In the early days of the first church, Herod went on a rampage against the Christians. He arrested James and had him beheaded. When he sw that the Jews were pleased by his actions, he arrested Peter, and since it was during the feast of Unleavened Bread, had him imprisoned until after the feast.
He was protected by four squads of the fiercest Roman soldiers available.
But they were no match for one angel of God. The angel suddenly appeared in Peter's cell, and slapping the sleeping Apostle. told him to get up now. When he did, his chains fell off. The two guards chained to him did not wake up.
The angel led him out of the prison, past scores of guards, and delivered him to the the streets of Jerusalem. When Peter came to himself, (I imagine he pinched himself two or three times), he realized it had not been a dream, but that he actually had been delivered. So, Peter hurriedly made his way to the house of Mary, where the Apostles were hiding and praying earnestly for Peter's deliverance.
The servant girl who came to the gate heard Peter knocking and calling out "Open up, let me in". She did not have to look out the peep hole to know who was there. She immediately recognized Peter by his voice! After her initial shock and the Apostle's unbelief, they finally let Peter in.
Peter had a voice that was distinctive and different, so much so that Rhoda knew it was him.
BETTE MIDLER V. FORD MOTOR CO
In the mid 80's Ford Motor was trying to market Lincolns and Mercury's to the "Yuppies". They did so in a series of ad's where they would show a Lincoln or a Mercury while playing some smemorable song from the 70's. They used the original artists. They wanted to use Bette Midler singing her song "Do you want to dance", but she refused. So they hired one of her back up singers who did a spot on imitation. Here is what the Appelate Court ruled:
A voice is as distinctive and personal as a face. The human voice is one of the most palpable ways identity is manifested. We are all aware that a friend is at once known by a few words on the phone. At a philosophical level it has been observed that with the sound of a voice, "the other stands before me." D. Ihde, Listening and Voice 77 (1976) Bette Midler v. Ford Motor Company No. 87-6168 (1988)
Most of the time we can recognize someone's voice, especially if they are in our family or a close friend. Sometimes that is not the case. I really fell embarrassed when someone starts talking to me and I don't recognize their voice. But I always tell my wife I'm sorry, it won't happen again. That's because I have her name programmed into my phone. It even shows her picture just so I know who it is!
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF JESUS REVEAL DIVINE LOVE
We have been looking at Agape or Divine Love, and how Jesus expects us to love Him with divine love. He has written seven letters to seven different churches, and each letter addresses a failing of that church in regards to Divine Love. Each letter points our an important characteristic of Agape Love, and the reward we receive when we overcome and achieve that aspect of love!
Each aspect of Divine Love is displayed in the characteristics of Jesus Christ displayed in Revelations One.
In Revelation 1:13, John records that Jesus wore a golden sash across his chest. The gold across his heart symbolized his pure and perfect love, the love which led Him to risk everything, including His life for the sake of you and me. This prompted His letter to Ephesus, to a church that had left their first love, and were loving Jesus based upon their interests and concerns. Theirs was 'phileo' love, but Jesus told them to repent and do those works they did at the first, when they were willing to risk everything for Him!
Next we see his white hair, and we know His love has sttod the tests of time and trial, yet He has full strength. He is still full of life! He is the first and the last, the one who was dead, but now is alive. So he addressed the church at Smyrna, and encouraged them to stay faithful in persecution, for Agape Love is suffering love. It is love that endures and grows sweeter even in the midst of suffering, persecution and death.
John sees His eyes next, and they are as flames of fire. They reveal the love of Jesus that sees everything, and knows everything, yet still loves his people. So he writes to Pergamum, a church which is struggling with worldliness, with doing things which are weakening their Agape Love. So divine love is discerning love, it discerns that which is harmful, that which causes our love to wane, and it removes it.
FEET OF BRONZE
Then John notices His feet, and how they were like burnished bronze that had been refined in the fire. His feet have endured the sin and corruption of this world, and yet they never lost their strength. For Divine love is righteous love. It is uncompromising in its commitment to the righteousness of God. So Christ writes a letter to the church at Thyatira. There the people have started to "let go" of God's standards, of God's righteousness, and they are tolerating Jezebel, who is preaching that it is alright to be worldly and be a Christian. But divinle Love is Uncompromising Love.
VOICE OF MANY WATERS
Now John notices the Voice of Jesus. His voice is as the voice of many waters. This is the voice of distinction, the voice of character, the voice of the Son of God. He speaks, and the seven spirits obey. He speaks and the bread is multiplied. He speaks, and the dead stand up. No, this is not the voice that John knew. No, this is the voice of the creator of the universe! This is the voice of the one who will judge the nations. This is the voice of the one who will rule with a rod of iron.
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. Psalms 29:4
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” Psalms 29:9
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. John 5:25
And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. Revelation 14:2
The Voice pictures the character of the Son of God. It is bold, it is powerful, it is loving, it is to be feared. Yet there is no mistaking His voice, just as their is no mistaking that He has earned the right ot judge the nations. His character is without sin, so His voice is without imperfection.
The Divine Love of Jesus is Distinguishing, it distinguishes Him from all the others who have pretended to be a god.
