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Tuesday: Christ’s Message to Sardis — 25 Comments

  1. Complacency in our spiritual life can show up in a number of ways. One very respected theologian in my life said, "Only five percent of us think about our Christian experience; the rest of us think we think about it!"

    Some of us perceive our Christianity as tall blocks of basalt sitting on a slab of ancient granite when perhaps a better metaphor would be an avenue of trees growing in a garden that needs active management.

    Our traditional historical interpretation of Sardis has been that this refers to the protestant church between 1565 and 1740. And that interpretation probably fits in many respects. My concern is that that interpretation is too easy for us. And it is possible that we miss the application to ourselves.

    Here are some questions and ideas to think about.

    1) How long is it since we opened our Bibles to study a belief theme for ourselves. (Not just studying the Sabbath School lesson - like taking our medicine in the morning)

    2) Do we believe what the church believes, or do we believe for ourselves?

    3) Do we really know what folk in other believe systems believe, or do we base our ideas on what we think we read in a church paper some time ago. (I mention this because I often hear anti-evolution arguments that are no longer relevant - the evolutionists have moved on!)

    Seventh-day Adventism is about 160 years old. Have we grown and developed, or do we still think of the glorious days of the pioneers? Here is a hypothetical to challenge us. Suppose the church and Ellen White writings were all to just disappear overnight. What difference would that make to our spirituality? Would our spiritual journey come to a full stop? Would you know where to start? Now that should challenge our spiritual complacency.

    He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Rev 3:5

    • Great (and very practical) questions, Maurice.

      "Do we believe what the church believes..." This is what I used to do because that was what the church of the time taught me to do.

      "How long is it since we opened our Bibles to study a belief theme for ourselves." Then I started doing this a few decades ago.

      "or do we believe for ourselves?" This is where I am at now. And it is a much better place to be.

      I suspect there are many others on ssnet that can say the same.

      • I totally agree with you Maurice. I would like to read your three questions in my Sabbath School class, this Sabbath, with your permission.

        Last week's Sabbath School teacher give us an assignment to bring to class this week: To write a short statement about our church in the format of Jesus' messages to the churches. My answer is similar to your question 3. My answer about my church is: I knew your work, your love for the Lord and that you are a warm and loving church (for many visitors have told us so), but I have some things against you; that you have lost your ability to communicate with your neighbors and the community. You have a surface Love, with no depth. We are a loving church. We do the usual community service work, but then we wonder why the community doesn't respond back to us. I often wonder if the community can see that it is only a surface love with no real commitment to the community behind it. How do we stop just doing surface community work, and do true committed community service that builds relationships in the community?

        God's blessings to all!

  2. For one thing, a dead church lacks reality. That was the major problem at Sardis. They had a reputation for great things, but they were living on that past reputation. Their present reality failed to match it.

    The accomplishments they boasted were nothing but an empty shell. Oh it was a big, beautiful shell. They had magnified their fine points and woven them into a very impressive and awe-inspiring front. People who heard and saw were absolutely overwhelmed. But it was nothing more than a magnificent mausoleum. Inside of that impressive facade, behind that beautiful veneer was nothing but death. They were plagued with empty profession, with pretense and hypocrisy. They claimed to be what their lives betrayed they were not. The church that is filled with hypocrisy is a dead church. They claim to be Christians, but when it gets right down to it, it doesn't ring true. There is a hollowness to it, a hypocrisy. It isn't real....

    This is not a new problem. Prophet Isaiah saw people streaming into the temple with their sacrifices, going through the forms of religion, but he knew they were unwilling to do God's will, in their hearts. "The Lord says: 'These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is based on merely human rules they have been taught'" (Isaiah 29:13). Looks good. They're all gathering together and worshipping God, but there is an absence of reality in the heart.

    Ezekiel preached to crowds; they came in droves to hear what the Lord had to say, but Ezekiel knew in their hearts they were not willing to obey that word. "My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice" (Ezekiel 33:31-32). A lack of reality, you see. "You have a reputation," Jesus says, "but you're dead."

  3. The situation in Sardis is truly a sad state; but something that happens so very frequently.

    At the beginning the commitment and focus is truly and wholly grounded in Faith and dependence of God. Outreach then is alive, Fellowship is loving and caring; Bible Study is food and water for all times. Prayer is the only thought-process. Witness is visible, atractive and very commendable.

