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Deceptive Appearances

Strengthen What Remains
Revelation 3:1-2 ESV

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.

This is a message to the church today, wherever “the shoe fits.” You give off the appearance of being spiritually alive, committed to Christ, walking in the Spirit and no longer living to fulfill the lusts of your flesh; completely transparent, living to please God, and growing in his grace and mercy.

Nonetheless, you have the stench of death – of prolonged spiritual decline, and a yielding of the fruit of unrighteousness, rather than the yielding of the fruit of the Spirit. Your hearts are currently hardened to the truth of the gospel of your salvation, and instead you prefer a gospel which is soft on sin, lenient, and indulgent, which appeals to human flesh. You are living a lie, deceiving and being deceived. You skirt around issues, avoid telling the truth, and omit living uprightly, honorably and in purity.

Thus, you take the cowards way out, and you revert right back to living like you did before you made a profession of Christ as Savior. You cover up your lies and your sinful practices, disguising your lewdness and immorality, excusing them all away as being covered by God’s grace. Thus, you teach that the gospel of Jesus Christ does not require repentance or obedience, as though that means God’s grace makes allowances for willful and continued sins against God. I guarantee it doesn’t! (See: Gal. 5:19-21)

You are also controlling your own lives, not allowing the Spirit of God to have the reigns. You are living by the flesh, doing what you do “for God” by human effort, according to your own plans and purposes and not those of God. The Lord is a stranger to you, cast aside, forgotten and forsaken. Your actions speak loudly that you are living separate from God and separate unto the world, instead of the other way around.

The Lord has been calling out to you for you to allow the light of truth to shine into the dark places of your hearts, to expose secret sins and the lies you’ve told to cover them up, but you are not willing. He has been trying to get you to give up control of your own lives, and to truly yield your lives over to the control of the Holy Spirit, but you are saying “No.” The Holy Spirit is wanting to break through your hard hearts, your pride, and your stubbornness, but you have your own plan in mind, which is to discard and ignore the Holy Spirit’s promptings and to block access to your hearts, so you can hold on to your sins and maintain control over your own lives.

If You Will Not
Revelation 3:3 ESV

Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

The driving or motivating central force or impulse of the church is our faith in Jesus Christ, which is a gift of God. We can’t even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless the Father, via the Holy Spirit, first draws us to Christ. And, it is only by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved and that we have faith to believe in Christ, for the word “faith” means “divine persuasion.” It means we are persuaded by God as to his holiness and righteousness and of our need to turn from our sins and to follow him in obedience, to be crucified with him in death to sin, and to be resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

The faith the Lord gives us to believe in and to follow him in obedience is what motivates us to want to walk in holiness, and to live holy lives, pleasing to God. It is what drives us to read the Word of God and to pray. Our faith is the passion we have for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost world, or the stirring inside us which gives us the desire to help encourage and strengthen the body of Christ, or to urge them on towards following the Lord in obedience. It is, too, what prompts us to pray for others and to believe God for miracles. When we walk in faith, we walk in the Spirit of God, and we walk in love and righteousness.

But, sometimes our faith can be weakened by the flesh if we yield to the flesh over the Spirit. The more often we give way to the flesh over the Spirit the weaker our faith becomes, and thus we end up living more by the flesh than we do by the Spirit. And, if this continues, it can get to a critical stage. The normal disciplines our Lord takes us through then tend to not phase us anymore. Our hearts become hard, and insensitive to the Spirit’s voice. If we are, thus, unresponsive to our Lord’s promptings, more severe measures may have to take place, such as more severe trials and tribulations, in order to strengthen our faith and our resolve to live separate lives from the world and unto God in holiness, purity and righteousness.

We Must Conquer
Revelation 3:4-6 ESV

Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Of course, these (above sections) do not describe every church congregation or every individual believer in Jesus Christ. There are many Christians throughout the world who are walking according to the Spirit, and no longer are they living to gratify the sinful cravings of their flesh. They, in the power of the Spirit within them, are walking in holiness and purity, and they are following the Lord in the ways he would have them to go. Amen!

The way of holiness and righteousness, though, is the way of the cross. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. His grace instructs us to say “NO!” to ungodliness and worldly (fleshly) passions (lusts) and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return. Jesus said if we want to come after him, we must deny self, take up our cross daily and follow him. He said if we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self, we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives for his sake, i.e. if we die with him to sin and live with him to righteousness, we have eternal life with God (1 Pet. 2:24; Tit. 2:11-14; Lu. 9:23-25; cf. Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Eph. 4:17-24).

The one who conquers (overcomes) the flesh and walks according to the Spirit, does not do so out of his own flesh, though, for flesh cannot give birth to spirit. It only gives birth to flesh. Thus, we can only conquer the flesh and live in victory over the flesh in the power of the Spirit of God living within those of us who have died with Christ to sin and who have been raised with Christ to newness of life, to be lived to his righteousness. And, Jesus has to be Lord, i.e. he has to be the one in control, on the throne of our lives, and we have to yield to that control, and submit to his will and to his ways.

Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed
Isaac Watts/ Ralph E. Hudson

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away
’Tis all that I can do.

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018, 7:54 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for this teaching from Your Word. Bring it home to our hearts, I pray in Jesus’ name.
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