The Churches of Revelation: Sardis - The Dead Church

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Sardis - The Dead Church

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The Churches of Revelation: Sardis - The Dead Church

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This is the sixth part in the Bible study series: The Churches of Revelation. We continue our study of the churches of Revelation by exploring the church at Sardis.  A church Christ said was dead.  We’ll look at what causes a church to die and how you can recognize and combat those signs in your congregation.  

Transcript

[Gary Petty] Well, good evening everyone and thank you for being here. I’d like to welcome everyone that is hooked up on the internet and participating in the Bible study with us tonight. If you would please rise, we will ask God’s blessing on the study.

Great Father and King, we thank You and praise You for being able to be here tonight. We thank You for Your holy spirit. We thank You, Father, for the scripture that you have given to us. Many people over the years died just to have a piece of this book and here we have the whole thing. With Your help and Your understanding and Your spirit we can know that this is Your divine book that is here for us. So, please, Father, open our hearts and minds, inspire what we do this evening that we can come to a deeper knowledge of what You want us to hear. I know You say that these messages to the churches are for everybody to hear so please open our hearts and minds to the message You have for us this evening. We praise You and we ask all this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Some of us were just talking about the map. I didn’t have the map up here last time I gave the Bible study, but this is very helpful to see how close these cities are – of course, this modern day Turkey now, but to notice how close these cities were to each other and to realize many of these people probably didn’t meet the other people in a lot of the other churches. The travel time would have been long. People probably didn’t really travel that much. One thing that is very important when you get to…we are going to do Sardis tonight, then Philadelphia and Laodicea, because this is the order of the mail route – the order in which these churches appear in Revelation. Look how close Colossae is. The letter to the Colossians is a very important letter, also, in relating to what Laodicea was all about. Those churches were actually much closer than any of the other churches. We have these three left to cover. And, of course, as we look at Revelation 2 and 3 we realize these are churches that existed when John wrote in 95 – around 95. We realize that these churches represent an overall history of the church and the return of Jesus Christ. And these churches represent general attitudes that are in the church at any time. When you put all of these understandings together, we are to study all seven churches. And as we get closer to Laodicea, we will see how Laodicea is going to be a predominant attitude in the church in the end. Sardis is an important message to any congregation. And I want to look at, tonight, the message of Sardis to any of us – any of us in the congregations that we are a part of.

Sardis is an interesting city. When John wrote this, this city was probably, as best as the historians can figure out, already about 750 years old. Think about how long the United States has been around. This city had been around about 3 times longer, when John wrote. Sardis existed at the time of Cyrus the Great. It had been conquered a number of times. It had actually fended off conquerors a number of times. Sardis had been famous for generations, for centuries, as an economic powerhouse. Sardis was famous for being a beautiful city. But, by the end of the first century AD it had changed dramatically. It had been on a decades, if not centuries, old decline. This is very important in understanding what happened to this city because the church at Sardis almost reflected what was going on in their city. It was in physical decline. Its superstructure was not what we would call well kept. It was not the economic powerhouse it had been. But it was a famous city. Sometimes people say they went to visit some famous city and they got there and they were really disappointed. Everything was run down, it sort of looked old. It just wasn’t what they thought it would be. Well, if you went to Sardis around the time that John wrote to them, you might say, “Wow! I thought this city was a whole lot better or fancier than this. It is in decay. It is in decline.” Now, Sardis is an interesting word. It is actually a plural word. It would be like Cincinnatis. The reason why is, the original city was built on a 1500 foot cliff. But as it outgrew the cliff, down below it another city formed. They were both Sardis but, in some ways, were like two cities separated by this cliff. And, of course, there were roads that went up and connected the two together. But I want you to think of a decaying city.

Now let’s go to the message to the church at Sardis. Revelation 3:1 Revelation 3:1And to the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things said he that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead.
American King James Version×
“And the angel of the church in Sardis write” So the messenger that is sent to this church, this is what they were told to write. “ These things say he who has the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars ;” Now, I don’t want to go to a lot of time with this, the seven spirits. There are three different interpretations of this, people trying to explain what they are. The seven stars is a little easier, the explanation is in chapter 1 verse 20

