Lord Jesus’ Letters to Churches III
Like every good parent God desires His children to become great warriors but the training to be that is through tackling many tough situations and many end up falling by the wayside while looking at the problems rather that the prize.

Lord Jesus’ Letters to Churches III

          The shadow of sin was rather thick in the churches at Thyatira and Sardis for the trade guilds controlled all business activities and one had to toe their line to progress. These trade guilds were sponsors of various sinful activities including sexual immorality in worship of the local gods and anyone not joining them would suffer financial loss. Lord Jesus being fully aware of their state and their problems urged them also to follow after the path of holiness.

          Letter to the church of Thyatira – Thyatira was the least important of the seven cities but it was known for a very high quality of brass that, when polished, gleamed like gold. Lydia, who had met Apostle Paul during his visit to Philippi was a textile dealer from Thyatira, and traded in expensive red and purple cloth and this church was established during Apostle Paul’s stay with them. The city being a center of trade had more trade guilds and each had its own god whose monthly feast with various sinful rituals was sponsored by the guild.

         In the book of Revelation, only here in this letter, Lord Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of God who with His eyes like a flame of fire discerns their thoughts and desires with a deep penetrating gaze. His feet ‘like fine brass’ represent the purity of His ways having walked through the fire to the cross. The brass also shows His immovability. Our Lord praised the good works of this model church which included the love Ephesus lacked; perseverance of Smyrna and the good doctrines of Pergamos. They were growing spiritually, in love, knowledge and zeal for the Lord and Lord Jesus kept an eye on them to know their works.

          Lord Jesus exposed evil in their midst in the form of an ungodly woman, given a vile name Jezebel, with great spiritual influence to mislead. In the Old Testament Jezebel, wife of King Ahab, threatened Prophet Elijah with evil for opposing her deeds of leading Israel into worship of other gods (1 Kings 19). How could such a vile woman come to wield great power in the church? First, calling herself a ‘prophetess’ she claimed to speak for God to mislead simple untaught people. Second, she maintained a facade of a deeply religious person with a close relationship with God. Third, with her clever words and sweet talk she could win people but ruthlessly remove opposition. And she did all in the guise of a good Christian and led the people into sinful sexual immoral acts and participation in the feasts of other gods.

         The warning – Lord Jesus was now ready to punish her for her ‘time to repent’ and of grace was over. As a result, first, there will be great suffering; second, her followers will suffer great tribulation and death; third, all churches shall know that God punishes sin in the church; four, He will be searching minds and hearts and ‘give to each one according to your works’. This Woman Jezebel had led her followers into knowing ‘the depths of Satan’ through her doctrine of evil pagan rituals aimed at learning ‘deep secrets’ of life. But those who had escaped her will, were to suffer no other burden from the Lord. However, the Lord did not command them to expel her out of the church, for her influence was so great that the Lord would deal with her personally, while they were to hold fast to the truth that they had.

           The reward – The reward was for those who overcome and not only that, who ‘keep My works until the end’, for all believers can in His power and might turn from evil influence of forces of darkness all around. Since they would be living a holy and righteous life, they would receive a share in His kingdom for He promises to share His victory with us. The Greek word for rule is ‘poimanei’ which means ‘to shepherd’ and is not about executing judgement only but about mercy and blessings to be poured out. And in His kingdom no evil will be allowed or tolerated for ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron’. Still a greater reward was offered to them which cannot be matched, ‘the Morning Star’, Lord Jesus Himself for He is that (Revelation 22:16). The change would take them from the fake morning star that is the devil, who claims to be the one, to the Living and loving God. Hear and heed the voice of the Holy Spirit, is the call to all till the Lord’s second coming.  

          Letter to the ‘dead church’ at Sardis – The letter to the church of Sardis identifies a church that is well past its days of glory and is now only ruins (Revelation 3:1-6). But our Lord raises the dead to new life and the letter is one such call for their revival. The Greek word Sardis means either ‘prince of joy; that which remains and those escaping’. The city was located on the banks of gold laden Pactolus River and was known as a center of glory and wealth. By the end of the first century, however, Sardis had lost much of its importance in regional political scenarios. It had wealth but nothing more to show and the letter reflects that state of the church also.

          This church suffered from spiritual laziness and overconfidence with no awareness of its real state of only nominal faith with little or incomplete works. In their self-belief they paid no heed to the false teaching that had almost eaten up its soul. The warning bell was to be watchful and start evaluating their present state, for in some parts of the church there was still life. Lord Jesus urged them to ‘strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die’. Sardis was conquered by the enemy twice due to their negligence.

          The Lord had not given up on them and they could revive their faith and works to become a vibrant church again for their works were far below God’s standards. Some Christians of the church were considered worthy by the Lord ‘to walk with Him in white’ sinless garments for they had not indulged in sinful deeds to tarnish themselves. The church was asked to remember the way they had accepted the Lord as Savior on hearing the Word of God. Apostle Paul commended the Thessalonians for receiving the Word of God ‘not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe’ (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The believers of Sardis were asked to repent and turn back to believing the Word of God as truth and not be led astray by false teachings.

