If Jesus Passed a Note in Church, What Would It Say? (Part 5 of 7)
(Series of sermon content original to W. Herschel Ford)
To the Church That Was Dead and Didn’t Know It
Nov. 5 , 2006 FBC, Chester Mike Fogerson, Pastor
A Pogo: We have seen the enemy, and he is us.
1 The message to Sardis, the 5th church of Revelation, lists no specific enemies, internal or external.
a Jesus’ messages to the churches prior to Sardis address either internal or external enemies:
aa Jesus’ message to Ephesus challenges a loveless church
bb Jesus’ message to Smyrna encourages a persecuted church
cc Jesus’ message to Pergamum addresses both persecution & compromise
dd Jesus’ message to Thyatira challenges compromise
b In Sardis, there is no name-calling: no liars, Balaams, Jezebels, no synagogue of Satan.
2 Sardis was once one of the great cities of Asia Minor, but had seen its glory days come & go (IL: Kaskaskia was once THE city of Illinois)
a 35 miles south of Thyatira
aa HUGE wool garment industry
bb Acropolis & Necropolis in Sardis of importance. Acropolis (a high location, highly fortified, rose about 800 ft. from the north side of Sardis) Necropolis (cemetery of a thousand hills-seen 7 miles away).
cc Acropolis was only captured twice (6th & 4th century BC): in the former, the Sardinian army was on the Acropolis, a soldier dropped his helmet & was seen by a Persian soldier (in Cyrus’ army) retrieving it on a southern winding path. Later, the whole Sardinian army was caught by surprise when the Persian army came & captured them.
b There was a huge Jewish community there (one of the largest Jewish temples in antiquity is located at Sardis-as big as a football field).
c Also full of paganism. Asiatic goddess Livia & in the mid 1980’s an emperor temple was believed to have been found.
d The church was in peaceful co-existence with Jews, pagans, city in general.
e The unsaved at Sardis saw the church as a responsible group of decent people. (Not dangerous/desirable, just dying)
3 The problem with Sardis was not with the Jews, Roman Empire, nor with false prophecy...but solely with itself.
a Comfortable, content, living on their past achievements & failed to listen to God’s call for their future.
b Satan wasn’t persecuting them. Why? They were already dead.
4 Listen for the very blunt warning in this text & don’t reduce it on the basis of our more comfortable theological presuppositions.
a Our faith in the Bible as God’s word requires us to revise our thinking to fit the text, not the reverse.
b (IL) Lion asking a monkey, gazelle, zebra, "Who is king of the jungle?" to which all replied, "It’s you of course." He asks the same question to another lion who picks him up, beats him on the ground, & throws him into a tree. The lion then says, "Just because you don’t know the answer doesn’t mean you’ve got to get angry."
B "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ’I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 ’Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3 ’So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore 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. 4 ’But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 ’He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 ’He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Rev 3:1-6 (NASB)
1 Jesus told this dead church at Sardis how to experience resurrection "or else" (essence of the text in a sentence).
a Dead churches (filled with dead, dry believers) are not doomed to stay dead (essence of the sermon in a sentence).
b I pray you’ll decide to recommit your life to the living Jesus (objective).
2 Who will recommit their lives to Jesus today? (Probing question)
a Let’s look a two facts that Jesus gave to a dead church to bring it new life (transitional sentence).
I Rebuke to a dead church
A The church was operating/functioning largely from accomplishments/glories of the past. ’Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.
1 Once they had done great things for God-now they had nothing left but memories.
a Once happy/active in service-today not involved in service.
b Once could hardly wait to go to church-now every visit is a chore.
c Christianity is no longer burning-now just ash.
2 Jesus said, "I have not found your deeds complete."
a They were doing things, but never completed for God.
aa Pray, but didn’t get beyond the ceiling. No heart/faith
bb Sing-it didn’t touch anyone’s heart
cc Give every Sunday, but out of a sense of duty-not love
dd (IL) Deer head mount. Looks alive & alert, but DEAD
b They did all of these things that looked good, but they did nothing that satisfied the heart of God (no compassion for souls, no growth, no missionary spirit, no witnessing).
