[SW131] 03/07/2014 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“Jesus’ Letter to Sardis”

Jesus Christ writes a love letter of powerful admonition to a dead church, because only He has the power to resurrect it.

Text: Revelation 3:1-6


While the Apostle John is exiled on the island of Patmos (to the east of Greece), Jesus Christ gives him a revelation — an unveiling — of Himself, and what is to come.

The unveiling of Himself:

When John sees Jesus Christ as He is now — Judge, Lord of lords, and King of kings — here’s what happens:

Revelation 1:17   When I saw Him, I  fell at His feet like a dead man. And He  placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid;  I am the first and the last, 18 and the  living One; and I   was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have  the keys of death and of Hades. 19 “Therefore  write  the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place  after these things.”

What is to come:

Before He unveils what is to come, the Lord Jesus speaks to seven churches through their messengers (pastors). He is the one that walks among (5281 in the middle of) the seven golden lamp stands like candelabra (the churches).

Why does He speak to them? To encourage them, to exhort them, to correct them, to convict them regarding sin and righteousness and judgment. He commands five of the seven churches to repent.

Background on Sardis:

Sardis, 60 miles inland from Ephesus, was the first city to mint coins of silver and gold, and was known as a wealthy capital city. This city boasted a large temple to Artemis, a fertility goddess. It was never able to fully recover from an earthquake that struck it in A.D. 17.

Jesus’ words to the church at Sardis:

He identifies Himself as the one who has, holds and possesses, the seven Spirits of God. That is, He holds and possesses the complete power of God (completeness indicated by the number seven), the oil of the Holy Spirit that lights the lamps on the lamp stands that are the churches.

The oil of the Holy Spirit is the life and light of the church.

Jesus Christ holds what Sardis lacks.

[NOTE: Some refer to Isaiah 11:1ff here, but I see that passage as the description of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, and those who will be filled with His Spirit after He comes and dies and is resurrected, ascends back to heaven and is glorified.]

And He also has, holds and possesses the seven stars, the messengers, of the seven churches in Revelation that represent Christians, denominations, and the church-at-large throughout the ages.

As I prepared this message, I saw that Jesus does not rebuke Sardis for the things He rebukes the others for:

Ephesus, for leaving their first love, Pergamum and Thyatira for eating food sacrificed to idols, for committing sexual immorality, or for following or tolerating false doctrine.

He says, “I know your deeds.”  He always knows what His churches are doing and have done. He walks among them, reproving, correcting, encouraging.

But Sardis does not do the deeds of the others:

Ephesus (toil, perseverance, intolerance of evil)
Smyrna (their Christlikeness is obvious, for they are persecuted and suffering)
Pergamum (held fast His name and did not deny His faith)
and Thyatira (love, faith, service, perseverance, now more than ever)

The deeds of the church at Sardis are that they have a reputation for being alive (that is, that they have zoe, the very life of God, life as God has it, full of love and power), but they are dead.

But they are physically alive, because He writes to them. In what way are they dead?

Paul describes to Timothy that some churches will be:

2Timothy 3:5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied  [720 disavowed, rejected, renounced] its power [1411 dunamis, miracle-working power].

The church at Sardis is spiritually dead (except for a very small remnant), dead in that they do not have the Holy Spirit’s oil to light the lamps on their lamp stand.

They are like the five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1ff) who had a reputation for being part of the church, but when their lamps ran dry, they had no supply of oil for light.

Whatever they are doing in Sardis, it is without God’s Holy Spirit. But they look good on the outside. They do have a reputation for being alive.

Perhaps they have great orators or a beautiful place to worship. Perhaps they are very busy with social justice, but are not proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ as they work. Their works are devoid of the power of God.

And thus, their deeds are lacking, incomplete, they are not satisfying when viewed through the eyes of God the Father, who is the God of Jesus Christ (“My Father and your Father, My God and your God,” per John 20:17).

Jesus does not call the deeds of the first four churches incomplete and unsatisfying to God, though there are extremely serious problems in all but Smyrna thusfar.

Jesus Christ comes with a love letter, a wake-up call that warns them to turn back to Him, to be brokenhearted over their sin of unbelief, and crushed, for the Lord will not despise a broken and contrite spirit (Psalm 51:17).

Wake up (1127/1453 as from death), He says!

