Monday, August 12, 2019

“Sardis: The Dead Church” (Pt. 2) (Aug. 12, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Sardis: The Dead Church” (Pt. 2)
(Aug. 12, 2019)

          In Sardis, as in any other church characterized by deadness, the faithful remnant needed to wake up!  There was no time for indifference in Sardis and there is no time for indifference right now, right here!  Sin and error need confronted head-on.  Spiritual laziness needs to be addressed.  The remnant in Sardis needed to strengthen the things that remain which were about to die.  The Lord basically was encouraging the true Christians at Sardis to fan into flames the dying embers of the remaining spiritual graces in their church.  Further, the faithful remnant needed to “remember what they had received and heard.”  In other words, they needed to get back to the basics/fundamentals when it came to the truth of God’s Word.  These were the teachings of the Apostles; Paul’s letters which had been circulated among the churches; the Gospel of Christ Himself.  Also, after going back to the truths of Scripture, they needed to “keep” them.  Finally, they needed to repent.  With sorrow and remorse, the believers at Sardis were to confess their sins and turn away from them.  This would be true revival. 
          The consequences for them, if repentance did not come would be severe.  He warns them “If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.”  This idea of “coming as a thief” carries with it the idea of imminent judgment.  For Sardis or for any other church or any individual believer to escape the stricter judgment of God is to repent and follow God’s truth.
          The white garments the Lord promises to clothe them with symbolizes their Godly character and faithful service.  White represents purity and holiness.   He further promises “He will not erase/blot out his name from the book of life, but will confess his name before the Father and before His angels.”  This is much more of a promise than a threat.  The “book of life” is a register of all living.  In John’s day rulers kept a register of the citizens of a city.  If someone died or committed a serious crime, their name was erased from that register.  Christ here, is promising to never erase a true Christian’s name from the roll of those whose names were “written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” (13:8)  Rather, Christ will confess every believer’s name before God the Father and before His angels.” 
          Like the other letters to the churches, this letter to Sardis ends with the exhortation “He who has ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  What then happened to Sardis?  It was strongly argued by Melito, a prominent man who served as bishop at Sardis several decades after John wrote, that at least some revival did take place in Sardis.  Until Christ returns it is not too late for churches and individuals to repent and turn to Christ!
          The church of the twenty-first century is in need of revival more than anything else.  Although, by looking around these days it would seem that “innovation” is the key to success; or at least that is what is most commonly believed.  Many believe with the right music, the right atmosphere, the right style of preaching, the right programs, etc. you can build a church.  It is true you can use technique to draw a crowd; however drawing a crowd and building a healthy New Testament Church are two very different things.  One of the things that leads to deadness in a church is when the crowd of today decays into dead church members tomorrow.  Those made  alive by the Spirit of our God shines brightly for Jesus.  It is essential we be honest with people and encourage them to count the cost just as Jesus encouraged them to do. 

In Christ,

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

“Sardis: The Dead Church” (Pt. 1) (August 7, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Sardis: The Dead Church” (Pt. 1)

(Aug. 7, 2019)

 

          Space is almost incomprehensible to our minds.  The nearest stars to the earth are trillions of miles away.  These vast distances forced astronomers to come up with a  new term – “light year.”  It is the distance light travels in the span of one year.  One light year is 6 trillion miles!  If a star thirty light years away from the earth exploded and died five years ago, we could not be able to tell by looking at it for another 25 years!  Though no longer in existence, the light from that star would go on shining as if nothing had changed.  The light at the church of Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6) appeared to be shining, but the church was dead.

          Scripture teaches that sinful mankind, apart from Christ, is dead in trespasses and in sins (Eph. 2).  That same passage also teaches us that God is the one who has “made alive” all those who are spiritually living.  Sometimes the things that appear alive are really dead.  In other words we, as human beings can be fooled.  But, God does not judge things by the way they look on the outside.  He looks at the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7b says “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”  When the Lord looked at the “heart” of the church at Sardis, He apparently saw a church that was comfortable, content, cold, and coasting.  It was a church that had reputation without reality.  In America today about 80 percent claim to be believers, but the reality of that claim is nowhere to be found.  Jesus, the Great Physician takes the pulse of the church at Sardis and finds none.

           Sardis was located 30 miles southeast of Thyatira.  It had been a capital city (of Lydia).  An emperor worship cult was very active there.  Also, was worship of Artemis, the goddess of fertility.  Sardis was a very wealthy city, as gold was refined from the nearby Pactolus River.  It’s location made it almost impervious to being conquered by an outside force.  Probably the wealth and strength of the city led to complacency and ultimately its downfall.  The church was probably founded as an outreach of Paul’s ministry (Acts 19:10).  Christ is described to this church as “He Who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.”  The “seven Spirits” may be reference to the Holy Spirit (7 being a number signifying completeness).  This would perhaps be another way of saying “The Holy Spirit is His total completeness.”  The 7 stars are “the angels of the 7 churches,” which is most likely the pastors of the seven churches.  Jesus sought to remind the Sardis church that they were lacking the Spirit and without the Holy Spirit of God, the church was dead.

          Jesus has no good words to give the whole church; however He does single out a few as being genuine and sincere.  Even in the worst of situations, and even in the most unfaithful churches, there seem to always be a few that are faithful.  A small remnant in Sardis had overcome sin and had demonstrated a true righteousness.  There were a few who had not had their garments soiled/stained with sin.  The Lord Jesus promises these people they will “walk with Him in white, because they are worthy.”

          Through its outward appearance, this church may have fooled many people into thinking it was alive, but they could not fool the Lord.  MacArthur says “Like so many churches today it was defiled by the world, characterized by inward decay, and populated by unredeemed people playing church.” (John MacArthur; MacArthur New Testament Commentary; Revelation Vol. 1; 111)  Spiritual death in the New Testament is always connected with its cause – Sin!  Ephesians 2:1 describes unsaved mankind as those “Who were dead in trespasses and sins.”  The church at Sardis was merely performing deeds; they were going through the motions.  The deeds they did were apparently enough to fool other people, but not enough to fool God.

          Samson, one of the Old Testament Judges, provides a good illustration of the situation in Sardis.  Samson had been empowered by God with great strength to be used for God’s glory.  But Delilah pressed him daily (Judg. 16:16) to reveal the secret of his strength.  Eventually he told her.  She cut his hair and he lost his great strength; not because of getting a haircut, but because of the disobedience to God.  Then the Philistines came to seize Samson; he tried to stop them but they captured him, tied him up, and put out his eyes.  Sadly vs. 20 sums up the tragedy of Samson’s disobedience.  He said “I will go out as before at other times, and shake myself free!’  But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” (Judg. 16:20)  Although Samson was the same man with the same name; his power was gone.  Although Sardis was the same church with the same name; its power was gone.

 

In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor