WORD PICTURES ABOUT THE DEAD CHURCH
Have you ever seen a tree that gave a very nice appearance but was being cut down. The report would be given the tree is rotten on the inside. I am afraid some church have all the appearance of being alive when they are dead inside. The church in Sardis is like that.
I. A PICTURE OF THE CITY. v. 1 a.
Sardis was a city with a great past. That was her problem. She relished her past glory. She had obtained wealth in many ways but probably most prominent was her invention of a way to dye wool. Sardis was a leader in the garment industry. He history of easy wealth caused an attitude of laxness. The city was very proud of being considered an impregnable city (although twice in her history she was captured).
The Greek historian, Herodotus, tells the story of King Cyrus offering large rewards to the man finding a way to scale the 1, 500 ft. hill the city was built upon. A soldier by the name of Hyerocades one day saw a guard on top of the hill drop his helmet. This Sardis guard went down the hill after his helmet and then scaled the heights back to his guard post. Hyerocades hand picked a band of Persian soldiers and that night as unguarded Sardis slept, they were taken captive. This story serves as background to our Lord's words in v 3b.
This city's pagan worship centered in the co called sex goddess Cybele.
Worship of her perhaps caused God to allow an earthquake in AD 17 that
all but devastated the city. However, Emperor Tiberius contributed $1,700,000
to have the city rebuilt.
II. A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH. v 1 b.
Jesus titles Himself twice to the people of Sardis. First, He is the one who has the seven Spirits. We noted in sermon number 3 from Revelation that this probably refers to Is.11:2.
Jesus has the Spirit of 1) divinity 2) wisdom 3) understanding 4) counsel 5) strength 6) knowledge 7) reverential fear. Jesus had this Spirit and He still has it. The city and church may change but Jesus stays the same (Heb. 13:8).
Secondly, He says, "He has the seven stars." He had them in verse
16 of chapter one and He still does. This means He is the authority. A
pastor only has authority under submission to the Father. It appears that
Sardis may follow earthly leaders rather than the Lord.
III. A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH CONDEMNED. vs. 1c-3
This is not hearsay; He knows first hand. They have a live name but they are dead. They had the reputation of being a live wire church among men but not with God. They had outward activity but very little inward spirituality. They had organization but were not a living organism. There are few things more organized than a grave yard, but you don't celebrate life there. They had form but not force. Everything in the show window but nothing in stock. Their name was in contrast to reality.
In verse 2 b the Lord said their "deeds were not completed ('perfect' in KJV) in the sight of My God." Their deeds may have been fine in their opinions or some pagan god, but not before the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. If this message also refers to the church in the age of Reformation dated about 1520 you can see how this particular message would apply. The problem with the Reformation is that it tried to reform while the situation demanded repentance. Perfect or complete deeds are only found in repentance and trust of the Lord.
It is interesting that the Lord does not mention any doctrinal error such as the Nicolaitans, Balaamites, false prophets or prophetesses. Could it be Satan left this church alone because it was so dead ? Perhaps earlier error had been like the locusts, who, when the damage is done, move on to another crop.
It is also an observation worth noting that the message of condemnation had always before been to the faithful majority. This message is addressed to an unfaithful majority who were busy in the wrong way.
Some remember the old mills operated by a water wheel. A creek emptied onto the wheel and set the mill in motion. Suppose the miller should come down some morning and find only a trickle of water because the stream was clogged. How foolish he would be to try to turn the wheel by his own strength! But he could use his energy to clear out the obstructed channel. So often in the church we toil in our feverish strength to make the wheels go around when we should keep our lives open to the flow of God's Spirit.
How does this apply to you and I? Is there a
need to have a fresh cleansing?
IV. A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH COMMENDED. v. 4
Some commentators say this church is not commended. It is my opinion the faithful few are commended and since they are a part of the church, we should note the three commendations they received.
First, they have not soiled their garments. In this town the garment industry was prominent. Here the method of dying wool was originated and they would not allow someone to worship in their pagan temples if their garments were soiled. Jesus brags on these few who have not soiled their garments. They could really worship Him for they took no part in pagan practices and they wanted the name of Jesus above the activities of the church.
Secondly, the Lord says, "they will walk with Me in white. . ." The Lord's garments are white and His faithful ones will walk in His colors. Their garments are just like His. What a joyful parade to walk in garments like Christ and with Christ.
