Sardis and Thyatira
It’s the New Year! January 1st, 2016! Many of us celebrated the New Year at our hotel last night with a mini dance party at about 9:30 pm. We did our own count down and everything and made it to bed by 10:30. And while all of our friends and family were celebrating the New Year States-side, we were having our 8 am morning devotion here. Overall, we are doing well—we are over jet lag and just trying to stay energized and warm. It’s been close to frigid—especially for us Texans!
Today, we saw two main sites: the ancient cities of Sardis and Thyatira. There have been civilizations in Sardis as early as 1400 BC. Sardis has been under the Heraclid Kingdom, followed by the Mermnad Kingdom, then the Lydians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Sardis still contains the best preserved temple to Artemis, the goddess of war and the hunt. The remains of that temple is where we had our first lesson on Revelation 3:1-3. Then we went to another part of Sardis where we saw a breathtaking Roman bath, and the largest, best preserved Jewish Synagogue in the Diaspora. At that synagogue, we finished our lesson on Jesus’ words to the church in Sardis (Revelation 3: 4-6).
We drove an hour or so, had an incredible lunch, and then proceeded to see what is left of Thyatira. Thyatira was a very commercial city on a trade route --with trade guilds for any kind of craftsman from bakers to textile workers to merchants and tanners. The primary god worshipped in Thyatira was Apollo, the god of the sun. A trade guild was an association of craftsmen and there were many economic and social benefits to being a part of the guilds. Each guild would involve different parades or feasts where different gods were worshipped as one of the activities. Another interesting fact about Thyatira is that Lydia from Acts 16 is from this city. We talked about the letter to the church there found in Revelation 2:18-24.
As far as lessons learned…man! Where to begin? Sardis gives a really amazing picture to pride, humility, self-deception, and the gospel. Backstory on Sardis: back in the day, Sardis was assumed to be a fortress city with a wall that was impregnable. However, just before the Lydian kingdom was conquered by the Persians, there was a Lydian king named Cresus who went out to meet Cyrus the Great and attempt to conquer him. There was a long battle that ended in a stalemate then the winter came. Cresus returned to Sardis for the winter and expected Cyrus to return o Persia as well. Cyrus did not return but followed Cresus and laid siege to the city for 11 months. The wall appeared impenetrable. Finally, one of Cyrus’ soldiers found a secret passage-way in the wall. The soldiers let themselves in, opened the front gates, and Sardis finally fell to the Persians. In Revelation 3, Jesus says to Sardis: “you have a reputation of being awake, but you are dead!” The church in Sardis was not honest with themselves, much like the city had assumed that fortress was undefeatable. The church there was in reality not about what they appeared to be about. Matt asked us the question: “Is your Christianity more about maintaining a reputation or living out your faith?” And as we ask ourselves that question, we are inevitably faced with the reality of our need for Jesus. We talked about what true worthiness looks like, namely that it comes from believing Jesus as our righteousness and not our own works.
The theme of this trip is: “When we stand fast in God’s grace, we will not be moved by the world. No matter what.” The death and resurrection of Jesus truly is the bedrock of life for the Christian. Today, I’m reminded of the desperate need I have to be honest with myself about my sin. I’m reminded that the purpose of good works is to emulate Jesus, not to gain favor with Him. Y’all, it’s been a good day. What a gift it is to be here! I am speaking on behalf of everyone that we can not wait to share the lessons we are learning when we get home. More updates tomorrow!
by Lacey Murphy
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