“If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen, nothing else matters.” – Jeroslav Pelikan
In my opinion the most stunning letter in the entire New Testament is not one that we have as a “stand alone” book of the New Testament. The letter I am thinking of is a lot shorter than any of Paul’s letters and even shorter than all of the general epistles…it is the letter to the church in Sardis found in Revelation 3:1-6. Here is what Jesus said to that church,
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
There was no such thing as junk mail in the ancient world. You don’t load a horse down with junk mail nor do you send it by personal courier. Letters were purposeful, personal and had history behind them. Jesus knows his people. Who knows who they are and he knows what they are doing. He also knows if their reputation is out of line with the true spiritual reality.
Sardis is one of those churches that appears to have it all together….they appear to be vibrant and full of life and energy but the truth of the matter is it is just a facade. It is like the accusation Jesus leveled against the Pharisees that they were “like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt 23:27-28).
There are times when the resurrected need a resurrection…they need a time of refreshing and new life. How do you go about finding it in an established church that has lost its way? Jesus gives them this prescription for finding new life. Maybe there is something in there for us today if we are willing to listen:
- Wake up
- Strengthen what remains
- Remember what you received and heard
- Obey it
In a sense this is resurrecting the resurrected. The city known for making fine clothes had Christians who had soiled their spiritual clothing. It seems this church had polluted itself with the world. It wasn’t that they needed a new “revelation” from the Lord just like we don’t need a new one today. They needed to be called back (to remember) to that which had already been taught…not just to hear it again but to actually live by it. Doing that will require repentance because you cannot hang onto the old ways while embracing the new…that only shows that you are still sound asleep, even dead spiritually speaking.
So what about us? How awake is the church today? How awake are Christians today? It is entirely possible that in many situations the resurrected need a resurrection. If Jesus sent a letter to your congregation, what would it say? What challenges would he address and what things would be praised?
I believe the church today and Christians today are in need of this lesson. Being alive is not about appearances. It is not about numbers. It is about living out our faith and relationship with the Lord on a daily basis and that will come with challenges and it will come at a cost. There are times we need someone to come along and call out to us and to our churches “Wake up!” Wake up from your slumber because the Lord isn’t finished with you yet…and what He has in store is definitely worth being awake to experience!
“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”