Ephesians 5:13 But all things become visible when they are  exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.  14 For this reason it says,
“ Awake, sleeper,
And arise from  the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”

Church at Sardis, wake up, be resurrected, and you will see the light Jesus Christ is shining on you to expose your deadness so you cry out and repent and ask Him to resurrect you! Then His light will shine from you!

Wake up from spiritual death! Resurrection is required! Oil is needed so your lamps are lit and your deeds are acceptable in the sight of God!

How can they be resurrected? Repentance. Individual repentance. Individual resurrection. His command for that is coming right up.

Once they are resurrected, they must strengthen (4741, make fast, establish, confirm and fix in place) the things which remain, which were about to die. Their church as a whole is in ruins, spiritually, and it is about to die.

First, church at Sardis, wake up from death, and be resurrected! Then cry out for the oil you need to light the lamps of your lamp stand. Then you’ll have the Holy Spirit’s power to rebuild your ruins.

You will have the power you have been denying and rejecting! It is God’s power through God’s Holy Spirit:

— the power to become established and fixed and strong,
— the power to speak the truth in love to a dark and dying world,
— the power to do God’s works,
— to bring people out of spiritual captivity
— and starvation
— and nakedness and into
— freedom and fullness,
— clothed with Christ’s readiness,
— their hearts wholly His, beating in time with His!

Remember — bring to mind — what you received and heard! Bring to mind the gospel which you have forgotten and deserted. Keep it, protect it, guard it, and don’t let go of it. And REPENT — turn to Me, saying with all of your heart, “Against You only, O God, I have sinned!”

If you don’t, you will be one who is caught with unlit lamps when Christ suddenly returns:

Luke 12:35   “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 “Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. 37 “Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. 38 “ Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the  third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

Luke 12:39   “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into.”

Keep your lamps lit. Only I, Jesus Christ, hold the Holy Spirit who can light you up and clothe you with readiness!

Otherwise, Satan will break into your house, as he has in Sardis, sowing seeds of unbelief, and you won’t know when Christ is coming!

O church at Sardis, you are saying, “Peace and safety,” but sudden destruction is at  your door unless you return to Him:

1Thessalonians 5:2 For you yourselves know full well that  the day of the Lord  will come  just like a thief in the night.  3 While they are saying,“Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.  4 But you, brethren, are not in  darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;  5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;  6 so then let us not  sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

There are a few (small, little) in Sardis, a very small number, who have not soiled their garments with the sin of unbelief, who are faithful and believe. These will walk with Him in white, for they cling to Him and thus they remain worthy because of Him.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to all the churches, then and now!

For today’s church:

Many are as Paul describes to Timothy —

2Timothy 3:5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied  [720 disavowed, rejected, abnegated] its power [1411 dunamis, miracle-working power].

Many have denied, renounced, and rejected God’s power, His miracle-working power, His dunamis!

Many are walking in their own power, and many fall and will yet will fall.

And so, the deeds of many churches are incomplete, lacking, not satisfying in the eyes of God the Father!

Wake up from your spiritual deadness!

Ephesians 5:13 But all things become visible when they are  exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.  14 For this reason it says,
    “ Awake, sleeper,
    And arise from  the dead,
    And Christ will shine on you.”

In the Interlinear (Greek-to-English) Bible:  “Awake, sleeping one, and stand up from among the dead ones, and Christ will shine on you.”

Wake up, be resurrected, and you will see the light Jesus Christ is shining on you to expose your deadness so you cry out and repent and ask Him to resurrect you! Then His light will shine from you!

You lack the oil of the Holy Spirit, O lamp stands, and your lamps are going out!

Wake up! Get the oil you need, and then fan the flame! Rebuild your ruins.

Keep your lamps lit! Ask Him to clothe you in readiness for His second coming!

Otherwise, He will come like a thief, and you will not have time to get the oil you need. And the door will be closed:

Matthew 25:10 “And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were  ready went in with him to  the wedding feast; and  the door was shut. 11 “Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘ Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 “But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 “ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

For those who have not soiled their clothes with the sin of unbelief, Jesus Christ says:
— you are clothed in readiness,
— your lamp is well supplied by the oil of His Spirit, and
— you will walk with Him in white,

for you have been made worthy through His blood and you have clung to Him, despite all the unbelief around you.