To the Church at Sardis

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, February 2, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

This is the fifth post in my series on the letters to the churches of Revelation 2-3. This one is about the letter to the church in Sardis. As I previewed last week, Sardis was a dead church. They claimed to be alive, they had works, they boasted their name, but they were dead. How were they dead?

Death in Scripture is something more than just “lack of life.” It is a spirit of decay and dying. It is a spirit in which all it touches dies. It is plague and infirmity. Even if it is painted well and packaged well, it is still death. It can wear all kinds of perfume, but the stench is only masked, not removed. Sardis was a dead church.

What caused it to die? The Bible doesn’t say. However, churches have died for a variety of reasons. Gossip and slander are excellent church killers, frequently causing church fights and splits, and rarely does any side survive. Not tending to the younger generation is another church killer. I am not talking about the kid and youth ministries, though that is a separate issue in itself. My pastor described in one sermon how the church of his first pastorate is dead, doors closed and weeds coming up through the pavement, because they needed to change from their old ways of doing things, tending to an older congregation, and they would not. Now I am not suggesting we jump on every new idea and thought, however, many congregations battle whether we should do things as was done in the 1950s, in the 70s, or in the 90s and completely fail to consider what God wants to do today. Every year thousands of churches are closing and many pastors are quitting. And the dead people from those churches just move on to a different church and never find life.

David Wilkerson once described how a pastor had a good church going, had daughters who loved him, but then was caught in a marital affair. He left his family for this woman, suddenly resigned, and it was only a few months later he was teaching a Bible study at another church. The pastor’s defense on how he can do it: “I just fall upon the grace of God.” That’s not God’s grace; that’s justifying sin and God has nothing to do with it. Wilkerson proclaimed that everything that man touched caused nothing but death. Sexual sin in particular is an excellent killer. The world HATES the church because of so many pastors and priests being caught in sexual abuse cases and not merely because these wolves did their evil deeds, but because the churches covered it up as to not give them a bad name. And they are right to hate the churches and any time someone who preaches a solid message, especially about sexual purity, the world has them marked thinking, “When are they going to fall?” We MUST pray for our leaders because they do have targets on their backs.

Jesus told Sardis they need to wake up, be watchful, and to strengthen that which remains. He does remember their works, but they are not perfect before God. When the church is sleeping on the watch, that is a result of laziness. The church has been sleeping. The watchmen have been few and those who are sounding the alarm are being laughed at. Jesus’ charge is to remember what they heard and received, to hold onto that truth and repent. A sleeping guard cannot retain that which he was committed to keep. It is hard to stay awake. The true prayer warriors have learned how to “pray through” and that often requires learning how to stay up through the night to learn it. It is no easy thing to stay up and join God in the night watch.

Many watchmen today are warning about what the enemy is setting up and preparing to steal, however Jesus gave a different warning. He said he is coming and it will be like a thief in the night, when the guard is less alert, sleeping, or has abandoned his post. That Jesus describes his coming like a thief would come is indicative that when he comes, few if any will have any clue until it is too late. Many are eager to watch for enemy invasions, but who is watching for Christ to return, let alone in anticipation?

But even in this, Jesus notes a few in Sardis who have stayed awake. They have not defiled themselves with laziness, gossip, slander, or participated in the deadly poison killing the church. He does not hint they are the bulk of the church or even a few. He states “a few names.” That means he could count them on one hand or something like that. Not a group, but a few individuals. These are the ones who will endure and Jesus will not blot their names out of the Book of Life.

Some have suggested this verse means those who do not endure will be blotted out, but I don’t see a hint here of that. I suspect those who caught this spirit of death and stayed in that spirit never were alive to begin with. God is going to allow his people to get caught in sin from time to time, however he will never allow them to stay in that sin without coming to get them out and discipline them. Are you experiencing God’s discipline? If not, examine yourself.

The church in America is like Sardis and it is like Sardis because of issues like Pergamos, Thyatira, and Laodicea (I’ll write about that in two weeks) that have remained unchecked. There is compromise, corruption, and lukewarmness, and it all leads to death. The church in America is mostly powerless. The world laughs at it because it claims a truth but there is no power in it. And instead of turning back to what gave it power, the True Gospel, the American church has instead turned to worldly means to draw in carnal people. Many pastors today have no faith whatsoever in the Gospel, and because they fear their church attendance levels or for their own job, they will not speak against sin. Now, there are preachers and pastors out there who do and if they offend someone, they don’t care (as long as the speak truth, in love), because they are more concerned about what God says than what their congregation thinks. But they are getting harder to find. Sardis was dead. It needs life and it will not have life again unless Christ is present and working in and among them, and he won’t be there where sin is rampant. Wake up, church! Wake up! And that needs to start with me.

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