Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Letter to the congregation at Sardis

The town of Sardis, founded in 2000 BC was one of the greatest and wealthiest cities.  Gold coins were first made there in 600 BC.  The legendary King Midas (everything he touched was gold) was from Sardis.  His mother was the goddess Cybele – who is none other than the Babylonian goddess Semiramis. 

 It sat on a cliff 1000 feet high and was considered unconquerable, so they didn’t guard it.  Cyrus the Persian finally conquered the city, and then it was conquered again 300 years later by Antiochus IV, again, because they didn’t guard it.  The city was great and then became dead.

 I have been trying to figure out what Sardis means, and I just can't seem to find any information on it.

 Here is the letter:
 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.  Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.  You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.   “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Sardis represents the era of the Reformation, which brought the church out of the dark ages.  The Reformation was a major necessary step to correct the corrupt church of the previous age, but the letter says that the work was not perfect (meaning not complete). 

So why is there no good report in Sardis?  The Reformation was a good thing, was it not?  The letter says they had a name - a reputation - that they are alive, but they were dead.  Could it be that the church of Sardis, representing the Reformation church, had to be like a seed that was dropped to the ground to die, before it could be born again?

In a nutshell – what the Reformation started out to do, it stopped way too soon.  To whom much is given, much is required.  Justification by faith was taught, but the Holy Spirit was not.    The church became filled witth people trusting in a name, but were never born again.  The Spirit gives life, and they were dead.

They also did not correct the anti-semitism or the Replacement Theology (the idea that the church has replaced Israel in God's plan) that had been prevalent in the previous church ages.  Too much false doctrine from the Catholic church remained and was not corrected.  Reformationists even began persecuting Anabaptists because they didn’t baptize infants. 

Additionally, they too became state-run churches – Lutheran in Germany – Calvinism in Switzerland, Anglican in England, etc.

Reformation churches in general were trusting in their name and reputation.  I think of the time my children spent in a Lutheran school.  Reformation Sunday was a huge celebration in late October.  I remember being bothered by how much they focused on Martin Luther. It was all about being Lutheran!  Other mainline protestant denominations are similar.  We joined a Methodist church many years ago, before we were even believers, and we were asked to promise to be loyal to the United Methodist Church.  Really?  Even as an unbeliever, that didn't sit well with me.

The city of Sardis was conquered twice by the spirit of false trust, while they were sleeping.  The Lord will come like a thief, lest they watch, similar to how Sardis was conquered.  Today, the Lord may say to the church, "Wake up!"  But we know that the Lord will not come as a thief to the believers - hallelujah! 

And there is hope offered to those few in the dead church, who have not defiled their garments.  They will be clothed in white and walk with Yeshua, who will confess their names before His Father and the angels - and their names will remain in the Book of Life!

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