The Dead church Rev. 3:1-6

 

Our lesson this morning comes from the church of Sardis. Jesus proclaims this church to be dead. This teaches is that is possible for entire congregations to die. In fact there are many churches out there that are just like the church at Sardis and they are on their way of ceasing to exist. The first thing I want to do is to examine carefully the church of Sardis and its background so we can see the cause and effect of why its was labeled a dead church even though it had the appearance of being alive. Let usbegin by reading,

 

Revelation 3:1 "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ' These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.2 "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.3 "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.4 "You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.5 "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but 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." '

 

The first thing I want to point out is that this is 5th letter out of 7 that have been written to the churches in Asia. Sardis and the church of Laodicea are the only 2 churches that nothing good was said about the entire church and both of these churches didnít seem to be facing any persecutions. Perhaps the reason they were not being persecuted at this time was because they we inactive in their community they were not trying to spread the good news which would make them less of a threat and the people probably just considered them as a peaceful group who did not stir up trouble.

 

What I find really interesting is how the history of this citygoes hand and hand with history of the church there.

 

1. Sardis had a history of past glory.†† Sardis was one of the oldest cites is Asia and was the capital of the ancient kingdom back 560 BC. Back then it was considered one of the greatest cities every. Originally is built upon on top of a mountain and the river that flowed at the bottom was full of Gold. This city was ran by a famous king named Croesus (creases). It was the first city to issue standardized coins that were backed by the government.

2. Sardishad history of overconfidence At one point King Croesus at the advice of an oracle decided he would defeat the Cyrus the Persian but he failed and retreated back to his city that he thought was well protected. Cyrus offered a great deal of money to whoever could tell him away to enter his city. Well according to history one of King Croesus soldiers dropped is helmet and it rolled do the side of the mountain and he came down and picked it up and Persian soldier saw this and figured they could go up the mountain the same and they did. The city was unguarded because of their overconfidence and they city was taken over and Cyprus came away with an equivalent of $600 million dollars worth of coins.

 

3. By the end of the first century, Sardis was living on its past glory. Since their take over by Cyprus they were not allowed to make weapons but they were allowed to teach their children to play instruments, to dance or to be merchants. In AD 17 an earthquake destroyed the city and it had to rebuild and by the time the letter was written to the churchthere in Rev 3 this once great city was now just a 3rd rate town living in the past.

 

Unfortunately as we are about to see the church at Sardis had these same three characteristics. Let us begin by reexamining their letter verse by verse.

 

Revelation 3:1 "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ' These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

 

First of all this letter starts out the same as the rest of the letters. Now the message being spoken is coming from Christ and it says he has the 7 spirits of and the seven stars. Another thing I want you to keep in mind is that these letters did not go out separately instead everyone of the churches would hear all the letters and it was probably a shock to some of these church what Jesus says in the last part of that verse. I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

 

You see at one point I am sure that this church was very active and did many great things but now they were living off of their past accomplishments but Jesus who knows the heart was pointing out that even though they may the appearance of being holy to other to God they were dead. You see this happens this happens a lot in church today. There have been some churches in the past that were very busy for the Lord and they would go out into the community and make difference in their area. But as times goes those good works go to way side and the church begins to die. However, because of their past reputation to those on the outside still think that church is on fire for God when in fact they are not. Folks you can have church that is meets on time and gives very generously and has beautiful singing and have a wonderful speaker for a preacher but if a church is just meeting together and that is far as it goes that church dieing even though has the appearance of being alive right now. Paul taught this same concept about the widow in.

 

1 Timothy 5:6 But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.

 

Just as this woman be alive she is spiritual dead just as the church atSardis was.

 

Revelation 3:2 ††"Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.

 

Basically Jesus is telling them wake up, pay attention and stop just going through the motions. Increase the few good things you have before they dies as well. Stop procrastinating and finish doing what you started. This great advice for any church that finds itself withering away. To many times congregation lose their focus and they have to be reminded to wake and make the best use of you talents and your time. We also see the importance of finishing what we start. If we donít do these things we become lazy and the church will die.

 

Revelation 3:3 "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.

