3-21-24: Deafening Silence

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

The Lord’s uses a similar pattern when He speaks to each of His churches. First He speaks to the angel (pastor) of the church then he introduces Himself by selecting one or more characteristics of Himself described in Revelation 1. The characteristics He chooses are specifically selected to address the situation he finds in that church. After that He commends the work in the church that is pleasing to Him. When we come to that part of the letter to Sardis we find – NOTHING. There is no commendation for their work. This takes us back to the passage in Isaiah that lists the seven spirits of the Holy Spirit. Before Isaiah records the seven spirits, God leads him to
write, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a
Branch will bear fruit
.” (Isaiah 11:1) Isaiah is speaking of the Messiah. He says He will spring up from the roots as a branch. That branch has the life giving spirit of God coursing through it which is the power to bear fruit. This is exactly what Christ told His disciples in John 15. Here He describes himself as THE vine which is the life giving power. The disciples (and every true believer) are the branches coming off the true vine. This is where genuine fruit is produced. The Lord makes the point that if the branches are not attached to the vine they cannot, in fact it is impossible for them to, bear fruit. Unless fruit exists there is no evidence the the branch is real. The Lord says bearing fruit is critical to the life of a believer and church. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.” (John 15:8) The chief end of man is to glorify God therefore this is the most important thing a child of God and a church can do – abide in Christ and bear much fruit.
In John 15 the Lord describes another possibility. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” In Sardis the Lord finds a church that is barren of fruit. The church is not completely dead, there is still a little “green” in the brown dead branches but there is no visible fruit being produced (remember this does not mean there was not a lot of church activity – just that nothing being done pleased the Lord).
What can we learn? Sardis is a terrifying picture of this life and the Bema Seat for some, hopefully only a few, believers. The Lord of the universe places his eyes on the church (or individual believer). Their works are piled in front of the Lord and they are tested by fire. “They gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” After the testing of Sardis nothing remains. Their entire existence consisted of wood, hay and stubble not gold, silver and precious stones. There is nothing for the Lord to commend (think Lot). The believer stands in front of the Lord and there is no commendation, only silence and sadness. That is what we find in the letter to the church at Sardis. We hope to hear the Lord’ commendation, instead – silence.
As we look at the churches up to this point we see the path that takes believer away from the Lord. They leave their first love. They are still doctrinally pure and spread the Gospel but personal fellowship with Christ is neglected. In the next two churches, busyness remains but doctrinal purity erodes as Christ is removed as the center of the church. Friendship with the world increases. Rather than the church impacting the world, the practices of the world enter the church . God’s word is modified to make sin fit the church and pleasing the
world becomes the goal rather than pleasing Christ. Deadness and barrenness are near!