Wake Up! (Rev. 3: 1-6)
The historic school near my house is only a shell of its former glory. Demographics have changed and there aren’t enough young families in the area to fill its aged halls. So it sits amid its un-mown lawns, a magnet for graffiti artists and dog-walkers. Until recently. Huge vehicles have begun arriving, filling the old school’s parking lot, unloading strange-looking equipment. Peaks and skylights have been attached to the roofline and children’s artwork has arisen on the windows of one classroom. A movie is being filmed here.
Like that school, Jesus’ revelation to Sardis, the fifth-mentioned church in His letter-dictating spiel, speaks of empty facades. He sounds concerned.
“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.”
The Christians in this ancient city, Sardis, are a shell of their former glory. Little remains of the fire of enthusiasm that used to mark their lives. Any acts of love that still flicker are but a vestige of what they once were. Jesus is warning them that their recent activity is nothing more than a movie set. Inside, they are hollow, empty and decaying.
We can be the same, can’t we? The rhythms of life sometimes leave us in troughs of spiritual emptiness. Failing to rely on God’s Spirit to inspire every breath, we find ourselves occasionally floundering, gasping for fresh air, or worse, satisfied with the stale ether of empty living. Riding on the crests of previous spiritual highs will not do. As Jesus describes it, we are more dead than alive.
He goes on to picture his followers in white robes, a depiction used throughout scripture to illustrate righteousness; through the redeeming work of His death and resurrection, Jesus washes His followers’ souls clean and pure to their depths – no façade here. Yet, some, He says, have soiled their clothes. They no longer walk with Him. They have not overcome the temptation of the world to disown the lover of their souls. They no longer acknowledge His name and authority over their lives. This is a serious problem. If the robe fits, we need to heed Jesus’ warning here. His call to ‘Wake up!’ is powerful enough to refit the soul with life and breath and fire if we have ears to hear and a heart to respond. Living life on this earth is living in enemy territory. The devil will use any method deemed useful to induce spiritual lethargy; sometimes it takes very little to wheedle us into sluggish apathy – surely a childhood decision or yesterday’s devotion will do for today, we tell ourselves. We’ve secured our salvation so now we can live as we please, we reason.
Listen to the intensity of Jesus’ words to us: “Wake up!” “Remember…obey…repent!” When was the last time we remembered a command of Jesus, like “love your neighbour” and it changed our behavior? When was the last time we made a different choice than we would have preferred because we wanted to obey Him? When was the last time we fell to our knees and repented of something we realized was sin? Neither you nor I are perfect, so it’s a given that there are things in our lives every now and then (more now than then for some of us…) that need repenting from.
Let us, who love Jesus, the glorious and Almighty One, rise from our beds of slumber. Let us live with the lively, faith-filled purpose of those whose names are written in the Book of Life. Then our deeds will match our inner conviction; our reputation for housing the invincible Spirit of God will be authentic. The inner life will be simply bursting to express itself in our outer life. Listen to Jesus and wake up to a new day, today.