Revelation 1:20 Revelation 1:20The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches.
American King James Version×
The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches” Now what is important here about this title, the seven spirits of the seven stars, more important than spending the time, which I don’t want to at this point, trying to go through the three explanations of what the seven spirits are. The point here is that this is the message of the one that directs the churches. This is a direct message from Jesus Christ. That is the point of this title. So, the point, to me, is more important that trying to explain all the interpretations at this point. This is directly from the head of the church of Sardis, Jesus Christ. And He says to them, this first statement; “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, and are dead.”  He says you have a reputation, you have a name. If people had said “have you ever gone to Sardis?” wow, now there is a dynamic church. They were known as a live and vibrant church. That is what it means by you are alive. You have a reputation. He says “but you are dead”. It is very interesting here that there is a difference between how the people of Sardis see themselves and even what others may see of them, and what they really are in the eyes of Jesus Christ. Now, He says that you are dead. That you are not alive. And, as the scholars say, the important thing here is that you are dying. You are in the process of dying and yet you think you are alive. It is interesting that the church at Sardis, it doesn’t say that they were persecuted. Remember when we went through Smyrna? Persecuted people. It doesn’t say that they have the teachings of Jezebel like Thyatira. They are not accused of some of the other things that some of the others are accused of. But they are a church that is not alive. Christ isn’t in it. The holy spirit isn’t working in it, they are not truly following and worshipping God. But they have a reputation that they are and they see themselves that they are. And he tells them here a number of things.

He says Revelation 3:2-4 Revelation 3:2-4 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, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come on you. 4 You have a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
American King James Version×
Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die” Now, lets get this. Things that are ready to die, this church feels like it is alive but it is not. These things are ready to die. They are just going to fade away. He says “ you are ready to die for I have not found your works perfect before God.” He says before God the works of this church, the faith of this church, what they produce, is not good before God. “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.” In other words, the judgement of Christ on this church is that when He comes you won’t even know He is coming. His judgement is that when He comes you won’t even know He is coming because you will not be watching. He says “ 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 .” So, inside this group of people, in this congregation, are some who are still following God, dedicated to God. He says that those people will be with Me. But the implication is that the rest of them will not. So, this church is receiving a very strong condemnation that the majority of them will not walk with Christ in the resurrection. This church is in real trouble. He says in verses 5-6 He who overcomes will 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. He who has an ear let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.”

Once again, I WON”T blot your name out if you overcome. That is a strong implication because that means if you don’t overcome, what am I going to do? I am going to blot your name out. So, the condemnation to this church is very strong because they are ready to die. But, to all looking at them and to themselves, this is the place to be. It is a vibrant church. Now, He tells them a number of things. He tells them to be watchful. Ok, five very important things that he tells them:

  1. To be watchful.
  2. To strengthen the things that remain.
  3. To remember what you have received and heard. Obviously if they have to strengthen what remains they have already lost something, right? He doesn’t say strengthen all that you have, He says strengthen what you have left. So, they had already lost a lot.
  4. To hold fast.
  5. To repent.

Ok, so here we have a congregation that is told to do five very specific important things. Because they must overcome or they are going to be blotted out of the book of life. Of all the churches this is one of the greatest condemnations. How does a church die? The Sardis church didn’t want to die. I am sure at one time it probably was a very vibrant church. It was an exciting place to be and people followed God. But just like the city around them, they had a big name but they were dying. To the average member it didn’t seem like they were dying. So, what causes a church to die? The members of the congregation didn’t even know that they were dying.

Well, let’s look at some things. People in a dying church are not spiritually watchful. The first thing he told them to do was watch. Let’s go to Luke 12:35-38 Luke 12:35-38 35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36 And you yourselves like to men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he comes and knocks, they may open to him immediately. 37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he comes shall find watching: truly I say to you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. 38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
American King James Version×
Let your waist be girded and you lamp burning ” In other words, it is late at night but you should be fully clothed with the lights on. Now, that is not what you usually do at night, is it? You take your clothes off and turn the lights out. But he says you need to be fully clothed and have your lights on. “ And you yourselves be like men that wait for their master, when he returns from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks, they may open unto him immediately.” Remember, Christ comes to Sardis and they are shocked. They don’t even know He is coming. Here in this parable he says we must be prepared, watching, so that we are ready. This has to do with personal preparedness, being spiritually prepared for Christ’s judgement.  If we are walking with God, we are prepared for Christ’s judgement and it is going to be a good judgement. If we are not walking with God we are not going to be prepared. “ Blessed are those servants who the Lord when He comes shall find watching” That is interesting. They’re watching. They are very serious about what they are doing, how they live their lives.  “ Assuredly, I say unto you, that He shall gird himself, and have them sit down to eat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants .”  In other words, He says it doesn’t matter what time He comes, when He comes, these people are ready and they are waiting.

