Revelation 3:1-6 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. (2) Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. (3) Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (4) Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (5) He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (6) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
On Sunday, January 11 2015, over 1 million people marched in Paris in protest of the terrorist attacks on the offices of the magazine “Charlie Hebdo”. Many carried signs that said “Je Suis Charlie”, which means “I Am Charlie”. Though I despise what the Muslim extremists did, and though I support the right to free speech for every person (even if I hate the speech), I do not believe that it is appropriate for anyone who professes to be Christian to align themselves with the behavior of a magazine that profited from shock and slander. One French Lawyer named Richard Malka said “We will not give in. The spirit of ‘I am Charlie’ means the right to blaspheme”.
Having a right does not make a thing right. I have the right to free speech – but not to slander another. I have a right to free speech – but not to speak hatefully of another. I have a right to free speech – but to yell “Fire” in a crowded place inciting a riot is not my right. Words matter. Actions matter. God looks at our hearts, and what is in our hearts matters. If we are born again Children of God we should be marked not by signs that say “I Am Charlie” but rather “I Am Christ”.
Tonight we’ll be looking at Christ’s words to an end time Church called “Sardis”. The name “Sardis” literally means “Prince of Joy”. The Church in Sardis – in fact every Church – should have been a place of joy. Joy is the heritage of the Christ Follower. The Bible says that
Galatians 5:22-23 …. the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance ….
Romans 15:13 (ESV) May the God of hope fill you with all JOY and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Proverbs 10:28 (NIV) The prospect of the righteous is JOY, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.
A Church should be a joyful place filled with joyful people. But Sardis was not joyful. Sardis had a good reputation. But Sardis had stalled – they had a bad heart problem!
1 Sardis Had A Reputation For Being Alive, But The Church Was Dead. Jesus said to them:
Revelation 3:1 … unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
This is highly symbolic, so bear with me. Jesus says that He has “the seven Spirits of God”. This is a reference to the sevenfold manifestation of the Spirit of God. The Prophet Isaiah foresaw the First Advent of Jesus Christ, and wrote of Him:
Isaiah 11:1-2 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
The “Seven Spirits of God” is the Spirit of the LORD (the Great I AM), the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel, the Spirit of Might, the Spirit of Knowledge, and the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord. Jesus Christ had the Fullness of the Spirit, and His people should likewise have the Fullness of the Spirit. There is Life in Christ, and there should be Life in those who love Christ. Jesus said:
John 10:10 …. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it MORE ABUNDANTLY.
I preached this one time and I had an old Fundamentalist come up to me. He asked, “What do you mean that we are to have ABUNDANT LIFE”? I guess he thought I was getting too Pentacostal. I did what Jesus always did, I answered his question with a question. I asked “What do you think JESUS meant when He said that He came to give us ABUNDANT LIFE?” To my knowledge, that old Fundamentalist never answered my questioned, but wandered off to afflict someone else.
The rest of the world is just existing. The Christian is to LIVE! God has given us life so we can live. He has given us light so that we can SHINE!
A Sunday School teacher was showing her young students what she had learned as a child. She took her hands and, folding them, said:
“Here is the Church, and Here is the Steeple.
Open the doors, and There’s all the people!
As she was doing this she suddenly realized she made a terrible error in judgment. One of her students was a little boy who had been born with no left hand. The other children were making their little Churches with their little hands, but this boy sat there, red faced and embarrassed. Before the teacher could say anything one of the other children scooted over where he was, saying “Here, let me help.” Putting out her hand she joined hands with the little boy, and TOGETHER they made the Church.
A Church is not one person, nor one building. A Church is a body of believers, a family, The Family of God working together, living together, being Light together in this dark world.
2 Sardis Was Dead Because It Started Much, But Finished Little. The Lord said:
Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works PERFECT BEFORE GOD.
Circle the word “PERFECT” in your text. This is the Greek πληρόω PLEROO (play-roh’-o), which means “Complete, Finished”.
The Church at Sardis STARTED a lot of things but it never FINISHED what it started. Jesus said “I’ve examined what you’ve done, but these works that you’ve done you have not finished. These works are BEFORE GOD. God sees them – and you have left them hanging.”
