There is a natural aversion to any suggestion that any of us claiming to be Christ followers may be missing the mark. I find that there is a quick rejection of this implication, because the “theology” of it does not sit well with the relaxed view of the Christian walk that many of us have been taught. I do understand. Yet, we dare not toss the subject too quickly. Jesus Himself made a point of getting into this subject and hit an obvious bulls-eye because He was eventually crucified for daring to cross the religious establishment and expose the fact that the religious leaders were not doing more than going through a whole lot of rituals and having little to do with true spirituality or relationship with GOD.
The religious system and its representatives in Jesus’ day really showed their true colors. Jesus was quite often pretty abrupt in his teaching. His parables in fact often left people seeing things in a way like never ever before. The crowds, especially the Scribes and Pharisees, were well aware of the implications of His teachings. The people loved what He had to say but the religious leaders became extremely angry—so angry in fact that in Nazareth, for example, on a trip home to see his mother Mary and the rest of the family, they tried to push Him off a cliff because of what He was teaching. It must have been an interesting phenomenon to see Him walk right through the middle of them without them being able to do a thing about it. It wasn’t His time yet.
A good indication of how blinded these leaders were; in fact how much they wanted revenge because He dared to even question their spiritual status, was exposed at the raising of Lazarus from the dead. John 11 tells the story and provides many details. We would naturally expect the act of raising someone from the dead to be something absolutely huge, but the story unfolds in some ways different than one would expect. Of interest was the fact that there was a group of religious leaders standing in the background just waiting for something to accuse Jesus of. This is what they did throughout the entirety of Jesus’ ministry.
When the time came for Lazarus to be raised from the dead and Jesus approached the tomb, his enemies were fully engaged and ready—even if only to make fools of themselves! Here is what is difficult to swallow—at least for me. These people saw something they had never, ever seen the likes of—something so beyond the realm of human reality as they knew it, that they could not help being shocked! Yet, their nefarious agenda, extreme jealously of Jesus’ popularity with the people, as well as their own addiction to the power and influence they had over the people–an influence so powerful that they were even willing to ignore this raw demonstration of the power of GOD, that they were willing to go on the attack, even against God Himself. They of course were so blind that they thought they were attacking an imposter. REALLY… Amazing! Absolutely unbelievable!! How would you have reacted?
Before we get carried away thinking that this has little or nothing to do with us because it was nearly 2,000 years ago, let’s make sure we take a real good look at this. Human nature does not change. Rebellion then was no different than rebellion is today except that Biblical prophecy says it is going to get worse—much worse.
It is tempting to throw rocks at the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and the many other religious sects because of their actions, thinking that we are innocent of the many things that they were guilty of. Hardly! The lacks and flaws in our own walk with our God just have a different appearance because “we” happen to be in the spotlight. Actually, according to Scripture, our problem today is developing into something much worse than we might admit.
I have drawn attention to the passages of Scripture in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3 before, but I would like to point out some things that pertain to us today. I pray that we can catch what it is that God is showing us in His Word before it is too late. God’s allotment of time, along with His predetermined dates will be real events and some generation will find themselves experiencing them. WE are that generation, and Jesus was the One that confirmed this fact.
If this is true, do you think it should have an effect on the way we live our lives? In fact, how would we live our lives if we knew that we only had a day or two to live before we were required to stand before God and gave a full account of our lives? I would hope that it would really give us pause to begin with, and then I would hope that it would bring change to our whole life’s agenda. None of us knows how much time is left; the point is that we need to be prepared at all times, whether we are called home within the next hour, next month, next year, or whenever.
The Book of Revelation is a very interesting book. It has a sovereignly laid out order, not necessarily all chronological. This is not the time to go into detail and lay out the order as it is meant to be understood, but I do want to take the last portion of chapter three and dissect it a bit. Chapters two and three list seven churches by name. All seven were located in Asia Minor and existed in the first century. These seven churches were not the only literal churches at the time, but they were picked by God and then used as examples. They were meant to provide guidance for the next 2,000 years of Church history. These seven churches provide all kinds of teaching material for each individual believer that has lived since, and every future believer until the time comes for God to take us home.
There is another interesting phenomenon found with God’s pick of these seven churches. They appear to closely follow church history with actual chronological years, approximately marking when one representative Church was over and another one began. This was of course not fully visible until our generation. One can see that each “church” seems to represent their slot in history with church history that closely matches the description found in the second and third chapters of Revelation.
One thing I have noticed but is likely not agreed on by some is that it appears the “Church of Philadelphia” and “The Church of Laodicea” overlap in literal history. In fact, it appears that Philadelphia exists within the much larger Laodicea. This makes for some interesting commentary and seems to fit a lot of the things that God brings out in His commentary about both churches. I will attempt to separate the two in the commentary below.
It is well worth noting that the comments made to Laodicea are much different than to any of the other six named churches. Anytime an entity is singled out like this, it is crucial to spend the time to find out why. It is also of the utmost importance to determine, not only who the entity is, but who or what it represents.
