Summary: The church at Sardis

The Church at Sardis: A Crippled Church - Revelation 2:18-29 - 1/31/10

Turn with me this morning to the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation, chapter 2. We want to continue on today, looking at the question, “What does God think of His church?” Here in Revelation 1, we find the disciple John, living on an island off the coast of Turkey, writing about 95 AD, some 65 years after Jesus has died and resurrected. He is given a vision of Christ, and Jesus gives John a message in chapters 2 & 3 for 7 churches in Asia Minor, the area we know today as Turkey. Jesus has words of encouragement and words of rebuke for these churches. And we want to look at these churches to see what message God might have for us as well.

First we looked at the church of Ephesus. It was a CARELESS church. This was a large church, an active, working church, a well-taught church, a weathered church, they hard faced trials -- yet it was a church that faced a rebuke. We often look at large, active churches as healthy churches, but often they are not. Jesus told the church at Ephesus they had lost their passionate love for God. And we want to make sure that we are always more concerned about who we ARE, in our hearts, than just being concerned about what we DO.

Then, we looked at the second church, the church at Smyrna. It was a CRUSHED church and a CROWNED church. They faced pressure and poverty and putdowns, but they faithfully endured, and so they received commendation from the Lord. The Lord tells them that persecution will come, but to continue to live faithfully and He would reward them greatly. We want to be faithful, even when life gets difficult.

Then we looked at the church at Pergamum. It was a COMPROMISING church. It was a city where Satan had set up camp; but the church had tolerated Satan’s presence. We want to make sure that we do not compromise and tolerate evil.

Then we looked at the church at Thyatira. It was a CORRUPT church. The people had followed a self-proclaimed prophetess who taught them to deny the truth, and the people accepted the teaching. We learn the lesson that we cannot allow ourselves to follow any false teaching that would lead us to embrace sin, but rather we need to lead holy lives, in the world, but not of the world. Instead, we live as a witness to the world.

Today, we look at the church at Sardis. It is a CRIPPLED church. I realize that we don’t use that word much any more; it is not politically correct. We use a word like physically challenged. But the truth is, this church WAS crippled. It was dying of cancer, internally destroyed, even though it looked good on the outside. Let’s see what Jesus has to say about it. Look with me in Revelation 3:1-6. READ TEXT - PRAY.

As we think about a messenger continuing on from church to church, delivering these letters of John, he would have next traveled about 30 miles southeast from Thyatira. [show map] The city of Sardis was situated at the junction of five main roads; so it was a major center for trade. It was also a military center, for it was located on an almost inaccessible plateau. The city started as a fortress up on top of the mountain, and then later expanded to the valley below. [show mountain] The acropolis of Sardis was about 1,500 feet above the main roads, and it formed an impregnable fortress.

The city had been the capital of Lydia, and the home of the Lydian emperor Croesus, who had been reported to be the wealthiest man alive. The city was later conquered by Cyrus the Persian, then by Alexander the Great, and in 214 BC was captured by Antiochus the Great for the Romans.

At the time of John’s writing, the city is somewhere between 700 and 1200 years old. But it had lost its once famous splendor. In our day, that would be like a city that has been around since before Columbus, maybe even back to the time of William the Conqueror who settled England. But first conqueror, Cyrus of Persia, assured that there would be no rebellion or uprising in the city. No one in the city was allowed to possess a weapon, he prohibited the people for wearing sandals instead they had wear the soft slipper type footwear used by actors. And then he ordered that the boys of Sardis be instructed in music, song and dance. The result was that the city lost it’s spirit. By the time John wrote this letter the city was wealthy but soft and degenerate and it would appear the church there was much the same.

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