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To the Church in Sardis

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
November 11, 2020 7:00 am

To the Church in Sardis

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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November 11, 2020 7:00 am

Looking at this church from the outside, youd have to say it looked alive and well. It was active and busy, with a full calendar of events and projects. It had a good reputation in the community. But it had a problem. A big one. Jesus put it this way: You are dead.

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Welcome to the Bible, studio radio and Internet Ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals featuring the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce for more information please contact us by calling toll-free one 804 88 18 and now the alliance is pleased to present the Bible study our preparing you to think and act biblically number of years ago, when our high school was getting underway.

I took some time to read books of instructions for teachers and I remember reading one book of instructions for English teachers when you're grading a student's essay. You should always try to say something complementary before you begin to criticize it even if only complementary thing you can find the site is what a lovely color of ink using what Jesus has follow that pattern. In the letter to most of these churches see is generally found something good beside me for begins as critique and yet, here we come to this letter to the church of Sardis and we find that it like Leo to say as a church which Jesus finds nothing of all the commands because the church in Sardis was a dead church was like a church pastored by a minister who at one point in his pastorate penned this bit of doggerel that went like this.

Tell my people when I'm dead, that they should shed no tears for I shall be no better than than they have been for years. While it may be humorous, but the situation is in the dead church is not a funny situation because a dead church is no true church even though it may appear to be one outwardly, it may be active, but it will only be an example of what we sometimes call nominal Christianity Christian the Christian in name only supposes useful at this point to note that the city of Sardis had a famous cemetery narrative Acropolis that was called the city of a thousand hills named after many burial mounds where they are in the graveyard and could be seen from the city. It's a reminder of the church and have many, many members of thousand, perhaps, and still is dead. As the inhabitants of cemetery. Sardis is a very old city. Some interesting things about it at 10 been the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia Reese 1200 years before Christ pastored many different hands. After that, the most striking thing about it is that it was situated on a high plateau that was very difficult to approach. It was surrounded on almost all sides with very steep hills, possible hills 1500 feet high as five times the length of a football field. For those of thinking football today and what that meant is that this Acropolis was virtually unapproachable. Therefore, the people thought themselves invincible.

I felt absolutely safe in their city and yet they were conquered twice, once by Cyrus of Persia, 549 BC the second time, I am the officer was a successor to Alexander the great and to 18 BC to talk about that later because it involves an interesting story as their city on the hilltop grew and outgrew space up there. It spread to the plane beneath, but that by this time I was already in decline and had outlived its reputation, so it was a city really living on reputation from the past, the glory had departed. And yet it had been glorious. This is the city that had been in the early days for a king, a famous almost mythical figure prescience. We have gotten a byword because of his name we say as rich as Creasy us.

He was so wealthy for his day that Solomon famous lawgiver of Athens went to visit him on one occasion and he was shown all of the magnificent treasure of this man more gold than any city, at least in the area possess. At that time, Croesus boasted that his wealth made him the happiest of men, Solomon was a wise man he knew better than that. He saw the king and his people. The seeds of the client and he replied in classical language that no one should call a man happy until he is dead now.

Herodotus tells us something about them. Croesus wanted to go to war against the king of Persia, Cyrus same one as name appears in the book of Daniel, and so we consulted the oracle at Delphi. Find out whether he should go or not being superstitious and received this famous reply article said if you cross the river. Hollister will be displaying a great empire so naturally that I was referring to the Empire of Cyrus, not realizing that the words could apply equally well that was honking so he went to battle. It was defeated, lost his army retreated to his hilltop fortress where he hoped to gather another Army but Cyrus surrounded them quickly, and he was held hostage. There now. They consider themselves to be invincible.

