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. Wake up!
A reputation can be very misleading. No doubt built up over a number of years, carefully managed and well publicised on the basis of deeds, not specified here, but actually a sham. And the Lord Jesus Christ sees through such sham reputations with the devastating assessment
‘you are dead’
But although serious, the diagnosis is not terminal. It can be turned round. Hence the call to ‘Wake up!’
The rest of v.2 gives reason for hope for there is something that remains although it was almost dead as the deeds that were there were only partial ‘not complete in the sight of God’. I wonder if that is a wake up call to you, the reader, this morning. We all to easily boost our assessment of ourselves and others close to us can bolster that assessment as we have seen just this week as the news of Grade Inflation on A-Level results reaches a new high. But that is a trivial example compared with what is at stake here.
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. v.3b
God’s people are still eagerly waiting for the Lord’s return and this verse surely leads us to reflect on this as we note the similarity of these words with Jesus’ teaching in the gospels. They remind us that there is a day coming when change is no longer possible and there will be those who will be cast into outer darkness while for others the glory of eternity with the Saviour awaits.
However the great truth is that even the ‘dead’ to Christ now have the opportunity of waking up while some vestige remains v.2a and this involves v.3 remembering and repenting.
Remember what you have received and heard; obey it and repent.
Death may still be turned to life until Jesus returns.
May this spur us to examine our own lives and spur our desire to share this great news with others!
However, there were still some in Sardis who had not ‘soiled their clothes’ v.4 and while clearly they were not perfect and sinless, they had sought to be pure hearted. Cf. Psalm 24.3-4 living for their Lord in the challenging surroundings of a church living on its reputation rather than being vibrantly alive.
As in all the letters, those who in the power of the Spirit live like that, are promised great blessings. Here they will be ‘dressed in white’ their names secure in ‘the book of life’ and ‘acknowledged’ before God.
Let us once again ‘Hear again today what the Spirit says to the churches’ and pray with David Psalm 51.10
Create in me a pure heart O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me.