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Laodicea: The Church of Deadly Pride

 

7 Churches in Revelation: (Part VII)

Rev. Jerry Lepasana

 

Revelation 3:14-22 (NIV)
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
16 So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I 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.”

What would you say is the best kind of church? One author has listed various kinds of churches. Allow me to use an edited form of his list to get us to thinking about this.

  • An Active Church – a church where people are actively involved in her ministries and programs.
  • A Giving Church – a church who is generous in her financial giving.
  • A Growing Church – a church where there are new people attending and are staying.
  • A Soul Winning Church – a church involved in constantly winning people to faith in Jesus Christ, while those getting saved are baptized.
  • A Smooth Running Church – a church that is efficient and orderly.
  • A Mission-minded Church – a church that supports missionaries around the world.
  • A Mega Church – a church with large attendance and many programs.

Now, you may be able to add others to this list. If we were to pass out 3X5 cards and ask you to write down one word that describes the best church, what word would you put down on that card? I imagine that we would probably get a lot of different descriptions. However, the opinion that you and I should really be interested with is what the Lord would say about the church. The truth of the matter is that Christ evaluates His churches all the time. He did it during the New Testament times and I’m sure He is still doing it today. Likewise, we sometimes look at our church, having our own opinion of what should and should not be done. I hope and pray for we should all be conscious of what Jesus Christ says regarding what the church should be. In our series on the 7 Churches in Revelation, this is exactly what has been happening – one by one, Jesus examined the churches in Asia Minor and He allowed John to write His evaluations of these churches. I hope we would not take for granted the specific issues that the Lord dealt with in the past 6 churches that we have studied.

  • Ephesus – He condemns  them for leaving their first love
  • Smyrna – He commends their loyalty despite being under severe persecutions
  • Pergamum- He condemns their worldliness
  • Thyatira- He condemns their tolerance of immorality
  • Sardis – He exposes their deadness as a church
  • Philadelphia- He praises their commitment to their message

 

As we come to the seventh church- the church of Laodicea, we find a more serious problem. Jesus Christ does not address a doctrinal error or a moral failure. He instead addresses a condition of the heart. This is more serious because a lot of times no one would know you have this problem except you and the Lord. You can go about your Christian life pretending that everything is perfectly fine. So we need to take heed about this problem.

Before we talk about the text, let’s first talk about the city of Laodicea. The city of Laodicea was located 90 miles east of Ephesus, 45 miles southeast of Philadelphia. It was known to be one of the wealthiest cities in Asia Minor because of their three major industries:

  1. 1.      Banking – It became the banking and financial center in that part of the world.
  2. 2.      Fashion – The city developed a certain type of wool that was raven black and glossy, having come from the black sheep of this region. This product made the city very wealthy and fashion conscious.
  3. 3.      Medicine – The city had a medical school that became famous for producing a remarkable type of eye medicine. It has been said that people with eye problems traveled to Laodicea and paid big sums of money to avail this medicine.

History records that in 60 A.D. a great earthquake destroyed the city. Almost all the buildings collapsed. When Rome heard what had happened, they graciously offered to help rebuild the city. It has been said that the leaders of Laodicea declined their help stating that they have enough resources to rebuild their city. In 95 A.D., when this letter to the church was written, Laodicea had been fully restored and had maintained all its wealth. This sets the background for the spiritual condition of the believers in the city. Let’s now examine three specific truths we find in the text:

I           THE CHARACTER OF JESUS CHRIST: (v.14)

As we have consistently seen in these letters to the churches, they always begin with some descriptions about the Lord Jesus Christ. To the Laodiceans, Jesus gave three significant descriptions of His character in verse 14.

  1. A.     He is the “Amen”

This word literally means, “So be it.” It is a word that affirms the truth of a statement. In other words, if Jesus says something, it is guaranteed as the truth. There’s no need for discussion. Just accept it as truth.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV)
20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Notice how Paul uses the word “Amen,” in terms of God’s promises. They are 100% reliable. The same can be said of Jesus Christ, He is Amen – He is 100% reliable.

  1. B.     He is “the faithful and true witness”

We know a witness as one who testifies about what he has seen or heard about an event. Jesus is one who witnesses to man about God. He also witnesses to God about man. As a witness, whatever he proclaims to them is faithful and true because He is the truth. (John 14:6)

  1. C.     He is “the ruler of God’s creation.”

The word “ruler” comes from the Greek word “arche” which literally means “source” or “origin.” Jesus Christ is the source of all creation.

