Reading Revelation 3:1-6
I find the words of Jesus to the Church in Sardis terrifying. “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” (1) In the New Testament Jesus always reserves his harshest words for those who claim faith, and for the religious establishment. He calls the Pharisees ‘a brood of vipers’, (Matthew 12:34) and warns them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28).
This appears to be at the heart of the issue in Sardis. Outwardly people credit the church with being an alive, successful and vibrant church, however inwardly they are dead: their lives, their hearts, and their discipleship do not match their publicity. This is not just a first century problem, Brennan Manning wrote: “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle… That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
We are in danger of hypocrisy whenever we pretend to be better, holier, more spiritual, or more loving than we are; when we give the impression of being very humble and do so very publicly; when we lift our hands high in worship, yet ignore the poor and the immigrant.
Sadly, we run after those who seem outwardly successful, because we hope some of their success will rub off on us! We chase the impressive, the significant and the beautiful things but often under the hype and facade there are just rotting bones.
God cares about our hearts, not our street credibility, the depth of our love, not the size of our following. In the 1966 film “A Man For All Seasons”, there is a dialogue between Sir Thomas More (16th-century Chancellor of England, who refused to endorse King Henry VIII’s wish to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon), and the incredibly ambitious and proud Richard Rich.
Sir Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You’d be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one.
Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it?
Sir Thomas More: You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that.
Jesus commands the Church in Sardis to wake up! (3) One of the amazing things about sleep is you do not know you’ve been asleep until you wake up. Are you awake or sleep walking?
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:14-15)
Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. (Rev 3:3)
Father, I want to honour you with my lips, my heart, my life and my deeds. I’m so sorry that I long to be a ‘something’ in the eyes of the world. I know that while the world looks on the outside, you examine the heart. I am sorry that significance and the praise of people often mean more to me than your well done. Please forgive me and pour out your Spirit that I may walk new paths. Lord, I want to be awake! I want your light to shine on me. Amen
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