Last week we looked at the bad news of Laodicea and we propose to you that the problem of Laodicea was not lukewarmness. That was the symptom of the problem. The problem was that they did not see themselves the way God saw them, but they thought they saw themselves the way that God saw them. Therefore, they thought nothing was wrong and there's nothing to get excited about, which is why they're lukewarm.
We suggested also that Laodicean Christians share a similar flaw found in the city of Laodicea where the had no permanent water source within the city. They piped it in through an aqueduct from six miles away which made them vulnerable to siege, and by+ the time the water from those hot springs got to Laodicea, it was lukewarm and neither good for cooking nor good for drinking. Neither refreshing nor useful for cooking.
And we suggested that Laodicean Christians don't have the wellspring of the water of life within, as Christ told the woman at the well, "When you receive from My water, My well, and drink My water it will become a wellspring inside, an inner source of water and not vulnerable to the sieges of Satan. Laodicean Christians don't have a wellspring inside. They are aqueducting their Christian experience from predigested fare. And so, instead of grafting the Word in their heart, so that it can become a wellspring of water, they get it piped in through Morris Venden, Max Lucado, Steve Bauer or whoever. Instead of going to the Word for themselves to hear God speak.
That's the bad news. This week we said we'd try to look at the good news of Laodicea. And, after the rebuke that Laodicea received, we have to wonder, "Can anything be hopeful about this church and its condition?" And, the answer is, "Yes."
Now, some years ago, my brother joined the Air Force. In a moment of insanity, he said, "Yes." And he joined, fortunately as an officer and he entered as a second lieutenant. After his officer training, he was sent up to northern Maine where his first job was as an executive officer of a squadron. Part of his duties involved dealing with discipline problems. Now, he didn't get to prescribe the discipline but it was his job to make sure that the discipline happened as prescribed by somebody higher up the chain of command. If it was a minor infraction, one of their favorite punishments was that you were put on garbage detail, which means you had to empty the cans into the truck. Except that you weren't allowed to ride the truck, you had jog between stops. And it was my brother's job to ride behind in a vehicle to make sure that the one being punished did not cheat and ride on the truck, and that the truck drove fast enough to make him jog between stops. Your tax dollars at work.
But, he told us of a more interesting case, a more severe one where he had to take a fellow to detention, which is like part boot camp and part jail. The man had sworn back at a superior officer, basically told him where he could go. Which is not a good thing to do in the military. Because of his insubordinate attitude, he was put into detention. So, my brother brought this fellow to the detention center with the things he was told to bring: his dress uniform and his personals and so forth. And they stepped in the door and he was told to stand here, "and everything you say you will start with 'Sir' and you will end with, 'Sir.' Is that clear?" "Yes sir!" "Give me twenty." "Why, sir?" "That's 'Sir, yes sir.'" "Why, sir?" "That's thirty." And they start playing this very literalistic game. Finally the guy got done with his push-ups. "Do you have your I.D. card with you?" He reached in and pulled out his I.D. card. "Did I tell you to show me your I.D. card? I only asked you if you had it." And the games went on and on. Finally they got everything checked in and they made him stand in a two-foot square marked on the floor and they began to drill him in that square. "Right face. left face. About face..." One right after another. They just kept him... "Mark time, march. Double time, march..." They had him running in place. They had him turning circles. Everything in that two-foot square. And he broke out into a sweat and the guy drilling him got into his face. "Who told you you could sweat? You don't sweat unless I tell you you can sweat!"
And then with a great sigh of relief, my brother said to me, "I'm sure glad they can't send officers there." I said to him. "Man, if that's what they do for swearing at an officer, what do they do to you when they kick you out of the Air Force?" "Oh, they just put you in detention and you sit and read books until they process the papers." "I don't get it. Why is it they one they are kicking out gets nothing, and the guy they are keeping goes through this misery of literalistic listening skills?" And my brother said, "It's because the guy they are kicking out, they see no hope for redeeming him as a Air Force soldier. But the one they feel there's hope to turn into a good Air Force person they put him through the miserable experience to redeem them. And it's precisely because they have hope to redeem that they almost torture the guy."
And I would suggest to you that the fact that God brought such a stern message to Laodicea: no positives, He whaps them up along side of the head for all practical purposes, tells us that God believes that Laodicea is not beyond redemption. And, that's good news.