    Over time what is left is a presence that's losing an existence like an ever smiling clown with a deeply troubled soul. A beautiful shell with glitching life in it. The faith and commitment that once was, starts fading; outreach slows down significantly as we focus on the in-house matters; convincing ourselves that we need to double up focus to our members. From a mission, we slowly transform into a church akin to a members-only social club with a religious affiliation. We slowly then lose fellowship for very personal commitments, then lose Bible study soon after. It then that we edge towards "spiritual death". A empty vessel like the fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22.

    However, at this eerie condition Jesus still wants to rescue us; He still has hope for us even at a dying state. Reaching out for what remains, that can be restored. "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die...." He is saying.

    Wow! It is at this moment I realize what the Great High Priest is doing in between the lampstands; renewing the oil, adding new wick and enhancing the glare of the light of the lamb.

    We have a loving and caring God, - that! - we should know. Sardis is almost in a state of hopelessness, but Jesus comes with the Holy Spirit and the angels to restore, that which is totally lost. Oh! Praise the Lord.

    As hopeless as Sardis may seem, Jesus has great encouragement for them and for us here today.

    "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels" Rev 3:5

    I just realize that the Sardis situation may not be lost after all, God is out there to save the dying.

    "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent......" Rev 3:3

  4. Sardis has no internal or external tribulations, no danger from civic powers, no doctrinal issues they are sitting on their mountain thinking they are safe. Maybe a little debate on an issue is a good thing making us really dig deep and examine our understanding of the true character of the LORD. What about our understanding of what Jesus means "I know your works". There is the debate of faith without works of showing my faith by my works. How does Jesus describe works to the 7 churches? Love, service, faith and endurance Rev 2:19. Now I have a better understanding *works* describes my response to the the love of the LORD.

  5. The Greek historian Herodotus tells the story of the fall of Sardis in days of Cyrus. King Cyrus came to Sardis, and found the position of the city ideally suited for defense. There seemed to be no way to scale the steep cliff walls surrounding the city. He offered a rich reward to any soldier in his army who could figure out a way to get up to the city. One solider studied the problem carefully, and as he looked he saw a soldier defending Sardis drop his helmet down the cliff walls. He watched as the soldier climbed down a hidden trail to recover his helmet. He marked the location of the trail and led a detachment of troops up it that night. They easily climbed the cliffs, came to the actual city walls and found them unguarded. The soldiers of Sardis were so confident in the natural defenses of their city they felt no need to keep a diligent watch, so the city was easily conquered.
    Satan is constantly examining the weak points of defense.

  6. Sardis, words to ponder: 7 Spirits, 7 Stars, names, wake up, thief, white garment, Book of Life.
    Listen to the Holy Spirit and God's messengers, having your name on the church's books will not save you, watch out that it is not removed from the Book of Life because your white garment has been defiled because your works are not complete. Jesus is coming soon, wake up, He loves you, do you really love Him?

  7. In fact, the situation in Sardis is in us, we the Christians today, because we thought we are standing firmly but spiritually, we are nothing except in Christ.
    We can be defeated by the enemy any time, even when we are expecting. So no matter your ability, Christ Jesus knows you whether you are a good Christian or not.(a time coming that faithful Christians should worship the Lord in spirit and truth because He is a spirit John 4:23,24) This is the time to do so no time to waste. As the Sardis thought they have good security while they are going to suffer at an expected time.

  8. "Under the impact of the rising tide of rationalism and secularism, the church’s focus on the saving grace of the gospel and commitment to Christ waned, giving place to creedal and dry philosophical arguments."
    I know that this description of the "Reformation period" is a summary, but it is very inaccurate. There is no evidence that the "focus on the saving grace of Gospel waned during this period."Only those with a narrow focus on intellectual debates over various orthodoxies would imagine this. Rather, it saw the greatest amount of persecution the church has ever seen. The period is better characterized by many wars of religion, in which Christians sadly fought--against each other! Religious minorities fled to America, founding colonies and centers of religion freedom.

    • Jordan, in your own comment you suggest that "The period is better characterized by many wars of religion, in which Christians sadly fought--against each other!"
      It seems to me that that substantiates the suggestion that "the church’s focus on the saving grace of the gospel and commitment to Christ waned." People who are focused on the saving grace of the gospel don't go to war against each other! At least that's how I see it.

  9. Sardis appears to be dead or dying but does not seem as bad as Laodicea, Jesus' response to Sardis is much more gentle and more hopeful, when we get to Laodicea we need to remember this and work out the difference.

  10. Have you considered that any time a church conducts a revival meeting effort, that it implies the church is like Sardis? Have you ever heard or felt like your local church seems dead? Sounds like a Sardis church to me.

