by Nancy Taylor Tate
“And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write…I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die.” Revelation 3:1-2a
The believers in Sardis had a reputation (name) that they lived. Perhaps they rightly believed, yet they did not have a personal experience with the One in whom they believed. Regardless, Jesus most certainly was alive, but they were dead.
Yet there was hope for them, as there is for us, no matter what our present spiritual experience may be. It is only when we are satisfied with and remain in our present state of “death” that we miss the “more” God has for us.
It is not enough to have a “name” because we have the right doctrine and stand for the truth. The believers in Sardis did this, yet they remained spiritually dead. The Lord requires us to act upon that which we know.
Thus, the open door before the Church in Philadelphia:
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write…I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my Name.” Revelation 3:7-8
The Church in Philadelphia speaks of “phileo” love, which is a “love that responds to love.” Their genuine, practical (being practiced) love for one another resulted in this “open door” that had been set before them, which no man could close.
When a lawyer asked Jesus what he was to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asked him what was written in the Law.
“And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Luke 10:27
Then Jesus said, “…this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:28)
In order to have a vital relationship with the Lord, we must have right actions toward others. The Lord loves people so much that what we do for others will be the same as if we had done it unto Him. We can better understand this considering how carefully we speak to a parent about their child, because they will take it personally, as they have delight in their child. So it is with God. We are His handiwork, fashioned in His likeness. Thus, the Lord takes it very personally how we treat one another.
“…Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” Matthew 25:34-36
Then the righteous asked, “When did we do these things?”
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40
These scriptures were opened to me one day when, after ministering in a service, I was looking forward to getting alone and playing my harp for the Lord. Someone who did not feel well was spending the night at our house. Even so, I was desirous of my time alone with the Lord, and I was determined not to lose it.
As I sat down to play, much to my surprise, the Lord showed me that I was to go in and play for them. Later, I understood. As I ministered to “them,” I was ministering to “Him.”
The Lord has called us to BE a witness. (Acts 1:8) This “witness” is more than just speaking the Gospel to another. Our attitudes and actions, not just our words, share the life of God’s Word with others.
The Lord told the Church in Philadelphia that He, who had the key of David, had given them an open door. What He opened, no man could shut; what He shut, no man could open. (Revelation 3:7) This speaks of an authority which is given only through oneness with the Lord. Because they had an experiential love relationship with the Lord and with each other, the Lord set this open door before them. They were encouraged to enter through this open door into a deeper place of cooperative relationship with the Lord.
Those in the Church in Sardis had the right doctrine, but they did not have the right experience. Therefore, the Lord said they were “dead.” They were content to pride themselves in their religious beliefs, rather than seeking the outworking of those beliefs in their daily lives.
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments…whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” 1 John 2:3-5
Little choices make a big difference in who we become. Once when about to park in a garage, another car approached “my” space at the same time I did. I could have pressed my way into this space, but I determined I would give, and not allow a hardness to come into my heart. I motioned to the other car to take the space. Was I amazed when they went on by! I might have hardened my heart for no reason!
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
We may not realize that each time we make a decision, we are being either hardened, or we are developing a sensitivity of spirit towards the Lord.
As we strive to know His commandments and keep them, there is an inner transformation that begins to take place. Finally, we become as living stones, members of the Church that our Lord so desires; not a Church in name only, but one with an open door.
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” 1 John 3:14
Paul said, “…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:8, 10-11)
Literally, I have found that, in time, difficulties do become “as nothing” in light of the inner working of God in my life. As I determine to maintain mercy, truth, and love, my heart stays soft toward the Lord, enabling Him to change me as He also lifts me into His higher purposes.
Paul speaks of this priority in his life, and of his desire for inner transformation. Then he continues, “if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” Paul is not expressing concern about his salvation here. The Greek translation causes us to understand that Paul is desiring an “out-resurrection from among the living dead.”
Paul added, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded…” (Philippians 3:14-15)
Paul was seeking to go beyond his present experience. May we, too, always stay open and desirous of all God has for us, as the Lord draws us into an ever closer relationship with Himself, that we might be lifted up into a fuller participation with Him in that which He is doing today.
Thus, there is always hope for “more” if we will not settle just for doctrine, but pursue the outworking of those truths in our daily lives!