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Big Reputation

• Shawna Boren

In this sermon, Shawna Boren explores the letter to the church at Sardis. This letter has a direct and somewhat harsh challenge given to a complacent and overly-confident church. These words are a warning to wake up and see reality for what it is so that we might more fully invest our lives in what really matters.

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Sardis was one of the oldest and most powerful cities of the ancient world. This city had it all including a choice location, a strong economy and a vibrant culture. It was positioned on a high point of land, with rock walls on all but one side that provided a natural guard against attack. Their location and history gave the Sardians a sense of invincibility and importance far grander than was deserved. Reality did not align with their self-perception.

Of the seven churches, Sardis comes under the most severe condemnation, as this letter is primarily a word of warning and admonition. Nothing good is said about this church as a whole. Jesus said that he knew their works, as they had a reputation for vitality, but they were actually without life. The contents of this letter give every indication that the church itself had taken on some of the delusional assumptions of the city as a whole. Jesus told them to wake up and put effort into what they had left. They needed to become aware of what they were not seeing because of their spiritual apathy.

The reference to an unexpected thief would have been readily apparent to the Sardians. Previous conquerors of the city didn’t overtake it by direct attack, but had twice defeated it unexpectedly because those in Sardis had failed to watch adequately, to be on guard. Jesus’ words here warn the church to be watchful or they too would be caught off guard.

There we are few who had not “soiled their clothes,” however. This is an image of those who were living in victory. The emperor would wear white in military triumph, as well as the people who would celebrate with him. If the believers in the church in Sardis conquered, they would rejoice in overcoming. If not, they would be making a choice to have their names removed from the registry of citizenship, just as a traitor might have their name removed from the city registry. Yet there is still is time to heed the challenge and take seriously what it means to follow Christ.

We are all invited to learn from the Jesus’ warnings to the churches. We must not settle for the status quo. It’s too easy for us to depend on past achievements instead of looking to God’s call for us now and into the future. It is not enough to be “in church.” We are called to live our lives “in Christ.” We do this by following the words of Jesus: Wake up, strengthen what remains, remember, obey and repent. If we heed these words, our eyes will be opened to new life in our relationship with Christ, as well as engage God in new ways of living out this relationship.

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Topics: Calling, Repentance, Sin

Sermon Series: Dear Church

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The MuseCast: March 19

Focus Scripture:

  • Revelation 3:1-6

    “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard; obey it and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not erase your name from the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

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