Evangelicals Need a “Make Over”!
Part Three: …strengthen the things that remain…
That which has taken place among Evangelicals is tragic but should have been expected. Jesus and the Apostles warned us of days of apostasy, the infiltration of false teachers, prophets and heretics determined to capture the hearts and minds of Believers with their false teachings. Jude describes them as those who “have crept in unnoticed.”[i] They have slipped in among us, look like us, talk like us, sit beside us and worship, but their intent is evil.
Yet, the “evil” is compounded when Evangelicals are responsible for allowing themselves to become victims of their own efforts to accommodate the values and methods of the world, especially thinking these methods replace prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel. When our measures of success are the same measures of the world, we court disaster.
Sardis was such a church. Sardis was one of the seven churches addressed by Jesus in Revelations. In essence Jesus told the congregation you have the appearance and reputation for being an alive, vibrant, successful church. You have every measure of success – church building and campus, ministries for everyone in the community, active engagement by your members. Yet, Jesus says He checked your spiritual pulse and you have flat lined! Literally, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”[ii]
Jesus continues with an admonishment for a remnant, that haven’t “soiled their garments” but are on the verge of death. He calls them to, “Wake up!”, “repent!,” and “strengthen the things that remain.” He concludes with these sobering, yet hopeful promises:
‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and 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.’ (vvs. 2-6, emphasis added)
First, we are to “wake up,” we are to be revived from the slumber we have allowed to come upon us, to recognize our spiritual plight rather than seek to justify ourselves. This echoes the admonition of the Apostle Paul to the Church at Ephesus: “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)
We must wake up, realize what has taken place. We must allow the glorious light of Jesus Christ, allowing the Sunrise from on high” to visit us, (Luke 1:78) to allow the “sun of righteousness” to rise upon us with “healing in its [His] wings.” (Malachi 4:2)
Failure to wake up, however, will find us sleeping a spiritual death when Jesus returns, “like a thief”, not knowing the hour He shall come. (1 Thessalonians 5:2; Luke 21:34)
We must “remember” what we have received and heard, and “keep it” – observe the commandments of Christ. We must refresh our memories regarding the teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ! We must allow the Holy Spirit remind us of that which He taught and to be our spiritual guide in all truth. We must abandon the popular teachings of men, and we must avoid developing “itching ears,” only hearing what is appealing to us while ignoring the truth.
We must repent, a call that should be understood among Evangelicals. Through our confession we find forgiveness and cleansing (John 1:9); yet to repent is not only to ask for forgiveness, but includes a returning to the ways of God. Unless we are willing to repent and amend our ways, then nothing else we can do will result in revival and reformation.
Forgiveness, however, isn’t solely the individual or church’s only motivation for repentance. As the Prophet Daniel demonstrates, repentance also is the gateway for intercession. Intercession isn’t to be elevated above the prayers of the Prayer Warrior, but is different in scope and purpose. Intercession is the meeting with God on the behalf of others imploring God’s favor.
The Scriptures inspire us by providing intercessors of great stature – Moses, Samuel, Nehemiah, and Daniel. It is from Daniel we learn a vital lesson regarding the nature and purpose of intercession.
Daniel 9 captures Daniels intercessory prayer for Israel.
Though Daniel is regarded a righteous man, rather than pointing fingers of an unruly people and make railing accusations, he was willing to identify with the sins of Israel, and uses inclusive pronouns – we have sinned, not listened, and therefore, we have brought open shame upon ourselves.
He acknowledged that God had every right to chastise the nation for their iniquity, yet called upon the Lord to respond first out of His compassion, then to honor His own reputation, and forgive them of their sins.
As Daniel repented on behalf of the nation, so should the Remnant among the Evangelicals also intercede on behalf of the Church.
We must “strengthen the things that remain.” We must engage in spiritual intervention. We turn to Jude’s Epistle to discover the concept of intervention.[iii]
For those who are doubting, who are torn between two opinions, there is the need to approach with mercy. They need the reassurance that what they have received is superior to the lies they have been fed. Compassion is in order, not condemnation.
Others who have already bought into the lies and headed towards fiery judgment, they must be saved by snatching them out of the fire. This approach is confronting and bold, yet offered in love.[iv] We must prepare their hearts through prayer that the Holy Spirit will go before us to convict and convince them of sin, righteousness, and judgment.[v]
Then there are others who have gone beyond accepting the teachings of things false, but have become involved in the sins of the false teachers, who have succumbed to the wickedness and evil, and even become advocates for the lies – they have bought into a false belief system.
While desiring to extend the hand of mercy – God’s love, forgiveness, and reconciliation, it musts be done so with godly fear. Just as the above approaches must be done by the spiritually mature, it must be done so with caution recognizing we, too, could be caught up in their deadly sin. We must possess a fear of defilement by their words and ways.
Regardless of which approach is needed, they who seek to intervene must take note that this approach is not “politically correct.” The world, and those within the Church who have bought into their lie, tells us we are in no place to judge, often taking the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 7:1 out of context in order to twist it to their own agenda.
Briefly, what Jesus teaches in Matthew 7:1-6 includes the need for self-examination before “judging” others; judgment must be just[viii] and if we are guilty of the same sin, usually on a greater scale, then we are in no place to offer correction until we get our own spiritual act together. The fact Jesus teaches us not to cast pearls before swine and that which is holy to dogs implies there must be some discernment into the character of those we hope to correct. The aim is not condemnation but correction and restoration.
Should Evangelicals heed the call to awake, repent, intercede and intervene, then there is hope that those who were once part of Sardis can transition to the Church of Philadelphia, a Church that because it has kept – observed God’s word, has before them an open door no one can shut, one that is effective in witness and outreach.
Shall we shake ourselves from slumber? Shall we repent, intercede, and intervene on behalf of our brothers and sisters? Shall we be a light shining in the darkness? Shall we seek to honor our Redeemer?
“I am a voice of one crying, ‘In the wilderness make straight the way of the Lord.’”
(Isaiah 40:3f; John 1:19-23)
The Prophetic Voice
© 2021 by Mark Ledbetter. Published by The School of the Prophets 401 S. Broadway Ave., Sylacauga, AL 35150 USA.
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