Summary: What does it mean to be alive spiritually? Sometimes dead Christians just think they are alive!
Spiritually Alive In 2005
A. It’s a new year! Many of you may have stayed up until early hours of the morning yesterday and are still a little sleepy today. This last year has had wonderful memories of seeing some of you come into our part of the family of God. For some of us 2004 was a year that brought sadness at the death of those we love. With its ups and downs, the year of 2004 came to an end and the year of 2005 has begun.
B. Each year at this time some people make resolutions. I generally have, but last year I made no resolution (therefore I didn’t fail). I believe that not setting for myself some personal goal of change was its own great failure. Therefore, this year, I would let to make a New Year’s Resolution for myself and hope that each of you will join with me in making it a reality.
C. My resolution for this year is to be "Spiritually alive in 2005." To some degree it is an admission that my spiritual life has not been what it should be. I know my sins and have sought my father in heaven to forgive them. Those whom I know I have sinned against, I asked them also to forgive me. With that said, I want a change in me. I desire to be more alive for God in 2005 than I was this past year. I believe that as a church we need to become more alive in Christ.
D. Being spiritually alive is more than just appointing a spiritual leadership. It is more than doing wonderful benevolent works within the church body and for the community. There is more. For the next couple of months I want us to consider this theme of spiritual life and reflect upon its meaning in different aspects of our life.
E. Each week in America, paramedics arrive on the scene of an accident where the victim has crossed the barrier between life and death. There is no heartbeat. Breathing has stopped. All the vital signs of life are absent. But the paramedics do not accept this death as final. They begin CPR, perhaps inject a drug that stimulates the heart. For a few frantic moments, nothing happens. Then, the victim begins to cough, taking a few ragged breaths, and the heart begins to beat, pulsing life through the body. And instead of sending a corpse to the morgue, the ambulance takes a patient to the hospital. Was the victim dead?
F. Without getting too theological or technical, we would have to answer, yes. If not for the expert care of the paramedics, the accident would have been followed by a funeral. But we know that in many instances, this kind of death doesn’t have to be final. With the proper stimulus, the person can be revived.
G. That is the way I picture the church at Sardis. Jesus pronounces it dead, but there is hope that spiritual CPR can revive it. But, there is a point at which this illustration breaks down. For this church, though dead, was still full of activity. Jesus spoke of its works. It was still functioning like a church. It was still holding services, singing hymns, offering prayers, delivering sermons, and doing works of ministry. Each week, a congregation gathered and went through the motions of worship. But for all its activity, Jesus said it definitely wasn’t alive. We need to discover what that means. We need to learn how to discern the difference between a living and dead church.
I. Spiritually Dead Doesn’t Always Look Dead
A. One of the greatest obstacles we face in being spiritually alive is that sometimes we don’t realize we are even dying and need to be resuscitated.
B. Appearances can be deceiving. Have you ever thought you saw someone only to find out it was just someone who looked that person? Have your eyes played tricks on you? Here was a church that had a reputation for being alive. Paul warns Timothy about a time when people will have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.
C. Every church and every Christian run the risk of spiritually dying. The call is for us to remember. In verse 3 Jesus tells the church to remember what they had received and heard. The writer of Hebrews tells the Jewish brothers to remember their beginning when they were willing to sacrifice and regain that strength. Paul told the church in Rome, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."
D. I believe that dying churches talk about the good old days, while spiritually alive churches are living them. Do you understand what I am talking about? Jesus and Paul were not telling these people to living in the past, but to live. They were once vibrant Christians, and now they only have that reputation. How does one know when the church is spiritually alive?