These things says He Who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: 'I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.'
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
'The Dead Church' was Sardis.
With rich deposits of gold, Sardis was once a prosperous city. Since no suffering is mentioned in Jesus' letter to its church, we might assume the congregation was relatively prosperous. Since no particular sin is mentioned, we might also assume they kept the letter of God's Law.
But what about its heart? What about our own?
'He who searches the hearts' (Romans 8:27) does not look for superficial rule followers, 'With eye service, as men-pleasers, but... sincerity of heart' (Colossians 3:22).
God looks for our faith. 'Without faith, it is impossible to please Him' (Hebrews 11:6). But not just faith, because 'Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead' (James 2:17). Therefore, He looks for evidence of our faith.
In his visit to Heaven, John says, 'And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books' (Revelation 20:12). And to this church Jesus says, 'I have not found your works perfect before God' (Revelation 3:2).
So, what works does God want to see from us?
The only 'perfect' works are performed by God, or God within us--surely not by us. Works without God may gather applause or build artificial mountains, but they'll never move real ones. Only God does that.
See this epistle as a love letter from Jesus. It's not written to atheists, agnostics, or people from other faiths. It's written to us: Christians. He wants us to be with Him in the Kingdom of God, in Heaven, and on the new earth.
It's a warning to those of us who are close to spiritual death. What could bring a Christian to such a place? Lack of food: the Word of God. Lack of water: Jesus is the Living Water. Being lost: Jesus says, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life' (John 14:6).
'Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent' (Revelation 3:3). 'Turn to God, and do works befitting repentance' (Acts 26:20).
And if we don't? 'Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of Heaven... I will declare to them, 'I never knew you' ' (Matthew 7:21, 23).
To Be Continued...
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Which Church Are You? series.