“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. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 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. 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.” Revelation 3:1-4 (NKJV)
Outside of Jesus saying there are a few in Sardis that have not defiled themselves, this church really receives no commendation at all from the Lord. Think about how severe this is. Even the worldly and the corrupt churches received some commendation from Jesus. Yet this church receives virtually no commendation at all. We should recognize from this that the problem is Sardis, the problem of complacency, is one of the most severe problems a church or a Christian could have.
Jesus says that He knows they have a reputation for being alive but they were really dead. They were like artificial flowers. They looked great but there was no life. I don’t think this means they weren’t Christians. Given the rest of what Jesus goes on to say to them, I think it’s safe to conclude they were Christians. Yet as genuine Christians they had lost their passion for Jesus. As the old time preachers would say they had lost their fire. They were living on past glory rather than relying on present accomplishments. The comforted themselves about what they had become by resting on what they had been. Regardless of what the church had been in the past they were now complacent, satisfied, apathetic and spiritually dead.
This is a very serious warning to every Christian in every church today. We can be sure that a church is in danger of death when it begins to look more to its past than to its present or future. In the same way, we can be sure that any Christian that complacently rests in their past faithfulness instead of focusing on their present faithfulness has a dead or dying spiritual life.
Jesus counsels the church about their condition. He tells them to be watchful and to strengthen those things that remain and are about to die. Jesus basically gives them four commands that should help them beware of the pull of complacency.
Resist the pull of complacency. When Jesus called on them to “be watchful” He was basically telling to wake up and see what was going on in their midst. As a general rule I don’t believe that a dead or dying Christian or church really knows they are dead or dying. In their complacency they are spiritually asleep and unaware of their spiritual condition.
Jesus’ counsel is for them to rouse themselves from their complacency and accurately see what their spiritual lives are like. It is interesting that the Greek word for watch is in the present tense. The idea of this is that their watchfulness is to be a continual thing. They, and we, are to be watchers who are always on the lookout for signs of complacency and apathy in our lives and then resist it.
Remember life before complacency. They are specifically told to remember how they received and heard. This almost has to refer to the Gospel. I would also say that this would mean they were supposed to remember their response to the Gospel. They were supposed to remember how the Gospel initially gripped their lives and had produced devotion, service, passion, life and a desire for more. In effect it seems they were to remember that the way they were now wasn’t the way they had always been. Jesus wanted them to remember how things were when they had first heard and received the Gospel.
Repent of complacency. I love this and think it is so important for us to understand. Jesus calling them on the carpet about their complacency wasn’t meant to be a beat down. It wasn’t meant to make them feel lousy for the sake of feeling lousy. He had much greater plans for them than just to make them feel bad. Jesus wanted them to repent, to turn from their complacency and turn back to Him. His goal was to bring them to Himself so that He could restore their passion and zeal for Him and the Gospel.
It is so important for us to see here that Jesus loves us to much to leave us in a state of dead complacency. He wants us to wake up to see our condition, remember how things once were and then repent of all the things that have led to our complacency.
Recognize the danger of complacency. If they don’t heed His commands to wake up, remember and repent that He will suddenly come upon them. There are two things about this we have to understand. The first is that this is a warning of judgment. There is no getting around the fact those who remain in a state of complacency will eventually face the judgment of God. The second thing we have to see from this is that this judgment will come suddenly. The idea of a thief in the night is that it will come when we are least expecting it. From this Jesus wants us to understand that we may not have the time we think we have.
Here is what I mean by this. If you are complacently resting in the past achievements instead of focusing on present faithfulness, then by this point you may recognize it. The temptation is to say, “I know this isn’t right and I will work on in later.” Later may mean when our lives are a little less busy. Later may mean when our lives are a little less crazy. Later may mean some nebulous time in the future. Jesus point here is that you don’t have any guarantee that this later date will come.
Jesus is telling us that we don’t have an unlimited amount of time in this world because any day and at any time one of two things could happen. Jesus could return at a time when we least expect it. Jesus could call us home and our lives could end at any moment. We must take seriously Christ’s command to wake up, remember and repent and then obey His command.
So, have you drifted in your passion for Jesus? If yes, does that answer bother you? It should. We should always be bothered when we recognize we are drifting from Jesus. Take some time today and pray through these specific requests.
Jesus, please show me if I’ve drifted in my passion for you.
Jesus, please show me how to restore my passion for you.
Jesus, please renew my passion for you.