Clouds Parting Revealing the Heavens

A daily devotion for July 19th

Alive, But Dead

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.

Rev 3:1

Sardis was once one of the greatest cities of the world. It had been the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. In the 6th century B.C. it was ruled by a fabulously wealthy king whose name, Croesus, became a byword for uncounted wealth. Sardis was built on a mountain spur about 1500 feet above the valley floor. It was regarded as virtually impregnable to military assault. The church in this city is the least attractive of the seven churches to whom these letters are written. Our Lord finds nothing to commend about it.

The way the Lord presents himself to each of these churches is a clue as to what the church needs. Here he calls himself him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. The seven spirits are a symbol of the Holy Spirit in his fullness. What this church at Sardis desperately needed was life by the Spirit. They needed also to remember that Jesus is Lord of his church. It is not left to the members to run the church, to set up its form of government or to determine the nature of its ministry, but it is the prerogative of the Lord in their midst. These were truths they had forsaken or forgotten in Sardis.

As in all these letters, the life of the church is revealed in its deeds. Our Lord says, I know your deeds. In Sardis these were works that were done to impress people. They had a good reputation, but the church was actually dead. The members of it were, for the most part, not even believers. They were what we would call nominal Christians. This indicates a church made up of people who outwardly professed Christ — probably many of them thought of themselves as believers — but who actually possessed no spiritual life. They were Christians in name only.

There are thousands of churches like that around the world today. It is what gives non-Christians such a negative impression of Christians. They see the profession, but there is no life in those professing. Nothing backs them up. The church at Sardis was a church that had a reputation of being alive, but it was really dead. There was a time when this church was alive, when it was filled with people who knew the Lord. They served the homeless and the needy of the city. That is the way they won a reputation. They appeared to be a people committed to good works, but now there was no life there.

This church in Sardis was so devoid of life that it actually had no struggles going on within it. That is the difference between it and the other churches. There were no Jewish accusers of this church. There were no false apostles here. There were no domineering Nicolaitans who needed to be guarded against. There were no female seducers, as at Thyatira. There was nothing! Zip — that was the ministry of the church at Sardis!

Lord, keep me from thinking that the absence of struggles is an indication of your favor. Give me that life that comes only from your Spirit. Amen.

Life Application

How is it possible that a church with a reputation for good deeds can be devoid of spiritual life? What are the evidences of the Holy Spirit in your life?

This Daily Devotion was Inspired by one of Ray's Messages

The Church of the Zombies

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