When elderly Adele Gaboury turned up missing four years prior, concerned neighbours in Worcester, Massachusetts, informed the police. A brother told police she had gone into a nursing home. Satisfied with that information, Gaboury’s neighbours began watching her property. Michael Crowley noticed her mail, delivered through a slot in the door, piling high. When he opened the door, hundreds of pieces of mail drifted out. He notified police, and the deliveries were stopped. Gaboury’s next-door neighbour, Eileen Dugan, started paying her grandson $10 twice a month to mow Gaboury’s lawn. Later Dugan’s son noticed Gaboury’s pipes had frozen, spilling water out the door. The utility company was called to shut off the water. What no one guessed was that while they’d been trying to help, Gaboury had been inside her home. When police finally investigated the house as a health hazard, they were shocked to find her body. The Washington Post (10/27/93) reported that police believe Gaboury died of natural causes four years ago. The respectable, external appearance of Gaboury’s house had hidden the reality of what was on the inside. Something similar can happen to people: We may appear outwardly proper while spiritually dead. All sorts of religious activity may be happening outside, while the real problem is missed: spiritual death on the inside.
Revelation 3:1-2 (NIV)
“To the angel[a] of the church in Sardis write:These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits[b] 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 found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, 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.
1.What is your reputation worth?
Many times, we have a reputation in life of living a certain lifestyle or we get a reputation by what we do. Sometimes, we allow social media to form a reputation of ourselves to other people, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – all these social media platforms can be wonderful tools if used correctly and for the right reasons.
Unfortunately, many people use social media to create a name for themselves, they use it to make people believe that they are of a certain character, but unfortunately reality and what we make people believe is two different things. Putting scriptures on our profiles and telling the world how good God is, and how we need to live for him and serve him, is all well and good if that is the lifestyle that we have come to adopt. But many times, what we put on social media is never what we portray in real life. We have a mask many times, a double life, what we portray and what we are is totally different.
The church in Sardis had the same problem that many people in the world have today, and that is they have a reputation that is worth nothing when put on Gods scales. You see Jesus, starts this letter to the church with a statement that confirms his omniscience (meaning he knows all things). He says, “I know what you are doing.” He then goes on to say, “Everyone might think that you are alive, but you are dead”
In this one verse, we find a reputation that was created by the people of Sardis, but coming against this reputation, we find two realities or two truths this morning. The first thing that Jesus says, is that you cannot hide from me, I know all things. You can deceive man, you can wear a mask and live a hypocritical life in front of man but when you come into my presence, when you come face to face with your maker, there is no mask you can put on that will hide who you are.
He says you can fool man by the way you live, you can fool man by lifting your hands in worship, you can fool man, by coming to church, you can fool man by giving to poor and giving into the kingdom of God, but you cannot fool me, you cannot fool me because I know all things, I not only know what you are doing, I also know why you are doing it, I know the reasons hidden in the depths of your heart that no man can see, I know it all.
And when you put your reputation on my scales, when I weigh out your reputation vs what the reality is. I find that you are dead. Its all talk and no action you are alive physically but spiritually you are as dead as a doornail. We play act a lot, we wear masks, we are nothing more than what Jesus called the Pharisees, when he said they worship me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. He called them what, yeah you guessed it, a bunch of hypocrites, actors on a stage.
The worst thing you could possible ever hear Jesus tell you, is depart from me, I never knew you, all you were living was a hypocritical life. We need to ask ourselves the all-important question this morning – Whose opinion matters, whose reality matters, are you more interested in the opinion and creating a good name for yourself amongst men, or are you focused on what Jesus thinks of you. When God weighs your actions and motives what will happen, will it hold firm and stand through the fire or will it burn away.
1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
We sing the song “for the praises of man, I will never ever stand, for the kingdoms of this world, ill never give my heart away or shout my praise.” But do we mean what we sing or is it just lip service unto God.
Galatians 1:10 (NIV)
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
2.Dead man walking
The second thing that Jesus tells this church, is that they are dead. Wow – can you imagine being in that position this morning, Jesus comes up to you and tells you, “you may think that you are alive and doing my will, but you are dead.
There is no indication that this church in Sardis was going through any form of persecution. Things “seemed” to be going well, maybe a little too well. So what exactly was the issue in Sardis.
Revelation 3:2, 3
for I have not found [any of] your deeds completed in the sight of My God or meeting His requirements. Keep and obey them, and repent [change your sinful way of thinking, and demonstrate your repentance with new behaviour that proves a conscious decision to turn away from sin].
The problem with the Church in Sardis was that they had become carnal. They had moved away from obeying the requirements of God. George Eldon Ladd defined the Sardis church as “a picture of nominal Christianity, outwardly prosperous, busy with the externals of religious activity, but devoid of spiritual life and power”.
