I am a born-again, Bible-believing, evangelical Christian man from the midwestern United States. Tonight, before turning out my bedsight light, I was reading a book called The Heavenly Man. The Heavenly Man is an autobiographical account of the life of a Chinese Christian known as Brother Yun. Brother Yun is fond of quoting a scripture for every situation he encounters, and while reading his book tonight I happened upon a passage of scripture that intrigued me. Wanting to read more of it, I looked it up and read some of the surrounding text as well. I should say right up front that despite my faith and trust in Jesus Christ, I don’t read my Bible as much as I should, so what I share with you here, I share as a layman and as a fellow believer, not as a teacher or a preacher.
The Biblical book of Revelation is perhaps the most misunderstood (or misinterpreted) of the books of the Christian Bible. I can say this despite my own limited and imperfect understanding, because anyone who will look can see the conflicting understandings and interpretations of its text which exist in the modern church; it just can’t mean everything that people think it means. It’s doubtful that any of the other Biblical texts have been interpreted in so many conflicting fashions.
But one of the beautiful aspects of the book of Revelation is the messages to the seven churches of Asia, which are present in chapters 2 and 3. At the time of its writing, the so-called seven churches of Asia were the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
These messages were written specifically to each church: a unique message for each of the seven churches named, each message tailored to the character of each church, its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the first message in the series was written to the church in Ephesus and acknowledges first the virtues of that church: hard work and perseverance, a refusal to tolerate wicked men, and discernment of which apostles were true and which were not. And yet there is also a shortcoming in this church: it had lost the fervor with which it had originally embraced the Gospel. “I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love…Repent and do the things you did at first.”
To each church an edifying word was sent, first praising the virtues and then pointing out the particularly grievous sin or shortcoming of that particular group of believers.
The reason I got out of bed to write this message to you tonight is found in the message to the church in Sardis. When I happened upon this passage tonight I was struck by its perfection in describing the evangelical Christian community in North America.
“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. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:1-3)
I won’t waste your time by attempting to interpret this passage for you. Its potential application to the complacent and self-satisfied modern evangelical church in North America seems so obvious to me, I’m going to trust that upon meditation you will also find it speaks to you.
Wake up, Christians! Please share your thoughts by commenting below.