mountains, and it was elevated about 1,500 feet high; almost impregnable, sticking out from Mount Tamalpais like some kind of granite pier. Seemed to be impregnable. Under Croesus, it reached its greatest heights; and under Croesus, it plunged and collapsed.

It had some famous people. You remember the name Thales, the first Greek philosopher? You remember the name Solon, a wise legislator; or Xerxes, the great general; or Aesop, the fable weaver? This was some great city that had fallen into a degenerating cycle. 17 A.D. an earthquake hit it, massive earthquake, turning it into rubble. And Tiberius Caesar came and rebuilt it, and so that’s why they built a temple to Tiberius Caesar in the city of Sardis.

Its history was a history of degeneration. From its glory days under Croesus, it had crumbled into nothing and been rebuilt by the Romans. Politically it had declined, morally it had declined, economically it had declined, and the Christian church also was in a rotting condition. Its vitality and power were gone. It was a kind of corpse, a degenerate church in a degenerating city.

We come to the letter addressed to the church at Sardis. This letter reveals the sad and tragic state of the church - the church is dead. Clearly, we see this at the end of verse 1 where our Lord says, “You are dead.”  How horrifying and shameful.  For this church or any church that has fallen so far as to be called dead, spiritually dead, this is the ultimate shame. A church by definition is a place where God lives.  It is the place where Christ lives, and where the Holy Spirit lives.  God's not dead - He is alive and we have been made alive in Him.  A church is a place where Christians are alive, living out their faith in Jesus Christ, and sharing the gospel with others.  The church in Sardis is not alive, it is dead. This is a dead church, living a fake life.  Going through the motions. 

This church had succumbed to the influences of the world. They opened the door and just let the world in. They too had left its first love and adopted the vain philosophies of men, humanistic values, and compromise.  They had become politically and culturally charged but are spiritually dead.  They not only tolerated sin but indulged in it and even advocated for it. Sin has taken over, and the Holy Spirit is missing. Rather than faithful leaders leading the church, they are being led by false leaders completely void of the Holy Spirit. This church is dead.

This church is so defiled it is dead, decayed on the inside.  Like any liberal church that denies the Bible, or denies Christ and His gospel - it's dead.

What kills a church? False Teachers. False Teachings. Sin. Error. Compromise. No love for the truth. No love or adherence to God's Word. Placing man's ideas over God's Word.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, 
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."

Nothing is hidden from the Lord; He sees everything and misses absolutely nothing.  The opening of this letter states, "I know your deeds," and their deeds are unacceptable. 

The church is spiritual, not political, not worldly, not social. Dead churches are concerned with tradition, formalities, appearances, concerned with acceptance (from the world), concerned with social injustice, politics, materialism and an all-inclusive religion.  They are not concerned with spiritual things.  They do not uphold the Scripture. They do not seek the Lord. The do not pursue holiness.  They do not preach the gospel.

Yet even in this church, there are a few who have not soiled their garments. There are always a few faithful, genuine believers who are covered with the righteousness of Christ, among the unbelievers and the hypocrites. 

These few faithful believers are instructed to "strengthen the things that remain."  There is some hope here.  This word "strengthen" means establish in truth.  Remember the truth you received and heard and hold onto it.  He tells them to repent of any and all sin. 

Jesus is coming back, and He is either coming for us, or He is after us.  Those who overcome have their names written in the Lamb's book of life, those who do not will surely see the wrath of God. 

He who has an ear - hear the Word of our Lord and heed it.

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