Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Church of Laodicea & The Church of America: Gold Treasure, White Robes, and Eyes that See

Audio Message:

There is a church that I’ve heard of, and I’d like to tell you about it. This church is really wealthy. The members are very, very wealthy and affluent. They’ve gathered great wealth, in their work, in trade, and in imports and exports. A lot of people at this church work for banks, they own clothing stores, and the city where they reside is known for important textiles. In fact, when you walk into this church, the people really resemble the culture around it, more than the transformative born again body of Christ.

Where do you think this church is? Do some churches come to mind when you consider this description? Maybe you’re thinking of a wealthy TV preacher. Or one of the megachurches in our country. Or maybe just a church down the street from you!

But this description is actually describing a church that existed about 2 thousand years ago. It was called the church of Laodicea, and it was described by the apostle John, in the letter of Jesus Christ to the 7 churches in Revelation. And how little things have changed in two thousand years. We’re wealthy, we’re affluent, and we tend to want for nothing. We might wish we had a bigger tv, or a nicer car, but overall we have more than enough food, we have luxurious housing compared to the rest of the world, we have entertainment, internet, safety, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and we are insanely blessed in our country.

Right now in China, at this very moment, Christianity is under open attack. Over ten thousand have been arrested and charged with propagating their Christian faith. Today Christianity is the number one most persecuted religion in the world, and it has been for a while. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been driven from the middle east, in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Iran. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee persecution. Tens of thousands have died for their faith. Yet here we are, in the united states, safe as can be, blessed with so much wealth, and abundance.

Jesus famously said to the church in Laodicea, “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.” –Rev 3:15-17

Do these words of Jesus fit our modern evangelical view of Jesus? That Jesus was the nicest fellow who ever lived? Not at all. I think we’ve lost a viewpoint of Jesus Christ as He really is. Jesus Christ is mighty and all-powerful. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is bold, powerful, and it says in Revelation that when Jesus returns He will destroy the power of the evil one by the breath of his mouth and the splendor of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). Jesus Christ will have an iron scepter in his millennial reign, and he will dash the nations to pieces like pottery (Revelation 2:27).

We should understand Jesus Christ as who He really is: Yes, Jesus died for us on the cross. Yes, he was humble and washed the feet of His disciples. But a great part of Jesus is as King of Kings, and mighty warrior, coming again in strength to rule the nations.

Jesus says to Laodicea: I know your deeds. He knows everything, he reads us like a book. Nothing we do is hidden from God.

So he says: You’re not hot or cold. You’re lukewarm. So I’m about to spit you out! And Jesus says, I know who you are, you think your rich and you don’t need a thing!

How true is that of us today? Do we really rely on Christ? In all our wealth and influence we don’t really need to rely on Christ. We can rely on the money in our bank account. We can rely on our top notch health insurance. We can rely on all the luxuries afforded to us by the salvation army.

Truly, in my life, I don’t need a thing. It’s all right in front of me. Which means I don’t have to rely on Christ for it. Which is a terrifying situation. It leaves me lukewarm. Because I love Jesus, but I don’t really have to rely on Him. I don’t really have to be tested in my faith as much, because I don’t wonder if I’m going to have a place to sleep tonight, or if I’ll have food in the morning. Everything is provided. In America, we live in a bubble, where we think nothing can change, nothing will go wrong. We’ll always be provided for. But the truth is, God can take away what we’ve been given in an instant.

Thankfully Jesus doesn’t leave the church in Laodicea with nothing but rebukes. He also encourages them in this way: “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.” –Rev 3:18

Jesus said to them, that your poor, naked and blind. But Jesus quickly indicates how they can remedy it: (Three things) Purchase true gold that is refined in the fire, white clothes to wear so you won’t be naked, and salve for your eyes, so that you’ll be able to see.

What does Jesus mean? Let’s think about this: What does a real, true, born again follower of Jesus have? They have three things:

-A pure inheritance of treasure in heaven.

-They daily wear the spotless robe of the righteousness of Christ.

-And they’ve been born again and their eyes have been opened to the spiritual realities around them.

So Jesus is inviting the church in Laodicea to a legitimate, complete experience of salvation. Then again, we shouldn’t assume that the people in the church weren’t saved. But perhaps they hadn’t gone on to the fullness of the Christian life, but had lingered in a superficial Christianity that Jesus was indicating was actually bankrupt.

So we see the problem: The church in Laodicea, similar to the churches of America, was lukewarm, and reliant on their wealth, affluence, and prowess, instead of total reliance on Jesus. We think we know everything, and we lack in humility. We think we have it all, we’ve got Jesus, we’ve got wealth, and we are so educated and influential. Jesus flips that’s prognosis on its head and says no: Your poor, bankrupt. You aren’t clothed in me, in fact your naked and exposed. You think your wise, but you actually don’t know anything, your blind.

What is the solution to these problems?

