17th February 2008
We have been going through the churches in Revelation. Today, we are going to be looking at the Church in Laodicea.
There was a math test given around the world… at the end of the test – a bonus question. Are you good at math? Over 60% of the Americans said yes – the highest percentage of any country. The Americans scored last. The Koreans – less than 20% said yes – but they scored highest.
The church in Laodicea is a lot like those American students. A picture of that – a church that believed that they were first, but was really last.
We owe a lot to Biblical Archeology – they have done an amazing job of giving us the circumstances of the time.
Background – two primary issues.
The city did not have a healthy water supply – no fresh water in the city – so they had to bring it in from Hierapolis. It was about 6 miles away. Colossae – was farther away – and they would bring in cold mountain water through aqueducts.
The city was very wealthy. It was like – they had two primary exports that were sought throughout the world. They produced a soft, velvet, black wool. I don’t know how they made it – maybe they had black sheep – but it was desired all over the world. Merchants came in from all over to buy it. The other thing – caused not having good ground water – there were minerals in the soil that were good for the ears and eyes. They also had a medical school there.
It is almost like oil – if a nation has a lot of oil, that nation is rich. Many Mideast nations have nothing except for oil.
We talk about these earthquakes that ruined many cities – Laodicea was no exception. Rome came in and offered to help rebuild and the people of the city said no. In effect, we don’t want to owe you anything – they were independent and self-reliant. The Jewish population there was wealthy. I think of the United Arab Emirates – because they have so much oil, there is free medical, everyone benefits.
Father, help us to understand You and what You have to say to us. May Your Spirit make these words of Yours come alive in our hearts. Your word is living and active and able to pierce through anything we put up against You. Speak to our hearts now. In Jesus’ Name.
Rev. 3: 14 "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: from The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would 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. 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, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and [that] the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. 19 'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, 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. 22 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.' "
We have the introduction – it explains a bit about Christ – I urge you to study them on your own. This church, in many ways, is the most American. That is what people would say. The church in America probably relates to this one the most. Let me clear up something – hopefully, no one will be mad at me. Some have said that we live in the Laodicean church age. This is the lukewarm church – we are called lukewarm Christians. There are those who say this – and that is very American of them to say that! Maybe this relates to some – but the church across the world, this is not the case. Where God is moving in China and South America, many are poor and are undergoing persecution. Yes, in our part of the world, these things are more true – but I would not say this is an ‘Age.’
15 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would 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
What is He talking about? This is a strong rebuke – He comes at them – and lays it on the line. There is no beating around the bush – I’ll spit you out of my mouth. What He is doing – He is using it as a metaphor – He is referring to their water situation – Their water came from hot springs – and when it got to them – it was lukewarm. Or if it came from the other source – it starts off cold, - and by the time it got to them – it was lukewarm. They would understand this.
You know how it is when you get cold tea on a hot day, and then fall back into the swimming pool with the iced tea in your hand?!
You are not refreshing me like cold water – or you are not refreshing me like hot water – It is like He is saying – You make me sick!
This is the last church on that Postal Road – they would read the entire book to each of the churches. They had to listen to what the Spirit said to all those other churches. Ephesus – yeah, we knew there was something wrong there…Oh, and Philadelphia – that was always one of John’s favorites! And as they got to them – they probably thought He would praise them – You know when you are reading something about the Christian life and you start to get that feeling of conviction – “he is going right where I don’t want him to go!” It is like He is pulling back the curtains and layers and going into the heart of their lives. He is not afraid to be honest.
Your Spiritual life matches your water supply. Instead of influencing your city, your city has influenced you.
They would ask – WHY? They are like the Americans who think they are good at math! Why? Because,
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,
The church – from a material standpoint, was very wealthy. They were not like Thyatira and Pergamum – who had to worry about employment. They had become so independent that they thought they had no need for God. “You do not know” – they were deceived, deluded. This was the first they heard there was an issue! They thought things were going well! There is not one positive thing said! There is nothing good. Not even that they were trying hard! We don’t use words like this – “You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked.” He could have stopped at wretched! They are probably just staggering at this point. He goes back to each of these things that they think they have. Kind of like the Emperor’s New Clothes. Because the people are all afraid, no one would tell him. But God tells them like it is – I doubt they were prepared for what He had to say.
