Summary: Lessons learned from the church of Sardis. Sermon Notes, Power Point, and video clips available upon request.

The Bible says that God (TAB) “is patient… not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

(TAB) God is holy –if sin is in His presence it’s consumed.

(TAB) God is perfectly just… He can’t forgive sin; it must be properly punished. He’s not a just God if He doesn’t.

(TAB) Yet, God is loving – He desires to restore sinners to a right relationship with Him. But How? If His holiness consumes sin, and His justice requires punishment, how can God restore sinners to a right relationship with Him?

Answer: The Gospel! Gospel means:(TAB)“Good News”.

God become a man Himself – Jesus Christ. He was born, lived a sinless life. So He didn’t deserve punishment for sin. And (TAB) He who had no sin, became sin for us. (2 Cor. 5:21) (TAB) At the cross Jesus took the just punishment for our sin. Instead of us being punished for what we’ve done wrong, Jesus was. He substituted Himself in our place. That way the holiness & just standard of God is met, And He can now extend His love and forgive all who accept it.

When Jesus was here on earth, He said: (TAB) “Repent and believe the good news” Mark 1:15. Repent (turn from your sin, to Jesus). Believe, trust Him, who He is, what He’s done with your life. And He says, if you do… you “will not perish but have everlasting life” Jn. 3:16. All because of Jesus. He’s (TAB) thee way, & thee truth & thee life (John 14:6). Not a way, He’s THEE WAY! The only way!

Acts 4:12 says, (TAB) “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

(TAB) He’s the way maker, He made a way

where there was no way.

1 John 5:12 says, (TAB) “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Again, (TAB) He’s the way maker, He made way

where there was no way.

And now, He has called His church (those who have repented and believed) to get the word out. (TAB) Mark 16:15 "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. Sin, death and hell are defeated – he proved it by raising from the dead. Everyone who repents & believes will be saved. God (TAB) “is patient… not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

The church is on a mission to share this message so that people can be saved from the coming judgment of God.

I know people today don’t’ want to hear that – but what kind of people would we be if we don’t’share the truth? Jesus has sent on a mission to share His message.

With all this in mind, let’s turn with me to (TAB) Rev. 3.

The book of Revelation shares the details of this coming judgment. But again God is patience not wanting anyone to perish, so we see here that He calls his church to be on mission with the message. Today we look at (TAB) the Letter to the church of Sardis.

Saris was one of the oldest cities of Asia Minor. It was also a capital city during an earlier Lydian empire prior to Roman occupation. (TAB) William Barclay said the people of Sardis were known for (TAB) “loose living…pleasure and luxury loving. It was a city of decadence.”

Look with me 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.

We’ve seen that for Jews, numbers were more than a unit of measure… they held symbolic meaning. (TAB) “7” was the symbol of “completion”. So the (TAB) “7” spirits of God could refer to the 7-fold ministry of the Spirit of God. We see this described in Isaiah (TAB):

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

The Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord – and He will delight in the fear of the Lord. Isa. 11:2-3

We’ve seen in past weeks that the “7” stars? (TAB) are the “messengers”, who many believe are the “pastors” of the churches. And notice were they are - in Jesus’ hands, He cares for them and the churches they lead.

Back to v. 1 Jesus continues: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”

Now, I think I can say with a high degree of certainty that this church didn’t want to hear Jesus say something like that. Remember, early on Christians were seen as a sect of Judaism. But radically changed in the mid 60’s. By then the Christian population had grown, which meant there message “that Jesus was the Only Way to forgiveness of sins & eternal life” (TAB) a core belief we called exclusivity – was spread more and more. This doesn’t fit with Roman culture who has multiple gods, Caesar being chief.

So in 64 AD. (TAB) Rome caught fire. The Caesar, Nero, blamed the Christians for it. Persecution broke out big time. Christians were hated. He would (TAB)dipped them in tar, fastened them to polls and burn them to light up his evening garden parties. Other Christians were executed in arenas as (TAB) lions, leopards, and other animals attacked them in front of 1,000’s of spectators.

We’ve seen in the other churches of Revelation that Christians struggled being discriminated against, pushed into poverty, imprisoned. To avoid this, some compromised. They would believe in Jesus in their hearts, but then take part in the worship practices of false gods, all to be accepted by the community – secure jobs, buy & sell in the market.

But in (TAB)Sardis many of the Christians took a different approach. It seems they just threw out the beliefs that made people not like them. Rather than hold to the central teaching of Jesus being the “only way”- exclusivity, …. they said, “No, there are lots of ways to God. Jesus,is just one.” So people accepted them. The problem? They changed the fundamental message of Christianity.

If there were lots of paths to God…. then Jesus didn’t have to come – He certainly wouldn’t have had to die on a cross. Saying that Jesus ISN’T the ONLY WAY makes the Gospel futile - worthless.

No wonder Jesus said “you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” They had destroyed the very message, it was their mission to share. And it seems not just the Christians were doing this. In Sardis is a huge synagogue. Joe Stowell, president of Cornerstone University has some on-location teaching in Sardis & shares that in this synagogue, names of those who attended were inscribed on one of its columns. No big deal accept, they were inscribed in Greek. Jewish names are incredibly important. They are a part of your Jewish identity – so to inscribe them in Greek is a telltale sign that they were sacrificing their traditions…possibly to be accepted by others.