 

This is very important information for a church to take to heart when they find themselves drifting toward spiritual destruction. We must remember how we received and heard Gods word. We must remember how much love we have for God and what he has done for us. We need to remember how important it was for us to serve God with our whole heart. Jesus is urging the church at Sardis to repent and cease from being lazy servants and to return to back to their first love and to rekindle their passion for God. Notice what Jesus says next,

 

Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

 

Jesus was informing the church that if they didnít change they were going to have to face the consequences. Now I would like to point out the term come upon you as a thief is used in 2 basic ways. In one way it is used to describe Jesus second coming emphasizing that no one know when he will come except the father. The secondway this term is used is to describe limited judgment again emphasizing that no one will know when it will happen just as Cyrus of the Persians had taken Sardis by surprise. While this letter doesnít tells what the punishment would be we can rest assured that it wouldnít be good.

 

Revelation 3:4 "You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

 

Even though the congregation as a whole was deemed dead by Jesus he now takes the time to point out that there were at least a few in that church that were still faithful to God. When Jesus states they have not defiled their garments he is not saying they were perfect or that they did not have sin he was simply saying that they were living their lives is acceptable manner to God. The city of Sardis was know as being an very immoral place and would have a been a great struggle for a Christian to remain pure but the few had done this very thing and Jesus now says they are worthy to walk with me in white. Donít you know that made those few dedicated Christians feel good when they heard these encouraging words. We should let these words encourage us today because what he said about these few he would also say the same thing to those few who are faithful today.

 

Revelation 3:5 "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but 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." '

Jesus is telling us that we must overcome sin and endure until the end if we want to be clothed in white Garments. If we will do this then he will not blot our name out of the book of life. Just as side thought I want you to think how powerful this verse is against the notion ďonce saved always savedĒ. When you become Christian by obeying the gospel call your name is written in the book of life. However it is not there in permanent ink because Jesus clearly states IF we overcome then he will not remove our name from the book which clearly shows that one can become lost once they are saved. But another important thing we learn from the church at Sardis is that there is always hope and time to turn around a dead church.

 

In fact there were two different congregations in the NT that started becoming dead churches but in the end they turned things around because of some faithful men who went to these places and encouraged them to turn to back to God and do his bidding. The first church that was like this was church at Corinth. This church had kinds of division problems and were calling themselves after other men and they were engaging in debauchery when they were suppose to be taking the Lords Supper. But because of Paul writing his letters to them and sending Timothy and Titus to them they made a turn around and became a strong Christian church once again.

 

The second church was located at Ephesus and Paul spent several years there and the church was very active and evangelistic and everyone in thatarea had heard the good news. But after Paul left things went down in a hurry and this once active church was headed for spiritual destruction. However, Timothy was sent there to battle against the false doctrines that were arising and to encouragethis church to return back to the truth and thatexactly what they did. So as we can see there is always hope in turning a dead church back into a live one.

 

The Greatest thing that we can do here at Lone Grove is to realize that it is possible to become a dead church. Knowing that this is a possibility we need to make sure the we are constantly watching and serving God to the best of our ability so that we donít become a dead church in the first place. There are several signs we need to watch out for that indicate a church is dieing.

 

First of all we need to realize that a church is only as strong as it individual members. That means that each and ever single Christian here must examine themselves. We need to ask ourselves question like, what am I doing to further Gods kingdom? Am I putting God first in my life? Am I helping God cause or am I hindering it? I canít stress it enough the strength of this church rests upon each one us and how we conduct ourselves and how committed we are to serving God. If we have examined ourselves and we find that we are being lazy servant of God then there is a great need for us to change and remind ourselves of why became a Christian in the first place. If everyone does this it would be impossible for our church to become dead.

 

There are also other signs we need to watch out for.

 

 

Neglected Bible classes

 

There are two different things I mean by this. First of all sometimes you will find churches teaching Bible classes that have nothing to do with the Bible. Let me give you an example. Many years ago my wife and I went to a married couples Bible class and they class was being taught from the book called ďMen are from Mars, and men are from VenusĒ. Now from what I understand this is a very good book the talks about relationship and the difference between men and women and it may very well be a good book for a Christian to read. However this was Bible class and yet no Bible was being used. Besides that the Bible contains a wealth of information about man and women and their relationship. When a churchbegins to teach Bible class out of a man made book and sets the Bible to the side I see a church that is well on its way to becoming dead. Just think about term Bible class. When we come to Bible class we come to learn about the Bible.