There is no prize for starting well, but for finishing well. Israel started well when they came out of Egypt. They did as God told them to do. They put the Blood of the Lamb that was slain on the door posts of their houses. Because the Blood was on the homes the Destroyer could not come in the house (Exodus 12:23), and Israel was released. They crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land. They should have inherited the Land, but did not. Why? They did not finish well.
Even Moses, great man that he was and is. He was the most humble of all men. God blessed Moses with a great ministry, and Moses should have went into the Promised Land, but did not. Why? Because Moses took the glory from God. Rather than speak to the Rock he smote the Rock, saying …
Numbers 20:10 …. Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?
God told Moses and Aaron:
Numbers 20:12 …. Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.
You ran a great race, but did not finish well. When you run a race, you run it for the judges. You seek to impress the judges, not the audience. You run for the prize that the Judge will award. Dear Christian, we are to run for the Audience of One. Run so that He is pleased. Run so that He – seeing us – is magnified. The Scripture says:
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
You are running a race for God. You were left on this earth to shine for Him, so that others might see Christ in us. Run! Run the race and keep on running. Keep running, though the race seems hard. Run though it may seem as if the Devil and Darkness might be winning. Run and keep on running. The Scripture tells us:
Hebrews 12:1-3 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
People are watching. God is watching. The angels are watching. There are so many Churches and so many Christians today that look good on the outside, but they are dead for they are not running the race for Jesus. I’ve seen a lot of STARTERS in my ministry as a Pastor, but many are not FINISHERS. Sadly this is true even of those in full time ministry. Do you know that only 1 in 10 Pastors run the race until the day Jesus calls them home? Trained and ordained, they quit too soon. If you have life keep on running, keep on going, keep on doing for Jesus. There will come a day when your body can lay down and quit, and that is the day that you are DEAD INDEED and put in a casket. Run until Jesus calls you home!
Jesus Christ kept running His Race even though their pinned His Hands and Feet to the Cross. He kept running His Race though they jammed vinegar in His mouth to quench His thirst. He kept running His Race though they mocked and spit on Him. Why? Why? IT WAS FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM! God wins. Grace saves. The Family is born. Jesus walks out of that Tomb, and so do we who are His!
Finish what you start. YOUR FAITH IS YOUR FAITH. Live it! God is watching how we do. We must never be Sardis. There will be a harvest if we continue to follow Him in the race.
John Egglen had never preached a sermon in his life. Never! A member of a small Church in Colchester, England, it never occurred to this poor man to preach. He loved the Lord, loved His Church, and ever Sunday walked six miles to Church because this was what God called him to do. One Sunday morning he woke up and there was several feet of snow on the ground. At first John thought about staying home – after all, they would probably cancel Church anyway. But he reconsidered. As a Deacon in the Church he had a responsibility to be a good example. So John dressed warm and walked the six miles to Church. When he got to Church there was only thirteen people there counting him. Even the Pastor stayed home that day. Twelve members, and a thirteen year old boy who was a visitor was all that was there. Someone said, “Why don’t we just go home?” John was the only Deacon there. He saw the visitor, and thought “I’ve just got to share the Gospel!” So he stood up read from …
Isaiah 45:21-22 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. 22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
John didn’t know how to preach, and so what he said lasted only about ten minutes. But as he spoke and spread the wings of his faith the Holy Spirit became the wind beneath his wings. He lifted his eyes and looked at the thirteen year old boy, challenging him. “Young man, look unto Jesus. Look! Look! Look at Him and Him alone”. That young man would be saved through this preaching, and would later preach what this man preached to him in one of his own sermons:
“It was about twenty-six years ago,—twenty-six years exactly last Thursday,—that I looked unto the Lord, and found salvation, through this text. You have often heard me tell how I had been wandering about, seeking rest, and finding none, till a plain, unlettered, lay preacher … stood up in the pulpit, and gave out this passage as his text: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” … I remember how he said, “It is Christ that speaks. ‘I am in the garden in an agony, pouring out my soul unto death; I am on the tree, dying for sinners; look unto me! Look unto me!’ That is all you have to do. A child can look. One who is almost an idiot can look. However weak, or however poor, a man may be, he can look; and if he looks, the promise is that he shall live.” Then, stopping, he pointed to where I was sitting under the gallery, and he said, “That young man there looks very miserable.” I expect I did, for that is how I felt. Then he said, “There is no hope for you, young man, or any chance of getting rid of your sin, but by looking to Jesus;” and he shouted …. “Look! Look, young man! Look now!” And I did look; and when they sang a hallelujah before they went home, in their own earnest way, I am sure I joined in it. It happened to be a day when the snow was lying deep and more was falling; so, as I went home, those words of David kept ringing through my heart, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow;” and it seemed as if all nature was in accord with that blessed deliverance from sin which I had found in a single moment by looking to Jesus Christ.”
