From time to time I see in the newspaper that bands of my childhood come to town to play. Some of the bands that are still touring today that were touring in the 1980s and I am shocked to see it. I will think to myself, “Wow, those guys are still touring?” The reason it is strange to me is because these bands are not putting out any new songs or any new music. They are simply playing the hits that were so great 20-30 years ago. They are living on the reputation that they made for themselves decades ago. But they are not creating any new, fresh music.
In Christ’s letter to the church in Sardis, he gets directly to the point and gets immediately to the heart of the problem. Christ describes himself as the one who is in charge, holding the seven stars and has the seven spirits of God. Christ knows the works of the church at Sardis and they are dead. This is a dead church. In the other letters to the seven churches so far, Christ knowing their works has been a good thing for the church. Christ sees what the Christians are doing in their love, faith, and service. Christ also knows the works of the church in Sardis and those works are not good.
Even more interesting is the fact that no one knew they were a dead church. The church in Sardis had a reputation of being alive, but they were not living up to the reputation. The problem that Christ exposes is superficial Christianity. They claim to be of Christ but they do not live like they are of Christ. They are fake Christians. They claim to be Christians. They seem to be Christians. But they are dead. They are not putting what they know in the scriptures into practice.
IGNITE: Are we fake Christians? Do we really have the love and devotion that Christ is looking for in his followers? Or are we simply wearing the name but our actions do not reflect the name we claim? It is time to stop being fake. It is time to strip the facade and get real with Jesus. We will never grow or catch fire when we are faking it. We will not be devoted followers until we get real about what we are doing. Stop going through the motions. Stop mentally checking out. Stop being bystanders in worship. Mentally and physically participate in a relationship with Jesus. As we go through this lesson we will explore things we can do to strip the facade and have a real relationship with Jesus.
Wake Up! (3:2-3)
Christ calls for them to wake up. It is time to show themselves to be watchful and ready because right now they are simply sleeping. They are dead. Strengthen what little remains. It is not too late to turn things around but what little faith you have left is about to die. Their works are not complete before the Lord. They are coming up short. Christ is calling for them to act quickly because they are at the point of no return.
Christ further calls for them to remember what they had received and heard. They were asked to remember the teachings they had heard. Keep those words that had been taught to them and repent. You have received the teachings from Christ and the apostles. Remember what you have heard and keep those teachings.
IGNITE: Was your week any different because of the teachings you heard? Does anything in our lives change week to week? We come together and hear the word of the Lord read and taught. Does anything change? Is anything in our lives different? Or are we dead? In our last lesson we examined “acceptable sins.” Did we stop doing those sins? Did anything change in our lives? Are we still doing the same thing that we were doing the week before? Friends, do not call yourself a Christian if you are not walking away from your sins. We are showing ourselves to be as dead of a church as the church in Sardis if we come here week after week, hear the word of the Lord, and change nothing in our lives.
Jesus’ call to commitment is clear: he wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a “Christian” without being fully devoted to Christ is absurd. Somehow we think that we are going to heaven without truly and faithfully loving Jesus. To every person here at worship we are glad you are here. I believe that God is glad you are here. But you being here is not enough for God. Christ is calling for a relationship with you. Christ is calling for you to love him. Christ is calling for you to engage him and participate with him.
The problem can be summarized as serving leftovers to a holy God. We are offering God our leftovers. We are not offering God our hearts. We are offering God the time that we have left over that we are willing to give. God wants our best, deserves our best, and demands our best. God is not pleased with our scrapes of left over time and effort that we give him. God does not accept our unchanged lives. We cannot live on the reputation of being a Christian but not show him that we truly love him. Unfortunately, too often the wrong aspect of the Christian life is emphasized. Too often we are told that we need to do more and must do more. But this is the wrong approach because we can do more and still be giving our leftovers. God wants us to love him. If we are truly devoted to him, then we will do the things he asks of us. We must stop being who we are and start being what God wants us to be. Listen to the word of the Lord and change our lives week after week.
Hope In Grace (3:4)
There is only one positive that Christ has to say to this church. There are just a few in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their garments. There are a few who have not spiritually died. They are keeping their clothes clean. This shows us that Christ is not demanding perfection from us. No one is perfect. We are going to fail in our attempt to love Christ. There is room for our failures and our sins in the pursuit of God. This is where the grace of God bridges the gap for us.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:14,16 ESV)
We have all received grace upon grace. Christ is full of grace. We are going to fail in this pursuit of Christ. But that does not mean that we can give up the pursuit! Our failure does not mean that we can live at a mediocre level of spirituality. It does not mean that we can become spiritually dead. There are a few in Sardis. They are not perfect. But they are pursuing a relationship with Christ. Notice what Christ says about them. “They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” No one is worthy on their own merits and actions. We cannot do enough to justify ourselves. This is not the kind of worthiness that Christ is speaking about. Christ is saying that there are Christians in Sardis who are not fake. They are not pretending. They are living real lives with Jesus. They are not superficial but are truly pursuing Christ. They will be declared worthy by Christ. They are not worthy through their own actions because they are sinners also. Our own merits leave us in sin. Instead, they are showing that they love Christ and grace fills in at the point of our failures. Therefore, Christ says that we can walk with him. We are counted as worthy when we put our trust in him and with love pursue a relationship with him.
To The Conquerors (3:5-6)
Christ says that those who seek this relationship with him will be clothed in white garments. These are garments that reflect purity and victory. Our filthy rags that are defiled by sin are replaced by pure robes because of the blood of Jesus. The white robes are also a picture of victory. Notice the things Christ says he will do for those who seek him.
I will never blot his name out of the book of life.Your name will never be erased from the book of life when we are seeking him. This book contains the names of the people of God, chosen by God to inherit eternal life. Let this promise sink into your hearts and minds. Christ will never erase your name out of his book of life. Even in our failures, mistakes, and shortcomings, when we choose to stop being fake and start being real with Christ and pursue him in love, then Christ is who full of grace will give to us grace upon grace.
I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.Christ is not going to deny the relationship you have with him. On the day of judgment when you say to the Almighty Judge, “I know Jesus,” Jesus is not going to say that he does not know who we are. He says that he will confess our name on that day if we confess his name on earth now. Jesus will say that he knows you and you are worthy to enter into eternal life. If this does not ignite our hearts, then I do not know what else can.