DOCTOR, IS IT TIME TO PULL THE PLUG?
Revelation 3:1-6 (NIV)
To the Church in Sardis
3 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.
3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, 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.
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Life is full of cold, hard realities! For instance, there are times when decisions must be made concerning the life of a loved one. Sometimes these bodies can become so diseased and so badly damaged that there is no hope for the continuation of life.
During those times, many families will make a decision to forgo or prolong medical treatment for their loved ones, thereby affording them the right to die.
Certainly, this is not euthanasia, but it is facing the fact that there are times when you must face the facts! There are times when there can be no recovery and no quality of life and the best gift you can give that loved one in to pull the plug, so to speak, and allow them to die with some semblance of dignity.
(Of course, not everyone feels this way. There are those who want to keep their loved ones alive as long as possible using machines and medicine. This is not a condemnation of that approach either.)
While this is true concerning the human body, it is also true concerning churches! Churches die! There are churches that once walked in the glory and power of God, who are now living on their past success.
There are some churches that are kept alive by nothing more than the machinery of their organization. If someone were to walk by and pull the plug, that church would silently fade away into oblivion.
Such is the church in our text today. They looked alive, but the Great Physician felt their pulse and declared them to be dead! Jesus is telling this church that unless there appears the certain signs of life, then He has no choice but to pull the plug and let them go forever.
As we listen in on Jesus’ words to this church, I would like for us to lay our fingers on the pulse of own lives and churches in our days. Let’s allow the Great Physician JESUS CHRIST to give us a much needed check-up and let Him tell us just how alive we really are.
We may or may not like what we see about ourselves and our church, but regardless of the diagnosis, there can be no treatment until we understand our actual condition. We may be fooled about how we think of our church! We may think we are something when we are not.
Let’s allow Jesus to show us our true condition and let’s allow Him to prescribe the proper treatment.
I am going to preach for a few minutes on this thought: Doctor, Is It Time To Pull The Plug? As I do, lets find out if we will survive, or if it is indeed time for the Lord to pull the plug on us.
I. V. 1 THE COLD REALITY OF THE CHURCH’S CONDITION
A. The Reviewer (JESUS)
– To determine the identity of the One speaking in these verses, we need only look back at Rev 1:16. There, we are told that it is Jesus Who holds the seven stars. He is the One Who comes to this church to tell them of their condition. This tells us that Jesus is intimately interested in what happens in His churches. He is concerned and He is watching the things that take place. And, in His time, He will come to set all records straight!
1. He Holds God’s Power – In His hand is the plentitude (abundance or fullness) of the Holy Spirit. This is a reminder to the churches that we are to operate, not under the power of human skill, leadership and organization, but under the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. When the church walks in the power of the flesh, we will surely fail, but when we walk in the power of the Spirit, there will be success. There will be glory and there will be power and life instead of deadness and ineffectiveness!
(Illustration – When the human spirit is in control of the human body, amazing things can be accomplished. For instance, a pianist can sit down at a keyboard, perform thousands of delicate, precise movements that will produce beautiful music.
However, let that same pianist suffer some injury that leaves the arms paralyzed, and the mind is no longer in control of those arms, hands and fingers. Then, try as it might, the human spirit cannot will the hands to make music.
So too, when the Spirit of God is in control of the members of the church, great things can be accomplished. However, when He is not, paralysis is the result and nothing can be accomplished for God.)
2. He Holds God’s Preachers – This is a reminder that even the men of God are in the hands of the Lord. It is His desire that He be in control of the Pastor (preacher), as well as the membership. If the preacher will not yield to God, then the Lord cannot bless the church as greatly as He desires to. Just as the church as a whole must yield to the Lord, so too must the man of God!
3. He Holds God’s Perception – “I know thy works!” The Lord tells this church that He knows all there is to know about them. He knows their achievements and their failures. He knows their motives and their priorities. He knows where He stands in relationship to their agenda. He knows everything about them. The Lord still knows! He knows what we are doing here in our lives and churches. He knows what He is calling us to do. He knows where we are obedient and where we have failed to obey. He knows why we do what we do. He knows everything about us! He knows our works!
(Ill. 2 Chron 16:9, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth.”)
(Ill. This knowledge ought to make us stop for a moment and think about what we are doing as a church. Are our works the kind that please the Lord? Are we carrying out His Will effectively in this world in our days? Does what He knows about us make Him glad or does it break His heart?)
B. The Reputation
– Jesus tells this church (Sardis) that they have a reputation (a dead church). Everyone who knows about this church perceives them to be alive in the things of God. They have the name that they are a church that is on fire for God! This wasn’t a lazy church! They were busy and they were active. They had a good name among the other churches!
