Summary: The fifth in a series of seven. This is an expository, alliterated sermon with practical application based on the letter to Sardis in Revelation. PowerPoint is avialable if you e-mail me.
You’ve Got Mail: Sardis
Scott Bayles, preacher
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
From the manufacturing hub of Thyatira a first-century postman continued southward another forty miles until arriving at the acropolis of Sardis.
Sitting atop a steep hill roughly 1,500 feet above the main roads, Sardis’ location formed an almost impregnable fortress. The natural rock walls on the north, east and west slopes of this hill were almost completely vertical. The only access to the city was from a narrow path on the south slope. This made Sardis one of the most easily defensible cities of the ancient world. In fact, any attempt to capture the acropolis of Sardis was considered utterly impossible. So you can imagine the shockwaves that resonated throughout the known world when King Cyrus of Persia did the impossible.
More than five hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the king of Lydia instigated an attack against Persia. He was thoroughly beaten and retreated to Sardis where he felt quite safe and secure. King Cyrus and his men surrounded the city and camped outside of it for days, but the people of Sardis still didn’t feel threatened. Sitting comfortably within their fortress the citizens of Sardis became overconfident and complacent. Cyrus sent a handful of men around to the north side of the acropolis, who then slowly and carefully scaled the rock wall which had been left completely unguarded. One by one the soldiers scaled the wall, entered the city and slaughtered its citizens in their sleep—a disaster that could have been easily avoided had they been alert. Three and a half centuries later, history repeated itself, when Antiochus the Great conquered Sardis using the exact same tactic.
I tell you that story because history was about to repeat itself, yet again. In many ways, the church in Sardis was plagued with the same problems as the city itself had been. Let’s look at what Jesus had to say to them:
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars: I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief. Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 3:1-6 NLT)
As always, before critiquing of the church, Jesus begins by giving his credentials.