Skip to content
Jul 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 28, 2015 – Revelation 3:1-3

The Soul Awake and Alert

To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars says this: “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” Revelation 3:1-3

Intro: The book of Revelation begins with a vision of Jesus Christ

The imagery of the first chapter depicts Jesus as being present in his churches
– before the action begins, Jesus dictates seven letters to seven churches
• these were not the most important or prominent churches
◦ there is no mention of the churches in Jerusalem, Antioch, or Rome
• the seven churches are representative of all churches at all times
◦ Jesus addresses what each church has right and what they’re doing that is wrong
– people in the church of Sardis had been busy
• they had done things that earned them a “name” — a reputation
◦ they were known for being a lively church
◦ but they weren’t alive, they were dead
• what is the Lord’s counsel to Sardis? “Wake up”
◦ this is the skill we’ll explore today that will assist us in our spiritual journey
◦ learning to wake ourselves up – or to allow God to wake us up

From Adam and Eve on, the Bible’s ongoing story is about waking up

Adam and Eve woke up after eating the fruit and facing the consequences
– Jacob had a vivid awakening – so did Moses
• Elisha lived in an awakened state and asked God to awaken his servant (2 Ki. 6:15-17)
◦ this continued on through to prophets who tried to get Israel to wake up

Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem . . .
(Is. 51:17)
Awake, awake,
Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion;
Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city . . . .
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion. (Is. 52:1-2)

– Jesus’ first message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
metanoiameta = change nous thinking, mind, perception
◦ the time had come, kingdom had arrived, but it was invisible to the eye
◦ people had to wake up to it — they had to change the way they perceived in order to see it
• the disciples alternated between falling sleep and waking up
◦ on the mountain when Jesus was “transfigured”

Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him (Lk. 9:32)

◦ their most dramatic awakening, was in Gethsemane

He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Mt. 26:40-42)

This brings us to our first challenge–and it’s a big one:
– we don’t want to wake up – we think we do, in theory, but “the flesh is weak”
• the spirit is willing, but in actual practice we prefer to roll over and stay in bed
◦ do remember a time when you tried to wake yourself from a deep sleep?
◦ it is like being held underwater – you have to fight to reach the surface
• sometimes I feel I’m being dragged back into sleep
– waking up means we must come to terms with reality
• therefore, waking up could change everything
◦ my values, commitments, friendships, mind set, all of it
• so I would rather dull my mind with entertainment or alcohol
◦ or live in the dream world of my illusions

What does it mean to wake up (as a spiritual practice)?

Simply: Bring to awareness something normally buried
– we are largely unconscious of many things
• our heart rate, body temperature, autonomic nervous system, etc.
◦ however, some of these things can force their way into awareness
◦ or, with effort, we can bring internal movements (like pulse) it to a conscious level
• but these hidden things are always here, whether or not we are aware of them
– waking up in the scripture is becoming aware of the dimension of God’s Spirit
• at times, it is to be awakened to the immediate presence of God
• it can also be awareness of the importance of a specific moment (e.g., Lk. 19:41-42)

As a spiritual experience or practice, it means to wake up twice – or on two levels
– Samson’s demise resulted from his waking up only to first level

And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. (Jgs. 16:20)

• he awoke to the world of his enemies, but was asleep as to his connection with God
– Jacob had double awakening, after he had come to “a certain place”
• in fact, the word “place” occurs six times without giving a name for the place

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Ge. 28:16)

• his awareness had gone to another level — to the reality of God’s presence
• God had been in that place the whole time, but now Jacob was aware of God
– our awareness is usually limited to our four-dimensional universe
• (if even that; frequently it is constricted by preoccupation with our thoughts and emotions)
◦ we live closed off to the dimension of the Spirit
◦ it is as if that dimension does not exist as we go about our daily routine
• but when our minds open for a fraction of second, God fills our entire horizon

Imagine that you meet a friend at the beach one evening
– you walk along shore for awhile, your then friend says,
“Somewhere, buried between this spot and the next lifeguard tower is a brown paper bag. The spot is marked, but it is not obvious. In the paper bag is $10,000 cash. If you can find it, it’s yours.”
• everything looks the same as it was before – the sand, the sky, the waves
◦ but now you’re aware that something more is also there
◦ you can’t see or feel it, but you’re aware of it — you woke up

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field. (Mt. 13:44)

– you see, nothing in your environment has to change
• you do not have to see more or even more
• all that changes is your perception – you were asleep and now you’re awake

How can we wake ourselves up?

We wake up to God in the here and now when we bring ourselves into the here and now

Gerald May, “I can tell you how it happens for me. Sometimes, noticing the moment, I simply remember God. The remembrance does not take me out of the moment, because God is in the moment.”

– for me, when I focus on my breath and the space around me, I become aware of God
• I know that in him I “live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28)
• so just bringing awareness to this moment in this space, wakes me up to his presence

We can learn how to wake ourselves from Jesus’ story about a runaway son
– the turning point in the story occurred “When he came to his senses” (Lk. 15:17)
• bringing awareness to our senses, both external and internal, can help to wake us up
• it calms our minds and draws them away from their distractions
– our waking up is always to something and for something
• we awaken to something that is here and for a reason (an opportunity or activity)
◦ the runaway woke up to his brokenness and his father’s love and then got up and went home
• every time we get distracted and return awareness to God, it is like coming home

Another way to wake up, is to sing — and keep singing to maintain wakefulness

My heart is steadfast, O God;
I will sing praises, even with my soul.
Awake harp and lyre;
I will awaken the dawn!
I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the peoples,
And I will sing praises to You among the nations.
(Psalm 108:1-3)

Conc: Few things are more deadly than religious delusions

Later, Jesus will tell the church of Laodicea:

. . . you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked (Rev. 3:17)

– these Christians were certain that they were in good health, but they were really very sick
– it’s too easy to sleepwalk through life
• to go around unaware of our unawareness
• but becoming aware of it good — it is a sign that we’re waking up

The more often we wake ourselves up:

  1. The less effort it takes to wake up again
    – waking up can become like a reflex — a new habit that the brain develops
    Daniel Siegel, “Where attention goes, neurons fire. And where neurons fire, they can rewire.”
  2. The more sensitive we become
  3. The more likely we will begin seeing differently
  4. The more choices we are able to control
    – the choices you sleep through are the choices someone else makes for you
    • if someone had told me twenty years ago, “You can choose not to be depressed”
    ◦ I would have written them off
    ◦ I had not yet awakened to what was going on in my brain or how God could help me change that activity

So what opportunity is waiting for us this week?
– the opportunity to practice waking ourselves up

Gerald May, “Grace comes as a gift. We can neither earn it nor make it happen. But grace invites us to participate; it needs our involvement.”

Leave a comment