Thirdly, the Lord says they are worthy. This worthiness is related to their walk with the Lord, not their salvation experience. Jesus alone is worthy in respect to having ability to cause one to be saved. Read Rev, 4:11 & 5:9. The Greek word here translated worthy, suggests a scale. Borrowing from the pronouncement of Daniel, we could say these folks have been weighed in the balances and found acceptable. They are worthy by relationship. Because their Savior is worthy and they have honored Him, they will walk worthy with Him.
Reconstruction can begin even in a church like Sardis. These few are the Master's minority, and He will work with them before He comes in final judgment on the church.
My wife and I awoke one day last winter to a very cold house. We turned up the thermostat and waited, but no heat. I checked the furnace and everything looked okay. The pilot light was burning but somehow the burner would not burn. As I recall, the repairman said the transformer was not working. The thermostat would try to allow the pilot to inflame the burner, but it was blocked by a faulty transformer. Sardis' faithful few were the pilot light. They were worthy.
How does this apply to you?
V. A PICTURE OF REMEDY AND WARNING. vs. 2-3
The Lord has five ingredients to His remedy for this church. First, v 2 "Wake up," or become persons who are watchful. They were asleep spiritually; they needed to wake up. Second, v 2 "strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die, . . ." They were to give real meaning to the life of their church and strengthen it. Sardis was to make a shaky thing stable as a permanent deposit. This means, fan the flame so that it burns brightly. Third, in verse 3 it says, ". . .remember. . ." This is an imperative; it is not an optional wish, it is commanded. This is not just recalling old happenings, but it is bearing in mind what attitude and conduct are required for the spiritual blessings of old. Fourth, v 3 they are to keep or hold on to, the faith they have. This means observe, guard and pass it on to others. You don't pass on what you're not keeping and holding on to in the Christian faith. If you really love Him, you share. Fifth, v 3 they are to repent. They are to have a change of mind, heart and action. They are to do this immediately. It is imperative.
The warning to this church if they do not obey the 5 steps of remedy, is judgment. Christ says, "I will come as a thief. . . " Sardis knew about thieves coming since their city had twice been captured while they arrogantly remained unguarded. This is not a second coming of Christ, it is coming in judgment to this particular church. He is coming again on God's time schedule irregardless of what Sardis does.
The druggist overheard a lad on the phone. The boy said, "Doctor Anderson, do you need a boy to work for you? Oh, you have one. Are you completely satisfied? OK then, good bye." The druggist then said, "Son, I'd like to hire a boy like you." The lad said, "I have a job. I work for Dr. Anderson. I was just calling him to see how I was doing."
It would be good for all of us to check up on our selves and our church.
How does this apply to us? Do we check up on
VI. A PICTURE OF CHRIST'S PROMISE. v. 5
The promise to overcomers is threefold. One, they shall be clothed in white. White stands out in the multitude of colors that Sardis had in their spectrum. White represents victory, purity and the resurrection. Two, their names will not be erased from the Book of Life. Because they refused to worship a pagan god or the Emperor, they might be erased from man's book of life. There were evidently 3 reasons why your name could be blotted out. They are found in Ex. 32:33, Rev. 22:19, and in not being an overcomer I John 5:4-5. Third, Jesus will confess their name before the Father and the Angels. When Jesus vouches for a man, he is accepted. All three of these promises are to true believers whose faith is firmly planted in Jesus.
A Faith that fizzles before the finish was faulty from the start. I John 2:19.
How does this apply to you?
VII. A PICTURE OF CHRIST'S COMMAND. v. 6.
In verse 6 we have a command to the churches plural. It is not just to this church It represents a constant call of the Spirit that all might hear. Do you have spiritual ears? They are given with the second birth. All who have been born again are to hear what the Lord said. he spoke to John. John wrote the message down. The Holy Spirit speaks the message today to all who have ears.
I have a hearing loss. Every morning I put my hearing aids in my ears. I judge the volume control of one hearing aid by moving toward the bathroom and seeing if I can hear the exhaust fan. I can not hear the exhaust fan without the hearing aid. Jesus said "'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'". I wonder do you and I have the proper hearing aids to hear what the Lord is saying?
The Holy Spirit can be heard by the spiritual ear.
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And Beyond. Amen? Amen!