Turn in your Bibles to Revelation 3. God has enough hope that Laodicea can be cured that He offers them counsel, verse 18. "Here's something you need to do to overcome your condition." And in verse 19, He tells them, "Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten." But Laodicea doesn't view love that way. Laodicea thinks everything is wonderful. Laodicea thinks love kind of covers things up, it only helps us feel good about ourself. But God comes to them and He says, "Those whom I love, I rebuke and I chasten" and it's such a shocking message He has to remind them it's coming from a faithful and a true Witness. God believes in a tough love. He loves us enough that he will not allow us to settle for second best.
Laodicea was not the only one who struggled with a message that God disciplines those whom He loves. Come over to our Scripture reading: Hebrews 12:5-14. The Hebrew Christians who were thinking about giving up their faith in Jesus just because of persecution, Paul uses a similar argument. After reminding them that they have not yet resisted unto blood, they haven't paid with their lives. He continues in verse 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as son?--"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by Him.
"for the Lord disciplines whom He loves and chastises every son whom He receives." There it is again; "those whom I love I rebuke and chasten." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, [this is a key verse] in which all have participated, then your are illegitimate children and not sons.
Paul's argument is that real sons get discipline by their parents, but it is the illegitimate child who has not a parent willing to correct and supervise them and they get to do whatever they please.
Too often I see parents treat their children as if they were illegitimate and they provide no guidance. Paul says it's the legitimate child who gets the guidance and the discipline. And when we get disciplined by God, that's good news because it means He is treating us as His own children and not some kind of foreigner.
So the good news is that God sees Laodicea as still His children even though he is nauseous and about to vomit them out of His mouth. There is still hope for Loadicea. He continues in Hebrews 12:9, Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but He disciplines us for our good, God does not discipline us to make Him feel better, He disciplines us for our good that we may share His holiness. If we want to share the holiness of God, we must yield to His discipline. Notice verse 11. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Paul says that discipline produces something good, but when we go through it, it's not fun. When we go through it, it's painful. But as they say in sports, "No pain, no gain." And if we're going to overcome Laodicea it is going to involve some kind of discipline and suffering, pure and simple. Folks, Laodicea doesn't like pain and suffering. "We like it comfortable." But no pain, no gain.
I know a young man right now who is heading up to Carolina, Virginia somewhere, into a pre-officer training for the Marines. The process is so rigorous that probably fifty percent of them won't make it. It involves much strenuous exercise as well as mental stress. And of course, all of that exercise, doing all those hundreds of push-ups a day, etc. your muscles get sore. Part of the mind-set is that pain is weakness leaving the body. And I suggest that when the Lord chastises us, and we suffer spiritual pain properly, spiritual pain can become spiritual weakness leaving the experience. And so, God holds up something rigorous for Laodicea.
Coming back to Revelation, He counsels them three things in Revelation 3:18: "Therefore I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich. If we go a few pages backwards to First Peter 1, he has introduced the fact that they are suffering persecution and he says in verse 6 and 7, In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Here, Peter compares our faith to gold that has to go through a fiery experience in order to purify it. Gold, to my knowledge, does not temper; it does not harden like steel. But, the heat helps purify the gold. It makes it moldable, and floats the dross up so it can be skimmed of and be pure. So, if we want pure gold, it's got to be heated. It's got to go through a fiery experience.
And He says to Laodicea, "You need a faith that has been tested in the fire." You see, Laodicea has never had to suffer for Jesus. They are like the seed in the parable that was planted in the stony ground, and it springs up with great rejoicing. They love Jesus; great greenery erupts our of the ground. But the roots haven't gone deep. And when the fiery sun of persecution scorches the land, that greenery withers and dies because there's not enough root. Laodicea needs to seek roots that will withstand the scorching heat of ridicule and persecution.
How do we do that? That means that we have to step out of our comfort zone now and take faith risks for Jesus. It means that some here who may claim to be Sabbath keepers need to give up that Sabbath afternoon job and take a faith risk that God will help you find a way. It means that some of us may have to take the risk in dress or entertainment reform and risk people asking us questions and being suddenly the center of attention or being ridiculed. "You don't think you can handle that movie?" It means that we may actually need to open our mouth and tell somebody about our faith in Jesus, and risk that they reject this or ask questions that we don't have answers for.
Now, folks, I'm almost done with the PhD and they still ask me questions I don't have answers for. It's not a matter of education. But when they ask you questions that you don't have answers for, that makes Bible study meaningful now because you're looking for an answer. You've got a reason to be in the Word, now. If we're going to overcome Laodicea, we've got to share our faith, we've got to step out of the comfort zone and take faith risks that will help us grow in our trust of Jesus.
