Summary: Sardis is the dying or dead church. It could be our church. The problem and the prescription to fix it and make it once again the Lord’s Church. Link inc. to formatted text, audio/video, PowerPoint.
READING SOMEONE ELSE’S MAIL
Sardis: The Crippled Church
Take your next vacation in London, and you could visit the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The tour guide would tell you that this is the place that the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon used to preach. He would tell you that the 5,000 seat auditorium there was never large enough…they packed it to overflowing Sunday after Sunday in Spurgeon’s day.
He would tell you how on Sunday nights, they would actually ask church members to stay home because so many visitors wanted to come and fill the building.
Today, that church is only a shadow of what it used to be. If you were to visit the Metropolitan Tabernacle, basically what you would hear is wonderful stories of “the way it used to be.” The good ole days…
Such is the case with the church at Sardis in Rev. 3. At one time they had a reputation for being exciting, alive, and vibrant / on fire for God!
When Jesus Christ writes to this church in Sardis, they were all reputation and no reality. They were all form, and no force. They were glorying in past splendor, and ignoring their present state. They focused on Past Reputation, rather than Present Reality.
v. 1b Do you see what the Lord is saying to this church? He is saying, you have a reputation for being alive, on fire for God, your past has some high marks…but I know the truth…you’re dead!
We should give special notice to the words of Jesus, church, for He’s talking directly to US. More than any other of these 7 letters, this letter is for us, for 2 reasons:
1. It’s happened before. (a fall)
Am I talking to the right church? Was not the slogan here “Famous for the Gospel”? I was around; my family had heard about it, we lived just 75 miles that way!
And what happened? The devil got his way. The devil attempted to ruin a good thing, and somebody let their guard down, and it worked! In the midst of success, the church thinks it stands…and it falls! And a place that was indeed famous for the gospel became famous for something else! And a generation has had to pass for the church to recover, for trust to be restored, and to start experiencing God’s blessings again.
And thru the years as a ministry grows and begins to find some success, Satan does it again and again, shooting his fiery darts at church leaders, at church people, and at church ministries. If you have good growth, he sets a fire to it / offerings increase / ss class expands / …he sets a fire to it…he wants to ruin a good thing!
Yes, this letter is to us because it’s happened before…
2. It can happen again!
Here we are in God’s blessings again, in unity / sensing God’s power again / good feeling in the air / increased offerings / more people serving / and we sense the best is just over the horizon!
Yes, here we are again! We can expect Satan to oppose us!
We need to pay special attention to Jesus’ words to us today.
Churches, unfortunately, go thru 3 stages:
Spirit filled men (and women) [dynamic]
A machine (on auto-pilot) [dying]
A monument (to the good ole days) [dead]
The greatness of GBC is not just a past reputation, it is a present reality! May it ever be!
By the way, Sardis represents church history from A.D. 1500-1700.
Sardis means “remnant”, or, those who have escaped. This is the reformed church of Martin Luther, who nailed his 95 thesis to the church door, rejecting the works salvation of the Thyatira church, proclaiming once again that salvation is thru faith alone!
This is the remnant who escaped the clutches of the Thyatira church.
2 points on Sardis: The problem and the prescription
1. The problem
In these 7 letters, the Lord presents Himself in different ways to each. This is significant.
v. 1 “I am the one who possesses the Holy Spirit (7 = perfection)”
Why present Himself like this? Because it’s what they were missing…the Holy Spirit…the power was missing…and Jesus reminds them that He holds the power in His hand…power to make this dead church live again…power to convict / guide / equip for ministry. It is the Holy Spirit that energizes the Church, and tragically, it was missing in Sardis.
Their first problem was that they were powerless! They were reformed, but they weren’t revived!
When Jesus labeled them a dead church, that was a sure sign that they needed the power of the Holy Spirit!
The church of the Reformation separated from the Catholic Church. These Protestants escaped…but quickly reverted to their former practices. This Lutheran assembly, and other Protestants of that day reverted to some of their old ways…infant baptism, ritualism, and more of a social gospel…a feel good gospel that eventually returned to works as the means of salvation.