Revelation 3:1-6 – Remember

Sardis
Ruins from the ancient city of Sardis, the capital of the kingdom of Lydia, in present day western Turkey.

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (NIV)

When Christians think of biblical epistles (letters) to churches, the Apostle Paul might immediately come to mind. Yet, contained within the first three chapters of Revelation are seven succinct letters to seven different churches.  What makes these short bursts of exhortation so powerful is that they come from Jesus himself.  Yes, that Jesus – the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church.  So, it seems to me that Christ’s observations about the church carry more weight than anybody else’s thoughts.

And the thoughts of Christ were about how far the church was from completing the work of God. So, Jesus gave a pointed admonition, almost like a parent trying to awaken a teenager in the morning. “Wake up!” said Jesus because he found the church’s obedience incomplete and lacking strength. If this were the Apostle Paul talking, he would likely have framed it this way: “You have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Our Lord went directly to the heart of the church’s life… that is, death.  The stark reality is that these statements from Jesus remain penetrating and relevant for today’s church. So, what is to be done about the situation of spiritual death and dryness in the church?  Jesus did not leave the church hanging but in a few compact words let them know exactly what they are to do to remedy their spiritual malady: Remember. Obey. Repent.

The Seven Churches of Asia - York Minster
The Seven Churches of Asia, stained glass window in York Minster, England.

Sometimes, if not many times, we may tend to forget the things we need to remember and remember the things we are to forget. We are to follow God in his pattern of remembering and forgetting. God has said:

I wipe away your sins because of who I am. And so, I will forget the wrongs you have done. (Isaiah 43:25, CEV)

I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins. (Jeremiah 31:34, CEB)

I will forget their sins and never again remember the evil they have done. (Hebrews 10:17, ERV)

When it comes to those who have wronged us, we are to emulate God’s grace, mercy, and kindness through forgiveness. To “forget” does not mean performing a personal lobotomy but simply not to hold an offense against another by continually bringing it to mind. On the other hand, God remembers his promises to his people. Likewise, we are to constantly bear in mind what God has put before us to remember:

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, NRSV)

We are to have an abiding remembrance of the Lord Jesus, the very person who spoke to the church hundreds of years ago. It is in those times when we become distressed that we must center our memory on Christ:

We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. (Hebrews 12:2, GW)

Remembering Jesus Christ sets us on the path to fulfilling the work of God and completing that which has been given us to do. This is precisely why I choose to follow the Church Year and remember time by having it centered around the life and ministry of Jesus.

Always think about Jesus Christ. He was brought back to life and is a descendant of David. This is the Good News that I tell others. (2 Timothy 2:8, GW)

I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35, NLT)

Let us remember together in prayer:

Awesome Lord Jesus, your words penetrate to the core my being.  Strengthen me by the continuing presence of yourself through the Holy Spirit so that my every thought, word, and deed is done in your holy Name. Kindle in my heart a vision of your love and shine the light of your victory over sin, death, and hell over this dark world. Continually take me to yourself; keep me in your wounds and mindful of your presence so that I shall fulfill all the will of God for my life through your divine enabling. Amen.

Joshua 4:1-24

            I like coffee.  I like coffee mugs.  I like buying a coffee mug from places I visit.  Although it drives my wife nuts, the mugs serve as a continual reminder of a certain place or event I have experienced.  As we journey with the Israelites in the Old Testament book of Joshua, we experience with them the significant places and events of their taking the Promised Land.  God did a miraculous work by causing the Jordan River to congeal so that the Israelites could cross over on dry ground in entering the land.  Once they were across to the other side, God instructed them to take twelve stones, one for each tribe, and pile them up together.
 
            The purpose of the heap of twelve stones is made clear in the text and had a twofold purpose:  to educate future generations in the reality that God kept his promise to bring them into a land of abundance; and, to educate those outside Israel that God is mighty.
 
            Oftentimes children do not know about how God has worked in the past through their parents.  Mom and Dad may not have been intentional about communicating how God’s grace has influenced them.  But having tangible reminders of God’s past actions not only serves to help us remember, but enables children to know what God has done in their family.  Just as people ask me about why I have certain coffee mugs, so having reminders of God’s grace in prominent visible places serves to aid kids to ask why those reminders are there.
 
            If we do not have such reminders around our house or places of work, it would good for us to think through how to begin having remembrances of grace so that others may know that God is mighty and that he keeps his promises.
            Lord God, I want to experience your miraculous work in my life.  And I want my children, my friends, and my co-workers to know the grace of God in Christ through what you have done.  May my life serve as a great testimony of your mighty work.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 26:16-27:7

            When the ancient Israelites had been delivered from Egypt through the mighty acts of God and stood on the banks of the Jordan River ready to enter the Promised Land, the LORD gave them a command:  “And on the day you cross over the Jordan to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones and plaster them with plaster.”
 
            The major theme of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy is remembrance.  God’s covenant people were continually exhorted to remember God and his law.  One of the ways of never forgetting what God had done for them was to erect a pile of large stones and coat them with plaster.  This imposing rock structure would stand for generations to come as a continual reminder that God had delivered his people from bondage and brought them into a land in which they could thrive in serving and enjoying the LORD.
 
            As Christians, we can and should have tangible reminders of significant spiritual events from our lives.  Whenever we have a profound or impactful experience of God, it is a good thing to never forget that experience – especially in future times of discouragement or despair.  Whether at home or work, we need to place reminders of God’s grace around us in order to remain encouraged and faithful.
 
            The Lord’s Supper is one of those tangible reminders of God’s grace to us in Christ.  As the community of redeemed people eat the bread and drink the cup, they are reminded of Christ’s once for all sacrifice for sin on their behalf.  His broken body and shed blood are remembered in a corporate ritual that is purposefully designed to help us never forget the mighty act of God in bringing deliverance from sin and a new life.
            O LORD, help us as your people to remember and not forget the things you have done in our lives.  Especially, enable us to constantly be reminded of your grace to us through the sending of your Son, the Lord Jesus, so that we might live.  May the reminders around us keep us faithful and mindful of Jesus.  Amen.