Summary: Churches can refuse to face the reality of their spiritual condition before God. Forms & traditions can replace God’s presence and power. God here show the way out & the way back.
The CONTENT CHURCH
Churches can refuse to face the reality of their spiritual condition before God. Forms and traditions can become so ingrained that they continue on and become void of Holy Spirit power. Good actions and comfortable ceremony are not what God is seeking. He seeks those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
The church at Sardis thought they were alive, but Jesus told them they were dead. Their worship was void of the presence of the Holy Spirit and their works were done because that was what they had always done. Jesus demands that His servants worship and serve Him by the life that only His living Spirit can give. (CIT)
I. CHARACTERISTICS, 1.
A. Greeting, 1a.
B. Christ’s Title, 1b.
II. CONFRONTATION, 1c.
III. COMMAND, 2-3.
IV. COMMENDATION, 4.
V. COMMITMENT, 5-6.
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write:
The important and wealthy city of Sardis was located about 50 miles east of Smyrna and thirty miles southeast of Thyatira. It was one of the great and wealthy cities in Asia Minor history. It was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia where King Croesus reigned. Because of the inaccessible plateau where the city was originally built it was an ideal military center. The acropolis of Sardis rose straight up about 1,500 ft. and had only one narrow, winding, steep road of entry. It was an impregnable fortress. Five main roads converged into the river valley, making the city a busy center of traffic and trade.b. Christ’s Title (1b) He who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says this:
Here again (1:4) is the apparent allusion to the seven-fold character of the Holy Spirit that rested upon Christ (Isa. 11:2-5). The seven spirits are linked with the Eternal Father. The closeness of the seven spirits to the throne (4:5) and their intimate relation with Jesus Christ (5:6) imply that they are the Holy Spirit revealed in His manifold attributes. Jesus holds these Spirits of life. The manifested work of the Spirit of God was desperately needed in the lifeless Church.
The Christ who holds the seven spirits also has the seven stars. The seven stars, standing in some relational way with the churches are in His right hand (Rev. 1:16, 20). Only He could bring the messengers and the Spirit together. These messengers are to come together with Christ and be full of His Spirit. These messengers are held responsible for relaying Christ’s message to the churches.
II. CONFRONTATION, 1c.
I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
Outwardly everything appeared fine with the church at Sardis but spiritually that was not the case. Christ declared that He knows their deeds. The life and testimony of the church and the individuals who make it up are an open book to the Lord. Nothing is hidden from His gaze. He sees beneath the surface behavior into the heart and mind.
Sardis had a reputation among the other churches as an alive church with an effective ministry to those within and without the church. But their reputation was no longer deserved. The church was dead, devoid of spiritual life and power.
[A spiritual autopsy of Sardis show us the causes of death. First, Sardis died spiritually because it relied on its past successes. The body which was once healthy had been neglected. Second, the church died spiritually because it allowed sin to creep into the membership. Herodotus, the historian, records that over the course of many years the church in Sardis had acquired a reputation for lax moral standards. Third, the church died because it was not sensitive to its own spiritual condition; it was confident that God was there because the building was lovely and the parishioner were well-dressed. They were like the people Paul described in his letter to young Timothy: ". . . having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5). (Jeremiah, 69). ]
William Barclay states that a church "is in danger of death when it begins to worship its own past...when it is more concerned with forms than with life...when it loves status quo more than it loves Jesus Christ... when it is more concerned with material than spiritual things." (p.87f)
In his book, Harvest of Humanity, John Seamands told this story: "A German soldier was wounded. He was told to go to the military hospital for treatment. When he arrived at a large and imposing building, he saw two doors, one marked, "For the slightly wounded" and the other, "For the seriously wounded."
He entered through the first door and found himself going down a long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked "For officers" and the other "For non-officers." He entered through the latter and found himself going down another long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, "For party members" the other, "For non-party members." He took the second door, and when he opened it, he found himself out on the street.