This is where the city actually felt was a soldier who had heard Cyrus offered a reward anybody you could find a way of getting into the city and he was watching those walls and let steep hillside very intently when he noticed one of the Lydian soldiers within drop a helmet by accident fell over the edge of the rampart and tumbled down the slide into a crevice, then to his surprise he saw soldier make his way over the wall and climbed down through a hidden or been to retrieve his helmet and then go back up so I realize it was a way of getting up there. He watched very closely and then as soon as they were back on top. The night had fallen. He led a party of soldiers up through that crevice the walls. When they got to the walls, I discovered they weren't even guarded people inside were so self-confident of their safety that they hadn't even posted soldiers on watch and so the city fell city wasn't watching and it fell strikingly exactly the same thing happened hundreds of years later, in the time of Antioch again, a soldier found his way out that steep ascent of hillside and they took the city NAD 17 earthquake destroyed the town rebuilt and never regained his former glory and prominence. Young Blake Locke, an Australian writer writes about it. Sardis had a name for strength, but she was weak. She had a name for permanent split, the glory had departed.

She had a name for wealth, but she was poor.

See what all of this is going, it becomes an apt description of this church that appeared to be so healthy so much alive, but was actually dead within His Way, Ramsey puts that he said great scholar studied this area of the world. It was a city whose history conspicuously on preeminently blaze and forth the uncertainty of human fortune weakness of human strength in the shortness of the step which separates over confident might from sudden and irreparable disaster was the city's name is almost synonymous with pretensions on justified promise unfulfilled appearance without reality. Confidence, which heralded ruin you know anything about the origin or the growth of the church of that city, but it is interesting because where studying the book of Revelation that one of its early bishops man. His name was Melito was the first known commentator on the book of Revelation, Jesus first words of this charge are almost the same as his words to the church at Ephesus what he tells them as this is, as I know your deeds, what it said to the church of Ephesus was less. These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds and hard work and perseverance. Some respects of the same words but there's a vast difference between them. The deeds of the Ephesians were genuinely good works and criticism of black churches that they had left their first love of a were falling away from Jesus Christ somewhat, there called upon to repent and establish that person relationship deeds. Some of these nominal believers in Sardis were not spiritually authentic is what Jesus means when he says I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of God in a certain sense. They were good deeds was not an inactive church.

We can assume that it was well attended. It was successful at its budget since programs included efforts to help the poor. Presumably undoubtedly to build better community relations because were no criticisms of the church from a population roundabout is a matter of fact, it had a good reputation with them said you have a reputation for being alive and apparently they did was only an external impression by unbelievers of bladder couldn't see the heart of spiritual things because Jesus said that in his sight sight of God Almighty. The church was actually dead makes us pause and think because we want to ask the question church. The active live, doing all sorts of good things possess a good reputation even from the world and at the same time be spiritually dead.

The answer is apparently so, because good works in many good works necessarily indicate the reality of spiritual life member what Paul said to the Corinthians. He said that the day of judgment will reveal each one's works for what they are and that many will be consumed by fire. First Corinthians 3, George Eldon Ladd called this a good picture of nominal Christianity outwardly prosperous busy with the externals of religious activity but devoid of spiritual life power. This church was like mighty Samson strongman of the Old Testament to what he was short of his locks did not know the power of the Lord and left him only when asked what was wrong with this church. Sardis told much about it, at least not explicitly, but there are some clues to what was wrong when clue is that in verse five the faithful are commanded because they haven't soiled their clothes. How soiling of closeness and unmistakable image for the contamination that comes from sentence of the fact that you were not soiled means that the majority had apparently fallen into the sinful ways of the culture in which they live in that immoral city. They seem to be Christians but their behavior was actually maligning their profession. These people call Jesus Lord would've said, Lord, Lord, they didn't obey him. They were actually is false as of the Ephesians. Dead in their transgressions and sins. Others also include what was wrong and the fact that there's nothing in this letter that mentions any kind of persecution or the fact that they needed to oppose heresy church in Ephesus left its first love but it'd been opposing false teachers church in Smyrna had been persecuted by Jews and by the Roman state.

