Church Autopsy: Vital Signs by Abidan Shah, PhD


Introduction:  Whenever you go to the doctor’s office or if you have to call 911, they usually begin by taking your vital signs. What are vital signs? Body Temperature, Pulse Rate, Blood Pressure, and Respiration Rate. Vital Signs help the health professional or the emergency worker know what’s going on with you and administer the best possible treatment. So also, there are spiritual vital signs that help us understand what is going on with us spiritually and get the best possible treatment. Today, we are starting a new series titled CHURCH AUTOPSY on the letters to the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation. As you just witnessed in the videos, they are no more, and this is because they ignored the warning given by Jesus to them. The same letters apply to us today as well. If we ignore those warnings, we will also be no more. The first message is called “Vital Signs.” Main point: Before we talk about our vital signs corporately, we need to check our vital signs individually. The church is made up of individual believers. Unless each of us returns to a right relationship with Jesus Christ, there is no hope for the body, the church. The Master is knocking at the door, and it is time we let him in.

Revelation 1       1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. 4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:

Context: Through the years, I’ve had people ask me to preach on the end times. I try to remind them that before they came, I preached for over two years on the end times, everything from Ezekiel 37Daniel 7-12ZechariahMatthew 241 Thessalonians 4I Corinthians 15, and the book of Revelation. Not only that but here and there I have still preached on passages related to the end of times. Just to let you know, I will begin a series on the end times when we get into our new building. It is a blessing to study prophecy, especially Revelation. Listen again to verse 3 “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” Unfortunately, much of what passes as preaching on the end-times or Revelation is not very good. I’ll also admit that I have a lot to learn about the end of times, but it is still worth it. When it comes to studying prophecy, especially the Book of Revelation, we must approach it appropriately. For me, the Book of Revelation is a book of prophecy, focused on the future. Nonetheless, it must be studied in light of the Old Testament, the first century Judaism, the Greco-Roman setting of the churches, and the context of the local church. We must understand when the message is to the church and when it is to ethnic Israel. There is a difference. When we study the various signs and symbols, we must be as consistent as possible in studying them. Ultimately, the Book of Revelation is to teach us to be holy and be ready for the imminent return of Jesus Christ. We’re not waiting on anything to be fulfilled for Jesus to come. Revelation teaches us the importance of worship, here and in heaven. Finally, it reminds us that our God and Savior does win and there is a new heaven and a new earth waiting for us. Considering all that, we are to reach as many people as we can for the kingdom of God.

The church cannot do any of that if we are spiritually sick like these 7 churches. In a sense, the 7 churches represent the various churches in the world today through the ages. I want us to look in the mirror of these 7 churches and see if we resemble them. In this first message, I want to look at them and see if we resemble them individually. Here are the 7 spiritual vital signs:

1. Our First Love

Revelation 2         1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil…4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

Question: Is that us? We do this and that. We persevere and we are patience. But, we have lost our first love. Think about a young couple when they first fall in love. They want to be together. They are always around each other. Then with time, they get tired of each other. We still believe all that is right. We just don’t have our first passion for Jesus and his bride. It’s not that we get to go to church, now it is we got to go to church!

2. Our Courage in Trials

Revelation 2        8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 9 “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Question: Is that us? We’ve been through some tribulation. We all have a story. But, we’ve become apprehensive, scared, concerned, troubled, nervous, on edge, stressed out. We’ve lost our courage. We’ve forgotten the voice of the one who promised us: John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

3. Our Convictions in Evil Times

Revelation 2      12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

Question: Is that us? When Bible calls it false doctrine, when the Bible calls it sin, when the Bible says, “thou shalt not,” do we say, “But…!” God forbid if we someone has the Holy Spirit backbone to call it “sin,” we call them “judgmental…”

4. Our Impartiality to Truth

Revelation 2     18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: 19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. 20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.

Question: Is that us? Do we allow people who don’t have a heart for God, a heart for the gospel, a heart for the Word, to tell us how things will be in the church? How long before we stand up and say, “enough is enough?” God searches the minds and the hearts, and he will repay.

5. Our Life in Christ

Revelation 3       1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, “These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 4 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

Question: Is that us? We may physically be alive but we are spiritually dead. We give the appearance that all is well but like Martha said about her brother Lazarus, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Such a church doesn’t need a revival. It needs a resurrection. Unless Jesus cries out, “Church, come forth,” it’s over.

6. Our Eager Obedience

Revelation 3       7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, “These things says He who is holy, He who is true, ‘He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: 8 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

Question: Is that us? What are we waiting for? God is bringing one opportunity after another asking you to just trust him. There’s the open door and the door is Jesus. 

7. Our Zeal for Christ

Revelation 3       14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 

Question: Is that us? Have we become lukewarm? How is our zeal for Christ?

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ ”

Can you hear the Savior? Can you hear the knock on the door of your heart? Can you hear what the Spirit is saying to us? Some need to be saved and some need to repent.

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