“Unto the angel of the church of Sardis write . . . I know thy works” (See Revelation 3:1-7, RSV).
After a recent service I returned to my office and told the secretary, “I am exhausted!” Have you ever felt that way? Christian service can leave us exhilarated and it can leave us drained. We must use caution not to become “weary in well-doing.”
Where does the church (and where do Christians) get energy, power, and the breath of life?
For the church at Sardis the Lord had no compliments or commendations. The letter recognizes individual faithfulness, but this was the exception and not the rule. One writer claims there was a “moral minority” in this congregation. Perhaps it was that remnant which was staying the judgment of God. We remember the Old Testament story where God told Abraham that he would spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there were 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, even 10 righteous people! What a shame that a church can be lacking in spiritual vitality.
The problem at Sardis was that they had “a reputation for being alive”, but, in fact, they were “dead”. They have been called “the perfect model of inoffensive Christianity”. Warren Wiersbe says, “The message to Sardis is a warning to all ‘great churches’ that are living on past glory.” Sardis was adrift, living on a plateau. They were not lacking in numbers, but they were lacking in spiritual life. They were not lacking in organization or programs, but they lacked any real spiritual dynamic. They remind us that few things are as well organized as a graveyard! Christ, who reveals himself to this church in verse one, has what they need – the Holy Spirit! The church was born of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. True churches are led by the Spirit and empowered by the Spirit. Notice that this congregation was not guilty of heresy, and they were not facing persecution – they were just dead.
For the church at Sardis there is a string of commands (2-5): “Be watchful”, “strengthen what remains”, “remember” what is important, “hold fast” to the truth, “repent” of your lack of vitality. If the church will hear and heed, there is a list of promises for the faithful: You will “walk with me”, you will be “clothed in white”, I will not “blot out [your] name” from the book of life, and I will “confess [your] name before my Father and the angels”. No wonder the Apostle Paul counsels us to “live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit.”
Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.