“I know your works.
You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”
– Jesus, to the church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1)

In New Testament times, the city of Sardis sat high atop a hill that intersected important trade routes. The Jewish community was wealthy, influential, and as prosperous as the rest of the city’s inhabitants. Seemingly sheltered from harm, Sardis became known for its overconfident people and their busy lifestyle. Their lack of seriousness eventually led to the city’s demise twice, when enemies breached the wall and overtook the slumbering guards.

The church in Sardis largely mirrored the community – overconfident, rich, preoccupied, and off guard. Jesus knew of the church’s activities and programs, but instead of being impressed by the liveliness visible to those on the outside, He proclaimed the church as dead. The church’s reputation for being active and busy was undeserved. In God’s eyes, all that remained was a tastefully decorated corpse. Jesus declared that all the church services, traditions, religious activities and ceremonies did not prove the church’s life, but instead reflected spiritual sluggishness.

Christians must still avoid the Sardis trap. Although some equate activity in a church with spiritual life, God sees through the hustle and bustle, and He ascertains the heart of His people. He will not be deceived. Christians who enjoy religious freedom must shun the overconfidence that would tempt them to spiritual slumber. All our programs, events, concerts, classes, youth activities and Bible schools will not hide our church’s true spiritual state before God.

Asking ourselves the hard questions can help us avoid Sardis’ slumbering overconfidence. Has our church become too cozy in a pagan environment? Have we adopted a model of inoffensive Christianity that plays loosely with God’s Word? Have we turned the Gospel “inward” to meet only our own needs while lost people suffer around us? Perhaps we have the reputation for being alive and active. But does God see us as dead and asleep?

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog