SARDIS: The Dead Church
The thick carpet and highly polished mahogany foyer tables provide an atmosphere of elegance. You are welcomed with the inviting sounds of soothing music playing in the background as you make your way to a comfortable pew. The few who’ve already arrived sit stiffly in their seats, some gazing at the floor, others give a slight nod at your entrance. When the minister begins his message, a still boredom settles over the crowd, most of whom have glazed eyes or distant expressions.
This is a description of a funeral service. But sadly, it depicts the weekly experience in many so-called “churches.” Sadly, even many churches that are renowned for their programs and efforts and have a reputation for being “alive” show few signs of real spiritual life when the façade is torn away.
Most churches do not begin in a “dead” state. In fact, new churches usually start out with fresh vision, hope, opportunity, and life.
Although there is little known of the origin of the church in Sardis, we can assume it had life at one time. The church may have unconsciously emulated the history of the city of Sardis, which had been twice captured by enemies due to carelessness and inattention.
This church receives no commendation from the Lord, but it does receive a hopeful introduction. The One who “has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars” invites Sardis to awaken and strengthen the things that remain. With that invitation comes the grace needed to arise from death.
MAKING IT PERSONAL:
The “seven spirits” represent the seven-fold (complete) ministry of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2; Rev. 1:4; 5:6). The mention of the seven stars is a reminder of the “angels” (i.e., messengers or spiritual leaders) of the churches that are in His hand! Pray for the leadership in your local church. Ask the Holy Spirit to anoint these men and to release His power in your church.
Don’t miss the last phrase in Revelation 3:1. Jesus pointed past their reputation and went straight to the heart issue. Do you think these individuals were genuine believers? Who are the “few” referred to in Revelation 3:4?
What are Jesus’ instructions to this church (Rev. 3:2–3)? How might these words be practically applied to your own life during spiritually dry seasons?
How would others describe your spiritual condition? Would Jesus describe it the same way, knowing what He knows about your real heart?
If you are a Christian, you have new life (John 10:10; 2 Cor. 5:17), but are you demonstrating this life by growing spiritually, sharing His life with others, and walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16–25)?
What do you think is significant about the fact that Jesus’ instructions to five of the churches (including Sardis) include the call to repent? What do you think Jesus means when He calls the churches (and believers in those churches) to repent? Repentance is a necessary ingredient to spiritual health and vitality. If you’ve never done an extended study on this word, try using a concordance or topical Bible to grow in your understanding of this important topic.
Why would Jesus’ warning (Rev. 3:3) be frightening to this body? See a similar warning in Matthew 24:42–51 and 1 Thessalonians 5:6. Are you looking forward to the Lord’s return? Are you ready? Do you consistently long for His return or are you more preoccupied with your life here?
How do the promises to the church in Sardis (Rev. 3:4–5) apply to you? See the end of those who are not prepared for His return in Revelation 20:11–15, and consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21–23.
If you are not prepared for His return or you fear you may only have the reputation of being alive but in reality are spiritually dead, please don’t stay in that condition! Confess you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Repent of your sins and humble yourself before Him by seeking His forgiveness. He took your place on the cross to pay for your sins. By faith, receive His gift of salvation and thank Him for giving you eternal life.
If you belong to Christ, you will experience what is recorded in Revelation 7:9–17. Read and rejoice!
Adapted from Learning From the Churches of Revelations Based on the Teachings of Nancy Leigh DeMoss