Obviously because it stood for something church in Pergamum in the church and via tire I had accommodated the false counsel of bailment and make Landon's woman Jezebel but the believers there were at least warned against these things and they were urged to persevere. What seems to be the case Smyrna and set the church was not involved in or struggling against any heresy or was it being attacked either from without.

From pagans or without from the Jews.

Interesting that the largest synagogue yet found in the ancient world was there in this city suggest that thousands of Jews lived in that city and get was no mention of any persecution from the Jewish community.

Probably because the church should smart us so far as any spiritual life is concerned didn't have anything worth attacking church was at peace but a piece of the cemetery was dead, forfeited its spiritual life. We have a description of what that kind of churches like in second Timothy passage that I've often referred to, because it has to do with the power of the word hidden church today why the word has to be retained, believed and preached. Paul writes in the third chapter of that letter of the last days. He says in those last days are going to be a lot of terrible things people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash conceded lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. It sounds like the world in which we live.

All you have to do is pick up the newspaper or magazine any time at all you find countless illustrations of every one of those vices.

The same thing. I often point out is not the list of the vices of the fact that the world is like that. What else should we expect fact in the last line of the paragraph Paul Lance having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof, and when he says that were alerted of the fact that he's not talking about the pagan world being like this in the last days. Those who have a form of godliness are nominal Christians fill up dead churches saying that's the problem in the last days.

Days like ours to be churches like this are going to be people like this frightening description of the world in which we live is what the church in Sardis was like. And Jesus puts that judgment upon it that it was spiritually moribund. Which is true of all of us apart from God's grace. What you do. Days like that. Will Paul told Timothy what to do didn't offer any new weapons any new trek novel evangelistic methods and find we find them offering recommending to Timothy that which is had all along. Mainly, the word of God. But as for you, says continuing what you've learned and become convinced of, because you know those from whom you've learned that you know the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Now that is exactly what Jesus is saying here that the church in Sardis number of commands you look at. It hasn't been you see the other five things that he tell us the faithful in the church to do first of all, the urges them to wake up or become watchfully alert wake up in order to strengthen what remains at the second thing there to remember that we are to obey and they are to repent. That's almost a formula for reviving more of an church of such a thing is possible.

They did their first of all, wake up to homicide addressed at first glance it seems to be addressed at the church as a whole because it's the church as a whole is died. We might think in that respect of Jesus calling the Lazarus related to Lazarus, come forth. Might be that sort of thing Paul actually become regenerate that is in exactly the right use of those words. Jesus called Lazarus forests but you don't say wake up really wake up, her words you speak to someone was sleeping not the corpse is probably best to think of this is addressed to those who were genuine believers in the church.

Sad thing about them. Of course, not that they were dad would be much worse. Naturally, the fact that they were asleep and I was bad enough suggest is that you're going to revive a church. It begins with those few individuals who are actually born again begins with those individuals waking up their condition on the condition of the church around them getting for a moment the world and beginning actually to do something about it. I would presume what they need to begin to do is pray by great revivals began the great revival in Ulster, Northern Ireland and few men meeting in the morning for prayer in the nearly abandoned schoolhouse out of the country right revivals in this country that started in New York began with prayer YMCA building there by number of men were likewise concerned about the state of the church there very fact that Jesus is calling to such people suggests that Christians should necessarily leave a dead church, leaving an apostate church is one thing church its apostate no longer actually believes the gospel is not a true church.

Christians don't belong there, but church the professors the right thing, that's a different matter, and presumably this church in Sardis have all the right doctrine, as long as it was possible clearly what the Christians were to do was seek its renewal, not as burials.

That's the first thing I would wake up with a price. Secondly, there to strengthen what remains and balls action as well as prayer involves careful work.

Those were spiritually alive even though they may be made babes in Christ or sleep themselves. We call this what we would call it teaching, training, or discipling many commands like that in Scripture.

I think of Isaiah 35.

Three. Strengthen the feeble hands steady the knees that give way say to those with fearful hearts be stronger not hear later Isaiah says that the Lord service that's a pattern in this respect. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, that's the challenge. Those who are true believers in a dead church.

