Sardis, the Dead Church

Vol. 4, No. 33 – August 18, 2019, Countdown to the end . . . Sardis -#19

And to the angel of the Church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this: “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive; but you are dead . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  –Revelation 3:1, 6

Sardis, a city of past glory; wealth and wickedness thrive in this former capital of the ancient Lydian kingdom. This city is under the Persian government authority. In 17A.D. there is a devastating earthquake; the city, although rebuilt, went into decline.

The city even pictures the Church – it is also in decline. The church lacks vigilance; it is asleep, ripe for judgment.

Sardis, a city known for its wool, was the first to discover how to dye wool. The city was also home to the wealthiest man in the ancient world. Metal coins were first minted here. A major temple was much like the temple of Venus, a place of great evil and licentious living.

The city reached its demise following the conquering by the three greats – Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, and Anticus the Great.

The Lord does not have much good to say about the Church of Sardis – it is dead. Notice seven things about a dead church:

  1. A dead church is like a dead tree – it may look alive, but in time it topples because of its inner disease
  2. A dead church will not do that which God expects – then it dies of inner weakness and topples
  3. A dead church, while it ought to be a fragrant flower in the world; it is nothing but appearance of life and color; its roots are dead
  4. A dead church was once strong; a Christ-honoring church; now its death permeates the whole body
  5. A dead church, with the name of Christ on its sign, has little to share that will make a difference in the life of one who comes to be a part of it
  6. A dead church, of many professors of belief, does not make for the many regenerated people God would expect – only numbers
  7. A dead church only goes through the motions, despite its programs and entertainment

The seven spirits references the absolute attributes of holy God, also present with the Lord Jesus Christ, and present with the Holy Spirit. Think of the “omni” descriptions (not biblical words, but descriptive) and other descriptives of His attributes. The essence of God displays in His all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, ever-present, all-wisdom, infinitude, immutability, immensity, impassibility, perfection, and so much more. More importantly, this essence is pervasive throughout the God-head (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The Scripture pictures the Holy Spirit as “another of the same kind,” when speaking of the Holy Spirit’s essence.

The way a church presents the Lord to adherents and the community is the clue to what that particular church believes, often exposing what the church desperately needs. This section of Scripture is an exhortation: wake up, be alert, strengthen the work, complete the work that is expected (Hebrews 12:15). The evidence of the believer is, once again, “what you think of God determines how you live out your life.”

Calvin Coolidge, our 13th president, often described as stiff and emotionless, caused this observation by Alice Roosevelt Longworth: He looks as if he had been weaned on a pickle. When it was announced Coolidge died, columnist Dorothy Parker, at the New Yorker, remarked: How can they tell?

Too many churches are weaned on pickles and no one can tell if they are alive or dead

Just a few dangers for the church:

  • In a pickle when it worships its past
  • In a pickle when it is more concerned with forms/rituals/traditions; more so than life
  • In a pickle when it is more concerned with the material than the spiritual
  • In a pickle when it focuses more on the latest fads rather than caring for their guests deepest needs
  • In a pickle when it wastes time to reach out to the community of unbelievers – it is urgent

Ephesus lacked love; Sardis lacks life. It was not that Sardis flows with false apostles/teachers, there is not a plethora of struggle, there is not a great level of contending for truth – there is only dying and death. It was time to wake up.

Remember how you received and heard; obey it, and repent (3:3) – a pointed rendition. Urgent!

He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! Revelation 2:7

Behold, Jesus is coming soon to take you home to Heaven; His words are faithful and true  Revelation 22:6

Life Application

How is your church doing? Is there some sleeping going on? Perhaps God is calling us (you and I) to wake up the dead. God places us where He does with expectations – for such a time as this!

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Written by Dr. Larry Lightner

August 18, 2019

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