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Called to Authenticity

Revelation 3:1-6

“‘Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars:

‘I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.

‘Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.

‘Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

authenticity

Ancient Sardis

Sardis was thirty miles south of Thyatira and fifty miles east of Ephesus on a northern spur of Mt. Tmolus, overlooking the broad and fertile plain of the Hermus.

The city was notable for the acropolis, the temple of Artemis, and the necropolis.

The acropolis rose about eight hundred feet above the north section of Sardis and due to large rock walls was virtually impregnable. Formerly the site of the original city, the acropolis became a refuge for inhabitants during times of siege.

Former glory

Sardis had considerable wealth during the time of the early church but the political spotlight as Persia’s Asian capital lay in the past. Sardis asked the Roman Senate for the honor to build a temple to Caesar but the distinction went to Smyrna. The city represented past splendor and present decay.

Citizens cherished past fame and the same mentality affected the church. Loyalty and service to Christ was now in the past.

Spiritually dead

The church appeared to be free of trouble, however, they compromised to the point of losing authentic faith. They retained an appearance of life but were spiritually dead. They no longer depended on the Holy Spirit and failed to perform ventures of faith.

Like the fig tree of Mark 11:20, they had leaves but no fruit, an example of non-offensive Christianity.

Believers at Sardis had established a name for themselves before the community but their lives did not measure up before God. “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)

Be watchful

The church was given instructions to “wake up,” more accurately translated “be watchful.” The command of watchfulness carried special meaning. Twice the city had fallen to enemies out of a lack of vigilance on the part of the defenders.

The church, like the city, considered themselves secure but failed to remain alert and watchful.

An incomplete faith

The church was in danger of judgment because Jesus had not found them spiritually complete. In other letters acceptable behavior was noted by love, perseverance, truth, holiness, mission, and fervor.

Church members belonged to Christ in name but not heart. They would be the first believers labeled “nominal Christians.”

The church is called to authenticity.”

To repent

Sardis is the third church told to repent, the first two being Ephesus and Pergamum. They needed to make a 180 degree turn, go the opposite direction and never return to their current condition.

Jesus instructed the church to turn and be the way they were in the beginning. If not His appearance would be like a thief, at an unknown time, with their works being severely judged.

Walking with Jesus

Although the majority of the church had fully compromised their faith, there were a few people who retained an authentic faith. The faithful at Sardis walk with Christ, dressed in white, “for they are worthy.” They have withstood the pressure to live like the world and continued to follow Jesus.

A dynamic minority of awakened and responsible believers is able by prayer, love, and witness restore a dying church and bring it back to life.

The Spirit of God

The greatest gift believers are given and can ever receive is the Spirit of God. John Stott writes, “He enters our human personality and changes us from within. He fills us with love, joy, and peace. He subdues our passions and transforms our characters into the likeness of Christ. Today there is no man-made temple in which God dwells. Instead, his temple is his people. He inhabits both the individual believer and the Christian community.” (What Christ Thinks of the Church, p. 90)

When Jesus admonishes the church in Sardis to remember, He is calling them back to life in the Spirit. Scripture instructs us to pray in the Spirit, preach in the Spirit, worship in the Spirit, live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit. (Jude 20; 1 Thess 1:5; John 4:24 and Phil 3:3; Gal 5:25, 16) The Spirit of God brings life where there is death. Believers are to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. (Eph 5:18)

More than simply dwelling within, does He fill you? You may possess Him but does He possess you?

The promise

If followers of Jesus turn back to authentic faith, they have the promise of heavenly white robes, of their names remaining in the Book of Life, and of Jesus acknowledging them before God and the angels.

Faithfulness during present-day trials is rewarded beyond measure in the life to come.

The message today

Was your faith greater in the past? Do you have an appearance of faith, but you know this is not true?

Have an authentic faith, be unwilling to adopt the patterns of the world. Build the future with the same Spirit-filled passion that established your walk with the Lord.

The challenge

Return to authentic faith and display God to the world. Be continually filled with the Spirit, manifesting resurrection power! The reward is great.

What does authentic faith look like to you?  Share your comments below.

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