Let’s take a few minutes to take a good look at what Jesus had to say in His commentary. That is after all the bottom line and should end all debates about what is really being said.
It is pretty easily deduced that Laodicea is asleep! When it does happen to move around in its deadly slumber, it is fooled into thinking that all is well. As I mentioned earlier, the word that sticks out more than the rest in the description of Laodicea possibly is that this church is “lukewarm”. I gave the definition before but let’s all take another look at the definition. Lukewarm is:
- …”lacking ardor, enthusiasm or conviction, moderate, mild, unemotional, half-hearted, hesitant, indecisive, irresolute, uncertain, uncommitted, unresponsive, indifferent, impassive, languid, phlegmatic, apathetic, nonchalant; lackadaisical…”
I am hardly the first one that has approached this subject and commented on it. Many have, and there are more doing so all the time—for good reason. God is now speaking loud and clear to this generation, especially in the affluent western culture many of us live in. The fallen one has done a superb job of taking God’s infallible Word and twisting it so that we here in our materialistic society think we have it all together.
Take a walk through a typical Christian bookstore and physically make a tally of how many books, magazines, articles, or teaching DVD’s you find that give you step by step instructions on how to build up your self-esteem. Add to that the books on “Biblical” methods of gaining wealth, influence, power, and notoriety, etc. Continue right on through and find everything that catches your eye having to do with things that have to do with “self” improvement. I think most of us will be shocked. These are the things that are most in demand, and they sell by the millions. These are also the things that we are most happy to hear sermons about. It points out the fact that modern church people want an “easy” gospel, something that sends us home feeling really good!
Now, go through the same Christian bookstore and see how many books you can find on fasting, prayer, waiting on God, repentance, true holiness, as well as anything else having to do with the unpopular subject of “counting the cost” of serving Christ.
We hear and read many stories of those around the world that are daily putting their lives on the line in order to hopefully reach another lost soul. We cringe at the brutality that these folks go through, and are horrified when we hear of young mothers and fathers that have had their heads cut off just for telling someone about the Messiah Jesus or even just possessing a Bible. We often are led to send some money in order to further their efforts, and God blesses this abundantly—others though are so “glued” to their assets that cutting loose of some of what has provided is unreasonable for God to ask of us—we think. I know this sounds rather judgmental, but how are we going to answer to the very One that freely sacrificed His own life—just to provide freedom for us? This very same Sacrificial Lamb gave us the command to go and touch others with the same Gospel. He warned us that it would be costly! Why are we surprised? Why do we disobey?
Many of us are quite satisfied to give God His ten minutes a day (if that) for a daily Bible verse or passage and a short prayer, but never have the time for any more than this. It is the “Age of Grace”, after all is it not? That it is, but how many take fleshly advantage of the great price that was paid for us? Do we really take that price that was paid seriously? Sometimes I’m not so sure. By the way, these comments are just made in general based on decades of observing churches and researching applicable statistics and NOT based on anything connected to this blog-site or the pleas for the needs of H.O.B. God has blessed with some Godly, generous people who have a heart for God and what God lays on their hearts to do. Not everyone is asked by the Lord to support the same ministries. There are many needs and they are enormous. I will say this in reference to the subject of money. We here in America have been greatly blessed—way beyond anyone else on this planet, and God does expect us to respond to His leading. He did not bless Americans with the abundance we have in order for us to consume everything on ourselves .
With all the comments made to expose what the Bible labels the “Laodicean Church”, I am also not condemning all those that are truly walking with God in our time—even those that have not had time to mature. My purpose is to shake people up that are holding God at arm’s length. I pray that some will accept the warning Jesus is providing and fall on their face before Him before it is too late. The description Jesus gave of Laodicea is deadly accurate and most people that it describes would rather run from what the Holy Scriptures say, rather than face up to the truth and truly repent in order to gain the deep relationship with Jesus that we were meant to have. You know what we do? We cover ourselves with our own ridiculous self-created fig leaf of “religion” we are so proud of! Religion however will fail every time and leave us “naked” just as the description is in Revelation 3:17. It will also never, ever provide the intimate walk with God we all inwardly crave and were meant to have. Only the “blood-soaked” covering, both violently effected and then given to us for the benefit of condemned mankind has any value. It is the only answer to man’s problem. This is what our choice is—our own wimpy, insufficient, self-made attempt at “earning” God’s favor, or the real deal–God’s costly sure-thing means of forgiveness. It can only be achieved through true repentance.
So, back to Laodicea. The Biblical description really describes this church (described in a general sense, of course) as lazy. Why lazy? Because it does not care enough to get its own priorities in order. Studying the Bible takes time, often quite a lot of time. Is this only for the theologians? I sure hope not, because it is not only the theologians that are susceptible to the difficulties of life. Theologians (as well as pastors, teachers, etc.) are not an exclusive group that God requires to have a walking / talking relationship with Him! All of us need that—especially now as the days become more and more difficult and challenging, and the coming of the Lord is so close.
