“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. 4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:1-6 NIV
Sardis was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, some thirty miles south-east of Thyatira, the old capital of Lydia. It was situated at the crossing of Roman roads, in a plain watered by the river Pactolus. The city was of very ancient origin and was seized and conquered by different kings many times over. In its early history, it was ruled by King Meles and after him, by a series of princes, the last of whom was Croesus, who was celebrated for his wealth and his misfortunes. Sardis was conquered by Cyrus and then by Alexander the Great and in 214 B.C. by Antiochus the Great. The kings of Pergamus ruled after that and from them it passed into the hands of the Romans. In the time of Tiberius, Sardis and eleven or twelve other important cities of Asia were desolated by an earthquake. The calamity was increased by a pestilence.
In very early times, Sardis was an important commercial city. According to Pliny, they invented the art of dyeing wool. The flocks of Phrygia furnished Sardis with the raw material for the manufacture of all kinds of woolen goods, including carpets. Sardis was also the place where the metal “electrum” was procured, Gold was found in the bed of the Pactolus and silver and gold coins are said to have been first minted there. It was also, at one time, known as a slave-market. The impure worship of the goddess, Cybele, was celebrated there, and the massive ruins of her temple can still be seen. It was a city of softness and luxury and of apathy and immorality. The city is now a heap of ruins. Along with Laodicea it was rebuked most of all the seven churches.
Jesus speaks to the church of Sardis and reminds them, “I know your deeds.” People look at the outside, but God looks on the heart. Don’t forget that the Lord sees it all – everything you do, everything you think, the secret things of your heart – so don’t be tempted to impress people by living a life that looks good only on the outside, when in reality, your life is in a mess and you are very far from God – He is the only One Who matters! The church at Sardis was supposed to be alive and on fire for God – everyone thought that they were alive – but in reality they were dead on the inside. Jesus is saying to them, “Wake up and smell the coffee! I know that you seem to be faithful believers in me; but in reality you do not follow me anymore. You look alive, but inside you are dead and what little life that remains is about to be snuffed out. Stir up yourselves to rescue what little righteousness remains in you.”
Jesus provokes them to remember and to call to mind the lessons they have received and heard. In Proverbs 4:20-23, the Lord God impresses upon us the importance of keeping the Word of God in your eyes and your heart – that means taking time to study it and making it your own – being both a hearer and a doer: “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; 22 For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. 23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” (NKJV) You must continually, without stopping or giving up, or pulling back, lay the Word of God to heart. If God’s Word is firmly established in your heart as the standard you live by, then everything else becomes easier.
Jesus also urges them to obey the Word, and repent. The Word and the Spirit will convict you and bring you to a place where you know that you must repent. After that, you must make the choice to obey Him every day, in everything. Obviously, the church at Sardis had wandered very far from the truth of the Word of God, or they would not be in this position of having the last little bit of fire in them about to be snuffed out. If you are backslidden from God, then you will not be expecting and anticipating Jesus to return for you anytime soon at all. You will be thoroughly surprised and totally caught off guard when He does, unlike those who are submitted to Him and who eagerly anticipate and watch for His return.
Jesus says that there were just a few people left in Sardis who had not soiled their clothes. When you bow your knee to Jesus, your Savior, Jesus saves you and washes you clean – your sins are wiped away, He takes your old tattered garments and exchanges them for garments of pure white – robes of righteousness. You can’t buy this righteousness and you can’t earn it, but you can honor Him by walking in purity and keeping your garments clean. Sin soils your robe of righteousness, but repentance restores their purity.