Letter to Sardis 2
Jesus started this letter to Sardis by saying, "I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead" (Revelation 3:1). The church had become spiritually inert, unable to exert any Christlike influence on their city. They were disheartened, inward-looking and merely processing religious routines. They had started well but their zeal had almost gone, and they were unproductive in Christ's kingdom.
The first exhortation was to wake up. They were sleepwalking to their own spiritual ruin and they did not realise it. They could not see the downward trajectory of the church because they had lost sight of the upward call of Jesus. They had no confidence to live for Jesus in the present, because they had no expectation of His return (Matthew 25:1-13). The whole of the Godhead was appalled to see a church who cared so little about Jesus. They had received the gospel but had not passed it on. They had received the apostles' teaching but had not lived it out. So, Christ's command was that they must strengthen their grip on all that was true by living it and sharing it; and repent of practising dead religion in front of the watching eyes of the living Lord Jesus.
There was no other safe option. Remaining apathetic would be disobedience. They must wake up (Ephesians 5:11-15). If not, the call of Jesus in His second coming would certainly wake the dead. He would come like a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43); unannounced, unexpected and unpredictable (Matthew 24:36). Paul used the same analogy (1 Thessalonians 5:2), as did Peter (2 Peter 3:10). It must have been a familiar concept in the early church, but the church in Sardis had forgotten that Jesus would come to reward the faithful and judge the unfaithful.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke about "… seed which fell among thorns which grew up with it and choked the plants" (Luke 8:7), explaining that, "The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature." (Luke 8:14). Hebrews 6:8 confirms that, "… land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned". Sardis' church was not accused of false teaching or immorality, like some of the other churches. It was more like Ephesus, which had lost its first-love (Revelation 2:4). It is more like far too many churches today, relying on yesterday's reputation but offering only dead religion instead of a living Saviour. To such churches the urgent instruction is to wake up from self-centred dreaming, repent, and stop sleepwalking to destruction.
© Dr Paul Adams