He Went His Way

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 Jer 17:13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You shall be ashamed. "Those who depart from Me Shall be written in the earth, Because they have forsaken the LORD, The fountain of living waters."
 14 Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved, For You are my praise.
 Re 3:1 "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."'
 Lu 4:23 He said to them, "You will surely say this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.'"
 24 Then He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.
 25 "But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land;
 26 "but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.
 27 "And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."
 28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.
 30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

“Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.” Can you imagine this scene? An angry lynch mob, pushing and pulling Jesus along, shoving and jostling Him to the edge of town with the intent to throw Him off a cliff to His death.  This famous native Son!

Suddenly, as they arrive at the cliff to finish Him off......He walks right through the middle of them, untouched. The modern day equivalent of walking through a mosh pit untouched. He doesn’t disappear, He simply walks through them, somehow hidden from their sight and goes on His own way.

When one considers what takes place here, it has to be one of the most terrifying incidents in the life of Jesus. Not terrifying for His sake, He had nothing to worry about, He was in control, but terrifying for the sake of those who were doing the jostling.

Jesus had the power to pass through their midst without being recognized. He has that same power today. He can pass right through our midst here at Living Word and out the door. We could be fooled into thinking we possess Him, but we really don’t.

Doesn’t that terrify you just a little bit? I mean, aren’t we all a little bit like that mob? Don’t we all have a tendency to want to push Jesus out of our lives?

“Don’t tell me that I must surrender to His lordship. I go to church and that should be enough.” “Don’t tell me how to live my life Jesus, I can do it my way and still make it to heaven.” “Don’t talk to me about daily repentance, I’ve been baptized!” Stay out of my wallet Jesus!
Stay out of my sex life.

And the more we seek to live apart from Him and the influence of the Holy Spirit, the more we become like that mob...in effect, wishing He would be dead......jostling Him completely out of our lives. We see here, that He has the power to grant us our wish, as He “passed through their midst and went His way.”

That to me is frightening. And as we read in our portion of Scripture taken from the Book of Revelation, it can happen to any church.

This was the problem of the church in Sardis. In effect, they had tossed Jesus over the cliff and they were doing church apart from Him. This morning, let us look at this portion of Revelation so that we here at Living Word may be warned, lest we have our names blotted out of the Book of Life.

As our OT lesson stated: “All who forsake You shall be ashamed. Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth.” Which do you think has more permanence, those written in the book of life, or those whose name are written in the soil of the earth?

Re 3:1 "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, (Now much of the Book of Revelation was written using symbolic language, and as we go through this stuff this morning, I will try to interpret this language for you. For instance, the angel of the church in Sardis refers to the pastor or spiritual leaders, (the elders)  of their congregation.)

 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: (One of the interesting things about this portion of the Book of Revelation that includes the letters to the various churches is that the Lord always uses something descriptive about Himself that ties into a specific spiritual need of that particular church.

For instance, to the church at Thyatira He was “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass.” (Rev 2:18)

The church at Thyatira needed to be reminded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the only way to the Father. The One who saw their fornication (eyes like a flame of fire) and idolatry and was ready to judge it! (With His feet like fine brass to stomp on them)

Pergamus was addressed by He “who has the sharp two-edged sword.” (Rev. 2:12) They needed a good dose of Law and Gospel (the sharp two-edged sword, or Word of God! To keep them from chasing after false doctrine)

 The church at Smyrna was addressed by “the First and Last, who was dead and came to life.” (Rev 2:8) They needed assurance of the resurrection because they were in the midst of intense persecution.

So this church in Sardis was in need of “the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” The seven spirits of God spoken of here are representative of the Holy Spirit and the seven stars are representative of Holy Spirit anointed preaching. This church was in need of revival.

"I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

Outwardly, this church looked alive, but inwardly it was dead. The pastor and elders and the congregation was slowly dying from internal rot in their spirit and they didn’t even know it.

