The fifth church (of the seven churches of Asia) that Jesus addressed through the pen of John is the church in Sardis. The message is recorded in Revelation 3:1-6, saying —
1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. 6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Sardis was a church that overall was struggling. Despite their reputation that they were alive, Jesus made it plain: “thou art dead” (v. 1), and they needed to “strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God” (v. 2). Ouch! That was probably hard to hear, but Sardis shows us Jesus cares not just about how we appear or how others see us but He cares about the truth of where we actually are. That’s love!
Despite the overall negative (but true) report, just like in Thyatira, Jesus recognized the few names in Sardis who “have not defiled their garments” and would walk with Him in white. Let’s briefly focus on the instructions given to a dead church to help us be revived in this hour.
Lesson 1: Be Watchful
Sardis found itself in a dead position, but that is NOT how the church started. When we are saved, we are born again, renewed, regenerated (Titus 3:5; John 3:5)! Life is in Jesus (John 1:4) and we get life in Him! If we find ourselves dead, we need to be watchful and examine how we got to that place so we don’t ever end up spiritually dead again!
Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly” (John 10:10). We have a real enemy warring against our soul, and to be revived or to avoid spiritual death, we have to be watchful and pay attention to what is going on internally or externally and affecting us spiritually! Be watchful!
The words “be watchful” in v. 2 and “watch” in v. 3 (S:1127) are from the same Greek word as ” be vigilant” in 1 Peter 5:8. That is where the Bible commands us: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” We have to be on alert, not distracted or sleeping. Don’t end up dead and don’t stay dead: Wake up and watch!
Lesson 2: Strengthen & Hold Fast
Not only was Sardis dead, but the things which remained were ready to die (v. 2). That is a sad state, but thank God even death or near death is not impossible with Him! Let’s focus on two things He told Sardis to do (and that we can do) if there are some things we have lost spiritually.
In verse 2, He teaches us to strengthen the things which remain. Strengthen is from a Greek word (S:4741), which is also translated stablish, establish, or stedfastly set in the Bible. It is defined as setting fast or confirming. What still remains?
- What faith do you still have?
- Do you still know God hears prayer?
- What scripture lessons are still in your heart?
- Are you still grateful for something?
- What do you still know about God?
Everything is not lost, so consider what you still have then choose to strengthen it! Start with that faith, prayer, Word, knowledge, or praise that you still have and build from there!
Then in verse 3, He tells them to hold fast. No matter what you might have lost already, hold on to what you have so you can strengthen it! Don’t let the devil, your emotions, distractions, or other people take what remains. Don’t let him or it steal anything else! No matter what level what you have is at, keep it! Guard it! Keep your eye on it. HOLD ON TO IT!
Lesson 3: Remember How
In addition to strengthening those things which remained, Jesus said they needed to, “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard” (v. 3). Note, He didn’t say remember WHAT you received and heard in this verse, but remember HOW.
“How” is from a Greek word (S:4459) that is usually translated how, but that is also translated “by what means” or “after what manner.” It’s defined as, in what way? If you find yourself dead or there are some things you’ve lost and what’s left is pretty shaky, Sardis teaches us to remember HOW you received or heard.
If we stop and think about a time when we received or heard from God, we can learn from that memory. Example: When you got the Holy Ghost, how did you receive from God?
- Was your heart repentant?
- Were you focused on Him?
- Did you lay aside distractions?
- Was He most important?
- Did you make a sacrifice?
REMEMBER HOW! Example: When is a time you heard from God? HOW did you hear from Him?
- What did you sacrifice?
- Did you pray?
- Did you read your Bible?
- Did you get to the house of the Lord?
- How did you seek God?
Remember how! The lessons in how we received and heard from God before allow us to go after God, position ourselves, and repeat the ways we obeyed His Word before, so in that place we can receive and hear again.
Sardis is a church with a powerful lesson because it lets us know no matter where we find ourselves, even if we’re dead, God still has the power to get us to where we need to be. We need to hear His Word, repent, and obey His instructions so we don’t remain dead, but can be alive in Him again.
What did you learn from the church in Sardis? What stands out to you? Share your comments below!