From Free Online Dictionary: Distinguishing: To perceive as being different or distinct, To make noticeable or different; set apart. To cause (oneself) to be eminent or recognized.
HIS SHEEP HEAR HIS VOICE AND FOLLOW
To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. John 10:3-4
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
HEAR THE WORDS FROM THE VOICE OF MANY WATERS
the Voice of He who holds the 7 Spirits and the 7 messengers.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF SARDIS.
The city was divided into two parts. One part was a fortress on top of a magnificent acropolis and the other was the sprawling community where most of the people lived that existed about 1500 feet below in a very fertile valley. In the valley the people did their work, farming, wool dying (major industry), linen and textile mills, and jewelry thanks to gold that was processed and refined from the Pactolus stream that ran next to the town.
The city of Sardis was a city of wealth. History tells us that in 550 b.c., King Croesus found gold in the city’s river and issued the first gold coins in history! Even in New Testament times, gold could be found all along its rivers.
In addition to its wealth, the city was known for its paganism. There are temples to Artemis, the Protectress, Zeus Polieus (Protector). After an earthquake in 17 BC, they went to disrepair, probably in reaction to their failure to protect. Evidence shows it was at least 50 years before they were rebuilt. There is a Christian Chapel built at the Southeast corner of the Temple to Artemis. Probably to use materials after the temple fell into disuse. There is another temple to Cybele - the Mother of the the gods. She became the favored goddess, and worshippers of Cybele participated in wild, frenzied worship that included sexual immorality .
By the time the Romans controlled Sardis the great fortress atop the acropolis was uninhabited. It was basically a relic of days gone by.
Historical evidence indicates that these people were absolutely obsessed with the issues of death and immortality. They worshiped the forces of nature which were considered to be the source of life and death and would provide the power of self reproduction. In the worship of the goddess Cybele we find from archaeological evidence that there were serpents that were pictured as emerging from the earth to shed their skin which they considered to be a sign of their power of rejuvenation. Cybele and Attis, who was supposedly her eunuch chariot driver, were considered to be the guardians of the grave, guardians of the tomb. And life after death was seen as a reunion with the “earth mother” they called her.
According to Robert Thomas, a prominent historian and theologian, “Pagan religions throughout the area attributed healing power to their deities, but in Sardis special emphasis focused on the power to restore life to the dead. This special power was connected with a hot springs about two miles from the city. These springs were viewed as visible manifestations of the power of the god of the underworld which was prominent in the local religious legends,”
Herodotus (fifth century B.C.) described the people of Sardis as "the tender-footed Lydians, who can only play on the cithara, strike the guitar, and sell by retail".
Sardis was on the Appian Way, and there is evidence of 2nd and 3rd century Christian shops and restaurants that would appeal to the travelers.
• Sardis is described as a city of peace—not the peace won through battle, but "the peace of the man whose dreams are dead and whose mind is asleep, the peace of lethargy and evasion" (ibid., p. 72).
• Ramsay (op. cit., p. 354) called it "the city of Death," city of softness and luxury, of apathy and immorality
For many centuries Sardis was considered to be an invincible, impregnable fortress that sat on top of a long narrow promontory, this acropolis, this great mountaintop. And all around it there were 1500 foot cliffs that were basically smooth rock walls that went all the way to the bottom.
When Cyrus was King of Persia, they conquered King Croesus becasue they saw a soldier go down a passageway to retrieve a helmut that had fallen off the top. They marked his path, and one by one the Persian army ascended the cliff, and surprised the Lydia army, overcoming them.
The Sardis were so complacent, or overconfident, that history repeated itself when Antiochus the Great of Syria besieged the acropolis in 214 BC.
THE VOICE OF MANY WATERS SAYS "WAKE UP"!
He doesn't bother with any complements. No, he has a thundering indictment for this complacent church.
"You think you have a reputation as a great church, alive to God, but WAKE UP, you are dead!
NO DISTINGUISHING LOVE
There is no misunderstanding His message. The church at Sardis has lost their Distinguishing Love. They are no different than all the other dead people who worship all the other dead gods. In Revelation 3, Jesus wants the church at Sardis to remember His voice, for they have lost their distinctiveness as Christians. Jesus doesn't mention what is good with the church, because there is nothing. In fact, He wants them to "Wake Up". They think they are a great church, that their love for Jesus is great. They don't see anything wrong.
You have a Name that you are alive, but you are dead!
The "Name" is their character, how people think of them. O so and so, he sure is a man of his word. Or so and so, he sure does lose his temper alot. We always have a reputation associated with our name, and that reputation depends on how distinctive our life is, how distinctive our character is.
"A name," that is, a reputation. Sardis was famed among the churches for spiritual vitality; yet the Heart-searcher, who seeth not as man seeth, pronounces her dead; how great searchings of heart should her case create among even the best of us!
Same with this church at Sardis.
They are dead. They are dead. Whatever works they are doing are lost because of their lack of distinctiveness. They think they are following Christ, but they are fooling themselves.