Their numbers (attendance) likely looked good, in fact everything external looked good, but church had become rote. It was a routine. Outward ceremony with no real internal impact. There was no urgency or sense of purpose. They had lost their sense of mission. They did church for the sake of doing something, but they were far removed from the promptings and activity of the Holy Spirit.

 2 "Be watchful, (in the Greek, “Wake up!” The Lord was attempting to shake the drowsy saints in Sardis. He was seeking to rouse them from their slumber. This church has slowly been overtaken by the carbon monoxide of roteness, routine, and apathy!)

Are you locked into a routine here at Living Word. A once a week or sometimes less obligatory showing up at church. Putting the same amount of money into the offering envelope with no thought of increasing it or decreasing it according to how the Lord has blessed you?

Wake up! Giving should never be routine! It should ebb and flow from a thankful heart that acknowledges the Lord’s blessings to you. There should always be that challenge to find a way to give something to the poor!

Perhaps you are in the routine of attending a Bible Study, Sunday School, or prayer meeting, where you may find yourself learning more and more but never applying it in a practical way in your own life.  Wake up! God is speaking to you through His Word! It is active! Living! Dynamic! Fresh! It is meaningful for your life!

It is this warning to the church at Sardis that should impress upon us again the necessity of re-defining who we are and clarifying our mission. Then seeking to “git r done” through the power of the Holy Spirit, one small obedient step at a time.  

Let me repeat the mission statement that I talked about last week:  We at Living Word desire to “Declare the truth as found in God’s Word, the Bible. And to glorify Christ as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.” There is no slumber in such a mission! It’s a continual reliance upon the Holy Spirit to help us to learn to love as Christ loved us!

Sometimes we equate emotional highs in church with the moving of the Holy Spirit. There may be some truth to that, but I tell you the true test of the lasting and powerful presence of the Holy Spirit is shown every time a believer, or a body of believers responds in obedience to God’s Word.

 Joh 14:15 "If you love Me, keep My commandments.
 16 "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--
 Joh 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."
 Joh 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

You see, the Holy Spirit is manifested in those who keep (treasure) the commands of Jesus, and the number one command of Jesus is that we love one another. Do you want Holy Spirit activity here at Living Word? Then latch onto our mission statement and learn what it is to live for the sake of others rather than yourself.

Look for some way to make that happen in your life this week!

Evidently the works of the church at Sardis were not connected to this kind of love. Any works that the church at Sardis did were empty. (That’s what is meant by “not perfect before God” Not perfect before God means empty, like a net with no fish.) They were relying on their flesh rather than the Spirit and church was void or empty of spiritual life and fruit.

 Joh 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

They were doing church for the sake of doing church....fishing for the sake of fishing. Let me show you something here. The disciples tried fishing for the sake of fishing after the death and resurrection of Jesus and before His ascension. Do you remember the incident?

 Joh 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We are going with you also." They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.
 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
 5 Then Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any food?" They answered Him, "No."
 6 And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

What did they catch for the Father without Jesus? Nothing! What did they catch when they obeyed Jesus? A full or perfect net!  They had lost contact with Jesus and had become unfruitful, but the minute they heard the Lord’s voice and responded to it....wallah! A full net!

The church at Sardis had lost contact with Jesus. The Holy Spirit was no longer active in their midst because the Word wasn’t being preached or it wasn’t being responded to. The Lord’s voice wasn’t being heard. It was lost in the routine of doing church and the people were nodding off.

This has happened to all of us at one time or another. The Word is being preached, but your mind is preoccupied with other things, or you didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and pretty soon your head is bobbing and then your dozing. You may hear the droning voice of the preacher, but you have no idea of what’s being said.

At the church in Sardis some were already down for the count, others were very close, so Jesus comes to them with the greatest of love in this letter and grabs them by the shoulders and shakes them and says...wake up! What little life that remains in you is about to die! You’ve got to bust out of your Holy Spirit-less routine!

