Dangers of Complacency

Read: Rev. 2:18-3:6

Text: Rev 3:2 (KJV) Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

Theme: When we become complacent as believers, we are prey to evil influences from within and without.


We have examined the letter to the church at Ephesus. From this letter we learned the danger of allowing our love to wane... "leaving our first love."

We also examined the letters to Smyrna and Pergamos, and from them we learned the lessons Christ has for us in suffering and persecution. We were encouraged by the admonition of Christ to Smyrna to never give up, and we were warned by the rebuke of Christ to Pergamos, to not crack the door to compromise, for it can lead to much greater sin in our midst.

Today we turn our attention to two more churches, Thyatira and Sardis. From them we will learn the importance of keeping our guard up, and avoiding wrong influence in our walk with Christ.

Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29)

Thyatira was a small town located about 35-40 miles SE of Pergamos. It was primarily a "guild" town known for its various craftwman and trade guilds. It was especially know for its purple dye. The only other mention of Thyatira in the Bible is in Acts 16, where Lydia, a dealer in purple from Thyatira, became the first convert in Philippi. It may well have been Lydia who, returning home, brought the gospel to her people.

Thyatira was basically an insignificant town, and an insignificant church ( in man's eyes ), and yet it received the longest of the seven letters.

QUESTION - Is this significant? Why? What do we learn from it?

Jesus greatly commended this insignificant little chuch for their good works, their love, and for other things. But, He also sternly rebuked them for their sin, which affected not only themselves, but all those around them.

They were a little church that acted big... a little church that accomplished big things for God... a little church that sinned big sins.

Let's think for a few minutes this morning about what we can learn from the little church at Thyatira.

I. Thyatira's Accomplishments

QUESTION - What were the things that Jesus commended this church for? (List on whiteboard)
A. Jesus commended them for their love.
QUESTION - Which of the churches we have studied so far were commended for their love? (ANSWER - NONE)

QUESTION - What does this tell us about the believers at Thyatira?

1. Love is the most important characteristic in any church.

- Jesus said it in John 15:12 John 15:12 (KJV) This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

- Paul said it in 1 Th 3:12 (KJV) And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:

- Peter said it in 1 Pet 1:22 (KJV) Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

- John said it in 1 John 2:9-10 (KJV) He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.

1 Cor 13:13 (KJV) And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

2. Their love was KNOWN.

John 13:35 (KJV) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

B. Jesus commended them for their service.
QUESTION - What does the use of the word "service" tell us about this church?

1. They understood their purpose.

Eph 2:10 (KJV) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

2. They were obedient

1 Cor 15:58 (KJV) Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

3. They were BUSY doing something for God.

C. Jesus commended them for their faith.
QUESTION -What is significant in the fact that this little church was commended for its faith?

1. FAITH is what makes churches great!

2. A little faith does great things!

Mark 9:23 (KJV) Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

ILLUS. Abraham became the father of a nation...

ILLUS. Caleb became the possessor of a mountain...

ILLUS. David became the greatest of Israel's kings...

ILLUS. The 3 Hebrew captives defeated the fiery furnace...

ILLUS. Daniel was victorious over the den of lions...

ILLUS. Paul survived great persecution, and carried the gospel to the known world.

D. Jesus commended them for their patience.
1. They were faithful.

1 Cor 4:2 (KJV) Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

2. They were dependable.

QUOTE - Bob Jones, Sr. (?) "The best ability is dependability."

E. Jesus commended them for the fact that all these things were increasing!
1. Love alone doesn't make a church great.

2. Service alone doesn't make a church great.

3. Faith alone doesn't make a church great.

4. Patience alone doesn't make a church great.

5. EVEN having all these things in INCREASING AMOUNTS doesn't make a church great!

QUOTE Barclay - "Here is a warning. A church which is crowded with people and which is a hive of energy and a dynamo of activity is not necessarily a real church. It is quite possible for a church to be crowded, because its people come to it to be entertained instead of instructed, and to be soothed and petted instead of to be challenged and confronted with the fact of sin and the offer of salvation. A church may be so full of energy that it becomes a restless ferment instead of a haven of peace. A church may be packed with many activities, but in the abounding enerby the centre may have been lost, and it may be a highly successful Christian club rather than a real Christian congregation."

II. Thyatira's Problems

QUESTION - What was the problem(s) with this church? (List on whiteboard)
A. The teaching and influence of Jezebel
QUESTION - Any speculation as to who or what this is referring to?

1. A prominent woman leading many into sin.

- Probably not named Jezebel, but rather referring to the same level of wickedness displayed by this old testament personality.

- Possibly an idolator, trying to lead the saved to worship idols. (Apollos, Diana)

- Possibly teaching church that it is okay to compromise spiritually for commercial gain. (There is evidence that trade guilds required sacrifice to and worship of false gods in order to gain membership, and therefore to trade within Thyatira.)

QUESTION - How does this apply to us today?

QUESTION - Is there a willingness in the church today, to worship idols?

QUESTION - Is there a willingness in the church today to compromise spiritually in order to obtain commercial gain?

