S116P9 – Difficult truths: the church in Sardis

Rev. 3:1-3

To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

I had been working for that company for only a year or two when a new manager joined the team.  This man stood out from the other managers like a sore thumb.  He was soft- spoken, gentle, kind, and he walked through the office greeting each employee every morning.  Before long, we heard rumors that he was trying to change the status quo.  He had noticed a number of things he thought should improve, and he was not shy about voicing those opinions.  We cheered him on from the lower rungs of the department because we desperately needed change.  Unfortunately, his ideas would be taken not as valuable constructive criticism but as an offense by the then-current leadership.  Then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone. 

Sometimes we get so good at what we are doing that we forget that perhaps there could be a better way or that we might have it all wrong.  The church in Sardis was not known for their faults.  John was instructed to write to this angel that the church’s reputation actually was good.  The impression they gave was that they were on the right track, and from this admonishment and instruction it is clear that even they were deceived by this impression.   What a shock it would be to hear from the Lord that all of their work was deficient and that they were actually headed toward death instead of life.  When that kind of truth surfaces, the question is whether we cling to the truth or the illusion.

The unfortunate reality is that there are many churches in this state today.  We can get caught up in tradition and ceremony, and that makes us forget what the truth really is.  That is why this instruction is for the church to remember what they have learned and put those things into practice.  Looking good on the outside does not matter when the inside is dying.  We cannot be satisfied walking around like whitewashed tombs.  The purpose of the Church is to take those who are dying and bring them to life.  A congregation like Sardis brings them no change.  Father, show us where death has crept in so that we can speak life and truth to whatever errant ways we have.