The young man that was saved was C.H. Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers. Because John was faithful to the finish THOUSANDS were saved. God will not bless that which is started – however fervently – but not finished. We serve a Risen Savior, and we are called to serve Him until the day He calls us home. Jesus said to Sardis – and to every Christian
Revelation 3:3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
What God gives us – what we have received and heard – we are to hold fast, to keep on doing. We are not called to be half hearted but whole hearted in serving our Lord. Jesus said “I will come on thee as a Thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee”. The Procrastinator says “Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow”. Jesus says, “Tomorrow might not come. The finish line can be any day, any moment, any second.” Jesus can call us home anytime. Run the race until the Master says “Well done, My Child …welcome home!”
3 Those Who Start Out Like Gang Busters But Quit MAY NOT Be Saved. Jesus closes His letter to Sardis with these words:
Revelation 3:4-5 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (5) He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Some have incorrectly taken the Biblical Doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved” to be a covering for sin. Actually, I don’t like “Once Saved Always Saved”, but prefer “Perseverance of the Saints”. If you’re born again, God has changed you and will keep on changing you until the day you have the ultimate change in Heaven. “Perseverance of the Saints” or “Eternal Security” is not a cloak by which we sin with impunity. Those who are saved are in the Family of God. Those who are saved keep on living for God. Jesus says “there are a few in Sardis who have not soiled their garments – they shall walk with Me in white”. A saved person may sin, but a saved person does not live in sin. A saved person who sins is convicted of sin by the Spirit that indwells them, and that saved person confesses their sin to God:
1 John 1:8-9 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Lord says to His people “he that overcometh shall be clothed in white raiment, and I WILL NOT BLOT OUT HIS NAME FROM THE BOOK OF LIFE”. Those who run the race for Jesus – loving Him – will overcome. They will keep on keeping on. Those who do not may not be saved.
The first Missionary from America overseas was a young man named Adoniram Judson. He was a brilliant young man. The son of a Pastor, he learned to read in one week at his mother’s knee when he was only three years old. He entered college when he was only 16 years old, and graduated at the top of his class just three years later. Judson’s parents thought that he was a Christian, and he knew the words and the ways. But he just never gave his heart to Christ. When he was in college he met a man named Jacob Eames, and fully turned from God. Judson said that he lived “a reckless, vagabond life, finding lodgings when he could, and bilking the landlord where he found opportunity”. Eames went his way and Judson his, with neither living for the Lord.
One night Judson took a room in a small village inn. The innkeeper told him “I apologize, but in the next room there’s a man critically ill. He may keep you awake tonight, but I have no other rooms.” All night long Judson heard people coming and going, and the horrible moans and cries of the man in the room next door. Judson began to think about his own life and how it might be if he ended in such a state. Early in the morning the moans ceased. When Judson got ready to leave he asked the innkeeper, “Is that man better? The moans stopped during the night.” The innkeeper said “He is dead”. Judson asked, “Do you know who he was?” The innkeeper replied, “Oh yes. He was a young man from the college in Providence. His name was EAMES, JACOB EAMES.”
The man that led Judson from Christ died a terrible death. It wasn’t long after that that Adoniram Judson gave his life to Christ. He met and married Ann Hasseltine, and he and his wife ended up as missionaries to Burma. They both ran their race in Burma, dying for the Lord in that country, leading many to Christ.
As Pastor John Piper said, “God does not call us to ease, but to faithful joy”. Run the race. Never give up. Trust the Lord, for He runs with us. Finish what you start for HIM.
May God touch your hearts with His Word.