Over the years I have seen people give up and die in their faith, and die in their doctrines, and die in their beliefs because Christ didn’t come when they wanted Him to. I always tell my kids, you know what, I really believe Christ is coming back in my lifetime, but if He doesn’t probably the last thing I will say to you before I die is you better be ready because He is coming. You better be ready! If not in my lifetime then in yours so you better be ready. Because that is how we are to live life. In the Sardis church there was no drive to be ready. Now, it is a very comfortable place, Sardis. Sort of a sleep place. But it is very comfortable. So comfortable that there is never any growth.

Now a little later here in this same chapter…let’s look at verse 41 ; “ Peter says to them, Lord do you speak this parable only to us, or to all people? ” So they are asking if this parable is just for His disciples or for anybody. He couldn’t figure it out. “ And the Lord said, who then is that faithful and wise servant, who his master will make ruler over his household, to give him their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant, who his master will find so doing when he comes.” So he says you have got to be watching and that watchfulness makes you do. This includes watching for the signs of Jesus Christ’s return. This isn’t just about watching ourselves spiritually, that is part of it, but since this has to do with His return and the people of Sardis are going to be shocked at His return. The people of Sardis back in 95 were shocked at the judgement that came upon them. What is he talking about? He says Verses 45-46 For if that servant says in his heart ” This is very important “ My master is delaying his coming and shall beat the male and female servants and eat and drink with the drunk. The master of the servant comes on a day when he looks not for him and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers .” In other words, this servant who is a servant of God is literally rejected by God because they lost sight of Christ’s coming and being prepared for Christ. See, it doesn’t matter to the people of Sardis in 100AD they had to end their lives for Christ’s return. If they said well, He is not coming we will live however we want, they weren’t prepared for death were they? Because the moment they died, what is their next waking thought? The return of Jesus Christ. So, we have to live lives watching for the return of Jesus Christ in the signs and watching and making sure we are prepared.

If not, there are two things that happen. One, we begin to fight with fellow servants. One of the things about a dying church is that they fight. I don’t mean constructive discussion; I mean fight, like beat. Not like disagreements, I mean being mean to each other. They beat each other and they participate with the drunkards. In other words, they live one foot in sin. In Sardis there would have been a great comfortableness with a certain amount of sin among each other. I am talking about unrepented sin. We all sin, right? But this is unrepented sin. It was just sort of accepted.

So, what is the cure to that problem? Watchful. He gave five cures. What I am giving now is the problems you have to find cures for. So, He says you have got to be watchful. So, that is the number one problem with a dying church. They are not watchful in terms of their relationship with God, submitting to God’s spirit, being converted…the conversion process has just stopped. And they are not looking for Christ’s return. The result is they beat each other and they allow and participate in all kinds of sin. First problem.

Now the second is people in a dying church, and when you think about this, these steps become very obvious. You go from one to the next to the next. The people in a dying church begin to imitate society around them so much that they look just like them, the society around them. If you were to have gone to Sardis they would not have been worshipping Zeus. I am not saying that. But it wouldn’t have been that much different in terms of personal conduct than some of the pagans around them. I am saying that these people would have promoted adultery but they would have accepted adultery. They would not have promoted idolatry. But they wouldn’t have really been against it, either. They exist and they have a name and they appear to be a live church. But they are really not. And so what happens is that they simply begin to decay. Remember, it is a decaying city, a decaying church. Everything inside is stuck somehow. There is no growth. There is no vibrancy. They get together every Sabbath and they hear the same sermon they have heard for 25 years. And they say the same things to each other that they have said for 25 years and they sit down and have the same pot luck that they have had for 25 years and then they say good bye and they all go home and live the same way they have. In this sort of dead emptiness for maybe 15 years. Somewhere along the way, you remember, he says you are ready to die. You are a decaying place.

Romans 13. So what do we do? Romans 13. What do we do when we find that we are sliding into this habit of just looking like the world? The first problem is that we are not watching. If you are watching and anticipating Christ’s return and watching yourself you can’t be doing that. But if that is happening there is something that you are supposed to do.