Third thing is this. Remember what you have received her.

This is also directed the believers clearly because telling them to remember blessings or blessing that they received in the past out the specific thing so he asked the question, what is it John Stott says that it's the Holy Spirit, on the grounds of sound doctrine alone doesn't reclaim the church from death, but I find myself disagreeing with them at this point.

The next verse bourbon the sentences, the verb occurred at clearly refers to sounder apostolic teaching and the word received which analysis they are in the sentence as well as used many times is a technical term for actually receiving or believing the word of the gospel that's delivered the individual that's what the apostle Paul himself said when he was talking about the words were used in the Lord's supper. I have received from the Lord that which I have also passed on to you or it is precisely the word of God that is used in God's hands to bring about revival thing is really God's. Charles Finney, father of modern revivalism said when he was speaking about revival revival is not a miracle in any sense. It's a purely philosophic result of the right use of millions, meaning that it could be produced humanly by conversion stories, the anxious bench altar calls an invitation music but it isn't true, and do all those things not have a revival of all Holy Spirit operating through the preaching of the Bible regenerates sinners.

Peter described it this way. He said genuine conversion is being born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. That's also why the apostle Paul gave Timothy the instructions he did for dealing with those terrible last days. Continuing what you have learned and become convinced of, because holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, saying that the Bible is sufficient for doing evangelism in accomplishing genuine spiritual growth is the fourth thing that is urged upon these believers in the church and that is to obey it because it's not only sufficient to hear the word of God.

You have to obey what you hear.

Moreover, have to keep on obeying it as a verb, there is a present imperative, which carries with it the flaw obey and keep on obeying Satan intensively saw early on medevac the same word in Revelation 1 where you have blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written. That is, obey it and keep on obeying conclusion. Is this the greater the knowledge, the greater the obligation. So the question comes, you know the Bible you know sound doctrine that you received it of you been taught it gets you have in the obligation is to show it by your obedience to Jesus Christ, then there is 1/5 thing is the word repent final word of the church in Sardis is to repent that requirement. That's also urged by the churches in Ephesus Pergamum and later Laodicea is necessary because nominalism formality of the church like the church in Sardis is a sin. On the way to deal with sin is by repentance. That's a specific turning away from sin to Jesus Christ asked the question what will happen to this church in Sardis of a dozen repent. Jesus answers in verse three lay down words it is going to come like a thief.

That is when they least expect is coming that's borrowed from Matthew 24 we study that some time ago new baby familiar with that Matthew 24. Jesus is talking about his sudden appearance at the end of time for the final judgment uses an image she says I will come like a thief. I least expected, but here it seems to refer to some earlier anticipatory judgment on the church that refuses to repent, be a parallel to the warning given to the church in Ephesus traces that if you don't repent all come to you and remove your lampstand from its place on some very serious warning. Jesus is saying is that he will not tolerate a nominal church forever recalls that the repentance does those that are genuine believers wake up to get busy to pray to work for renewal, but if it doesn't happen. Renewal doesn't come the day is coming when he will remove the dead church entirely say what he really do that yes Yancey done it in many places at one time there was a strong church in North Africa. It's virtually gone today is happened in other areas of the world as well. Sometimes it's a slow process. Nominal churches begin just slowly to decline. They're not always overthrown immediately by enemies, we witness that all around us dead or dying churches. Sometimes it's also sudden in the church is gone will be true of many churches in the United States recover the gospel to be true right here we begin to lose it.

Think about other things rather than God's grace toward us in Jesus Christ and the gospel of the cross of the story of the church in Sardis is been a sad story because her few things that are than the death of the church was genuinely alive at one time something good.

