Dear Christ Church,
This past Sunday we continued in our Reimagine Church series from Revelation 3:1-6, reimagining church as a community of remembrance. The church in Sardis had a reputation for being alive. They looked the part. They were growing. They were thriving. But Jesus said that they were dead. Why? They had forgotten the good news of Jesus. Particularly that:
1. Jesus clothes us in his righteousness
We are not accepted before God because of what we do, but what has been done for us. We don’t come clothed in our righteousness, but that of Jesus. Jesus makes much better clothes than we do, because his righteous sinless life can cover over our sinful, guilty, shame filled life.
2. Jesus writes our names in his book
Revelation speaks of all our days being written in a book. Every day, every choice, every moment of our lives recorded by God. When we die we will be judged based upon this book. This book is a book of death, because based on what is in our books, death is what we deserve. But praise God there is another book! When we place our faith in Jesus our book gets overwritten by his book. For every thing that we have written, Christ writes over “forgiven by my blood.” That is a forgiveness that can never be erased for Jesus’ blood is the most permanent ink that there is.
3. Jesus sings our name before God
Not only are we clothed in Jesus’ righteousness and forgiven by his blood, but we are welcome before God with great joy, because Jesus is the one who announces us before his throne. In ancient times you couldn’t get in to see a King without first being announced. We are announced before God by Jesus. He announces us with great joy as he rejoices over us as his bride and sings over us a song of salvation.
I received two questions in response to my sermon.
Question #1 When Revelation 3:5 says, “He who overcomes” does that mean faith in Jesus or that Jesus is the one who overcomes?
The answer is yes. On the one hand the context makes it clear that “he who overcomes” is the Christian who follows the word of God that is given to the church. The speaker in all the letters is Jesus. He corrects the church, tells them what they need to do and then makes them a promise. So this is clearly talking to those who place their faith in Jesus However, what does it mean to place our faith in Jesus? To place faith in Christ is to become united to Christ and so the reason that we can overcome is because he has overcome. His victory becomes our victory as we are united to Him by faith.
Question #2 Can you lose your salvation?
I’m guessing this question is provoked by Revelation 3:5 which says, “I will never blot their name out of the book of life.” That scripture would seem to clearly indicate that you cannot lose your salvation. So would these scriptures:
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (Joh 10:28 ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phi 1:6 ESV)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39 ESV)
However, the Bible also says,
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, (Heb 6:4-6 ESV)
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (Heb 10:26-27 ESV)
These two passages (and there are others) seem to indicate that you can lose your salvation. They certainly are significant warnings that need to be taken very seriously. For any who persist in sin, not struggling, but willfully choose to reject God and live their own way, there is no hope of salvation, even if they were (or are) professing Christians. Obviously Christians can, and do, struggle with sin and can commit terrible sins. However, that is different than living in a sinful lifestyle. It would be a terrible thing for a spouse to commit adultery, but if they confess their sin and turn and repent, God’s promise of forgiveness for any who confess their sins (1 John 2:1) is theirs. However, if a spouse leaves their marriage and says that it is fine for them to live in an adulterous relationship and never confesses that as sin and repents, then they are sinning deliberately. They have fallen away from God’s word of truth. There is no forgiveness for them. Does that mean that they lost their salvation? No, because that would contradict the clear teaching of scripture that none can lose their salvation. So what does their fall mean? They were never saved in the first place.
For those who have been saved by God, the warnings of God are effective to keep them from rejecting obedience to God. For those who are not saved, they blow right past the warning signs, showing their true hearts. As Jesus taught in Luke 6, a tree is known by its fruit. We aren’t saved by our obedience to Christ, but we do show that we are saved by our obedience to Christ. And so as Phil 2:12 says we are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Christians should look carefully as to how they walk. Confession of sin and repentance from sin should be a daily part of life. However, as we do that we recognize Phil 2:13, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We work, because God is working in us. Those who don’t want to work out their salvation, show that God is not working in them. Like the church in Sardis, they might think they are alive, but they are dead.
So the beautiful hope for the Christian is that there truly is nothing that can separate us from Christ. However, that should not make us lax in our pursuit of Christ. As Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (Joh 14:15)
Let's keep going hard after Jesus, Christ Church!
See you around the neighborhood,
Facebook Jeff Boettcher