The fifth church to which John gave a message from Jesus that is recorded in the book of Revelation was the church in the city of Sardis. Jesus said to them in Rev. 3:1-2, "And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things says he that has the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." The main problem with the church in Sardis was that they had a name or a reputation that they were alive, but they were dead.
It would be a horrible thing for a church to be like the church in Sardis. If there is one place in the world where people should be able to go for answers to the problems of life, it should be to a church, because a church should have the spiritual vitality that can only come from those who present the good news about Jesus Christ, having tasted its goodness themselves. Could it be, is it possible that there is someone out there un-churched and unsaved who one day comes to their senses and realizes that something is missing in their life and that they need to find an answer to the things that plague them; and who find a Christian church because they think that surely a Christian church is the place to go to find life or the answers to life; but when they go to the church instead of finding life, they find death? Jesus said that this was the condition of the church in Sardis, and sadly it may very well be the condition of other churches also.
That would be a shame if someone was convicted of their sins and went to a neighbor who had a reputation for being a Christian, hoping to find an answer for their condition; but instead of finding a Christian who was spiritually alive, they found someone who was spiritually dead. What a shame that would be, but it can happen. Everyone has a reputation of some sort, but the reputation may not be accurate. Only the Lord knows for sure what is someoneís real spiritual condition. Someone may have a name that they are alive, but the Lord may know that they are dead.
If a believer is in danger of having this happen to them, of losing their spiritual vitality and of just going through the motions without any true spirituality, what can they do about it? Jesus gave the solution in Rev. 3:2-3. He said, "Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." Actually in these 2 verses Jesus gave a lot of things that can be done to make sure that you do not lose your spirituality. Jesus said to be watchful, to strengthen, to remember, to hold fast, and to repent.
A Christian should always be watchful. To be watchful means to pay attention, to stay awake, or to be vigilant. There are many things to be watchful about. If you let your guard down, then something will overtake you. This can be a dangerous world in which we live, and the most serious of the dangers are the spiritual dangers. "Be watchful, be vigilant because your adversary, the devil, walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." We should be watchful in regards to temptation. The next time that you turn the corner, temptation may be at the door, and if you fall into temptation you could lose everything. You could lose your testimony, you could lose your walk with the Lord, you could lose rewards, and you could suffer many other consequences of sin.
We should also be watchful in regards to our own selfish nature. In order to walk in fellowship with the Lord and go His way in each event of our lives, we must be able to follow the example of Jesus and to always say, "Not my will, but thine be done." If we are not watchful, our own selfish natures will rise up and lead us to do things for ourselves, out of our own will, instead of truly considering the will of the Lord. Plain old human selfishness has destroyed many people, and it has severely damaged many others. The best remedy to selfishness is to keep a watchful eye on your motives, and make sure that you can always say, "May the will of the Lord be done."
There are many things to be watchful about. The believers in the church in Sardis had certain Christian characteristics that were ready to die because they were not watchful enough. Jesus also told them to "strengthen the things that remain." Nothing really stands still. Everything is going in some direction. You are either becoming weaker or you are becoming stronger. Recognize the good qualities that you have and remember that you must have as a goal to strengthen those qualities. If you do not use it, you may lose it. If you do not strengthen what you have, it may very well weaken.
Jesus told the believers in Sardis to "remember." Everyone has things that they should forget, and everyone also has things that they should remember. If you remember the good things that God has done for you, and if you remember the good things that God has revealed to you over the years about Himself and His Son, then you will go a long way towards remaining faithful to the Lord as time goes by. Jesus told the believers in Sardis that even though they were almost dead spiritually, they could be revived and they could keep from dying if they would only remember certain things that they had already heard and already learned.
Jesus told the believers in Sardis to "hold fast." The word that is translated "hold fast" is the Greek word "tarei" that means to watch over or to guard. If you have something that you greatly value, then you will take steps to watch over it and to guard it. Hopefully you realize that the most valuable things that you possess are the spiritual qualities that you have learned from the Lord since He saved you from your sins. Some people value material things too highly, and because of it have pierced themselves through with many sorrows. Jesus said that a manís life does not consist of the things that he does possess, and Jesus told the believers in Sardis that they would not die spiritually if they would watch over and guard certain things that needed to be guarded. There are spiritual thieves in this world who will break into your life and into your heart and steal the spiritual qualities that you have, unless you know how to guard them.
Finally, Jesus told the believers in Sardis something that he has told several of the churches that they could do in order to avoid being spiritually dead: repent. No matter what has happened to you or where you are in your spiritual life, you always have at least this one remedy to get back on the right track: repent. Repentance is not only for the unsaved. Itís also for those who already know the Lord. No matter how spiritual you become, it may very well be that there will come times in your life when you must repent. In order to keep from dying spiritually and losing your spiritual strength and vitality, you must be willing to say, "Lord, forgive me, and help me to change my behavior." If you fail to see when and where you need to repent, then you will end up just like the believers in Sardis, and Jesus said that they were "ready to die."