    • Jim Bob, yes that had often bothered me, however if they are *dying* revival is the remedy. What I realized from the 7 churches, although they were all in Asia at the same time in history they were at diffe
      rent stages in their walk with the LORD, even within each church Jesus identifies some that are better or worse than the majority at that church.

    • I have observed on many occasions a church focusing on trying to do some revival or evangelism 'program' while at the same time being ignorant of the individual 'evangelism' that many of its member's are already engaged in as a part of their daily life and ministry. I would propose that if churches recognised and nurtured the latter, there would be much less need for the former. But this will only work if there is a 'no strings attached' or 'no agenda' approach.

      I once met a (non-Christian) young man who, because of his personal morality and values, found himself isolated from his peers. I noted that his values and morals were much more closely aligned with Christianity than with the 'secular' world and so I asked him what experience he had with Christianity. Sadly, he told me that every contact he had with a Christian left him feeling that they would get 'reward points' for their interaction with him. In other words, he felt that he was nothing more to them than a means to an end. Many people already feel like this in a consumer-driven "global economy". It is sad when they get this same feeling from churches too.

      I believe that an alive church will genuinely have no-strings attached in its natural 'outreaching' to others. Being motivated by self-renouncing love, an alive church will only be seeking to be "light" and "salt" to all who are interested. It has been my experience that counting numbers gets in the way of this.

  11. The unfolding of the truth at Sardis was not as advanced truth as at Laodicea this is why the admonition couldn't be the same.

    • Intriguing thought Patterson, Jesus definitely through time has been revealing more and more of his truth and it is clear that he expects us to grow in our relationship with him accordingly. However I hadn't picked up that the literal Laodicea had received additional truth?

  12. It is my thinking that constantly presenting the Laodicean label on the congregation negatively affects motivation and self-respect on the members. Are we to think that no matter how much or often we spend time with Jesus or are engaged in outreach, we will come to church and hear that we are deceived lukewarm Laodicean losers. Do you think that it prevents some from inviting others to church so they won't become Laodicean Adventists like all the rest of us?

  13. The error is nurtured in the lenses we use to visualize many aspects in regard to God's Remnant. Like Audrey Anderson wrote in Adventist World October 2018 page 18-19, Preference, Prejudice, Perspective and Practice blur the reality. Except we choose to base on Principle, the Standard of Christ, the thus Saith the Lord, Sardis will falsify our true need for Salvation unto Eternity. Not I but CHRIST.

  14. Thoughts from Sardis:
    • God wants to heal and transform us in heart, mind and character
    • If we refuse to trust Him He lets us go to die of our terminal condition
    • Religious organization and structure do not save and often obstruct God’s healing plan

    “Under the impact of the rising tide of rationalism and secularism, the church’s focus on the saving grace of the gospel and commitment to Christ waned, giving place to creedal and dry philosophical arguments. The church of this period, although appearing to be alive, was spiritually dead.” {Tuesday's Lesson, Q1 L3 2019, par. 2}.

    What is suggested as shutting down growth in advancing truth in the churches? Creeds with centralized authority to enforce those creeds—and what is happening in the SDA church now? Not only has the SDA developed its own creed (28 Fundamentals, if you will), it is now in the process of centralizing authority to enforce its creeds.

    • I agree that there are some who see the 28 fundamentals as a creed and this is unfortunate. I have been in a church where a fundamental was read out as part of the Sabbath School service! It does not have to be that way. I mentioned elsewhere that some regard the fundamentals as pillars of basalt on a slab of granite. That model is clearly wrong and I think the alternative view I suggested, of an avenue of trees set in a garden that requires maintenance, is a better model. Our spirituality is a relationship, not a definition.

      The unity debate is a concern and some of the current emphasis on uniformity needs to be addressed. We need to remind ourselves that the Church organization is here to serve and not control. Hopefully, we will see the Church come back to that serving model as a result of the current disagreement. Lets pray for that outcome.

    • "...giving place to creedal and dry philosophical arguments..."

      I like being reminded that if I promote an alternative (Biblically-based) view on doctrine, that I don't want to just be creating/promoting a dry philosophical argument that has no real bearing on how I live my life or what I have to share with others that can make a real difference in their life too.

      Rather, I believe an alternative view must have real world relevance and make a tangible difference in how life is lived. Then it is Truth that is focused on "the saving grace of the gospel and commitment to Christ"...in my opinion.

    • Statistics reveal that 90% of churchgoers have never read the whole bible and probably not even the whole new testament. So they are not aware of the "enforcement" texts in the bible and are not familiar with verses like Rom 10:21.
      "But regarding Israel, God said, "All day long I opened my arms to them, but they were disobedient and rebellious."


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