William Barclay wrote, "When John wrote his letter to Sardis, Sardis was wealthy, but Sardis was degenerate...There was no life, no spirit there. The once great Sardians were soft, and twice they had lost their city because they were too lazy to watch. And in that enervating atmosphere of degeneration and decay the Christian Church too had lost its vitality and its power, and was a corpse instead of a living church."
"it suffered from spiritual dry rot and deadness."
MacArthur –"Like the fig tree in Jesus’ parable, it bore leaves, but no fruit" (Matt. 21:19).
THE VOICE SPEAKS SO THAT WE MIGHT HAVE LIFE!
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:24
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:13-14
Paul talks about A WIDOW who goes back into the world and sensuality:
But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. 1 Timothy 5:6
Sure, she may think she is having alot of fun. She may think she is alive, but she is dead!
The church at Sardis thought they were doing great, having fun, serving Jesus, but they had lost their distinguishing characteristics. They were living in the flesh, like all the pagans around them. They were dead just like them.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8
They had exchanged the riches of Jesus for the riches of the world.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-7
A. WAKE UP CALL
1. WAKE UP -
"Prove yourself to be watchful". Honestly evaluate your spiritual condition. Be constantly on the alert lest your lack of vigilance allow even more wickedness to scale your walls and take you captive.” Wake up, number one.
2. STRENGTHEN what remains
Strengthen has the idea of reinforce or fortify that which survives.
Strength comes from the Holy Spirit. You must walk in the Spirit:
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12
Listen to the strength of the Voice of Many Waters.
WARNING: Your Works are not complete (fulfilling) to God. Works of the flesh are nothing to God. Their works have not measured up to God's standard.
3. “REMEMBER what you received and heard.”
Remember the Voice of Christ. Keep His words ever in the forefront of your mind.
Remember those things, keep them in the forefront of your mind.
4. KEEP IT
Christ commands them to “keep on keeping.” In other words, live consistently with what you know to be true.
a verb that carries with it not only the idea of having remorse over your sin, but a decisive determination to turn your life around and walk in a different direction.
• If you don't wake up I will come as a thief - just as the Persians and Syrians captured the fortress years before.
• They could look up to the acropolis and see what the result was-total desolation.
B. THE ENCOURAGEMENT
A REMNANT REMAINS
1. Not Soiled their Garments
They have not defiled their garments.
‘Moffat...speaks of votive inscriptions in Asia Minor which show that dirty clothing was held to dishonour the deity, so that those who wore soiled garments were debarred from worshipping’
Jude gives us insight into what defiles us...
Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. Jude 1:8 ….
The garments symbolize your character, that which distinguishes you. Your character is defiled when you reject the authority of Christ, and you blaspheme the saints by not distinguishing yourself as a follower of Christ.
2. Walk With Me in White
THE BRIDE OF CHRIST, "so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:27
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. Revelation 19:7-8
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10
3. They Are Worthy
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:38
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:10
C. THE PROMISE
1. Conquering One Will Wear White
Bride of Christ (mentioned above)
2. Name Is Never Blotted Out Of The Book Of Life.
This divine register first occurs in Exodus 32:32 and often in the O.T. SeeLuke 10:20 ; Philippians 4:3 ; Revelation 13:8 ; Revelation 20:15 ; Revelation 21:27 .
The book is in Christ's hands ( Revelation 13:8 ; Revelation 21:27 ).
3. Confess His Name Before The Father
Clear reminiscence of the words of Christ about confessing to the Father those who confess him here
HOW TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE ALIVE
1. Listen to His Voice
Are you a true follower of Christ? Does He truly live in your heart? Then you will hear His voice, and you will follow HIm. If you are following your own voice or the voices of others, check your ears and your heart and repent.
2. Believe in the Power of His Voice
Do you hear the power of His voice? Do you see Christ as all-powerful judge and ruler of this world. Do you struggle with His place in your life, or His power in your life? Check your heart and repent.
3. Have a Testimony of the Power of His Voice
a. Just as the mighty Voice of Christ distinguishes Him from any other 'god"
b. So should your life and voice distinguish you. What distinguishes you from your lost neighbors?
c. Do You experience the Transforming Power of the Word of Jesus?
d. belief is not enough. Belief without action and effect is really dissent.
e. Growing Faith in the Power of the Holy Spirit
f. How does your life distinguish you from your neighbors?
Are you poor in spirit,
Do you mourn,
are you humble and meek,
Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness,
DO you show mercy to others
Are you pure in heart (or are you divided)
Are you a peacemaker
Have you suffered persecution
have others reviled you for the sake of Jesus.
These are the distinguishing marks of a true follower of Jesus Christ.
It is not how you look, not what your drive, not your home, your success. Jesus transforms hearts and lives. His Love is a DIstinguishing Love that will keep you distinctive from the dead people around you.
When others are worried sick over this world, you are calm and confident
When others are stressing out and getting sick, you are strong and joyful becasue you see Him who is invisible.
When others are dragging and depressed becasue of circumstances, you are joyfully enduring because your Savior endured the cross for the joy set before Him.
When you experience sickness or disease, instead of being downtrodden and defeated you are strong in spirit becasue you are counted worthy to enjoy the fellowship of Christ's sufferings.
4. Echo His Voice to Others
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23