QUESTION - What should the church do about this? What should Thyatira have done about this?

B. Lack of dealing with Jezebel.
1 Cor 5:11, 13b (KJV) But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Mat 18:15-18 (KJV) Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.

QUESTION - What does this letter from Christ teach us about the relative importance of "being busy for God" and keeping ourselves and our relationship with Him pure?
QUESTION - Which does this letter tell us is most pleasing to God, outward success or inward purity? Explain?
QUESTION - If we have a big church, with great programs, and much apparent growth in our community, is this pleasing to God? Explain? (ANSWER - Ensure that the answer includes the fact that our relationship with Christ is more important and more pleasing to Him than any outward programs or growth.)

So, Jesus teaches us through His letter to Thyatira, that we must keep ourselves pure inwardly... outward works and busy-ness are not enough. We must deal with those in our midst who would teach and promote compromise with this world for any reason, even for commercial success or gain, and we must purge such from our ranks. We must never allow ourselves to become complacent concerning what is taught, what we believe, and what we live in our church.

Now let us think for a moment of Sardis, where we learn of yet another type of complacency. The complacency in Thyatira came from a person who was teaching wrong. The complacency in Sardis was even more insidious, for it apparently came from within the hearts of the majority of people.

Sardis was a wealthy city. Cyrus estimated the wealth of Croesus, one-time king of Sardis, at the equivalent of 600,000,000 dollars, and that was in 549 B.C. Sardis was on an important trade route, and was at one time capital of the kingdom of Lydia. Sardis was a center of paganism, and a bustling, successful metropolis.

The things that were true of the city, paint a picture of the condition of the church. Notice:

III. Sardis had a reputation for life.

QUESTION - What was Sardis commended for?
QUESTION - What does "thou hast a name that thou livest" mean?
A. They LOOKED great.
1. Ruins show a Christian church building next to the temple. (Good building.)

2. They talked the talk, and walked the walk!

(They said it, and they outwardly lived it!)

QUESTION - What could be wrong with this?

B. Scripture warns that many will outwardly look saved until the last minute.
ILLUS. Wheat and tares (Matthew 13)

ILLUS. Ten virgins (Matthew 25) - only 5 were saved.

ILLUS. Nicodemus (John 3) outwardly spotless, but needed to be "born again."

ILLUS. Judas Iscariot (Looked great, even to those closest to him.)

ILLUS. Martin Luther - a monk, deeply religious, but LOST until understanding that "the just shall live by faith."

ILLUS. John Wesley - came to America to preach to the Indians, but before he could get started he determined that he, himself, had not been saved. He looked great outwardly, but inwardly was lost!

Mat 7:13-14 (KJV) Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Mat 7:21-23 (KJV) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity

C. Sardis is a warning to examine ourselves.

IV. Sardis was dead.

QUESTION - What is meant by the phrase "and art dead?"
QUESTION - Could this phrase be applied to churches today? Why? When? Which?
QUESTION - What solution does Jesus offer to Sardis? How should they deal with this problem?
- Twice in its history, Sardis had been invaded because they did not post a guard, and allowed themselves to be caught sleeping.

- Never grow complacent about sin (like David did.)

- Never grow complacent about your level of spirituality.

QUESTION - Are we ever close enough to God to let down our guard, spiritually?

QUOTE Paul - "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended..." (Phil 3:13)

- Never grow complacent about your level of service.

QUESTION - Have we ever done enough for God, so that we can say "It's somebody elses' turn?"

QUOTE Jesus - "I have not found your works perfect (i.e. complete)."

B. Strengthen what remains.
QUESTION - What does this mean? How would we apply it today?

ANSWER - Always be building... never be satisfied. (A satisfied Christian would have fit in well at Sardis.)

C. Remember
1. ... where you came from

2. ... what Christ did for you.

3. ... what He's continued to do since.

4. ... the Truth that saved you.

5. ... the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

B. Hold fast (lit. KEEP or OBEY)
1. Live what you've learned.

2. Be a doer.

Eph 2:10 (KJV) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

C. Repent
1. Confess what sin is there (1 John 1:9)

2. LIVE a life of repentance.

- Never let sin go unconfessed.

- Ask God to search you.

Psa 139:23-24 (KJV) Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.


What is the point of all this?

Both Thyatira and Sardis had problems because they became complacent.

Thyatira became complacent about Jezebel, and allowed teaching that led to compromised lifestyles and spiritual error. You might say that they became complacent toward outward influence.

Sardis became complacent inwardly... lazy... asleep at the watch. They did not take their personal relationship with Christ seriously, and did not think it was something to be guarded. They were inwardly dead as a result. You might say that they became complacent inwardly.

The lesson for us is VIGILANCE. Always working to ensure that our inward relationship with Christ is just as alive and vibrant and well as our outward evidences.

It does us no good to have outward service, faith, patience, even in increasing amounts, if we are not walking close to Christ inwardly.

It does us no good to have a name that we live outwardly, if inwardly, we are dead.

May God help us to examine ourselves.

Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright 1997 William E. Johnson.