June 7 2020 Underlying Problems of Injustice - Revelation 3
17th June 2020
Lord, we lift Dave up to You this morning – we pray You would give the doctors wisdom – we ask that it would not be anything serious – but that he could get clear direction. Thank You for Dave and how much he has meant to this church and to The Rock – what a blessing he is.
Lord, speak to our hearts. Thank You for Carol sharing – we were lost but we have been found. We are chosen and loved by You deeply.
I’m going to jump back to the Book of Revelation this morning.
Our cultural context has a significant impact on the church we attend, the worship style we like, and the emphasis we put on works of service.
The past several weeks, we have been going over the letters to the church in Revelation in our Tuesday revelation study. We got to the church in Laodicea – and
Separation from the culture
We are in the world, but not of the world. We are to be on mission to our world – out there, without being conformed to that world.
The city of Laodicea was one of the wealthiest – like the Silicon Valley of that area. We should be able to relate as we come from one of the wealthiest nations. I understand not everyone experiences that wealth.
The city was at an intersection of two of the primary trade routes. They had a highly advanced medical center that specialized in healing eye diseases – there was a mineral in that area that was helpful in curing eye disease.
They also had a luxury wool that was really popular – they had a problem – and that is the slide on the screen. They did not have clean water to drink. The water they had would cause sickness. So they piped in water from 6 miles away!
14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
First thing – we get a description of Jesus – and it relates to what is going on in that city.
The faithful and true Witness.
One of the purposes is to encourage Christians to be faithful witnesses in the midst of persecution and suffering.
Jesus is saying that He is THE faithful witness – and he is saying that to one of the churches that had been the least faithful – and there is strong language He uses. Buckle your seatbelts:
15 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
He takes a water metaphor – one they could relate to – he is talking about us – we have a water problem – and the letter is saying – you have a spiritual water problem.
There is a mistake that used to be made – and I’m sure none of you would make this mistake… We used to think being hot for God means being on fire for him – and to be cold, would be to indifferent to Him.
“Mike – at this moment in your life – on a scale of 1-10 – what is your zeal for the Lord?”
I’m one to never pick 9 or 10… so I would say 7 – and they would respond – God is going to spit you out of His mouth!
Hieropolis was 7 miles away to the south – hot springs – and people would flock there.
10 miles away – Colossae – had the best water – from melting snow – and people loved it.
Laodiceans had lost their witness – their testimony. That is what the letter is telling them.
17 'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
Their wealth created their unfaithfulness.
Jesus said – you cannot serve God and money – serve = worship. The Laodiceans were worshiping money – that was their God. Material wealth and prosperity creates a false sense of security. Economically, politically, and spiritually.
The Bible talks about the uncertainness of riches.
In February – the unemployment rate was at its lowest ever – and now it is at Depression level.
We see it politically – and the big question for a lot of people – am I better off economically than I was four years ago?
John is telling them that their wealth has blinded them to their poverty.
He gives them advice - 18I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
You need true wealth – a wealth of devotion to Jesus. They had the finest black garments in the world – and he says – you need white, pure garments.
And eye salve to anoint your eyes – you may have medicine that heals eyes – you need spiritual eye salve.
Working harder at bible reading, prayer, witnessing – though very important – is not sufficient to eliminate this form of lukewarmness. First we must address the issues that caused the lukewarmness.
Jesus said- where your treasure is – there your heart will be. They had treasured the wrong thing.
If you get the treasure in the right place – the heart will follow.
Because of our cultural context, we have developed habits that focus our treasure in the wrong place – our hearts are in the wrong place – and what we need to do first – set our aim – recalibrate our hearts.
First – recognize how we have conformed to our world. All of us have in multiple ways.
Then we must unlearn the practices that have caused us to conform – each of us has practices that we do and don’t even realize – we need to then develop new practices that will create in us a new heart. If we fail to unlearn the practices that cause us to conform – then the efforts of our worship and service …
If we don’t understand what we have conformed to – what we will not know – how is our worship and service conformed to our cultural context.
For instance – the health and wealth gospel – good Christians should be rich!
You might think we are not anywhere near that. But in the consumer gospel, we are buying our faith at the spiritual store that offer the best community… Like Peloton, not Nordic track…
Bringing this home to what is going on in our world:
The phrase – systemic problem – you stroke anger, shame – so I am trying to come up with a word that doesn’t do that… how about underlying problems of injustice? That is a very biblical concept. Jesus’ teaching is filled with it. The Old Testament is full of it. The Book of revelation is all about that.
For Laodicea – their injustice lay in materialism.
Isaiah 58 addresses this:
Isaiah 58: 6 "Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? 7 "Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him;
He is talking about underlying problems of injustice in that culture – and that culture had God as their leaders! All systems – all power structures – have underlying evil – even those that have many Christians engaged in them.
There are two clear reasons we need to believe this:
First – the spiritual forces of evil are in operation in all of our world structures. The dragon and the beast from the book of Revelation are active today – in OUR structures.
Second – sinful humans are the ones running these things – and we all have a sense of evil in us – even those of us who have come to Christ.
It is important to recognize that these forces operate – even in systems that are benign!
For example – the news media… Most agree… but what about in sports and entertainment?
Politics? Oh yeah, especially on the OTHER side of politics… what about our justice systems? Of course.
If there are systems we don’t think that the forces of evil are operating – we will be conformed to those cultures and systems.
This book – Babylon the harlot – are in competition with the Lamb for our service and praise – and there is a great battle going on.
And that brings us to the protests and racial divide – we have to address.
On Wednesday – we will have a Zoom meeting – Tim is putting together – how do we as white congregations engage in this?
In our association – we are talking about how to deal with racial reconciliation – it is a real issue and we can’t ignore it anymore.
Jesus talks about this in Luke. For us it is black and white – for them, that was not the reality – in Jesus’ world, Jew and Gentile – and even more – Jew and Samaritan! For us – they looked alike – second cousins! Related to one another!
Jesus first sermon – Luke 4 – opens the scroll in Isaiah – to proclaim release to the captives – the year of Jubilee – and then tells stories where he makes the Gentiles the heroes of the story – and they wanted to throw him off a cliff.
Then there is a centurion – He is a noble man who loves our people – the Jews stepped up – and we see – underlying problems of racism – even when people are trying to NOT be racist.
Then the Good Samaritan….
Luke and the Power Structures
- Jesus first sermon in Luke 4.
- The centurion in Luke 7.
- The story of Good Samaritan in Luke 10.
- The ten lepers Luke 17.
One comes back to say thank you – and oddly enough – it is a Samaritan
- Parable of the Vine-growers Luke 20.
The people taking care of the vineyard are the leaders of Israel… and it is taken away and given to others… the Gentiles.
Revelation 3: 19 'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
He gives them an open invitation to fellowship. A meal invitation was an open door to offended and estranged people. It was an initiation to restore peace in relationships. It was a purposeful act – inviting to a meal – and Jesus has an unending desire to accept us back to full fellowship with Him.