Summary: We are not perfect, nor are we beyond redemption. Wake up to correct the inadequacies; strengthen what is worth keeping; and remember the grace of God.
In the best of us there are deep flaws; but in the worst of us there is something worth redeeming.
In the best of us there are deep, profound flaws. Every fine and saintly person I have known has been hard to get along with, had blinders on about some issue, or just hung on to some irritating habit. Every time I build up an admiration for someone, the object of my admiration turns and does something disappointing. You do not have to argue with me the Scripture that says that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." I’ve seen that. In the best of us there are deep flaws, and sometimes very disappointing ones.
But in the worst of us there is still something worth redeeming. In the most hopeless of cases, the amazing grace of God can find something worth saving. If Jesus could build His church around the impetuous fisherman Peter, the political revolutionary Simon, the doubting cynic Thomas, the fair weather friend Mark, and the religious fanatic Paul, then it’s clear: He can redeem the worst of us.
In the best of us there are deep flaws, but in the worst of us there is something worth redeeming. Just the other day I was startled to open the newspaper and to read the obituary of one of my former pastors. It brought back many memories. This man was, for a time, my ideal. He served my home church in Louisville while I was a college student, and made an indelible impression on me. It was under his leadership that I heard God’s call to the ministry; it was he who began to teach me how to preach. I thought he had it all: intelligence, eloquence, leadership, stature, everything.
And then people began to tell me some very negative things. They began to speak of this pastor’s arrogance. They talked of his selfishness; they complained of his misuse of money. On and on it went, until one night I found myself sitting in misery in a church business meeting while my friends and neighbors voted to dismiss my pastor. That really hurt. He was the best!
Well, eventually I learned more about him, more than I really wanted to know. I learned that when he came here to Washington to serve a church, that church lost 800 members during his tenure, and they too dismissed him. I learned that even when, later on, he created a new church out of folks who thought as he thought, it went sour, and even that church fired him. In fact, eventually, fired from five churches. That must be some kind of a record.
But now, I ask you, did all of my pastor’s flaws negate the good that he did for me and for others? Did all of the mistakes he made make worthless the sermons he preached? Of course not. Not by any means.
And so, you see, in the best of us there are deep flaws. Terrible wrongs. But in the worst of us there is still something which can be redeemed, something which can be used of God.
The church at Sardis is the only one of the churches in the Book of Revelation to receive no praise. Of the church at Sardis, the Lord has nothing positive to say. With all the other churches, He said, "I know ... I know your works, how you have endured." But to the church at Sardis, when He says, "I know", it is, "I know your works, that you have the name of being alive, but you are dead." Very tough language.
But I want you to see this morning that there is good news even in this tough language; I want you to hear hope even where there is judgment. I have an idea that you need to hear this, because I beat up on you quite a bit last week, didn’t I? It’s time for a word of good news. It’s time to bathe in this: that though there are in the best of us deep flaws, still there is in the worst of us something that can be redeemed.
Let me start with an image from the art world. The statue, Venus de Milo. Does the name Venus de Milo conjure up a picture in your head?
The Venus de Milo is an ancient Greek sculpture, dating from two or three hundred years before Christ. It is a representation of the Greek goddess of love. Clad only in a cloth draped around her hips, the statue was singled out for years as the standard for feminine beauty. It was said that her proportions, her features, the flow of her hair … all of these things were perfect. I’m not sure who figures out what is perfect, but that’s what was said.