Wake up and “strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.. (Hear the voice of Jesus and respond to it with action)

Very important point here. Don’t just wake up and start doing dead churchy things. Look for that which is spiritually alive (look for ways to love one another because that’s where you will find spiritual life) and seek to build upon that.  Again I take you back to the new mission statement suggested last week.

The Spirit is present and alive in that mission statement because it is taken directly from the Word of God. Build on that mission statement, respond to it, act on it, , and it won’t be long before you will once again have a raging fire.

3 "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.

How have we received and heard? We have received and heard only because of the action of the Holy Spirit. Hold fast to the Spirit led life, listen for His voice in this word and repent of your lack of response to it.

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.

What does the thief do? He takes that which once was yours. Once the saints at Sardis had their names written in the Book of Life, but the Lord says, if they don’t wake up, if they don’t heed His warning here, they will be allowed to die spiritually. He will pass through their midst, unknown and unrecognized,  and their names will be blotted out of the Book of Life.

Friend, let this warning frighten you into action! Never pass up the opportunity for repentance. Never ignore the Lord’s gracious arousings to turn you from your wicked, disobedient, slothful routine ways and return to follow Him! Today, right here at Living Word, may be the last time you hear His voice.  The last time He pleads with you to wake up.

He could walk through us and leave just as unnoticed as He did to those from Nazareth.

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."'

Thankfully, not all at Sardis had drifted into spiritual slumber and apathy. Not all had fallen for the trap of doing church without Jesus. And He who responds to the Spirit’s wake up call has this blessed promise of the Lord! His name will not be blotted out and He will be recognized by the Son on that final Day.

Sardis is the secularized church. The church that operates according to the spirit of the world and apart from the Spirit of God. That’s why the world applauds it and congratulates it, and speaks so highly of it. And have you noticed....that’s why the church at Sardis is not experiencing the least amount of persecution.

Why should the devil go after such a paper tiger. All that impressive external activity void of any eternal significance because it is all done apart from the Holy Spirit.

There was an e-mail making the rounds several years ago and it’s quite fitting for the church at Sardis, and if we aren’t careful it will be very fitting for us.

Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels he said, “We can’t keep the Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can’t even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience in Christ.

If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their churches; let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time. so they can’t nurture that relationship with Jesus Christ, and with each other.

This is what I want you to do angels: Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!

How shall we do this? Shouted the angels.

Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds. Tempt them to spend! Spend! Spend! And borrow, borrow, borrow. Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6 to 7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty materialistic lifestyles.

Keep them from spending time with their children and their church family. As their family fragments, soon their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work! Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small, voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive.

Try to keep the TV, DVD, CD’s and their PC’s going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ.

Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes. Jam their computers with vindictave, self-righteous, or feel good e-mails.

Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines so they will believe that external beauty is what’s important, and they’ll become dissatisfied with themselves and each other.

Ha! That will fragment those families quickly! Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week. Get them to neglect My Sabbath rest. Don’t let them go out in nature to reflect on God’s wonders.
Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead. Keep them busy! Busy! Busy! Overload their senses when they worship with all the latest technology. And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions.

Go ahead, let them be involved in soul winning; but crowd their lives with so many good causes that they have no time to seek power from Jesus. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.

This is what happened to the church at Sardis and it is happening to the church in America today.

Busy is just an acronym for “Being Under Satan’s Yoke!  

This was the problem at the church in Sardis. They were trying to do church without the power of Jesus. And Jesus seemed to be making one more pass through them. Shaking them up, trying to awaken them from their spiritual apathy.

If they would heed His voice they would live, but if they ignored Him, He would go His way. “Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.

Wake up my friends, it’s time for you and I to engage in our mission, one Holy Spirit led obedient step at a time.  “To declare the truth as found in God’s Word....the Bible. And to glorify Christ as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.

May we seize the God granted opportunities to respond to the Spirit this week as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.