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Mar
10

Sardis: The Measure of Vitality

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Write this letter to the angela of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars: “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief. Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.
Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches”
(Revelation 3:1-6, NLT)

Do the ends justify the means? This is the dilemma that the believers in Sardis faced. By all standards of measure, the Church at Sardis was successful. They were growing numerically. Led by gifted leaders and talented communicators, this church was the talk of the town. Everyone spoke of the exciting things going on in Sardis. It was the place to be! By every metric available to the human eye, they were successful. Yet Jesus placed his finger on the pulse of the church and pronounced it dead. What gives? In Jesus’ postcard to the church, he offered four imperatives.

1. “Wake up!” This would have been a meaningful attention getter for the people of Sardis. The city itself was a citadel built high upon a hill. A 1,500 foot sheer cliff protected the city from three sides. The city looked like an impregnable fortress. Yet in 549 BC, Cyrus led an army against the town. He sent one soldier to scale the cliff, who climbed the wall and opened the gates from the inside. Again in 218 BC, Antiochus the Great led an army against the city, and under the cover of nightfall sent 15 men to scale the wall, drop inside the fortress, and unlock the gates from the inside. Imagine living in confidence that everything is safe and secure, only to be awakened in the middle of the night by centuries crying out, “Wake up!”

2. “Strengthen what remains.” The goal of any church should not be to be unique. The goal of any church should be to be biblical. The early church formed basic practices following the Day of Pentecost that have served the church for nearly 2,000 years. We find them in Acts 2:42-47. These early believers understood that worship was the ultimate priority of the church and responded to God as he disclosed himself to them. If worship is love on a vertical plane, the fellowship is love on a horizontal plane. They ministered to those in need, enabling them to return to their partnership in the gospel, not unlike an injured athlete is rehabilitated to return to the field of play. They had a grasp of the importance of discipleship and spent large quantities of time learning and being equipped. Finally, and perhaps most fascinating of all, they remained influential, even though 3,000 new members joined their movement all at once.

Tomorrow I’ll share the final two imperatives that Christ employed to this particular congregation is his postcard from the edge.

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