“I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead. Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before my God.”
Perceptive or Oblivious?
When it comes to guessing the ending of a movie, how well do you score at it? Some of us do a phenomenal job at picking up on secret cues and clues of the plot. Others of us watch obliviously until the surprise ending pops onto the screen. (Even though it may not be a surprise to the more perceptive viewers.) Some people are good at figuring out who the bad guys are, whereas others of us may just be trying to hold on through all the twists and turns.
But one notion that applies, from fiction into real life, is that our perceptions and reality do not always perfectly align. The things we expect to occur don’t always take flight. And it’s the same in the real world. Our ability to read a situation or another person’s motives aren’t always perfectly clear. Yet the God who knows hearts and minds is both willing and able see the real us. He knows the parts of us that are hidden, that others may not always be aware of.
Reputation Versus Reality
In Revelation 3, the Lord has some things to say to the church in Sardis. To the church’s messenger, it is written, “I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.” To many throughout their community, such heedings would have come as a shock! You mean THIS church? But they love God! They do good works!
Their church had a reputation for being about the things of the Lord, yet their fruit wasn’t as healthy or as flourishing as it appeared to be.
And the Lord God knew the difference. But He didn’t let that be the end of their story. (Or ours.)
Repentance and Relationship
The Lord instructed the church to strengthen what remained, that their good works would be made complete before God; all was not lost for their body of believers, and the same is true for ours! The messenger urges them to remember the good news of the gospel, to keep holding on to it, and to repent of their sin.
From repentance comes the ability to walk closely with the Lord. It is written, “But you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothes, and they will walk with me in white, because they are worthy. In the same way, the one who conquers will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before my Father and before his angels” (Revelation 3:4-5).
No Surprise Endings
We serve a God who is able to look past our earthly perceptions and reputations and who can get to the real us at our roots. The contents of our hearts are no crazy plot twist to the God who knows all; He isn’t caught off guard, nor is He startled or tempted to pull away from us in surprise or in disgust at what He might find.
It’s because of His love for us in Jesus that our sins and struggles don’t pose a cliffhanger ending. He has made a way for us to walk with Him in white, knowing that life everlasting is in our midst now and in our future still to come. He is able to redeem what is dead within us and to raise us to new life. This is the God whom we praise.
Consider the role that reputation plays in your reality. What are you known for? Is there something in your life that needs to be brought to life? Reflect on the accountability that you have in your life and how you can lean into community as you keep walking with Jesus and allowing Him to redeem your story.