Summary: Letter to the church in Smyrna
Dear Sleeping Beauty
Isaiah 52:1-6 Rev. 3:1-6
Mark Twain once said, “The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.” Well, just the opposite was true of the church in Sardis. Today we continue examining the series of letters Jesus writes to the seven church in Revelation to see what He was saying to them, and to see if perhaps he has something to say to us in those same letters. You may remember that the first letter was to the church in Ephesus, where, according to Jesus, they had forgotten their first love---which was Him. Other loves and other interests had captured their fancy and their heart. The second letter was written to the church at Smyrna who was in danger from both internal as well as external threats. The following week, we looked at the letter to the Christians at Pergamum who were conflicted about their faith. Some faithfully followed Jesus while others followed teachings that were contrary to Jesus. And last Sunday, we examined the letter to the church at Thyratira. You remember that some of them were rather careless with their beliefs and had lost their way, their True North. They were proclaiming Christ but knowingly tolerating ungodly teaching and behavior. And this morning, some of you may be surprised to find that the sermon has nothing to do with a Walt Disney character. Dear Sleeping Beauty was addressed to the church in a place called Sardis.
A little background first: Sardis was a city that seemed to have a lot going for it, and the church there seemed to have a lot going for it too.
Located some 30 miles to the east of Thyratira, it was built on a plateau some 1500 feet high and overlooking a valley. Steep cliffs protected Sardis on almost every side, with only one rather difficult way into the city…and that was along the ridge that ran on the top of the plateau. A high wall surrounded the city itself, so that militarily, Sardis was practically impenetrable. And yet, twice in its history, the city had been conquered. Cyrus the Great had conquered it in 549BC and Antiochus captured the city in 218BC. Both times, the city was taken by surprise…at night, by enemy soldiers who followed the ridgeline and scaled the walls only to find everyone asleep and no one on guard. The citizens were so secure, so sure that they were in no danger that nothing could happen to them that they let their guard down. They became lax and lazy. And the same thing was happening to the church in Sardis. There was no threat to the church from the outside—no persecution—and no threats from the inside—no serious heresies to battle and so the Christians in Sardis grew dangerously comfortable. They really weren’t doing anything wrong, they just weren’t doing anything. For you Veggie Tales fans, they were the original Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. They were rumored to be alive, Jesus said, but they were dead or dying inside. They were just there…taking up space, staying well within their comfort zone, going through the motions but really doing nothing for the Kingdom. And so, Jesus warns the church that unless something changes…unless they wake up, He will come like a thief in the night.