by Roger McCay
23 May 2021
Sermon Passage: Revelation 3:1-6
Link to Audio Version
In Iraq, we had a guy, LT Mantz, the scout platoon leader, who got shot in the femoral artery. Out on a mission he and a SSG Harper, the senior scout, were next to their vehicle, and a sniper took a shot at the sergeant. The bullet went through his upper arm, through his torso, and exited out his chest, destroying his body armor where the bullet exited. So, he dropped, the LT hurriedly grabbing him and dragging him out of the line of fire, then beginning first aid.
The medic, a 19-year-old PFC, responded immediately, running forward to them, where he quickly ripped the sergeants armor open and began emergency actions. But a moment later the LT slumped over, and the medic saw the LT had been shot in the leg and was bleeding out. The shot had gone through the sergeant, fusing with part of his body armor before penetrating the LTs leg. Having assessed the sergeant, the medic knew he would not be able to save him. So, he immediately began working on the LT, putting a tourniquet on his leg and so forth.
But the LT was down and fighting for his life. They evacuated him quickly in a Bradley, but he still died. So, it looked like LT Mantz and SSG Harper were going to cross the river of death together.
But it doesn’t end there. The docs didn’t stop. They continued to work on him. And somehow, somehow, they resuscitated him. But it took a bit of time—15 minutes. Because of that, there was a concern he would have brain damage from lack of oxygen while he was dead. Though, as it turned out, the LT ended up not only surviving, but was also physically and mentally fine. Even so, he had the option of staying home. But he would have none of that and insisted on being sent right back downrange to the unit. He couldn’t abandon his guys. He loved them too much. So, a few months later, there he was.
Sometimes dead is not completely dead. This can be true for churches. There are churches on the cusp of death, spiritual death, that if immediate life saving measures are not taken, their light will go from an ember, to a wisp of smoke, to the cold of the grave. But there is a window of time, when spiritual death is still but a spiritual slumber, where there is a chance of resuscitation. That was where the church in Sardis found themselves, when the Lord sent this message to them, with the command for them to “Wake up!” The Great Physician was taking life-saving actions.
They had been lulled into a sense of comfort, the church’s spiritual vitality ebbing, with its vigilance towards life put aside for the accommodation of death. No longer watchful, they were asleep at their posts, and the enemy was sneaking up on them to destroy them. Rather than a frontal attack, though, their throats were going to be cut in their sleep. And while, from an outward appearance, they looked active and thriving, perhaps with regular worship, gatherings, and what we might call programs, they were as good as dead.
Yet the Lord was not slumbering. When we read this letter, it can, at first glance, seem like it is a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” letter. “You are about to die, so save yourself.” If that were the case, it is easy to see how the church of Sardis could have despaired, “How can we save ourselves?!” But that is not the case and is completely contrary to the gospel. No-one can save themselves, spiritually (Rom. 5:6-16; 8:1-4). And the very nature of the letter confirms this truth. The Lord is not slumbering. He is sounding the alarm and providing the means of their revival, seen in his self-description, in v. 1, “The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” Thus the Lord is the means of their revival, through his Word, the Holy Spirit, and his sovereign care (Eph. 5:29-30).
How so? Well, the letter itself is his Word, and he tells them to “Remember, then, what you received and heard,” in v. 3. So, he sends them this message, his Word, and he tells them to remember his Word, the gospel.
Too, that Jesus holds the seven spirits hearkens back to the seven spirits mentioned in Rev. 1:4. You may remember when we looked at that passage, “the seven spirits” was a way to reference the Holy Spirit. The title was arranged with the Father and the Son, as the tripartite persons, the one divine. And by this designation, “the seven spirits,” OT teachings and prophecies are brought to mind with prophetic, symbolic language.