Wake up! These are two words which can annoy us, startle us, or return us to reality. When we are woken up in the middle of the night by a person, our telephone, or even the alarm, we can be annoyed or even startled. What about falling asleep in a class or during someone’s presentation? Or perhaps we have just ‘drifted off’ and need to be called back to reality.
Jesus used these two words to try to get the Christians in Sardis to see the need to return to a real life of following him.
“I know your deeds, that you have a reputation that you are alive, but in reality you are dead. Wake up then, and strengthen what remains that was about to die, because I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3:1-2 NET)
The problem these Christians had was that they looked like they were faithful – they were active as Christians. Although this was their reputation, the reality was that they were dead! They were just going through the motions of serving Jesus.
The Christians in Sardis well reflected the city they lived in. Sardis was both wealthy and easily defended. It was built on Mount Tmolus, around 1000-1500 feet in elevation with three sides surrounded by precipitous cliffs. There was only on path up and it was easily defended. Despite their secure surroundings, it was conquered twice: by Cyrus (549 BC) and Antiochus the Great (214 BC). Because they felt secure they had not bothered to post a guard on a difficult to find path going up. The path was found and the attacking army entered under the cover of darkness and had the city secure by morning.
It would seem that both of these problems had infiltrated the lives of the Christians. When people are satisfied with their material wealth, spirituality often is lost. When Christians think they have it so good and begin to believe what others say about how faithful they are, they fail to grow in their faith. After all, haven’t they arrived? Jesus’ message to them was to the point.
“Therefore, remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come against you.” (Revelation 3:3)
They needed to remember what they had been taught and start doing it again. They needed to repent, to change their direction, to get back to doing what they knew they should be doing in serving Jesus.
If they failed to wake up, Jesus would come like a thief. Thieves don’t send announcements that they are coming. They come when we least expect, when we have dropped our guard and are unprepared.
There were some in Sardis who had remained faithful, “who have not stained their clothes”, who were not involved in the sinful activities because of complacency. Jesus said of them, “they will walk with me dressed in white, because they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4).
Those who thought they were the examples that everyone needed follow needed themselves to look to the example of the ones who were really faithful! If they would get back to living the lives they had been taught to live, they would have this same hope. “The one who conquers will be dressed like them in white clothing, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5).
When everything is going good for us, it is easy to become complacent. When this happens we need, like these Christians, to wake up – and get back to an active life of serving Jesus.
“The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:6)
Readings for next week:
8 July – Revelation 12
9 July – Revelation 13
10 July – Revelation 14
11 July – Revelation 15
12 July – Revelation 16