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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

April, 2014
In a sad bit of irony, I have an update on the gas station that proclaimed itself the “Best darn wash on this corner” (see Person-2-Person, March, 2014). One day, after I had written last month’s installment of Person-2-Person, I drove by the place again and the sign had been changed. Now it said “Thank you and goodbye.” The car wash had gone out of business. A couple of weeks later, there was no sign at all and the property was surrounded by a chain link fence. I noticed how faded the paint on the exterior walls was and how forlorn the place looked. One day after that, the building had been demolished. Just a few weeks earlier, it had been the “Best” and now it was virtually gone.

John wrote what we know as the book of Revelation to “. . . the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (Rev. 1:11b ESV). All but two of these churches had fallen short in some way. In particular, Sardis “. . . [had] 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.” (Rev. 3:1b-2). Like the church at Sardis, the car wash appeared to be alive and vibrant but it was dying as a business, just as Sardis was dying as a church.

Earlier this year, when the country made the change to Daylight Saving Time, I took advantage of the opportunity to make sure my watch was accurate. Fortunately, it was essentially keeping good time, off by only a matter of seconds. In the same way, we need to check our attitudes and actions against sound teaching, to make sure we’re not spiritually ill or dying like the church at Sardis but are following the example of Christ and the law of love.

Nehemiah lived near the end of the time when the people of Israel were captive in the country that was known as Babylon. After their return to Jerusalem, the leaders of the people read the Law of Moses and found that they had strayed far from their ancestral traditions (Neh. 13:1). Offerings were not being handled properly (13:9), Temple workers did not receive their due (13:10), people were violating the Sabbath (13:15), and many men had married women who were not Jews (13:23). Nehemiah “. . . cleansed them from everything foreign,” (13:30a ESV) and restored them to right fellowship with God.

The author of Hebrews wrote “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Heb. 2:1 ESV). He knew the danger of becoming “out of sync” with God. He had probably seen it firsthand (3:12) and he certainly knew examples from the Old Testament (3:15-19). He further wrote, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,” (Heb. 10:24-25a ESV). This is one way we “synchronize” ourselves, by gathering together with other believers for study, hearing God’s word, and prayer. Lent is a time for reconnecting with our God and remembering the price of our salvation.

None of the seven churches in Revelation exist today except as ruins. Sardis and the rest are long gone. All but Smyrna and Philadelphia strayed from God’s will and from Christian teaching and they are no more. They didn’t stay “synchronized.” If we don’t keep in tune with God, we will likewise suffer spiritual death. We don’t set out to wander away from God. We don’t deliberately have “. . . an evil, unbelieving heart, leading [us] to fall away from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12b ESV). It’s simply our nature (Isa. 53:6). But it’s also God’s nature to draw us back again (John 6:44). We don’t have to go it alone, we’re part of a community of believers and we have a God who wants to have fellowship with us (1 Cor. 1:9).

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (Heb. 2:1-4 ESV.)

Copyright © 2014 by David Phelps