Read Revelation 3:1-6
1 To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (NIV)
The church at Sardis has been described as a perfect example of inoffensive Christianity. This church was not greatly persecuted because there wasn’t much worth persecuting. It was no threat to its pagan environment.
The church had a decent enough reputation in the city and there is nothing wrong with having a good reputation. As long as that reputation is based on something substantial. We are to have a good reputation for being wholehearted followers of Jesus, not for being jolly decent lot of people who don’t rock the boat.
The old saying goes that reputation is what others think we are, but character is what we really are in the sight of God. The church at Sardis looked good on the outside but was deficient in true obedience to God. It is so easy to look good, so much harder to be good.
And so it is possible to have a sleepy sort of faith, a tame faith that doesn’t impact our surrounding world but instead cosily adapts to it. It is an armchair faith, and it seems from our text that God wants us up and out of the armchair. Not in order that we might be offensive ‘attack dogs’ who cultivate unpopularity but that we might become serious disciples who are more concerned for character than reputation.