Scripture
Revelation 3:1-6
Sermon Series
"JESUS SPEAKS TO HIS CHURCH"
Date
August 5, 2018
Speaker
Pastor Witt

 

 

 

Greeting: Grace is yours through Jesus Christ, the One who has come to give life and give it to the full.

 

Text: 1) To the angel of the church in Sardis write: “These are the words of Him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.   I know your deeds, you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.   2) Wake up, strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.  3) Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard: obey it, and repent.   But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.  4) Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes.   They will walk with Me dressed in white, for they are worthy.  5) He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white.   I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and His angels.  6) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

 

Introduction:  In 1999 many Americans were introduced to an unusual movie called “The Sixth Sense.”   It was a story about a troubled, isolated boy who had the ability to see and talk to dead people.  The movie also featured a troubled, child psychologist, who meets with him in an effort to help him.   As the movie progresses, the child psychologist comes to realize that he himself is dead, having been killed by a former patient months before – and that the boy is actually the one trying to help him.    It is a strange movie and far detached from reality.    People who are physically dead will certainly know that they are.   When their souls go to be with God in heaven (as a gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ) or go to terrible torment in hell (as just punishment for refusing to repent and believe in the Savior), the physically dead will clearly know that they have left their earthly life behind.   No one can be physically dead and not know it.

 

But it is entirely possible for a person to be dead and not know it – if we are talking about spiritual death.   It is this kind of death, death of the soul in its relationship with God, that is the theme of Jesus Christ’s letter to the church in Sardis.

 

Sardis was an inland city of Asia Minor, located 30 miles south and east of the city of Thyatira.   Sardis was the proud, former capitol of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, which flourished from 680-547 B.C., until it came under Persian, then Greek, and at the time of the writing of Revelation, under Roman control.   The city, situated on the spur of Mount Imolous, rises 1,500 feet above the valley below it.  Sardis was a commercial enter in a fertile, agricultural regions.  Minted gold coins testified to the city’s grand past.   They were inscribed with the message: “Sardis, the First Metropolis of Lydia and of Asia and of Hellenism.”  The city was a haven of false religions with its temple dedicated to Cybele, honored as the mother of the gods and its practice of wild, decadent orgies conducted as part of the worship of Cybele.   Twice in its history, Sardis had been conquered in surprise attacks by invaders – once in 540 B.C. and again in 218 B.C.  In addition, Sardis had nearly been destroyed by an earthquake in 17 A.D.   By all accounts, Sardis, this formerly influential and majestic city, was declining and dying.

 

As He beings His message to the church, Jesus identifies Himself as the holder of the 7 spirits of God.   The Lord reveals Himself as the one who possesses the fullness of the Holy Spirit and who is able to give life to the dying and the dead.   Jesus also identified Himself as the one who holds the 7 stars.  By referring to this vision of the 7 stars in Revelation, chapter 1, Jesus announced that He is the Lord of the Church who cherishes His believers and who will guard and preserve them.

 

In His words to the church in Sardis, Jesus changed the pattern that He had previously used in addressing the first 4 churches.   Instead of starting with words of praise and then speaking words of rebuke as He had previously done, Jesus brings the rebuke to the members in Sardis early and then offers brief praise.   At the end of the letter, Christ spoke of a few members of the church in Sardis who “had not soiled their clothes.”   By mentioning unsoiled clothes, Jesus was referring to God’s gift of holiness that is upheld and represented in upright, moral living and that is despised and degraded by sinful, immoral actions.   Some in Sardis have unsoiled clothes, but many do not.

 

Christ’s rebuke is stunning, stinging and striking:  He said: “You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.   I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God.”   What had happened to these people?   They were dying spiritually.  They had lethargy set into their spiritual life.   They were being lulled into a drowsy state of soul.   They were falling into a spiritual sleep that was threatening their very faith and life with their Savior.  There beliefs were weakening.   Their convictions were softening.   Their works of service were spotty.   When speaking of their spiritual life, they were saying: “I used to believe this biblical teaching firmly.” – “I used to take a strong interest in the church.” – “I used to be involved in service.”   Those who used to have spiritual energy have become spiritually weary.   The ones who should be sharers of the Gospel with others have turned into people who need to have others share the Gospel with them.   They had suffered serious regression when progress could well have been expected.

 

Do the words of Jesus to the members in Sardis, have any application to you and me?    Jesus said: “I have not found your deeds complete.  Wake up!” “I still believe in Jesus, how could I possibly be spiritually sleeping, much less dying?” we say.   Is it possible that we have gone backwards in our spiritual life when we could well have been going forward?  Has our story been one of regress instead of progress?   Are we deeply engaged in our worship of God ?   Is our praying sincere?  Are we growing in our knowledge of God’s Word?  Is our giving back to God generous? Are we loving others unselfishly? Are we letting our light shine clearly, sharing our faith in both words and deeds?   Is our thankfulness and praise frequent and genuine?  Are we bearing difficulties with patience?   Is our moral life godly?   Our answers to questions like those will help us examine our spiritual state.  God help us be awake, be strong, and be lively in the life-giving grace of our God.

 

To the spiritually dying, the Lord Jesus says: “Wake up and live!  He will not let us or anyone slip into spiritual death with issuing His loving call and offering His powerful help.   Before it is too late, let us hear His caring call and by His grace, reverse any spiritually harmful path we may be following.    Jesus will help us.  There is no better helper.  His Word is spirit and life.  Oh, that we would always regard it as the source of our soul’s life and make/keep our use of that Word an active, increasing part of each day.   Because of our sinful nature, we tend to go backward in our sanctification.  God help us recognize and repent of any drift into spiritual indifference or death.  God give us strength so that we can fulfill whatever may be lacking in our devotion and service to Him, who loves us with an everlasting love.

 

There is no time to waste.  We are told: “To those who fall into the deadly embrace of spiritual sleep, Jesus will come like a thief to judge and condemn.   There is no time to waste, but there is so much to gain.  According to Christ’s own words, those who rely on His grace and overcome these spiritual obstacles will enjoy three great blessings.   They will “walk with Jesus in white” – that is, they will live and abide in the Savior’s presence in a state of pure and holy joy and gladness.   They will have their name entered and kept in the Book of Life – that is, they will have and keep a place in the eternal life in heaven.  They will also be acknowledged by Jesus before God the Father and His holy angels – Jesus will claim them as His own, defend them against any condemning judgment and deliver them safely to heaven.  On the day of Judgment, the Savior will speak up for them, announcing: “This one is innocent.   This one is OK.   This one is mine.”

 

Sadly, spiritual death can come upon a person without him/her ever noticing.   How helpful it is to get a warning so that tragic situation can be escaped and reversed.    Jesus gives us that kind of warning in his words to the people of Sardis.   It is a loving call that can help us avoid eternal loss and endless regret.  May we take His message to heart:  “You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.   Wake up and strengthen what remains.  Wake up and live!   Amen.