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Chapter 3 - Sardis
Our fifth lesson is the fifth letter to the fifth church, which is the church of Sardis, which begins chapter three in our Book of Revelation, and we shall deal with these sections of the letter.
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write, “These things saith he that hath the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead. I have not found thy works perfect before God. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will not blot out his name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”
We look up the word Sardis in our metaphysical Bible dictionary, and we learn that the word means precious gem, prince of joy. Metaphysically, the church of Sardis symbolizes in us our inner center where we are able to exercise our individual power and dominion as spiritual beings, as children of God.
The church of Sardis refers to that place within you where you are able to, in a sense, gather yourself and exercise the spiritual power, dominion, and authority which is yours and exercise it in a positive, constructive, and beneficial way. Also, the definition of the word prince of joy indicates that from this church, this center of power and dominion in you, you should exercise your power joyfully with an optimistic and good-humored attitude toward the fact of your exercising it.
Then in our letter, we look at the praise given to this church in us by the Christ mind to this center of power and dominion, and we find that the praise given to this factor in us is so very, very brief, and even in the same sentence which contains the praise, the criticism also begins. Notice. “I know thy works, and thou hast a name that thou livest.” That’s all the praise, and the criticism starts in the very same sentence, and art dead. And then the criticism continues, “for I have not found thy works perfect before God.”
Now what does this strange sort of lukewarm praise all mixed up with criticism tell us about the way we are using our center of individual spiritual power, dominion, and authority as children of God?
Surely, the best we can say about these words is they indicate that the Christ mind judges the way we are exercising this power in us to be only slightly satisfactory at best, slightly satisfactory. It seems to be saying that few, if any of us, are really exercising the spiritual power and dominion which are ours to exercise. You see, God has placed this church in all of us. This center of spiritual power and authority has been placed in us by the Father, and our letter indicates that we simply are not doing right by it. We are not exercising the power and dominion of spirit that we could and that we should.
But there is faint praise in these words. The words say that this church in us has done some works. I know thy works, and that it has made some name for itself. It lives. Thou hast a name, and thou livest, but yet it is also in a sense dead. What a strange paradoxical statement. No wonder many readers who try to read this Book of Revelation just stop short in puzzlement and frustration, and yet to make the effort to understand and clarify the statements in this book is more than worth the effort it takes.
So let’s analyze these strange paradoxical words about our church of Sardis metaphysically and see that we can make some good sense from it.
Now you and I have been taught ever since we came into the study of truth, that as a child of God, we do have all spiritual power, dominion, and authority within us. Jesus himself tells us over and over that the same power in him is also in us, and that we are free to exercise this power as we see the need for it, and as we learn the truth methods of exercising it, and some of us have done this, but to what extent? That’s the question. How much are we doing of this sort of thing?
Probably not anywhere near the extent that we could or should. In a sense, so much of the potential use of power and dominion of spirit in us is simply remaining dormant, or as our author says of this church, “and thou art dead.” Not dead in the sense of permanently out of existence, but dead in the sense of remaining inactive.
Why is this, do you suppose? What factors are holding us back in our full expression of the spiritual power and dominion, which are ours, symbolized as this church of Sardis? I can suggest two possible reasons.
1. First, many of us have the tendency to wait to use our spiritual power only when big issues, big problems come up in our life. Many of us have a tendency to think that great spiritual power and dominion should only be called forth to handle great important problems or events in our life. If we wait for only the big challenges to come up before we exercise our great spiritual power and dominion, isn’t it possible we may have a very long wait? Too long, perhaps. So our exercising of spiritual power and authority becomes stagnant, and as our letter states, stagnation can be death, and thou art dead. I remind you, not dead in the sense of out of existence, dead only in the sense of in an inactive state. Is there a solution? Of course.
The solution is use your great gift of spiritual power and dominion in all the so-called little things of life, everyday problems, common troubles, any type of healing need that comes to your attention, in the ordinary misunderstandings of human relationships. Don’t wait for only the big things. Use your spiritual power and authority in all the little things of life. Skip none of the details of your life. See them all as opportunities for you to handle things as a child of God with his gift of spiritual power and dominion within you. Your church of Sardis, don’t let it die. Keep it alive. Love, kindness, strength, courage, good judgment, mercy, and understanding, these are all part of your church of Sardis, your own individual spiritual power, dominion, and authority, and every part of your life needs this type of handling by you.
2. The second reason why much of our power and dominion seems to go dead is because we often try to externalize too much of it. That is, we sometimes become overly concerned with what we will call “outer doing-ness,” and we allow too much of our inner power to flow out into the realm of outer appearances and temporary happenings. We become overly obsessed with “getting things done out there”. Now, while a great deal of this is necessary, and much of it is good, too much preoccupation with it has the result of externalizing the direction of too much of our spiritual power and dominion, and causes us to become depleted and exhausted.
We learned in our study of truth that the wisest and most productive use of our power and dominion really should be in our inner world, in our inner life of thinking, feeling, attitudes, and inner reactions. Power, spiritual power used by us here, our inner life, our inner world, does not exhaust itself, but increases itself without limit, and none of it ever goes dead.
This same idea is borne out in the final words of criticism spoken by the Christ mind concerning our use of spiritual power. “For I have not found thy works perfect before God.” Now the key words here are, before God. When the Bible speaks of anything as being before God, just where is that? Is it out in some particular spot where God is located, and that thing is brought before him? Speaking now of your being, where is God? He can only be within you. So anything about you which is before God can only be something within you.
When our center of power and dominion, the church of Sardis, is told that its works have not been found perfect before God, does this not mean that we have not exercised perfect power and dominion over the things within ourself, our own thoughts, our own feelings, our own attitudes, our own memories, our own desires? These are the things about us which are before God, not the things in our outer life. These are not before God. These are before the world. Only the things within us are before God. And our letter says that we as human beings have simply not done a perfect job of exercising our spiritual power and control over these things before God, these inner things.
How do we begin to exercise perfect power and dominion over our inner nature, which is before God? It begins when we realize that the power and dominion we have to exercise is strictly an individual thing. You must exercise it as you. I must exercise it as me. Being part of a group has nothing to do with it. Large numbers in an organization do not determine spiritual power or strength.
Spiritual power, dominion, authority, control, are always matters of each individual applying it to his own inner world. Then, and only then, shall the works of our church of Sardis be found perfect before God, and as this happens, here is the blessed promise made by the Christ mind:
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will not blot out his name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before my Father and his angels.”
This beautiful promise contains two specific rewards of great value. The first, white raiment, refers to pure non-negative self-control. In the gospels, the seamless white robe of Jesus has exactly this meaning. Perfect, non-negative self-control. This type of self-control is not that grim and determined type of negative self-discipline, but rather it is a matter of thinking, feeling, and doing only what your real self knows to be best. Your motive is always for the highest good of all, and this type of self-control gives you a truly clean feeling, white raiment, and keeps your attitude toward life clear and refreshing at all times.
The second part of this great promise that his name will not be blotted out of the Book of Life but confessed before God and his angels. This is a highly symbolic way of saying that the Christ mind within you will see to it that your perfect identity is never besmirched, or is never blotted out of the Book of Life. That is, your identity as a beloved and valuable member of God’s universe is never going to be lost among all the strange comings and goings and shuffles of external events. You will always have your identity, your name in the Book of Life. You will always have your identity in your right place, at the right time, doing the right things which should be done by you.
This is your perfect individual identity in the universe. This is your perfect individual integrity in the universe. This is your name in the Book of Life shining boldly and clearly. God loves you and approves of what you do. Rejoice. Your name is written in heaven.