Sardis - Professing Without Possessing
The letter from Jesus
"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.2 “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.3 “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.4 “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.6 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” '
Our text is a letter to a church that had degenerated from holiness to phoniness.
Look at verse 1, “you have a name....that you are alive...and you are dead!
Oh, the dreadful condition of being artificial! Dr. Lehman Strauss put it this way.
“When the Great Physician felt their pulse He pronounced them dead.” Do we know the difference between appearance and reality? God does! In every generation He has had to pronounce against certain ones, “This people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me”. Isaiah 29:13.
The warning of profession without possession by Jesus
Jesus spared no words to convey His utter contempt for religious charlatans with the false fruits of self righteousness. He gave the greatest warnings to those who only appeared to be. Perhaps the strongest warnings ever uttered came from our loving Savior whenever He came across phonies. You know, fakes, stuffed shirts, con-men and women, religious fakes with false pretenses - phonies! Some of His most graphic illustrations were about these look-a-likes of Christians:
1. Ravenous wolves dressed in sheep"s clothing: Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
2. Fruitless trees cut down and burned in the fire: Matthew 7:19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
3. Shocked church workers who never really knew Jesus: Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
4. Houses on sand swept away to destruction: Matthew 7:26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
5. Weeds gathered from grainfields to be cast into bonfires: Matthew 13:30 ‘Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
6. Fancy cups fouled with filth on the insides: Matthew 23:25-26 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
7. Whitewashed tombs full of rotting corpses: Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
Some Horrible Biographies
Professing the truth without possessing Him. And what will be the end of all who profess Christ but don’t possess Him personally? Matthew 3:12 “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Others Scripture writers record horror stories - of false believers who are really, dogs, pigs, wolves, thistles, fire, rotten fruit and all destined for destruction. These are the:
1. Cains who grow up nearly in Paradise, hearing from faithful parents about knowing the true God but depart and never look back at Him.
2. The Esaus who will sell an eternally valuable spiritual inheritance for a moment of fleshly desire--and find no place of repentance and miss the heavenly city.
4. Pharisees who live hygienically sterile exterior holiness and are rotting with corrupted hearts inside and face damnation.
5. Judas’ who live around Jesus for years, hear and see Him daily but inside only grow colder and harder by the year!
6. Modernist churches where the gospel is in a coffin in so many dead, liberal, cold and lifeless churches today. Oh they have a name, the first church the reorganized church, saint someone’s church. But alas, the Great Physician pronounces them dead!!!
7. Is it possible that all the Great Physician finds in your heart is coldness, darkness and emptiness?
The words of an engraving from the cathedral of Lubeck, Germany, beautifully reflect our Lord’s teaching here:
Thus speaketh Christ our Lord to us,
You call Me master and obey Me not,
you call Me light and see Me not,
you call Me the way and walk Me not,
you call Me life and live Me not,
you call Me wise and follow Me not,
you call Me fair and love Me not,
you call Me rich and ask Me not,
you call Me eternal and seek Me not,
if I condemn thee, blame Me not.
Lesson #1 - God hates profession without possession. Beware if you are a pretender.
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