“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Counsel Given – (Revelation Chapter 3 Verses 14-22)
The richness spoken of here doesn’t necessarily mean that all in the church are well heeled. It’s a spiritual condition, many are simply self-satisfied, their sense of spiritual need has evaporated. You wouldn’t call them outrightly wicked. All very clean, polite, the epitomy of respectability. John Wesley was asked at the end of his life what he thought about his Methodism now, he replied, “just respectable religion.” That’s Laodocea and much of the church in our land today. But the seriousness in the circumstances are that they think that everything is okay. They are deluded, self-deceived, “those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). A religious morality, pleasurably worldly. The counsel (v18-19) is from the “Amen, the faithful and true witness” (v14). God that is, what he thinks, regarding this church’s status. He counsels, directs them towards spiritual values. If you have a misled enthusiasm you can chanel that, you can correct it. Even bring something good out of it. Even if you’ve got cold opposition, enmity towards Jesus Christ that can be converted. But this lukewarmness? You can do nothing with it. That’s why he is ready to spit them out of his mouth (v16). You see they come to church but it makes no difference because they come without Jesus and they go back home without Jesus. They sat they sang they listened they went away and that’s it. They neither saw nor heard Jesus because he wasn’t there. And worse, they didn’t want him. It was said, somewhat prophetically, “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell” (William Booth 1829-1916). That is exactly what has come to pass. That’s Laodicea. The counsel here is for the church to return to a spiritual reality. Take hold of and look into the mirror of God’s word and do a spiritual health check on themselves. Is this us, where we are at? These are the words of Jesus himself. If the angel (v14), the pastor of the church were to preach in this fashion perhaps he would be looking for a new position.
When did you last hear a preacher describe the gathered congregation in this way, “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17)? Laodicea doesn’t do offend. Laodocea doesn’t do negative. But this is what they needed to hear, Jesus says so (v20). You see the thing is when the ministry of God’s word comes to us, it is not the private or personal opinion of a mere man, but the authoritative voice of the Son Man. If the church won’t hear there is no hope for it. They must rid themselves of the notion that they are rich and they must return and confess Jesus Christ as their only and greatest and deepest need and hope. The inexhaustible riches of the grace that is to be found in him alone. The purchasing that Jesus speak of here (v18), is not the buying with money. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55:1-3). They are counselled to submit to the Lord’s correction. It’s discomforting to be ministered to in such a way, but is so often needed. For people often prefer a lifeless idol, a Jesus that they can put away in a drawer on Sunday night, till next Sunday. Just like many do with their Bibles. Instead of the living, active, intervening Christ who demands and wants to change our hearts and lives. He counsels them to raise the temperature in the Church, to boiling point. A worship of Jesus that is white hot. A deep and urgent repentance, reformation. This is the love of Christ that knocks on the door of this church and seeks shatter the illusion that they live under (Jeremiah 17:9). The call and the counsel comes to the Laodicean church and to the individuals who make up that church. You cannot blame a church for your own personal spiritual condition. You can raise your own spiritual temperature if you really want. You don’t have to live a tepid Christian life because others do. Christian, open your heart again to the living Christ and let him warm your heart once more.
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)