Romans 13:11 Romans 13:11And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
American King James Version×
Paul says “ And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awaken out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed .” He said remember when you first believed, when you were really awake to discover God’s truth? Remember that, when you were on fire to know God’s truth. Have you noticed in basketball now, the commentators say that a player is playing like his hair is on fire? I have never figured that out but it has got to be pretty intense. You know Clay Thorton, he told me today there was a time when his hair did catch on fire. Wow! That is pretty impressive. His hair caught on fire and he was in a cave. You have to ask him about that story. Remember when your hair was on fire? Remember. Paul says to the people in Rome to remember. It is time to wake up. “remember what it was like when you first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand; therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us pout on the armour of light.” The people of Sardis were in danger of sliding into this sinful state. And he says, don’t do this! Throw off these works. Remember, he said about Sardis that their works are bad. They aren’t perfect, they aren’t good. “ Let us walk properly, as in the day; not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envying .”

You want to know some of the problems that the Roman church had. Well, let’s see. Revelry and drunkenness. Partying spirits. Lewdness and lust. Sexual sins. Strife and Envy. Some of the problem that they had was drunkenness, sexual problems, strife between members, and people being envious. Yeah, sort of like church today. And some of the same problems. “ But put on the Lord and make no provisions for the flesh to fulfill its lust.” You know what he was telling these people? They weren’t dead. The church at Rome had problems but it wasn’t dead. It was a live church. What he tells them to do is strengthen what you have. The problem with looking like the world is that you forget to strengthen what God has given you. When you start looking like the world start doing what God says to do. Strengthen what you have.

So, a dying church is not aware of Christ’s return, they are not preparing for Christ’s return. So, watch. I dying church is sliding into the world. So, what do you do? Well, just what Christ told them to do. You strengthen what you do have. Take what you do have and work off of that. Work off of what you have.

Third point about a dying church: People of a dying church forget how God worked in their lives in the past. Going to church is a very social thing. It should be. But in a dying church that is the primary reason they go to church. It is because it is a social experience. They go to church because it is habit. I remember talking to a man one time who had been a Methodist and he came in to the church and I asked him why he went to that church, what motivated him. He said it is what everybody did, it is what his family did and it was a habit. I never questioned the habit until something came along and he was told he couldn’t keep easter. The Bible doesn’t really say theat.  So said “what do you mean, the Bible doesn’t really say that?”  But he said that for all of his young life up until his middle age somewhere that was his habit. In a dying church of God it because habit. The Sardis message is important for us today. A congregation can die for these same reasons. There is no more watching. There is no more strengthening what we have. It is just habit. It is just what we do. We don’t think much about it. It is what we have done for so long. Ask people why they keep Christmas. “well, Jesus was born that day. And when you say “you know He wasn’t born on that day” they will say “that’s true”. Then why do they do it? “it is just what we do”. You and I, even with what God has given us can do the same thing, because it is what we do. But it is dead if it is just habit. People in a dying church really like each other. That is mainly why they go.

I find it interesting. I was reading something. Barkley is a Scottish commentator and he writes real well. I get a kick out of what he writes sometimes. He made a comment about the Sardis church. He said “you know, they are not accused of a specific heresy.” He said that there wasn’t enough energy in this church to produce heresy. It would be different than what they did. Oh, we don’t do that. Of course the problem is that they wouldn’t even know if it was truth.

“No, we don’t do that. That is not what we do here.”

“But it is the truth!”

“But it is not what we do here.”

As that happened they lost more and more and more until Christ said “just take what you have that is left and let’s just work on that.  Let’s just build up and strengthen that. But then we get to this place where they forget how God has worked in their lives. Dying churches then become…it becomes almost impossible for them to become relevant to people outside their little group. A new person walks in and the new person doesn’t understand the inspeak because they talk the same way they did 40 years ago and there is no other way to say something. Language changes right? Gay doesn’t mean what it did to my grandmother. So you can imagine what it would be like when you walk into a church and everybody says “Did you have a gay week?”. Do you understand what I am saying? You have to understand that we don’t live in a static world and a dying church is static, completely static. Now the problem is that they gave up the truth in the staticness…or parts of the truth but not all of it. And so it is hard for a dying church to become relevant to anything outside of themselves. The purpose of the congregation is to serve me, because every Sabbath we get fried chicken. Because we have had fried chicken every Sabbath after services every Sabbath for 32 years. And if we don’t have fried chicken this Sabbath it probably means there is some heresy coming on. Now, I am exaggerating a little, ok? The problem with a dying church is that they are so comfortable with their decay.

