Sardis: The Feeble Church
Last week I was reading a book about a group of fighters battling for Good against insurmountable odds. Your typical fantasy book. In one the chapters, one of the best good fighters was dueling it out with one of best evil fighters. The book describes this climatic battle of swords flashing. Attack and parry. Cut and slash. Finally the right opening comes about and the good man makes a quick strike against his huge enemy. It was a mortal wound, but the bad guy didn?t know it until he was preparing a huge swing and found he had no strength to make the move. The author paints his surprise at noticing the wound in his last dying moment and then falling to the ground. He was dead and didn?t even know it. READ 3:1
I. Reputation Isn?t Everything
A. Dr. Vance Havner had this to say about most churches.
1. Most churches are in one of four spiritual stages. A man, a movement, a machine, a monument.
2. a man gets things started, a movement keeps the teaching moving in a right direction, a machine becomes mechanical and loses the soul of the church, a monument is the church that looks only to it?s hey days and never deals with the present of future.
B. Sardis was a happening cutting edge church
1. Maybe this was a church that had all the latest innovations.
a) They had a javelin field in their fellowship hall.
b) They incorporated multimedia in their worship
(1) They wrote all their songs on the walls instead of singing from the scrolls.
(2) They used hand silhouettes during the sermon.
2. Maybe this church was a bastion for the old paths
a) they used the ?authorized version? of Greek when reading scripture.
b) They were quick to write up anyone who was using innovations in the Sardis bulletin that they mailed all over Asia Minor.
3. Whatever they did, they were seen as being a church that had it together.
4. The reality was they were filled with everything but God
5. They were dead and didn?t even know it.
C. You cannot judge a congregation by it?s outward appearance
1. It doesn?t matter how many programs they have.
2. It doesn?t matter how exciting their worship is.
3. It doesn?t matter how big they are.
4. It doesn?t matter how outspoken they are against other churches who don?t worship the same as they do.
5. The only thing that matters is whether they are seeking God and his will first and last in their church and individual lives.
6. Several years ago I met a preacher from a small congregation in Southern Indiana. They were discouraged as a congregation because they had never been able to grow no matter how hard they tried. He began looking at those who had moved away since he had been there. Most of their young people had moved away were faithful in other congregations. 10 young men over a 20 year period had become ministers, others were church leaders. Young women had married godly men who became deacons and elders and ministers. While the church itself hadn?t grown the kingdom had grown because of their faithfulness.
7. It would be easy to say they were a dead church, but they were very much alive.
II. Clean Clothes in a Dirty Church
A. Being right in a church that is wrong
1. What do we do about churches we know teach or practice things that are sinful, but have some very godly people in them?
2. That has always been one of hardest dilemmas to answer.
3. This text may give us an insight we need to consider.
a) I knew a congregation in our brotherhood that as a whole was completely off base in my opinion.
b) They did things that were sinful.
c) But I knew some of their members and I knew they had a deep love for God and did right even though the congregation did not.
d) That would be a modern day Sardis.
B. Dressed in white
1. As you read this text vs 5 is so important for us to understand even today.
a) Revelation 3:5 (NIV) He 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.
b) In the NLT version it says ?he who is victorious?
c) I like both translations. We are victorious because we have overcome Satan.
2. Word pictures
a) This verse contains 2 word pictures that are good for us to understand.
b) Most ancient wouldn?t allow worshippers to enter the temples with dirty clothes on because that would be insulting to their god. They would provide white robes to those who were not properly dressed to enter the temple.