Counter-Culture: Triumphant Living in a Turbulent World
Week 5: Revelation 3:1-6
Our current series examines the powerful and encouraging message Jesus Christ sent his church in the New Testament book of Revelation. In the first three chapters of Revelation, Jesus Christ messaged seven third-generation churches about how to live God-honoring lives in a culture that disregards or opposes him. How should we think about politics, media, family, and the movements that buffet today’s culture? Believers can’t simply write off #MeToo or #TimesUp or #MAGA as over-reactions. Nor should we blindly embrace them. To the degree these movements align with biblical values, we may embrace them. But, we are Christ-followers first. Jesus himself set the standard: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Mt. 7:12). This is not a call to be nice. This is an engraved invitation to live out the grace of God we ourselves have received. This is hard to do in the best of circumstances, which we don’t live in anymore. As our culture seethes, Jesus’ call on his people remains unchanged: “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others” (Mt. 5:14, 16). Or, as we’ll discover in today’s passage, Jesus challenges us to “Wake up, and strengthen what remains” (Rev. 3:2).
Do you have any recent experience with a plant in your house or yard that was dead or about to die? What was your response?
Getting into the Text:
1. (Rev 3:1-4) Jesus begins his evaluation of this church with very direct language and a series of five short commands. What verbs does he use to describe the actions he wants them to take? How can a church have the reputation of being alive but be dead?
2. The contrast between death and life is used throughout the New Testament to illustrate what the Christian life should be like. See Ephes 2:1-10, James 2:14-26, and Romans 8:5-14 for examples of this. What picture do these passages paint of someone who is alive in Christ? What characterizes those who are dead?
3. (Rev 3:4-6) What promises are given for those who remain true to Christ? Jesus uses two metaphors to talk about the present and future reality for believers – pure white clothing and the book of life. What do these represent? See Isaiah 1:18, Rev 7:9-14, Psalm 69:27-28, Daniel 12:1, and Rev 20:11-15 for similar references.
4. (Rev 3:6) Why do you think this statement is included in every one of the seven letters? Who is the statement to? Does it apply to us today?
1. Churches can die for a variety of reasons. They might lose sight of their primary mission to steward the gospel, they might let unhealthy conflict become chronic, or they might let their doctrinal integrity and loyalty to Christ erode as they try to engage with the surrounding culture. Are there indications in this passage that one or more of these was the primary problem in Sardis? How can you contribute to keeping these problems from threatening your church?
2. The city of Sardis was situated on the top of a hill and protected by steep cliffs all around. Even so, it was conquered twice by armies who climbed the slopes and found no one guarding the city. They had a well-known history of not being alert to threats. Jesus calls the church at Sardis to wake up. Are there areas in your life where he might be calling you to do the same?
3. Jesus is in the business of bringing dead things to life. His words to the church at Sardis may sound harsh and direct but they are motivated by his deep love for them. There is hope if they will repent. What kind of resurrection hope does God want to speak into your life today? What is dead that he wants to make alive in your life or in the life of someone you know? What are some next steps for you to take?