A man was visiting his neighbor’s pig farm one day when he noticed something unusual about one of the pigs. It seemed to have a limp as it walked. So the man moved closer to get a better view and when he did, he saw that the pig had a prosthetic leg on. Now, he had never seen anything like that before – a pig with an artificial leg! He had to find out why on earth he had one so he went over to the farmer and asked him about this unusual situation.
The farmer just smiled and explained how one day his granddaughter was walking in front of a tractor and the tractor was about to hit her when the pig jumped in and knocked her out of the way. On another occasion, the farmer continued, his grandson was drowning and the pig jumped into the water and saved him.
The man was awed at the heroic feats of this pig. He smiled and told the farmer that he understood why he would want to help this pig who no doubt sustained injuries in the rescues. The farmer just chuckled and replied, “Oh no, the pig didn’t get injured at all. I just didn’t have the heart to eat him all at one time.”
Things are certainly not always as they appear.
They are not as clearly definable as they initially look. That’s why the message to the church at Sardis found in the book of Revelation is as it is. This church, located just thirty miles south of Thyatira in the same general vicinity of Asia Minor, suffered from a false sense of security. They had rested their hopes on what they could see but what they saw was not all there was to be seen, as we will discover.
Sardis is a city built on a high mountain where they had constructed an acropolis that made the city appear to be impregnable. It looked as if there was no way anyone could defeat this city on a hill simply because of all of the trouble you would have to go through in order to do so. Yet, on two occasions the city of Sardis was overthrown. Once in 549 BC by Cyrus and then again in 218 BC by Antilogous. The way both armies did it was to come in at night during the most unsuspecting time and hit Sardis with a surprise attack.
But wouldn’t nighttime be a naturally vulnerable time and therefore, wouldn’t the city put out its guards especially then? You would think so. But the reason why the attacks were able to be successful is that Sardis had gotten so comfortable with their own sufficiency and their own security that they assumed nothing could happen to them. What was true of Sardis the city became true of the Sardis the church.
Which is why Jesus opens His message to the church at Sardis with this reminder of Himself,
“He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this,” (Revelation 3:1).
The number seven is the number of completion. What Jesus means by referring to Himself as having the seven Spirits of God is that He contains the complete work of the Holy Spirit. The reason why this is so important to notice is that the root of the problem of these Christians in Sardis was they had gotten so self-sufficient in their own minds that they didn’t feel they needed the Holy Spirit anymore. They could do everything on their own, which is a very dangerous place to be.
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