Revelation 3:1-6 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Jesus’ message to the church in Sardis is short and bittersweet. This church had a reputation for being alive but it was dead. That is true of many churches today. We live in an area where we are surrounded by former church buildings. When I first came into the area I located 35 former church buildings and I’m sure that many more could be located. Once those churches were springs of living water for the community where they were placed. Now, in most of those communities there is no witness to the Lord at all. And also there are many communities where a church building exists but there is no gospel being presented in the pulpit! What must they do?
Jesus is very specific in pointing out the needs and the cures for the church in Sardis. Again, he says, “I know your works.” And then he points out that they have a reputation of being alive but they are dead! Many churches in existence today could be described by that phrase, “You are reputed to be alive but you are really dead.” In fact I will go so far as to say that some of the “liveliest” churches are really spiritually dead.
Strengthen what remains. Listen while I read from 2 Thessalonians 2:15. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
The letters to the Thessalonians were some of the earliest that Paul wrote. That being so, they already had some of the problems that the church in Sardis had begun to display. Paul had to admonish them to stand firm and hang on to the good traditions that he had taught them. There is a need in every church today across the nation and around the world to strengthen the good that remains and build on it a future that glorifies God. It is very easy to let the traditions slide away from us. For instance while we enjoy contemporary songs we need to also remember — and relearn in some cases — the old hymns. Why? Because they are based on sound theology. They speak the word of God in ways that are easy to remember.
The church in Sardis had been examined by Jesus and found that their works were not complete in the sight of God the Father. I am afraid that in some cases the same would be true of our church! Some of our work is not complete. Pray, pray, pray that God will show us what we need to change and how it needs to change. We need to Wake Up and…
Remember what has been. I have begun this week to journal information about the beginning of our church here. We need to remember what has been and build on it. Listen while I read Romans 6:17-18. But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is probably the most complete and perfect statement of Christian theology ever made. And here in the sixth chapter they were told to remember that they once were slaves of sin. Now, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they have become obedient to the sound teaching they had received and have been set free from sin. Having been set free from sin they are able to be slaves of righteousness. In like manner the church in Sardis (and everywhere) needs to wake up and strengthen the good that has been learned and then…
Repent and return. Repentance is not just feeling bad about what has been done. Listen while I read 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Paul had written to the church in his first letter pointing out the fact that they tolerated unrepentant sin in their midst. It is both saddening to me and encouraging in a way that these things were happening so early in the history of the church. We are surrounded by a culture that supports openly sinful lifestyles. The fact that these lifestyles are sinful is not a matter of opinion. This fact is based on the word of God. Particularly, the culture around us supports and encourages all kinds of sexual sin.
When the church in Corinth received Paul’s first letter they took action and redeemed the situation. They were not just grieved, they were grieved into repenting! The reason they repented was they felt a godly grief. When we find ourselves supporting or encouraging any sin we need to be grieved with a godly grief that causes us to repent. I am not calling on you to judge others but I am calling on you to encourage others to come to a lifestyle that honors God. If you have a particular question ask in private and I will try to give you a biblically-based answer. The church in Sardis was admonished to Wake Up and shore up the gaps in their works and spiritually feed the works that are alive. Having done so, they needed to remember their first works and repent of the wrong they have allowed into their midst. They must know that God will not long tolerate evil in the midst of his people. We must deal with people who are walking outside the biblical norms by speaking the truth in love and admonishing them to return to a godly walk. If a person is born again we will, over time, see positive changes in their lifestyle. If we are not seeing that change we need to encourage them lovingly and compassionately.
If sin is not dealt with when it is obvious…
Christ will come against you. We need to remember the words of the writer of Hebrews 12:7-10. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
Being sons and daughters of the living God is a great honor. But it puts us into the position of being disciplined and directed by him. God disciplines us in a number of ways. He told the church in Sardis that he would come against them! As we’ve seen in other letters, this is not a promise of Jesus’ second coming it is a promise to intervene in the church by his power and strength. Jesus comes in many ways to the churches and corrects the church, or removes the candlestick.
Without a doubt Jesus Is Coming Again! We must never forget that truth and we must always be prepared for his coming. I quote John Piper, “The center of Christianity is the coming of the Son of God into the world as a real man to destroy the works of the devil and create a new people for His own glory. The very heart of our faith is that He did this by obeying the law of God, dying for the sins of His people, rising victorious over death, ascending to God’s right hand with all His enemies under his feet. The second coming of Christ is the completion of His saving work. If you take it away, the whole fabric of His saving work unravels.”
When Jesus comes in the interim, discipline will be exercised on the church. As a result, many will be cut off, even in this life, because they really did not know him.
But some will walk with Christ! Listen while I read from Revelation 7:9-10. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
This follows his second coming! There is going to be, in heaven, a great multitude beyond number. Every nation! Every tribe! Every people group! Every language! Will be represented in that large group when Christ returns. In the church we are “many members” yet “one body”.
In Sardis there were many who had soiled their garments. Yet Christ assures us that there are a few names there who have not soiled their garments. These will walk with him just as we will if we have come to him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Christ returns he will bring with him all those who have gone on before!
Paul assured the Thessalonians that, “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
And when we hear this we can 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
In Revelation chapter 19, we find a beautiful description of Christ coming again. He will be sitting on a white horse and he will be called Faithful and True. He will be dressed in a robe dipped in blood — the blood that he shed on Calvary’s cross and presented before the throne in heaven for us! He will be called The Word of God and he will have with him the armies of heaven. Those armies will be all arrayed in fine linen and also will be mounted on white horses. He will be coming as King of kings and Lord of lords! Praise God the promise in the letter to Sardis that his people will walk with him in white includes the truth that they will not only walk with him but will also ride with him on white horses. These are those who have confessed the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior and when they do…
Christ will confess their name. Listen while I read Jesus’ own words found in Luke 12:8-9. “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, 9 but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
It is amazing to consider that when we acknowledge Christ before men he acknowledges us before the angels of God. Jesus said that there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10) I believe that means that there is constant rejoicing in heaven. Somewhere in the world there is someone repenting of their sin and turning to Jesus Christ as Lord. We may not see it happen here very often but it’s happening somewhere all the time! We should expect to see one sinner repent here on a regular basis as we bear witness to Christ. Jesus promised that he would acknowledge us before God and his angels if we will confess him before the world around us.
Jesus is coming again! We don’t know the day or the hour — or the season — we only know for sure that he is coming. As the first century came to an end Jesus sent out a letter to seven of his churches. The message to them had to be meaningful and at the same time it had to speak to the church through the ages. Everything in the book of Revelation is written for our instruction just as it was written for theirs. There’s a need today for people to wake up and pay attention. Wake up! Repent! And return! That is the message found in this letter to Sardis. It applies to us just as well. Have you repented of the sin in your life? Have you come to Jesus who promises to forgive when we confess?
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.