THE SARDIS LETTER
It has been a rough and tumble trek into the heart of Asia Minor where we have come across the sites of old churches mentioned in the Bible’s book of Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3. We have pored over ancient letters written to these churches, as revealed to John of Patmos in a vision. We have discovered spiritual challenges facing these churches, but also hopeful signs of faith in the churches at Ephesus and Smyrna. Then we ran into trouble at the churches in Pergamon and Thyatira. Their faith was being compromised and imperiled by an open tolerance and acceptance of pagan culture and immorality. But there’s no time to lose. Like John of Patmos as he rapidly scribbled these letters to 7 churches, we know we must travel swiftly ahead…We get the feeling that somehow…time is running out.
Our fifth church is tucked away in a fortress city, one of the most important cities of Asia Minor – Sardis. Sardis was considered impregnable to its enemies due to its mountainous terrain, yet the city’s history revealed a series of rulers, attackers and conquerors moving in — like Alexander the Great. Sardis eventually met its demise, but during its heydey, the city boasted wealth and resources galore — gold, fruit, and endless goods stocked up for strategic trade along the ancient Silk Road. But like Pergamon and Thyatira, Sardis finds itself enmeshed in pagan rituals. Sexual immorality abounds. Goddess worship (Artemis and the Anatolian earth goddess, Cybele) were ‘all the rage’ and everyone was going ‘gaga’ over idols, (hey, that sounds a little like certain ‘role models’ we go wild over today, doesn’t it?). Well, one thing for certain, out of deep love and concern, Jesus issues the Sardis Church a grave warning for their future: (Revelation 3: 1- 6):
I KNOW OF YOUR REPUTATION AS AN ‘ALIVE’ AND ACTIVE CHURCH…BUT YOU ARE DEAD!
Imagine John’s struggle to get these dire words down as he responded to careful instructions being revealed to him by…One who looked like Jesus; One who walks amongst the churches and holds their leaders in His right hand; One who is the First and the Last; One who wields a sharp and double-bladed sword (God’s Word); One who died and came back to life; One to whom belongs the seven-fold Spirit of God and the seven stars (the leaders of the 7 churches)… The warning continues: WAKE UP, NOW! STRENGTHEN WHAT LITTLE REMAINS! EVEN WHAT’S LEFT IS AT THE POINT OF DEATH! YOUR DEEDS ARE FAR FROM RIGHT IN GOD’S SIGHT! GO BACK…TO WHAT YOU BELIEVED AT FIRST! How could this be happening to a ‘church’!? The Sardis Church is getting a double warning and Jesus adds solemnly that He knows of only a few believers remaining in this church who are living right with God. As for the others? Well, let’s just say, picture a big eraser and names being rubbed out of God’s Book of Life…(help!)
Read through these letters again in Revelation 3: 1-6. What do you think landed the Sardis Church in such a serious mess? Do you think this church’s ‘great’ reputation was genuine or did it only come about as a result of compromising with popular culture? Is there a point when compromise gets so bad it’s impossible to turn back? Is it possible to forfeit true faith and risk losing a ‘name place’ in God’s Book of Life? (heavy!)
Collect #5 of 7 clues here. The joyful inheritance offered to the faithful in the Sardis Church is also being offered to you. What is it?
p.s. “The kingdom of heaven is like a field…” Matthew 13:44
(Next up…No. 6 The Philadelphia Letter)
© 2011 S. Michaels