(Sardis: Revelation 3;1-6)
Sardis was the capital city of the ancient kingdom of Lydia prior to the colonization of the Greeks. It was built on a steep hill surrounded by loose rock and was therefore considered to be impregnable even though Cyrus of Persia, Antiochus the Great and the Romans all overtook the city by surprise attacks. The people of the city falsely thought they were safe based on their feelings of security in the City’s location.
The city was on an important trade route. Their chief industry was dyed woolen garments of beautiful coloring, and they were also known for their jewelry making. It was a wealthy city with powerful influence. Emperor worship, pagan temples and idols, and occult practices were all part of the religious environment of Sardis. Little is known of the church there, other than its reputation for being alive, though they were dead. Herodotus tells us they were lax in their morals.
On a positive note, this church has some who have not defiled their garments (a reference to their woolen garment industry) and whom God accepts and clothes in white. In other words, some in the church were morally pure even though most had lost their zeal, were apathetic and indifferent, and compromised with the world of the day. Theirs were dead works.
Dead works are anything that is not inspired through the Holy Spirit. This is why He had not found their works ‘perfect.’ These were not fulfilling the purpose of God but were motivated by a desire to build their own reputaitons. This church may have had a lot of activity and programs, but none were supported by the Holy Spirit.
Christ’s counsel to them was to watch (you must be awake to watch), strengthen what remained (that which was good), hold fast (keep His word and commandments) and repent (of wrong attitudes and practices). The challenge given was perfection: "walk with Me in white." Soiled garments in the bible frequently relates to the mingling of pagan practices with biblical faith to the point of defiling our relationship with Christ.
Having a combination of wealth and power combined with lax morals and poor Christian influence definitely affected these people. In God’s eyes, they were as good as dead. The city was finally completely destroyed in 640 AD and never rebuilt, as to this day. There are only ruins and a small village near the site of the old city. They did not repent so God removed their lampstand.
What is the personal application? Do not be quick to judge outward appearance, for reputation is no guarantee of inward character!
How do we remain alive and moving in the Spirit, especially amongst dead Christianity? Know and be alert to the tactics of the enemy. Keep your purpose in Christ as the focus of your life!
The Seven Churches of Revelation:
Ephesus: Where Did I Leave My Love?
Sweet Smelling Smyrna
Falling Away Into Laodicea
Pergamos: Compromised and Indulged
The Church of Thyatira
Philadelphia, the Faithful Church
Have a good week everyone!