Monday, October 31, 2016

31 October 2016
  “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:
“I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. 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. Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Revelation 3:1-6 (NRSV)

Good morning, welcome. Today we visit Sardis. Sardis was an important commercial and industrial city. Situated on a hill with sheer cliffs on three sides, its residents considered the city impregnable. However, due to a lack of vigilance by its watchmen, the city was conquered two times; once by the Persians and again by Antiochus the Great. Sardis was destroyed by earthquake in 17 AD. The Roman Emperor Tiberius waived tax collections for five years, allowing Sardis to rebuild (and endearing himself to its citizens in the process).

The church in Sardis was alive in reputation only. Our Lord reminds them all churches belong to Him; He is the source of power and control. It is important to note here Jesus does not condemn this church. His words-wake up, strengthen what remains, remember, obey, repent-are meant to encourage the Sardians, to arouse them to vigilance.

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. (3:3). Jesus does not say ‘if you do wake up I will not bother coming’. I think the message here is, if the Sardinians do not wake up, they will miss Him when He visits. These are words of warning for us as well, in our individual and corporate lives. We must be careful not to focus on the what to the point that we forget (or misunderstand) the why and the for whom. Let us not forget that the point of our Christian life is to be in relationship with, to be transformed by, our Lord. Keeping this in mind, His times of visitation may become occasions for transformation, not missed opportunities.

The promise to the faithful remnant and those who conquer-white robes, walking with Christ, names remaining in the book of life, names being confessed by Christ before the Father-have implications for the present as well as for eternity. White robes are the gift of Christ and make fellowship possible. Acknowledging Him in this life ensures He will acknowledge us in the next. These words echo Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12:8-9 and Matthew 22:1-14, reminding us what we do now matters for eternity.

The Sardians had a reputation they were not living up to. In a sense, they were not living at all; they were simply going through the motions. We all, at various times in our lives, are probably guilty of this, or something similar. That Jesus does not condemn but rather offers the remedy should be of great comfort to Christians everywhere. It should also encourage us to examine our lives regularly, to see how we live up to the name ‘Christian’. Wake up, strengthen, listen, obey, repent. Walk with Jesus. Confess His name today.

May the Lord Himself bless and strengthen you this day. JRG

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