When we were growing up we received report cards in large green envelopes with the actual report card tucked inside. I remember receiving one for the first time as a first grader. I had no idea what it was. I discovered that I was being measured on my performance. I got grades that I didn’t understand: there were O’s and S’s and N’s if I remember. O was for outstanding, S was for satisfactory and N was perhaps for insufficient. In addition to receiving grades for reading, writing, math and science, I learned that I was also receiving a grade for conduct. Every nine weeks we would receive these report cards and we had to carry them home, get our parents signature on them, and return them. The reason for that was so that our parents could help us to take the evaluation seriously and make whatever adjustments we needed to make to help us to keep pursuing the goal of learning to read and write so that we might be productive members of society. It was fun to good a get assessment and not so fun to get a bad one. Further consequences waited at home if the report card were bad enough.
Jesus said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” But oddly we are tempted to ignore the truth. Drifting away from God heightens this urge to not listen to the truth. That makes it uncomfortable to read the bible or to attend worship because we sense that God’s word will assess honestly where we stand. This is tragic because God’s instructions for us in his word are for our good. God doesn’t give us instruction because he is big and strong and can demand his own way. His instruction is for our good. Because of this it’s not possible for us to be spiritually healthy without continually applying scripture to our lives and making assessments of where we stand before God. We need God’s word, we need worship, and we need to hear from pastor’s and spiritual leaders who will patiently prepare and lovingly tell us the truth.
Jesus once told a group of followers: “You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” Those would be tough words to hear. It’s the sort of message that staying out of God’s word and staying away from church prevents us from hearing, but there are times when everyone needs just such a stark warning. Are you putting yourself in a position to hear what God is saying to you as he specifically applies his word to your heart by His Holy Spirit? There is no other way to be well. No one is safe, no one can be spiritually well without learning to do this for themselves through reading scripture and no one can be spiritually well without a church with whom they can do this work of listening to God together. I’ll be further exploring this text and this idea Sunday at Bethany Place. You can see the text and initial outline for the message below.
Responding Well to a Tough Assessment
Ear Training: Part 5
1. Take in the full report
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
“ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
2. Follow the get well plan
2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
3. Keep the end goal in view
4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.