Summary: Jesus Rebukes the church at Sardis for being too active. How can that be? We see in the sermon.
9.1.19 Revelation 3:1-6
To the messenger of the church in Sardis write: The one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says this: I know your works. You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what is left, which is about to die, for I have found that your works are not complete in the sight of my God. 3 Therefore remember what you received and heard. Hold on to it and repent! If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come upon you. 4 Yet you have a few names in Sardis, people who have not defiled their clothes. They will walk with me in white clothing, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious in this way will be clothed in white clothing. I certainly will not erase his name from the Book of Life, and I will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Sardis was one of seven churches in Asia Minor that is addressed in the book of Revelation. Jesus is pictured as the great and mighty God who easily walks among the seven churches which are pictured as blazing lampstands. Some were burning brightly while others were flickering out. Sardis looked like a vibrant and active church. They were full of activity and doing all sorts of things. But when Jesus looked at this church from above, He saw a dead and dying church. Why was she dying? She became so enamored with herself and what she was doing that she forgot who she was and what got her there in the first place. This teaches us that looks can be deceiving, and so can success. So let’s look at this letter to Sardis and take a good look at ourselves here at Trinity, asking the question -
What Kind of A Church Are We?
I. Are we overly active?
Activity is good. God wants us to be active. He equates laziness with wickedness. But it also needs to be controlled. Think of the super hyper child in fifth grade that gets on the basketball court for the first time and is running and dribbling all over the place. The coach loves his energy, but he needs to harness it so that the child can actually cooperate with other teammates and win the game. So also Sardis was a church that was dying out not because of inactivity but BECAUSE of her activity. She was all about the activity but she lost sight of why she was doing what she was doing. You might otherwise compare it to a good athlete who is all about the statistics but forgets about the team.
Like I said, activity is good. Let’s not forget that. We want to be known and seen for what we do in our society and how we care for people. We are active with our bookstore and school. Yet it would be nice if we at Trinity found more projects in our community so that our community would know that we are here to help. If any of you want to help with that, we could really use some direction. It was great when we got together a group of people to help Laura move. We should do more of that. If we aren’t doing anything we easily become stagnant.
But the temptation can be that motivations can get fuzzy. Maybe some pride enters in too. “We aren’t lazy, like those other churches. We aren’t judgmental like they are. We aren’t liberal like them. We make a difference in our community. You can see the Spirit doing great things here!” What ends up happening? Without even realizing it the goal is to attract Christians to their church instead of simply wanting people to be brought to faith and stay in the faith of Christ. Instead of preaching Law and Gospel, repentance and faith, the message becomes do this and do that, be here and be there, this is how you succeed in life. We have to ask ourselves, who do we want people to be attracted to? The church or the Christ of the church?
Here’s another illustration - take for instance the busy man. He is always doing things with the children and driving them back and forth from school and activities. He’s friendly to the other parents. He gets his wife whatever she wants at home. On the outside he is a picture of what a husband and father should be. He’s always doing something! Most wives might think to themselves, “I wish my husband did half as much as he did.” But his wife doesn’t like how busy he always is. He doesn’t engage with her. He doesn’t slow down and spend time with her. He never compliments her. He talks about how much he loves her, but he never shows her. He wants to be SEEN as a good husband, but he doesn’t want to actually BE one. Nobody on the outside knows this, because he puts on such a great persona. But his children and wife know the real man. He doesn’t really have love on the inside. Perhaps that was the problem at Sardis. They wanted everyone to see how active they were, but with all of their activity they lost sight of who they really were.