Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die. For I find not thy works full before my God." Rev. 3:2
In his commentary, Matthew Henry notes that hypocrisy, and lamentable decay in religion, are sins charged upon Sardis. Outwardly things appeared well to men,
"... but there was only the form of godliness, not the power; a name to live, not a principle of life. There was great deadness in their souls, and in their services; numbers were wholly hypocrites, others were in a disordered and lifeless state..." The works of Sardis were hollow and empty because their inward affections were not, "suitable to outward acts and expressions; when the spirit is wanting, the form cannot long remain. In seeking a revival in our own souls, or the souls of others, it is needful to compare what we profess with the manner in which we go on, that we may be humbled and quickened to hold fast that which remains."
Those who are in dead worship do not love truth, thus are without the Divine Revelations of faith. By dead worship is meant believing one has purchased a ticket to heaven simply by hearing messages, talking about God, benefiting from church programs, and maybe doing some good works but yet have no desire to know the truths of faith.
That such worship reigns throughout America's church at this day is known and the subject of much contempt.
Walter Kirn, literary editor for GQ magazine, made known his contempt in a withering critique of the humanistic contemporary Evangelical church and how it has spent millions of dollars to in essence accommodate itself to America's morally degraded pop-culture.
"Today I will leave behind the fallen world of secular American pop culture and enter the self-contained parallel universe of American Christian pop culture, within which I've vowed to dwell, exclusively for seven days....." (The Marketing of Evil, David Kupelian, p. 229)
Pop Christians have built themselves a new Ark said Kirn, but this one was built to save the chosen from the Great Media Flood. Like the old Ark it has two of everything,
"You say you're a Pearl Jam fan? Check out Third Day. They sound just like them---same soaring guttering vocals, same driven musicianship, same crappy clothes, just a slightly different message: Repent!.....Your kids enjoy Batman, you say? Try Bibleman. Same mask, same cape, just a slightly different (message)....That's the convincing message of the Ark: If a person is going to waste his life cranking the stereo, clicking the remote, reading paperback pulp and chasing fad diets, he may as well save his soul while he's at it. Holy living no longer requires self-denial. On the Ark, every mass diversion has been cloned...and it's possible to live inside the spirit, without unplugging oneself from the modern life, twenty-four hours a day." (ibid, p. 229)
Kirn sees youth evangelism as just "lame mimicry" of our fallen culture and concludes that what makes the contemporary Evangelical church,
"... so thin, so weak and cumulatively so demoralizing...has nothing to do with faith. The problem is lack of faith. Ark culture is a bad Xerox of the mainstream, not a truly distinctive or separate achievement. Without the courage to lead, it numbly follows, picking up the major media's scraps and gluing them back together with a cross on top." (p. 23)
Contemporary Evangelicals vainly believe that they can lead the unsaved to Christ by accommodating the church to our degraded pop-culture. Lost in the shuffle are Paul's admonitions:
".....what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he that believes with an infidel? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God: as God has said, I will dwell with them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (2 Cor. 6:14-18)
Paul Smith, author of "New Evangelicalism: The New World Order" notes that behind the contemporary pop-culture evangelical church are humanist seminaries that train men and women to take a traditional church,
"...and mold it into a postmodern accommodating mindset that will reach a postmodern culture." (p. 128)
In other words, contemporary seminaries are actually training men and women to transform traditional churches into the church of Sardis. The Purpose Driven model is one of the most popular of this genre,
"The Warren message remains uniform and prefabricated to the point where Saddleback Church reports that thousands of pastors weekly download Warren's canned Purpose Driven sermons...to preach and promise their church growth hopes." (p. 128)
It is unbelievers who ultimately developed the contemporary postmodern theology that thousands of evangelical pastors have uncritically bought into, said Smith. Postmodernism is a humanist philosophy that rejects the God of Revelation, heaven, hell, truth and moral absolutes and insists that everything about our culture and church must therefore be shaped around and controlled by consensus of felt-needs, appetites and emotions unfettered by morality.
In the profoundly insightful article, "Oh God, Poor God---The State of Contemporary Theology," William J. Abraham observes that the contemporary or modern theology issuing within the whole body of the church from Roman and Eastern Orthodox to Protestant/Evangelical,
"...begins with the rejection of the classical Christian tradition as this is generally known in Western culture." A modern theologian is "one informed by the canons of rationality developed in the European Enlightenment." (from Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, Christopher A. Hall, p. 19)
Enlightenment rationality is the elevation of man's mind over the mind of God, thus it inevitably leads to rejection of Divine Revelation beginning with the Genesis account of creation ex nihilo, belief in miracles, immutable truth, moral absolutes, original sin and man's need of a savior. The unfortunate result is that the contemporary theologian is no longer shaped,
"...in any profound way by the institutions of Christianity but...cut loose and alone in a sea of individualism and autonomy." (ibid, p. 20)
In effect, contemporary theologians have endorsed atheist values,
"...as more Christian than those of the traditional believer and...seek to join the secular person in his or her quest for authenticity, community, peace, and justice." (ibid)
Consumed by hubris and love of the world, the humanistic contemporary evangelical church no longer serves its true purpose: Acts 20:28,32; Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Tim. 4:2; John 21:15-17, I Peter 5:2;; Mark 16:15; 2 Cor. 5:20;Eph. 4:12; Col. 1:28; Col. 1:28; Eph. 4:13-15; Acts 20:27; Matt. 28:20; 2 Tim. 3:16; Eph. 4:12.
Given that it resembles Sardis its collapse follows the deterioration of the mainline Protestant church, which long ago accommodated itself to Enlightenment rationality, evolutionary thinking, the canons of naturalistic science and a synthesis of heresies.
Like mainline Protestants before them, contemporary evangelical theologians have been tempted by their own hubris and fail to acknowledge the limitations of the human mind. Thus Abraham calls for repentance and cultivation of the virtue of humility, and adds that contemporary theologians need to be reminded,
"...a true and truly Christian theology will surely be deeply rooted in revelation and tradition, in worship and prayer in the Christian community, in compassion and service in the world, in fear and trembling before the wonder of the Christian gospel, and in humble dependence on the grace and agency of the Holy Spirit. Yet precisely these notes are the ones missing from the prevailing canons of theological discourse." (Abraham, p. 20)
To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
"These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God." Rev. 3:1-2)
Wake up! Be watchful, and strengthen and nourish the things that remain....the reverence, true belief, love of truth, humility and traditions that still live and linger among you.