Summary: This was the post-Christmas sermon used to transition back into the sermon series on the seven churches; it provides four keys to spiritual stirring / renewal.
FINDING THE EXTRA IN THE ORDINARY: YOU*
Advent is as much about the second coming of Christ as it is the first. It is as much about Him coming to you with a second birth as it is Jesus’ birth. They are connected and emphasized during Advent. Ana Advent, of course, moved into the arrival – Christmas.
To stay focused on a baby Jesus is to miss the implications and the impact of Advent. A few weeks back David Coons quoted one of my favorite Advent quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It says: “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes - and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”
ADVENT IS THE ANTICIPATION OF THE ARRIVAL …. THE NOW … NOT THE PAST.
And, with this we return to the book of The Revelation … because it is in these letters to the churches that we see, more than anywhere else, that the future and the present are merged and linked.
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. 2Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3Remember, 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. 4Yet 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. 5He 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. 6He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Sardis was a prosperous city that by the end of the first century had seen better days. Of the seven cities mentioned, Sardis was also the most protected. It was built on a high bluff with only one way in and out and was never taken captive by direct assault. But twice in its history, once in 549 BCE and again in 195 BCE, it had been conquered and its leader deposed by enemies who found a “chink in the armor.” The cliffs were scaled and a way into the city was found through a small access hole in the wall. In both cases, while the city slept in the knowledge that its gates were secure, the citizens of Sardis awoke to find that they were under surprise attack.
In the poetry and wisdom literature of the day, Sardis became synonymous with the dangers of overconfidence, pride, and arrogance. The history of Sardis demonstrated the need to be aware of enemies who come “like a thief in the night” (Rev.3:3). It warns us against self-confidence and self-deception.
It is one thing to be deceived by someone else. Self-deception is quite another. God has called every Christian and every church body to a ministry and mission that includes obedience and service. With Jesus as Lord, each Christian can find joy and fulfillment in a Spirit-led life that is filled with opportunities to minister to others, to pray, and through fellowship with God to be a positive and useful instrument in His kingdom.
We know these things to be true, and as a church we often develop programs to assist one another in these areas. Sadly, sometimes the programs take over for the Spirit, the cares of the world eclipse the cares for the Kingdom, and the desires of the flesh eclipse the desires of the Spirit.
AT SUCH TIMES WE MIGHT LOOK VERY BUSY AND HAVE A REPUTATION FOR DOING GOOD WORK WHEN IN REALITY, WE ARE RESTING ON YESTERDAY’S LAURELS. BY KEEPING OURSELVES BUSY IN FRUITLESS ACTIVITY, WE PLAY RIGHT INTO THE HANDS OF SATAN. WE FAIL TO BE USEFUL TO GOD’S KINGDOM, WE FAIL TO GROW SPIRITUALLY, AND GOD’S TRUE PURPOSE FOR OUR LIVES GOES UNFULFILLED. WE ARE SELF-DECEIVED INTO THINKING THAT WE ARE ALIVE WHEN, IN FACT, OUR ACTIONS DESCRIBE US AS DEAD OR DYING.
This would describe the church in Sardis. By Jesus’ knowledge of their deeds, they were, at least, doing something. By their reputation, it appears they were quite busy. This is a church with a calendar of events that is jam-packed with activity.
• But is a church’s crowded calendar of activities a measure of its spiritual vitality?