1“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3 So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches
The letter to the church at Sardis begins with a description of the risen Christ holding seven stars. The seven stars are the seven churches; all the people in all the churches of the Lord belong to Him. It is not a person’s church or a pastor’s church; it is the Lord’s church. The church at Sardis had a specific problem: they had degenerated into lifelessness and ineffectiveness. They were sleepwalking through life, performing some rote duties and looking for that sweet spot of ecclesiological comfort. Christ tells them to wake up: to rediscover what had fired them up in the first place. Horton speaks of the problem as pneumatological: they had “Pentecostal forms—but without the Pentecostal power.” But to the ones who are overcomers, Christ promises white garments (which symbolize purity) and to ever blot their names out of the book of life. Barclay explains this reference thusly: “In the ancient world, a king kept a register of his citizens. If a man committed a crime against the state, or when he died, his name was erased from the book of citizens. To have ones name written I the book of life is to be numbered amongst the faithful citizens of the Kingdom of God; it is to be included with those who belong to God.” We should bear in mind that a literal book is probably not in view here: but rather the reckoning of the individual with the people of God.
When church becomes a simple duty that is meaningless to us, we make the church lifeless. I am always astounded at the people who complain that church is “dead” or “boring” and don’t realize that they themselves are the reason for it. A church full of people who only see their participation in it as part-time and optional should not be surprised when the overall experience is more akin to a log nap. Those who refuse to embrace the community of Christ here on earth are also harboring a significant portion of hypocrisy when it comes to the “book of life.” These are individuals who wanted nothing to do with the community of Christ on earth (it was “boring” and “dead” and “unnecessary” and “optional”) but they assume they’ll be reckoned among the citizens of the Kingdom—the same citizens they abused as irrelevant and unnecessary in this life. Christ is coming back to rapture His Church, not a ragtag collection of individuals. If you were too good to devote yourself to His Church, why would you assume you’re a part of her on that day?
Is your church listless? Lifeless? Ho-hum? Take a look in the mirror. If your own spiritual life, church attendance and church participation have degenerated into a shallow and lifeless duty that you’d prefer to skip, you are a contributing factor to the death of your church.