I read an interesting article, a couple of articles, about people who go to dying protestant churches. OK? Now we are not talking about our teachings or our experiences but dying protestant churches. What are the symptoms of dying churches? Protestant churches are dying all over the country. Just dying. Shutting down. And one of them is that all of the money is spent on the building but the building is decaying. But nobody notices that it smells bad anymore. And the reason that nobody knows is that it started smelling bad in 1987. And they don’t notice. But all their money, all of their discussion is on how to fix up the building…put up flowers or do this or do that but they don’t realize. Now remember Sardis is in a decaying city. The average person in Sardis was probably pretty proud of their ancient very well-known very rich city. But it was decaying. Their congregation was decaying and they could not see it. Decaying churches try so hard. They usually go from one extreme to another. One is “We have done it this way forever and we are not going to change. We are going to have fried chicken every week.” The other is “We have got to change everything to bring in young people.” Either way you have a generation-centric church.

God’s church is not a generation-centric church. It is a God-centric church that is based on building the family of God. Now can anybody tell me which age is more important in a family or which age is not important in a family? Generation-centric churches isn’t what God wants. He wants churches that are centered around Him in which everybody is involved in one way or another. So, you do have different projects for different people, different demographics, different ages, but there is a center.

“Everything in our church is centered around….senior citizens.” Not good.

“Well, everything in our church is centered around children.” That’s not good.

You should have projects for everybody. But what is the purpose? To create a family. It is hard for a dying church to see that. Dying churches seldom train new people or new leaders. And they begin to dilute doctrines in order to attract new people. But nobody comes anyways. God’s not going to bless churches that begin to dilute the basic core teachings.
Hebrews 10. Let’s look at where the writer of Hebrews deals with this very problem and what he tells them to do. Dying churches are not watchful. Dying churches need to strengthen what they have to begin with and then work on rebuilding the church. But you have got to strengthen what you have that is right. Hebrews 10:32 Hebrews 10:32But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great fight of afflictions;
American King James Version×
But call to remembrance ” Here is encouragement from (I think Paul wrote Hebrews) but here is some encouragement from the writer of Hebrews to the church. “ But recall the former days, in which, after you were illuminated you endured a great struggle from sufferings” .

Remember what you were willing to do to obey God? I have conversations with people all the time. We talk about sometimes how unbalanced the church was in the ‘60’s and how unbalanced the church was in the ‘70’s ….and the ‘80’s, the ‘90’s, the 2000’s and today. But, for some of you that were around back then you know there was a commitment to God that was absolutely remarkable. And here he tells a group of older people “ remember what you were willing to do to follow God ”. He says verse 33 ; “ Partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations; and partly while you became companions for those that were so treated.” He says sometimes it was you who suffered and sometimes it was you..sometimes you made new friends and they suffered. You come into the church and you might meet someone whose husband left them because of their faith. And now you become a companion with someone who is suffering because of their commitment to God. Remember that? He says Verse 34-36 ; “ For you had compassion on me ” Paul says; “ in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing  that you have in heaven a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore do not cast away  your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance so that after you have done the will of God you may receive the promise .” Verse 39 says “ But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul .” He says don’t go back.

This is what is happening in Sardis. They are slowly looking more and more like the world. Not because they are worshipping Zeus. But socially they look like the world in terms of their morality, their conduct. And here he says don’t be like them. And what does he tell them? Remember! It is interesting that each of these things (Watchful, strengthen, remember, hold fast, repent) that Christ tells at church we find other people in the New Testament telling other churches that weren’t dead yet. Be watchful. Strengthen what you have. Remember what it is to have God work in your life. Pass that one. I think we need to tell all the stories we can, every personal story. That is one of the things that those that have been around a long time should pass on to people second and third and fourth generation people in the church. You know what God did for me one time? We should tell them…what the Bible calls witness. Here is what I witnessed. Here is what God did to me. We need to tell them. We need to share that with them. Not “I am in a dying church. Let’s get services over. I can smell the fried chicken. Besides, I’ve heard this sermon. Let’s see, it’s July. Yeah, I have heard this sermon for the last 20 years. It’s his second week in July sermon. We have heard this. We just go through the motions here.”

