Read the passage above and think about the two churches mentioned. Which is more like St Peter’s?
The image for today is Sardis as it looks in modern times. Not a lot going on methinks!
However Philadelphia has survived as the town of Alaşehir (meaning ‘the city of God’) in Eastern Turkey, with a population about twice that of Yateley. Here is a picture of the town.
So what were the main differences between these two churches in John’s time?
“I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you’re dead, stone-dead.” (2nd half of verse 1 in The Message translation).
A lively, popular church that has no spiritual life.
“I see what you’ve done. Now see what I’ve done. I’ve opened a door before you that no one can slam shut. You don’t have much strength, I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word. You didn’t deny me when times were rough.” (Verse 8 in The Message translation)
And look at verse 10:
“Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I’ll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test.”
On the surface the church may not look very exciting, but it has a spiritual depth that comes from understanding and following God’s word. They know they are dependant on The Holy Spirit to breathe true life into their work in the community; no-one can close the door! They are patient, but expectant.
“Not I, but Christ” was the watchword of the Philadelphian Christians, and the same motto should be for all of Christ’s followers. Once we lay our selves down in humility, Christ and His love can conquer through us.
The Challenge for Our Church
What a wonderful encouragement it would be to open the ‘Philadelphia letter’, but what a rebuke to receive the ‘Sardis letter’. I suspect St Peter’s may lie somewhere in between as we are lively in worship and there is real depth in the ministry team; but perhaps the prayer life across the Church is not all it should be.
Dear Lord, help our Church to be a beacon to the Yateley community, not because we are running faster and faster, but because we pray more and create the space for You to shine. And may no-one ever think of us as ‘stone-dead’!!