Title: A MORGUE WITH A STEEPLE
Text: Revelation 3:1-6
Of all the messages to the seven churches, this letter is the most appalling. The condemnation is strong. Sardis was a worldly church, and their greatest need was a strong warning. If they did not watch their ways, judgment was coming.
Sardis was the capital of the great kingdom of Lydia. It was a very wealthy city, and it was given credit for making the first coins, and for dyeing wool. The original site of Sardis was practically impregnable, built on a rock that towered more than 1,000 feet above the river Hermus. The city was constantly in a state of moral and religious corruption. Its citizens were known for combining wild sexual orgies with their worship of heathen gods. The church in Sardis had once been a faithful, loving servant of Christ, but no more. In the past she had been the city’s conscience, but no more. She began to return to the life before Christ and live comfortably with her corrupt neighbors. She became the nice, harmless church on the corner in religious activity, but was drastically dead. Read Text.
1. In each of the letters to the churches, the Lord has introduced Himself in a different fashion – and each one has been strongly appropriate for what He saw in the churches. How does Jesus introduce Himself to this church, and how is it appropriate for what He saw in Sardis? (He has the seven Spirits and the seven stars. Seven = fullness or completion. Seven Spirits = fully aware of what goes on.) Isa. 11:1-2
2. Why are some churches spiritually dead…what are some potential killers of vibrant congregations? (Drift away from Christ; not growing in the Spirit and in serving Christ; having a greater concern for cosmetics than with character; favor tradition over love for Christ; resistant to change; lost evangelistic outreach.)
Insight: Sardis was became a church that Christ could not rely upon. They were once known for being spiritually alive, but they gradually fell away from God. They lost their desire for the spiritual life that kept them on the cutting edge. This earned for them the disfavor of the Lord.
3. Identifying the problem is the first step toward solving it. Identify Sardis’ problem. (Spiritually dead.) Even though this was the case, was she hopeless…did Christ abandon her? What hope did the Lord see within her? (A few believers who still carried the spark.)
4. A church that is rapidly slipping down the slopes of compromise needs a strong warning. Jesus gave Sardis warning in five areas. What are they? (Wake up, strengthen what remains, remember your purpose, keep the truth, and repent.)
5. If Jesus had to say to them, “wake up,” what does this tell you about their spiritual state? (Half dead in their sleep; so self-centered that they didn’t realize how desperate their condition was.) How often are you prone to take spiritual inventory of your soul? Isa. 56:9-11; Matt. 24:42; 1 Pet. 4:7
6. What do you think Jesus could have been referring to when He said, “strengthen what remains”? (Strengthen the remnant. There were those who did a form of ministry, but there was no life in it; profession without fruit.) Who is the spiritual remnant of Christ? (Those who are sensitive to the Spirit’s voice and are faithful to Christ.) What was Christ calling the remnant to leave the church and let the spiritually dead die? (No; He was calling them to be the spark to bring life back into the church.) When, if ever, should the remnant leave a church?
Insight: In contrast, Christ is always tugging on our heart. Like the Prodigal son, there are times when He lets the stubborn, rebellious child choose the wrong road, but His watchful eye is always on the road, waiting for the penitent to come home.
7. What had the church in Sardis “received and heard” that Jesus was calling them to “remember”? (They had received Christ and heard the Gospel.) Do those elements really make a difference in our life? (Yes, the character of Christ is formed in us.) What’s wrong if that doesn’t happen?
Insight: This valuable treasure they have in Christ, the Lord admonishes them to “keep it.” Only as we apply the Gospel to our life and allow the Spirit to change us will the transformation take place. The Lord has the power to reshape our thinking, remold our attitudes and guide our behavior if we will embrace Him. Can others see the difference Christ makes in your life without being told you are a Christian? Job 4:3-4; 16:5; Isa. 35:3-4; Lk. 22:31-32
8. Jesus admonished them to “hold fast.” What do you think He was referring to? (The Standard of Christ and the Word of God.) If they were not holding fast, what do you think this indicates about them particularly? (Their doctrine was not pure and they had lowered the Standard of Christ = an absence of faith.)
9. The last admonition Christ gave them was to “repent.” Do you think this was essential in light of the preceding things revealed in their church?
Insight: Repentance was essential to setting the other things in motion. It’s the quickening of the heart that changes the mind, and results in a renewed commitment to Christ-centered living.
If repentance is so healthy, why do you think so many people resist it? How can the turnaround of a few affect the rest of the Body? Would you be willing to publicly repent in hope that others might do the same?
Insight: When the life of godliness fails, it’s vain to look for any fruit. Just because they claim to be a Christian will not save them from the corruptions of a fallen nature. The only safeguard from a defiled moral character is to quicken the heart (repent) and return to the Word of God. The same sentence could fall upon us. And the same cure will be effective to our slumbering soul if we allow Christ’s words to penetrate our heart.
10. What is the warning to this church if they do not wake up? (He will come upon them as a thief when they do not expect it.) What’s the foolish danger of postponing repentance? Rev. 16:15; 1 Thess. 5:2-6; 2 Pet. 3:10-12
11. Do you see any indication there was a faithful remnant in Sardis? (3:4) What is Jesus’ reward for those who stay true to Him?
Insight: I don’t think there’s a one of us in this room that can say our garment is absolutely spotless. That’s where God’s grace comes in. Grace covers those who are still engaged in the battle and are fighting to stay clean. We will always have spots on our garment as long as we live in this sinful world with our sin-nature. Grace covers those who frequently come to the cleansing fountain. It’s those who are asleep and don’t see the need that the spots remain on their garment. The reward is to WALK with Him in white! The Lord is clear here with His wording that the reward is everlasting righteousness. We have responsibility to keep our robe as clean as we can, but where we fail, grace steps in and washes it clean. Phil. 3:8-16
12. According to verse 5, what’s the promise to those who overcome this sinful world and its influences?
Insight: Conversely, the implication is here that if one fails to overcome and gives in to this world’s sinful influences, their name will no longer appear in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Ps. 69:27-28; Ex. 32:31-32; Deut. 9:14
13. Will it be worth it for you to endure this world’s hardships to hear the Lord confess your name before all Heaven…to hear Him affirm that we eternally belong to Him? The promise is clear: if we stay in the conflict and not give up or give in, we will hear those words. Be an overcomer! Are we to do the same for Him here on earth? Matt. 10:32-33
Listen to this story of a people who heard the truth, but didn’t bother to apply it. Ezek. 33:30-33
Surely the final words need to be heard in the church of Sardis that was spoken to each of the churches: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches!”