There is one passage in Scripture that strikes dread in me, perhaps more so than any other. It’s the letter Jesus dictated to John concerning the church in Sardis: Revelation 3:1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”‘”
If you’ve been following this blog for a while… a long while… you may remember when I mentioned that growing up, I had an immense aversion to being labeled as perfect. This passage pretty well sums up why.
I’m pretty good at looking “alive.” I have the work ethic and the determination (and sometimes fear of failure) that drives me to keep plowing on something, even if I no longer enjoy it. That has both strengths and weaknesses which go along with it. The strength is being able to persevere through some crummy seasons. One of the weaknesses is that sometimes I can keep up the routine and keep diligently applying myself to something, without really noticing or letting other people notice that my heart isn’t in it any more.
If it were not for the grace of God, I can so easily see myself slipping the way of Sardis. I can show up and put in my hours without complaint. I can apply myself to a number of disciplines simply because I know it’s the right thing to do. While that sounds noble, “if I have not love, I am nothing…” (1Cor 13:2).
Coming up on this corporate fast, I feel the weight of Revelation’s warning very strongly. I don’t think I’m inwardly dead, per se (“I’m not quite dead!”), but I feel such a need to step things up and fight for my inner life to at least meet, and ideally exceed any sort of outward appearance. I don’t want to show up to the prayer room at midnight and leave at six without having actually spoken to God. I don’t want to skim through the Bible and not have my heart gripped by any of what I read. I don’t want to preach something that’s not reality in my own life. I don’t want people to see me in the prayer rooom and say, “Gosh, that Amanda. She’s so faithful and dedicated,” because they see my highlighted Bible, but not my comatose spirit. I would much rather have a vibrant, dynamic life in God, even if that would mean nobody notices or thinks me to be cool or spiritual. And that’s where so many of the deep things really take place — in the secret, away from the public eye, when only the Father in Heaven sees (Matt 6:6).
I don’t mind having a name that I’m alive — just so long as it’s more than just a name. Much more.