The second thing He tells us is to buy...white garments to cover the shame of your nakedness." Now, last week we mentioned Laodicea thinks they are clothed with Christ's righteousness, but God says, "No, you're not." That's a dangerous position to be in. Think al is well and it's not. What was the fashion of the day in Laodicea, what color? Black garments. Why was black the prevailing color? This is a Steven Bauer theory. I haven't found it any where else. But if you're piping water from a hot spring six miles away that's loaded with so much calcium carbonates that it keeps clogging the pipes and they've got to keep unclogging the pipes to keep the water flowing. When you do your laundry in water that is that hard, what color does white clothes come out? A kind of dingy whitish grey, yellowish grey? No wonder they didn't have white clothes in Laodicea. The lousy [polluted] water made it impossible to have white clothes. So, they adapted their fashion to match the lousy water. You see, black doesn't look dingy after being washed in hard water. Now I would propose to you that Laodicea has a tendency to adapt theology to match a lousy experience instead of adapting our experience to meet the Word.
The result, then is, God calls us to buy white garments and not to compromise our faith and our standard because of our human weakness. He rather calls us to rise up in Christ. Strength. And be conformed to Christ.
You see, this is why repentance is so crucial. Because we tend to adapt theology to experience . So if we don't keep the experience vibrant and accurate through repentance, we're going to adapt theology to the wrong experience. And we're going to think black is "in." And Christ says, "No, you need white garments and you need to drill a well that will give you water that will give you white washes. This is a crucial issue because the white garments in the Sardis church are connected in Revelation 3:5 to having your name in the book of life. "He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life." The white garments in Revelation 19:8 are the righteousness of the saints who made those garments white in the blood of the Lamb, Revelation 7:14, in the context of persecution and suffering. No pain, no gain.
So, Laodicea must renounce this modern doctrine that man is inherently good and if we stroke the ego in the right way we can form it into a fashionable shape. And, we must replace it with the reminder that the human heart, my own heart, is deceitfully wicked above all things and that I need new birth daily.
Which brings us to the eye salve, or the eye powder that help people clear up their vision so they could see. What is it that God gives us to help us see what he sees? Because, the fact of the matter is we can go to the Word. Many go to the Scriptures and they see how it applies to their life, but they are blind to how it applies to them. We know how it applies to the neighbor and to the pastor and to our fellow members, but when it comes to applying to us, we suddenly get this blind spot. What is it that penetrates blindness so we can see how the Word applies to me? What is it? Is it not the Holy Spirit? John 16:7,8 NKJV. "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you:
"And when He has come, he will convict the world of sin and of righteousness, and of judgment." We don't like to be convicted of sin. That's bad for my self-esteem. God says, "Tough. It's good for your spiritual life." He'll convict the world of righteousness. What does it mean to convict the world of sin and righteousness? How are you going to tell that to your five-year-old? What does that mean? In simple terms does it not mean He convicts us of right and wrong? What's right and what's wrong? But He convicts us of one more thing. Sin, righteousness and Judgment. What does it mean to be convicted of judgment? Is it not that he brings the conviction that we will be personally accounted, accountable to God? What did Jesus say how many words we would give account for? Every word, right? I know I've said a few words that I don't want to give account for. Probably you have, too. That's what forgiveness is about. What did Solomon say? Ecclesiastes 12:14. For God will bring every work into judgment, including the secret thing, whether t be good or evil.
It's ironic that the church of the judgment, Laodicea, doesn't want to hear about accountability. But we cannot see accurately unless the Holy Spirit convicts of sin and of righteousness and of our accountability to God. Laodicea needs the Holy Spirit. And, by the way, the sign that the Holy Spirit is working is not sensing miracles and tongues, it is conviction. I remember the first Revelation seminar I gave, a lady was coming every night. I expressed a some hope this was a good interest. She had come every night. She's been the testing truths. She's still with us. And my church board said, "Oh! She's been coming to our evangelistic series for the past fifteen years. You'll never get her." And I said, "Well, that's not my job. It's the Holy Spirit's job." We got done and we did an advanced Revelation Seminar, where instead of the bait and switch we actually studied Revelation. We got up to the beast and the mark of the beast. And instead of focusing on certain religious figures, I focused on the issue of true and false worship. And Blanche was sitting in her seat. She was fidgeting just all the time. She couldn't sit still. She was shifting positions all the time. Why? Because she was under conviction. The Holy Spirit was at work. She came to me afterwards and said, "Pastor, I need to see you tomorrow at my house." I asked, "What time?" "Two o'clock." At 2 o'clock I was at her house. She said, I never heard that mark of the beast done Like that before. It's always been focusing on the Papacy. That true and false worship got to me. I've got to make my stand for the Sabbath. When can I join your church? Conviction. That's when the Holy Spirit is working, folks. Conviction.