(Ill. Every church ought to be on fire for God. Every church ought to have a witnessing, soul winning membership. Every church ought to be a beehive of activity for the glory of the Lord. It is wonderful when a church has such a reputation. It is even more wonderful when that reputation is true!)
C. The Reality
– Regardless of what others may have thought about this church, Jesus knew the truth. He tells them that even though everyone thinks they are alive, they are, in fact, dead!
This word means just what it says! Like a dead man, the church at Sardis was “destitute of force or power. They were ineffective and inoperative.” They were dead! Though there was activity, it was not spiritual in nature. Though there was business, they were bringing nothing eternal to pass. They were preaching, but lives were not being changed and sinners were not being saved. They were busy, but they were operating in the energy of the flesh (physical) and not the energy of the Spirit of God. Everyone looked at them and spoke of their life. Jesus, the One Who knew them better than anyone, looked at them and pronounced them dead!
(Ill. I wonder what He would say about the reputation and reality of our own local church? Would He say, “You are living up to your reputation! Everyone thinks you are alive and doing great things for me, and so you are!” Or, would He say, “Oh, you have a good name in the community and with other church, but I have felt your pulse and I feel no life in you at all?” What would He say to us this moment? What is He saying to you, as an individual this moment?)
I. The Cold Reality Of The Church’s Condition
II. V. 2-3 THE CLEAR REMEDY FOR THE CHURCH’S CURE
(Ill. This church (Sardis) has a real problem, but there is hope for their recovery! Jesus gives them the good news that it is not time to pull the plug! They can live, but there are some things they must do. To refuse to do them leaves Him with no choice but to finish them off for good.)
A. They Are Told To Watch – They are told to “be watchful”. Literally, this means that they are to “chase away sleep.” This church is a church with a glorious past. However, they have allowed their past successes to lull them into a state of complacency and spiritual slumber. Jesus calls upon them to chase away sleep. His command is for them to wake up and realize that the victories of yesterday are not sufficient for this day!
(Ill. This happens so many times in churches that it is not funny. A church will struggle in its beginning and the core group who founded that church will have to work, pray, witness, give and yield to God to see the church stay alive. However, over time, more people come. More money comes. There are buildings built and good services are enjoyed.
Yet, in the midst of these good things, something terrible happens. The church begins to lose the vision that made them so strong in their early years. They become content to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labors. And, certainly, we ought to be thankful for what the Lord has done for us, but there is no time for stopping! There is no time for looking back at yesteryears! Our vision ought to be for today and for tomorrow. Look around! We are aging! Who will take our place? Look around! We are full, but our vision is gone! Look around! We are satisfied with what we have and we have lost the fire that made us strong!)
(Ill. The people in Sardis would have understood exactly what Jesus was talking about. Sardis was located on the top of a mountain. It had one entrance on the southern side which was the only way you could get into the city in the old days. Therefore, all that Sardis had to do was to put a detail at that one place to watch the city. But on two occasions in their history they had been invaded by their enemies because they had felt secure, believing that the hill was impregnable, and the guard went to sleep on the job.
In 549 B.C. the Median soldiers of Cyrus scaled the parapet, and then again in 218 B.C. Antiochus the Great captured Sardis because a Cretan slipped over the walls while the sentries were careless. When we allow ourselves to sleep because of what we have enjoyed in the past, we are going to find ourselves conquered by the enemy, 1 Pet. 5:8.)
B. They Are Told To Work – The Lord gives this church four activities that they are to be busily engaged in. These things will help any church that has been caught napping on Jesus!
1. Revive – He tells them that not everything about them has died. There are still some things that have a spark of life in them. These things are to be revived before they die out. (Ill. The phrase, “that are ready to die”, literally means, “that are knocking on death’s door.”) This is a call for them to get stirred up again for the things of God! It is a call to revival!
(Ill. “For I have not found thy works perfect before God.” This means that their “works are incomplete and do not reach Heaven.” They have sone things in their midst that are good, but they are works that need reviving before they will make an eternal difference. It is possible to be busy in the things of God and yet to be doing nothing for God.
Unless our works are complete, they will never reach Heaven, and there will be no glory for God in the church. What churches like this need is revival! To be stirred by the Spirit of God into new life and activity for the glory of God!)
2. Remember – These people are counseled to remember where the Lord brought them from and what He has done for them. They are to remember the days when they served the Lord our of a glad heart and wanted more than anything to do His will! They are to remember what it was like to walk in the power of God while the fire of His glory burned in and around them!
