In Revelation 3 we see the juxtaposition of reputation vs. reality. Christ addresses the Church at Sardis and He doesn’t waste any time and He doesn’t pull any punches when He tells them, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”
The church had a reputation that was different than the reality of what Jesus knew to be true. They had a reputation for being alive but based on their works, Jesus knew they were dead.
What I love about the rebuke is that Jesus doesn’t just leave them for dead. He extends mercy and exhorts and encourages them to:
“Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.”
Wake up – the church is commanded to be alert, aware and vigilant. Stop coasting and being apathetic. Don’t just go through the motions. Get in the game! Take a look around and acknowledge the reality of the situation.
Strengthen what remains – don’t focus on resurrecting that which is dead but rather tend to, confirm, establish, and strenghten that which remains and is still alive. The word picture that comes to mind is being on the scene of a tradgedy where some have perished and others are injured and in need of care. Before taking care of the bodies of the dead you would first tend to the needs of the injured to keep them alive. Revive the vitality of the church that remains and continue fanning it into flame.
Remember, keep, and repent – an effort to continually call to mind the truth of the gospel. But don’t just remember the gospel, lay hold of it, be posessed by it, and a natural response of repentance will result.
Although this was written to a specific church at a specific time, the lessons and warnings apply to the church of today just as much. May we remain awake and care less about our reputation and more about the truth of the gospel yielding the fruit of repentance that leads to renewed hearts and minds and transformed lives.