Every week, on Monday, we will have a blog for you with resources for diving deeper into the sermon.
As we continued the In the End series last week, Pastor Andrew preached on the letter to Sardis. The church in Sardis was a church that had a great reputation of life outside the church walls, but Jesus says they are dead. This is something that any church, even Mercy Hill, can fall into, and it proves the main point: in the Christian life, reputation isn’t always reality.
The nature of the entire book of Revelation is seen in the letter to Sardis. The book is written to call churches back to perseverance because it’s going to be worth it. That’s the message, but it is often lost when people get bogged down in the symbols. But thankfully, in Revelation, the clear things are the main things. And, for Sardis, the call is clearly to care more about being right than looking right.
What verses 2-3 show us is that Sardis had grown bored and lazy. Their fire had gone out, and Jesus was telling them rekindle it. They did what was necessary to have a good reputation with those on the outside looking in, while letting a true relationship with God die. And this is something we must watch out for in ourselves. It’s easier to build a reputation than a spiritual reality. Jesus calls them to wake up from their sleep, strengthen their love for him, remember the gospel of grace, keep that gospel by walking in it, and turn back to him with repentance.
In verses 4-6 Jesus mentions the rewards for those who persevere in the faith. Jesus promises to give them white garments. Why? Because in this life, we are sinners, and none of us are right before God. No matter what our earthly reputation is, we shamed ourselves before God with our sin. But Jesus died to give us a right standing and reputation before God. He was stripped naked and shamed on the cross so that our shame might be clothed with the white robes he deserves.
And here’s how we can apply this truth today: Don’t fake a reputation; trust Jesus with your reality. No matter what your sins and failures, in the gospel, Jesus promises that those who trust in his death and resurrection on their behalf are not only given a clean record before God but are adopted into his family. But we must ask ourselves, does our reputation match the reality? Are we Christian in name only? Or is Christian our true identity? Ultimately, we must trust that we are who he says we are. And we must attack this life from that position of acceptance, knowing that the battle is won and no effort we put in will go unused by God.
The following resources can be considered classics of the Christian faith. They have been used for decades by Christians to increase faith and spiritual vitality.
Knowing God – J. I. Packer
From Amazon: For over 40 years, J. I. Packer’s classic has been an important tool to help Christians around the world discover the wonder, the glory and the joy of knowing God. In 2006, Christianity Today voted this title one of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals. This edition is updated with Americanized language and spelling and a new preface by the author. Stemming from Packer’s profound theological knowledge, Knowing God brings together two important facets of the Christian faith― knowing about God and also knowing God through the context of a close relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. Written in an engaging and practical tone, this thought-provoking work seeks to transform and enrich the Christian understanding of God.
Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist – John Piper
From Amazon: Satisfaction…Happiness…Joy. According to John Piper, the pursuit of pleasure in God is not only permissible, it’s essential. Desiring God is a paradigm-shattering work that dramatically alters common perspectives on relating to God. Piper reveals that there really is no need to choose between duty and delight in the Christian life. In fact, for the follower of Jesus, delight is the duty as Christ is most magnified in His people when they are most satisfied in Him.
The Pursuit of God – A. W. Tozer
From Amazon: “To have found God and still to pursue Him is a paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religious person, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux stated this holy paradox in a musical four-line poem that will be instantly understood by every worshipping soul: We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread/And long to feast upon Thee still/We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead/And thirst our souls from Thee to fill. Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. Let A. W. Tozer’s pursuit of God spur you also into a genuine hunger and thirst to truly know God.
I have heard several people recommend each of these devotionals.
Introductory Level: New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional – Paul David Tripp
Advanced Level: For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, Volumes 1 & 2 – D. A. Carson
– Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)