Merduk is an equinoid who lives on planet Reckelgase Four. He makes a living growing Trimblis- a delicious, nutritious, versatile fruit which is loved across the galaxy. It only grows on Reckelgase four, and the planet's economy depends on the Trimbli crop.
When Galaxy War One hit Reckelgase, so did Gamma Quadrant starships. They ravaged the planet completely, taking everything they could find.
After the war, Merduk looked forward to resuming his old life. Buyers were calling from all over the quadrant placing orders for Trimblis. Unfortunately, All of Merduk's trimbli trees had been destroyed. Every tree on the planet had been destroyed. Neither was there a single seed to be found. The galaxy was expecting trimblis, and no one knew that they were now extinct.
Then Merduk made a discovery. A lake had formed where debris from his orchard had dammed the river. When the debris was cleared away, he found three hundred trimblis which had been swept into a ditch and preserved by the cold water. In a few years, his orchard would be restored, as would his planet.
Many of you probably thought that I was very hard on the catholic church in my last message. I knew that this would be the case as I wrote it, and cautioned my proxy that it would sound very harsh. Just to be clear, I don't hate catholics. What I hate is the things that the catholic church did when they were dominant, and I would hate them no matter who they came from, even (and especially) if it were from my own denomination. And truth be told, some baptist churches have been just as bad.
Today, it may seem like I'm slamming protestants. I assure you, I am not. But to be true to the letter on which I am preaching, I have to say one or two unpleasant things about the churches of the protestant reformation.
The city of of Sardis (or what's left of it) is one of very interesting geography. It sits at the top of a very steep mountain. Three sides of the mountain are vertical and nearly impossible to scale. The south side is the only approach to the city. I'm sure most of you have heard of unconquorable cities in works of fiction. Filocan... Ba sing se... Sardis was as close to unconquorable as a city got in real life. Its people were so confident in the natural fortifications that sentries couldn't always be relied upon to take their jobs seriously. The only two times in her history that Sardis was captured both resulted from a sentry falling asleep on duty.
In time, the city became too big to remain on the mountaintop. Residents and businesses built up the city below the mountain, resulting in a two-part town. The upper half of the city was eventually converted into an acropolis, housing a double temple of Cybelle and Apollo. Though the upper part was traditionally the site of sardis and still is to this day, there really isn't anything there. In its day, the industries of Sardis, including carpetry, minting and agriculture, were all based in the lower half of the city. Sardis was no longer Sardis. What was still considered a living city was dead.
As an era, Sardis represents the time of the protestant reformation, ranging from around 1520 to 1720, when it then gave way to the missionary age. And while many, many protestant denominations exist today, ranging from Amish all the way to Charismatic, what we are talking about in these centuries are primarily the huge state churches.
Perhaps the biggest mistake of the state churches was the assumtion that all the citizens of the state were now members of the church. They were baptized as infants, inducted into the church, and presumed to be Christians. They went to services, took communion, sang all the hymns, but far too many never accepted Jesus as savior.
Sardis means "remnant". It also carries the connotation of people who have escaped from some disaster. It could also be used to mean "What's left of..." or "remains". Certainly, this first connotation applies to the reformation. It could be said that they escaped from the catholic church when they broke away.
And as the protestant church made a move back toward the way it was in the time of the apostles, they left a number of things out. One item stands out far more than any other: Evangelism. As they recovered the truths which the previous age had paved over, they missed several, such as the depravity of man. They also held to the belief which had been established by the catholic church that it was necessary for christiandom to conquor the world before Jesus returns. But instead of going out and preaching the gospel, they simply absorbed large populations and assumed they were part of the church. They didn't spread the gospel, didn't witness, didn't evangelize. This is what Jesus is saying when He pronounces the deeds of the protestant church incomplete. The purpose of the church when it is apart is to spread the gospel. The purpose of the church when it is together is to build up the saints. Neither of these things were done to any great degree, and by some churches, not at all. The result is that to this very day, there are churches full of people who don't know God. They simply go to the lutheran church or the presbyterian church or the methodist church because that's where their ancestors went.
Once again, I'm not slamming protestants. There are many fine Christians in protestant churches. Why, I just learned today that Superman is a methodoist. What I'm saying is that there exists a self-sustaining problem of spiritual ignorance.
Does anybody here raise trees? I do. Sometimes, when a tree gets sick, it will appear and act dead. It won't put out leaves, won't flower, won't produce fruit. But often, a tree that appears dead is alive on the inside. When I discover that this is the case, I give that tree lots of attention, and if I'm lucky, the tree becomes healthy again and starts to behave like a living tree. Jesus knew that this was the case in the early protestant church. It was smothered in layer upon layer of dead weight, but the inside was still alive. But much as a tree that will not awaken in the spring is likely to die, the life within the sardis age church was in danger of going out. This is why Jesus warns them to WAKE UP!
That right there is one of the big perks of being a baptist preacher. We get to grab your attention like that.
But of course, it didn't go out, did it? As we'll see in messages to come, some serious waking up did take place. Not every church recovered. There are still many today which are turning out missionaries and ministers who aren't saved, who don't believe in the word of God as authoritative, who teach that Jesus was not God, and don't even so much as believe in the virgin birth.
On the other paw, there was still the bunch who, in the last age, did not defile themselves with the teachings of Jezebel in the first place. I'm speaking of course of the baptistics. They were like the hidden fruit in the opening story. And while it may sound like bragging, I am proud to say that the baptistics have been the lynchpin that has held the church together through the centuries. Not in terms of unity, but in terms of keeping it centered upon the Lord's Gospel. It was the baptistics who were continuing to spread the gospel when the protestants failed to do so.
Happily, many protestant churches did begin to wake up. Some of them because of the influence of the baptistics. Others simply realized that their progenitors had not gone far enough in returning to God's will. A large family of denominations, both baptistic and protestant, known collectively as the anabaptists, began to work hard at preserving the true Christian faith and spreading the gospel. God had been keeping them in reserve for the entirety of the Thyatiran age, giving them no orders but to stand firm. In this age, when the mainstream church was negligent in its duty, they served as God's witnesses. It wasn't easy, however. The mainstream protestant church was choking that remnant, sometimes literally. Many of my ancestors died because they insulted the protestants by saying that infant baptism was not sufficient.
Is there any question here why we insist that a person be baptized to become a member of this church? Or why we do not accept infant baptism? It goes back to the "quiet assimilation" method of the protestant churches. We cannot simply assume that a person is saved because someone ELSE made the decision to baptize them and induct them into the church. The decision must be their own. We do not accept a person into membership unless He or she has accepted Jesus as savior and demonstrated a willingness to obey the Lord as master completely and of their own accord.
My challenge to you, my fellow Christians, is to be sure that your works are complete. That you are carrying out God's command to preach the gospel to every creature and to make disciples as you go. If you're not a Christian, or if you call yourself a Christian but have never made the commitment to accept Christ as savior, I invite you to come to one of us and let us fulfill our mission by demonstrating God's love to you.
1 "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.
3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.