“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus … thou shalt be saved … for with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9,10)
The Christian life begins with and is maintained by the confession that Jesus is Lord. Over the long haul of one’s life that confession is tried many times. It is tried when the familiar pull of an attractive world meets the fresh vow of a new believer. It is tried when sin and sickness powerfully appear and declare that they are greater than Christ and His dominion. It is tried when names such as war, cancer, or adultery rise like giants before us and announce that they are the name above all names in our life.
What particular test those in the church of Sardis were facing we don’t know. What we do know is that they were passing through a time when their confession of Christ was being tried and shaken. Seasons of poverty or plenty; times of persecution or praise; occasions for pain or pleasure all have within them peculiar temptations to own or disown Christ as our Lord. The saving confession of Jesus as Lord was once made in Sardis, but in the present situation would it continue?
The most important trial we face is the one we face now.
It takes men a longer time to see what the Lord is already aware of. Jesus said, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” (Revelation 3:1) At Sardis, men saw a tree still standing; Jesus saw fruit that was withering. Jesus saw those who once possessed Him, now merely professing Him; ears that once heard, now plugged; a once strong and healthy church, now on a spiritual deathbed. But even at that late hour, He implored, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent” (Revelation 3:2,3).
The most important trial we face is the one we face now. Each church that Christ spoke to in the Book of Revelation was presently facing a defining trial. What they did in the past, whether good or bad; how they got to where they were, was not the issue. Their future would be determined only by what they did in the present. Ephesus was told to remember their hot start and forget the religious act and once again get real. Smyrna was praised for past faithfulness in persecution, but exhorted to “strap in” and be “faithful unto death.” Pergamos was commended for “holding fast His name” and “not denying His faith,” but warned that error in their midst could yet take them off course. Thyatira was told: “hold fast till I come” and “keep my works unto the end.” Philadelphia was saluted, but warned not to rest on their laurels and “hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” Laodicea was called to stop pretending and find genuine fellowship with Jesus. Each of these churches was at a crossroads and had a faith to hold fast or let go of.
When do disciples deny their Lord? When they refuse to know Him as Lord over the situation they presently face.
Jesus and His apostles had more warning to the church than the world. Jesus did not idly warn His disciples that if they denied Him, He would deny them. In Sardis, the danger of denial and the prospect of apostasy was real. When do disciples deny their Lord? When they refuse to know Him as Lord over the situation they presently face. When they believe sin has dominion over them. When they “profess that they know God; but in works they deny him” (Titus 1:6) Our confession of Christ before men must declare that He is Lord in earth as well as in heaven. It must declare that His kingdom has come and His will is being done in our lives. It must challenge every pompous “Pilate” that tells us our life is under its control and has the final say over our destiny. Our good profession must stand firm when storms of life and winds of doctrine threaten to take us off God’s course.
“Jesus is Lord” must be our saving confession from beginning to end.
Every one who has started to run this race will ultimately end up in the company of the overcomers or the company of the overcome. If we are to be an overcomer, our eyes must ever be toward our Lord Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. “Jesus is Lord” must be our saving confession from beginning to end! Not Jesus is Savior, but Jesus is Lord. Not once, but continually. And this is the Lord’s promise to those who hold fast their confession and endure to their end: “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5)