Thursday, January 28, 2016

Revelation 3:14-22

Of all of the letters to the churches of Asia Minor, the last one, the letter to the church at Laodicea, was the most scathing. Of the previous six messages that John received by revelation from Jesus, four were rebukes and two were commendations. The churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia were patiently enduring hard times, but the churches at Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis each had succumbed to a slow-fade into false doctrine and sin. Now, in His final message, a message to the church at Laodicea, Jesus unleashed the direst of corrections for the lack of life and faith in the church.
While the church at Sardis was “mostly dead,” (to quote Miracle Max from the Princess Bride) there were still some in the church who remained faithful and were admonished to persevere. But this was not the case with the church at Laodicea. This real and historical church of the first century had departed from the gospel that was first preached there and now they were all “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” It wasn’t just that they were in danger of becoming these things, they were already gone. Sadly, in the rebuke we find that although they were completely bankrupt spiritually, they were self-deceived into thinking things were going quite well.
“Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” 

Their material prosperity had blinded them to their spiritual depravity. 
In a city so successful financially, the church had become a bastion of materialism. In Matthew 13, Jesus warned of this exact thing happening to one who would hear the word of God proclaimed but would then remain unchanged, “The care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” The deception of riches promised security. Instead of living by faith in the Providence of a loving God, they lived by faith in their well-managed bank accounts. Instead of relying on God for constant provision for every need in the spirit of the Lord’s Prayer, “give us this day our daily bread,” they confidently passed on building bigger barns to store more and more goods for themselves.
Their physical state was regarded as highly successful, but their spiritual state was depressingly neglected. They disregarded the teaching of Jesus in Mark 8:36, “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” Their investment strategy was too short sighted. They had worked up a 5, 10 and even 50 year plan, but they had neglected their eternal plan. Now, the Lord of eternity had called on them to repent and turn from their deception. Their negligence must become repentance. Their indifference must be changed to radical abandon. They must do as Christ told the rich young ruler and pursue the Kingdom of Heaven at all costs, or their unconverted, money-loving souls would be lost.
Finally, Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.” This text is often used as a personal call to conversion, but that is not what this text is saying. Jesus is not knocking at the door of someone’s heart, he is knocking on the door of this faux church. The church is filled with self-secure non-believers, and Christ is beckoning them to open the door of the church and repent of their apathy and indifference. He is not threatening to condemn them, they are already condemned, he is offering them the only hope of escaping condemnation. If they as a church will open the door and turn from their wicked ways, their church will be spared from the impending destruction that comes on all unbelievers.

Reflect: What was the problem with the church at Laodicea? How do we see some of these trends in American churches today?