The very things that made the city materially rich were the things that made them spiritually poor.
18 I advise you to buy from Me gold
We have all the gold we want! Gold is not an issue here.
refined by fire, that you may become rich,
Oh yeah, you might have material gold – but it is filled with impurities – you need some time of testing, of struggle, of tribulation – to pull that stuff out of you. The reality is, when we go through life without testing, we become impure on the inside. That is why God tests us. Gold can’t be refined in the swimming pool on a sunny day – it has to go through fire – and we have to go through some fire in life that we may be refined.
and white garments, that you may clothe yourself,
These guys are probably thinking – what do you mean? We have some of the nicest clothes of all! Who made your clothes? You really don’t have any on – you are like the emperor. Forget your black wool, you need white garments.
and [that] the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
It was the city of eye salve! You need Me to give you medical attention – they were known for being a medical center – and yet they needed medical attention.
He speaks to them about things that they would immediately understand and relate to. Very practical. Very Simple. Very clear.
Three things that relate to Christendom in America. In general, these are true.
First – we are rich and wealthy – and yet, source of issues. The first is knowledge. We have so many resources available. You can listen to sermons, and read Christian books and go online and get whatever you want – but at times I think we have become inoculated to the truth. We hear so much but there is very little spiritual transformation. The truth has a purpose – to transform us. It is not to just listen to good messages and read good books. Because of so much available – we think we have it all together because we know so much. Christ’s purpose is to transform our lives. We do not come with the attitude of letting it change us. When you come to church on Sunday morning – that you would become more like Christ and to go back and to think about how to become more like Christ. What does God want from me? We need to ask ourselves that. Knowledge makes arrogant – Love is action.
I know your deeds – they were spit out because of a lack of genuine spiritual transformation.
Yes, we are saved by grace – we have that theologically down – but because of that – we need to do the deeds. Back up your life with what you know. Sometimes it is better to take away some of those resources and zero in on what God would have you do.
Second – Worship – we have great worship – praise bands, programs – radio. When I got saved in 1976, there was a guitar and a piano, and we thought it was really cool. Now – we have so much – there is nothing wrong with having bands – but musical style and energy do not necessary produce worship.
Romans 12:1 I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. Worship is not just praise – real worship is the presenting of our lives to Christ for Him to do as He wishes. When you are singing, that is what you are supposed to be doing.
Remember the Princess Bride? As you wish – The Lord wants us to say, As you wish. When you hear His word and He points out things in your life, He wants you to say, As You wish.
Third. Stuff. We’ve got stuff coming out of our stuff.
The story of the prodigal son – Give me my stuff. Give me my share of the inheritance. He is saying – look, I want what you give; I don’t want you. – Because he takes the stuff and goes. A lot of times, that is how we treat God. We want what He gives, but we don’t always want Him. It is okay to want his mercy and protection – but we have got to want Him most.
19 'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent.
This is a hard one for us – Love equals reproof and discipline. To confront and point out our flaws – to point out our sin. When someone does that to us, we don’t feel that they love us. Discipline means to correct what is wrong in that person – sometimes that requires punishment. Not judgment, but punishment. Tribulation, difficulty, trial. We don’t want to hear that. Real love corrects and confronts. We don’t like that. The reality is – Hebrews 12 talks about this in relation to raising children – the father that loves will discipline – and if we do not discipline, we do not love. That is almost foreign – but it is true. True love confronts and corrects. Now, with God there is never judgment for us as Christians. He is not judging us – but will correct and confront. At times, that will be painful.
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.
We use this verse in the gospel, and that is okay – but the church that he is giving the most correction to – if you repent zealously – I knock at the door – if you listen to Him and respond… To come and eat dinner together was the greatest sign of hospitality and intimacy. This was a big deal.
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. 22 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.' "
Remember when you had to correct your kids when they were little – You did it with a loving attitude and they were sorry and what happens? They just wanted to sit on your lap. What He is doing – it should give us hope. He is taking the worst situation – and He is the most intimate with this church. He is most intimate with the church that had the most problems. That ought to give us hope. When He has to correct us and confront us – it does not put a barrier in His desire to be close to us.