Even here, and it's what I've been alluding to that was a faithful remnant of believers in Sardis those who would not soiled their clothes by trying to become like the world around it tells us that God always has a remnant even of the dead church when you think of what God had to say of the world in general. Before the flood destroyed it in the days of Noah, you find one of the strongest indictments against the sin of humanity and all the Scriptures. Every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil all the time. Yet there was one family. The family of Noah was a remnant they were faithful they were preserved in the ark says in Genesis.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God. We can hardly think of cities were more wicked than those ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but even in Sodom and Gomorrah was launched, his immediate family. Surprisingly, because lot poor example of righteousness. Peter nevertheless calls him a righteous man it was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men. He was that remnant in that city. Elijah's day. There were 7000 and bowed down the needed bailout even in the evil days preceding the birth of Jesus were still people like Anna the prophetess with the Jerusalem who were looking forward to God's redemption of the people like that in Sardis God says to them here are a number of great promises. First of all, you will walk with Christ is reversed of there being in heaven. Secondly, will be dressed in white whites, a prominent color in Revelation speaks of white robes white horses white clouds white stones white throne. It stands for purity almost any culture and that's certainly what it does here. Branson also has to do with triumph for the military triumph was celebrated in the ancient world, as it often was in Rome all the citizens were dressed in white, said of the city. On occasion like that. It was words Candido was a city in white had to do a celebration.

Perhaps that's involved. Thirdly, it says that Jesus will never block their names out of the book of life of life is mentioned again in Revelation chapters 13, 17, 20, 21 appears first in Exodus 32 and then finally Jesus will be acknowledged. He will acknowledge the name of these people before his father and the holy angels was it mean to be acknowledged. Well it's the exact opposite of what we find in the last two parables of Matthew 25 we find they are people who will not be acknowledged by Christ whose names are not written in the Lamb's book of life and were banished from his presence we find Jesus saying a medication depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels CS Lewis in the great essay weight of glory talks about the meaning of glory and one point he compares it to being welcome.

That is to be invited in being praise by Jesus Christ was our Lord, and he says, by contrast, that the worst thing you can imagine this to be shut out we experience maltase about here. Somebody was excluded from the circle in which he or she would very much like to be a part just crushed by the exclusion of partying an individual wants to go to when they're not on list of those were invited. They feel excluded or they don't get to go to a wedding or a miss something important work such humiliating experience of the most crushing experience of all is to appear before the Lord of glory and the day of the final judgment wanting to go in the leg. Great wedding banquet of the lamb find the door shut against you have Jesus say your name is not on the list. So I ask is your name on the list is your name written in the Lamb's book of life. You can be a member of the church at Sardis was active I get the is spiritually dead.

Is the church of which are a member, you can have your name entered on the roles of the church can hold a certificate of baptism in which your name is prominently displayed can be acknowledged as a Christian by those with whom you work yet not have your name written down on that only book that really matters. Jesus told his disciples to rejoice after they come back from their first great missionary excursion and see many many miracles don't rejoice. He said the demons are subject to you, but rejoice rather that your name is written down in heaven. The question is your name written there you rejoice in that today. Today the city of Sardis is a Roman church is gone. Those from Sardis is names were written in the Lamb's book of life are now in heaven there confess by him by Jesus Christ before the holy angels spray brother. We know how easy it is in our culture we see in ourselves to rejoice in activity numerical success long as we have a church that has lots of people budgets. Lots of activities to assume that therefore everything is well with the church. Even with our own souls as a warning. It was grace.

Search our hearts see whether Jesus says to the church in Sardis is true of us are not in order that we might not rest when others have done what has been achieved in past days. The fact that we have heard the gospel and responded to it by your grace belong to Jesus Christ and have our names written down in heaven where there is uncertainty about that in the life of Andy individual grace at that question might be answered.

Grace might be found on the still opportunity to do so is your listening to Bible study hour with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by. We seek to provide Christian teaching that will equip believers to understand and meet the challenges and opportunities of our time and place. Alliance broadcasting includes the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce every last word with Bible teacher, Dr. Philip Aiken, God's living word with pastor, the Rev. Richard Phillips and Dr. Barnhouse in the Bible featuring Donald Barnhouse. For more information on the alliance including a free introductory package for first-time callers or to make a contribution.

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