April 24, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3.1b-3)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
Let’s review the first four “connections”:
“Put on the belt of truth and keeping it in place” with the charge of Christ to the Ephesian faith community which said “return to your first love.”
“Put the breastplate of righteousness in place” with the call of Christ to the Smyrna faith community which we could reference with Psalm 119.11, “The word of God I will hide in my heart that I might not sin against Him.”
“Put on your feet shoes fitted with the gospel of peace” with the call of Christ to the Pergamum faith community which said “Repent of tolerating the teaching of Balaam and Nicolatius in your midst leading you to idolatry. I am coming with a double-edged sword to fight against all those who stand allow it.“
“Hold fast to the shield of faith” with the call of Christ to the faith community in Thyatira which said “Do not hold to false teachings and ‘hidden truths’ of Satan but have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.“
As we enter into today’s reflection, I would rehearse a passage from the gospel story to provide context for the message to the community of faith in Sardis. From Matthew 23.27 we can read “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of impurity.” As the word of Christ is given to John to deliver to the church in Sardis and by extension to the seven churches in Asia Minor, it is with a call to reminder that the blood of Christ sanctifies us. Sanctification means “to make holy.” This is something the world’s culture, climate and best intentions cannot do. There is nothing of the world that can prepare a person to stand in the presence of God’s throne room in Heaven with any hope of survival. The world is infected with the cancer of sin. At the start, one who has cancer appears normal and healthy. Then the cancer grows and begins to corrupt what was intended to be incorruptable. Without effective intervention (whether healing by God directly or by that which God has made known to doctors and thus provides indirectly) the end result of cancer is the debilitation of the body and mind. Eventually, death to the flesh is the last word. This is the consequence of sin which we know from Romans 6.23. Let me note here: One who has cancer is not labeled or identified as a sinner. Sin is a spiritual reality which corrupts the mind, the heart and the soul of a person. We are not intended to be of the ilk which says, as in Jesus’ day and before and sadly for some since, “disease, disability, etc. is an evidence of one’s sinful nature.” In that regard, we are all sick because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God! Bad things happen to good people. I will leave it up to God to sort through those questions. But, I know that God intends to work all things together for good. What we, as believers in Christ, are called to embrace is to “keep the faith.” In whatever condition we find ourselves in we must be content to trust in God and we must be confident in our salvation. Jesus Himself was reduced in the flesh to a state of humility which was to serve as the evidence of His sinfulness and rebellion against “God.” At least His rebellion against the spiritual judges who adorned themselves with fine robes, jewelry and the like to prove that they were the righteous ones blessed by God.
It was to those that Jesus compared truth in their lives to be that of white-washed tombs. They look fine and respectable on the outside but on the inside we would find another story. Death was behind the cold stone rolled in front of their hardened hearts, mind and souls. There is this word to the people of faith in Sardis given as a means of reminder that while they looked like a vibrant church because they said the right things, gave to the poor and fellowshipped together on the first day of the week, they were a people of unfinished business. They were more of the mindset of “sidewalk supervisors” who were good at telling others what to do without the credentials of actually doing it themselves. They were unprepared for problem-solving difficult situations or unforeseen challenges which may arise in the field. They had not given themselves to “life long learning” to demonstrate to others the benefit of learning how to live long in the kingdom and prosper. Their robes remained white as if they were worn for the first time only because they did nothing to soil them. They put them on when they arrived like an empty smile on one’s face and took them off before they left to restore the face of sorrow when it was done. They did not tarry in them. They were not married to them. They did not wash them daily to keep them fit for another day of use after being used that day for the kingdom of God on earth.
But how, you should ask does this “work-oriented white robe wearing” call match up with putting on the helmet of salvation? (As I have been connecting Revelation 2-3 with Ephesians 6.14-18) We have to remember that the distinction of the “full armor of God” is not about an outward apparel but an inward constitution. Jesus affirms to John that there are some in Sardis who have not “soiled” their robes. What He means is that they have not tainted the spirit which exists inside. They have remained true to the cause and demonstrate the right thinking of proposing the truth of the gospel as a worthy life and lifestyle. What makes their robes unsoiled? Would it not be because they have been washed clean and made spotless by the “blood of the Lamb who was slain”? It is by the very identity of the “helmet of salvation” which identifies the veracity of their intention and their attention. No one puts on the helmet if they are not intending to do honor in battle. They are not parading around like a showman at the circus who stands in center ring to draw attention to his greatest show. No, the soldier is fit for battle and is justified by the willingness to lay down one’s life for the sake of another. This is the hope of our salvation. It is nothing less than Jesus, His blood and His righteousness. Paul would remind us again that we are “the body of Christ and Him crucified.” But, He remains the head of the body and is crowned, or “helmeted” with glory because of His sanctification by sacrifice and His faithfulness to duty which was, is and will always be to honor God. Keeping Christ at the head of our lives allows us to remain true and pure in our intentions to serve in the world, share the good news of salvation and to love one another enough to finish the job which is given to us.
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Thank You, Father, for loving us in the Son of Man and God. Thank You for showing us so great a love as that so we, too, might walk in its light of truth and find our lives bounded as with a belt of truth, protected by the breastplate of righteousness, fitted for our walk to be peacemakers, shielded by faith and helmeted with salvation. We go now into our spheres of influence girded with truth and fitted for service to bring the word to others and glory to You in Jesus’ name. AMEN.