Remember. Here is what it says in Revelation 3:3 Revelation 3:3Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come on you.
American King James Version×
Remember, therefore, how you received and heard.” Think about a dying church. They are not interested in sharing it with other people. They really aren’t. In fact, if anybody new walked through the door they just stare at them. “Do you know who that is?” “I don’t know who that is.” I did that one time in West Texas. I walked into a restaurant full of ranchers at 5:30 in the morning. “Howdy!” They are all staring at me like “he is not from around here!”. Yep, and I don’t have boots on and they can tell I am not a rancher. So, that is how it is in a dying church when new people come in. They are not interested in reaching new people. In fact new people break the comfortableness of the funeral parlor that they attend every week. It sort of breaks up how comfortable they are.

The fourth thing…people in a dying church believe in a set of biblical doctrines but they really lack a depth of understanding. If you sat down with someone in Sardis you would probably agree on most things but they lack a depth. The reason they lack a depth is because they no longer hunger and thirst after righteousness. Matthew 5…one of the beatitudes. Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness. Really hungry, not just one day of fasting but three days of fasting. Really thirsty, where your mouth is like cotton and you can hardly breathe. When you want God’s word that much, when you want God’s righteousness that much that is where we should be. In a dying church they see no need for that. They arrive somewhere, I don’t know about 1993, or 1973, or 2003… whenever they arrived, they arrived. And they no longer hunger and thirst so they believe they have all the spiritual nourishment they need. They believe they have all the spiritual nourishment they need and they do have some, but it is not a vibrant church. So, they are dying and they are dying from spiritual malnutrition. How does CHrsit admonish those people? Hold Fast! Grab hold of the truth! Hold it! It is slipping through your fingers. You have got to grab it. Hold it! Don’t let go of it! It is just slipping away and pretty soon they don’t even know what they believe. They don’t even know it.

And the fifth problem and solution to a dying church…people in a dying church are very comfortable in their complacency. They are more concerned with personal comfort than personal conviction and growth. They like a good sermon that really gets up and slams anybody else. Well, let’s hear a sermon against Sunday keepers. That feels good. Let’s hear a sermon against gay marriage. That feels good. Let’s hear a sermon on why you should pay your taxes. Wait a minute! I am NOT paying my taxes to Obama. That doesn’t feel good. That really was unnecessary. Now, they are very comfortable with correcting other people but they are so complacent. This is different from Laodicea, by the way. This church is dying. They are just…I thought about getting up and just saying, “well, I was going to give you, today, a Bible study on a dying church but I don’t care” and just walking away. (laughter) They are so complacent. They don’t do the big sins. I don’t do adultery but me and all the ladies get together after church, feed those men their fried chicken, and we sit around and talk about other women for an hour. You go look up someday what the Bible says about slander and gossip. It is pretty scary what the Bible says about slander and gossip, both Old and New Testament. Pretty scary stuff! Oh, but we are not breaking the letter of the law. But there is this decay in all other levels of their lives. So that it is just the motions. It is just habit.

1 Thessalonians 5. Here is what Paul writes to Thessalonica. Now Thessalonica seems to have been a pretty solid church in some ways, not like Sardis at all. It had its problems, we know from II Thessalonians. But 1 Thessalonians 5:5-9 1 Thessalonians 5:5-9 5 You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
American King James Version×
You are all sons of the light, and the sons of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep, ” Let’s don’t go to sleep here! It is like hypothermia. What happens when someone has hypothermia? You keep them awake.  That is one of the things we had to learn at winter camp. If they are that cold do not let them sleep because they are dying if they do. You have to keep them moving. They don’t want to move but you have to keep them moving. “ Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night and they that be drunk are drunk in the night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are to repent. We are to repent. How do you not become part of a dying church? Well, the five things that he told them; you will find them throughout the New Testament told to Christians.

  1. Be watchful for the return of Jesus Christ, the sign of the times, and how you are in relationship with God in preparation for Christ’s return.
  2. Strengthen what you have. Strengthen it!
  3. Remember what God has done in your life. Remember your calling. Some people say “Well, I was born in the church, I wasn’t called.” Yes, you were. You were born in the church. Go talk to somebody who wasn’t. Remember how God put you here. How you got where God wants you to be.
  4. Hold fast, don’t let go of the core teachings that God has given you. Don’t let go of those core teachings or you will start to get off into the craziest stuff. There is a lot we don’t know but what we do know is what God has given us for salvation. What we do know is what God has given us for salvation.  Hold fast to that and repent.
  5. Repent! Repentance is not a one-time experience. Repentance is a lifestyle. We are repenting all the time before God.