In Rev. 3:2 Jesus said, "I have not found thy works perfect before God." The word "perfect" comes from the Greek word that means to complete or to fulfill. It does not refer to sinless perfection. Jesus does not expect us to be perfect, but He does have something for us to do and He expects us to complete the work that He gives us to do. He expects us to fulfill the purpose for which He has given us life on this earth. Some people grow in the Lord, accomplish a work for God, and then God takes them from the earth seemingly prematurely, and some might ask, "Why? Why did God take such an accomplished and fruitful person?" One reason may be because they fulfilled the work that God had for them to do, and therefore it was time for them to go and to be with Him. They did His work, and they completed His will.
The believers in Sardis had not yet completed their works before God, and the Lord was giving them a warning in order to give them one more chance to straighten things out. But if they did not take the warning to heart, Jesus told them what the consequences would be. He said at the end of Rev. 3:3, "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." Another reason that God takes some Christians off the earth seemingly before their time is because God has given up on them. If the reason that you are on the earth is because God has put you here to do a work for Him, then why should He keep you here if you have proven that you are not going to complete that work?
But there are always at least a few who remain willing to do the work of God, just as there were still a few in Sardis who were so willing. Jesus spoke of them in Rev. 3:4-6 and said, "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white for they are worthy. He that overcomes, 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. He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says unto the churches."
In the first two phrases of these verses Jesus spoke about rewards for believers who are faithful to Him, and then He also spoke about salvation. When Jesus spoke about rewards for believers He said, "They shall walk with me in white for they are worthy." One of the great rewards for believers will be their proximity to Christ in the Kingdom of God. The disciples once asked Jesus who would be allowed to sit at His right hand, and Jesus said that it would be given to them for whom it was prepared. Evidently itís being prepared for those who earn it.
When Jesus said, "I will not blot his name out of the book of life," Jesus was talking about the difference between the saved and the lost. When we stand before God to be judged and to hear the decision to be pronounced concerning our eternal destiny, a great book will be opened. If our name is found written in the book, then we shall be invited into the kingdom of God. But if our name is not found in the book, we shall be prevented from entering.
Because we know that salvation is by grace through faith and not of works from Romans Chapter 4, John Chapter 3, Ephesians Chapter 2, and many other places in the Bible, we must come up with a correlation between salvation by grace and what Jesus said here concerning names being blotted out of the book of life. We know that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. We know that because "God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son." The desire of God and the hope of God is that every person would enter the Kingdom of God when their days on earth are done, and evidently to prepare for this possibility God writes everyoneís name in the Book of Life in order to reserve for them a place in His great kingdom to come. A personís name is blotted out of the book only when they finally and completely reject the Lord Jesus Christ.
The message of salvation needed to be given to the church in Sardis because so few were faithful to the Lord. Only God knows the true condition of someoneís soul. But when those who claim to be Christians are not faithful to the Lord, there is the possibility that they have never been saved and have never come to know the Lord Jesus Christ in a personal way. If they do not repent, and if they remain in that condition then their names will eventually be blotted out of the book of life. "He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says unto the churches."
The message of Jesus to the sixth church, the church in the city of Philadelphia in Asia Minor, was given starting in Rev. 3:7 where Jesus said to the apostle John, "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: these things says he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens." Three things are said about Jesus in this verse of the Bible. First we are told that Jesus is holy. The believers of the first century in Asia Minor lived in an age where there was a great deal of unholiness. Many people were corrupt both morally and ethically in the Roman Empire. Things have not changed much, have they? If you want to find someone who is holy, there is one person that you can go to and not be disappointed: Jesus Christ. Make sure that you follow Jesus and His example. If you follow anyone else, you will only be further corrupted.
Jesus is also true. Itís rare that you will find an honest person in this world. Too many people are willing to lie in order to benefit themselves. If you are not careful, you will get a repairman who will tell you that you need a whole new machine, when all that you really need is one small part. In this world you must beware of taking people at their word, because when a controversy arises they will conveniently forget what they told you and they will ask you to show them where it is written in the contract. Some people have seen so much lying and dishonesty that they think one must lie in order to get ahead in this world. Of course, they are wrong. An honest person is of great value, and if you have a reputation for being honest you will have a very faithful customer base and therefore a much greater financial security than those who do not.
Jesus is true because He brought the message from God to man. Jesus is the clearest and the highest revelation of the truth from God. If you want to know the truth, then you must know Jesus. Jesus once said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
Copyright; 2000 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
All Rights Reserved