Be Watchful and Remember – The Dead Church in Sardis – 5
“ 1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God, 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 4 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
6 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’ Revelation 3:1-6 NKJV
Jesus says some haunting words to the church in Sardis “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” “You have a name and that you are alive…” says that this church was one that was busy with meetings, committees, publicity, and a reputation of being a lively congregation. Still, Jesus says that they are “dead.” Someone once said that this passage shows that a good reputation is not a guarantee of true spiritual character. Despite a good appearance, Jesus recognized the church in Sardis for what they were. He recognized that they were dead. There was no struggle, no fight, and no persecution. They were dead. A dead body has already lost the battle.
What does Jesus tell a church that has compromised so much that they are “dead?” Is all hope lost? Not really. It is important to remember that Jesus has power of life and death. He raised Lazarus from the dead, and He could do the same for the church. He was raised up from the dead because He has power over it, and so He could raise the church up from the dead too.
Here is what the church needed to do…
The city of Sardis in John’s day was a city known for its wealth, luxury, and loose moral living. The people of the city were known for their loose living and pleasure seeking. Because of their location, the city, it was ideally suited for defense. There seemed to be no way for adversaries to climb the steep cliff walls that surrounded the city.
At the time John writes Revelation, it was well known that the city of Sardis had been easily conquered twice before by invading armies TWICE; not because of a lack of strength by the soldiers of Sardis, but because of a lack of watchfulness.
It is said that King Cyrus (549 B.C.) offered a great reward for any soldier in his army who could figure out a way to get into the city. One soldier studied the problem carefully and as he looked, he saw a soldier of Sardis drop his helmet down the cliff walls. As he watched, the soldier climbed down a hidden trail to recover his helmet. King Cyrus’ soldier marked the trail and led a detachment of troops up that trail that night. When they entered Sardis, the troops found that the city walls were unguarded. The soldiers were so confident in the natural defenses of the city, that they felt no need to keep watch! As a result, the city was easily conquered.
In 214 B.C., Antiochus attached and conquered the same overconfident city again because their failure to keep watch! John’s lesson to the church in Sardis was to keep watch against the enemy!
Jesus says keep watch, because even if you have a good appearance, the enemy is always looking for a way in. You may have all of the tools needed for success, but if you aren’t diligent in holding the Gospel near and dear to you, you may lose what little you have.
Jesus goes on to tell the church in Sardis, “3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.” He reminds them to remember how they had first heard and heeded the word of God. When they remember the zeal they once had for His truth, they needed to hold fast to the passion they once had and they needed to repent of turning away from Him.
Jesus reminds that “4 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” In the other churches that Jesus addressed, there were a few bad things among the good. In Sardis, there were only a few who were faithful among the many that turned away or “defiled their garments.” In John’s day, pagan gods could not be approached with dirty clothes. People needed to clean themselves up to approach those false gods. Jesus says that even more so, when we come to Him, we should be living in His holiness for His approval. When I walk with Jesus, how much MORE should I be living in holiness for His approval?
Lord Jesus. Renew my eyes to be watchful of the enemy slipping in, sharpen my memory to remember the zeal I ought to have for You, and keep my heart repentant before You. In the strong name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Ty Tamasaka is an author who hold a Master of Arts Degree from Pacific Rim Christian University in Christian Ministry He is a Bible teacher who loves to encourage people to enjoy Jesus’ grace and extend His Kingdom. Ty just released his new book Starting Fresh: Following Jesus on the Adventure of a Lifetime in addition to More than a Conqueror: 5 Pathways to Personal Revival.