So, let’s go back to Revelation 3. Remember, Sardis has a name; it has a reputation. If you went to talk to the people of Laodicea or Philadelphia or Ephesus they would say “you will like Sardis. That is a good solid church there. And they have the best fried chicken after services.”

Revelation 3:4-6 Revelation 3:4-6 4 You have a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. 5 He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. 6 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches.
American King James Version×
;
“You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.”

This message isn’t just for Sardis. It is for every church. It is to keep any church at any time into sliding into that state of being. You know, I asked what causes a church to die. Sometimes a church dies because it is time. Christ builds a church, He calls people into it, it does well, it grows, and it reaches some lifespan where He decides not to call anyone else into it. A church doesn’t always die like Sardis did, because it spiritually dies. I know churches that have died out and yet the last people there were still incredibly loyal to God, incredibly dedicated to His way, to the truth, to serving others, to sharing the gospel. But, it was just time. I can’t find a reason except maybe God just decided that is enough. If you think about it, Philadelphia doesn’t have anything wrong with it. But there is no big church in Philadelphia today. Church of God? No, it is mainly Muslim. There are Christians there, too, but it is mainly Muslim. I don’t know what happened to that church but I do know what happened to Sardis. So, we have to realize and we have to think about it. A church can die because it lets itself die. It gives up living. It actually gives it up. It gives up living. And so that message goes out to every congregation, in every place, in all times. And it goes out to people who are alive at Christ’s return because they are going to be shocked when He shows up. And it goes out to a time in the past when this was a common state of the entire church of God.

So, remember the message to Sardis. We have just a couple minutes so, do we have any questions about what we covered tonight? Next time it will be the message to Philadelphia. Which is a very interesting one. And the message to Laodicea. Two of the most fascinating messages of this group. So, anything else about Sardis. Ok, we will pass out the test and uh..(laughter). Ok, thanks for coming out and the next time will be in two weeks. Thanks for coming out.

Comments

  • Franc
    The fact that Sardis is warned to return to what they first received and heard (3:2-3) clearly identifies it as a group that has parted by changing the original doctrines. 1.2 billion Christians today (plus millions of other denominations) accept the authority that caused such doctrinal changes as God’s commanded day of rest (Sabbath) to the so called Day of the Lord; God’s appointed festival dates to pagan festivities in the name of God; changes to the biblical baptism ritual; the use of images in worship; etc. Interestingly, this church of God traces its roots to the apostle Peter, who taught no changes to God’s law. Few from this church will overcome and keep their name in the Book of Life (3:4-5), an obvious sign of eternal life. Those who do not overcome, will follow after the Beast (Rev. 13:11-18) who will call itself God on earth (2 Thess. 2:3-4) just prior to Jesus’ advent, and therefore will not be expecting him (Rev. 3:3). The works of Sardis are contrasted to those of Philadelphia or Smyrna, churches in excellent spiritual condition, clearly indicating that these are separate groups of God’s people, and not one true church with completely opposite works and outcomes.
  • camera3600
    Your bible study on the church at Sardis describes UCG to a "T", and we found very little difference in any of the congregations as we traveled. We did receive a warm friendly welcome at the bible study at headquarters when we visited and enjoyed the hamburger and beans and fellowship. WHAT HAS HAPPEN TO BROTHERLY LOVE? God be with you and yours. Billy & Gail Harrah
  • Lena VanAusdle
    Hi! Your comment is comparing the church of Sardis (the dead church) with United Church of God. I hope you'll consider these points. First, if you're using the Sardis church to state the UCG is not loving, you're using the wrong comparison. The church in Sardis looks good, they are probably very friendly (and loving) to everyone, they look like the church of God, but they have allowed themselves to tolerate wrong behavior, they weren't being alert. Next, you state that you were greeted warmly and treated kindly at the home office of United Church of God, why would you not judge the church from this interaction, rather than whatever negative you might have encountered. There are sometimes reasons that people act as they do; you might not know if this was an off day for the particular congregation that you visited, however, a single congregation should not be the measuring stick for the entire church; just as the book of revelation addresses specific "congregations," it might be more beneficial to contact the minister directly.
  • jcnewell49
    Camera3600, I cannot agree with you and your assessment of UCG. As one who has been familiar with the other major groups I have found United Church of God to be the one that is friendly and open to all who come in contact with them. Your statement is offensive and appears to be self serving for what ever reason it may be.
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