(TAB-video) There’s an alter in the synagogue – but it has Roman eagles as well as other Roman animals caved in it – this is in a Jewish Synagogue? It’s unheard of. They’ve also found tile reliefs of ancient Lydian gods again in the synagogue.

In the market place, they’ve excavated shops with Christians inscriptions next to shops with Jewish inscriptions. This would never have been tolerated if Christians were holding to their distinctive beliefs of Jesus being the only way. (TAB) We see that Christians in Sardis aren’t the only ones willing to sacrifice important aspects of their faith, to enjoy peace, prosperity, and other comforts of life.

In v. 1 Jesus says to this church “ have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. V.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.”

Jesus is imploring them to put Him back in His rightful place. Look at v. 3

“Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.”

Jesus is calling them back to what they learned in the beginning - when they first trusted in Jesus. Back then they believe HE alone could forgive their sins and restore them to a right relationship with God.

They had sacrificed that – so they could be accepted. No wonder he told them to, “Wake up”. They had spiritually fallen asleep at the wheel. They’re supposed to be aware, engaged and on mission, SHARING salvation through By grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. This is part of their primary purpose - to be light in a dark world, showing people the way to God. But in the name of “ acceptance” they had thrown it away.

And Jesus says, “Repent” – “You’re going the wrong way, turn and go My way, thee way to Life”! WAKE UP!

2nd half to verse 3: “… 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.”

Jesus is warning them of coming judging, not on Sardis, not on the unsaved – on the church. And the implication is, if they don’t repent before He get’s there, it’ll be to late to. This is a warning to all of us when we become careless about sin, when we don’t take serious the essentials of our faith.

Jesus is coming down hard – WHY? Because only HIS church has the truth regarding salvation - Jesus.

Look at v. 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.”

(TAB) Have you ever had a favorite shirt or pair of pants and you spilled something on them,ruining them. I have? Jesus is saying most in the church of Sardis had too, but it was more than physical garments, they had stained their spiritual garment. Who goes out with a big food stain on their clothes? Most in this church had no problem with it (TAB) Question: As a Christian are you rubbing off on the world, or is the world rubbing off on you?

Jesus is says “Only a few of you don’t wear clothes stained from this fallen world. You will walk with me dressed in white.” (TAB) White garments are always a display of righteousness & purity. These are the faithful and true who have continued to follow Jesus even when the rest of the church folded under the pressure. Imagine taking a walk with Jesus. It would be incredible!

V. 5 talks of anyone who refuses to cave to culture “he who overcomes”. For us… if we’re faithful and true standing for the essentials - true to the mission and message of the church… we’ll get white garments too. And Jesus says, “I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and His angels.”

Imagine hearing Jesus acknowledging you to God the Father and to the angels. Is there a better honor than having Jesus announce you by name? Wow!

But what about the part that says, “I will never blot out his name from the book of life.” What’s that mean? (TAB) Some say its’ the book of those who have eternal life… but that raises a question about the security of our salvation – like it can be lost. I like the way Warren Weirsbe treats it. He suggests it’s the book of all who are alive physically (the book of life) … and then as unbelievers die, their names are taken out (blotted out), leaving those who believe. And then by the end… it becomes the Lambs Book of Life because it has all those who are eternally alive in Christ listed in it. Neat idea to consider.

And finally we come to v. 6 where Jesus remind us once again, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Jesus wants us to hear and heed His words.

(TAB)The bottom line to this letter is: We must not allow ourselves to grow comfortable in the church. If the church is going to remain strong and true – each of us must remain strong and true. Don’t allow yourself to rest on the successes of your past. Don’t sit back and take it easy … we have been given a mission - to share the message of Jesus Christ– the only way to salvation. The eternity of billions hang in the balance. Examine yourself. Have you grown comfortable?

I realize that we live in a world that doesn’t like the exclusive message of Jesus being the only way. If you faithfully share it, you’ll feel a pressure to soften it. Don’t do it. To do that would be to forfeit the reason why Jesus came.

?If someone rushed to you in a life and death emergency and asked, “Which way to the closest hospital” would say, “Ahh, any road you take will get you there?” You’d never say that. It could mean someone would die.

And so we must point people to the right & only way to true salvation. Jesus- who is the way, the truth and life. Any other answer would be to deny the truth – and it would deny Jesus Himself in the process. We never want to do that.

Let’s pray

Father, we live in a world that pursues comfort. Help us not achieve it in our faith. May we hold strong and fast to the essentials that make us Christians. May we hold to the only hope there is for salvation - Jesus. You have been so good to share with us, may we be so good to share Him with others. What a privelidge, what an honor it is Lord, to be able to bring hope, life, lasting light and love to people who are lost and seperated from you. Stir us to fulfill the mission of sharing this message.

IF you are here, and have never placed your faith and trust in Jesus. He is you only hope: If you’re ready repent and believe right now. Talk to God with me....