Colossians 1:16 (NIV)
16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

The church in Laodicea became self-sufficient, seeming to have had everything. With this title, Christ is sending the message that He is the very source of everything they possess. The question is: would they be willing to see Him as He is? Failure to see Him as He is will always have an effect on our Christian lives.

II         THE CONDEMNATION OF JESUS CHRIST: (vs. 15-17)

Beginning in verse 15, the Lord states His condemnation to the church based on their two spiritual conditions.

  1. A.     They were lukewarm

In being lukewarm, the Lord says, they “are neither cold nor hot.” They were neutral. They were not totally indifferent against Christ, nor were they burning for Him. They just stayed in the middle. They were people who played religious games with God. They appeared to belong to God, but they refused to wholeheartedly obey the Lord.  But the problem is that our Savior doesn’t enjoy moderate Christians because they do even greater harm to the Gospel of Jesus Christ than those who merely refused to accept it. To these people, the Lord plainly states, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” In other words, Jesus will not bear this attitude towards Him, so He is going to reject them.

I’m sure many of us can relate to this idea. Think of drinking tea for a moment. We usually drink tea either hot or cold. We won’t enjoy it if it is lukewarm. The same is true spiritually. Christ will never enjoy half-hearted surrender or commitment. He always demands whole-hearted surrender towards Him.

  1. B.     They were self-deceived

Verse 17 reveals that their lukewarm attitude came from their feeling of self-sufficiency – “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”

Satan often has a way of making us think that, because of all our material possessions, there’s no need of God in our lives anymore. This is a big lie because Jesus will reveal our true condition – “But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Here is the real problem. These people grew insensitive to their true spiritual needs. They were blinded to the reality that they were really desperate and miserable, totally in need of God’s intervention in their lives. What a tragic condition!

Today, I read this and recognize that somehow we are confronted with the same danger, being Christians who live in a wealthy nation where we enjoy sufficient material provisions for our daily needs. The danger is the tendency to equate material sufficiency with spiritual sufficiency. I hope we all know that they are not the same.

Mark 8:36 (NIV)
36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

Please know, only Jesus can truly satisfy your soul, only He can help you experience life to the fullest. This is the truth you will find in the last verses of our text.

III        THE COUNSEL OF JESUS CHRIST: (vs. 18-22)

There is still hope for these lukewarm Christians. The Lord Jesus urges them to do two things:

  1. A.     Realize that they need Him

If you read verses 18 and 20, Jesus Christ impresses to them that He is the One they really need. Verse 18 is interesting because the three items that Christ is offering them – gold, clothing, and medicine for the eyes, are the very items the Laodiceans have prided over. However, Jesus is saying that what He is able to offer them was far more superior to what they already have because they will meet their spiritual needs. Jump to verse 20 – “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” The key was to make Him a part of their lives. Jesus cannot minister to anyone unless we are willing to really fellowship with Him.

Often, we use this verse for evangelism but the context of the verse is for believers. The truth is that we can be believers and still miss intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ. Oftentimes, our failure to value our relationship with Him and our failure to realize how much we need Him robs us of experiencing an intimate relationship with Him. That is why we don’t experience the joy in our relationship with Him. Does Jesus have a place in your life? Don’t keep Him distant from you. Open your heart to Him and invite Him in to commune with you.

  1. B.     Repent from their self-sufficiency

I love verse 19 because you find the Lord affirming to these believers that, despite their shortcomings, they have been the object of His love. Because of this love, He calls them to repent from their sin of self-sufficiency. Notice the phrase, “So be earnest.” In the King James Version, what you read is “be zealous.” This was the attitude that was lacking in their lukewarm condition. So God calls them to repent and become more passionate, more excited about their relationship with Jesus Christ.

How is your Christian life today? Is it possible that Jesus Christ, who died and sacrificed His life for you, remains outside your heart, knocking and seeking a more intimate relationship with you? When was the last time you really felt the joy of being connected with the one who has been sufficiently providing for all your material and spiritual needs? Don’t keep Him distant from you. Make sure He remains very close to you, able to minister to you. He is probably knocking on your heart today. Would you open it wide and invite Him for a more intimate relationship with you? If He is already there, may you continually abide in Him and enjoy sweet fellowship with Him!