seven letters  sardis part III

"Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy" (Revelation 3:4 NIV).

While the church in Sardis had a reputation as a living and active church, Jesus said that in reality, the people there were actually spiritually dead. It was almost like a reverse of what we saw earlier in other churches like Pergamum and Thyatira. Those churches had some bad people in among the good but Sardis had a few spiritually alive people in among others who were really dead. 

While many of the people who went to church in Sardis weren't what they appeared to be, fortunately that wasn't true for everyone. We can see this through the word picture that Jesus paints for us in the verse quoted above. Now the color white that Jesus speaks of here is widely understood to be a symbol of cleanness and purity and it represents someone who is spiritually pure and honorable. But did you also notice how Jesus connected the actions of the Christians at Sardis ("...soiled their clothes") with the effect of getting spiritually dirty? This reminds us that the things we do can affect what we are spiritually.

For instance, if you lie or gossip or act disrespectfully to your parents or do anything else that is out of character for someone who claims to be a Christian, it's like dirtying your spiritual clothing. In situations like this, we need to get "cleaned up" spiritually by following the advice that's found in 1 John 1:9...

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NKJ).

At least there were a few people in Sardis who hadn't sold out like that. They were the ones who didn't let what others were (or weren't) doing affect their relationship with God. The fact that there were phonies, posers and others who weren't what they claimed to be in the church at Sardis had no effect on these few who were really serious about following Christ. Jesus says that the reward for those who choose to follow Him despite what "everybody else" is doing is "...(t)hey will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy."

Now this word "worthy" can also be translated as "deserving" and it certainly describes a position that everyone would like to be in. For example, let's imagine a situation where two sports teams are choosing sides from among a group of players before starting a game. With every selection, each team will try to pick from the best (or most worthy) players left in the remaining group- the players that will give their team the best chance to win. However, this also means that the less skilful (or least deserving) players are sure to be the last ones chosen. For instance, when The Doctor was in school, he was usually one of the last guys chosen to play basketball. The reasoning behind this was easy: The Doctor was terrible at basketball- he couldn't shoot, he couldn't dribble, and he had a 3-centimeter vertical leap. Because of this The Doctor often found himself picked last when choosing sides for basketball, which basically meant that his job was to simply run up and down the court during the game and not look like an idiot.

Anyway, here's the point: while The Doctor wanted to be chosen first, he didn't deserve to be chosen first because he wasn't a very good basketball player.* The good news however, is that this doesn't have to be true for you when it comes to your spiritual life! You can be "picked first" spiritually and counted worthy just like the people Jesus talked about by asking God to help you live the kind of lifestyle that honors Him regardless of what "everyone else" is doing.

"All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine" (Revelation 3:5 NLT). 

Now someone might read this and get the impression that Jesus is sitting in front of the book of life with a giant eraser just waiting to rub out someone's name. However, the people who got this letter would have understood that Jesus was actually referring to something very different. You see, Roman cities of the first century had an official register that listed the names of everyone who lived within each city. Every citizen's name would stay on that register unless they died or were convicted as a criminal. In a similar way, Jesus is making the point that every Christian who overcomes and lives a God-honoring life will never, ever have to worry about losing their place in God's book of life. Jesus explained it this way in Luke 12:4-9...

"Dear friends, don't be afraid of those who want to kill you. They can only kill the body; they cannot do any more to you. But I'll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill people and then throw them into hell. What is the price of five sparrows? A couple of pennies? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to him than a whole flock of sparrows. And I assure you of this: If anyone acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I, the Son of Man, will openly acknowledge that person in the presence of God's angels. But if anyone denies me here on earth, I will deny that person before God's angels" (NLT).

So with that, Jesus ends this letter in the very same way that He did in His previous letters: 

"Let all who can hear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches" (Revelation 3:6).

What's the message in this letter for people today? Well, it's actually pretty easy: don't look good on the outside but have a dead faith on the inside like people who went to church in the city of Sardis. Think about the things that Jesus said to this church (and all the churches of Revelation chapters two and three) and prayerfully consider any changes that you should make in your own life. Remember, it's never too late for those who are spiritually lifeless because Jesus specializes in raising the dead!


* However, The Doctor absolutely rocked at football, softball and volleyball

The Doctor is not a real doctor but he plays one on the Internet. E-Mail prescriptions are also available on an individual basis.

Questions Or Comments Questions Or Comments



Except as indicated, all Scriptural references taken from The Living Bible, 1971, Tyndale House Publishers

Back to YOUTHlinks