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You have a name that you’re alive, but …

May 4, 2009

We took a break from our regularly scheduled student ministry programming last Friday to talk about the church in Sardis.

I told you about our Bible study on the church of Sardis a couple weeks ago. It’s still screaming in my spirit, and I try to personalize those nudges as much as possible. Day after day, though, and prayer after prayer, it’s become clear that it’s not just about me right now. So I prayed some more and decided ya, we’re gonna talk about this.

So I sat in my office reading the passage of Revelation in a few different translations, meditating on it, internalizing it, etc. And I started to wonder: How does this happen?

How does a mega-church that is the center of revival for two to three years, become completely spiritually dead in the same generation? In 50 years the church in Sardis went from the place where God was really moving, to complete lifelessness. They were still running. They were still “ministering.” They were still doing outreach, but it was all being done in the strength of their reputation and not by the Spirit of God. There were people in that church at the time that Jesus wrote, “but you are dead” who were probably leading the revival as young, crazy believers. How does that happen?

Not only did it happen in one generation, it happened in John’s generation. John was old, but still kickin’. There were probably old men in the church in Sardis who saw Jesus on the earth with their own eyes. And yet their ministry is doing nothing worthy of Jesus’ affirmation a few decades later. How does that happen?

How does it happen to us individually? We go on missions trips and see God literally restore sight to the blind, and a year later we can’t bring ourselves to invite our neighbors to church. We experience a deep move of God within us at Faith Week (or whatever event your church does), and a couple weeks later we’ve already pared back our giving. We go to an amazing conference, and six months later we’re compromising our holiness and throwing water on our own passion in ways we swore we never would just a season ago.

How does this happen? I’d really stumped myself. I stopped reading, leaned back in my chair, and stared at the ceiling. “God, how does this happen?”

“It happens when you make it about you.”


“My name isn’t in your notes once.”

I scanned through my Word document and sure enough: “I” “my” “me” “our” “us” “we” … “Him” “God” “Jesus” didn’t show up once.

We die spiritually when we make it about us. Think about the missions trip, the conference, the church event, the prayer time when God really spoke to you and you swore you were changed. It’s about Him. You get up early in the morning to go tell people about Him. You’re with a crowd of people for a weekend, a week, a month, who are all trying to get more of Him. You’re startled out of your boring daily prayer time when He speaks.

We get excited and our spirits spring to life because of Him. We make passionate commitments and statements and declarations because we’ve seen Him. We’ve touched Him. We’ve heard from Him. Our eyes are on Him. Our ears are tuned in to Him. It’s about Him.

Then we get home and three months later it’s about us. It’s about me getting up early for my prayer time. It’s about me making sure that I make time to have my Bible study. It’s about me doing the disciplines. It’s about me being a “good Christian.” And the focus very quickly becomes me, my, I, mine.

Not Him.

And then it gets boring. Then we start to wonder how He can say His commands are not burdensome. We show up late for worship. We skim over our daily Bible reading. We doze off during prayer. We keep doing it, hoping that maybe if we just do it enough the passion and the excitement will magically come back. We do it because we’re afraid to admit we’re bored.

But we’re bored because it’s not really about Him anymore; it’s about me.

But it’s not about me. Say it with me now, “It’s not about me.” Don’t be the church of Sardis. Don’t get complacent. Don’t make it about you. It’s not about you. It’s about Him.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jacob Zarris permalink
    May 4, 2009 3:31 pm

    I have to say that I think this type of thing happens a lot, and not just to the church of Sardis. When you think of the “Toronto revival” and people were being saved, look at it now very liberal place living very Immoral, and that has only been around twenty years. I agree that first we misplace God as not being the center, but also a major problem is that people compromise things. Not just in regards of sin, but in regards of relying on God, and seeking the Father with passion. Not only were they compromising but also, the people were getting caught up in ‘church’ activities and not in what real ‘church’ was all about, which is when people gathered to talk and share what Christ had done for them. Start with Christ in the middle is Christ and at the end is Christ, so that they may be built into holy people able to be used. Paul calls himself at one point a drink offering, I feel that people in the revival cities they take that principle and pour out on others. But the problem many times is that they don’t seek the source of which they are pouring onto the people, which is Christ.

  2. Lex permalink
    May 5, 2009 11:32 am

    Absolutely. Churches are made up of people. When we do it as people, we can’t help but start to do it as a corporate, local church. If the church in Sardis was a one-time problem, Jesus probably wouldn’t have recorded it for us.

    God has to be the center of our hearts, our motivations, and our churches!

  3. mikeraburn permalink
    May 5, 2009 3:32 pm

    I think this was kind of the problem Adam and Eve had at the very beginning, focusing on themselves. I also think it’s what Jesus had in mind when He talked about losing our lives to find them. Dying to myself sucks. Living the half-life, the dead-life of refusing to die to myself is so much worse. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Oh yeah, Jesus – when I follow his cross example in my own life.

    Btw, I just read the prayer you posted on flowerdust and this blog post. You have a new fan. Thanks for offering such an authentic voice.

    • Lex permalink
      May 5, 2009 4:39 pm

      “refusing to die to myself is so much worse.” Amen. It’s painfully ironic sometimes that the best thing is the hardest, and the one that somehow seems like the less attractive option in the moment. It’s so difficult, but so crucial, to keep our focus on Christ and on eternity.

      Glad you like the blog, Mike. Thanks for participating. I’m convinced the comments are often the best part of this corner of the web. :)

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