by Rev Jason Phua
Bible Reading: Revelation 2:18-3:6; Psalm 70:1-5
READ (verses chosen for meditation)
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
Some thought that the “angel of the church in …” referred to in the book of Revelation refer to “pastor of the church”. When I heard it, I asked the question: “Now where did that come from?” Upon my ordination, I thought I didn’t quite hear the title “angel” being conferred to me! 😀
In a very large way, angels in the New Testament serve God as His messengers. Here, I prefer to see the “angel of the church in …” as specific messengers to the churches they have been appointed to (in relation to the seven churches mentioned in chapters 2-3). Hence, the message of Revelation 3:1-6 was given to the church of Sardis as a whole. The angel was probably the first point of contact to relate such a message to the congregation of Sardis. In fact, the messages given to the seven churches seem applicable in many of the churches today.
The message to the church of Sardis was one of warning. The congregation was warned not to continue with their hypocrisy; where they had the reputation of being spiritually alive but in reality, they were “dead”. Hence, the church was exhorted to wake up, repent and strengthen what remains. If they did not obey, the consequence would be that what remains will die.
The warning to the church of Sardis is a great warning for many of us in the church today. If we are not growing in the faith, do not expect our faith to stay “alive”. It.will.die.
Such a warning is applicable to the modern day churches because we do have the tendency of comforting ourselves in non-biblical ways. We do have the tendency to comfort ourselves that we are always “alive” no matter how wrecked our spiritual life is. Or there could be other types of teaching that we absorbed without much discernment. Teachings that go something like: “No matter how far away from God you are, God will always find you back”.
Personally I have big issues with such teachings. Firstly, it smacks of pure arrogance. We expect God to come find us when in reality, we do not really care about who is God in our daily living. Secondly, it gives believers a false sense of security. It is not divine assurance. Hebrews 10:22-23 made this clear: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
Yes, God is for us. But biblically, we are called to submit ourselves to Him in faith and hold fast to Him for faith. So Revelation is consistent: Wake up, repent and be strengthened. Do not be hypocritical and let our lives be authentically Christian. Otherwise, what remains will die.
When I was in Europe some years ago. I lament on the many churches that had turned to drinking holes, hotels and restaurants. Apparently, many had given up their faith and had now chosen to be “atheist”. I wouldn’t be surprised if churches in Singapore find ourselves in the same predicament if we do not wake up, repent and be strengthened. The call for Sardis to seek renewal is the same call for me to do the same. My faith in God is simply not a joke nor a passing cloud. On the eternal side of things, it is all I have and all that I am.
Therefore God, help me to wake up, repent and be strengthened! Help me not to take this precious gift of Christ you have given for granted; but to seek renewal and growth on a daily basis with You. Amen!