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. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Chuck Swindoll once told the story of a high school teacher who finally reached his limit. His class was lethargic, indifferent, unengaged, and utterly bored. Finally, in the middle of a class, after yet another particularly-long and overly-exaggerated yawn emanated from the class, the teacher stopped, slammed his book closed, walked to the board, took out his marker, and wrote this word in huge letters: APATHY.
Sitting up front were two of the slackest teenage boys the earth has ever seen. At the teacher’s dramatic behavior they stirred from their slumber and studied the word he had written. One of the young men squinted his eyes and stared intensely at the word. He then nudged his compatriot and asked, “Hey, what does a-pay-the mean?” His friend glanced up at the word, chuckled, locked his fingers behind his head, stretched out his legs in front of the desk, yawned, and said, “Who cares, man?”
Apathy. It is defined as “lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.” It is when you are there but not really there. An apathetic life is one that just walks through the world largely indifferent, lacking passion, drive, or conviction.
If you could put a scarlet “A” on a church you would put one on the church of Sardis and the “A” would stand for “Apathy.”
Sardis: a comfortable, wealthy, unprepared city with a comfortable, wealthy, unprepared church.
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.
Sardis was being destroyed by comfort, not by (1) persecution or (2) false teachings, neither of which are mentioned. Scott Duvall writes:
No mention is made of persecution from without or false teaching from within because the primary problem is a wholesale assimilation to the surrounding culture.
That is a good way of putting it. Douglas Moo concurs and observes:
John does not mention anything like the persecutions at Smyrna and Pergamum or the heresies of the Nicolaitans. It may be that this church had not suffered disturbance from without and that its troubles stemmed from its comparatively sheltered existence. The temptation for the sheltered is always to take things easy, and they readily become slack.
This reality of death masquerading behind a façade of life—this apathy, this lack of vitality, this lack of genuine passion and conviction and movement forward in the Kingdom life—was spoken of before by Jesus. For instance, consider how Jesus calls out the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
It is possible to appear to be alive but to in reality be dead. It is possible to keep the blood flowing and the machinery in operation while lacking anything resembling actual life. When this happens we make a mockery of the Lord God and we position ourselves for judgment.
So I would like to talk to the dead people walking among us: the apathetic, the indifferent, the alive but not really, the here but not really. And I would like to ask this question: How can we avoid the swift destruction that will come upon the compromised life? Jesus outlines five needs for such a person.