Summary: Something is missing from the church today, and people are starting to notice. Too often the church fails to offer what it advertises: life.
2. (Preview to a Vision week 2)
January 17, 2010
A Church without Faith is Dead
There was a 4 year old boy named Billy who had a pet cat. One day while Billy was at school his cat was run over by a car and died. Trying to protect her son from seeing his beloved kitty dead on the road his mother quickly disposed of the remains. A few days went by and Billy began asking what had happened to his cat. “Billy, the cat died,” his mother explained. She tried to comfort him by telling him: “It’s all right. Now he’s up in heaven with God.” Billy was puzzled by his mother’s statement. “What in the world would God want with a dead cat?” Have you ever noticed how kids have this strange ability to make these statements which force us to stop and reevaluate how we think? Putting aside the cat I do want to ask a similar question: what in the world would God want with a dead church?
Turn to Revelation 3:1. Last week we looked at James and how faith without works is dead. This week we are going to look at the book of Revelation and what it has to say about the church. In chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation we see seven sort of letters within the letter to seven different churches in Asia Minor. For some reason in my Bible these font in both of these chapters is all red. Does anyone know why that is? These are the words of Jesus. This is not an Epistle of John writing to the church, Jesus Himself is writing these letters to His churches and what you will find if you read these letters from Jesus to seven of His churches is that what Jesus has to say is very personal. In each of these letters Jesus says: I know. I know your deeds. I know your afflictions. This is very personal. Jesus says I know how you live. He is not fooled by our facades. He is not deceived by our titles or reputations, Jesus sees our hearts. He knows what we do and why we do it. Jesus knows us not for who we say we are, not for who we think we are, Jesus knows us for who we really are both as individuals and as churches. For me these two chapters of Revelation really bring the idea of a personal God into focus. You know? I have said God is a personal God I have accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior but it is these passages where Jesus simply says: I know that really helped me understand how personal Jesus really is.
Now for two of those churches Jesus has no condemnation. Of Smyrna and Philadelphia He says nothing bad to say to them. For two of the seven churches Jesus has no commendation. Of Sardis and Laodicea Jesus has nothing good to say about them. Can you imagine as a church getting a personal letter from Jesus only to find that He has nothing good to say about us? Ouch. We are going to see one of these churches this morning as we look at the church in Sardis.
Rev 3:1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Rev 3:2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Rev 3:3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Rev 3:4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. Rev 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. Rev 3:6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Sardis was established in 2600 B.C. It was built on a mountain about 1500 feet above the valley floor. The only way you could even approach the city was from a steep path to the south. In 680 B.C it became the capital of Lydia. It was a wealthy and powerful city with mighty fortress walls. It was considered to be impossible to conquer. Yet in 546 B.C Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered it. But just wait until you hear how. When the people of Lydia went to war with the Persians they didn’t do very well. After begin defeated on a few occasions Croesus the Lydian general had all his forces withdraw inside the walls of Sardis. So the people of Sardis waiting within their mighty walls while the Persian army was at their gates. Croesus did not think the siege would last long he figured the soldiers would get tired and eventually they would go away so he planned to just wait them out in the city. The city was built into a mountain and had mighty walls why wouldn’t they feel safe inside of it. Now this is the really sad part. Here is how Sardis fell. Cyrus noticed that while the people were locked inside there were no guards along the walls. The soldiers were not at their post. They had fallen asleep on the job. They felt so safe and secure inside their impenetrable walls that the people stopped paying attention to the threat at their door. With an army of enemy soldiers at their gates their soldiers were not at their posts and they were not alert. So, completely unhindered the Persians climbed up the wall, opened the gates, and sacked the city. Croesus had ruled for 14 years and allowed his kingdom to fall after being under siege for only 14 days. That has to be one of the most embarrassing stories of defeat in military history. When I was in high school I broke my ankle. People would ask me how so I would tell them that I was walking down the street and saw a house was on fire. Smoke was billowing out the doors and windows as the flames covered the house. Then I heard the sound of a little puppy inside barking so I rushed into the house leap over burning debris rescued the dog but on my way out I had to jump over a flaming beam and in the process broke my ankle. I felt that was a good piece of manly fiction that made my injury sound good. What actually happened was I jumped over a mud puddle and missed the landing, fell and broke my ankle. That was embarrassing so I didn’t want to tell people that. Can you imagine trying to tell this story? Especially as a man we have all that pride and ego to protect. So how were your people conquered? We umm, well we fell asleep and the enemy climbed up our walls and opened the gates. In fact we lost without taking out any of their soldiers. How awesome is that? Sardis defeat was pretty embarrassing. The people of Sardis were asleep and so they were destroyed. That is the first time Sardis the unconquerable city was conquered but it was not the only time.