Nominal Christianity can be described as a Christian only in name, there is no evidence of the power of God. It also means of very small value – and both are a picture of the Sardis church, Christians only in name, adding no value to the Kingdom of God.
In 2nd Timothy 3:5 Paul says it this way about such Christians:
Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
They had a reputation for being alive, maybe they were the hip place to be, it was like the name it and claim it churches you get today, the churches that preach prosperity and sin is never mentioned. Maybe it was all about entertainment. But whatever it was this morning, one thing is certain, that they had forgotten who they were meant to glorify. Their deeds were no longer for God but rather for man. They were more interested in convincing each other that they were spiritually on fire.
All of this meant nothing, everything was meaningless and empty. They were just going through the motions. They were alive yes according to man, but spiritually they were dead. Carnality had crept in; the flesh had taken over. They were what we would call “the walking dead”. They were too busy convincing each other and themselves how God was pleased with them, and how spiritually alive they were, to notice that they were dead.
How many of us find ourselves like that today, maybe we are alive, but it’s all become about the flesh, it no longer the fire of the Holy Ghost that rocks us to our core, but rather we have become dead spiritually. We no longer live as though we serve a God who is alive, it’s become a self-centred gospel, a gospel that has become watered and no longer has power. We proclaim to live for Christ, but all we are doing is living for ourselves.
Maybe we have become dead in our relationship with God, maybe like the Sardis church we are going through the motions, we have become complacent, it’s just about doing the bare minimum, there is no zeal, passion, and want to do more for Christ.
- When there is no more effort in what we do for Christ, when it’s a battle to go the extra mile, to witness to someone, to make it for outreach, to come to church on time.
- When we have no more compassion for the lost. We have lost the heart of Jesus, the desire to reach out to a dying world.
- Maybe there is no willingness to study Gods word for yourself, you accept any doctrine you listen to, you don’t bother to even ask the Holy Ghost to help you with wisdom and understanding.
- And the biggest one of the all this morning friends, is when you have lost the willingness to repent. There is no more conviction of the Holy Ghost. Our consciences have become seared. There is no more sensitivity to the wrong that we do, everything becomes right.
When these things happen this morning, the writing is on the wall, we are alive physically but we are spiritually dead.
3.Opening the box
How many know about Schrodinger’s Cat –
Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935, during the course of discussions with Albert Einstein. In simple terms, Schrödinger stated that if you place a cat and something that could kill the cat (a radioactive atom) in a box and sealed it, you would not know if the cat was dead or alive until you opened the box, so that until the box was opened, the cat was (in a sense) both “dead and alive”.
This box sometimes is where we live, it’s a place where we are both dead and alive. A place where reputations and what people think about us seem to take top priority.
A place where the flesh dominates the the spirit. We know all the right things to say, and when to say it. Our Christianese vocabulary is excellent. All of this is in the box.
But unfortunately, reality will have to take over at some stage, you see when the box is opened when we stand before our God, our creator and we the verdict is made – Dead or alive, What will it be? We cannot escape from this box being opened, we will eventually have to come out of the bubble that we live in, that is our flesh.
Vs 2 begins with a command Wake up!!! To rise up, to come out of the place that they are in, the place of living carnally to satisfy the flesh. They should come back to a place of relationship with God, a place where our reputation with God matters more than our reputation with man, a place where we confess and repent and turn away from sin, and to start walking in the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:14-18 (ESV)
14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says,“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Don’t be fooled this morning friends, denying Jesus is not only by the words we say, it’s by our actions as well. You see this church in Sardis, they did everything right according to man, but according to God and his standards and the way he wanted them to do it, and what he wanted them to say, they were far from the mark – if I could put it in terms of Matthew 10:33 – they denied Jesus, and his power and authority before man.
We can fall very easily into the same trap and become a hit with the world, doing exactly what the world likes, what the world wants and not what we are required to do by God.
The hope that we have this morning, is that Jesus loves you, he is waiting, if only you would come out of the box, reveal yourself, expose yourself to the true and living God. Surrendering our ways to God, means that we can have life, we do not need to live as though we have no hope.
and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
We have an option today, its either the box is opened when we stand before God and the truth of whether we are dead or alive is revealed, or we make that choice right now. We can make the decision to come out of this box of carnality, this box of worldliness, this box of the reputations of man and make a change. The only way to make a change is to come out of the box, in vs 2 the Contemporary English Version says “try to become stronger”. If we remain in the box convinced that we are in a relationship with God, filled with the Holy Ghost, we are deceiving ourselves. We need to get out and make a determined effort to surrender all to God, to strengthen our faith, and to do what God requires of us.
“If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”
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