"These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead." Revelation 3:1
Early in the book of Revelation, the Lord writes letters to seven congregations. Interpretations of these letters range from them being specific messages to specific and actual churches to being metaphors of the state of "the church" through the ages. Without regard to where one stands on this and many other controversial issues involving Revelation, there is still a word from God to be heard by each of us.
In the case of the letter to the church at Sardis, the Lord has an indictment. It is stated that the church enjoys a reputation for things that are no longer the case. In short, he describes them as being dead. Of course there would be no need to write a letter to those who are not alive to read it. What is meant is that the "life" has gone out of their worship and their relationship with God. Whereas they were once known for the fire and passion associated with Christian living, there is no longer anything observable that can substantiate this image.
Beloved, we must not only be aware of this pitfall in our congregational life, we must be aware of it in our personal lives. Reflections of our individuality can be seen in our corporate settings. Each must consider what is being done or what is failing that would cause the Lord to describe us as being dead. Are we attending worship regularly? Our we studying the word daily? Are we giving like we should? Are we putting others before ourselves? Are we sharing the gospel with the people we meet? We then must look at our congregation and make the same evaluation.
Jesus has given us a twofold solution to this critical problem. First he says, "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God" (v. 2). As long as we have life, we are not dead yet, however, the first step in correcting a problem is to recognize it. Waking up involves a sincere and honest self assessment. Secondly he says, "Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent" (v. 3). We must be willing to turn from our "dead" ways, remind ourselves both of what God had done for us and requires of us and get to work. If we our successful, the Lord has promised that he will never blot out our names from the book of life and will acknowledge our names before God and the heavenly host.