Summary: Third in the series, looking at the devestating effect of molding our church’s by the world’s standards, instead of focusing on our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Revelation 3:1-6 – Church in Sardis
By James Galbraith
First Baptist Church, Port Alberni
September 27, 2009
Introduction – nice façade, death inside
When elderly Adele Gaboury turned up missing four years ago, concerned neighbors in Worcester, Massachusetts, informed the police. A brother told police she had gone into a nursing home.
Satisfied with that information, Gaboury’s neighbors began watching her property. Michael Crowley noticed her mail, delivered through a slot in the door, piling high. When he opened the door, hundreds of pieces of mail drifted out. He notified police, and the deliveries were stopped. Gaboury’s next-door neighbor, Eileen Dugan, started paying her grandson $10 twice a month to mow Gaboury’s lawn. Later Dugan’s son noticed Gaboury’s pipes had frozen, spilling water out the door. The utility company was called to shut off the water.
What no one guessed was that while they’d been trying to help, Gaboury had been inside her home. When police finally investigated the house as a health hazard, they were shocked to find her body. The Washington Post (10/27/93) reported that police now believe Gaboury died of natural causes four years previously.
BC history - while we were up north in Prince Rupert, Filippo Falcone, died in his own home, and his body lay there for almost a year before anyone knew.
The body mummified, rather than rotted, so there was no heavy stench. He has been a loner, so no one noticed that he was gone, and the home didn’t look abandoned.
The respectable, external appearance of Gaboury’s house (and possibly Falcone’s) had hidden the reality of what was on the inside.
Something similar can happen to people and churches: we may appear outwardly proper while spiritually dead. All sorts of religious activity may be happening outside, while the real problem is missed: spiritual death on the inside. We need life, not a tidy façade.
-Facades cover up many problems, and help no one
- sadly ironic that people feel they have to be good,
or at least look good, in order to come to church,
which should be a place of healing
Let’s look at what the church in Sardis can tell us about facades, and keeping up appearences.
Sardis - City - “has been”
- a junction of five different roads
- once a very prosperous city in a very safe geographical location
- built on steep hill, cliffs very loose shale (hard to climb)
- very large, but ultimately incomplete, temple to Cybele (Artemis)
- rival to temple in Ephesus, which was one of seven wonders of ancient world
- ironically, worship of this “virgin goddess” included fertility rites and sexual immorality
- known for luxurious living and moral decadence
- although virtually impregnable, city was conquered twice because they became complacent
- both times, city taken at night by troops that scaled the cliffs and found no guard on duty
- bottom line – former great city, keeping up a façade, glory days in the past
Church – rotting from the inside out
- church has taken on personality of city - appearance of life, but dead
MSG – “I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you’re dead, stone dead”
- condition much like what Jesus had said to Jewish leadership decades earlier
Matthew 23:27 NIV
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.
"You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh.
- a façade of activity covering a dead core
How had this happened?
1) incomplete knowledge of the gospel
“…I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God”
- wanting salvation without being ready to commit to Jesus as Saviour AND Lord
- fire insurance salvation that didn’t penetrate to the heart
2) adaptation to society
- with large pagan community, large Jewish community, and lots of money flowing through, it would be very easy to adapt church practice to fit into mainstream of society
- other churches have been warned against encroaching sin,
Sardis is being confronted with their sinful condition
Adapting to the fluctuation of society’s values is death-knell for the church
Reginald Bibby, a prominent sociologist in Canada who has specialized in researching trends and patterns in the life of the Christian church in Canada,
tells us in his book “Restless Gods” that in Canada churches that are growing are those that hold true to conservative, traditional values.
Not necessarily traditional style worship – they ain’t all singing hymns, passing the plate and sitting in nice, polite rows,