Summary: An examination of the poisons that cause a church to die.

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It’s hard to believe that the winter Olympics have come and gone already. Just a month ago, Gladys, Drew and I closed out each evening sitting on the couch watching the athletes compete. Some of the events, like the ski jumps, and snow boarding, we enjoyed watching. Others, like that ice shuffleboard thing they did with the big rocks, we just endured.

One of the things we enjoyed though, like during the Super Bowl, were the commercials. They had some good commercials during the Olympic games. Do you remember the one where the 3 guys were colored red, white and blue? The one guy ended up falling through the ice and freezing. Instead of taking him to the hospital they took him to different games and used him as a prop while they cheered. A couple girls even commented he was cute, and he ended up getting bumped and sliding down the toboggan run. Though some of the people around him thought he was a bit different, none noticed he was frozen; he was dead. He looked alive. He looked like he was getting into the program, but he was dead.

Sadly, that’s the way some churches are. They have a lot of activity, they appear to be alive, but in fact, they are dead. In the third chapter of Revelation Jesus addresses a church like that and tonight I would like us to look at Jesus’ warning together.

- Read Revelation 3:1-6

In this passage Jesus addresses the church in Sardis. Sardis, several centuries before this letter was written, was one of the greatest cities in the world. It had once been the capital city of Lydia and had at one time been a fabulously wealthy city. Sardis was built on a mountain spur 1500 feet above the valley floor. Armies had tried to conquer it many times but were usually unsuccessful because of its location. Only 2 times had it been overcome, one time it was defeated by the Persians and one time by the Greeks. Both times it was defeated, it was beaten because the people inside considered themselves so safe that they failed to adequately guard their walls.

Of the 7 churches mentioned in these letters, Sardis is the least attractive. Jesus says, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”

Did you notice how Jesus presented Himself, how He described Himself to this church? He says, “These are the words of Him Who holds the 7 spirits of God and the 7 stars.” The “seven Spirits” are a symbol of the Holy Spirit in His fullness. What the church are Sardis desperately needed was the Holy Spirit.


The problem with the church was that they were spiritually dead. They were going through the motions of church. They were worshipping. They were doing works and social ministry in the community. They were doing so much that they had a good reputation in the community, but they were dead. They were doing the works in their own strength and in their own power.

Someone has described these churches as being:

“Mild-mannered people,

Meeting in mild-mannered ways,

Striving to be more mild-mannered.”

Calvin Miller once wrote a poem called “The Singer” about these people. He says:

Many Christians are really Christaholics and not disciples at all. Disciples are cross-bearers; they seek Christ. Disciples dare to discipline themselves, and the demands they place on themselves leave them enjoying the happiness of their growth. Christaholics are escapists looking for a shortcut to Nirvana. Like drug addicts, they are trying to “bomb out” of their depressing world.

Disciples deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Jesus. Christaholics just look for something to make them feel better. They serve, they teach, they give, they attend, they work, they feed, because it makes them feel better about themselves, not because they are disciples led by the Spirit. The church was made up of people going through the motions. The Holy Sprit had left, and no one even noticed. They were continuing their programs.

In The Rime of The Ancient Mariner Coleridge says, “Corpses man the ship; dead men pull the oars; dead men hoist the sails; dead men steer the vessel.” That was true of Sardis. The entire church was run by dead people.

My friends, there are dead churches all over this country, all over the world. Across Europe are empty cathedrals, nearly empty church buildings, monuments to what used to be. Dead men fill the pulpits. Dead men sit in the pews. How does a church die? It dies when live people are replaced by dead people. (The following 2 outline headings are based on 2 outline headings from a sermon by John MacArther ).

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