The Superficial Church

The church that becomes compatible with the culture will never be at odds with the culture.
by Broxton Gannon on September 12, 2022

This week Pastor Ray continued his series “7 Churches, 7 Choices” with a message on the church at Sardis, The Superficial Church.

Insights From Pastor Ray’s Sermon

Are you familiar with phishing? You might have received a suspicious email or text message letting you know that your bank or someone you know needs money or some other form of confidential information. These messages have links for you to click that lead to forms designed to steal this information from you even though they claim to help you. Most phishing attempts are merely fraud designed to masquerade as genuine truth based on a reputation.

As we will see this week, some of the heart behind phishing attacks is like what we see in the church at Sardis. Remember, one of the most important lessons from this sermon series is the importance of taking these messages personally rather than as abstract teachings about a church that don’t apply to you. So, ask yourself a couple questions. Do you have the appearance of spirituality on the inside but know that it is all just superficial?

Sardis was like some of the other cities that we have studied in this series. It was historically significant, set near a popular commerce route, extremely wealthy, and one of the most powerful cities in the ancient world. There were temples to all types of Pagan gods, including temples to the Roman Emperor. The problem for the church in this city was that it had become so fully compromised by the Pagan culture that it was Christian in name only. They had become so compatible with the rest of the culture that they could not be distinguished from the culture.

Of the seven churches that received messages from Christ, the church at Sardis is the only church that was not commended for any good work that they were doing, even if they had a few members that were. This shows us the seriousness of their spiritual condition. Although they would have told you they were in good shape as a church, they were not. Unlike the rest of the churches of Revelation, Sardis was not even suffering persecution. Why? Because the culture liked them.

“The church that becomes compatible with the culture will never be at odds with the culture.”

So, what lessons can we learn from the church at Sardis?

1. Sardis was reputationally deceptive.

The church at Sardis fell under denunciation by Christ because they had become so compatible with the culture that they could not be distinguished from the culture. They didn’t mind going along with cultural norms; they just wanted to get along and be respected. Since they “had an understanding” about religion with the surrounding culture, the Pagan community viewed them as a pretty good church because they could just all do their thing. But their reputation was not a representation of the truth. They were compromised and spiritually dead, and Jesus knew this

How did their reputation become so deceptive?

They deceived others about Christianity.

For these Christians, the deceit began when they started to like being liked. Paul said in Romans 12:18 that believers should try to live at peace with those around them as much as possible. But we must be careful to not let this passage lead us to believe that living for Christ will always mean living at peace with the culture. The world will not always affirm what we believe as followers of Christ, much less what we do because of Christ. When this happens, we must take a stand even if our stand puts us at odds with the religious establishment and the culture of the day. Our goal is to please Christ, not our neighbors.

They deceived themselves about Christianity.

Paul tells us in Romans 12 to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Unfortunately, the Christians at Sardis had allowed themselves to be more influenced by the convictions of the culture rather than being shaped by the convictions of Scripture. When we allow the culture to tell us how we should relate to God, how we should treat one another, and what we should or should not tolerate, we are deceiving ourselves. Deceiving ourselves eventually leads to deceiving others. Spend some time this week in prayer asking the Lord to show you ways in which you may have deceived yourself about Christianity.

2. Sardis was operationally dysfunctional.

In Christ’s message to the church at Sardis, He reminded them that they had not finished the work He had given them. Instead of focusing on the work that was still to come, they were trying to coast on their prior spiritual reputation, and this caused them to be not just operationally dysfunctional but spiritually dysfunctional.

What gave them their formal spiritual reputation? There was obviously something in the past that produced a good reputation for them. They had done something right along the way, but Jesus knew that their spiritual life required daily maintenance. He knew they were dry, so He told them to wake up.

Do you feel like you’re going through a spiritually dry season? Perhaps the culprit is found in your neglect of your own spiritual cultivation and growth. It is very easy for us to fall into a routine that takes us out of the diligence required to maintain a vibrant relationship with Christ. Ask the Lord to protect you from falling into this this week.

3. Sardis was informationally disconnected.

Christ reminded the believers at Sardis that they were forgetting the message they had been taught at first.

Have you ever considered that this is part of the reason why the regular gathering of Believers for worship and preaching is so important? Think about the billions of dollars that are spent each year for the opportunity to shape your mind. Pastor Ray cited one study in his message from 2021 that estimated that we are each exposed to anywhere between 6,000-10,000 ads or messages per day… The messages we consume program our minds and our hearts, for good or for bad. We may have one to two hours together in church each week. This is why consumption of Scripture is so important. If we are not consistently consuming and meditating on Scripture, we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to messages that will try to convince us to coexist with two masters, something the Scriptures tell us we cannot do.

The good news is we can all informationally reconnect. Here’s how you do it.

Remember what God did for you.

Take some time to reflect on how God has been good to you in the past.

Return to His word.

Are you daily feeding yourself with God’s word or are you just relying on the weekly sermon?

Repent of any sin that God reveals to you.

Repentance has been a central theme of Christ’s message to all the churches of Revelation. Don’t forget that restoration only happens after repentance.

Relinquish control of your life to the Holy Spirit.

Even after you have repented, it is possible to not allow the Holy Spirit to fully guide your life. But this is something you must do!

What is the lesson from the church at Sardis?

Stay on mission and be eternally vigilant.

Until He comes again, we continue to follow and obey what He has said in His word. Today, commit anew to daily give energy and attention to your relationship with Christ.

Part of our mission here at Ridgecrest is to CONNECT the people of God to the mission and purpose of God. This requires taking the next step, and everyone has a next step! We want to help you with yours today. Fill out the form at the link below and one of our staff members will contact you soon!

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