The Letter to the Church at Sardis

March 16, 2022

Leadership Notes


Revelation 3:1-6 - "Not Good"


In the adult Sunday School class I lead, we looked at the Reformation in England and Scotland. One of the driving forces of reform was getting the Bible into the hands of laypeople…the accessibility of God's Word in the common language so people could read it and understand it.


Well, that effort was a threat to the institutional church. The last thing they wanted was people measuring and weighing church practices and teachings against the standard of God's Word. If you can control communication, you can control people. Which is why, even today, if a podcaster says something I disagree with or don't like or is wrong, he or she must be shut down. Fascism/authoritarianism beats within the hearts of many.


And so, the movement grew. People could now see through false teachings and unbiblical teachings. As a result of this surge, pastors and interpreters and scholars and printers were martyred. That's what people endured in order to preserve and protect and defend the truth of God's Word.


The church at Sardis was not a Biblical church. They did not seem to care about Biblical truth. They were a church in name only. In other words, they were living a lie.


I was recently reading about the Church of Scotland. The Scottish Reformation was launched in the 1500s under the leadership of John Knox and others. They were the architects of the Presbyterian form of church government. They were grounded in solid, Reformed, Biblical theology.


There was fierce opposition to the reform engaged in by Knox and those who followed. It is estimated that 18,000 people were murdered for their attempts to teach, preach, understand, and honor Biblical Truth. Think about how much blood ran in the attempt to hold fast to God's Word.


At one point, there were approximately 2,200 churches in Scotland. Now there are less the 1,400, and falling fast. Some of them have been turned into theaters. Others, restaurants or pubs. Some have even been redesigned into apartments. Churches are dying. There are dead people in pews and pulpits. And it wasn't just Sardis 2,000 years ago and it isn't solely in places like Scotland. It's even here, in the United States. Too many churches are on life support.


A few years ago, David Randall wrote, "A Sad Departure." It's about the Church of Scotland's departure from Scripture regarding its teaching on marriage. It examined why pastors and people were leaving the church. There was, and continues to be, an exodus over Biblical truth.


Here's the story within the story. In drips-and-drabs, over the years, the Church of Scotland was moving away from the authority of Scripture. They began tolerating false teaching around the deity of Christ. It was like the frog in the kettle. A little bit at a time. There was no mass exodus. A loyal opposition remained. But it didn't halt the erosion of Biblical Truth.


The big leaving didn't happen until the Church of Scotland embraced marriage equality. Better late than never, I suppose. The issue bigger than marriage equality, though, is Biblical authority and the nature and work of Christ. What will the remnant do? Will they continue with a false church, or will they begin a movement elsewhere?


Perhaps Sardis was the first sad departure in church history. Jesus knew their deeds, and there was little to commend. Like the prodigal son of whom the father said, "This son of mine was dead" {Luke 15:24}, only by repentance and return could life be restored. So they are challenged, in verse 2, to wake up!


I love how Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 10:12:


Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.


We must always be careful not to contaminate our Christian witness by accommodation to the prevailing standards of our pagan culture.


I know most of the seven letters to the seven churches have been tough to look at, not because of difficulty to understand, but because we have to look at what is ugly to get to the beauty of God's grace and mercy. Diagnosis must come before cure. And our cure is faithfulness to the Scriptures which tell of the grace and glory of Jesus Christ. There is much joy to be found in withstanding the pressure to abandon the Truth of God's Word!


Here is a great encouragement from Martyn Lloyd-Jones:


"We do not give birth to ourselves, we are not reborn because we believe. We believe because we are reborn…"


And now, your Moment of Spurgeon:


OUR MOTTO IS, "WITH GOD, ANYWHERE: WITHOUT GOD, NOWHERE."


TTFN,


Richard

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