What We First Believed


If our lifestyle doesn’t measure up to God’s standard, then Jesus instructs us to go back to what we first believed.

I am captivated by Jesus’s words to the church of Sardis in chapter three of Revelation. He declares the church to have a reputation of being alive when in reality, it’s dead. Here’s the second verse: “Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.” Revelation 3:2 (NLT)

We’re only two verses in, yet this is the second time Jesus has identified the church’s actions instead of their beliefs. That’s important. Contrary to what some might say, our actions matter. We’re made righteous by God’s gift of grace, but the way we behave proves we’ve truly received that grace.

According to Jesus, the church of Sardis is not pursuing and embracing a godly lifestyle. So He continues: “Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.” (Revelation 3:3 NLT)

Remember, Jesus is addressing the church—not the city—of Sardis. He’s talking to believers. And let’s reflect on that even further. If these words were only meant for the Christians in this historic church, they would not be in Scripture. The fact that they are means they have prophetic application today. These words are addressed to us! So consider Jesus’s statement in light of what it communicates to us today.

If our lifestyle doesn’t measure up to God’s standard, Jesus instructs us to go back to what we first believed. In other words, we’ve devised a doctrine of grace that permits us to live no differently than the nonbelievers in our community do. Some modern teachers declare that once we are Christians, we no longer need to repent, because all our sins past, present, and future are automatically forgiven. This is a seemingly good teaching, but is it God’s Word? If repentance is a thing of the past, why does Jesus tell us to repent and return to Him?

If you look at the unbalanced “grace” teachings that are attracting multitudes today, many of them are propagated by leaders who were actually brought up hearing skewed, legalistic messages. They shy away from words like holiness in reaction to the harsh, mean-spirited teaching they encountered. And yes, holiness has been grossly misrepresented in many circles. But that doesn’t change the fact that godly living is fundamental to Christianity. Throughout the history of the Church, the call to a holy life has been an essential part of our collective mission and our individual assignments.

According to Jesus, we must return to our foundation: what we “heard and believed at first.” What does that mean to you? Does it require you to think differently? Live differently? To repent and return? These things may not be attractive. But if they mean we can bring glory to our Father, I for one am willing to embrace them. How about you?

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