And Laodicea needs conviction, to, open our eyes. Not to see how it applies to our neighbors, but how it applies to me. Because before I need to overcome the beast from the seven hills, I need to overcome the beast within. Therefore the Lord say to them, be zealous and repent. God is not afraid of zeal, folks. Sometimes we get happy, we get excited, and we get energetic, and somebody says, "Oh, we don't want to be fanatical." And I fear that we've become fanatical about not being fanatical. He says, "Be zealous. Don't be bashful about your faith. Be zealous. and repent."
What does it mean to repent? It seems these days to repent means "I'm so sorry that I had the terrible father who damaged me. It's not my fault if I'm the victim." It's never anybody's fault anymore. That's not Bible repentance. Bible repentance is not "I'm sorry I got caught." Bible repentance takes responsibility for your choice. "I was wrong. And I'm sorry I did it. If I could do it over, I would do it differently."
Two Hebrew words: na'ham means to be grieved. And that's the one that is usually translated to repent. To be grieved or sorry. Used mostly of God. It grieved Him that He made man, so He brings the flood, etc. The second one: shuwb, usually translated to turn or to return. It literally mean to do a u- turn to come back. And the Lord sometimes combines these in His appeals to Israel, He wants them to na'ham, be sorry and to shuwb turn around and come back to God. The point is repentance is not nearly pain of mind. It is change of mind. Esau sought repentance with tears, Hebrews 12:16, but he didn't find it. he had pain of mind, but he had no change of mind. And true repentance is not merely pain of mind. You see, Laodicieans loved to limit... "Oh, we need revival. Oh, I'm so broken. Oh, I, I, I..." We stop talking about Jesus and His efficacy, and it becomes a back-handed form of self-centeredness.
Folks, let us forget about our weakness and let's glory in His strength. Repentance is change of mind, new commitments, renouncing old ways, by God's grace and God's strength. New Testament: metanoia, comes from two words. meta - meaning again, and noew - meaning to perceive, to conceive. It's an intellectual process. Having a conception of something; having an understanding of something. It's a new understanding, a new mind-set.
And it's a state of being. Christ said Luke 5:32, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Repentance is a way of life. It is a character trait of the saved. It is an attitude of submitting my judgment to God's evaluation. Instead of telling God of my condition, I let Him tell me my condition.
I repent from setting my judgment of my condition over that which God reveals through His word and His prophets.
Now, Pastor Gettys told us there was one promise to Laodicea. But I will respectfully differ with my friend and colleague and say I found two. So, double the find.
The first one is the appeal of Christ, Revelation 3:20, "Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door,..." You see, Laodicea doesn't see that Christ is outside the church. Christ is trying to get into His own church. Just like the water is outside, Christ is outside. And just as we need the wellspring inside, we need to let Christ inside. And the good news is "If you'll open the door, I will come in. He doesn't care how messy the house is. he's not there to see the house. He's there to see you. Let's open the door and let Him in. Let's not be like Rhoda. When Peter knocked on the door, she got so excited she forgot to open the door. She left Peter outside and went running in. "Good news! Peter's out there." Christ comes knocking on our heart. "Christ is knocking on my heart!" We forget to open the door. Let's open the door and let Him in and have the fellowship He wants to have with us.
"To him that overcometh." All that's good news, isn't it. We don't have to live in a gospel of defeat. Through Christ we can be more than conquerors. Because of the abuse of the doctrine of perfection, many people don't want to hear about overcoming any more. Because we've been told you have to be mistake-free to be saved. Folks, the covenant has provision for mistakes. If we sin we have an Advocate with the Father. The covenant has no room, however, for rebellion. And a lot of people try to hide their rebellion by calling it a mistake. But they know better, and the Lord knows better. We need to overcome our rebellion and learn to yield our judgment to God's.
And this applies whether you belong to Laodicea or Philadelphia, because Philadelphia had no rebuke, but they were told "to him who overcomes."
Ah, folks, there's a rigor and a power there that we need to tap in to, and not be ashamed of. I'm glad God says "To him who overcomes" because it gives me hope that I don't have t be trapped in mediocrity. Let's rejoice in the hope ad not be ashamed of a message that calls us to overcome. Let's not be namby pamby victims of Satan. But let us revel in the challenge and in the vigor. And let us step out and stand up and be counted for Jesus. And when we do that, we can and we shall overcome. Stand up, stand up for Jesus. To him who overcomes, The crown of life we'll bear.
Hymn of Praise: #<613, Fight the Good Fight Scripture: Hebrews 12:5-14 Hymn of Response: #618, Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus
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last updated 5/27/2003 by Bob Beckett.