We turn the corner on the series of letters. This is letter number 4 – now past the midway point in the series. Like its chiastic counterpart, letter number 3 to the church in Pergamum, this letter is addressed to a church that is going through severe problems – the letter contains no commendations; only warnings and exhortations.
On the outside the church in Sardis appears to be vibrant and healthy; but Jesus, who knows all, sees otherwise – it is dead. Although we cannot know for certain precisely the manner, the church in Sardis has managed to find a way to avoid all tribulation and persecution that should have been expected for a Christian church at that time and place. Therein lies the problem: in avoiding persecution, the church has managed to compromise its faithfulness to Jesus. It has wandered away from the true source of Spirit and Life, seeking security and stability in the practices of the world.
The precise type of temptations we face today, in regards to accommodating worldly practices, differ from that faced by the church in Sardis. But we can apply the general principle found in this letter: anything that leads us to depend on the security offered by the world above that offered in Jesus is faithlessness; i.e., sin. No matter how “religious” we may appear, even to ourselves, if we are not depending upon Jesus completely in every part of our lives, we do not have the Spirit and Life – we are dead.
The good news is Jesus does not give up on anyone, even those that may be “dead.” He has the power to resurrect and bring to life even those that have died, if they choose to respond to his breath of life. The church at Sardis was spiritually dead, but Jesus did not give up on it. He sent this letter to “wake them up” so that they might choose to receive the Spirit Jesus wanted them to have.