 

Another way Bible class is neglected is by Christians not coming to it. Why oh why would want to miss an opportunity to learn more about God and be around your brothers and sister in Christ. I want you to think about it really hard what possible excuse is there to miss Bible class all the time.

Maybe the excuse is this, I donít need to go to Bible class because I already know everything I need to know about Bible. First of this cannot be true. You can never know it all no matter how much you study the Bible and even if this was true then God has truly blessed you with great ability and you should be teaching what you know if indeed you know everything that you need to know.

 

Perhaps someone might say Bible class isnít important to me. Saying something like this is basically saying that God is not important for me. It also states that you God is not first in your life because you donít see God words as important. Those who donít see the importance of Bible class will also be the same people that donít see the importance of worshiping God every first day of the week both morning and evening. The more individual Christians who think this way the weaker the church becomes. Friends I plead with you donít neglect the Bible classes and donít neglect the worship services. If we truly have a love for God and we are actively growing in our knowledge and grace we will be enthusiastic about coming to Bible class and coming to worship. Those who eager to learn will arrive to class and worship service on time and they will actively participate in the class or in worship services. This kind of attitude will keep a church strong and keep it from being labeled as dead by God.

 

Another sign of dieing church can be found from what is taught from the pulpit. Paul makes it very clear what a preacher should be preaching. He tells Timothy,

 

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

 

Unfortunately there are preachers today that preach more from the readers digest or some other man made book instead of preaching from the Bible. Now these congregations may have over 500 members and may have the appearance as thriving church but I can guarantee that if a preacher is not preaching the word that is the whole council of God then the church will die. They will find themselves beingfar removed from God because they are only hearing sermons that make them feel good and doesnít make them feel bad about the sins they are involved in. Folks if you ever find a minister preaching or teaching without using the Bible as their main source then it is time for them to go.

 

Another sign of a dieing church is for it to neglect evangelism

When we be Christians and we understood the wonderful news of what God had done for us it should have given you great joy in your life knowing that you could be saved and knowing that there is life after death and if you live according to Godswill you can spend eternity in that wonderful called heaven. The worse thing you can do as Christian is to keep this good news to yourself.

 

Matthew 5:14"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

Again this goes back to the importance of each individual. Everyone of is a light for God. It is very important that everyone lets their light shine by being a good example or by leading people to Christ. The more people who hide there light weaken the congregation as whole. The more individuals who lack the courage or the passion to evangelize the greater the chance will be that the congregation will die. If this applies to you I urge you to make a change today because we need every shining example that we can get. To help you relight your spiritual passion just sit down and remember why became a Christian in the first place and remind yourself of what God has given you even though you did not deserve it. Then simply go out into the world and be shining example that Jesus has told us to be.

 

Neglect of the meeting house

Now this may not be one that you have ever thought of. But I have read several studies that show that a poorly maintained building is usually occupied by a dead congregation. First of all the meeting house is just building it is not the temple. It is a fixed place that we can come together to form the body of Christ. However, the building was bought and is maintained by the Lords money. As Christians we are to be good stewards and we can honor God by taking good care of the meeting house that purchased with his money. This means we need to do our best to maintain the property and to teach our kids not to do destructive things to our building. If find a meeting house that well maintained you will most likely find people who cares about whatís going on. However if you find a meeting house that is in bad shape you will most likely find people who really do not care because they donít have deep love for God.

 

We have learned several things from this lesson. First of all a entire congregation can be labeled dead by God even if man thinks itís a active church. We also learned that there is hope for achurch no matter how dead it becomes if it will repent and turnback to it first love. We also found out that every single person is important to the strength of the church and we also looked at several signs we must watch for that shows a church is headed for spiritual destruction. Of course the best course of action is to never become dead in the first place and this is accomplished by each individual doing their best to be faithful servants unto God. I hope that you will take this lesson to heart and be watchful and put forth your best for God so that we never become a dead church here at Lone Grove.