Summary: Seven Letters to Seven Churches (5th in series).
SARDIS: A CORPSE AND DIDN’T KNOW IT
INTRO: Sardis was one of the great cities of the ancient world, the capital city of a great empire. The Greeks referred to it as the greatest of all cities. It was a city of great strength. However, it was a city of the past. It was a city that lived on its reputation. It was a city of failure, still known as a city of strength.
Sardis spoke of unfulfilled promises. It lived one life on its reputation, but another life in reality. It was a city that spoke of life but really lived in death. The church at Sardis holds a tremendous warning for us today. America can relate to the message Jesus gave this church.
This message has no good word. In all of the others, Jesus complimented the church. He told them what was good about their church, and then followed with his condemnation. Here there is no good word.
I. REPUTATION (v. 1).
In the previous letters, “I know thy works” had been a comforting phrase. When he spoke to the churches, they were comforted by the fact that Jesus knew all about their working and striving for him. Here it is no comfort. It is a condemnation of their evil.
They had a reputation of being a going and growing church. They did everything right. They were a busy church. They were progressive. They appeared to be flourishing. From outward appearance, there was nothing that seemed to be lacking.
II. REALITY (v. 1).
Man’s evaluation is not always the same as God’s. The church needs to consider what Jesus says about it rather than what men say. We are too prone to be concerned about what we think of each other rather than what the Lord thinks about us. Notice the reality concerning the church at Sardis.
What appeared to flourish was actually dead. The church gave every evidence of growing and moving forward. But Jesus said they were dead. Here was a church that was dead and didn’t know it.
Jesus is not so concerned about the activities we engage in, the promises we make or the things we do, rather he looks at the heart.
Remember the story of Samson in Judges 16:20. He didn’t realize his strength had left him. So it is with some churches.
What are the signs of life in a church?
1. There Is Growth. Not just numerical growth. There are many kinds of growth.
(1) Growth within the life of the church family.
(2) Growth in faith through service.
(3) Growth in being a witness for Christ.
(4) Growth in stewardship of time and money.
2. There is compassion and love for each other, and love for the lost.
3. There is unity.
Division and schism is a sign of decay and death.
4. There is emotion.
Don’t be afraid to feel your faith. Only the dead have no tears, no laughter, no music, no sorrow.
What are the signs of a dead church?
1. Everything goes back to the past.
When a church lives in the past, its reputation and its history, that church is dead. When a church is more concerned with form and ritual that church is dead.
2. When a church is more concerned about church activities than that God be glorified through those activities, it is dead.
3. When a church loves the system more than Jesus and more than it loves people, it is dead.
4. When it is more material than spiritual, it is dead.
A church is either growing or it is dying. If a church is dead, its people are dead because we are the church. We are the instrument God uses. Many people feel if they just show up on Sunday, they have paid their dues to God. Those works are not perfected before God. We must do more than simply give lip service to the things of God. Here was a church that went through the motions, did all the right things, had a great reputation.
III. REMEDY (vv. 2-3).
What is the remedy for the church? “Be watchful.” Sardis fell twice through carelessness. As the enemies conquered the city, they climbed up their perpendicular walls through a weakness in their defense system. Carelessness doomed the city and carelessness dooms many churches.
The things of God must not be taken for granted. We never drift anywhere worth going. We always drift away from God into sin and rebellion. We never drift into obedience and Christlikeness.
“Strengthen the things which remain.” What remains? Praying, preaching, teaching, witnessing. Don’t abandon those things. Strengthen them.
How do we strengthen them? We put meaning into them. Just because some pray without any commitment to God, does not mean we should abandon prayer. But we put meaning into the prayer, we put life into the things we do.