The “angel” the Spirit of Christ speaks to is the pastor of the body of believers found in Sardis. What pierces my heart here is the use of the word “reputation.” For most of us, our reputations mean everything. How we are viewed by those around us carries tremendous weight. What the Lord is saying to the fellowship at Sardis is that in the eyes of the culture around them and even in the sight of other believers, they have the reputation of being centers of His Life. It would also seem to be the opinion of those in that church as well. What should shake us to our very foundation is that it was not the view of Christ. He saw a tremendous amount of activity for Him, but He did not see a body of believers rooted and grounded in Him. Think on that for a moment.
What do we generally see as being a church filled with life? Top of the line worship with high quality skills in musicianship and voice. Skilled communicators in the pulpit. Many and varied ministries that care for children, youth, singles, as well as home and care groups geared towards those with special needs. A ministry pointed toward reaching out to the community and drawing them into the fellowship. An atmosphere where there is a sense of excitement, of something “happening.” I think that these are just a few of the things we’d define as a church with a reputation for life. I think that much if not all of these were found in the congregation at Sardis. All of them are good things. Very good. Yet none of them seemed to enter into Christ’s assessment of them as to their being a true Life giving fellowship. How could this be? What could be missing?
It’s human to desire that all that is listed above be found in a church. They should be. But I think what Jesus saw in the midst of it was that they were doing all of it with hearts that had drifted far from Him. The church was a well oiled machine, but machines are not alive. They move and are active, but they have no soul. Without realizing it, a living body can become the same. Sardis had crowds. Sardis had ministries. Sardis had a name. Sardis did not have life. His Life.
The question we have to ask ourselves, whether we are the “angel” of our fellowship, a leader in it, or a member of it, is, are we, in the midst of all we do, really producing Spirit filled followers of Jesus Christ? Are we overcoming the world both within and without by the power of His resurrected life? Is real transformation taking place in the lives of the people, and are those lives marked by maturity, victory, and wholeness? Are we trying to take flesh, and by our efforts, make it better flesh, or are fallen, lost lives being laid hold of by the power of His Life and made new? Completely new. Have we drifted from the “first things” into just doing church things? Have we become so enamored with our reputation among men that we no longer really know, or care what our reputation with Him really is? Can He even speak to us about it? It starts with the “angel” but the speaking goes on throughout the entire body. He’s speaking. Are we hearing?