Laodicea, according to the passage in Revelation 3 sees itself as self-sufficient, needing nothing! Yet, they have no idea that they are blind, naked, sick, and dying. Much of the blame can be put on the clergy. It is so very easy and nice to ride the wave. As long as the machinery is running smooth why mess with it? Most of you know what I mean. When a church is active, many things happening, good relations with the metropolis it is located in, the church and pastor’s reputation is in good shape, it is quite tempting to go with the flow, not ruffling anyone’s feathers, not being too challenging, avoiding anything bordering on possible differences of opinions, etc. Canned sermons as well as special corporate programming are easily bought in our age. We are able to “market” church now. Who wants to take the time to “wait on God”??? That seems like a waste of time in our age of instant everything.
What happened to the “church” that dared to stand for God’s Word against modern secularism? Where is the “church” that called sin what it is? If there is one place where right needs to stay right and wrong stay wrong, it is in the church. Each of us needs to take an honest look at what our church reputation is. How do you think the devil sees your church? Getting a bit more personal yet, what is your reputation in the kingdom of hell? Are you a threat? Is your church a threat? Does your church draw people to a deeper walk with God? Is the sight of someone bending the knee in submission to Almighty God common in your church? Is the importance of repentance taught in your fellowship? How about “holiness”?? That quite often makes people rather uncomfortable. Do you have a deeper relationship with the Lord God today than a year ago? When is the last time you left church and commented that you learned something you never knew before? Does your church recognize the fact that Biblical prophecy having to do with the end of days is unfolding at hyper speed? I could go on…
One Biblical teaching that is a mainstay in any church that wants the power of God’s Spirit in it has to do with repentance. In our materialistic society most people act too sophisticated to consider even consider “repentance” necessary! God has a much different opinion. “Holiness” repels people even more! How about you? God has said that He requires us to evidence holiness. This does not mean that we are able to close out our day by going over a clipboard which has a list of all 1,500 New Testament laws and claim success at obeying them all and not breaking any! It is not a matter of legalism, but rather heart condition. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. That’s pretty straight forward! Following the directions the Bible has provided is not a way to “earn” our salvation, it is the way we go through what the Bible labels the “sanctification” process. In other words, we learn to live like true “Christ-followers”. Those that have no care about following God’s Word in regard to how we should live as His representatives leave their real allegiance in question.
The Laodicean Church is given absolutely NO commendation in Jesus’ description of this “church”. NONE! That should shock us a bit because this is the Laodicean age. It should drive us to our knees before God to ask Him where we really stand in His eyes. This is not taught in the majority of modern churches today, nor is it taught in our seminaries. We’d rather just believe all is well between us and God and not worry about pursuing it. It is too time-consuming! The humility it takes to approach God and ask Him how we are really doing, is very rare today. No wonder the Bible says that the road to life is a narrow one and few find it! What a tragedy! This is not God’s desire. He does not want anyone to be lost, but He will not bend His requirements for anyone. Who are we to think that He should? He is GOD.
The Church of Philadelphia spoken of in Revelation 3: 7-13 will be busy following the directions of the Holy God that created us all. They will be in the minority when the “harpazo” or “Rapture” happens. They will be quite in tune to the sound of their God and will immediately recognize that great Shofar that will be blown to call them home.
At the same time, Laodicea will be really religious. Laodicea will have plenty of committees and all kinds of “spiritual” busywork to do. People are easily sucked into the false importance of are all the social / secular programs, inwardly directed social activities that sound so very good. But, they just take our time, and don’t bring us closer to God. In fact, they draw us away from Him because He has a much greater agenda. I am not condemning social work, but for the Christ-follower, unless Christ is at the very head of what is going on, it becomes a great waste of time and doesn’t accomplish much of any value.
Another result of not having Christ at the head of everything we do is that we begin compromising with the world’s system of things. A true Christian can’t have one foot in God’s Word and another one in the world. We find this in Romans 12:2. This scripture tells us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices…Lukewarm people do not do this, neither do they obey Jesus, God’s Word or His commandments. (I John 2:3-6; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Romans 2:6-10; John 14:15; Luke 6:46-49; Rev. 2:6; Matt. 5:19) The difference is that if we are not following Jesus fully, we become full of indifference and become more and more disobedient to God’s Word. We are either laboring for others or just for ourselves.
We are called to be “doers” of the Word—a servant bearing much fruit (John 15:8). Does this mean that our salvation is bearing on how much activity we are involved in for God? Absolutely not. What is important to remember though is this: IF we really love the Lord that gave His life for us, we will without question put Him at the head of our priority list. It means that reading and meditating on His Word becomes something we really look forward to. Prayer becomes much more than a daily obligation. These things become the staff of life for us. Until that happens, we will never really be satisfied with life—especially the spiritual life.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Preparing For The Soon Coming KING, part 7