Up to this point, each letter began by highlighting the positive contributions of each church. This is not so for the letter to Sardis. Instead, this letter begins with a harsh truth and a call for action. Like the Pharisees, they had become more concerned with appearances than worship. Jesus had called them to love, serve, and share his message with others, but they had forgotten their purpose. As they became spiritually disconnected, these commands fell to the side. The church looked good on the outside, but inside it was spiritually dying.
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. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 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.Revelation 3:1-3
This is a harsh reminder that our faith must be authentic. Church is more than a beautiful building or good band. It’s not just a social outlet, a tradition, or a set of rules. Church is love in action! When Christian believers first started to come together they didn’t have a building, but they had a community. They didn’t have codified doctrine, but they had the words of Jesus. They didn’t have money, but they cared for each other and everyone’s needs were met. They followed Jesus and the church flourished with new believers being added every day. But if his commands remain undone, what good is the church? This propensity for spiritual death received the harshest rebuke by Jesus in gospel.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.Matthew 23:27
If we are spiritually dead only God can bring us back to life. This is why Jesus calls for repentance and a to return to the teachings they once knew. His words serve as a wake up call to all who have fallen asleep. He wants to awaken life inside once more.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”Ezekiel 37:4-6
Yet even among a church filled with waking dead, authentic followers still remain. Jesus recognizes them and lets them to know that they are not forgotten. We are each responsible for our own spiritual health. Even when we are surrounded by a valley of dry bones, we can prophesy for the Lord that others may be brought back to life.
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. 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. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.Revelation 3:4-6
If you are the dry bones, let Jesus speak his words of life into you, that you may be renewed and live again.