(Ill. Memory can be a bad thing, especially when our memories cause us to live in the past and rest on past glory. However, if memory wakes us up and causes us to be resurrected in the present, then memory serves a great purpose! By the way, what do you remember about the past concerning your local church? What do you remember concerning yourself?)
3. Resolve – This church is told to hold on to the things that are still alive in their midst. They are to resolve before the Lord that they will not allow those things to die as well.
(Ill. There is always a danger in focusing our attention in one area or another. We must not revive one thing while we allow another to die. To do so leaves us in the same condition we are already in. What we are looking for is a total transformation that preserves the living things, and revives the dead things!)
4. Repent – In this verse, they are confronted concerning their sin. When the things of God are allowed to die, the only recourse the church has is repentance!
(Ill. The idea of repentance is a foreign one to many in our day and time. People seem to have the opinion that whatever they want to do is just fine and should be accepted by everyone. My friends, God is not obliged to accept the things you do! When there is sin in the life of an individual, there must be repentance before there can be restoration and revival. The same if true for a church. When a church has allowed themselves to be lulled into a state of slumber, their only hope is that of repentance!
What does it mean to repent? It means that we come to a place where we experience a change of mind about our sins that results in a change of direction. We turn from our sins and we turn toward God. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action! How long has it been since we as individuals and we as a church have repented before the Lord for our laziness, our complacency, out apathy, our wickedness, our deadness, etc?)
C. They Are Told To Wait – This church is told that if they will not do the serious work of changing themselves, the Lord Himself will come into their midst and take away the things that remain alive and that church will be totally and fully dead!
(Ill. Many churches are in that very condition today! When the call to repentance came from the Lord, they ignored it and He came to them in swift judgment. Now, they function the same as always! They have services. They have preaching. They have outreach ministries. They give to missions. But, they are dead! They are ineffective! They are merely going through the motions! There is no life in their midst. Jesus has pulled the plug and pronounced them dead!)
(Ill. Friends, do not let that happen here in our lives and churches! Let us heed the warning from the Lord and repent before Him with a sincere heart! Let us come before Him at His call and follow Him into new live and real revival!)
I. The Cold Reality Of The Church’s Condition
II. The Clear Remedy For The Church’s Cure
III. V. 4-6 THE COMFORTING REWARD FOR THE CHURCH’S COOPERATION
(Ill. As bad as things are in Sardis, there is still hope! There are some in the church, who in the midst of death, still cling to life. There are others who can repent and be restored by the Lord. He speaks to both groups in these closing verses.)
A. V. 4 A Promise To The Remnant – Those who are living for the Lord and walking in His life are counseled to continue. They will be rewarded for their faithfulness to Him. The day will come when they will join Him in Heaven and they will walk with Him there. Why? Because they are worthy! Not because they are faithful, but because they are saved! His righteousness has been applied to their lives and they will spend eternity in His presence.
(Ill. Friends, you may be one of those believers who is still fired up about Jesus. If you are, then I challenge you to stay the course! God is watching and He will keep you through the “deadness” that surrounds you. When this earthly life is over, you will join Him in His heavenly kingdom. Then, it will have been well worth the struggle!)
B. V. 5 A Promise To The Repentant – Those who turn from their deadness are promised by Jesus that He will openly confess their names before the throne of God. Why? Because by their repentance, they confessed His name before men – “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.”, Matt. 10:32.
(Ill. Friends, you might be one of those who has allowed the fire in your life to die out. If that is the case, you need to repent before the Lord! You need to get right with God! If you will openly confess Him before men, He will call your name out before the Father as one of His Own. Some of you need to do just that right now!)
When these bodies die, there is no more hope. We are gone from this world forever. However, when a church dies, there is still hope. There can be repentance. There can be restoration. There can be a day of new beginning. There can be real revival!
Jesus has His finger on the pulse of His church and His people right now. I wonder what His diagnosis is? Are we alive and well? Are we strong in the things of God? Are we vibrant and active? Or, have we allowed ourselves to become weak and ill? Are we knocking on death’s door this day? Is there hope for the church? Or, is it time for the Doctor to pull the plug?
No one can answer that question but you! After all, you are the church, and what you do determines whether we run to the winner’s circle or we are carried to the graveyard.
Our own finger has been on our pulse while I have been preaching. What is your diagnosis of the present condition? Will we live and bring glory to God, or should we just pull the plug and end our suffering and misery?
You respond as the Lord has dealt with your heart!
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!