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Dead or Alive

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Three years ago this month, I had a table saw accident which damaged two fingers on my left hand.
It was, like most injuries, completely avoidable.
I hurried.
I took a shortcut.
I was inattentive to the risk.
It is a blessing that the ends of my fingers grew back. The consequence, however, was nerve damage to the tips which means I have very little feeling in the ends. (The fingernails feel weird, too.)
In short, I got complacent.
Complacency is becoming careless with important tasks, being overly satisfied with circumstances.
We’ve all been there. Likely nearly all of have a scar, physical or otherwise, from a time when we become complacent and got hurt.
This is actually studied by industrial engineers. Complacency costs dearly in lives and money.
At work - in 2020, over 4000 people lost their lives in workplace accidents. Many were traced back to complacency on the part of the individual or someone else. Another 4 million workers required medical treatment from accidents. The price tag was $643 Billion.
In the car - Deaths were 10x that: 42K people lost their lives in accidents. Many were the result of people being inattentive or ignoring risks. There nearly 5 million people who were injured enough to need medical treatment. Cost: $473 Billion.
At home - The riskiest place to be inattentive, complacent. 156,300 people died at home in accidents. Another 47 million injuries serious enough to need medical care.
The total cost of complacency at work, travel and home in the trillions.
Complacency is a danger at church, too. Beyond “slip and fall” risks, to become spiritually complacent has serious risks.
What does complacency in the church look like?
As we continue to study through the churches of Revelation, we have come to a city called Sardis.
Ancient city - about 60 miles east of Smyrna, on the roman postal road.
On a high hill, cliffs on three sides.

Are You Dead or Alive?

Revelation 3:1 NLT
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.
Dead or alive?
The first step in combatting complacency is to understand what it looks like.
Everything appears to be fine. Activity is happening. All systems seem to be functioning normally.
But are they?
Reputation - among their community?
So inoffensive that nobody paid any attention?
No indication that the church was under any kind of persecution.
Had they totally sold out to their culture?
Was there no price to pay for their allegiance to Christ?
Their cultural context was a city that was living on its past glory.
The reality: Jesus judges the church as spiritually dead - or nearly so.
The interpretation is that the church was so comfortable, so used to their circumstances, that they were complacent.
They judged themselves as doing right, living right, “living” the mission.
They could no longer discern the difference betwen the peace of well-being and the peace of death.
True in our culture as well.
thousands of churches across America close their doors every year.
Many simply got comfortable with the status quo.
They got comfortable with their circumstances.
They mistook activity for spiritual vitality.
Now their buildings house BNBs, hotels, condos, got torn down, etc.
Clearly, Jesus does not want this fate for His body on earth. What to do?

Wake Up!

Revelation 3:2 NLT
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.
Red alert! The alarm is going off! Right now!
Get out from under the covers! Quit napping!
1 Thessalonians 5:6 NLT
6 So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.
Strengthen - regain a sense of purpose for our existence.
Get what is working going and do better.
Jesus’ judgment - not growing, maturing in Christ as evidenced by their lack of progress in the mission.

How to Fight Complacency

Revelation 3:3 NLT
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.
Go back - recall. “remember someone or something and respond accordingly.”
Recall over and over.
Reason for safety drills at work & school. It becomes ingrained in us.
Hold on - watch over, keep
Get back to the actions and attitudes that marked vitality and strength.
Repent - change heart, mind, behavior.
Post a “fresh guard” on our soul. Quit doing “dumb stuff” and start doing “smart things.”
Common metaphor in NT.
references cultural experience in Sardis in its history.
2 Peter 3:10 NLT
10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.
Don’t get caught unaware.


Revelation 3:4–5 NLT
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.
Lit. “covered in grime.”
Church’s behavior, its complacency, had caused it to be covered in sin and evil.
White - Biblical symbol of purity. Call to mind pagan worshippers at temples wearing white.
In this case, it’s not just the color but the quality. this is dazzling brightness.
Called worthy - meaning to have weight, value or meriting good.
Result of vigilance (opposite of complacency):
repeat - clothed in white
Never removed from God’s “register.”
Contrast to those who are not vigilant who will be erased from the Book.
Philippians 4:3 NLT
3 And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.
Revelation 20:12 NLT
12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books.
Jesus “owns” us before God.
Matthew 10:32–33 NLT
32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.
Complacency is a killer.
We can’t take our eyes off the mission, get too comfortable with the status quo.
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