In the letters to the churches in the book of Revelations, The Lord Jesus places His hand upon the saints in Sardis and declares them to be dead. On the outside they had a reputation for being very much alive, but on the inside the life of Christ was absent.
How does a person or a church go from being alive in the things of The Lord to a corpse? While we can only speculate the cause in Sardis, we can see some possibilities for this spiritual decay. Twice Jesus tells them to watch, and once He tells them to remember what they had previously learned (Revelation 3:2,3). Evidently, there were some who were engaged in worldly things that were defiling their spiritual garments (Revelation 3:4). It appears that these saints put down their spiritual guard and simply began to put their spiritual life on “auto pilot”. Some even began to return to the things that they once were delivered from (2 Peter 2:20-22) while being “faithful” to attend church services.
One of the common causes of spiritual decay is thinking that we can continue to live off of yesterday’s experiences, forgetting that, although we still live in the world, we are not to continue as a part of it. Once a person is “born again” (John 3:3-7), he or she becomes a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20). Can it be that this church in Sardis, which once had such a great reputation, gradually began to live off of what they learned in days gone by, and in the process stopped seeking The Lord for the things of His kingdom with the fervor that they once did? I think so. Many great spiritual movements of the past are present-day spiritual mausoleums. While it is possible to drive our spiritual engines on fumes, sooner or later the machine is going to slow down and die. Such was Sardis. The flame for Christ was gone. The reputation that they once had was now a thing of the past. However, The Lord Jesus in His amazing grace intervenes and tells them to remember what they once learned, to hold fast to those precious truths and repent. If this church returns to its first love (Revelation 2:4), Jesus will indeed resurrect them back to life in Him.
Is that you or me this morning? Have you found yourself living in the past? Do you find yourself constantly talking about the spiritual “good old days”? Beloved, it is wonderful to have spiritual memories that remind us of God’s faithfulness in our lives, but the will of God is that we grow up in our fellowship with Christ (2 Peter 3:18). May The Lord of Glory break fresh ground in each of our hearts so that we would not be living off the spiritual fumes of days gone by, but by the freshness of what The Lord is doing in our lives and church family today.