If we can learn anything from the first-century churches of Asia Minor, it is the propensity of Christians and churches toward decline.
As you read Revelation 2–3, you see churches that were started in the days of the apostles already seeing sharp spiritual decline in that first generation.
But if there is one other thing we can learn from these churches, it is that Christ cares about the condition of the church and that He desires to revive His church.
Notice these instructions the Lord gave to the church at Sardis through the Apostle John:
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. 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.—Revelation 3:2–3
These are words of hope. They speak to God’s willingness to revive Christians and local churches that were once vibrant in their faith but are now faltering in their love and loyalty for Christ.
To the church at Sardis, Christ laid out for them the path to spiritual restoration in five specific commands that would bring revival:
- Be watchful—In other words, “Wake up!” Confront sin and indifference. Refuse to say, “It’s okay” when it comes to sin.
But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,—Ephesians 5:13–15
- Strengthen the things that remain—Fan the flame of the dying embers. Awaken the spiritual graces within.
As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?—Psalm 42:1–2
- Remember—Remember what you knew about Christ, what you were previously taught.
Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.—Galatians 4:15
- Hold fast—Don’t let these truths slip from your heart. Keep those truths that were once precious to you.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.—1 Thessalonians 5:21
- Repent—Turn back to the place where you once were.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.—1 John 1:8–9
The spiritual decay in Sardis was so far advanced that the Lord said, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1).
This isn’t just a slightly apathetic church we’re talking about. It is a dead church. A church that still appeared to have life because of its name in the past, but in reality, it was dead.
Here’s the encouraging truth: If there are instructions that would revive a dead church, surely they could bring revival to a Christian or church that is anywhere between vibrant and dead.
Do you long for revival in your life? The path given to the church in Sardis is still available.
- Be watchful—When was the last time that you confronted sin in your life? Do you see sin in your heart? Or just in others’ lives?
- Strengthen the things that remain—What are you doing to fan the God-given flames of love for God? Are you engaging in spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, fasting, etc. with a heart to know God?
- Remember—Are you remembering what God has done in your life in the past? The day you were saved? The spiritual victories of your early walk with the Lord?
- Hold fast—Do you hold fast the truth you’ve been given? Or do you let it slip through negligence and indifference? Have you been questioning and redefining truth that at one time changed your life for the better?
- Repent—Have you repented recently? When the Lord pricks your heart on Sunday, do you do something about it? Does it affect your day on Monday?
One of the most encouraging truths about this letter from Christ to Sardis is His willingness to restore His people.
Indeed, our God delights in reviving the spiritual life that He put in us. Will you let Him do it in you?