In the letter addressed to the church in Sardis, the Lord Jesus declares that a great number of professing Christians in this church were in fact spiritually dead, even though they considered themselves to be alive and well. Now that is a serious problem. We must be diligent to care for our spiritual life and not allow it to decline to the point of death. Because our spiritual life will suffer serious and even fatal consequences if it is not cared for, let us be sure to check our spiritual pulse.
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: This is what the one who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars says: I know your deeds; you have a reputation that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen the things that remain and are about to die; for I have not found any of your deeds completed in the sight of my God. Therefore, remember how you received and heard, and keep it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know what time I will come to You. But 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. He who overcomes will be dressed in white garments; and I will by no means blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 3:1‐6)
In the church of Sardis, there was the outward appearance and the public reputation of life; but despite the public image, Jesus perceives that in reality, the church was spiritually dead. They had denied the Holy Spirit: We can have a form of godliness but deny its power: In 2 Timothy 3:5 the Apostle Paul speaks of those who have “a form of godliness, but are denying its power.” He is describing people who maintain the outward forms of godliness and religion—the formalities of worship, the name of Christian—but have denied the Holy Spirit. It may be a denial of the Holy Spirit by virtue of grieving Him as a result of harboring known sin, Paul warns the church: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness and rage and anger and clamor and slander, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other just as God by Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:30‐32) The denial of the Holy Spirit may occur by virtue of quenching His influence through unbelief: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19.)
We quench the Spirit when we either ignore or resist His presence and active involvement in our lives. The denial of the Holy Spirit may occur simply by becoming preoccupied with the world, such was the case with the church at Sardis. The city that was living off of its past; it had seen its heyday and was now in decline. Its abundant wealth appears to have been the very cause of its complacency and demise. Although it was built upon a hill so steep that it appeared to be unconquerable, the city was captured not once, but twice, by enemy forces! On both occasions the enemy troops scaled the walls of the city by night and discovered that the slothful citizens had posted no guards—they took confidence in their unassailable position and did not bother to defend it. It appears that the church in Sardis did not suffer any great persecution. it was too dead to be attacked by the aggressive forces of evil.
Here is a warning we need to heed: material prosperity and the riches of this world are silent killers of the spiritual life—painlessly, imperceptibly, snuffing out the spiritual life of the individual and of the church. Let us check our spiritual pulse—let us be watchful over our spiritual life so that it does not die.
Our Lord’s command to the church in Sardis is, “Wake up!” or, “Be watchful!” The church is being commanded to rise up out of her spiritual coma. Our Lord further commands the church, “strengthen the things that remain and are about to die” (vs. 2.) The command is to salvage and cultivate what spiritual life still exists; rather than allow it to die, “nurse” it back to health and vitality. The Lord Jesus does not simply allow His church to wither away and die.
Christ does not find any mature, ripened fruit being offered to God. “I have not found any of your deeds completed in the sight of my God” (vs. 2b.)This grieves and angers the Son of God that there is no spiritual fruit being offered to His Father, the Great Caretaker of the vineyard, since one of the great purposes of our redemption is that we should bear fruit for God: “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He removes every branch in me that does not bear fruit. But he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it may bear more fruit” (Jn. 15:1‐2.) Jesus informs His disciples as to the purpose of their calling in these terms: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (Jn. 15:16a.)
The fruit God desires is a life characterized by Christ‐like attitudes and conduct, produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, integrity, meekness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22‐23a.) Furthermore, the fruit God desires is a life characterized by devotion to Christ and service to His church. Spiritual fruit is produced in the Christian’s life as he is rooted into Christ and allows Christ’s word and Christ’s Spirit to control his life: “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him, he is the one who bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5.)Those who never produce spiritual fruit are finally removed from Christ’s fellowship; their lack of fruitfulness reveals that they never had a living spiritual connection with the Savior: “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He removes every branch in me that does not bear fruit” (Jn. 15:1‐2a.)
In verse 3 we are told, “Remember how you received and heard”. We received spiritual life from the Holy Spirit, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body … and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” The Holy Spirit is in us, not the church building.
We received Christ with great joy, we recognized Him to be the Lord of our lives and we gave Him first priority in our life. Therefore we need to pray that the Lord would rekindle and restore our relationship with Him. Let us ask ourselves – Am I becoming more like Christ my Savior? ; Do I have a greater love for Him and a deeper relationship with Him?; What am I doing for Christ? Am I dedicating my everyday living and my talents to Him and to His service? What does Christ want me to do with my life?
Following His command, the Lord Jesus issues the warning: “If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know what time I will come to you” (vs. 3d.) If the church does not heed the Lord’s counsel to deal with spiritual lethargy and deadness as they find such things present in their lives, the Lord will visit them in the role of the thief: the thief is the one who steals our treasured possessions.
Let us check our spiritual pulse—let us be watchful over our spiritual life so
that we will not lose the Lord’s blessing. Can we follow the disciples making Jesus our first priority, completely surrendering our whole lives to Him? When we feel like we are in trouble we can call the Great First Responder. He is there waiting to rescue and revive each one of us.