Jesus continues his words to the church in Laodicea in this way: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 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 that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Rev 3:19-22

Jesus doesn’t call us out to hurt us, that’s for sure. He says “people that I love, I rebuke and discipline.” It makes sense. Just like parents discipline their children, and this is an act of love, so also God disciplines his children, and this is not an act of meanness, but an act of love. If God didn’t guide us, then he wouldn’t be a good God. Of course it’s never fun to be rebuked. In fact, it stirs all sorts of uncomfortable emotions in us. Often in us it flairs indignation, even anger. It provokes sorrow, and confusion, and uncertainty. But if we push through those difficult emotions, and try to respond to God’s rebuke with real change, then it’s like we come out the other side of the discipline and we realize that God has done something incredibly mighty in our lives.

He's changed us for the better, he’s matured us. I know whenever I repent of a habitual sin, and set it aside for good, there is this feeling that overcomes me afterward. It’s like I’ve been through a storm, an impossibly difficult storm, and the storm has yanked the sin from my hand. I open my hand, and God takes it away. The storm was so hurtful, and inside the storm I couldn’t see a way out. But then the storm ended. And I had the feeling of victory: That the Lord had trimmed me down, like one trims a bush, and the Lord had removed the excess. And His presence with me is stronger and more real than before. I’ve taken another step into a larger world.

Jesus is coming very soon. And He is coming for a Holy church, a church without blemish or defect. If we are content to toil in sin and selfishness, we shouldn’t expect to share in any inheritance with Christ. Instead we’ll inherit the lake of fire. So we see that the solution to this problem of our churches looking like the world and our culture, is to to repent, and turn to Jesus.

And to receive three gifts from Jesus:

1. The garments of righteousness

2. The eyes of the Holy Spirit

3. The eternal riches of heaven.

Our churches, and our congregations will reflect and learn from our example. If we strive to live holy lives, then so will the people we serve. If we ignore sin, and live as lukewarm Christians, then the people we serve will do the same.

Jesus said, to make three fundamental changes:

First, Jesus said to reject our reliance on worldly wealth, and stop gathering money and influence in this world. This world is passing away. Jesus’ solution is that we should store up treasure in heaven. Treasures in heaven are gathered through deeds we do in this life to the glory of God alone.

Second, Jesus said to reject self-reliance and to rely entirely on Christ for our salvation. He counseled us to take the white garments of His righteousness. And if we have soiled our garments in willful sin, then He calls us to radical, complete repentance, in fasting and prayer. If your struggling in sin, the solution is to fear God, fast, and cry out in prayer relentlessly.

Thirdly, Jesus said we must reject our worldly knowledge, reject our rules and regulations, reject our worldly five point plans, and the worldly philosophies, of inclusion, of tolerance, of materialism, and of relativism, and instead embrace the timeless spiritual truths of the scriptures, really believing that they do apply today, tomorrow, and always. And that they counsel us better than our fancy degrees and higher academic institutions.

Jesus tells us to be earnest and repent. The NASB and KJV render the word earnest as “zealous.” Another translation renders earnest as “diligent.” The dictionary definition for diligent is “constant in effort to accomplish something; attentive and persistent in doing something.”

The church in America is full to the brim with habitual sin, arrogance, and self-reliance. And we need to repent diligently, in all determination, before time runs out. You can be free from sin. You can be holy as Christ is holy. That’s what we’re called to, to true deliverance. You can fast and pray weekly. You can devote yourself completely to the Christian way. You can be 100% sold out for Jesus. You can be on fire for Jesus.

Too often we say just before we sin yet again: “The Lord will forgive me, so it doesn’t matter.”

Don’t let anyone deceive you, we will reap what we sow. If we sow in the Spirit, we’ll reap eternal life. If we sow to the flesh, we’ll reap destruction.

We need a deadly seriousness when it comes to how we follow Jesus Christ. God is full of mercy and compassion, but He calls us to the most radical and pure lifestyle. Let’s look at some action steps of how we can respond to God’s rebuke, and repent. I want to leave you with these concrete steps to be free from sin, to be covered in Christ’s righteousness, to gather treasure in heaven, and to rely entirely on the scriptures for our worldview of life.

1. Ask God for the gift of the Fear of the Lord.

2. Pray and ask the Lord’s Spirit to reveal in us anything that displeases Him.

3. Repent in Faith of those things God reveals to us.

4. Ask God for the heart of holiness, that He would pour out His perfect love in us.

5. Fast and pray for three days in a row.

6. Institute a new dedication to God in your life, declare a jubilee, a new time.

7. Devote yourself completely to the work of Christ, yielding all of your heart, soul, and mind to Him.

In conclusion, like the church of Laodicea, today in the USA, in the Salvation Army, and across all the churches, we’re in need of deep, true repentance. And God willing, we will repent, and put on the perfect robe of Christ, gather treasures of gold in heaven, and open eyes that truly see.