3 He’s not telling us to stop singing, hearing sermons, praying, giving.
a Put love, life into these things!
b What if we came & worshiped like this was going to be the last service we’d ever attend this side of eternity? (Read with more focus, pray with more intensity, sing with more heart, listen with more purpose?)
B If Sardis didn’t awaken, Jesus was coming to bring judgment. ’So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore 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.
1 "Thief" would catch them off-guard (reminiscent of Persian army at Acropolis).
a When Jesus comes to the faithful it’s a celebration/welcomed; to the unfaithful it’s a time of judgment & reckoning.
b He gives them a warning: " Wake up, remember, repent"=revival!
2 Does a man welcome a coming "thief"? (Never! Why?)
a He’s afraid of what the thief will take from him/do to him.
b Sinner/saint, Jesus is coming to each of us. Savior or thief?
II Reward for a dead church
A ’But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.
1 It was mandatory for pagan worshipers to have clean, unsoiled garments (usually white) on when they went to their deities’ temples.
a The dead church wasn’t 100% dead (some were vibrant).
b Singing, praying, giving; on fire-ALIVE
2 God will work with a church if only "a few people" stay alive in the faith.
a Don’t lose faith, hope, confidence
b No church is beyond hope, as long as there is a remnant in it willing to strengthen the things that remain.
B There are at least 3 rewards for those who overcome:
1 White robe (especially meaningful to a city where wool garments were manufactured).
a White was symbolic of the righteousness, victory, & glory of God. After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?" Rev 7:9,13 (NASB)
And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. Rev 19:14 (NASB)
b The majority of the Sardinians were worried about appearing pure outside, but not being pure inwardly to Christ.
c For the most part, we don’t have to worry about persecution, false doctrine...inner purity we must work on!
2 The Book of Life
a The Book of Life has the name of everyone who has ever lived. May they be blotted out of the book of life And may they not be recorded with the righteous. Psalms 69:28 (NASB)
b The genuine believer’s name is never erased, but when a person dies without Jesus their name is erased.
c At this time in history, your name was removed from the citizenship registry.
d At the final judgment (And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev 20:12-15 (NASB)), only the names of the believers are in the book, & then it becomes the Lamb’s book of life. ...and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Rev 21:27 (NASB)
e Everyone who is only born once, dies twice; everyone who is born twice only dies once.
3 Acknowledgment (strong word for confession before the courts).
a I can imagine Jesus saying about Paul/Stephen/Peter, "Father, he confessed me before the world, now I confess him before You."
b Imagine Jesus saying the same of us before the Father!
A Jesus told this dead church at Sardis how to experience resurrection "or else" (essence of the text in a sentence).
1 Dead churches (filled with dead, dry believers) are not doomed to stay dead (essence of the sermon in a sentence).
2 We’ve looked at two facts that Jesus gave to a dead church to bring it new life.
a The rebuke
b The reward
B I pray you’ll decide to recommit your life to the living Jesus (objective).
C Who will recommit their lives to Jesus today? (Probing question)
1 When Mickey Cohen, a famous LA gangster of the late 1940’s made a profession of faith, his new Christian friends were elated.
a As time went by, they began to wonder why he didn’t leave his gangster lifestyle & confronted him with why he didn’t leave his thug life.
b "You never told me I had to give up my career. You never told me I had to give up my friends. There are Christian movie stars, Christian athletes, Christian businessmen. So what’s the matter with being a Christian gangster? If I have to give up all that-if that’s Christianity-count me out."
c Cohen gradually drifted away from his Christian circles & ultimately died alone & forgotten.
2 Cohen was echoing the question that millions of professing Christians pose with their lives.
a Not about being Christian gangsters, but about being Christianized versions of whatever they already are...& are determined to remain.
b Professing Jesus is not possessing Him.
3 Who will recommit their lives to Jesus today? (Probing question)
a You may have the reputation of being a Christian, alive in Christ, good church, possessing Jesus...but a reputation is not always reality.
b Gospel presentation
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