Scripture Reading: Revelation 3:1-6
“I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of God.” (Revelation 3:1,2)
Religion is one of the greatest enemies of the gospel. Religion is about man’s efforts to gain God’s favor. It is merit based, which is the exact opposite of the gospel, which is grace based. The gospel says we can never earn the favor and acceptance of God by our works. We are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The church in Sardis had the reputation of being alive, but Jesus said that is was dead. Here was a group of professing Christians who were merely going through the motions of religion. I’m sure the people were regular in their church attendance; they probably gave to the poor; they were steeped in their religious traditions; and they were polite to their neighbors. Paul describes such people in II Timothy 3:5 as “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.”
While the people of Sardis were religious, they had not experienced genuine transformation. They were clothed with all the trappings of religiosity. They were “good, moral” people who were attempting to impress people with their religious works. The forms of religion were here, but there was no evidence of gospel transformation. Isaiah describes such people — “Because the people draw near with their words and honor me with lip service, but they remove their hearts from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of traditions learned from rote” (Isaiah 29:13). Thus, Jesus said that He found their deeds to be incomplete in the sight of God.
We must all be on guard for religion, which results in self-righteousness. Our default mode takes us back to religiosity. We easily go back into a works oriented mentality. This is why religion is one of the greatest enemies of the gospel. We forget that our salvation is a gift from God based on the works of His Son.
We must “wake up and strengthen what remains.” We must “remember what we received and heard. We must keep it, and repent” (v. 3). The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). It transforms us from the inside out. It is about a change of heart which leads to a change of our affections. We begin to love Jesus more than we love ourselves or anything else. We must depend entirely upon Jesus to save us and to transform us. Beware of religion for it will rob us of the joy and peace that are ours in Christ.
Lord Jesus, forgive me when I drift back into religious activity and become more concerned with what others think of me than of experiencing the transforming work of the gospel in my life. Enable me to remember what I have received and heard from You. Let me continually preach the gospel to myself so that I can live by the power of the gospel rather than by my own efforts.
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