Read Revelation 3:1-6
1 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars:
“I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. 3 Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.
4 “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.
6 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. (NLT)
All that glistens is not gold. Appearances can be deceiving. The church at Sardis was one example. It looked good on the surface. It apparently enjoyed some prosperity and seemed to escape violent opposition. We might speculate that it had so adapted to its pagan surroundings that it posed no threat and presented no challenges.
The people at Sardis, with some honourable exceptions, may have been armchair Christians—the epitome of comfortable Christianity. Just enough commitment to tick some membership boxes, but not enough to make any real difference to their surroundings. They looked good but had strayed.
It might have been the sort of church that in today’s world would attract visitors eager to discover the secrets of its success. It might be the place to be, where the action is, pushing the right buttons to get the right results. Living in a different era, the leaders of this church may have been best-selling paperback authors and conference gurus.
But God is not fooled by appearances. He looks for sincere obedience even if it is imperfect. We might be impressed by new buildings, the latest technology, crowds milling round the entrances, professional musicians, and eloquent preachers. In no way would God disapprove of such things—as long as they express some substance and are not just slick marketing masquerading as spirituality.