Last post we mentioned that Jesus had nothing good to say to the church of Sardis, but that did not mean that they were without hope. As with all the seven churches of Revelation there is a remedy for their sins, rebellion, hypocrisy and indifference.
The situation is urgent in Sardis and there is no time to coddle the church, instead Jesus directs a series of commands to them that must be followed if they are to survive. “Awake, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death,” (Revelation 3:2) and “Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent,” (Revelation 3:3) are direct commands from Jesus.
In verse 4 Jesus announces, “Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments.” If the vast majority of people who profess to be Christians in Sardis are in fact spiritually dead, there is still a small minority that clung to their faith in Jesus.
The idea of a remnant that stay close to Jesus while all others fall away into the snares of sin and indifference is a theme that runs throughout Scripture. In the days of Noah, only he and his family survived the great flood. In the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah only Lot and his two daughters survived the great fire that consumed them.
When the nation of Israel feel away from God during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel, God reassured Elijah that there were still seven thousand in Israel that had not bowed their knee to the pagan gods. Later when the kingdom of Judah fell because of their rebellion against God, they were reminded that a small remnant survived who still looked to God as their Savior.
Isaiah wrote, “Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” Isaiah 1:9 Regarding the exile Isaiah brought the bad news that, “Though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return,” (Isa. 10:22) out of exile. Isaiah even named his son, Shearjashub that means, “a remnant shall return.” This theme of remnant is carried through into the New Testament as well. (See Mark 8:38; Luke 12:32; 18:8)
Now, here is the important aspect regarding to whom Jesus is addressing His message; it is to the “remnant” that He calls to awaken, remember and repent. It is to those who are asleep in the church and not the church as a whole, because they are already fast asleep. These people, the remnant, are on “the point of death,” but they are not dead like the rest of the church, and they have a mission to awaken their sleeping brothers and sisters.
This is the call of the remnant within the church, “who have not soiled their robes,” to awaken their fellow Christians out of their stupor and encourage them to put their trust fully in Jesus.
Jesus tells the remnant, “Awake, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death.” (Revelation 3:2a) John Stott writes beautifully regarding the theme of this verse. “Here then is the duty of the Church within the church. God has often worked through minorities. It is His gracious plan to call out from the world and even from the masses of nominal believers a faithful and committed remnant to be His instrument. An alive and awake minority can recall the majority from death. A robust remnant can ‘strengthen what remains and is on the point of death.’ ” What Christ thinks of the Church p. 91
Stott goes on to say, “A dynamic minority of living and awakened Christians can by prayer and love preserve a dying church from utter extinction.” (p. 91) Jesus, however, in the second part of verse 3 states, “If you will not awake, I will come like a thief and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.” (Revelation 3:3b)
God has a handful of people in Sardis who are loyal (4a), a remnant within the church who still follow Him. But this remnant is a long way from perfect; they are falling asleep and on the verge of death. They need to awaken, repent and get back in the game. They have a work to do and that is to minister to those in the church who have spiritually died and are Christian in name only.
In the earlier John Stott quote he mentioned that a minority can by prayer and love change the direction of the church. What a wonderful thought and what a gracious hope! We may sit week after week in a dead and dying church but there can be hope for the church if a remnant within the church begins to pray and love the church. Men and women dedicated to God, being used by the Spirit can alter the direction of that church.
Let’s carry the thought out to our communities. What would happen if a handful of people through love and prayer began to seek God’s direction with all their hearts for their town or city?
To me the problem isn’t that we live in cities and towns where the people seem indifferent to the gospel or we go to a church that is dead. The problem is “where are the remnant?” who dares to stand up like Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and a host of others and call the people back to God through prayer and love.
The remnant is not some elite super-spiritual group of people who have their entire Christian life all together. In fact they are just the opposite of that, they are people who acknowledge their failures and weaknesses and long to live closer to God.
The remnant is those who put their trust in God because they know they are not strong enough, powerful enough or wise enough to try to save themselves. The remnant longs for revival within the church and within the life of the community. They long to grow spiritually and be used by God.
Let me end with this thought. Every community has its remnant who have not bowed the knee to Baal. These people are salt and light in a community, regardless of how dark it may seem. And as the remnant calls the community back to God people will respond to the call and join that faithful band of believers. The light will grow brighter and stronger with each new person who comes to Christ with an open heart and a loving character.
Our towns and cities can be changed and as in the song Pass it On “it only takes a spark to get the fire going.” Next post we will look once again at the church at Sardis and find what lessons God has for us there.
* Please remember to pray for the Christians who are suffering persecution for their faith in many countries around the world. These people remain true to Christ even unto death. There is a great evil settling on this earth and we must be vigilant in our prayers and stay close to Christ. Our hope is in Christ and he is faithful to his people. Please take the time to read about what is taking place in the world around us at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…