The Church the Devil Left Alone
An Exposition of Revelation #7
The Church at Sardis
There's No Sleep in Turbulence
The great American philosopher Billy Bob Thornton once said “I don’t have a fear of flying; I have a fear of crashing. Well if fear makes fools of men who fear both flying and crashing, then go ahead and sign me up on the dotted line. Of all of the things in life I fear, flying and crashing rank at the top of my Totem Pole. And both fears are deep seated. The year was 94; I was twenty years old. It was my first time flying. And brothers and sisters it was a long journey. It started in Atlanta, Ga and wouldn’t end until I reached that far far away destination called Jacksonville, Fl. Things were going well until the pilot came on the other end of the speaker and said “Ladies and Gentleman, I’m going to have to ask you to buckle your seatbelt because we are about to go through some mild turbulence.” I interpreted that to mean “if you have any religious convictions, this would be the time to express them because this big bird is about to go down in flames.” I couldn’t sleep on that day; my lies were closed; but my lips were moving. Sleep can be useful to the body; but if we use it to escape the problems we face, it can be deadly. The devil stirred in Ephesus; Smyrna; Pergamum; Thyatira. But he didn’t have to stir in Sardis. He didn’t have to lift a finger because they were already sound asleep and dead.
3 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. 4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Why the Devil Left Sardis Alone
1. They lacked opposition from the outside. They lacked opposition from the inside. And there was no adversity to speak of (1)
(i) Sardis Comes under the most severe denunciation of all the churches because they were untroubled by false teaching and free from opposition of any kind.
(ii) Cared more about their reputation in the eyes of man than they did in the eyes of God.
(iii) Deceived themselves into thinking God judges by the standard the world does.
(i) Satan stirred in Ephesus because they lacked love
(ii) Satan stirred in Smyrna through persecution from Jews and Rome;
(iii) Satan stirred in Pergmamum through the false teaching of the Nicolitians and the Balaamites;
(iv) Satan stirred in Thyatira through Jezebel;
(v) Sardis – not a creature was stirring; not even a mouse.
The Reasons Why
(i) Sardis at it’s height was a land of riches. Discovered rich respository of gold dust in it’s rivers and they were the first to mint gold and silver coins in the Ancient World.
(ii) Christians allowed to own shops; and the Jews never opposed them like they did in Smyrna.
(iii) Since they lacked the world’s opposition, they grew comfortable with it.
(i) Problems imply a pulse in the sight of God because it’s an opportunity to overcome.
(ii) Deep convictions and firm boundaries invite persecution and trouble.
(iii) Lack of adversity in your life over a long period of time is a dangerous place to be. Satan doesn’t need to stir because spiritual realities are at rest and the soul is rotting from within.
2. They majored in what they started. And minored in what they completed (2-3a)
(i) Church planted by John but somewhere along the way they failed to follow his example and started following the example of they learned from Sardis the city
(ii) Foundations constructed for ancient temples in the time of Alexander the Great were never finished
(iii) The city was full of unfinished walls, buildings and homes.
(iv) like Sardis around them, their works God called them to do always fell short of completion.
Imperatives – Wake up; Strengthen what remains; Remember what you received; Hold fast; Repent
(i) Not seeing small things through to completion will render you incapable of being entrusted by the Lord with bigger things;
(ii) Habits of not seeing things through suggest a spiritual problem that needs to be addressed before you start another one.
3. They lived with no regard for future reckoning (3b)
(i) Conquerors couldn’t take Sardis by conventional warfare for a reason: the walls were impregnable.
(ii) But twice had fallen for lack of vigilance because they failed to watch adequately
(iii) Cyrus the great captured it at night time by deploying a climber to climb over the wall and unlock the gates to the city.
(iv) Jesus applied this to his second coming as a warning of how the judgment would be if they didn’t wake up.
wide awake; prepared for spiritual intrusion
As in history, so in life, to consider yourself secure and fail to remain alert is a recipe for disaster.
4. They spoke of the power of God but couldn’t testify to it in their own lives (1, 4-6).
How the Lord Presents Himself Is Clue to What the Church Needs
(i) God - Seven spirits of God – wisdom; understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, fear, delight = power (1);
(ii) imminent return = power (3);
(iii) alive, not dead
How the Lord Presents the Church is Clue to What They Need Also
(i) Not alive, but dead – exactly the opposite of the power of the resurrection;
(ii) Not soiled their clothes – they manufactured dyed wool clothes in Sardis – they won’t do; must be made white
(iii) – Written in the Book of Life – perseverance – one thing “once saved always saved people” and “loss of salvation people” agree on is this: no such thing as someone in heaven as someone who doesn’t preserve and finish the race he/she began.
We speak of the power of forgiveness. Do we live in it? There's a difference between knowing about the power of God and experiencing it personally.