Revelation 3:1-6: “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 of 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.”
Have you ever been in a church that was almost dead, like the one described here? I visited a church once where I could mentally see ice cycles hanging from the ceiling, it felt so cold. Even though it was a number of years ago, that image remains and reminds me of this church. Jesus basically says this church is in a coma, not quite dead but not showing signs of life either.
The Bible Exposition Commentary[i] says about these verses: The impression is that the assembly in Sardis was not aggressive in its witness to the city. There was no persecution because there was no invasion of the enemy’s territory. No friction usually means no motion! The unsaved in Sardis saw the church as a respectable group of people who were neither dangerous nor desirable. They were decent people with a dying witness and a decaying ministry.
Do we need to re-read that statement? No persecution because there was no invasion of the enemy’s territory – that doesn’t mean physical enemies but rather spiritual enemies! Perhaps we need to question ourselves if we are dangerous to the enemy of Christ. Or, are we desirable to those who do not know Him? I’ve known four people who are what in past times would be called real soul-winners. They witness regularly to people about Jesus and tell them how to accept Him as their Savior. That’s as natural to them as it is for most people to talk about the weather. Why aren’t I like that? Why aren’t you? These people do have a spiritual gift of evangelism, but aren’t all believers supposed to tell others how to know Jesus?
This is a concern to me because I see how I fall down on the job and realize that most Christians I know do also. Don’t we care anymore that people die daily and go to hell because they don’t know Jesus? That’s a chilling question, but it seems to be true. Otherwise, what is our excuse? Or perhaps we don’t know very many non-Christians. Perhaps we’re content to stay with our own little group. Evidently, that’s what the people in the church at Sardis were doing. They were “having church” but doing no good for those outside the church.
Perhaps there were other ways the people didn’t show their love of the Lord. Maybe they didn’t have much love to demonstrate. Today we have many opportunities to do the same: whether it’s only occasionally attending church, not tithing, not paying attention to God’s word. I’m sure we could name others. We simply get so caught up in all of life’s activities that we almost neglect God. Whatever it was, Jesus warned them to repent and turn from those ways or there would be consequences to face. A few people in the church were acting like real Christians, however, and they would have eternal victory. Jesus promises that if we really know and follow Him, whatever our shortcomings, our name will always be in the Lamb’s book of life. Living an obedient life to the Lord not only brings us joy and satisfaction in this life, it brings great reward in the life to come.
[i] The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.