Vigilant Against Complacency
Guard against spiritual complacency. (1–2)
In this warning to the church in Sardis, Jesus says, “I know your works” (v. 1). Their works give the impression that all is well. However, Jesus points out that looks can be deceiving; they look alive but are really dead. Instead of being an influence in the culture, the church in Sardis has become like the world.
Jesus’ warning to “Wake up!” is significant to the inhabitants of Sardis. Croesus, ruler of Sardis in 547 B.C., picked a fight with Cyrus the Great and the Persians, who followed him back to the walled city. Croesus did not worry. He was convinced that no one could scale the almost vertical walls of Sardis.
One of Croesus’ soldiers carelessly dropped his helmet from the wall. He was confident no one would notice him sneak down a secret path to retrieve it. A Persian soldier watched him get the helmet and climb back up the wall. The Persian army followed suit, climbed the wall and defeated the city while everyone slept.
The complacency of one soldier led to their destruction. A rallying cry for the city became “wake up” or “be watchful.” Jesus stated that all was not lost for the church in Sardis, but unless they wake up and fan into flames the embers of faith, they too will die. Incomplete, half-hearted commitment to Christ is no commitment at all. We, like Sardis, must guard against spiritual complacency.
Maintain vigilance and stay alert. (3)
The word “remember” in verse 3 doesn’t imply looking back over the past few years but instead urges readers to observe or look to the generation past when their faith was fresh. In other words, they need to keep their original passion for Christ at the forefront of their minds.
Traditions of the church are not what Jesus is asking them to focus on. Instead, they are asked to look back at their passionate love affair with Christ. Jesus cautions that if the church does not stay alert, He will come like a thief. This expression is not a reference to the Second Coming but refers to His coming judgment to unrepentant sinners. In essence, their past faith should serve as an inspiration for them to remain vigilant, alert and focused on Christ. If they do not, Christ will come unexpectedly in judgment.
Reflect the worth Christ has given you. (4–6)
Among the smoldering ashes of the church, there were a few glowing embers. Jesus described these faithful believers as worthy, unsoiled and walking with Him in white. They are absolutely safe and secure (see Isa. 49:16; John 17:8–9).
In Rome, rulers would erase the name of a criminal from any records before they put him to death like that person never existed. Jews, likewise, would erase the name of Sanhedrin leaders who they thought had turned away from Judaism. Moreover, the Romans would erase Christians from the book of citizenship if they did not say, “Caesar is Lord.”
In the Old Testament, to be erased from the book means for the person to die (Ex. 32:32–33; Ps. 69:28; Dan. 12:1).
Jesus specifically promises believers that the one who is victorious will never have his or her name blotted out of the Book of Life. This person will be acknowledged by Jesus before the Father and His angels. This person is secure in Christ.
Therefore, reflect the worth Christ has given you. Be vigilant against complacency. Will you be the one who walks victoriously for Christ?
By Rob Jackson, Ph.D.
Jackson has served in a variety of ministry roles, including pastor and state missionary.