           The warning – The Sardis church was warned by the Lord of judgment if they did not change their ways through repentance. This the Lord would do unexpectedly, coming ‘like a thief’. However, the victorious in the Lord were promised complete cleansing from all sins and wear ‘white garments’, undefiled and spotless with their names being retained in the Book of Life. In ancient times cities maintained a register of their citizens and on death, a person’s name was removed from that register. The message of the Risen Lord is clear, only the living can be in His Book and He alone is the source of life. The fate of those missing from His Book was to be ‘cast into the lake of fire’ (Revelation 20:15).

         Moses the great leader received the Ten Commandments from the LORD God on Mount Sinai but the Israelites made a golden calf as their god and worshipped it. The LORD God in His anger told Moses about His decision to destroy all and make a great nation of Moses (Exodus 32:10 & 31-32). Moses confessed the people’s great sin but sought forgiveness for his people from the LORD but expressed his deep love for them by pleading, ‘but if not, I pray, blot me out of your book which You have written’. Moses’ plea to intercede for his people was to remind God about His love for them.

        The reward – The threefold reward to the Sardis church included removal of all dark spots of sin, giving of spotless white garments, retention of name in the Lamb’s Book of life and walk with the Lord as His own under His protectionLord Jesus also promised to commend their names as a confession before God, the Father and His angels. The real difference between the spiritually dead was the works of impurity and sinfulness for the purity of the few faithful pleased the Lord. Whether the death resulted from impure lives and their association with the sin of others or this lifestyle caused death is not mentioned in the letter but surely, they were both correlated.   

          The purity of life does not earn a person closeness to God but the fact of their greater interest in the ways of God. Lord Jesus classified the ‘pure in heart’ as blessed and assured them that they shall see God’ (Matthew 5:8). The 70, who were sent with power and authority over sickness and disease, returned with joy since even the demons were subject to them in the name of the Savior Lord (Luke 10:17-20). They were warned by the Lord ‘do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven’. Confirming this fact, Apostle Paul told the faithful, ‘our citizenship is in heaven’ and that is the greatest blessing for us all to always be in the presence of God (Philippians 3:20).

          Whoever commits his/her life to the Lord once, may turn back into sinful living or backslide, but will always have the living Word of God planted in Him. It requires the right nurturing and caring touch of others, without confrontation or shaming, to get them back to faith. That is what the Sardis church was commanded by the Lord to hold fast to what they had heard initially. Second requirement is of intercessory prayers for such a person, to seek the power of the Holy Spirit to work in that person through you to lead him back. It is always God who leads a person to Himself and He alone can get the person back into faith at His time and in His way. Meanwhile we keep our interaction with such a person intact to revive his faith.

            Message for burdened people of today –The faith of any believer is evident in his/her works. Apostle James encourages us that ‘he who turns a soul from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins’ (James 5:19- 20). So we must never give up on someone not in the faith or who was once in the faith and now is doubtful, We regularly find such people in our midst who are professors and not possessors of the Lord as Redeemer with their religion on display but bitter inwardly. If the righteous walk in white then obviously these shall walk in black and live in the blackness of absolutely no hope but despair. Many, like the sons of Sceva, the Jewish Chief Priest (Acts 19:13-15), use the name of Lord Jesus without really knowing Him. The Church is responsible for reaching out to such professors with the real doctrine of faith to turn them into active believers. The three C’s of any church are communion, compassion and connection and without either of these our role is incomplete. The basic idea is to love and love under any and every circumstance.

         Revival happens through four ways in someone – First, he has to be sensitive to sin and accept the evil in it; second, he has to be submissive to the Holy Spirit; third, follow the command of God as revealed in His Word and finally, repent of the past and turn your faith in the right direction – God ward. All those suffering from their wrong choices in the past must be made to realize in love that forgiveness and absolute cleansing is possible and available. Certain consequences of past sins may remain but the burden of guilt of sinfulness is gone. The choice for a believer is between Jezebel and Lord Jesus and one cannot have both. Lord Jesus’ statement is categorical, ‘no one can serve two masters’ and one has to turn his back to either Jezebel spirit or to Lord Jesus (Matthew 6:24). Turn to the Lord and lay at His feet all your past sins and dark spots and He will never turn anyone away for He loves you.

         Lord Jesus came down from heaven to live amongst men and died for us and with this invites us to join HimThe role of the church is to help the weak into strength in the Lord and revive their nominal faith into a great fire. This needs love, patience and perseverance on our part but the reward is rejoicing in heaven. Has the lure of economic benefits of allowing both Jezebel and the Lord to be in the church corrupted our lives and faith? We have to be careful and not allow this to happen.             

         The moment we surrender our lives to Lord Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, the forces of darkness in the world, that are ever opposed to the heavenly kingdom, start working against us. The more active we become in our faith and witnessing the tougher becomes the way due to these evil satanic forces. And many times, these conflicts crop up from within the church also. But our Lord’s promise of being with us always is our source of strength to face such situations and emerge victorious. We have to maintain a relationship of love with each other and thus win back all those who go astray or those not in the faith yet.

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