“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 found your deeds unfinished in the sight of My God.” — Revelation 3:1-2
Churches that have been around for many years are often considered to be mature, and while that may be true chronologically it may not be true spiritually. Such a church may have been exposed to subtle dangers that incrementally creep up without realizing it.
On the Isle of Patmos, Jesus had John write to the church in Sardis. This church enjoyed a reputation for being alive and active, but did not know they were in the throes of death. When we read the letters of Paul to established churches and the letters of Jesus to the seven churches in Asia Minor, we find they have become riddled with seductions, inaccurate teaching and wrong behaviour. The evidence to look for in our churches today is whether or not we are moving from an outward-looking disposition to becoming inward-looking. Is the church moving from being Christ-centred to becoming need-centred and human-centred?
There is the very real danger of slipping into a well-managed organization rather than being a “living organism.” A church can display symptoms of being alive and active, especially if we associate the life of the church with the size of the congregation and all the activity and buzz taking place. But a lively, active church may actually be dead, because it has ceased to be a living organism with the life of Jesus Christ flowing through it.
We can easily move from being Spirit-dependent to being self-sufficient, creating fail-safe structures and resources that enable us to keep up with our programs whether God is in business or not. We can move our thinking to human reasoning from which we then interpret biblical revelation, giving our reason the right of veto over parts of Scripture that do not fit our lifestyles or culture. These temptations can drain us of spiritual life and replace it with outward form that may be impressive to some, but will eventually crumble under the hollowness of its internal spiritual life. This, however, is not new. To the churches in Corinth, Colossae, Galatia, Ephesus, Smyrna, Sardis and all the rest, there was hope. Jesus says, “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die.”
The New Testament church is not a building but people, and a Spirit-filled church is one that has the agenda of God at heart and is wholly dependent on the Spirit of Christ in accomplishing it. What is true of the church will be true of its members, which makes essential that in every aspect of our churches, we keep fresh and alive an intimate union with Jesus Christ in which He will act.
PRAYER: Lord, I pray for churches everywhere to maintain an intimate relationship with You and accomplish Your agenda in complete dependency on You. Thank You, Lord.