Revelation: The Church of Sardis, Mostly Dead | May 24, 2023

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“There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. Now, all dead … well, with all dead, there’s usually only one thing you can do. Go through his clothes and look for loose change.” — Miracle Max in The Princess Bride

I confess this is what came to mind as I read the first couple of verses written to the church in Sardis:

 Revelation 3:1-2 ESV

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 

In the Message translation, it says, “I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you’re dead, stone-dead. Up on your feet! Take a deep breath! Maybe there’s life in you yet.

Maybe there’s life in you yet. Maybe they aren’t fully dead, just mostly dead.

There’s another audience in Scripture that Jesus reprimands for being mostly dead:

Matthew 23:27-29 ESV

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The origin of the word hypocrisy means to play a part in a drama. To act or pretend. 

If the church of Sardis were here today, we might describe them as a church with a great reputation in the community, a large congregation with great programs, excellent worship and preaching, well-funded, but dead inside, hollow, nominal Christians. Outwardly they were killing it. But inwardly? The hearts were far from God. They were hypocrites.

Sadly, this is a pattern we see in Scripture with the people of God: Their outsides do not match their insides. They look great on the outside and do all the right things, but they do it with the wrong heart that does not honor nor love God:

Amos 5:21-23 ESV

“I hate, I despise your feasts,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
    I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    to the melody of your harps I will not listen.

The MSG translation hits too close to home:

“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
    I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
    your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
    your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
    When was the last time you sang to me?

Ouch. That one hits a little too close to home, doesn’t it? Jesus’ rebuke to the church of Sardis, as well as the other places in Scripture, is a rebuke by which we must be challenged. Do we live with a reputation for being alive, doing all the right things, but in reality we are dead?

Ask the Lord to reveal places in your heart where you play the part but your heart is not in it. When you are ready, confess it to Him and ask Him to help you align your heart and actions so your works are complete in the sight of God.