Summary: Sardis had the reputation of being a highly respected church, but it was dead and lifeless.
Have you ever been in a church that was dead or dying? How does that happen? Usually it happens when a church gets satisfied with itself, with keeping things the way they have always been. This is usually a church that rests on its laurels and its past history, that revels in what used to be? DANGER!!! DANGER!!!!
This was the church at Sardis. Sardis had the reputation of being a highly respected church, but it was dead and lifeless.
Christ addresses this letter to the minister but he wants it proclaimed to the church as a whole. There is little hope for a dead church ever coming alive unless the minister is set afire. Not literally!!!! If you think about it, there cannot be an awakening, a stirring, or a coming to life unless the minister is committed—totally committed—to Christ and His cause. Revival cannot happen unless the minister is first revived.
So all you ministers, we must get into the Word and on our faces before God, evaluating our hearts to make sure we are spiritually alive and revived. We must be in a constant state of awakening and revival, always looking ahead at what God has in store for us.
A lifeless church needs to look at two things in particular:
1. Jesus Christ has the seven spirits of God. This is a reference to the Holy Spirit of God. The number seven means the sevenfold ministry of the Holy Spirit. Here are the seven. Turn to John 14 to read along.
a. He is the Comforter, the Counselor, the other Helper. (Jn. 14:16)
b. He is the Spirit of truth. (Jn. 14:17)
c. He is the personal presence of Christ. (Jn. 14: 18-20)
d. He is the very special manifestation of Christ within the believer. (John 14: 21-22)
e. He is the abiding presence of the Trinity (Jn. 14: 23-24)
f. He is the teacher. (Jn. 14: 25-26)
g. He is the peace of Christ (Jn. 14: 27)
Some commentators point to Isaiah 11:2 in reference to the sevenfold ministry of the Holy Spirit. Turn and read. These are the Spirit of:
• The Lord,
2. The second thing a lifeless church needs to look at is that Jesus Christ has the seven stars in His hands. That is, He holds the ministers of the church in His hands. The minister has been chosen by God, has been placed in the dead church for a reason and is responsible for bringing about the awakening.
The number seven represents completeness. So the seven spirits means the Holy Spirit in all His fullness.
The point to all this is that a lifeless church needs the Spirit of God. A lifeless church needs:
• To seek Christ for the Spirit of God.
• To seek the life-giving, quickening power of the Spirit.
• To seek the fruit of the Spirit.
• The guidance of the Spirit.
• To seek revival, the Pentecostal fire of the Spirit.
• To seek the witnessing power of the Spirit.
A LIFELESS CHURCH DEFINITELY NEEDS TO BE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING. The complaint is in verse one. It speaks of formalism, ritualism, complacency. Christ gives no commendation to this church—just complaints. This means that this is one of the most serious problems that a church can have.
This church had deeds. All sorts of programs, ministries, and activities. That is why it had such a good reputation. Other churches looked at the church at Sardis as being progressive, alive, well-attended, well-liked, prosperous, busy, and full of good fellowship. It had ministries for every age group and for every area of need in the community. It had the right beliefs and doctrines but it was lifeless and dying.
How can a church be so active and well attended and have so many ministries and yet be dying? What does that mean?
It means they were dying spiritually. And here is our warning of what to watch for. A church dies spiritually when:
1. It has a form of worship or godliness but denies its power. (People balking at the uplifted hand)
2. It focuses on ritual, ceremony, and worship instead of Jesus Christ.
3. It focuses on activities instead of Jesus Christ.
4. It conducts activities in order to keep the organization going instead of learning about Christ and sharing about Christ.
5. It holds services and activities for social fellowship instead of for spiritual growth and edification.
6. When you die spiritually it means that you lose your zeal for witnessing and sharing Christ and for seeing others grow.
7. It means that you become complacent and lethargic in the study of God’s Word and in prayer and spiritual growth.
8. It means that you sit in worship and Bible study classes as a matter of form instead of hungering and thirsting after righteousness.